The Cook Awakening

Archive for the ‘Living with Health Challenges’ Category

Your Unique Self

March 8, 2020
Posted in: Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Spiritual Practice

I have a few clients that are struggling with needing particular kinds of support in the world. Needing social or disability services that are not easy to get.

Many people have heard me say that the nuclear family is a failed experiment. This normalized expectation for us all to be “independent” is warping our humanity. I view the process folks have to go through to receive services as part and parcel of that. Folks have to “prove” that they’re incapacitated in quite dehumanizing ways to receive basic support. And, usually they have to prove it over and over again.

Given that many folks needing assistance are also living with a history of trauma that may actually be causing the need for assistance, we really have a system that is severely off the mark. A system that compounds the injury it professes to try to salve.

A couple of examples – if someone is suffering from TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), making them responsible for filling out complicated forms to receive assistance is cruel. To offer them assistance filling those forms out with a worker who is not trained to understand the needs of someone who is not neuro-typical, who is impatient or shaming, compounds the cruelty.

I have a memory, early on in my Lyme diagnosis and treatment, of a certain receptionist in my doctor’s practice. I had some fairly significant neurological symptoms — short term memory loss, brain fog, slowed down thinking processes. This person was sharp toned, impatient when I had a hard time remembering the names of supplements I needed to order, or putting together disparate pieces of information about my treatment plan. I remember feeling ashamed, and nervous about having to talk with them.


November 10, 2019
Posted in: Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Meditation, Spiritual Practice

There’s a tendency I see with clients, friends, family, and myself. I think of it as the training of the Industrial Revolution, and of Capitalism. I’m not launching into a political lecture here, but I do need to name this orientation as systemic, partially as a way to depersonalize the suffering. Meaning… it’s not your fault you suffer in this way.

We feel guilty for needing help. We carry the deeply embedded message in our collective psyches that we are supposed to be completely self sufficient in all things. We are supposed to be able to handle whatever life hands us. Financial difficulty, mental health challenges, the stress of unreasonable demands at work, isolation in the nuclear family, illness…

Trees metabolize carbon dioxide into the oxygen we need.

I know I feel some level of unease, which is really the tip of an iceberg of shame, when I have to acknowledge that I’m not doing well. All the messages that flow through are utterly disempowering — I have a strong spiritual practice, I should be fine all the time. I’m a counselor, I help other people, I should have all my ducks in a row, and shouldn’t need help myself. I am so fortunate, I have a nice house and food on the table, what am I complaining about?

Our ancestors lived in tribes. Humankind is genetically wired for connection and interdependence. There are many reasons why that isn’t a reality today in white western culture. That’s not what I want to focus on here, though. The question is — what do we do about it? We are set up to stay separate in so many ways by our own habits, and the expectations of others!

What If My Inner Critic is Right?

October 13, 2019
Posted in: Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Spiritual Practice

I led a group recently focusing on the Inner Critic. You know, the part of your psyche that picks apart everything you do, everything you are, and tells you you’re not good enough? I wrote about that last January. It’s a painful, pernicious voice in your head. We all have an Inner Critic, shaped by the culture and experiences we grew up with.

That voice in your head can sound like the Voice of God, All Knowing, Absolutely Correct About All Things.

I had a client once who would say, “But, what if my critic is right?”

It can be a subtle thing to discern in working with this part of yourself. The fact is, your Critic may indeed be right about the things it attacks you with. You may, in fact, be… fat/skinny, shy/loud, “too old”, mistaken about things, not very “beautiful” (by media standards), not a perfect parent, etc.

It is true, he is not good at ballet.

How do you find the part of you that knows that these “awful things”, that may or may not be true, are not as important as your Critic makes them out to be?

Changing Identity

August 18, 2019
Posted in: Grief, Integrating Lifestyle Changes, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges

My family just arrived back from a 2400 mile road trip down through California to visit dear friends and family from the north to the south of the state. And, we swung through Yosemite on our way home, just for fun.

Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park.

