Thursday, November 4, 2010

'Restoration' - the Mental: Avoiding Bad Roads

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven.”
- John Milton

Over a year ago, I started writing about the “Wheel of Restoration.” I had an outline laid out and it would only take me a short time to write the basics of ‘whole person wellness’ as I’ve learned it thus far in my observations in a life-long career in the healing arts and navigating my own health challenges. Thing is, when you set out to ‘teach’ something and you also know that you yourself are a life-long student, sometimes life comes along and knocks you upside the head with some new schooling, some more advanced lessons on the subject -- especially if your eyes and ears are willingly open to being schooled.

I should have known better. I do know better, but I forgot.

To me, that right there is the core of healing: usually, a circuitous path of forgetting and remembering -- and as long as we keep remembering, keep reminding one another, not so much by our words, but by our actions, we keep moving forward in the strengthening direction - the direction of healing and restoration - whatever it is one thinks ‘That’ looks like and however one personally measures it.

I wanted to write down some of the things I’d learned over the past years from working with thousands of clients throughout my lifetime, to pass on to others, especially my children, gathered anecdotes, thoughts and reflections on the lessons I’ve been fortunate to have been shown over the years, reflected in the lives of diverse people struggling and working hard to be and do their best, owning responsibility for their bodies, health and lives, and DOING something about them. Often, a writer thinks that they are writing to or for someone; always, to some degree, we are also writing to ourselves.

I’ve met some amazing people over the years; they all had something to teach me. Some taught me what a person willing to take ownership and responsibility looks like, others were an example of other roads - ones I’d rather not go down.

Remember those television commercials where an elderly person falls on the floor and helplessly cries out, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”? Motivated to never be like that, my elderly mother’s response was: “Never lose your ability to get yourself up off the floor!” As an independent widow she knew the importance of this. To her, what would save her if she fell was herself -- her own ability to rise up again.

She practiced what she preached, intentionally getting herself down on the floor daily to do floor exercises --- and then getting herself back up again - sometimes by ‘hook or by crook’ - but always, she got herself back up.


That’s what I’ve been busy doing for the last five years, since my personal world went through a revolution. I fall, metaphorically speaking, and by hook or by crook, I work at getting back up, even if it is sometimes frustratingly, two steps forward - a limp and a half back. Still, always forward, thankfully. There are a variety of floors one can fall down upon - and as many ways of rising.

When in a revolution, become a revolutionary. Resist! Fight! Rise up and stand toe-to-toe with the Challenger. Rise Again! And again, and again, and again.

In the summer of ’09 I began writing what was going to be this short series on ‘Restoration’ and Healing. I divided the wheel into four quadrants and was writing on them one by one: the Physical, the Emotional -- and then we came to the Mental....

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! [inside joke for the one or two who know the man behind the curtain]

I thought I could easily and quickly write about the Mental Quadrant - the ‘how-to’ of maintaining quality mental activity and ability. And it’s true, I have learned a lot about that over the years. I’d even recently been studying the subject in my personal recovery from medically-related cognitive issues. Evidently I was going to ‘study’ this from a deeper place; I was swept down the slippery slope, obliging me to “get myself back up” just as mom had instructed.

It wasn’t easy - and in the condition I found myself in, I had nothing to say on the subject -- not until I got back up that slippery mountainside.

When we find ourselves sliding down that mental slope, it’s usually because of a combination of events and circumstances, mixed with lowered ability to ‘spring back’, fueled by a cocktail of adrenaline and other bodily stress hormones. All come together in a confluence with our name on it --- and > SNAP! < .... there we go..... down that slope.

And there I went. Reflections on the Mental Quadrant [which is the governor/determiner of the Emotional, also] are actually all chronicled in these writings of the past year - mostly between the lines, behind the language of poetry: chrysalises and monarchs; haiku, cutting to the bone; and the occasional essay of musings on personal topics such as mortality and endurance. I wrote about sailing high seas, both my young sailing son’s actual waters, and metaphorically, my own personal paddling through choppy seas. I couldn’t hit it directly - straight on - I had to come at it sideways; I had to tack my way forward. I dug my paddle in and pulled hard.

And I’ve been pulling since, digging the paddle into the strong current. This moment of paddling, the only thing of importance. Forward >>> the direction.

When the body becomes not as steadily reliable, when you feel as though your life-long chassis, the old, steady-and-ready vehicle that it once was has somehow betrayed you, then preserving mental ground becomes of utmost importance. It always was important, but it was taken for granted that there was wiggle room. Now, with other parts challenged, mental strength becomes more highly valued. We NEED our rudder of stability and clarity. It needs our attention. Where we place our attention can literally be the difference between life and death and most definitely IS the difference in the ever-fluctuating quality of life.

