Friday, April 15, 2011

Your Remarkable Mental Authority

I had been introduced to the term Mind/Body Connection but I really didn’t understand the interrelated concept. As far I was concerned the Mind/Body Connection experience was reserved for those with dreadlocks or those who sported clothing with peace signs and smiley faces. I had apprehension in regards to learning something new that may be in conflict with the spiritual foundation I had been taught since my youth. However, my consternation was quickly laid to rest when I found others from my same spiritual foundation as well as those with different beliefs who taught and lived the Mind/Body Connection. This strengthened my desire to conduct further research. Upon my earliest introduction I had thought the Mind was one thing and the Body was another. Later it would be revealed they are very much the same.

How our lives are shaped
After much research, speaking with certified professionals, accredited physicians and taking specialized classes—I learned the Mind/Body Connection in a nutshell is about how our thoughts create our lives, including our physical health. My life during this research was still a mess, but I knew I was learning valuable information. I had been diagnosed with severe clinical depression, post traumatic stress syndrome, and morbid obesity. All the ways I used to numb pain were no longer working—you know, the food, the relationships, the prescriptions as well as a few other methods, depending on my mood at that time.

The more I read about the Mind/Body Connection, the more hopeful I became. When I learned that the body responds to the way you think, feel and act, I was like, “Well, no wonder I’ve been depressed and obese most of my life!” When your emotional health is out of balance, physical signs such as the following may show up to alert you:

~ Weight Gain 
~ Weight Loss
~ Headaches 
~ Back Pain
~ Stiff Neck 
~ Acne
~ Constipation 
~ Diarrhea
~ Loss of Energy 
~ Cancer
~ Migraines 
~ Increase of Appetite
~ Depression 
~ Anorexia
~ Ulcers 
~ Blurred Vision

There can be multiple physical ailments, discomforts and diseases as a result of your thoughts. After gaining this knowledge, I determined that if our thoughts really do affect our life, our peace and our health, I could really change my life once and for all.

~Our thoughts create our lives, including our physical health~

“Ah ha” moments
A couple of “ah ha” moments for me while I was in the beginning stages of learning about the power of the mind happened during another trip I took to visit my brother in Montana. My brother, Cory Benge, is very athletic and he bases an enormous amount of importance on his health, including his daily exercise and nutrition.

I, on the other hand, had never been athletic besides an occasional stroll to the stop sign at the end of the street and back while most often losing my breath at the halfway mark. That “stroll plan” had a commitment stage that lasted sometimes three days at the most.

I usually make a few trips a year from my home in Illinois to Montana to simply help my brother who is a single parent. A typical visit consists of Cory picking me up from the airport and taking me to his home where I clean, cook, shop for their needs (ok, ok, things my nephew needs like toys…lots of toys), redecorate a few rooms, cook a Thanksgiving Dinner or put up their Christmas tree, buy and wrap presents, and the best part of all, take care of and play with my nephew. 

One evening during this particular visit, Cory told me we are going to go hiking up a mountain the next day. Just Cory, my little nephew, who was about three years old at the time, and myself. I figured if my nephew could hike, then just maybe I could do it too, yet, even though I didn’t tell my brother, I was terrified because I was in very poor physical shape and I was fairly certain I would not be able to enjoy this activity the way he seemed so certain I would.

That night after I put my nephew to bed, I climbed the stairs to my room and I could feel the stinging of the tears emerging stronger with each step. “I don’t want to go hiking tomorrow. What if I can‘t do it! What if my brother gets upset with me and rolls his eyes and I ruin the entire day for everyone!” I was certain I would be anxious for the rest of the night and probably wouldn’t even sleep. I was scared. I didn’t want to let myself down. I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of two people I love. I didn’t want to disappoint my brother.

Even as I write this, I weep for the woman who was climbing those stairs. The woman who always put herself down and was so worried about disappointing everyone. The woman who would numb her pain with food or perhaps another new relationship. The woman who always thought she deserved men who would dismiss her and roll their eyes. The woman who was exhausted by being a people pleaser to everyone so she could “earn” her worth. I thank God every day I am no longer that woman.

I got into bed that night and turned on the small lamp on the nightstand. I picked up one of the many books I had brought about the mind, or the brain, or science. I was so fearful about the next day I didn’t even know if I would be able to concentrate. I opened my randomly chosen book to no particular marked place and read
something to the affect, “The brain cannot process fear and gratitude at the same time. All negative emotions are fear based, so if you want to eliminate fear in your life, meditate on all you are grateful for….”

