Endurance & Elegance ~ Life with NMO

Your disease is not going away.
What you are about to read is not a cure.
Read on to get better.

Disease is not a living suicide. Society has conditioned us to think that if we have a disease then we must be sick.  It is the biggest obstacle that you will ever face when living with a chronic illness.  A shift in mindset can set you free. Do not be paralyzed by the fear of change.

Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do.”

Health is not the absence of disease; good health is defined by what we (you) choose to define as optimal living. If you live in a state of illness and do nothing to improve your wellness then a life of illness is your state of optimal living.

You cannot define health by what it is not. Define health by how you choose to live.

Think about that last sentence. Sit with it. Can you define it? Does it make you mad (mad at me for asking) or mad at the answer you give yourself? Do not deceive yourself. Be life-enhancing; you do not need a special thing to answer the question. The suffering has already been your teacher, coach and mentor.

Get committed and overcome that obstacle (fear, pain, suffering) that is holding you back…that is keeping you from getting out of bed, or off the sofa.  Create a personal practice that keeps you in charge of disease.

Disease is unpredictable. You cannot practice for that, but good health is predictable when you have a good practice in place.

Disease can be a rite-of-passage to transcend the notion of what good health means to you.  For most, good health has become this far off alien thing rather than ideas that is within us at all times.

You know how to suffer.  Life with disease means there will be periods of suffering to endure. The question to ask is “What can I do with my ability to suffer?” Pain from doing something feels a lot better than pain from doing nothing. Life with disease is filled with pain from doing nothing.  Disease-pain arises as a mystery from within us. The body fighting the body and most times the mind is not even invited to the match.

Disease-pain can teach us how to bring purposeful suffering into our lives. Yep, purposeful suffering…most likely voted to be the worst motivational topic of all time. Stay with me. You can now endure more pain than you ever imagined possible. You can handle pain and come out on the other side.

Suffering is an opportunity to improve your condition.  Disease is always on the horizon. You do not have a fix. The only escape is to practice how to endure elegantly. This practice will teach you how to stop hurting yourself and others around you. It will teach you the awareness that you are alive and with that you can cultivate the clarity to be purposeful with your suffering.

Elegance ~ doing something with as few steps as possible.
Endurance ~ living with a disease with as few steps as possible.

What follows is my personal practice for living with a chronic illness. Use mine or create your own.  Whatever you choose be sure to share it with others living with chronic illness.

Plants: Eat plants, lots of them. I am not asking you to go on a diet but I am asking you to change your menu.  In the beginning there was the Garden of Eden, not the chemical laden junk vending machine that only produced disease. Fruits and vegetables create a healthy life, processed foods create disease. Plant-based food is elegant medicine without side effects. Plant-based food only create optimal health. If you want to endure your illness eat plants.

Power: Exercise, move your body. Exercise is an effective drug that treats the whole body. Good health is not achieved with a single step. Taking a pill or giving yourself a daily shot is instant gratification but at what cost? Most people I talk with who live with chronic illness choose not to move because it hurts. This is where purposeful suffering can become your teacher. All that time sitting and suffering with your disease has given you the strength to get up and do anything. So use it, do not let your suffering die in vain. Walk to the mailbox, then to the end of your driveway, then to the end of the block. Try running or biking or swimming or whatever your heart yearns to try. Exercise to compete in your own life. Good things will happen when you put energy into moving your body.

One last thing…get outside.

Prayer: Pray, meditate, yoga, quiet the mind. Create sacred time in your life. Sacred is elegance and endurance in action. Let the mystery of your life talk to you. Stay with that mystery, it will take you where you need to go. If you are going to ask God for help or ask people to pray for you on your behalf…earn those prayers. I believe in the power of prayer. What I do not believe in is waiting around for prayers to work. Go out and place effort into the prayers that are being offered up on your behalf.

Purpose: No the “why” of why you want to be healthy. To be an example for your children. To be an example for your community.  To enjoy your spouse well into your old age. Life is not complicated when your are honest with yourself.  Be purposeful.

To finish,

I am writing this for myself as a reminder of how I think about optimal health.

Every time I go on a walk, run or bike ride I am carrying the weight of the whole NMO community. Nobody asked this of me. For some reason the weight is there. What I know is if I can live these words and be an example then it will help at least one person to live with optimal health…and carrying that weigh feels great.

Heart of a servant
Strength of a fighter.

John Craig