Taking a short walk today is better than no walk at all 

I’ve learned over the last 30 years of dealing with multiple complicated chronic health issues is that – 

A small effort taken to improve my health today is infinitely better than taking no action at all. 

One of the small ways I seek to improve my health is by taking a walk at least 5x per week. Walking is something that helps the body in a lot of positive ways and it’s a great inexpensive, zero side, effect way to improve mood as well.

Today I only took a ten minute walk. That’s a lot shorter than I like to go but it’s better than not walking at all. I didn’t go as far as usual because of the time of day I went and because of how I was feeling. 

Before I went on the walk I thought for a moment that I shouldn’t go because it’s too hot and that I was too tired.  And that I won’t be able to go as far as I normally do and if I do go I’ll feel terrible and I’ll only be able to go for a short walk. I asked myself “What would be the use of that?”.

I’m glad I answered that a short walk is better than no walk at all.  I overcame that resistance and went. 

Too often it can be overwhelming dealing with chronic health issues to justify doing the small things that seem trivial in light of the amount of pain or the fatigue that one feels. 

But it’s these small choices each day that I make over time have a big positive impact on improving the quality of my life. Today I only walked ten minutes but that is still a small win in the pursuit of healthier me. 

Don’t discount the small wins. They can add up over time to produce amazing results. 

Brad 

Yerba Mate, Inflammation Brain and Flow State     

  
I’ve taken a ton of supplements, vitamins and nootropics in my life to help me develop a cleaer, more calm, and focused mind. Almost all of the stuff I’ve taken hasn’t had any discernible effects. One of the substances that has bucked the trend and has actually helped my mental state greatly is Yerba Mate tea. This powerful elixir from South America has positive noticeable effects on my brain and body almost as soon as the warm earthy green liquid crosses my lips. 

What is Yerba Mate?
The first time I drank Yerba Mate I couldn’t believe how it effected me. It provided mental and physical energy without the jitteriness of just caffeine, plus a level of focus and mental clarity which most of the time escapes me. For the last 30 years I’ve been dealing with autoimmune conditions, chronic pain and chronic inflammation. And these issues create what I call inflammation brain and when I’m under its spell entering into a flow state or simply getting through the day is extremely difficult. 

I’m obsessed currently with getting into, maintaining and living within a flow state as much as I can. Along with helping with forgetting oneself, time dialation and just feeling good, the flow-state produces positive physiological changes which are thought to help with autoimmune conditions and chronic pain. 

Yerba Mate’s unique composition of chemicals produces a similar feeling in me comparable to a low level or micro-flow state. And it also produces the mental jumping off point in which I can enter into a deeper flow state more easily.  When I’m tired and don’t feel well my brain is filled with a sludge or a fog . My mental processes are slowed, motivation evaporates, solution and novelty seeking are dramatically reduced and I just feel stuck.  I chalk this up to my autoimmune and inflammatory issues. This inflamed brain state  makes thinking difficult and making decisions even harder. When I drink Yerba Mate all of these symptoms are greatly reduced or even totally eliminated for up to four hours. 

After downing a cup of the Yerba Mate tea my mind clears and my thoughts are light and move without much effort, instead of being stuck in the mental sludge as usual.  The powerful chemical mix contained within the Mate include caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine along with tons of vitamins and minerals.

Caffeine is familiar to us all and most are familiar with its effects. Theophylline and theobromine are not as well known. Theophylline has anti-inflammatory effects and it is a vasodiallator which helps lower blood pressure and can help improve breathing. Theobromine effects the vagus nerve, the heart  and also is a vasodiallator. These compounds work synergistically to create positive changes to the body and brain. 

This means that when I drink Yerba Mate my fatigue is less noticeable, I can focus on one thing at a time, I can switch to another task or idea seemlessly, my body and mind are more relaxed and energized, and the perceived resistance to starting a task, which I am normally paralyzed by,  is greatly reduced. Also I’m less bothered by interruptions or issues that crop up during the day which, without the Mate, would easily trigger disappointment or feelings of anxiety. 

I’ve wasted hundreds of dollars on supplements, vitamins and nootropics in order to relieve my inflammatory induced brain state. Now for less than two cents a day I can banish the brain fog, gain mental clarity, ignore distractions, more easily, and clear away mental and physical fatigue. By reducing or eliminating these symptoms of inflamed brain I’m able to to enter into, achieve, and  maintain  mental flow states more easily throughout the day. And this makes living a hell of a lot more enjoyable. 

