Thursday, September 25, 2008

Things that Go Bump in the Night

I arrived home last evening from my first solo trip in 16 months, and what a wonderful adventure that trip was. I had gone to Montana for a Yoga retreat (taught by a teacher who is very experienced in helping those with physical challenges), and also for a Harvest Gathering, both events held at the beautiful Blacktail Ranch near Wolf Creek, Montana. That is the ranch where the Sunwheel that inspired me to build the one in Massachusetts is located, and I was thrilled to be back. I was able to lead sunrise gatherings for the attendees of both retreats, and to enjoy the beauty of the West, even with my continued need to be gentle with the demands I place on my body.

I traveled home on Monday, Sept. 22, the day of the Equinox, and sure enough I was up for sunrise on Sept. 23 to lead public gatherings for the first full day of Autumn at the Sunwheel. Of course, I was tired after my travels, and I needed to unpack some of my things for the sunrise gathering -- camera, long underwear, hat, gloves, and warm coat. I got to bed late, and expected to sleep 4.5 hours before my alarm would wake me in the morning. A short night, but I could rest during the day if necessary.

So I was very startled to be awakened at 2:30 a.m. by some noises downstairs in the house. I was exhausted, and knew I had to get up early to go to the Sunwheel, so I was in no mood to be losing sleep. Our bedroom is right over the living room, and I heard what sounded like several things falling off the walls. After the noises kept happening, I got up to go and investigate. Normally I might be somewhat timid, but after being in Montana in the 'wild', I picked up a wooden stick and was ready to defend myself and my family against whatever was making the noise.

I didn't find what caused the things to fall, but there on the floor was a small framed glass hanging (not broken) with the word 'Spirit' on it that had been hanging in the window. I wondered what the message to me was, then put the hanging back, went up to bed, and within 5 minutes the noises started again. Our 2-year old Golden Retriever is frightened of strange noises, so she began shaking. And after 30 minutes of listening to clunks and creaks in the house, I was truly puzzled.

I woke up my partner for help, and together we went to investigate. I turned on all the lights upstairs, and suddenly a small gray animal with a fluffy tail ran from my meditation room and down the stairs. It was a baby squirrel! After surveying the house, we found remarkably little damage for all the things that had been knocked over -- pictures on the floor, curtains pulled down, a small tea pot knocked off a shelf onto some pottery. Basically the squirrel had been trying to get out of the closed windows, probably after getting in through the basement. It was terrified.

Then it ran into the guest room and I closed the door. And as I was falling asleep, I realized that I should open the window in that room (even though it was in the 40's outside) so the squirrel could leave. And sure enough, in the morning the squirrel was gone.

One of the funny parts of this adventure was to go from thinking there was something scary wandering the house, to finding a tiny squirrel. My thoughts had initially created a situation of discomfort, and I realized that in any situation my thoughts could either see things as scary or as soft and fuzzy like the squirrel.

It all comes back to trusting the Universe, trusting that I can take care of myself, and not making assumptions until I have all the information. I'm working on it!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Grateful to be Able to Shower!

Today when I took a shower, I thought back to what it was like for me one year ago to shower.

Between the middle of June 2007 (when I went to the ER with a back spasm that caused my legs to collapse under me) and the end of August 2007 (when my daughter got married) I took 2 showers -- one in the middle of the summer, and one just before the wedding. It was so hard for me to go up and down the stairs, and impossible for me to stand without support, that showering on my own was not an option. I wore my hair in braids all summer so that it would not get tangled, and my daughter would very patiently braid my hair.

So taking a shower became a family adventure. My daughter and partner would put on their bathing suits, I would sit on the stool in the shower, and they would wash me while I held on to the grab bar in one hand and my walker in the other. It would take the 2 of them to get me all set up, stable, washed and cared for without getting too much water all over the bathroom floor (since the shower curtain would be open so I could hold onto the walker with one hand). They were good at washing my hair, and luckily the shower nozzle is removable so rinsing my hair was easy. They just couldn't wrap my long hair in a towel turban-style the way I do, and since I couldn't lean forward at all I couldn't show them what to do, either. No matter.

Towel around head when done, and dried and all clean. Those 2 showers last summer felt WONDERFUL!!!

And by the beginning of autumn, as I was healing and gaining strength, I became able to shower on my own. The first time, my partner sat in the bathroom to be nearby and make sure I was OK. For me to shower took so much energy and focused attention, that it was my main activity of the day. By winter, I had graduated from showering by sitting on the shower stool to standing under the water. I gradually became able to raise my arms and put them behind my head, which I wasn't able to do when my spine collapsed. I still remember the first time I could stand in the shower and wash my own hair, to simply take care of myself. At the time, I wasn't able to bend my spine at all, but I could stand up with ease, and wash my hair with 2 hands.

