I keep looking for a place to start. A logical place to introduce myself and my story. After a journey of self discovery that has taken me across the globe; led me to many an ancient, sacred site; showed me first hand treasured and ancient healing techniques on my quest for personal health while I struggled to provide health care to the Earth’s creatures without sacrificing my own; working directly with some of the planet’s most endangered species in some of it's most beautiful locals; sailing 3000 nautical miles aboard a small sailboat to commune with nature and rediscover our connection to her; getting struck by lightening; working with rhinos; etc. I hardly know where to begin.
But then yesterday, in making some commitments to myself, I had a powerful thought, a knowing really. Maybe even an epiphany. Then, 24 hours later I saw an article and more pieces fell into place. The research, the information freely shared from another's experience, freed me from my self-induced shackles and chains. I had yet more evidence that it is time to shed my habits of blame, shame, guilt and be kind and compassionate with myself.
Funny thing is, I had already decided, declared, that I was going to change those thoughts, loose those patterns, to consciously, actively commit myself to use all the tools I have learned on my amazing journey across the globe, across the universe, including the universe inside myself. And, just 4 days ago I took just 1 small step. 1 small moment out of everyday to do 1 small thing for myself. It requires permission from no one and takes time away from nothing. It just takes a few minutes to meditate. Using these tools I decided to rewire my brain to nurture, love and cherish myself.
My new approach to every challenge would be to see it as a signal from the Universe that I have an internal block to whatever it is I want to create. I commit to be curious about this information, instead of emotional and threatened by it, like I have done in the past. I will listen critically to the story I am telling myself, not in judgement but in observation of truths vs opinions, facts vs fictions. Ultimately to just observe and be kind. Assuming nothing about words said or done, not creating meaning behind them based my own stories. Just breath and allow. Accept all as it is and know, well trust, that the universe supports me.
Now it is all much easier said than done. My journey with chronic pain and illness has brought me to many a dark place all over the world. One thing I did not have was faith. I never realized it, not until my early 40s when I was working daily with a traditional Indian healer, an Ayurvedic practitioner of great talent. It was then, during my intense daily regimen of body work, meditation, yoga asana’s, breathing practices and detoxing my entire system, that I understood that something had died inside me early in my life. A lot of things happened to me at an early age. I know I am hardly alone in that, even in this exact format. Emotional trauma from an accidental, unwitting, well intentioned event, adoption.
While the end result was a loving family home with parents that stayed married for 45 years until my Father’s death, there were unseen, unnoticed wounds that were accidentally inflicted. Before going to India I did not think much about it. I mean, I knew research had shown that adopted children handled in the way I was in 1969, taken from their birth Mother to an orphanage for 6 weeks to await adoption, ended up with insecurities and abandonment issues as adults. I learned this in high school. I also learned they changed the way they do adoptions so now this isn’t an issue. But I didn’t dwell on it because I didn’t think there was anything I could do about it. India changed all that because it taught my that my illness, my chronic pain and Lupus were all intertwined with those parts of myself. How could that be? My midwestern, clinical and scientific selves were cynical, my emotional self skeptical.
Then I began to see the results of the work we did together, my Doctor, my Nurses and myself. A team all with one objective, to heal my body. What an incredible gift, one that came from one of the darkest places I have ever been. Alone and terminally ill, feeling unworthy and unwanted, berating myself for things done and not done, I was led here by coincidence and grace. What they taught me with their kind, gentle and quiet selves, is that the body is a reflection of all that, all our experiences and the marks they leave behind on our body and mind. Between the stress of my biological Mother while I was in utero, the birth trauma without the opportunity for proper imprinting and subsequent merry go round of caregivers that lasted the first 6 weeks of my life, I was left with profound abandonment issues long before I could speak, walk or crawl. This led to a lifetime of misinterpretation, miscommunication and pain. A lifetime of self shaming, blaming and self inflicted, epic daily punishment.
The work I have done to uncover this has been decades, hell my whole life, in the unveiling and has not been the most enjoyable of rides. In fact, I would not recommend my path to anyone. In my unconsciousness about these wounds, I lashed out and hurt others without ever even knowing it. For that I am so sorry and I know I can not undo those things. I can, however, take responsibility for the things that I did that hurt others and apologize. Taking responsibility though, is not about blame, shame or guilt. Instead, it is an opportunity to understand myself and the driving factors that led me to behave in ways so against my own self image. You can not resolve an issue you do not admit, you can not heal a wound you do not recognize and you can not change subconscious behavior until you let go of the thoughts that created it.
As painful as that sounds, I am grateful that I now understand myself better and can see the foundation of behaviors that never previously made sense. That is the blessing. So is the release of those trapped emotions, stored in the very cells of my body, poisoning me like the toxic words I used to recite like a rosary in my head daily. I will say that, in my humble experience, opening yourself, your thoughts and your experiences is a sure fire way for you to better understand why your life is not what you would like it to be. Better yet, it is the path that helps you change it.
A perfect example of how this works can be seen in something that happened to me recently. As I was doing some self development work on these insecurities and issues, I recalled a memory, probably my earliest one, from a time before we can supposedly recall anything. It is not one that I remembered my whole life, but one I just uncovered. How do I know it’s a memory and not made up? When the picture, a snapshot of a baby in a crib, taken and brought back, left time and time again, no Mother, no primary caretaker, no bonds made or, worse yet, bonds made and broken repeatedly, in the instant I saw that polaroid of that moment, I knew I was that baby. In that instant, sudden, booming, the thought came loud and clear, “I must be broken, damaged, inferior. No one wants me, I am a mistake, unloved and unlovable”. Even now it brings tears gushing unbidden from my eyes. The first time I had that thought, that memory, well the sucker punch to the gut made it clear it was mine because of the intense emotional charge. This was not something I conjured or remembered from TV, this definitely was all my own.
All I can say about the impact is WOW! That explains so much! Suddenly, imagining a little baby, defenceless and feeling so all alone, with no one to comfort her. My heart aches for her as it never has before. I see her as a person, as a child, as a being with potential and personality, gifts all her own. I reach out my own heart to her, take her in my arms and nurture her, cherish her, reassure her….you are loved, you are valuable, you are wanted and cherished. My midwestern upbringing, my doctor self says “how silly”. My spirit, and the resulting liberation this memory provide, tells me that you may call it silly but the effect is profound and lasting...
No longer do I have this driving, pushing, aggressive urge to judge her, berate her, hound her. No longer do I need to push and prod her, drive her, condemn her. She, and I, together, no longer feel the need to be perfect in order to be loved. I no longer feel the need to give myself away in hopes that I will earn the love of those around me.
So, as I begin this journey of opening up my life and my heart to you all, I am hoping that you will do the same. Please be kind and gentle and learn what you can from my journey, from my myriad of mistakes. Most of all, I hope sharing my story inspires you to love yourself first and foremost. Love is the most powerful force in the Universe and can change everything. Together, let us spread that light and love in each and every moment. That, my lovelies, starts first with ourselves. Remember, you are loved, you are valuable and your gifts will change the world around you so PLEASE, let them SHINE.
Dr. Schneider is a published author, photographer, captain, veterinarian, yogi, chef, and explorer in residence.