One of my favorite sayings is “Enjoy what you can and endure what you must”. I’m on a perpetual quest for ideas, substances and practices that help me to be able to do this more in life.  A warm mug of Yerba Mate in the morning is a good way for me to ensure that I’m able to enjoy and endure a little more each day. 

Brad 

FYI:

Even though Yerba Mate is stimulating ai don’t just drink it in the morning , I also drink in the evening if I’m finding it hard to relax my inflamed mind and body. It calms and clears my mind and relaxes my body. Instead of keeping me up it actually and helps me to fall asleep. 

Bone broth, hospitals and bad memories 

  
When I’m in the hospital one of the things I hate the most (besides the dehumanization, pain, misery and zero sleep) is the food. And the one food that has turned my stomach more by its mere presence than any other food, was beef broth. The smell always produced the physical preparations for vomiting as soon as the smell hit my nose. That is why I was shocked today when I drank a full cup of bone beef broth and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

I was very anxious as I cut open the package of Kettle and Fire’s grassfed beef bone broth today  and waited to have my nose assaulted by the noxious nauseating  odor of beef broth but that never happened. In fact as I took the initial first whiff of the golden elixir it was not offensive in the least. Feeling a little more confident,  I poured the contents into a sauce pan and began to simmer it. I thought surely as it heated the unpleasant aroma would be released and assault my nostrils just as the disgusting beef broth had always done when I was in hospital.

Again my nose was spared. The aroma was mild but very pleasant. I poured a mug of the clear golden  brown liquid, girded my loins and tentaviley took a sip. I waited for my tongue and stomach to immediately revolt but they did not. I took another sip and another. It took my brain a few seconds to catch up and realize,  that it was not in the least revolting, and yes it was truly delicious.

No off flavors, no tinny taste and most surprisingly I found hints of maple syrup notes in the broth. The more I drank it the more I enjoyed it. Not only was it extremely tasty and satisfying it left my cracked lips moisturized. With each sip a pleasant and tasty glossy residue was left on my lips as a reminder of the reported healing properties it contains.  

I’ve had bone broth sitting in my pantry for six months now. Every time I would see it on the shelf I would say to myself “I’ll try it tomorrow” because I dreaded taking a sip. But the fear was unfounded. Kettle and Fire has produced an amazing product that is something I am going to incorporate into my morning and evening routine. 

Bone broth’s reported health benefits are legion. I am most interested in its reported ability to help heal the GI tract and also help with skin issues such as psoriasis. And on top of all the health benefits it’s also delicious. I plan on having a cup tonight before dinner. 

If you are interested in more of the health benefits visit Kettle and Fire’s website: https://www.kettleandfire.com

Their ingredient list is impressive which includes grassfed beef bones along with veggies and herbs. For me drinking the bone broth not only nourished my body but also helped me to mentally overcome a past negative memory and by doing so enjoy a new positive experience that will hopefully lead to improved health over the long haul. 

How many other things do I avoid today that could be potentially good for me because of the negative memories that I still hold on to from the past? That is a question I will ponder tonight as I enjoy a steaming mug of Kettle and Fire’s grassfed beef bone broth. 

Brad 

FYI: In 2013 there was a study done showing high lead levels in chicken bone broth. The study was severely flawed. You can read a full write up about it here: http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/soy-alert/bone-broth-and-lead-contamination-a-very-flawed-study-in-medical-hypotheses/

Roles Reversed

I’ve been chronically unwell for the last 30 years. During that time I’ve endured 20 surgeries, 40 bowel obstructions, a permanent ileostomy and for the last few years pancreatitis attacks. Through all of it from my search for a diagnosis at age 11 through to my last stint in the hospital in May of this year, my mom has been there for me. Now I’m getting to repay a small amount of the debt that I owe her. Our roles have been reversed.

In September she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, has had a mastectomy, a removal of her reconstructed breast, tens of doctors appointments, a port put in and had her first chemo treatment last week. Her surgeries, her chemo treatment and her doctors are in a hospital that’s right across the street from the hospital I’ve gone to since I was 11. Now I’m the one driving her up north to some of her appointments to north of Atlanta so she can get well.

Helping mom heal has been just as healing for me.  Over the years mom has invested so much of her time and energy into my mere survival that I’m grateful I’m able to help her now in her time of need. One of my biggest fears when she was first diagnosed was that I wouldn’t be of any help, and I would be unable to step up and be at least a partial care giver. I was struggling horribly with debilitating pain when she was first diagnosed. I was in the midst of months of pain due to pancreatitis caused by a gallstone.