Slowly my pattern of self-care shifted from showering 2 times during summer 2007 to one shower every 2 weeks in the autumn, to one shower per week in the winter. By spring of 2008, I stopped keeping track of showers, knowing I would be able to get clean if I needed, and that a shower could wait if I didn't have the energy or strength in my back.

Such a simple thing, a shower. And so grateful I am to be able to shower with ease these days. I really didn't know how sick I was last summer, and that is probably a good thing, since I never had any idea what would be involved in healing. So showers are one symbol for me of how much better I am now. I took one today, and even though it was just part of my day instead of the main event, I still remembered to be grateful that I am now able to do the simple things in life. I am healing, and THAT is wonderful.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Guess What Rested in the Garden?

This morning as I quietly drank my morning cup of tea on the front porch, watching the beautiful morning unfold, I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. When I turned to look, I noticed that a very tiny bird was sitting on a rock. It moved to another rock, and I wondered to myself, "Is that a hummingbird?!" I had seen a hummingbird rest in the branches of our spruce tree many years ago, but I am so accustomed to seeing them fly that a hummingbird resting was almost unrecognizable.

Right after I wondered if it was a hummingbird, the tiny bird raised itself a few inches off the ground, hovered in place, and then zoomed off. A hummingbird? YES!

So I ran inside to get my digital SLR camera with my new zoom lens, imagining that if the hummingbird rested in the garden once, it might come back. I spent the next hour enjoying the birds and squirrels and flowers in the garden, and the colors of the leaves beginning to fall. Camera in hand and ready for action.

Did the hummingbird come back? No, not that I've seen yet. But I'm patient!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Faith and Trust in the Universe

As I heal, after working so diligently every day for over 13 months, I am very protective of the progress I have made. I cherish it, and no matter how slow the progress is -- and sometimes it seems that weeks go by before I notice even a tiny improvement in my condition. I am still taking just as much pain medication as I did 1 year ago, and I still cannot stand for more than a few hours before I need to lie down to rest my spine. I still do physical therapy exercises I was given a year ago (and I was told emphatically NOT to stop doing them). So every day when I wake up, I slowly and gently wake up my muscles...

I have had to take the meaning of patience to a new level. I have always been a patient person, but the patience always had a limit. In the past, after being patient for a significant period of time, I would always get to a place where I would feel, "OK, now I have been patient enough. Now it is time for something to happen." Not so any more. I am patient as my body does what it needs to do to heal, and then I have to continue to be patient. And again. And again. And then even more patience.

There is no one who can tell me when my healing will have progressed to the point that I will no longer need pain medication. I will have to find that out for myself. And there is no one who can tell me when I will be able to have a day go by where I do not have to repeatedly lie down. That, too, I will have to find out for myself. And yet I have no doubt that I will reach that level of health, that my body will continue to grow stronger and more flexible month by month, more physically able to walk and hike and ski, and yes, even ride a bicycle!

The fact that I do not doubt for a moment the degree of my healing is part of Who I Am. I have great faith and trust in the Universe. I live a life of abundance, and I have never doubted that. I live a life of joy, and I do not question that. It is part of Who I Am. I can take a challenging situation and find the bright side of it -- for example, of being diagnosed with cancer. It is Who I Am, always looking for the positive lesson in what the Universe and Great Mystery present before me.

And yet, being human (or at least being over 50) means that I am also forgetful. At times, my mind will wander into future and wonder 'what if this happens?' or 'what if that happens?', and then I find myself in fear. An illusion about something that I have no control over, and which is not real. Then I have to remind myself to bring my attention back to the present moment, remind myself that everything is fine right now. Yes, my healing may be slow, but I AM healing. And I remind myself that I do have faith in the Universe, that I do trust the Great Mystery to be perfect in what and how things are orchestrated. This trust and faith in the Universe is for me the truth of what is. And I can say to my fear, "Thank you for reminding me of my human journey."

One doesn't have to have a diagnosis, a label, in order to go to the fear of 'what if?'. Anyone can be paralyzed by fear -- what if I get hit by a truck today? or what if I get hit by a meteorite? These, too, are thoughts that can create fear, but this fear is not (usually) related to the Truth of the moment. It takes attention to one's thoughts -- recognizing which thoughts need to be heeded and which are an illusion -- and diligence in the present moment to bring one's self back to Truth. And in that truth, faith and trust bring a sense of peace and ease, bring an acceptance of what is.

Of course, the irony is that with a diagnosis of cancer, the diagnosis itself creates the tendency to go to fear, worry, anxiety, and 'what if' regarding the future. And yet, the Truth is that none of us knows the future. We just know the present. Is yours a present which is a present (a gift) to yourself?