I had read this many times before in a variety of books regarding science and the brain. Yet that night, God opened that book to exactly where I needed to read. I put some soothing music on my iPod, turned out the lights and started thinking about all that I was grateful for. My sons, my parents, my brother and nephew, my friends, my awareness of my past conditioning and my commitment to heal for myself and those I love…Every so often a thought or a vision would enter my mind that was a “put down” or of someone from my past who had hurt me or who I had hurt, and I would ever so gently acknowledge it and think…I acknowledge you, and I am going to send you away, and if you come back to my thoughts while I am focusing on all that I am grateful for, I will continue to acknowledge you are there then gently push you away.… 

After a while of meditation and breathing and focusing my thoughts on all I was grateful for, my fear was gone,
completely vanished. I lay there with a slight smile on my face as I drifted off to a peaceful sleep while dreaming of all I was grateful for.

The next morning I was awakened by my little nephew who was so excited about the day. We made breakfast together, got dressed in our hiking gear and made our way to the mountain. Once in the parking
lot of our destination, my brother began putting on his “hiking papoose” to carry my nephew within it. The combined weight of the carrier we named the “hiking papoose” and my nephew would mean my brother would be hiking this gigantic mountain with over 80 lbs strapped to his back. 

My brother explained there are two ways to hike up the mountain...straight up or diagonal. We took the
diagonal, which had eight “switchbacks”. This way was less difficult yet much longer because you would go back and forth across the mountain. The other way had sections, looked like it was straight up when viewing it from the ground and was a much more difficult way to climb. I noticed the few people who were on it looked like advanced professional athletes. We were preparing to hike the less difficult, longer way of course because, well, you know the story about my stroll to the stop sign and back. Cory allowed my nephew to start the hike without being confined to his back in the “papoose”.

The little guy knew exactly where to go as he began to climb the first switchback trail with what seemed little effort (it certainly seemed this way since he was running at full speed and laughing!). My brother and I laughed at his already developed athletic ability. He was most certainly a chip off the old block.

We were about halfway up the first switchback when it happened. I couldn’t breathe. Cory and my nephew were quite a bit ahead of me, yet I could see them. I started having what felt like a panic attack, and my chest started to restrict. I found the strength to call out “Cory!” He didn’t hear me. “Cory!” I tried desperately again. I continued to look his way and watch him. He was preoccupied, keeping a close eye on his son while maneuvering his own self up the steep trail. He finally glanced back and saw me. He called to my nephew, and I watched as they both effortlessly ran back to where I was standing. I felt defeated. I was embarrassed. My negative thought conditioning was taking over, and it was winning.

“You okay, sis?” he asked.
“I can’t do it. I can’t breathe. My lungs won’t fill with air,” I replied
while my eyes filled with tears. 

My thoughts went to, “I’m such a loser. All those times of overeating, lying around, smoking cigarettes
and being a complete loser are ruining everyone’s day. A three year old can run up this mountain, and I think I need to quit at only halfway up the first switchback trail. Hell, I’m just destined to be a
fat, morbidly obese, depressed woman who has no talent and will always come in last. I’m so different than anyone else.”

For the first time in our adult lives, my brother looked me in the eyes and said, “Well, first of all, you need to stop talking to yourself that way. You CAN do this. Your thoughts are the key to anything you can or cannot accomplish. Second of all, we WILL make it up this mountain even if it takes all day. Third, hold your arms like this and breathe. This will fill your lungs with air.”

I did as he told me to, and I began to feel a little better, but a part of me still just wanted to quit and go back to the car. We started up the switchback trail again before I could tell him I thought I wanted to quit and that I’d changed my mind. This time we went much slower while my nephew was right by my side and my brother on my other side, reminding me to talk to myself. “I can make it up this mountain.”
He said, “Even if you don’t believe it, say it anyway.”

My nephew looked up and across me to my brother. “Are we going slow because of Aunt Lisa?” My brother and I both laughed out loud.

My nephew continued, “It’s okay, Aunt Lisa, you can do it!”

For the first time in my life, I didn’t see my brother as a little brother. He was a wise adult man. Did he always know how do to this—how to think like this? I always figured it came naturally to him. That it was just a part of his genetic makeup and I missed out on those particular genes. Perhaps he got what I was supposed to have. Yet remembering my research, someone had to teach him. These weren’t the thoughts he or I were conditioned to have. Something or someone in his past assisted him with this power through their positive
conditioning in this area. Perhaps it was a former football coach, or a college professor or a hunting buddy.

One day I was having a discussion with a friend of mine, Lisa Donahue, explaining how my brother and I had lived the same childhood and I could not understand why I turned out the way I did—and he didn’t.
She looked at me and spoke with her gentle voice. “You didn’t live the same lives. You were brought into this world under completely different circumstances. Your parents were at a different age and maturity level when you were each born. You were not the same gender. You had different experiences, both positive and negative, in which you were both conditioned differently. You most certainly did not have the same childhoods. You have developed your coping skills, both healthy and unhealthy, and he has developed his own coping skills, both healthy and unhealthy. You both have always done the best that you could, but you most certainly have not lived the same lives.”