My GI doctor during this time wanted me to have surgery but I refused. Instead I started a course of cannabis capsules and in about ten days the pain was gone. I’d had that horrible pain for at least two months straight. Before I started the cannabis, I would sleep in the bathtub  at night because the hot water along with oxycodone was the only way I could find some relief. Then one Saturday it just stopped. And this was a couple weeks out from mom’s surgery. I knew if i had surgery I’d been unable to help her. I’m glad I made that call.

I owe my life to my mom not only for giving birth to me but for helping keep me alive through all the trials of surgery and chronic pain over the last 30 years. This year I became a Primal Health Coach and mom was my first client. I live with mom and I do most of the grocery shopping and I’ve cooked the majority of the meals since I’ve moved in. Mom has lost nearly 100 pounds in a year. Her doctor told her that for women who are overweight it’s harder to detect small tumors in a mammogram.

Her cancer was super aggressive and if they hadn’t caught the tumors when they did it could have been a whole different outcome. Her doctor said that losing the weight could have saved her life.  I’m grateful I’ve been able to play a small part in helping get her cancer detected as well with her recovery and ongoing journey now with getting through chemo.

Love isn’t about a scale to be balanced. It’s not about clearing up a “debt”. Mom taught us all that love is unconditional and that it’s not a word, it’s an action. During her recent bout with cancer all of our family have been able to show mom how much we all love her by helping take her to the doctor, sit with her during chemo, cook for her and help her get through the nights of bone pain and nausea. We are doing nothing more than merely acting as a mirror reflecting back a small amount of the love she’s always shown us.

Experiencing the care giver role recently has given me a new respect for what mom and what my family have gone through during these many years of my surgeries, illness and all the uncertainty that goes along with it. In the end we do what we must in the midst of the uncertainty of illness and pain, and we are able to endure because of those that love us most.

Breath of Life

The inside of my abdominal cavity is a war zone. I had my colon removed when I was 12, a bunch of surgeries to try and create a “normal” exit for excrement that led finally to a permanent ileostomy that’s been moved a couple of times. Inside I’m filled with adhesions and on the oust side my belly bears the scares of valiant and successful war fought against Ulcerative Colitis, bowel obstructions and the misdeeds of a lying and arrogant surgeon.

Needless to say the last 30 years have been spent trying to figure out how to live with chronic pain, body wide inflammation and three major kinks in my small intestine. After all of this I’ve come to discover that the most important thing that I can do to increase my ability to enjoy the experience of being alive is how I breathe. In the past I’ve been hostile to those who’ve told me to breathe in order to calm down while I’m balled up on a Emergency room gurney while the sixth attempt at an IV is being made. I’ve found that using breathing techniques in that situation wasn’t 100% effective.  But that is why we have the poppy and the cannabis plant. Any other time I’m not experiencing the panicky pain of my small bowel clamping down or my pancreas digesting itself, I’ve found breathing to be a powerful technique that I can use no matter where I go.

“Breathe Motherfucker” Wim Hof

This morning I didn’t want to get out of bed. I mentally went through the list of all the negatives in my life – from the classic of I’m a loser because I’m not brining in any income at the moment, to the thought that my savings will be depleted in another few months and that  I have no idea how I’m going to pay for insurance plus my bag leaked all over last night, my guts hurt this morning, I’ve got a cold, and I really don’t see a reason to get out of bed…

I’ve been here many times before and these type of thoughts have led to months and months of being miserable. I don’t want to be miserable any more.  One way I’ve found not to be miserable is through berating in specific ways so after a mini-pity party I began my breathing exercises which I really didn’t want to do. I started with a new breathing technique I read about that has helped eliminate the symptoms of social anxiety without drugs or therapy. In fact the control group that just did the breathing exercises twice a day had better results than those using cognitive behavior strategies. The breathing technique is called the CART method. I’ve not found a ton online about it but this is my version.

Breath in and out a short breath and hold it. When you naturally want to take a breath do. Then breath normally for ten seconds then take another short breath in and out and hold. Repeat this at least three times.

This breathing exercise actually raises CO2 levels in the body. The researchers doing the study found that low levels CO2 may be partially responsible for producing the symptoms of social anxiety. Last year I had comprehensive blood testing done and I had abnormally low CO2 levels. I believe I do because of my shallow breathing patterns due to my abdominal scaring both inside and out. Most of the time it hurts to breath and definitely hurts to take a deep breath.

