Monday, April 19, 2010

Yes, I am perky despite everything. Why? Because I'm alive.

It was brought to my attention recently that I'm always very chipper and don't talk a lot about having MS. I think it's important to share what it's really like for me living with it.

I am a naturally positive person, but, I also work very hard at being perky. Anyone could look at my life at the moment and feel sorry for me: single mum, small apartment, not much money, incurable disease. I focus my mind on having a good attitude and being in gratitude, because if I didn't, I know what would happen. I would go down a very negative path that would be very hard to come back from. I went down that path when Emily and Elliot were very young and it was horrible. That's another story for another time maybe.

I choose not to talk about my symptoms all the time, cos talking about them gives them power and turns me into a victim. I am not a victim nor will I ever be. Period. I am strong, I'm a Rugby midlands girl (think Trainspotting with an English accent, and ecstasy instead of heroin), we can take care of ourselves. Sure, I'm soft, gentle and very patient, but I will not be controlled by any disease or anyone. You can push and push and push me, but when push comes to shove, I will find my inner fire and will power and I will get what I need to survive with grace and integrity.

Yesterday, at Walk MS, I was reminded of the potential devastation of MS. Before the walk, a man talked about his wife who died last year from MS related complications. She was 52. He said she was the love of his life. We had a moment of silence for everyone who has died from MS related complications this last year.

That made me cry and makes me scared. I know we all die. But I don't want to die young or be disabled. I want to stay strong and healthy and continue to play with my kids.

Just because I don't talk about my symptoms all the time, doesn't mean that there aren't any. My right hand has numbness all the time and especially when I'm tired. Also when I'm tired my vision gets blurry in my right eye. When I go for a hike, after about 20 mins, my legs get wobbly. A couple of times recently I've had to walk back to the car holding onto my friend for support. I'm 36. I've watched that happen this last couple of years. So although I'm in remission, the disease is slowly, slowly progressing.

The NMSS talks about 'Living with MS'. That's just it. You live with it. It doesn't go away like a cold or a bug. Even when it's in remission, it's there all the time, you just get good at ignoring it or making decisions to not let it control you.

For example, last week my kids and I drove to LA to Disney Land. Not only was it a big deal cos it was us on our first vacation together as a family of three, but it was also massive doing that trip as someone with MS. It is vital for someone with MS to get lots of rest and keep the central nervous system calm. I probably 'shouldn't' have done it. (I'm not 'supposed' to do long haul flights, but I don't adhere to that either...jet lag - too shocking for the body and the air pressure causes the lesions in the brain to swell).

Before I went on the rides at Disney, I said a prayer asking God to take care of my spine and central nervous system. I chose to ride every ride even though I probably 'shouldn't' (jarring for spine). I was so grateful for the experience, cos, it did cross my mind that I don't know if I'll be well enough to do it again. (Note: it crossed my mind several times, but I honestly do not believe that will be true, I am strong and I will be running around Disney Land and the whole world for years and years to come. I quickly switched that thought around and thanked God for the experience of being there with my beautiful kids).

A few weeks ago, when I started back to work by day four I had a relapse. My symptoms were in full force - blurred vision, weakness and numbness in limbs, spasticity in right arm and hand, and fatigue. I knew what was going on and why, so I rested, made schedule changes and the following week was ok again.

It doesn't stop at making choices about what to do - like going on rides, flights, to bed late, back to work full-time - it relates to everything I ingest too. Every time I put anything in my body, I ask myself "is this good for me?" and I stop and evaluate how it could affect me - from something as small as an iced water (ice=bad, shocks digestive system) to a potato (too much sugar=bad for CNS). Also what and when to listen to music, watch tv etc - if I'm tired, I consciously decide whether to have music on to stimulate my CNS or to be quiet to let it rest etc.

When you see that I'm perky, know that I am, and know how hard I work to be in this place -constant thought monitoring, replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, prayer, yoga, diet, sleep, salt baths, reiki, vitamins.

