March 2017, I herniated two discs in my neck.
Leading up to that, I had over ten years of chronic neck pain and migraines. I'm sure that, to some extent, the pain I felt before the full disc tear was a combination of muscle tension and pressure from the discs on my spinal cord.
A disc that applies pressure and one that ruptures to ooze its jelly filling on your nerves are two totally different sensations.
For years I just thought migraines were my thing - you know, everyone has a body thing, especially past age twenty-five.
We don't actually know what broke the camel's back, or mine in this case. Nothing in my routine had significantly changed.
What I've speculated is that sitting in front of the computer for 10-14 hours a day had something to do with it. At the time I was still working in fitness full-time while I was also publishing a daily podcast.
Yes... daily and yes... it was a lot of work!
Most shows were interviews with people all over the world in all different time zones. Even the best recordings required at least 30 minutes of post-production before they were ready for publication and dissemination.
The first few hours of my diagnosis were the worst. I felt like my whole world was falling apart. All my efforts to build an online business based on at least a year of giving value before asking for a sale were in vain.
I didn't make any money. I made an injury.
After the feeling of being victimized by my work ethic, the next emotion that passed over me was, "Oh I can rest! I won't have to do so much!" Since philanthropy is part of my vision, immediate guilt washed over the momentary relief.
"What would you do if you were me?", I asked my husband. "Accept this is your new life. No more lifting heavy weights. You have to learn how to be a new you.", he responded.
Crushed. No weights? I had been seriously lifting weights since 2008 and I took pride in myself to be a strong, not skinny woman. I was left with two choices.
1) Accept my new normal, still not knowing what normal looked like post-injury.
2) Research how the mind and body are connected to heal myself.
Which one do you think I chose?
The Unconscious Mind Lives in the BodyYou may have heard the stats before; 5% of our mind is conscious and 95% is unconscious. Let's break down which part of the brain is responsible for what before you learn how to learn from your physical pain!
The conscious mind is responsible for conscious thought - it's what you're aware of. Like, you know you're reading this blog right now.
The unconscious mind is responsible for hearing & smelling, involuntary motor function. For instance, are you aware of which muscles in your eyes flex and extend, allowing your actual eyeball to move across the page? No, because it's unconscious! The unconscious mind is also responsible for sensations like touch, pressure & pain and of course as we touched on before, the unconscious mind is also responsible for our vision.
Do you see where most of the mind is actually living? Let's take it a step further!
The Connection Between Body & EmotionThe Cerebellum is known as the "little brain" and this is where all our personal empowerment lives! Every book you've read to improve yourself, every course you've completed and every vision you've ever created is used here!
Emotions, memory and fear live in the Amygdala.
Converting temporary memories into permanent memories as well as memorizing space lives in the Hippocampus.
Mood, thirst and hunger live in the Hypothalamus.
Sensations, including pain and overall focus, live in the Thalamus.
What Does All of This Mean?Emotion, memory, mood and pain live in the "little brain!"
All of them are playing house together and they are a very tight-knit family that talk to each other every day all day!
There are a multitude of experts in this matter; physicists, biologists, doctors and chiropractors that teach mechanically and biologically how emotions live in the body and how emotions cause pain. My favorite science-based teachers on this topic? Dr. John Sarno, Dr. Joe Dispenza and https://www.brucelipton.com/Dr. Bruce Lipton.
In essence, we must become aware of our limiting beliefs and our limiting behaviors to stop them while creating new beliefs and habits that support the new (pain-free) version of ourselves.
At Growth-U we have a process called "The Six Steps To Lasting Change." What I really love about this process is that it gives our conscious mind, the part of us that's highly aware, a framework to believe in the process we aren't necessarily aware of, like nerves cells disengaging from old connections and forming new connections.
When I researched the emotional meaning of my injury, by going to the University of Google to find specific emotions that correlate with all injuries and all dis-eases, I found a starting point for applying the six steps. I'll teach you the steps along with examples of how each step took place in my life.
Create A VisionCreating a vision is the same as setting a destination on your navigation before you leave the driveway.
Our mind is cybernetic, it's a computer and it requires a target the very same way the computer in our nav does. The more time you spend thinking about where you want to go and who you want to become the clearer your vision will be. For now, get a general idea of your vision and let it evolve as you peel back the layers in the next five steps.