Lower CO2 levels could also be a part of the reason why I feel like shit when I hurt a lot and have abdominal soreness. This is why I have start off my breathing exercises with this one. It helps to eliminate some of the physical symptoms of anxiety so that I’ll continue with the rest of the breathing exercises and not just say “fuck it” and pull the covers over my head.

The next breathing exercise is meant to calm the mind further by first calming the heart. I found this exercise actually first on the Joe Rogan Podcast episode #873 with Steven Kotler and a more in-depth explanation and implementation of the concept came from a talk by Alan Watkins. It’s something I do while I’m driving and any time I feel my mental state drifting negative or after I’ve had a negative experience or received bad news.

The exercise is to simply breathe in for three seconds and breathe out for seven. The breathing is to be a steady in and a steady out with a break of a few seconds after each exhalation. While breathing I focus on my heart. When the heart is calm the mind calms down. I do this for six reps. By the fifth my negative state of mind has dissipated and the negative thoughts seem to melt away.

I finished off my breathing set this morning with a round of the Wim Hof method of breathing. I always feel better when I do this. This year I almost didn’t go on vacation because my guts hurt so bad. But during the trip down for hours I did this and by the time I got to the beach I was feeling much better and was able to enjoy three days fishing with my brother. Without this technique I wouldn’t have made the trip. This morning it helped me as well. Again this technique is simple but I don’t recommend people perform it while driving – a few times I did almost black out.

The Wim Hof method is again dead simple. Take a deep breath in somewhat forcefully and only exhale a small amount air. Repeat this for up to thirty times. Then take a deep breath in and exhale fully two times and then hold your breath. Then breath once your body wants to breathe again. Breathe a few times normally and do it again for a total of thirty times.

This morning  I started with ten, then I did fifteen and finished the round with twenty inhales and exhales. While I was doing the breath hold I imagined my body being healed by a white light. Last year when I was doing the Wim Hof method course I was able to hold my breath up to 2:30 minutes. This morning I only held it for about 30 seconds to a minute. But that is still enough to gain positive effects.

By the time I was done with my morning breathing exercises I was feeling much better. The general anxiety, demotivated state, uncertainty and over all malaise was gone. I got up showered and even tested my blood sugar. I’m not diabetic but I am starting to chart my blood glucose as it relates to breathing. A study was done by the Navy that showed that SEALS in ketosis had better breath holding times and I’ve experienced much longer breath hold times in the mornings versus the evenings when doing the Wim Hof method protocol.

How I breath greatly determines my mental state. Having extensive internal and external scaring in my abdomen makes breathing something I have to be conscious of throughout the day otherwise I’m shallow breathing all day long. So far I’ve found these three exercises helpfully by themselves and recently started trying them in combination.  This is something that I don’t have to get a prescription for, no insurance company has to approve it, it has zero side effects, makes me mentally and physically feel better, has zero cost and it’s something I can take with me no matter where I go. In the past I would lament, no matter where I go there I am. That’s because my body has tormented me for the last 30 years and I could never get away from it. But now I have a way to calm both my body and my brain no matter where I’m at or what I have with me.

I still can’t get away from my body but I can through breathing create a different mental experience that allows me to clear my mind of negative thoughts and calm my body. All it takes is less than fifteen minutes and it’s like I’m a different person, or more accurately I’m me, without the filter of chronic pain.

Brad Miller

Adhesions, Exercise and Bowel Obstructions

I’ve been hospitalized many times due to small bowel obstructions caused by the combination of adhesions and exercise. The paradox I find myself in is that when I attempt to get stronger I can actually end up becoming a lot weaker. I’ve had a bunch of abdominal surgeries that have left me with a ton of adhesions, three severe narrowings in my small intestine and an ileostomy. Whenever I begin to feel better I have to be extremely careful how much I exercise or else I can end up balled up on the floor in excruciating pain.

I’m not a doctor and this protocol has been helpful for me. If you think you are having a blockage (painful cramping, nausea, vomiting and no or limited output) call your doctor or go to the emergency room. I’ve had almost 30 years of experience with bowel obstructions caused by adhesions and I know when to go to the emergency room. Once I reach that point of the panicking pain I do go to the emergency room. But this protocol I’ve come up with has helped me to avoid reaching that point and kept me from having my guts completely shut down on many occasions.