When I was first diagnosed, they didn't know if it was an inoperable brain tumor or MS. For two weeks I lived wondering how long I would have with my kids. Now I have lived with MS for nine years and although I'm not looking death in the face, he's at the back of my mind - that's what motivates me to live so consciously. And, sometimes, like being at the walk yesterday and praying for everyone who have died from MS related illnesses, he's right here in front of me.

I have learned so much from living with this disease, mainly about the importance and fragility of life. About being fair and kind, and being the very best I can possibly be to all people at all times, including myself. Also about not worrying about the small stuff, like getting stressed out about breaking a plate or taking a wrong road. I've learned the importance of being happy and free, however that looks - a road trip to LA with my kids, or being alone in my teeny apartment when my kids are at their father's place.

So yes, I am perky despite everything. Why? Simple. Because I'm alive. And what an incredible gift life is. We get one chance at it. And I am making sure that I make the most of every single second.


LIVING IN GRATITUDE: here's what I do, you're welcome to copy it and add your own categories. It's super powerful at switching up your attitude and making you grateful for the small stuff in life. Then the bigger stuff seems less scary.

I also take a bunch of vitamins and supplements that help keep me balanced emotionally and physically. They help me sleep well, thus play well and keep a clear head. I'm not going to list them here cos would hate to get into some kind of trouble, but if you are interested in knowing what they are or seeing my traditional Tibetan physician, let me know.

Every morning I say a prayer asking for help and strength for a safe and positive day. I offer gratitude for my life, for my kids, parents, friends, teachers, career, abundance, nature, safety, strength and health. And, throughout the day, I work at catching myself going into negative thought patterns and consciously turn them into positive thoughts when I notice them.

Throughout the day, as often as I can, I say thank you for anything I can think to thank. The wind in the trees, the cosy sweater I'm wearing, the computer I'm typing on. Then, at the end of the day, when I'm falling asleep, I go through a mental thank you list for the day that's been, my safe travels, the phone call from my friend, the unexpected gift, the great parking spot.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Unseen Street Signs

The Universe/God gives us signs all the time. They're like sign posts on the street, directing us which way to go. When we are open and paying attention, we cruise along in life.

However, when we fail to observe signs or chose not to see them, life gets complicated and messy until God knocks us over the head with something that forces us to pay attention and make us change our patterns of behavior or alter something that's not working in our lives.

We've all experienced it...6pm, tired, making dinner, juggling kids/pets/homework/trying to get out somewhere on time. CRASH. We drop a plate. Smashed china everywhere. The situation forces us to stop. It's a perfect little sign - no-one was hurt, nothing serious happened, but it's like pressing the reset button: "Guys, chill out. Focus. Come back to the present."

Like a couple of weeks ago when I started back to work full-time. By the fourth day my MS symptoms were hardcore - blurred vision in right eye, spasticity in right hand, numbness in arm and legs, fatigue and sadness - you can't really get much clearer than that...As strong as my body is, it is fragile, and in order to maintain my strength and health, I have to tread a fine line. I got the lesson and changed the situation (two or three days a week of SF film PR, the other days yoga) a week later, am good and strong again. And sitting here reflecting on it.

Had another biggie on Saturday at Little League. Sitting with my friends watching my son and his little mates have a blast at baseball when five minutes in my ex showed up with his girlfriend, flanked by his brother visiting from England and his sister from Seattle. It was the first time I've seen my ex and his girlfriend together as a couple - I've known her for a few years and saw the chemistry between them when he and I were married, so that wasn't it. But it was, of course, hard seeing them together at my son's game. The toughest part though, was that she was part of the family instead of me.

My ex has a strong family. Four siblings, close in age. Strong personalities, strong family resemblances, when you see them together it's like seeing a blonde mafia family strut their stuff. They have a strong bond that fluctuates between love and hate according to whose in favor at any particular time. Being part of that family was a big deal for me because it was so different to my own - me, my lovely big bro, and chilled-out drama-free mum and dad.

I've known my ex's family for 20+ years. My brother is best friend's with the fourth sibling who wasn't there on Saturday, he's actually more a part of our family that theirs. There was no contact made during the game. It was as if we had never met.

