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Ria Ingleby : 'What I learned in a health crisis and how it is serving me now!'

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need. –Lao Tzu

Nearly 6 years ago to the day, my family and I were going through a health crisis following two cancer diagnoses of both my mother in law and me within a month! We were both in the midst of scans, tests, and surgery and it rocked all our worlds.

In the storms eye of what was going around me, I became fully aware that I could control very very little. I paid attention to the experts, specialists, professionals. I discerned what was important to me and my family. I experienced the primal response of deep fear, stress, and anxiety and at times it felt so powerful I succumbed to that fight, flight, freeze, appease nature. The mind, I realized was tricky and wired for self-preservation. In the brief moments of calm (during many meditation sessions I was doing each day) amidst the chaos, this essential wisdom I experienced was I needed to make space for and acknowledge these emotions as often as possible and let them go gently! Fear causes us to lose ourselves in very different ways and we are beginning to see how that is playing out right now!

Inspired by a book - Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh, which I read on the day I was diagnosed has stayed with since that difficult period. I had a profound moment as I read a section about 'making it through the storm'. In his book, he describes a tree in a storm. The branches and leaves thrashing around and our concern on whether the tree will withstand the storm.

We are like that when we are in the grip of strong emotions. Vulnerable. "Thich encourages us to direct our attention down the trunk of the tree where we see steadiness and its deep roots. "When the storm of your emotion is passing by, you should not stay in the thick of the storm, the level of the brain or the chest... Bring your focus down to your navel - that is the trunk, the most solid part of yourself - and practice mindful breathing. Become aware of the rise and fall of your abdomen".

The more I followed his advice, the clearer it all became. I had choices over many things in my life even when my future was so uncertain! Here are the choices I took. Take what feels useful, helpful or pass it on to someone who may benefit:

What I read - I pretty much went offline and stuck my head into some great books. I went from a shelf to a bookcase

What I watched - I stopped watching anything that unsettled me, as I had enough adrenaline in my body already! I minimized watching a lot of TV

What I listened to - From well-intended advice, comments, opinions, and beliefs it was and always will be often through the lens/perception of the person telling it. Learn to listen to yourself. Your gut instinct!

Taking care - Until we become ill, we often let things slide, make assumptions, make short cuts with many areas that are fundamental to our health - sleep, movement, and exercise, nutrition, rest, relationships. I knuckled down on this so much and still to this day it's an area that I diligently practice and pay attention to.

Kindness - It was easier for me back then to turn my adrenaline into forging ahead, listening too much to my inner critic, being judgmental to self and others and hammering my body post-surgery with some insane workouts ... It's taken a while to reconcile that there are many kinds of kindness and it often starts with how we treat ourselves. I found it hard to accept support and help from others because I was not been supportive and helpful to my own needs to recover and heal. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others. Empathy and kindness go a long way.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou.

Trust yourself first - Did I say trust your gut instinct! Saying it again.... It's your body's second brain! Intuition has served me well and I always trust myself first.

Be thoughtful that if you are not directly impacted, others will be in some way. Take care, be kind and look after each other. Namaste.

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