Adhesions are the number one cause of small bowel obstructions. And for me any exercise that uses the abdominal muscles causes my adhesions to pull and cause extreme pain and inflammation. This inflammation can then cause further problems with the narrowings and that’s when the blockage can occur. There are no good solutions for adhesions. I’ve been advised by my surgeon that he could go in and fix the narrowings and clear out the adhesions but it only had a 50/50 chance of improving anything. And every time they go in more adhesions are actually created. I’ve held off having another surgery because I’ve learned how to manage the adhesions I already have.

I have found a few things that have helped me to manage my adhesions while still striving to get stronger. I am in the process of getting over a bowel obstruction that occurred in May along with a severe case of pancreatitis.  Now I feel well enough to start exercising. I’ve been doing pull ups lately. And I’ve had two instances in the last two weeks that could have led to complete bowel obstructions but I was able to get output flowing without going to the hospital. Through breathing techniques, epsom salt hot baths, abdominal massage, and cannabis oil I’ve been able to stay out of the hospital these last few times while still being able to get stronger.

The breathing techniques I’ve found most helpful are pulled from The Wim Hof method and from a Ted Talk by Alan Watkins. Wim Hof has a whole program of breathing and cold exposure exercises that help with resetting the mind body connection and increasing one’s capacity to control the autonomic functions of the body. I’ve used the Wim Hof method which consists of breathing in deeply and exhaling only a little, then repeating this for up to thirty breathes many times in dealing with pain and also with improving bowel motility. At the end of the thirty breathes you take a big deep breathe in and exhale completely twice then hold your breathe with empty lungs for as long as you can. I’ve found this technique to be very helpful in getting my bowels moving again, relieving soreness from inflammation and reducing felt pain.

http://www.wimhofmethod.com

The other method of breathing taken from Alan Watkins is one I do all the time. It’s a simple exercise that you can do anywhere. I use it to create a calm and peaceful mental state as well as help get my bowels moving and lessening pain. It is simply breathing in for 3 or 4 seconds then breathing out for 6-7 seconds. The amount of time of the inhale and exhale is your choice but it must be consistent. And the force of breathe should be consistent as well. Do this for at least three cycles and focus on your heart while your breathing. It usually takes me two sets of three to get some noticeable relief. By the fifth cycle my mind is clearer and my body more relaxed. By the sixth breath I am feeling better. I do this exercise when I get up in the morning, while I’m driving, as well as when I’m in a lot of pain.

These two breathing techniques have been an amazing tool that I’ve used to help keep me out of the hospital and to greatly improve my experience of living. These techniques help to reduce inflammation in my body and in my brain. The heart sends signals to the brain all the time. By breathing deliberately in these ways we calm the heart and this in turn calms the mind.  I read today that “Meditation will be the next health revolution” and at the heart of meditation is breathing. When I use these techniques it calms the brain and the body and helps to get my system working again.

Along with the breathing I also have found epsom salt hot baths to be extremely effective when I am hurting or on the verge of a small bowel obstruction. I’m always low on Magnesium and this mineral is critical for people who have ilesotomies because low levels can create problems with intestinal motility.  When I’m in the hospital due to a small bowel obstruction I always get tons of magnesium through my I.V. The large amount of magnesium in epsom salt also helps to relieve muscle soreness.  When my abdomen is inflamed from exercise it creates stress throughout my body. I am unable to relax even when I’m laying on the couch or in bed. But after an hour soak in hot water filled with epsom salts I feel better. When the abdominal cramping gets really bad with a bowel obstruction that’s brewing I take off my bag and just sit in the hot bath with toilet paper over the stoma and I breath. I also change positions in the tub regularly, lift my legs up, pull my knees to my chest, and massage my abdomen that correspond to where the narrow areas are that help to get things moving. This has helped me on more than one occasion to get my guts working again

http://www.tummytemple.com/massage/abdominal-self-massage.html (I’ve not tried these yet but I’m starting them tonight)

The extremely hot water also helps to shock my nervous system. Even when I’m in a lot of pain the almost too hot to stand water, is somewhat painful and creates a tingling sensation that shoots through my entire nervous system. This is momentary but does help to give a modicum of relief and if you’ve had a bowel obstruction or suffered from abdominal adhesion pain you know that is a welcome feeling. With the nervous system occupied with the overwhelming sensation of heat it distracts my mind from the abdominal pain. I’ve found this also helpful when dealing with withdrawals from pain pills and dealing with pain from pancreatitis.