Meditation to 'get' the sign and move on
Obviously this was a sign of some sort. But, on Saturday I wasn't sure what it meant. I knew that I needed to process it and 'get' it pretty fast in order to move on. So, I did the meditation technique described below.

During the meditation I cried and released the ties of being part of that family, and eliminated any feelings of grief that I'd been carrying.

At the end of the meditation I felt a huge sense of love and support, and felt happier and more supported than I have for years. I realized that I'm part of a much bigger family, the family of God/of the Universe. I felt, and continue to feel free, strong and powerful.

The key is to NOTICE THE SIGNS
From dropping a plate, to getting sick or being in uncomfortable situations, if we can step back and observe the signs, we can get closer to ourselves, closer to God, closer to our Higher Beings and closer to living our Highest Truth. There's no room for dishonesty or lies. And that, I believe, is our ultimate goal this life, because when we're living our ultimate truth, there's only room for love and kindness.


Love Always,


*CONTACT with the Higher Self wisdom with an particular question
*FOR ANY difficult or negative personal habit or pattern
*TO CONTACT for understanding and balance of the female and male aspects

GARDEN VISUALIZATION (have a pen a paper handy)
Start with regular full breaths, feeling all areas of the body relax with each breath. When your feelings calm, and you even get drowsy, allow your imagination to move you outside to a very special garden. Here is the symbolization of all the thoughts and events of your life and patterns. Certain plants may have thorns, others droopy needing attention. Some need pruning or even pulling out. What is in bud and what is in full bloom? This is a wonderful place to visit at any time. You can find a bough to sit beneath or a pretty brook to sit besides. You can see various paths. Some are clean and well kept. Others are over grown. There may be interesting stepping stones.

Intuitively you know that each path will lead to a special area of study or answers. Choose an appealing path. It may take you to a sanctuary site, a place of remembrance or a comfortable place to sit and state your present need.

Who or what representation do you want to see? When the requested presence arrives, be aware of every detail.
Is it male or female or a feeling? Is it a replica of someone you now or from the past? Carefully describe expressions, actions and any apparel. What more do you sense?

Ask the following basic questions according to your need. Take time and listen to the answers...
1. Who are you or what do you represent?
2. Where did you originate?
3. What do you want with me?
4. How best can I balance or care for this issue?
5. Perhaps ask for a special message or symbol or gift.

Feel gratitude and 'get' the lesson/answers.

Return to the main garden. Note any changes. After moving back into the physical body, sit quietly and reflect upon your experience.

Breathe and arrive home.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Karma Yoga: the achievement of union with the Supreme Universal Soul -God- through action

Karma Yoga: the achievement of union with the God through action.

Today was the closest I have gotten to God through serving others in my life ever. The feeling is so intense that I'm crying so hard I can't see the screen to read.

I feel like I've done it. I'm sure this sounds super dramatic, but I can honestly say that if I were to die tonight, I'd be peaceful in the knowledge that I have served God. I achieved union with the Supreme Universal Soul. I have served the best I could serve.

It probably doesn't sound like much, but today I trained nine yoga teachers how to go out into the world and teach yoga to people with MS. Imagine if they each teach just one class a week of just five students, that would be 45 people living with MS that indirectly I'm helping. 45 individuals who will be more relaxed, more likely to heal, happier and stronger. And imagine if they teach three classes a week, or go on to become teachers for the NMSS? The possibilities are endless.

I love yoga. I know first-hand how it heals and can change lives.

Yoga and MS have given me the ability to be honest, open, truthful, loving and kind. They have given me strength; physically, emotionally and mentally. My body is strong, my mind is focused, my emotions are balanced, alert and alive. Yoga and MS have led me to step into my masculine as well as feminine by being strong enough to go back to work full-time and provide financially for my children as well as living my life to the fullest.

But ultimately, through the lessons and experiences over this last nine years, they've given me connection with God.