She was right. I had never thought about it that way. That day on the mountain, my brother shared with me one of his healthy coping skills, and for this, I am grateful and I couldn’t be more proud of him for practicing such positive thought processes, for himself, for his son, for me. This was just another stepping stone to my clarity—to my self-discovery.

Hiking up the trails became more difficult. My brother told my nephew it was time to get in the “papoose”. Of course my nephew showed us he was very upset about this by pursing his little lips and crossing his arms, however he did what he was told. He was promised he would be able to see the view so much better, and I encouraged him to tell me about all that he saw. I kept talking to myself, “You can make it
up the mountain. You can make it to the top.”

There were areas within the switchbacks that were straight up. When we would get to those particular places, my brother knew what would more than likely go through my thoughts. He yelled out at me with a grin, “Now before you start talking yourself out of it, let me tell you how to do this.” I watched him as he put his “fingers in this cranny” and his “left foot on this tiny ledge” while his “right hand grabbed a root over there” and hoisted himself up to the next level. Remember, he had a toddler and 80lbs on his back and a sister who suffered from low self-confidence that he was most likely thinking about.

It was now my turn. I said to myself, “I can do this. There is a way to do this, and I am going to listen to his instructions and get up this cliff!” And I did. And I was proud. And I was slowly gaining some self-assurance and self-confidence. 

I laugh now as I think about looking up one of the cliffs at my brother who was giving me instructions as to what to do next, and saw him bending over with his hands on his knees looking down at me while I looked directly above him and noticed my nephew in the “papoose”. His head was above my brother’s with his little elbows on my brother’s shoulders, and he was resting his cheeks in his own miniature hands. His little body
language looked as if he was saying, “I’m so bored. Jeesh, come on. Don’t you realize this is fun? It’s not fair I have to sit up here in this papoose’ while you get to climb this cliff.”

We reached the seventh switchback, and it was more difficult than anything I had ever tried physically or athletically, which wasn’t much. My brother told me to give him my arm, and he tucked it under his massive, muscular bicep and practically pulled and dragged me up to almost the top.

“We’re almost there, Sissy,” he encouraged me. “We’re almost to the top!”

Right before the top, Cory released my arm, which allowed me to make my own way to the top of this mountain. I stopped and overlooked the city of Bozeman, Montana and felt an exhilaration I will never forget. My thoughts, my very own thoughts, though guided with the assistance of my brother and encouragement from my nephew, got me to the top of this mountain. I stood in awe of all that I had learned thus far on my healing journey.

We all began to make our way back down the mountain which, though still difficult, was much easier than hiking up. When we had just a couple of switchbacks to go, Cory let my nephew out of his carrier and let him run alongside of him to the bottom. I took my time to avoid falling and laughed while I watched my toddler nephew seem “to hold his own” with his dad.

Down the last switchback, my nephew cheered me on, smacking his little hands on his upper legs, yelling, “Come on, Aunt Lisa, you’re almost there, you can do it!” obviously amusing the bystanders with his genuine enthusiasm.

As we met at the bottom, my brother instructed me to go ahead and take my nephew home and he would meet up with us later. Cory let me know he was going to “run” up the mountain again on the difficult side.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked him.
“No, I try to do it every day,” he replied.

I strapped my nephew in his car seat and began driving to the opening of the parking lot, but then my intuition told me to turn back around. I was just learning to trust my intuition, so I turned the car around and parked in an area where I could see the difficult sections up the mountain. There I watched my brother running, digging in his hiking shoes, arms pumping back and forth, muscles flexing, breathing hard.

But do you know what I saw that was more awesome than anything?

I saw my younger brother, my brother who was now a man to me, talking to himself. He talked to himself while he passed other athletic hikers and runners, over roots and large rocks that were in his path, right up that mountain. His mountain. My mountain. Your mountain.

I have learned if someone has the physical ability to climb a mountain but doesn’t have the mental ability, they won’t make it to the top.

And I also learned if someone has the mental ability but doesn’t necessarily have the physical ability, they can STILL make it to the top. 

Today, I have learned so much about the body and mind, how the mind works, and I have made tremendous strides from that day on that mountain. 

Today, I have the ability to make it to the top of any mountain I choose, whether it be in Montana, in my office or whatever “mountain” just so happens to be presenting itself in my life.

From Chapter 2 of the book "From Broken To Beautiful"