Healing Is Our Birthright

If you’ve ever experienced a debilitating illness you know there is nothing more important than getting your health back. I know this first hand after battling ulcerative colitis and a gut/brain axis issue for more than 9 years.

There came a point when no doctor, no drug, or treatment plan was curing the illness within my body. I was also given the option of surgery but I knew that wasn’t the answer either.

For years I constantly strived to be cured. I tried every diet, supplement and treatment plan that I was aware of at the time and nothing worked. I was exhausting myself with little to no results.

After experiencing inescapable suffering, I began to try a different approach. I surrendered to the dis-ease in my body and began to listen to what my symptoms were trying to tell me. As I began to embrace the practice of meditation, which is to simply be with the mind and body just as it is. I began to let go of trying to be cured and began to find healing within the stillness of being. The truth of how I came to be this way started to make its way to the surface of my consciousness. I experienced healing.

I began to relate to the dis-ease in a new way. Instead of pushing it away and causing more suffering, I began to see it as my teacher. It wasn’t something I had to get rid of, it was a cry from within my cells in which I had to answer, and learn to hold in loving awareness.

My body was telling me something. It was saying I needed to slowdown, take better care of myself and address the underlying residual trauma from childhood that was still lurking in the dark cellar of my unconscious mind.

As I began to listen to its message and it’s means I had a shift in the way I related to the illness. I started giving the illness space and resting in the unknown outcome of my prognosis. I started listening to the soft whispers from within and began to follow the signs that the universe was giving me. 

At the time, I “coincidently” crossed paths with Dan, my best friend from high school’s uncle. I know now that there are no coincidences. Dan was a terminal cancer survivor who left main stream medicine after chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant that failed to treat his cancer. Dan recommended I read a book called “Primal Body Primal Mind”. I was so moved by the book I called the author directly to consult with her but she was too busy. So she referred me to Dr. Kari, a functional medicine doctor that played a very intricate part of treating the ulcerative colitis and gut/brain axis issue that I was dealing with at the time. As I began to let go even deeper and trust the process, more synchronicities would happen that would lead me to the next step to take along my healing journey.

There’s no right or wrong along the healing path. Every situation is an opportunity to learn, grow and surrender to what is happening in the present moment of life. We cannot force this process it must flow naturally. Sometimes we will make strides forward and begin to feel great and at other times our symptoms will return. When this happens we may feel like we are back at the beginning of where we first started, but we are not. We have gained resilience, wisdom and strength from facing the challenges along the path to healing.

Healing is a journey. It’s about hanging out in the unknown and trusting the process. It’s quite different form curing. In curing there is often the energy of “doing,” in healing there is the opposite energy, the energy of “being”.  In curing we are often trying to get somewhere and make something happen. In healing we hang out in the unknown. We begin to navigate each moment right where we are in the present. Trusting that the process is unfolding as planned and we will learn the lessons that our pain is trying to teach us. 

Healing is our birthright, we all have the right to heal. 

Living In One Of The 5 Blue Zones Of The World And What It Has Taught Me…

I’m settling in nicely here in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica which happens to be one of the five Blue Zones in the world. Santa Teresa is located on the Nicoya Peninsula on the West coast of Costa Rica. A Blue Zone is defined as an anthropological concept that describes the characteristic lifestyle and environment of the worlds longest lived people. After being here for just over two months, I can easily see why the average life expectancy could be lived out for another couple decades.

From my observation, the environment alone would impact anyone’s health in a positive way. The sun is always shining and never seems to burn off the refreshing mist that hangs over the palm tree covered coast along the ocean’s edge. It feels like you’re in the perfect incubator, waiting to be hatched into your greatest physical potential. The rhythmic sounds of nature have their own impact on my health as well. Every morning I wake up to the crow of the roosters and the sounds of the birds chirping. You will often hear a deep howl in the distance coming from the Howler monkeys. You would think they were gorillas by the sound of their howl but they are rather small in comparison.

There seems to be very little sense of urgency here in Santa Teresa. Everything gets done in its own time. Stress seems to be at a minimum here. The locals close up shop to take an afternoon swim or watch an evening sunset. As I stroll downtown I am greeted by the locals motto “Pura Vida” which translates in English to “Pure Life”. It’s as common as saying hello to one another in the states. There is something magical about the pure life of Santa Teresa. In my extensive travels I have never experienced living to the rhythm of nature more than on the Nicoya Peninsula. All of nature is in perfect rhythm with the rise and setting of the sun which makes for a very healthy circadian rhythm. Lately I have found myself going to bed within after 2 hours of sunset and waking within 2 hours of sunrise and feeling great!

The food here is another contributing factor of why life expectancy is longer than normal. Most natives eat primarily a plant based diet; one that consists of leafy greens, beans and lentils. Also you will find there is no shortage of fruit in which many are extremely nutrient dense including noni, guanabana, cashew fruit and many more. You can find a fruit vendor along side the unpaved dirt road at any given time. Just the other day I came across a man selling five pineapples for two dollars, or another vendor selling three watermelons for two dollars! If you take a glance in the trees above it is not uncommon for you to see fresh fruit growing in it’s natural environment. Some of them consist of mango, banana, papaya, coconut, noni, oranges, limes. All these fruits grow in abundance here due to the fertile soil and temperate climate.

