I grew up in River Falls, Wisconsin, where I rambled through the woods and along the Kinnickinnic River allowing the trees, woodland critters (and, let’s be honest: the COWS) to minister to my soul. I was a contemplative without having the vocabulary to explain myself. Attending the experimental Ames Laboratory School in the 60s, I was encouraged to be a poet-painter-actress-filmmaker-scientist. My heroes were Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Schweitzer. What a disappointment: to discover in college that I was supposed to choose a specialty. I studied psychology and human services and put the arts and hard sciences behind me.
At age 20, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. MS is a disease of the brain and spinal cord that affects each person differently. For me, it has meant gradual paralysis of my legs and arms along with spasticity, pain and some cognitive challenges. When I was first diagnosed, I tried to live a perfectly healthy lifestyle. I went on a special diet, sought out demanding “spiritual” teachers and tried to minimize stress. When my disability increased, I was hard on myself for not “doing it right.”
Healing, for me, has come through returning to what gives me joy – making art and practicing meditation with compassionate teachers. (Shout outs to Sally Brown, Jan Lundy, Susan Piver and Jamie Ridler.) When I make art, I escape my judging, approval-seeking mind. When I open to my experience rather than trying to control it, I move towards healing. When I use my senses to become aware and awake in this moment, then my body becomes an ally instead of an obstacle.
I am learning to choose joy, beam love, and breathe peace by practicing the 12 kind promises.
Where do you find healing? What brings you joy? I’d love to hear from you!