Healing perspective


I have been feeling myself changing and growing a lot lately. All this transformational stuff can feel heavy and daunting at times. The last couple months I have been working closely with a naturopath, doing some clean up work, so to speak from my cancer journey.

Even though I finished treatments almost 3 years ago, there has been some mental and physical side effects still lingering. A few examples are a weakened immune function- the susceptibility towards colds and minor infections. Hormone imbalance; chemotherapy does quite a number on the reproductive system. And basically the whole experience was deeply moving and traumatizing to me, been dealing with on and off anxiety, depression and PTSD over the years, and stronger lately.

Bringing all these things back to balance with herbs, supplements, homeopathy, and nutrition has been a bit of a roller coaster. Especially the detox part and the hormone balance piece. Hormones run the show in the body, when those guys are out of wack- adding “more” in, even naturally can be a tough act trying to find that delicate balance.

I have been trying to heal myself for over 3 years. As I wrote in my last post, there is a dark side of healing. It’s easy to get caught up in it all, and I want to heal yes! But also live life in a joyful way. Sometimes I feel like all the hard work I put into healing sucks the fun and joy out of things. Part of healing is laughing and enjoying the process too.

This weekend I took a short solo trip to San Francisco CA. My best friend of 22 years lives in the heart of the city, and has for 20 years. I had some business stuff to take care of, I also wanted this trip to pull me out of the healing rut I was in and gain some new perspective.

Practicing Yoga together, chatting about life, getting mani/pedis, eating amazing food, taking photographs and laughing a lot has already helped my anxiety a ton. I was feeling so tense from all the hormone shifts in my body, playing and laughing has helped me to relax some. It’s been joyful and amazing.

I still have one more full day in the city, and for SF is suppose to be a beautiful one. Sunny and 60’s: a classic Indian summer in late October. My hope today is to step back, and keep and even gain some perspective.

Healing is a lot of work, but it can be fun too, an adventure. Healing has many ups and downs. Times when I feel like I have it all figured out, times when I feel broken and suffering. I’m somewhere in the middle right now, it’s a continuation of these two sides, the pendulum swings- always trying to seek the middle.

Healing, growing, learning things about the world and myself along the way. The truth is I have come so far from where I once was, and now there is more places to go. The next chapter is emerging. I’m gonna keep going, and find some joy along the way.

With love,

B.

The dark side of healing

I hope this title intrigued you rather than scare you away..

My intention in writing on this particular topic is to encourage, not discourage: but truly, healing is hard work.

What I mean by “the dark side” of healing, is in the context that it’s a messy, monotonous and sometimes a frustrating process of self discovery. It’s not all sunshine and butterflies.

I have been on a big healing journey since I was 30, so over 6 years now. And what a wild ride it has been! I like adventure and all, but woo wee, hold on to your pants!

When I am talking about healing, I am not just talking a physical thing like, oh I should clean up my diet and get more exercise. All aspects of who we are as humans and spiritual beings are interconnected and in constant communication with one another.

All parts of who we are mind, body and soul are ONE, connected in an interplay of energy and consciousness. When we heal one level of ourselves, we are healing the other parts too. They are all important, equally.

When I was 30 I got sober from drugs and alcohol. This was a long time coming, and one of the best decisions of my life. Without this recovery, I would have never survived beating stage 4 cancer at 32 years old. That healing journey, prepared me for an even bigger one.

Healing from my addiction was messy, and so was healing from Cancer. Hence, the dark side of healing topic. Some of you might know me in person, others may not know me at all or very well.  Nonetheless, I try to keep it real always, sugar coating shit never helped anyone.  Moving on…

I remember the last time I got wasted. I was in San Francisco with my best friend, I’ll spare you the details- but I ended up blacked out, passed out and very sick. I woke up the next morning still drunk, and my heart told me, “Please get sober if you want any kind of normal happy life”.