Overall the Nicoya Peninsula has reminded me to slow down, relax and feel the beauty around me. Each sunset is like a unique piece of art and has taught me to open to the present moment and embrace the impermanent nature of all things. With every sunrise and sunset here, I have grown a deeper appreciation for Mother Earth and her infinite wonders.

When Removing My Colon Wasn’t An Option

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I can recall the day like it was yesterday. Sitting on the edge of the examination table of my former GI doctor’s office feeling anxious and full of uncertainty. At this point, I had been on over nine medications for the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, in which none of them were successfully treating the disease, and the side effects were causing me more suffering. The last drug I had been prescribed required an intravenous infusion every 4 weeks and blood work every 2 weeks. The blood work was to monitor my liver enzymes to be sure my liver could process the drug. After being on the medication for approximately 12 months, I received a call from my doctor saying “you need to get off this drug immediately and go see a hepatologist.” I suddenly began to panic and think of the worst possible outcome, surgery. I was so afraid that the disease would take over my life again. Without knowing what else to do, I followed the doctor’s orders and saw the hepatologist.

Sitting in the waiting room felt like an eternity. As he walked into the examination room he began to acutely examine me and commented on the fact that my face was “rather flushed.” During this time, I had also developed a severe sensitivity to chemicals and pollutants known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). Exposure to even the slightest trace of chemicals or fragrance would trigger a response within my body and cause major brain fog and my face to flush beat red. As he proceeded the examination he told me that I would need a liver biopsy. The biopsy was performed days later to discover the medication was causing me to develop autoimmune hepatitis. I was told if I did not address this hepatitis that I could possibly need a liver transplant within seven years. I was at a loss for words.

How did I go from being a young healthy male full of energy and life? To having a debilitating autoimmune disease and potentially needing a liver transplant? I was suffering so much, at times I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be live or die.

Riddled with fear, I took the suggestion of the hepatologist and began taking a high dose of prednisone to bring down my liver enzymes. In a matter of weeks, my enzymes returned to normal. The intravenous medication was causing autoimmune hepatitis. Not knowing where to go, I returned to the GI doctor’s office in hopes for him to have a backup plan for treating the ulcerative colitis. That backup plan came in the form of a business card for a surgeon. The nurse practitioner suggested I give him a call and set up a consultation. I knew the consultation would lead to the surgeon suggesting to remove my colon and live the rest of my life with a pouch. I threw the card in the trunk of my car and had no intention of calling him. My intuition knew if I was to heal, it would no longer be in the hands of conventional medicine, neither would my inflamed colon have a chance to heal if it was to be cut out of my body.

I began to meditate to calm my mind and body. The therapeutic benefits of meditation began to not only to set the environment for healing but also created space for me to hang out in the “unknown,” the very place where healing is possible. The continuous desire and struggle to alleviate my symptoms caused me further pain and to be stuck in the cycle of suffering. Learning to “be” with what was present in my mind/body allowed me to get clear and reflect on the steps I needed to take in order to initiate the healing process.

As I began to listen to the whispers within, the fear of illness and disease began to dissipate. As the fear began to fall away, it was clear to me that this illness was more than just a crippling disease, it was also my teacher. It manifested in “service for me.” It allowed me to get in touch with the deeper meaning of life and experience a sense of wholeness and love that I have never felt before. The experience of intense suffering allowed my heart to crack open and touch the suffering of all beings. Leading to a deeper understanding of consciousness and awakening me to the truth of how I came to be this way.

A shift in consciousness is essential to initiate the healing process within the body/mind. Many times our unconscious behaviors are perpetuating the very actions that lead us to illness and disease and not toward health and wholeness. For me, three main underlying factors contributing to my disease were: I was constantly stuck in a fight or flight response, caused by never fully addressing childhood trauma and relating to life in “survival mode”. Two, I was in the habit of over-exercising, literally running from myself and creating an inflammatory response within my body. And three, I was not eating a proper diet to support my overall physical health. 

Physical pain is often followed by mental suffering. If we have the willingness to go within and investigate our own heart and mind, healing and awakening of our consciousness is possible. Carl Jung said it perfectly. “One does not become enlightened by imagining images of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Shifting our consciousness allows us to see with new eyes, allowing our pain and illness to be the very catalyst to transformation and healing.

Going within, I began to listen to what my body was telling me. My intuition or “higher self” began to speak to me. This isn’t some mystical gift or magical power, we all have the ability to access this higher intelligence from within. It takes being open-minded, willing and able to get quiet enough to listen. As I began to listen and take action undeniable signs and synchronicities began to show up in my life. The universe began to align me with various healers, doctors, and practitioners whom would play an integral part in my healing process.

As Ajahn Chah (the great Thai Forrest Monk) would say; “There are two kinds of suffering. There is suffering you run away from, which follows you everywhere. And there is the suffering you face directly, and so become free.”