I used to identify as someone who LOVED road trips. I traveled solo from California to Colorado more than once. From California to Wisconsin with my ex-husband. I made it from California to New York in 2 days with a crazy group of roommates once, driving straight through. (Something, by the way, I do not recommend. I’m grateful to be alive.)

Youth is a time of natural resilience. It’s one of the reasons that many chronic illnesses aren’t diagnosed until a bit later in life. The signs might be there, but the fact of being young often makes it possible to miss them.

I’m not young anymore. Being in my later 50s brings a number of differences in my capacity to manage a changing environment. Different beds every few days. Hours in the confined space of the car. No routines to rest into. I end up grumpy, overwhelmed… and my body hurts.


June 9, 2019
Posted in: Events, Integrating Lifestyle Changes, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Meditation, Spiritual Practice

Sovereign, adj
1. possessing supreme or ultimate power
2. enjoying autonomy

As women, in general, we are taught from an early age to be more aware of other people’s feelings than our own. It’s how we learned to stay safe, to navigate sometimes very dangerous waters.

As a result, we often aren’t fully aware of how we feel in any given moment. Our antennae are always up, sensing the environment. Even when it’s relatively safe, the habit is so ingrained, we’re still scanning our surroundings for possible hazards in other’s behavior. We often defer to our partners’, employers’, friends’, or children’s needs without even thinking about it.

This long standing habit of hyper arousal and leaving ourselves out of the equations of our lives has a myriad of outcomes — chronic illness, loss of income, depression and anxiety, and lack of meaningful connection with other human beings, to name a few.

We are embedded in the structure of society. We live in a template of hierarchies, implicit and explicit, that can keep us from the connection we all need on a cellular level.

Can you feel yourself as distinct from the background of your life?

I have found that it’s not enough to understand this mentally, to have the mechanics of “The Patriarchy” or “White Supremacy” mapped out on the cognitive level, although that’s incredibly important. We do need to have our rational minds engaged to help us feel safe to do deeper work.

If we stop there, though, we often get stuck in anger. Anger is important, it helps us get unstuck. It helps us define what’s not working. It’s an important step in discernment. But, if we never move through anger, there’s growth we might not experience.

The Blessing of Impermanence

March 25, 2019
Posted in: Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Seasonal Change, Spiritual Practice

“I’m afraid if I really allow myself to feel what’s going on with me, the feelings will never stop. I’ll be lost, forever weeping or shaking, and I’ll never feel good again.”

I think we all experience some version of this. I know my clients do. I do! Even though the path through this “resistance to what is” is very familiar to me, I still have to navigate some version of “I don’t want to feel this!” when unpleasant emotions arise.

It’s natural. It’s human. So, before I proceed any further, please know that. There’s no criticism needed in this scenario. My goal is to tenderly support you in being utterly human, in all it’s aspects. It’s what your soul took birth to be.

However, the resistance to feeling can lead us into greater suffering than is actually necessary.

My dad played American football in high school. I remember him telling us the story about the time he broke his arm, and didn’t know it for two weeks. He continued to play during that time.

He broke his arm and didn’t know it for two weeks. Now, that’s resisting pain!

Once they figured out that something was wrong, he had ground the bone around the fracture to little bits. He wore a cast for over a year in order to heal. (He continued to play football the entire time, and broke the cast a number of times. His doctors would replace it, and he’d keep playing.)

He grew up in an environment where it was clear — you do not feel your pain. I won’t go deeper into that, there’s ancestral patterns I’ve been working with for years that led to his high tolerance for discomfort. My point in using this example is simple.

If he’d been able to experience his pain when he first felt it he’d have known something was wrong, and he’d only have had to wear a cast for 6 — 8 weeks. Compared to over a year. My suspicion is that if he’d taken a break from playing football, he would have healed faster, too.

This is a pretty concrete example that carries over into the realm of other kinds of human feelings. How it works in the case of emotions is a bit different, though.

The geese are easy with the day’s end

There’s a core truth taught in many spiritual paths. It’s often experienced as a truth that people don’t like, but it has a vast benefit as well.