I flew home back to Portland Oregon, and sat my butt in the same AA meeting I use to go to with my parents when I was just a kid. I really wanted, and want to break this cycle of pain, confusion and addiction. It’s been a lot of work, meetings, working the steps with a sponsor and even therapy. 6 years later, I haven’t picked up a drink, miraculously.

When I got diagnosed with stage 4 cancer only less than 2 years after getting sober, it was devastating to say the least. It was a death sentence type of cancer; alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, stage 4. These evil tumors had metastasized to my spine, ribs, neck and jaw. I was given 6 months to 1 year to live with chemotherapy. What a blow.

Being newly sober, and having to navigate all the pharmaceuticals and medical marijuana on top of processing my impending death was tragic. It was the darkest time in my life. Despair. I’ve never known despair and fear like that. And I don’t think I have it in me to handle it again. Hence why I keep on this healing journey, even though it’s hard.

My cancer story in detail, is for another time. But for the sake of this blog post I have been in remission by the grace of God for over 3 years now.

I used traditional medicine like chemo, radiation and pharmaceuticals.  But also tapped into an anti inflammatory diet, supplements, herbs, tinctures, CBD, yoga, meditation/relaxation, writing, Kangan alkaline water, photography, counseling, coaching, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, exercising, nature, traveling, reading, studying and beyond to heal my life.

Its hard work.. a part time job. But it’s saved my life. And has helped me to thrive, and not just survive.

So the dark side of healing.. at times it can feel like a lot, over whelming, it can be expensive, and there are times when you wonder if any of this hard work is paying off? And the answer is YES.

I have learned that everything I have put into this healing journey, has helped me 10 fold to heal and grow as a person, and then some. On all levels of my being- mind, body and soul.

My physical body healed from the tumors, they are long gone! And physically I am still trying to clean up the damage from the chemo and radiation. Right now this is the frustrating part.. working on it.

The trauma I endured mentally and emotionally is almost gone, and spiritually speaking,  almost dying  young brought me closer to life, people and a higher power of my understanding.

Currently I am studying to become a Integrative wellness coach through a fantastic program online at Duke University. I graduate in December 2018.

My hope as a coach is to inspire and encourage folks going through a healing journey, TO KEEP GOING.

All the hard work saved my life, and has given me a purposeful, happy life again.  I believe this is possible for anyone willing to do the work, and stick with it, even theougn the dark times. Don’t give up.

happy healing, thank you for reading.

-Brittany

The art of following your heart


Trusting ourselves, and listening deep within is definitely an art. I am far from perfecting this, but it’s come a long way. I remember when I was younger, teens and 20’s I had this ability to listen deep inside myself, but the problem was I didn’t trust it. Countless pitfalls during that time, and more times than not I’d look back after the fact and be like “damn! Why didn’t I listen to my heart”.

I do this today in my 30’s, even though I know better. Logic, takes us to a point- then after that comes an inner knowing, then the scary leap into the unknown.

Cancer taught me so much, but mostly that life is full of surprises, challenges and miracles.

Over the last few years I have been playing with the art of listening to my heart. By heart I mean guts, intuition: Many names, but you know- your inner voice, true north, your soul compass.

I believe each human has this innate gift to listen deep. It’s not the listening that’s so hard, but rather the trusting, and the leap of faith.

Over years, I have come across some really hard decisions I had to make. Big ones! Like should I stay in this long term relationship with someone who is causing me pain? Ok, I got diagnosed with cancer, should I do chemo or try natural remedies?

Sound like no brainers? I look back at these now, and am like DUH! Of course you did the right thing by enduring 10 months of hellish chemotherapy, it help save your damn life. But in the moment, this was a really really tough decision.

So over the years I have developed a system for listening to my heart. Let me back peddle some, I believe our heart (soul), guts- whatever you want to call it is trying to align us with our truth and purpose always.

When you listen to your heart, you are connecting to the REAL YOU. Meaning the sacred, awake you. The one that knows, the part of you that is divine, and true- constantly trying to guide you to your greatest healing,  and potential.