The breathing and the bath have helped me tremendously. And recently I’ve added another tool in helping me to avoid hospitalization and that’s cannabis oil. I take up to four infused Cannabis Coconut oil Capsules per day depending on my pain and inflammation level. It has become a regular part of my pain management strategy and it has been a life changer. Cannabis is a powerful anti-inflammatory. For instance last night I had horrible pain due to a previous exercise session as well as a very slow exit time for my ileostomy due to the inflammation from adhesions being pulled on. After doing my routine of breathing and taking a hot bath with epsom salt I took four of the cannabis capsules. After a couple of hours the pain was improved and I was able to get some sleep. I woke up feeling great this morning. The soreness and pain are almost gone. In the past if I had a partial bowel obstruction or exercise induced adhesion pain I would be sore for at least a week. But after taking the cannabis capsules the inflammation is nearly gone today. Cannabis is an amazing plant. It is a medicine that helps me sleep, helps relieve pain, helps relieve inflammation, helps me to relax,  helps me with anxiety and helps me to live a fuller life.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2828614/

There are almost no treatments out there for adhesions and small bowel obstructions from the medical field besides bed rest, pain management and surgery . But I’ve created my own treatment protocol that has helped tremendously. I no longer fear working out as I did before. I no longer feel powerless when the pain and inflammation comes due to my adhesions or when my output begins to slow. By simply breathing in a different way, taking a hot bath with epsom salt along with self-massage of my abdomen, and taking cannabis capsules I have found a powerful anti-inflammatory protocol that has helped me weather many potentially devastating bowel obstructions and sleepless nights. This has saved me not only thousands of dollars in medical bills but also hours of mental and physical suffering and has saved my family from having their lives disrupted as well. It also empowers me to know that I have powerful tools that can help me to feel better and live a better life. These techniques aren’t 100% effective and I know that I’ll be back in the hospital one day due to a bowel obstruction. But hopefully by using these tools it will be a long time in the future and I’ll have done a lot of living before it happens again.

This routine I use to help get over severe abdominal soreness due to adhesions, avoiding  bowel obstruction, or to help sooth a pancreatitis attack also works wonders for everyday life. I have inherently a ton of inflammation due to adhesions and scaring as well as the state of my small intestine and autoimmune conditions. I’ve begun taking a hot epsom bath soak almost every night even when output is normal as well as one or two cannabis capsules. I also do my breathing exercises throughout the day  for mental calmness and peace of mind and physical relief. These are tools and practices I will do for the rest of my life. I’ve had over 50 bowel obstructions , some requiring hospital stays and some requiring surgery. I wonder how many of those bowel obstructions and surgeries I could have avoided if I discovered this protocol thirty years ago.

Brad Miller

My health is my responsibility

 

 

Using Belief and Breathing to Change Reality

When I read a book I look for at least one thing to take away and incorporate into my life. If I can find that one thing then it makes purchasing and reading the book worth it. In “Liminal Thinking” by David Gray I did get the one thing and it has greatly influenced how I think about what I think. The big take away for me is not to conflate belief with reality and that I have the power to interrogate and change the “I believe” ideas that govern my behavior.

Liminal Thinking is the art of creating change by understanding, shaping and reframing beliefs according to the author. Nothing in the book is ground breaking or has not been said before. Even the author admits to borrowing heavily from other people’s work. And some of the stories he uses are one’s I’ve heard before and the rest are corporate “turn around” stories about the rebel who helped changed a company’s culture. Not really what I’m interested in reading about.

But the book does have some useful exercises that helped me identify, challenge and begin to change how I look at the “governing beliefs” which I have. Here is one the first exercises: “think about something in your life that is problematic, but you don’t think will ever change. Consider the connection between how you see the problem and how you see yourself. What if you saw yourself differently? If you were the kind of person who should change this situation, what you be like? How would you act?”.

This is a powerful tool just by itself especially for someone who is dealing with chronic pain and chronic illness. In the past I saw myself as chronically ill or suffering from an autoimmune disorder or was cursed with severe unpredictable chronic pain that would always torment me. This is a very limiting belief and it’s kept me from living life. It’s prevented me from making real connections with others, because I believed that my illness prevented me from entering into the dating pool because of my flawed DNA and my current inconsistent behavior and I always felt never good enough to be loved. And I also held onto the belief that I would never be able to contribute anything of importance to the world. Needless to say I was living in misery.