And that, is why I'm crying. It was serving others today that hit that connection home to me. And, there are truly no words that can describe this feeling that I'm feeling. I wish you were here so I could hug you to show you how I feel. Or so you could see the tears.

What's Your Karma Yoga?

I pray and hope that you don't ever have to get sick to find your connection with yourself and God. I pray that your path unfolds easier for you. What's your Karma Yoga - your union to God through action for others? What have you done in your life or what do you do in your life so that if you were to die tonight, you'd feel like you had served.

Isn't that what we're here for? To be kind? To help others? To live to our full potential?

The Light In Me Honors The Light in You,


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Yoga-Love-Multiple Stories

Let's celebrate our stories...

I've been thinking a lot recently about living with MS and what role it plays in my life, and you know what, I've realized that it really isn't that important. It's just one of the stories in my life. I live with MS, but everyone lives with something.

The important questions are this: what have I learned from living with MS? And what positive differences am I bringing to the world as a result of it?

What's Your Story?
We all have stories. Lots of them. Stories from our childhood, stories from being teenagers, stories from our jobs and relationships. There are times in our life that are hard. Period. We all have 'stuff'.

This may well be very obvious to you, and you might well have got this concept years ago. But it's like peeling an onion for me. I thought that I had a pretty good grip on what it's all about. But recently, I've peeled yet another layer off my onion and have gotten slightly closer to an understanding.

An Ivory Tower
I've realized that before I got divorced and lived alone, I was living in an ivory tower of privilege. Sure, it wasn't a bed of roses, or I wouldn't be divorced, but I was still in a bubble of not having to deal with practical life, which, being a floaty and challenged in the grounded department, was a hugely helpful bubble... (bills, money, taxes, car, computer, home stuff all taken care of). I had two problems: MS and being married to wrong person.

Now I'm out in the world alone, the MS is a minor issue. I've got much bigger fish to fry, like how to pay next month's rent; how to make sure my children are taken care of, when half the time they're not with me, and I have no say in their upbringing; and, now my 18 months of transitioning to single life is over, how to establish myself as a respectable, together, working single mother.

Everyone Has Their Stuff
As I said, everyone has something they're dealing with, and it's all relative. What's big to one person doesn't mean anything to another, but there are things that many of us will deal with at some point in our lives, like job loss, relationships ending and sickness, and, something's that we will all have to deal with, such as the death of a loved one and ultimately our own death.

So, how are we going to deal with these challenges? Are we going to let them break us? Get us down? Make us bitter and twisted? Or, once we've accepted the situation and that change is inevitable, can we learn our lessons, move on, help others and celebrate what we do have? Looking at the bigger picture, we're here for such a short time, is it possible to live gracefully and lovingly, so that when we're old looking back we can be proud of how we conducted our lives?

I am fortunate to be very healthy, the MS is in remission. For lots of people with MS however, that's not the case. They suffer every day. My heart goes out to them, and having learned many lessons from living with the disease, I do what I can to help that community.

Working with the NMSS and people with MS, is how I'm choosing to serve at the moment. This might well change in the future and I'll serve in a different way. It's not always necessary or possible to do outward service though. We can also help others through our thoughts and prayers, and by donating money. We can be of service by living our lives from a place of selflessness, honesty and love.

We Are All Connected
When we are living in truth and coming from a place of love, we create such happiness that it spreads out into their immediate community and on and on, into the world.

This connectedness is as true to me as the sky is the sky and the ocean is the ocean. When we think good thoughts, they have a positive effect. When we do good deeds, the same thing happens. When we learn a lesson and make positive changes in our lives, those thoughts and actions benefit others.

What About You?
What have you learned from your stories? How have you taken those lessons and made changes in your life to help yourself and others? A great exercise is to actually sit quietly with a notebook and pen and go through your life, chronologically, and see what you've learned and how you're putting it into practice.

It's all food for thought. We've all got tons and tons of lessons to learn. I'm far from perfect...but I am trying my best to get through life coming from a place of love, integrity and remembering to celebrate being alive, whatever the lesson.


Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two, XII
By Rainer Maria Rilke

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive.
And Daphne, becoming a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

To Tell or Not To Tell? The fear of being judged. Period.