Where we place our attention is key. A stable, alert, awake, creative, problem-solving mind is what we all want. But how do we create that? Like a fit body, for most of us it isn't just going to happen. It will take work and attention.

We begin at the beginning: WHERE we place our attention.

To be continued....

[Other writings on ‘Restoration’ are archived from July ’09 to present, some under that heading, others hidden in 17 syllables of haiku or instructions from Rumi.]


Sylvan Woman said...

Going to practice getting up off the floor. I like your mom's philosophy!

Also, your medicine wheel is awesome.

el poquito said...

Thanks, C. She taught me some good stuff, including using a paintbrush to put your mark on any dang thing you like!

The circle, as you know, is a universal symbol. This one is from my asian ink painting practice. The circle is called an enso. Masters spend a lifetime trying to perfect their enso. I have a great book where they show a 95 yr old Japanese painting master's enso. Then again, at 105 - and they show how he improved over those 10 years. And then at 107 he really had it down!

I figure it gives me something to do - a simple goal - to learn how to execute a circle in ink. Ya know, something to aim for by 107!

Luz Nuncio Schick said...

This is wonderful. I think you and I are at the same point (same age, too). The way I'm looking at it, and I tell myself this as more and more of my dear friends are ill, dying, or dead, is "Don't go down without a fight."

Now, I know that doesn't sound especially serene and meditative, but it's actually the place I get to when I contemplate, and I think it's the same idea as never losing your ability to get yourself up off the floor. I never want to lose my ability to stop for the sunrise and sunset, to try to understand what someone is saying--to me or to the universe.

I really like the paths you show us.



el poquito said...

Hey, Luz! Good to see you.

re:"I never want to lose my ability to stop for the sunrise and sunset"

Nope. Never.

Yep, I think we are the same era. These days I don't think a day goes by without me pointing out something related to 'Aging in America'.

You, me? We come from tough survivor stock - that resilient Mexican/Indio blood coursing through our veins. Lucky us. Gonna take a lot to keep us down. We come from people who upon falling down, keep on rising. Again, and again, and again. A lineage of survivors.

Thanks for dropping by and letting me know. Hope all's going well with the Boxcar Project --- leading to more...


White Eagle said...

El Poquito,

I finally stole the time to read you blog post.

Clearly, there is a book in you on the four quadrants. And I will purchase it.

The word that stuck with me: Endurance.

Some years ago, when I was going through a long dark night of the soul, my father-in-law, a wise and loving elderly Chinese man, made a gift to me of a poster with the Chinese character for "Endurance" on it.

The story of his life, and his families (including my wife) is a story of endurance. I hope Janie (my wife) writes it one day.

At it's very darkest moments, our commitment to endurance keeps us alive. And where there is life, there is the possibility of hope...which can inspire action...the climb from the abyss.

You're an amazing man.

John Rouleau

May K. Cobb said...

El Po,

Like Eag, I finally carved the time to give your words a proper read.
And I'm blown away. I agree wholeheartedly with Eag that there is a book in you about the four quadrants. You have so much to say and you have such a way with words. Your voice is so strong, I can't imagine that it's ever on the floor. :)

what a beautiful, beautiful read,

el poquito said...

Eag, I'd love to see a photo of that poster of the character "Endurance". Sounds like one I'd like to practice with my ink brush. It's what's brought us all here, eh? We all are descended from lineages of various survivors. There's a lot of strength there to draw from.

May, you're very kind. As I said though, those who know the man behind the curtain... [hahaha!] Well, I do enjoy making folks laugh!

I try. I will give myself that.

None of this is anything original; none belongs to me personally. As 'Flor y Canto' says at the top - as taught to me, Flor [flower] = the gifts passed on to us: knowledge; abilities; everything we receive in this bounty of our lives. Canto [song] = what we leave behind when we take our leave: children, gardens, art, work, our mark upon this world.

I leave nothing that wasn't first freely given/shown or taught to me by some generous soul. We're each a link in a chain. These are just some of my markings - the intent of which is to leave some graffiti perhaps one day useful for my kids [if only to one day know what percolated inside their pa's mysterious head]. For now, I'm just a regular dad whose kids could really care less what he's writing about. As it should be -- they have their own dragons to train and gardens to grow.

But that gramma of theirs? They remember her stories well. Now THERE was a storyteller!