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.


Jane, are you doing drugs?

Labor Day. Eight and a half years ago. Emily's first birthday. We threw a birthday party for her and invited all our neighbors. It was a beautiful Indian-summer's day. Our neighbors were a fun party bunch. We were the new young couple on the block. Everyone was having a great time. The table was heaving with delicious goodies, wine was flowing, people were laughing, Emily performed beautifully taking her first steps there and then in front of the cooing fans.

For a few wonderful hours, I forgot all about the horrors of the past two weeks, the MRIs, optic tests, spinal tap, three days of intravenous steroid treatment. Pushed aside the pain, the struggle, trauma, hallucinations, vomiting, shock, anxiety and fear. In the merriment of the party, I'd forgotten it all.

I finished hospital treatment on Wednesday. Four days later, it was Emily's party. I was so happy to have my friends over. It was perfect.

We sang Happy Birthday to Emily. More wine flowed. I wasn't drinking. One of my neighbors took my arm and gently pulled me to one side. "Jane," she said, in a quiet voice, "are you okay? I noticed your arm. Is there anything you need to talk about?" Silence. "Are you doing drugs?"
I was stunned.
I had no idea what she was talking about.
She looked at my arm. I followed her gaze. It landed on a huge black bruise. I was black and blue. There were needle marks all over my arm where the nurses had tried to get the needles in. My veins had collapsed. They'd injected the drugs into my tissue for one of the three days.

I was so out of it I hadn't even thought about covering up my arms. It hadn't crossed my mind. It was the middle of summer. I was wearing a tank top. I saw myself through her eyes. I was thin, tired, pale. I looked like a heroin addict.

"Oh, no." I told her. "I'm sorry. I've just been in for a lot of tests. I've been diagnosed with MS."

She cried. There and then, in the middle of Emily's party. My few hours of forgetting were over.


In yoga we sometimes find ourselves faced with practicing poses that bring up emotions such as fear and anxiety. The key to staying in the practice is to breathe our way through them, bringing peace and relaxation into our bodies despite what our emotions are telling us. When we can do this in class or at our home practice, we can begin bringing this calmness into the world with us. This is when we begin living our practice.

From downward facing dog bring the right leg up into a downward dog split, bend the right knee and swing the leg forward, bringing the right knee outside the right hand and release the left leg to the floor.
Square off the hips (place a bolster or folded blanket under the right buttock if nec). Bring the torso down into a forward bend in front. Remain here for several minutes, breathing deeply into the right thigh and buttock. If you feel pressure in your right knee, press your hands into the ground and take some of the pressure off the knee. If you feel pain in the knee, come out of the pose.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

This is an intense pose. Chances are some emotions will arise. Breathe through them. Inhale the word 'peace' or 'relax' or something that resonates to you and consciously exhale the struggle.