To Tell or Not To Tell? The Dating Dilemma, caused so much feedback that I need to respond. Many, many people who contacted me, publicly on FB and privately by email and phone, had their own stories and fears of being judged for one reason or another.

It seems that everyone has experienced judgment at some point; having judged someone else or experienced the pain of being judged unfairly themselves.

I'm not going to go into that, we're all human and we all know it's wrong and uncool to judge. Right? And, we're all bright enough to know the reasons behind judging - mostly ignorance and fear.

All I'm going to say is this: Let's just stop. Let's just be kind. Let's just think before we speak. Let's try and think before we think!

On the risk of sounding naive, if we can all just be kinder and live with an open heart, live from a place of love, the world would be a better place. We don't all have to be best friends, but if we can live compassionately, take responsibility for our own actions and let others take responsibility for theirs there would be no need to live in fear.
No need for judgement.

Sound good?

Love You.


Friday, January 22, 2010

To Tell or Not To Tell? The FB dating dilemma.

To Tell or Not To Tell?

Now that I'm single and on the dating scene, this is a new and big question for me.

My friends know about my diagnosis. They don't care. They love me unconditionally. Obviously my family knows. My yoga students know. In fact, I begin each public class sharing how I came to become a yoga teacher: My doctor, a traditional Tibetan physician, recommended that I do gentle yoga to help with my healing of a chronic incurable neurological disease. I did, fell in love with it, and here I am, seven years later, teaching and sharing it with others, helping them heal whatever's going on in their lives - physical/emotional/spiritual - or simply creating space for them to get to know themselves better or fall deeper in love with themselves (while getting an incredibly strong and fit body).

If you met me now, there's no way you'd ever guess that I was diagnosed with MS. I'm actually one of the healthiest people I know, partly due to the diagnosis. I have a great diet, do daily yoga & walks in nature, have a regular meditation practice, detox with bi-weekly salt baths, get plenty of rest, take a bunch of vitamins and supplements, make sure to have bucket loads of fun and laughter, and, a good dose of dancing and partying as often as possible!

BUT, what about Facebook? What happens when I 'friend' a guy on FB and he does his pre-date profile stalking and comes across my blog, visits my website and learns about my diagnosis? It's much more than just a thing I live with. As a result of my experiences, my path has brought me to this place where it's a big part of my life: working with the National MS Society as their 2010 Northern Cal. Ambassador, training yoga teachers to teach people with MS safely, writing a book for people with MS, leading the two NMSS Annual Bay Area Fundraisers, magazine articles etc etc.

Everyone gets sick sometimes. Maybe you have a permanent injury, or a weak immune system and get colds all the time - would you be fearful that someone wouldn't date you because of it? Some people have mental or emotional imbalances, from small things to being a little anxious to full on chronic disorders like bi-polar. I've got a neurological disease that 'could' potentially lead to some big symptoms and that means I need to watch how I live my life. But don't we all have to do that? Especially once we reach our 30s (and even more so when we've had kids).

The only thing humans can all be sure of, is that we're going to die.
Directly relating to that, one of the biggest things I've learned from my journey with MS, is that every second of every day is precious. I kinda feel that that's something I bring to the table that's cool, and why people enjoy being with me.

So...Question: Why am I worrying about posting this part of me online?

I think a lot of it is because things get confused online. Things are misinterpreted. People make judgments. When you're with someone in person, you can choose what to tell them, how much information to give, read their expression, feel the moment, decide how much to share, answer their questions and make them feel secure about the situation. When it's online, it's there in black and white. It's out of your control for them to do with what they like.

My friend and I were chatting today and talked about how her husband, a total cool hottie, would NEVER leave her if she was sick, or in fact, ever. Period. What we all know is, that if you're meant to be with someone, you'll be together. 'For richer and poorer, in sickness and in health...' Obviously I learned the hard way that that's not always true, so there's a part of me that's a little dubious about falling in love again.