By turning toward my suffering I was able to transcend the pain and open to the infinite possibilities in the present moment. Allowing the fear of surgery to slip away and begin to walk a conscious path towards healing.

Shifting from “Doing” to “Being”

For years I lived my life in a constant state of doing, sometimes literally running from myself. 

From abusing drugs and alcohol when I was younger, to over training in the gym. I was reluctant to slow down, for it would mean I may have to face the chaos that was spinning around inside of me. It was easier for me to grab my road bike and ride 35 miles than to sit quiet with my mind’s chatter. Or even better, I could go to the gym twice a day to build up my body’s armor so no one could get close to my heart.

When I think back to those times, it is very clear to me that I was in deep pain. I didn’t have the self awareness to see my habitual patterns that were causing me to remain stuck. I would always justify my means of escape as if what I was doing was normal. As if chasing around attractive woman for the sole purpose of sex, or numbing out by over eating and then going to the gym to get “jacked” was normal. These were just a few of my habitual patterns that I would do so I wouldn’t have to feel the feelings.

How many people are out there in the world on the merry-go-round of “doing” without really being present for themselves? As human beings we have the tendency to push away what is unpleasant and grasp for what feels good. You might ask yourself. “What is the problem with that?” The problem is, it sets us up to condition ourselves in such a way that leads to suffering. Unpleasantness and pain are part of life, wishing things to be different is what causes us to suffer.

Shifting from “doing” to “being” requires us to lean into the painful parts of ourselves that are not so easy for us to face. I mean really, who can we befriend if we cannot learn to befriend ourselves first? We can start this relationship with ourselves by taking time to sit in stillness. Allowing ourselves to drop into the present moment with a sense openness and curiosity. As we sit mindfully we can allow our thoughts, feelings and sensations to just be as they are. Holding everything in awareness without judgment or needing to change anything.

Many of us are so wrapped up in seeking comfort and security from the external world that we forget the peace and stillness we are looking for is right inside our very own being. There is no where to run to. With the slightest shift of our attention we can go back home to ourselves. Making peace with the person we are in this very moment without having to create another means of escape.

Wherever you may be in life, can you open yourself up to the present moment and meet life exactly where you are? Allowing the space of being to seep deep into your consciousness and free you from having to “DO” and just “BE”?

Healing from the Inside Out

How much suffering does one person need to shift their mindset and lifestyle to begin the healing process on all levels; physically, mentally and spiritually?

I know for myself, I needed the whole framework of my existence to collapse to make way for a foundation to be laid and built upon.

For many years I was consumed with trying to “make it” in the world. Never stopping or slowing down enough to see the beauty that was always around me. Internalizing my tremendously dysfunctional traumatic childhood had led to an eruption of Irritable Bowel Disease and a host of other symptoms. I was suffering both physically and mentally and desperately trying to hold it all together.

I believe the pain and suffering we experience in life are as equally important as the love and the joy. Paradoxically, I have touched the deepest moments of joy, peace, and love while going through the darkest times in my life. Suffering on any level is an invitation for us to wake up. To stop, get curious and go within. A time to check in with ourselves and see what it is that we truly need. Without going inside ourselves for the answerers we are likely to perpetuate the conditioned response of seeking comfort from the external world. I know this first hand, I tried it for years with little success.

Choosing to go within oneself for the answers is an act of courage. Shining the light of awareness on every little deep dark crevice of your being is not the most pleasurable of experiences, nor is it at the top of most people’s priority list. When the pain inside was greater than the fear of looking, I took a glance. For months I meditated in solitude. Sometimes retreating to the woods to escape the stimulation of the inhabited outside world. There, I had a realization that would forever change how I see the world. The mental construct of “me” had vanished and I had become one with all. There was no duality, you or me, “I” was everything! “I” was the bird migrating, “I” was the acorn that cracked and burst into a ninety-foot oak tree, there was no separation, just pure conscious awareness.

The old framework that supported my various belief systems and the sense of “self” had disintegrated. It was like being reborn and seeing the world for the first time. The habitual thinking of the past was no longer present. The fear and anxiety of the future was gone and I was living deeply in the present moment. Knowing in the depths of my being that everything leading up to this moment was of divine perfection.

Can we look within and realize the answers we are searching for are already inside of us? When we sift through the soil of our being, to unearth the gems that are waiting to be discovered, we will find we are whole and complete just the way we are.

Welcome to Breath by Breath Wellness!

Thank you for taking the time to stop by my website to check out the blog! I’m super excited but also a bit nervous to launch my website and social media platforms to the public. I’m feeling the feelings and doing it anyway! My intention for Breath by Breath Wellness is to help assist people in transforming their lives through holistic principles and the mind-body connection. I feel very grateful for all of life’s experiences, especially the difficult ones which have made room for something greater to be birthed from within me. Please feel free to sign up for my blog and newsletter and also follow me on social media. If you have any questions or are interested in my services please email me. I look forward to connecting with you!