After reading the book I thought its not real useful. How could these simple exercises help me? Then the idea began to soak in, my thoughts about myself aren’t concrete. There are merely a belief. The first step I took to distance and begin to change this view of myself was to say “I believe that I am chronically ill and limited physically, emotionally and socially because of it.” That does reframe the whole issue for me. It was if I took a crowbar to this huge megalithic structures that had become my internal world and the huge almost immovable doors labeled “You are sick and never will be better”, “You’re not good enough to be loved” and “You will never contribute anything useful to others” were now easily unlocked and effortless opened. With these megalithic beliefs I had constructed an almost impenetrable wall with massive heavy doors locked from the inside, that separated me from the outside world. This fortress of belief had become my dungeon and if I didn’t change things soon it was going to be my tomb.

Once I placed the simple term belief in front of these thoughts that I’ve thought a million times it took away their concreteness, they became weightless. They no longer were concrete, immovable, megalithic stones and horrendously heavy locked doors. Reality is a funny thing. We limit ourselves greatly by what we believe. I now believe that I am mostly well, most of the trillions of my cells have no defects and are working just as they should. I believe now that I have now and will in the future have more and more control over my pain and my inflammatory response and that I can live a life with a calm, enthusiastic, curious, loving, open mental state. Once the heavy negative stones of thought became weightless with merely the words “I believe”, I can now consciously shape new “I believe statements” that create my inner and outer world.

I’m done spending any more time in the dungeon. My inner world is no longer dark and protected like a medieval keep, or a dungeon and especially no longer a tomb. It is open and airy. The internal thoughts are full of hope, love and curiosity about the future. My new beliefs are now based on scientific and anecdotal evidence that I can have control over my nervous system and my immune system a This may sound ludicrous but it has been scientifically proven that through mental and physical training this can be done. Wim Hof is an amazing man and has been studied extensively for his ability to control his autonomic nervous system, pain response and immune response. He has done this with many other people as well and his claims have been proven time and time again. I’m starting up again the Wim Hof program along with studying the effects of Flow on Chronic Illness.

http://www.wimhofmethod.com

Flow is the state in which all thoughts flow from one to another without anxiety or the perception of passage of time and your body and brain are working harmoniously at peak performance. It is mostly associated by those in the sports world and its often referred to as being in the “zone”. I recently listened to a Joe Rogan Podcast with Author and Science Reporter Steven Kotler. He suffered from Lyme disease for three years and was so sick he almost killed himself. He has since dedicated his life to studying “flow”. He became fascinated with the concept of flow and credits this state of mind for helping him to heal his Lyme disease and saving his life. He achieved the flow state by surfing. His theory is that the flow state releases positive neurochemicals that reduce stress and help the body to heal.This further strengthens my belief that another proof that my belief that I’ll be able to control and heal my body more and more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNobzrnSRMc
Along with Wim Hof and Steven Kotler I listened to Alan Watkins TEdx talk recently about using breathing to be brilliant everyday. This guy seems to want to be a corporate guru and even bragged about spending time with top CEO’s blah blah blah. I shut off when I hear that. But later on in his talk he got to the good stuff. In simple terms our prefrontal or advanced cognitive skills are shut down under stress. The brain receives signals from the heart and if it becomes elevated due to stress there are only two options as the brain sees it, Fight or Flight or play dead. This made perfect sense to me. When I feel my worst I don’t feel like myself at all. I can feel these higher levels of thought being stripped away – and since my source of stress is my own body causing me pain and torment Fighting it or Fleeing from it are useless. That is why I play dead. I disconnect form the world into my dungeon with and seal the heavy doors and hope by playing dead long enough my body and brain will get tired of tormenting me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q06YIWCR2Js
But there is hope and I believe now the tormenting has ended. Through changing my beliefs about who I am and the outside world I no longer see myself and social situations as threats. Yes no matter where I go I carry with me a possible threat (my adhesion filled abdomen, my three major kinks in my small intensive and a gall bladder that likes to lodge stones in my billiard tract plus an immune system that likes to attack my skin and other organs of my body) but this threat is manageable and I believe I soon will be able to completely eliminate it. Yes to completely eliminate what I’ve been told all my life is incurable or that there is nothing anyone can do for me. I reject that thinking. In Alan Watkin’s talk he stresses about the importance of controlling your heart rate with simple breathing techniques to quiet this flight, fight or feign death response.