A couple small but effective strategies that have helped me listen and trust my heart have been:

1.) Quieting my mind: Yoga, journaling, meditation, breathing deep in nature. Quieting my mind helps me to listen on a deeper level.

2.) Go by the way something FEELS: If something feels off, it probably is. If something feels right, it probably is. Learning to discern is huge in following our heart and soul desires. Does the thought of something bring you anxiety and fear? Or contentment and peace?

3.) Trial and error: everything is a learning experience, in the end we are all on our own life journey. Practicing listening and trusting our heart is a process, with some set backs. Paying attention to the outcome of things whether we listen to our heart or not is a great way to cultivate a connection with your heart, and learn discernment moving forward.

Social Media Shift + Reprieve

Recently I have decided to be on social media less, and spend more of my time and efforts blogging, musing and creating outside that platform.

This is a huge shift for me. I feel dedicated and attached to my followers on Instagram and Facebook. We have been through a lot together.  We have history, they know me..

My social media experiment over the next few months is not to completely detach from my social media presence, however stay a few steps back- gaining perspective, breaking habits, and begin blogging.

This is new for me, but I’m curious to see what happens.

I have noticed a few people announce recently that they are completely abstaining from social media. Even going as far as ditching their iPhone, hand held computer devices- and purchasing a 90’s Nokia flip phone.  Not even texting. I’m truly impressed.- this would be impossible for my lifestyle of choice. But honorable, I get it- and I miss them.

As that sounds tempting, I realize the times we are in. Technology is part of our world, it kind of runs things right now- fortunately and unfortunately. Rather than throwing in the towel, I dug deep inside myself to why I wanted to step back from those platforms for a hot second.

I actually adore social media. I think it’s a fun and an interesting way to stay in touch with new and old friends. To express yourself creatively, and to share what you have been up too. To learn about others, what they are up to, gain some insight and inspiration from many other perspectives and lifestyles.

I documented my whole cancer journey on Instagram. From diagnosis to remission, even onto this intense healing journey I have been on over the last 3 years. This is intimate stuff, but it did help me heal and stay connected. I connected with other cancer fighters and survivors online, we held each other up through the inter web. Some of them even passed on, and I watched as their family members took over their accounts memorializing them. Some of them are healed or healing, and I enjoy watching them live and love life on a whole other level.

So why did I decide to take some steps back?

I felt myself being consumed by social media, like it owned me. As much as I did my best to portray the real me, media is media- and it’s an image of me. Unless all those followers knew me in person, which a decent percentage did and do, I am just an image on the screen. It felt detached, empty and boarderline narcissistic. There were times when my posts and stories forged a connection, most of the time it left me feeling odd and empty. Obsessing over if people liked it or not, or if I was over sharing.

I am a sensitive soul, empathic, I have the blessing and the curse to feels things deeply, and intuitively. Social media started feeling trite to me, attention grabbing. I started setting expectations for how many likes I thought I deserved based on how much heart and soul I poured into a post. 9/10 times I was disappointed and would leave me feeling shameful, and unworthy.

Now, I know this is my own fault- and a head game I was playing with myself. But after all I had been through, I guess I wanted people to care more, and I realized everyone is just doing their own life. It wasn’t personal. We are all inandated by our own life, struggles and experiences. Trust me, I get it.

I felt as though I have so much richness to share through my cancer journey and beyond, and social media was cheapening it for me. I just didn’t like that feeling anymore.

My intention after surviving terminal stage 4 death sentence cancer is to touch lives. And maybe I did to some degree on that platform, it didn’t feel like I was using my time and words efficiently, or effectively. As I felt like I did have a positive impact on some, I believe writing a book or blogging could span that positive impact further.

My hope over time, is that the social media platform becomes the side dish to the main course I am creating on here, and other areas. Not the other way around.

This takes me to this blog. And I tosseled and wrestled with blogging “personal” things on my business page. However my work as a healer and teacher and my personal healing journey are so interconnected and related, I feel as though it would be ok.