So basically, posting this stuff online, is about letting go of control. It's about being honest, open, loving and trusting. And, for me, it's easier to live life being up front. I can't be dealing with tip toeing around a situation or lying about stuff. Life's too short.

Maybe some guy won't want to date me cos of the diagnosis, but maybe the same guy wouldn't be interested in dating a yoga teacher anyway, or he has something against British accents? We all have our list of what works for us. I know I'm not interested in dating some overweight, republican, gun toting, KKK, computer nerd who lives on McDonalds and thinks that beating his wife is acceptable.

As my friend told me today, it's time to 'own' this part of my life in the dating arena, and on FB. Anyone can walk into the yoga studio I teach at and pick up a flyer with my face and bio, and will read it there and then. So, time to own it on this crazy virtual social network, FB. We'll see how it goes! Wish me luck...


We all have our stories, we all have our journey and our experiences. Question is how do we integrate them into our daily lives so that we live openly and from our hearts. Do you compartmentalize? Do you pretend? Do you hide from the truth? What are you afraid of?

Take a piece of paper and pen, and sit quietly for a moment reflecting on these questions.

Before you write, give yourself a few moments to connect with your inner soul/God/Buddha/whatever you believe in. Take several long, slow, deep breaths and and say a prayer of gratitude for your life, right here, right now, today. After a few minutes of quiet reflection, write down what it is you are hiding from/afraid of (if nothing comes up, just stay doing some yummy deep breathing!)

Stay with that feeling for a minute or two, then close your eyes again, go inside and, reconnect with your inner being again and ask him/her/it to take those feelings away. You can even picture them being wrapped up in a little box, tied with a pretty ribbon and taken away into the abyss of the Universe.

If you practice yoga, I invite you to get your mat out and practice 7-13x Surya Namskara A series. On each inhalation, breath the words 'I Love Me' or another loving affirmation deeply into your belly. On the exhalation, release whatever you are carrying that doesn't serve you. If you haven't thought of anything in particular, just release a feeling such as 'worry', 'tension', 'fear' or 'stress'.

If you do not know Sun Salutations, please follow the directions for a seated meditation instead.

Seated Meditation:
Sitting quietly on a chair, place your feet firmly on the ground. Feel your sit bones deeply sinking into the chair, lift your spine towards the sky by raising the center of the chest up, dropping the shoulders down the back, chin parallel to the floor. Relax the muscles on the face, open the mouth a little to release the jaw.

Take several long slow deep breaths through your nose, breathing the words 'I Love Me' deep down into your belly. After several long slow inhalations, add on by exhaling any negative words thoughts that come to mind. Continue for 3-5 minutes and end by saying a prayer of thanks for this exercise and clearing.

The Light In Me, Honors The Light In You.

See you on FB.
Big love,


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Diagnosis

The Diagnosis.
I've spoken to lots of people with MS. The diagnosis is one of the hardest things about the disease. Most people have similar stories. Here's mine.

Four days of MRIs. Lying still in the full body/head tube, eight rounds of tests lasting about forty minutes total. The longest test for seven minutes. No swallowing. If I swallowed it would blur the pictures of the spinal chord. If the tests were unreadable, they'd have to be repeated. That wastes the MRI's time where someone else could be using it, costs tons of money, and means I'd have to go through it all over again. Two minute test, break to swallow, four minute test, break, one minute, break, seven minutes, break, three minute, break etc. for eight rounds.

I did great the first day, the nurse offered me valium, I laughed at the thought - valium? me? really? Ner, I'm a kickboxing instructor, I'm from Rugby mate, I can lie in a tube for a few minutes, no problem. Went in all perky, in denial of what I was in there for. Came out a shaking mess. Not swallowing for minutes at a time, stuck in a tube, faced with some unknown prognosis, feeling physically wrecked before you even start, is hard.

Two rounds of spinal chord MRIs the first two days. A day off, then, two rounds of brain MRI's, the ones with a cage on your head.

By the last day I couldn't get into the room without being high on valium. The nurse assured me that this was common. The chemist said the same thing as he handed me the pills an hour before. They explained that often as the body and mind become familiar with what is going to happen, fear takes over.

