Hi all. Welcome to 2017. We’re barely into the new year calendar and maybe you’ve noticed your resolutions falling away. Is it because you need a system to support your changes? My system is to pick what I want to change and then do nothing. Instead of trying to make that change happen, I watch. I pay attention to what new way of seeing or doing things will present itself. It’s an exercise in awareness. Waiting and paying attention helps me be more present to new ideas and practices being offered in the moment. Observing rather than doing also keeps me in touch with how I’m treating myself. Am I allowing myself love, compassion, and forgiveness, or am I impatient and critical of myself? In turn, am I doing the same toward all things on earth. Once I have the answers to these questions, it’s easy to see the changes I am ready to make. Next I record in a notebook any new supplements, foods, movement exercises, energy practices, or doctor prescribed medications. (I do my best to stay off the medications. Their side effects make me much weaker.) I also keep dates I started, dosages, emotions and physical symptoms.
All of us with autoimmunity have a chance to take responsibility for our healing by keeping a notebook. Record- keeping helps us grow knowledgeable of our progress. After about six weeks, or even sooner, we can tell whether or not this change is taking us toward more consistent strength and reduced pain or not. That’s when we can decide whether to continue – or not. One red flag, if you’re trying two or more new things at once, your feedback will confuse you. Record keeping works best if we introduce only one new change at a time.
You may be saying six weeks is way too long to observe one new change. If stepping out of your thinking mind and curiously observing yourself is new for you, it will take that long, but only at first. Becoming aware of the messages your body is speaking is a skill. Practicing this skill begins with asking “What is this pain (in my kidneys, stomach, back, etc.) saying to me? Then sit back and listen. Allow your mind to receive the message. Our bodies are talking to us all the time and if we practice listening it could take just one to two weeks to know if we’re getting better or worse with this change. And if it’s worse, is it a bad worse, or a good worse? I can tell a good worse by noting how I feel. Am I optimistic, up-beat even if my body is moving slower? If I’m depressed, sleeping in, or worrying, I’m pretty sure this new change is not helping me. By observing, asking, listening and recording you can empower yourself on this crazy autoimmunity roller coaster. Nobody wants to be the victim of disease. Observing yourself is a way to take ownership of your progress.
Wait and watch and you will notice how to implement your change. It can appear anytime, anywhere. For example my husband Frank and I were eating brunch (my coconut milk smoothie and his eggs,) when he showed me something he’d printed from the internet. It was Ray Dalio’s Ten Rules For Success. I learned that Ray Dalio is the CEO and founder of Bridgewater Associates investment firm. The Ten Rules caught Frank’s eye as a recovered cancer and triple bypass patient, and a pretty good investor himself, he’s open to ideas on successful living. I read all ten and was drawn back to the first one, “Practice Radical Truth And Transparency.”
Wow, I thought, sounds good, but what is that? I asked Frank what it meant to him, and he said that it’s about always speaking truthfully and hiding nothing. The ultimate truth of what “is,” he added. After 5 and a half years of ups and downs with Myasthenia Gravis, I was having a hard time thinking of what’s ultimately so in any given moment. I mean, don’t we all have our own perceptions of what’s happening now? I have my experience of MG and my neurologist has research and his experience treating patients like me. Which one of us knows the true MG?
I asked Frank if there ever is an ultimate truth. Not in our world was his answer, just truths we agree on; like a book has pages, this is a table, 3+3 =6. I thought about that. After 30 years of marriage the two of us still can’t agree on how to load the dishwasher. Perhaps we were talking about relative truths. And can a Radical Truth, such as Dalio proposes ever be ultimately true?
Frank asked for my thoughts and I told him I believed we have our observations of things around us and sensations within us. The only truth we have is our perceptions and our interpretations of them. “Give me an example, ” he said. I pointed to the potted Philodendron on the table. “This is a plant. Is that true?” “Only if we agree.” He said.
“I don’t think any one thing, idea, or thought can be ultimately true,” I said, “because even if we agree it is, we still have our unique perception. We may agree on the word “plant” yet it’s still something different to each of us. We walk away from the conversation thinking we agree, but you might think it’s an OK looking plant and needs watering, while I’m thinking it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen today!”
So what is a Radical Truth? For me, to practice Radical Truth and Transparency is to speak, write, and listen from a place of awareness of my truth, what is true for me now. My responsibility is to be aware of my feelings, thoughts and actions in response to any given now. That is, to be a sentient being. I believe that is what God designed for us. T0 speak from my truth is to trust that I am not in control of things, that only God, the highest power, determines when and how things turn out. My job is to be kind to all things, beginning with me, and say, with respect to myself and to others what is in my heart. Say it though it’s not what I think my neurologist wants to hear. I can’t control how he hears what I say or what he thinks of me, but I can be true to myself. I can practice Radical Truth and Radical Transparency. Easier said than done, right?
People with autoimmune disorders are excellent at hiding, denying, and not noticing what we really think or feel. Why is that? Psychologists who’ve studied autoimmunity agree that stressful situations increase the number and severity of symptoms. We are sensitive to others and try to take care of their needs before our own as a way to limit stress. I automatically try to make others “happy” by what I say and do. Though it’s rarely possible to make them happy, I’m so uncomfortable with their state of mind I have to try. I know I’m not alone in this behavior.
Recently I asked myself the question, “Why do I do this?” Looking inside in stillness and prayer I let the usual mental chatter pass until my mind grew quiet. Quickly a thought came, “I believe I must please others to be safe.” Instead of rejecting the idea with my automatic thinking such as “well, that’s obvious” or “not always,” I allowed the “belief” to lead my thoughts. Scenes appeared from my childhood, and I felt feelings I had then. I felt alert and poised to “take care of others,” please them and make them happy. I remembered feeling my bond with my parents threatened if I couldn’t. If only I could turn their frown upside down I would be loved, accepted, valued, and always be connected with them. This belief, created years ago in relationship with my family showed me a cache of remembered incidents, few of them resulting in expressed affection, or safety. Still, each time I failed to make them happy I was even more convinced it would work if I tried harder. (There, I’d found another hidden belief.) But there are many ways to look at my history, and my brothers both have different ideas of what happened. Just like our Philodendron, there is no ultimate truth about me or my growing up. There is no one true story in my history, only what is so for me now. (See entry November 7, 2015 “Release Hidden Beliefs.”)
I grew up and put my history out of my mind. I ignored my memories and the painful feelings that came with them. Consequently, many unrecognized beliefs formed along the way, and because I did not know them, they held control over how I perceived and interpreted life now. I practiced saying what I thought others wanted to hear rather than my own truth. Of course, I was unaware of any of this until I was diagnosed with MG. That’s when I first considered hidden beliefs were running my show; my choices, my body, my interpretations of the world. (See entries “Mind/Body Connection I and II,” October 20 and 25, 2015.)
I asked Frank if he knew a way to begin practicing Radical Truth-telling and Transparency. He said he’d form an intention to do so. I agreed, intentions are full of promise and guidance. I closed my eyes and set my intention to practice Radical Truth and Transparency. I said, “The next thing for me is to notice and record the times I’m honest with or tempted to deceive myself – and others.”
This is a lot to think about and observe. Let’s continue in two weeks in my blog entry. That’s right, I’m going for a bi-weekly entry instead of one a month! Thank you for joining me in this conversation. If you have thoughts, suggestions, or personal experiences you’d like to share, please email me or comment below. See you next week.