I feel myself changing and growing, I wanted to break some old habits. I feel like I am changing and there were some things I was posting that began to feel less authentic, or like “the old me”. But I was posting them out of habit and expectation.

Moving forward, I’ll still be on my IG and FB platforms. But way less: I was spending 2-3 hours a day on them! Now that was fine when I healing from the cancer treatments, and working a lot less. But life has grown for me over the last year especially. I have gotten a lot busier with some amazing endevoirs, and creative projects, rebuilding my life after such a big trauma has taken a lot out of me. It was time to choose more wisely where I wanted to spend the majority of my time and efforts.

I am excited to write more. This is one of my callings. I have no idea how many people will actually read this, or be inspired by it. Nonetheless, it’ll give me time to explore other avenues of self expression and healing.

Growing as a writer, artist and entrepreneur.

My hope is to touch many lives and hearts along the way.

The Totality of who we are

Sometimes it is hard to remember who we really are. We can look in the mirror and see a face that we have known for years. We can close our eyes and listen to our restless minds, full of memories, fantasies and thoughts. At moments, we might even be able to soften into our heart center, aligning with what is true, real and authentic- love.

But who are we really? Are we just flesh and bone? Our experiences, challenges, mistakes and moments in time?

There is a fantastic teaching in yoga philosophy called the koshas. Kosha is a Sanskrit word that means “layer” or “sheath”. It is said that we as beings, are comprised of 5 layers of “self”. These layers are independent and interdependent, connected, communicating with one another bridging all the dimensions of the “self” into the totality of who we are.

Lets look at them more closely;

Think of layers of an onion or those wooden Russian dolls. They are one, with layers. Same with our being. We will start with the outer most layer of self, and work our way into the core of who we are.

Annamaya Kosha: “The Physical Body” Bones, muscles, organs, skin, hair, nails.  The first layer of self is the physical form. What we can “see” and what is tangible. This includes our 5 physical senses. Anna means “food” or “solid”. The first layer is the densest of the layers, vibrating at the lowest frequency. As we move inward through the layers, the vibration grow higher and more subtle in frequency. Ways to nourish and connect with the physical body is through yoga asana (postures), Massage, earthing (walking barefoot on the earth), healthy nutrition and exercise.

Pranamaya kosha: “The energetic body” The second layer deep to our physical form is our etheric double. Our energetic form that includes the energy channels in the body known as “nadis”. In Chinese medicine they call these same energetic pathways, meridians. This is where prana or chi (life force energy) flows through. Here we also have our chakra system as well. Ways to connect and nourish this layer is through pranayama practice (breathing), Acupuncture, chakra alignment and meditations, and breathing fresh air in nature.

Manomaya Kosha: “The Mental Body” Third layer deep is our mental and emotional faculties. Mano is a Sanskrit word that means “mind”. Here resides our ego structure, thoughts, ideas, concepts, karma,constructs, our filters on reality, and samskaras (mental impressions). This is the most challenging layer of self to master. To train the mind to as state of quietude is not an easy feat. However, as the mind stills we can connect and drop into the deeper layers of self where intuition, wisdom and even psychic abilities (siddhis) reside. Ways to quiet and train the mind are through seated meditation practices, visualization, journaling, creative outlets, talk and cognitive therapy.

vijnanamaya Kosha: (The intuitive or wisdom body) Once we are able to calm the mind we can access our intuition and deeper wisdom. Here resides imagination, dreams, psychic abilities. As we move closer to our core self, we are increasing our conscious awareness of the totality of self. The center our our being in which we are traveling towards is our soul, or highest self. We can activate this layer through creative expression such as poetry, music or art, being in nature, altered states of consciousness practices, lucid dreaming and deep meditative practices.

anandamaya Kosha: “Bliss Body” The 5th and final layer before the atman aka soul is our bliss body. Once we transcend the limits of the body, attune with the frequency of the energetic body, quiet the mind and tap into our intuition and wisdom we arrive in bliss. Ways to connect with the Bliss body is doing what lights you up! Being of service and practicing working through the previous layers of self through yogic and spiritual practices cultivating truth beauty and bliss!