In fact there have been amazing new imaging studies on people who have practiced meditation and breathing exercises that have created structural changes in their brains simply by breathing and thinking differently. It was done by scientists and doctors at Harvard. This is not woo-woo hippie dippie stuff this is real science, measurable and repeatable. I believe that if Wim Hof and these folks in this study, and Steven Kotler can achieve real measurable positive results in their physiology so can I.

Now I believe that I have more control over my mental state and that I believe life is worth living. I’ve been filled for so many years of self-loafing and self-hatred because I had stuck myself inside this dungeon and all I could do was wait to die. Through first prefacing my thoughts with “I believe” I was able to change some fundamental beliefs I had about myself and see the world and myself no longer as threats. I believe now that I can live a life full of love, adventure, peace, excitement, and accomplishment. I am done being miserable. I do have the power to change myself for the better.

Having a lot of abdominal scarring and pain causes me to take a lot of shallow breathes throughout the day and have to force myself to take deep breathes. But this is critical for me to relax and reduce the amount of stress chemicals throughout my body and brain. I believe now that I have an amazing future ahead of me, that social interactions are not threats, my body is not the enemy, and that I can create a sense of calm, sereneness free from anxiety any time I choose and that one day I will be able to have total control over my nervous system through breath work, exercise and mediation. This is my new reality.
In the past my problem was that my flight or fight mechanism was constantly being triggered by my body. Constant pain, fear of the pain worsening, and the ever present fear that the pain I felt everyday could at any time lead to a hospital stay kept my body in a perpetual state of fight or flight. The issue being I was the source of the threat, I couldn’t fight or flee from myself so I would spiral into depression and cut off all social ties and be absolutely miserable. I hated vacations and traveling because no matter where I went there I would be. I carried around the greatest threat to my emotional wellbeing inside my body.

This constant level of stress takes a toll on a person. I’ve lost 40 pounds, I’m currently not working, and I’ve almost cut out all social ties to the outside world. But I’m done living this way. In the past I believed this would be my fate for the remainder of my life, but that has changed. This is not delusional thinking. I am aware that pain will return, I’ll probably end up in the hospital again in the future, but I will not be held captive by the pain any longer.

My mental state and not the state of my body is what I’m focused on for the rest of my life. Creating a flourishing mind unperturbed by fortune or by pain. That is the goal. I’m reading Seneca’s Letters on the Shortness of life and he wrote to a friend “What is greater than a man who is above fortune?” Stoicism and Buddhism both seek to reduce or eliminate suffering for individuals. My mental state is something I now believe that I can have a greater and greater command over. I believe that through different breathing techniques, different natural medicines, continually challenging and updating the way I perceive myself and the outside world, I can become an ocean of calm in the midst of the storm of life.

That is my task and that is my journey. To create calmness, clarity and peace where there was once hate, fear and pain. I used to believe that I could never love myself or that I would never be good enough to be loved because of my health and my financial and social status. That belief is no more. I now believe that the past is gone, there is only now, and I can take steps to increase the flow experiences in my life, change what I believe and in the process change my reality and love others and want them to be happy and at peace as well.

I am a big fan of Wim Hof and I’m also staring up his program again. He has been able to take conscious control over his immune response and pain response. That is what I believe I can do as well. I want to end the tyranny of pain and be at peace with being me no matter where I am or what I’m doing. I’ve struggled most of my life with trying to avoid conflict and maintain an emotional equilibrium but that is a false hope for happiness because it relies on others. The Stoic and the Buddhist relies on his or her own mind to create calmness despite the chaos of the physical and emotional world around them. Though I will never fully eliminate pain or emotional distress I can greatly reduce its influence over my wellbeing.

I believe now that my chronic pain, autoimmune conditions are not a life sentence. I believe that fundamental amazing change is possible and is happening now. I believe there are ways to create positive mental states in the midst of the storms of illness and all I need to do is to breathe to make that happen. I’m on that journey now and I believe that my trillions of healthy cells are ready to assist me in this endeavor and to aide the few cells that are having some malfunctions so that I can create more flow states in my life and a produce a calmer and more peaceful mind and a body that is strong, vibrant, capable and able to rest. My mental state is all that I have. I am not my scars. I’m not my ileostomy. I’m not my psoriasis. I’m not my adhesions or my pain. I’m excited to see who I will become with the dungeon walls now destroyed and the doors between me and the world are like the automatic glass doors that open merely with me walking up to them. And all this has occurred because of believing and breathing.