Healing - A lifelong process

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In my first blog post on this site I talked about the benefits of physical activity to overcome grief. But overcoming grief for me hasn't necessarily been the same as healing myself. The more I listen to people and read about this topic, the more I see how grief is an incredibly individual thing whereas there are broader approaches to healing that can benefit more than one person. For example meditation or any of the other four ways that can help lead a balanced lifestyle (exercise, eat everything in moderation, keep good company and switch off your tech!) can be good for healing too. In general calming the senses and tuning back inside is important to realize that something is off. That can be just temporary and our body's cry for rest, or issues that have gone on for a long time where we need to change our habits to turn the ship around.

But what does healing actually mean and what do we need healing from? Healing literally means to make whole, to restore the health of an unbalanced, unhealthy body. I believe that as babies we come into this world whole. Then life chips away at us and usually our immune system (both physical and emotional) can cope pretty well but there are life events or patterns that hurt us on a deeper level and have the ability to derail us and make us sick.

For a long time I didn't really notice that I needed healing. My life was always busy - with my sport at first - then with moving and living in New York. Relationships seemed fine while they lasted and hurt for the appropriate amount of time when they broke up. Until several years ago when a particularly long relationship ended and the change of moving from a home that I had co-created back to a share with strangers, threw me off. It coincided with a difficult workplace situation and all the talking with my friends still left me clueless as to how to turn around my situation and go back to being fearless and carefree. However, once I realized I needed healing all the things that had caused my 'imbalance' became painfully apparent. I had finally unlocked this area.

What followed were many discussion and a lot of reading and a lot of trying to remedy what was going on. But as I quickly discovered most of my approaches were merely band-aids. As I had done it before, I went running. Running for me had always been 'moving meditation', my way of disconnecting from the outside world and connecting to my body and mind. This time running didn't help. It was an escape - I was running away from changing habits and staring my fears and unresolved issues in the eye.

Thus began my journey. I sat down and started writing down things that I wanted to do in my life and how I wanted to be treated. Call it manifesting or becoming clear. I cultivated (more) patience and gave myself permission to not achieve things so quickly. I went easy on myself mentally and most important physically. I went into my most painful experiences and looked at them from my place now rather than as a younger version of myself who was in the midst of things and overwhelmed. I practiced gratitude for where I was in my life at any given day. I let myself cry for each time I had held it back to be strong.

Some of the effects I could see and feel relatively soon. Restoring balance in my body led to less aches and pains and restoring balance in my mind made me happier, overall.

I dare you to try it. Heal yourself and accept that it is an ongoing process. It's a good goal to have to ultimately be free of things that we have accumulated over the years, that weigh us down. Forgive yourself for new issues that arise along the way. Take them in stride and cherish them as life experiences. We were not made to be perfect. We were born to be real.

Exercise and Grief - A new chapter in my life after a devastating loss

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My former coach and I knew each other for the better part of my life. I first met him when I was 12, just entering adolescence, awkward and lanky, not quite sure of who I was or wanted to be. He was decisive, driven, and decided on the spot that I was going to be a pentathlete - on the German National Team. He had coached others to the international level and with me he said we could reach for the Olympics, the only obstacle was likely to be the national coaches who might try to interfere with the timeline he had in mind. Looking back, the following years were a blur of incredibly intense training, setbacks through injury, celebratory post-victory fast food, Rage against the Machine as motivation for me to run faster and a bond with an individual who came to know me inside out.  He was able to push me through seemingly insurmountable blocks, both mental and physical.

Fast forward ten years, I hadn't qualified for the Sydney Olympics but I had given my all. I made a decision to focus on my academic career rather than wait 4 years for the next chance. I bid the team farewell and went to finish my Masters in Sports Science and Communications. My work eventually brought me to New York and a life far away from athletics. However, after several years of working in an office job, I couldn't ignore the yearning to be fit again. I ran a half marathon and proved to myself that I could still run, I worked out and coached friends, took up martial arts and eventually started doing yoga, which reminded me a lot of the gymnastics my coach had encouraged to improve my swimming. And I discussed everything I did with him via email and phone.

And then he had a skiing accident. He wrote me an email the day after my birthday, saying that he was going in for knee surgery and would call me after he recovered. But he never did. He died of a complication post-surgery.

It has only been 16 months and the void he left is still palpable for me. We were on different continents and leading busy lives but our past always connected us. And just as I had made a conscious decision to break free from my office job and pursue my passion again, I couldn't tap into his well of knowledge any longer. Grieving was a necessary and painful process and a learning opportunity. I turned to what I knew best: exercise. Every run and every yoga class relieved a bit of the heaviness I was feeling. Meditation helped to analyze the feeling and clear the mind.

It's been proven that exercise offers many benefits for coping with grief, just as it does with anxiety and depression; two other common ailments in today's society. Exercise forces us to be out in public again or to connect deep within. It releases endorphins that bring about a sense of well-being and deep breathing releases tension. Grief can strike the body and seriously impact its immune system which can also be prevented by exercising regularly. And ultimately one of the most beautiful ways to honour the loss of a loved one is to race in their name to help others. Because volunteering for a good cause heals, too.

It's long been an aspiration of mine to create a practice based on everything I have learned and to share it with others. This first post feels like an appropriate way to honour the memory of someone who was a great teacher of mine and continues to inspire me. I only wish he was here to witness it.