My vision for myself was to be athletic again.
Break Unwanted HabitsHabits take small steps and repetition every day, which is why "good" ones are hard to create and "bad" ones form with ease!
No one sets out to be a chain smoker; they start by having one or two at cocktail hour on the weekends. Unwanted habits are the ball to our chain of our current identity.
Habits take place in our behavior as well as in our thoughts. Because thoughts become things, being aware of the habitual thoughts we have will have a profound effect on the time and magnitude of our transformation.
Most of my unwanted habits were of the mind.
If I wasn't distracted by work, my habitual thoughts were about the past: what went wrong, who was to blame, and how it could have been different.
Create new habitsIf the unwanted habits are the building blocks of the current identity than NEW habits are the building blocks of the new!
Creating new habits does take place in the "real world," like swapping in carrots instead of chips; a walk after work instead of the couch. And again, we have habits of mind.
How would the new you think? What would the new you believe?
My new habits meant not looking back, stopping my thoughts of the past in their tracks to stay present.
Discipline imaginationImagination is a double-edged sword.
On one hand, imagination is our superpower and on the other, it can tailspin out of control into doom and gloom. Take a moment to reflect where your mind trails off to when "zoning out."
Do you think about the worst possible scenario that your doctor could be calling you about? Do you think about how this next business won't work out again and you'll surely become homeless?
My friend, you have an undisciplined imagination and by thinking about these negative outcomes you're actually attracting like events into your life experience!
Disciplining our imagination means we spend time purposely daydreaming about what we want to have happen, who we want to be, where we want to go. This process not only secretes happy hormones from our Hypothalamus creating ease in the body, but it also causes like events to come into our experience.
For me, I visualized being fit, strong, healthy, lean and happy!
Role model"Fake it until you make it" is the next key. Haha! Just kidding.
That would be incongruent and being incongruent worsens our pain!
Think about the world's most impactful thought leaders. What do you admire about them? What habits and behaviors do they consistently do that have led them to success? What belief systems do they have that fuel their passion?
Role modeling is a way to enhance your belief in yourself. "If she can do it, I can do it!"
When selecting a role model don't worry about the entire person. For instance, you may really admire what Oprah Winfrey has been able to do professionally and philanthropically, however, you probably don't want to model her relationship with food.
Little known fact: I called our Chief of Sales, John Oliver, and modeled his belief in himself after his career-ending back injury. I shared with him, "I keep telling myself, 'John would just keep trying,' whenever I flare up after a workout." And he agreed - he did keep trying and he is athletic again.
John was my role model in fitness to become my athletic self again.
Take risksJumping off a cliff with a parachute you haven't checked - that's an uneducated risk. Jumping off a cliff with a skilled skydiver that triple checks her tools before each client - that's an educated risk.
What you've just done here by going through steps one through five is educated yourself about how the mind changes.
You're aware of what you need to do, how to do it and what bumps will most likely appear as you venture off towards your ideal self. Knowing this will allow you to stop, assess and maneuver without total derailment.
When a negative thought or flare-up happens, you can sit back and say, "Ok - was I thinking constructively? Could I have modified my behavior differently? What can I do better next time?" And then go again.
Lifting weights with the surrounding muscle groups of my injury were the biggest risk. How much should I push? In my gut, do I think that exercise is worth it?
It took over a year to take these risks to go from hardly working out, to working out moderately, to working out intermittently, to now working out six days a week.
Thankful for the PainWhile I was in pain, I wasn't grateful for it. It hurt!
I was grateful for the hours upon hours I sat on the couch watching Ellen with my dogs. Yes, they watched too. I took videos of them watching animals on some of the episodes!
Since observing how misaligned and incongruent my old unconscious thoughts were with my conscious thoughts and proactive growth here at Growth-U, I have so much appreciation for the clues our body gives us about our mindset.
If I didn't have an injury and pain to heal, my life may have been just fine. Or it may have become more and more of what my unconscious thoughts and behaviors were creating.
I'll tell you this much, creating my life through disciplined imagination is a lot more fun than my default of living in the past, looking for people to blame and wondering what I could have done differently.