Lying in the tube for long periods of time, with nothing to do, no where to go, nothing to look at, listening to clunking, machine gun noises, the potential diagnosis was right there. I was petrified of what the tests are going to show.

The MRIs showed two lesions on my spinal chord at the base of my brain. The lesions were so close together my neurologist couldn't see if they were MS lesions or one large cancerous tumor. That was when I received the: "you either have MS in which case you'll probably be in a wheelchair in twenty years, or you have a brain tumor, which, because of where it's positioned in the brain, is incurable" call. The tests were sent to a specialist in LA who confirmed they were MS lesions. However, in order be given a 100% diagnosis of MS by the American Neurological Society guidelines, there needed to be three or more lesions (multiple), so I required more tests.

The following week I went to Stanford Medical Center for eye tests to see if my optic nerve was inflammed.

I arrived early and found myself at the chapel. I've always loved chapels and churches. I'm not religious and don't subscribe to church, but, my mum is an episcopalian priest; my deceased godfather was a Franciscan monk; I went to church schools and spent a lot of my childhood in church. At high school, during the peak of my partying/drug taking/bad girl phase, I'd spend my lunch hours in the ornate catholic chapel, sitting quietly, hanging in the sanctity and safety of the ancient building. Attempting to balance out the insanity of having a dealer boyfriend, partying as if the world was about to end in one of England's gnarliest cities every weekend, while attending a high-end posh English catholic school on a hill in the countryside during the week.

I was called to the specialist center and took the eye tests. I wasn't worried because I knew my eyes were good. The tests were trippy, took me back to my acid days. Lots of swirly images, psycadelic prints. The results were normal.

The final test. A spinal tap. Spinal tap. Let me tell you right now, this was the most excruciating thing I have ever had done to my body. Ever. In my life. Forget child birth. Yes, child birth is mental, and hurts like nothing else, but you know that something wonderful is going to come from the pain. You're doing something amazing. There's the option of drugs that can help. A spinal tap is just wrong. Medieval.

You lay curled up in foetal position on the bed. Take a deep breathe and the doctor inserts a long, wide needle in your spine to draw spinal fluid between two of the vertebrae. You can't move a muscle. You can feel this massive needle in your spine drawing cool fluid out. You want to scream, grimace, and run away. But instead you have to lie there. Still. If you move you could be paralyzed. You lie there sucking up the pain. Praying for it to stop. Damn.

I was warned about the head ache that would follow the procedure. That was no exaggeration.
Another first. Like the pain from the spinal tap. The head ache was unbelievable. Nothing could make it go away. No pill. The nurse recommended caffeine. But really, until the body regenerated the spinal fluid, nothing was going to help. I curled up on the sofa for 24 hours. Shivering. Like a Ewan McGregor going cold turkey in Trainspotting. Trying to find some relief by moving my body in different positions. Nothing helped. I wanted everything to stop. I wanted it all to go away.

Two weeks later, I'm okay. Had the diagnosis. Had hospital treatment. Three days of intravenous high dose steroids that relieved the symptoms. That knocked me out. Made me hallucinate. Throw up. Made me swear I'd never do them again. And led me to trying Tibetan medicine...A whole new chapter in my life.


Mantra (a word or group of words that are capable of creating transformation) meditation is a wonderful tool to have in your mental/emotional tool box. You can use it any time, any place, any where.

Mantra meditation is the ideal tool to get you through situations such as MRIs, spinal tap - anything stressful in your life.

Take a moment to rest and breathe deeply for three long, slow deep breaths. Ask yourself what you need to bring into your life right this moment. For example: calm, relaxation, strength, focus, balance, peace....Usually it the first thing that comes to us that we need the most. So settle on the word, or perhaps two or three words, such as: "I love me", "I am relaxed", "I am safe" and repeat. Simply say it over and over and over and over and over again silently in your mind. You can sit and do this for a short period of time, say 5-15 minutes, or you can keep on coming back to it, whenever you remember.

Be well.