Non-attachment and the practice of mindfulness

Mindfulness can be simply described as “non-judge mental, compassionate awareness of the present moment as it unfolds.” Cultivating mindfulness practices such as Yoga, meditation, self awareness and witnessing thoughts, actions and even breath- are ways to create more equanimity and peace in our lives.

There has been a large upnrising in mindfulness and its benefits over the years. Many corporations, health care institutions, wellness Practioners and lay persons alike are experiencing the benefits of a regular mindfulness practice.

So why mindfulness? And how can these simple practices help us to create happier and healthier lives?

There is a word in yoga philosophy called “Aparigraha” which means non-attachment. Staying open in the moment, enjoying what comes into our experience of life with a open hearted awareness. Not becoming attached to a certain outcome, rather staying open to possibility.

So often as humans, we hope to see something unfold the way we think it “should”.  Sometimes,  life works in our favor. But what do we do when it doesn’t?

Non-attachment asks of us to stay open to grace. We don’t always see the big picture, at least not in the moment. Usually after the fact, we can look back and say, “oh! That’s why that happened.” Non-attachment to an outcome helps us not to worry or stress about something that may or may not work out.

This doesn’t mean, don’t take action or have any goals, but rather working hard in the moment- and softening into the outcome of the experience with ease and trust in the universe.

Attachments and expectations cause suffering, and an uneasiness in the mind and the body. Mindfulness is a practical and spiritual roadmap for navigating almost every aspect of our lives with greater equanimity.

The Yoga Journey

My first Yoga class was at the YMCA in Chandler Arizona back in 1999. I was 17 years old and a senior in high school. I can not recall what attracted me to Yoga in the first place, but I remember falling in love with it pretty quickly. I have always been really athletic, and into physical fitness. Since then, Yoga has been a way for me to stay physically strong, but also a way to clear my mind and stabilize my emotions. When I landed on my yoga mat as a teenager, there was something about the practice that was special and unique. Not only did my body began to transform, so did my mind and heart. In my early 20’s I lived in San Francisco and delved into hot yoga. Again, there was this peace about the practice that I could not get anywhere else. I would take classes where the teachers would integrate spiritual lessons and mind body awareness. I remember thinking, “WOW! There is nothing like this! I need to learn more!”
At 27 I took my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training. I began to watch myself and life transform. Initially this was a messy practice. Looking back, what was happening is that I was changing, transforming to a state of higher consciousness. The old paradigms I had lived within were no longer working, but I desperately grabbed hold onto the old, and refused letting the new come into fruition. As I began to teach in my late twenties I started to see how the practice of Yoga transformed my students lives. I would hear stories of healing back injuries, broken hearts and weathered minds. I don’t know why I did not see this before, but yoga was MEDICINE!
The practice of Yoga is a 5000 year old discipline that originated in India. Yoga is a sanskrit term for UNITY or ONENESS. The practice of Yoga transforms us from the inside out. It creates a integration of the mind, body and spirit to unify the consciousness of creation. The postures teach us how to have a healthy relationship with our bodies. The meditations help to guide us into a keen awareness of our habits and thinking patterns. The spiritual practice by reading the ancient texts and philosophies propel us into a greater state of purpose of our true nature. Yoga is an ancient tool kit to heal what ails us. When we show up on our Yoga mats, our job is not try to control or figure out the HOW this can happen. Our job is to step onto our mats with clear intentions and an open heart. Through this openness, a transformation occurs at the deepest level, nurturing us back into a place of wholeness and restoration.
I know what first brought me to my mat was purely a physical practice, later led me to one of healing and peace. I invite you to explore this for yourself. Whether you are struggling with a nagging back injury, depression, or heart ache- I can guarantee, if you do the work through the practice, you will find a miraculous journey awaiting you.