Monday, February 14, 2011

Wake Up Call

Having my swallowing deteriorate to the point of needing a feeding tube has caused me a great deal of reflection and contemplation. Given my intention for fully recovering from ALS, having to get a feeding tube was a huge disappointment. Thinking about changes in my behavior over the past year or so, I realized that I have stopped doing breathing exercises, meditation, taking mental trips to the gym, and visualizing myself in a fully healthy and mobile state. I have gotten complacent. As a result, my breathing has declined to its lowest level ever, my voice clarity and volume are so poor that most people can’t understand me, I have lost significant weight, navigating my wheelchair has become more difficult, and swallowing has eroded to the point of requiring a feeding tube. The tube, for me, has been a startling wake up call.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, two other events have dovetailed with my reawakening. One was the reading of my friend, Howard Guttman’s, latest book, ”Coach Yourself to Win” In it, Howard quotes from my manuscript words that serve as a powerful reminder of where I have strayed from:

“ takes a while to get past the surrealism, to really get it that your time may be limited, and how you are spending your time right now is how you are choosing to spend what is left of your life.... It finally hit me that holding on to my typical patterns wasn’t going to do anything but burn me out and cause me to fade away with no additional contribution to myself or anyone else.... Once I got it that things had to change, I started to shift my priorities. My work was no longer as a management consultant. My work was now to demonstrate how to take responsibility for my own survival and live with intention to find a way to beat an unbeatable disease.”

While my consulting days ended years ago, reading my own words in Howard’s book made me realize that I have let too many other activities interfere with living out my intention. It made me realize that it is time to refocus my priorities. A second quote from my manuscript reminded me dramatically of what was at stake:

” I have pretty consistently held to the notion throughout this ordeal that recovery (at some level) is a possibility. The flaw in this way of thinking is that, if reversing this disease is a “possibility”, then the opposite is also a “possibility”. ALS is a neurological disorder, and the brain is the center of the nervous system. If my brain is sending out messages to the rest of the system that recovery is only an “option”, then my potential for recovery has been compromised. So my strategy going forward is to convince myself that recovery is a certainty, and that it has already begun.”

Such convincing requires a great deal of meditation and visualization. Giving up such activities results in too many unwanted possibilities. The stakes with ALS are simply too high to risk with unintentional behavior.

The other event that coincided with my reawakening was joining Dr Craig Oester’s Healers of ALS (HALS) group Over the past several months Dr. Craig has become one of my heroes. He has been living with ALS for seventeen years. After approaching death as a hospice patient, he finally began to turn his health around, improving enough to get thrown out of hospice. Craig and I share the belief that the key to healing from ALS lies in managing one’s thoughts and beliefs. As a psychologist, who has successfully used this basic premise to reverse his own symptoms, he is now inviting other PALS (people with ALS) to join him in an effort to see if his results in recovering from ALS are reproducible. His determination and strength of focus have inspired me and redirected my attention to behave in alignment with my intention with greater fervor.

What experiences have you had with getting off track from an intention and recovering your focus? What helped you to get back on track?