It’s so easy to ask one’s self, why me?
When I hear that question, even if it’s inside my own head, my response is always the same, if not you, then who?
There are many times in our lives we might ask ourselves that question, usually it’s during a time when things are just not going ‘as planned’ or how we ‘expect’ them to go, but there is lesson one right, let go of expectations and plans. I believe that when those things happen that the Universe, God, Spirit or whatever we want to call it, has another plan for us and while we might see it as an obstacle or a stumbling block it really is the beginning of our growth and most times, in a major way. The change, transformation or shift, while not obvious at first becomes the beginning of a life changer and if we allow it, if we don’t resist it and we take what happens as part of our journey and learning experience, it will become our greatest lesson and even sometimes reveal to us our purpose.
Many of us have heard the quote “The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them.”
Life does throw us stumbling blocks and with each one we are given a choice, we are given the option to ask ourselves these questions, what is this here to teach me? What can I learn from this moment, from this bump in the road what is this here to show me? How can I allow myself to be utilized in a way that might help someone else? At least that is what I hear when I come upon the stumbling blocks in my path, which DO become my stepping stones through life.
When I was diagnosed some 11 years ago with MS, after a long time having been un-diagnosed and misdiagnosed, I could never have known then what looked like the biggest stumbling block would become, 17 years later from the onset, I can clearly see why I ‘stumbled’ into this disease, why I accepted this assignment of living with Multiple Sclerosis.
I say ‘accepted the assignment’ because I do believe we accept these things that come into our present lives, whether it be through Samskara (Sanskrit word meaning-impressions / lessons are the imprints left on the subconscious mind by experience in this or previous lives, which then color all of life, one’s nature, responses, states of mind, etc)…or it’s simply just what we are here to do, but have not yet learned or discovered why yet.
I could never have known 11 years ago, when I first began an online support group for those living or being diagnosed with MS, that would be the moment of discovering my passion which would lead to my purpose.
I began an online support group, to reach out as far as I could, simply to try to help anyone who might be going through the daunting process of getting diagnosed, my goal was to help guide them through the mundane process, hopefully saving them years of the same thing that I went through myself, not getting diagnosed and progressing in the disease. I met so many friends during those years that I ran that site online, many of whom are still friends with me today and for that I’m so grateful.
My journey of finding my passion and purpose didn’t stop there, I became a patient advocate speaking to others who have MS and how to live well with it and then eventually I began taking yoga, oh and that’s when the journey took a huge turn, I had NO clue what getting on my yoga mat for the first time some 9 years ago would bring to me.
It’s dawned on me that one can possibly see the yoga mat as a stumbling block, (something that one might think they can’t do) it’s not easy to approach even the idea of yoga especially when living with an unpredictable disease such as MS, or any chronic illness or injury for that matter, it can seem intimidating at first, simply because we have yet to learn that it’s not about anyone else’s practice but our own, we haven’t learned yet what yoga really means and to then to be in a room with others who are already familiar with the practice can seem especially daunting.
Crazy things happen when one is either suggested to do yoga or we might entertain doing yoga, the ego kicks into high gear, it starts to speak up, that crazy voice inside our heads trying to convince us that this is silly, you can’t do this, or even better, what the heck is this going to do for you? Well what didn’t it do for me? My mat, which seemed like a stumbling block at first became my stepping stone. It became the place that I first sat still and discovered inner peace, where I discovered that I can actually be one with my mind, body and spirit and the MS that was so noisy, first became quiet, it’s where I found balance, yes, not physical balance right away, but emotional and spiritual balance and yes eventually some physical balance. It became that space that I couldn’t stop returning to because it felt so good, I didn’t know why and I didn’t need to know why. Being on my yoga mat was like a magic carpet and eventually that magic seeped into my life, off of the mat, into my home life, when I was driving, sitting in traffic, waiting on long lines and especially when I’d have a flare up, instead of focusing on the fear, I learned to go to my breath and focus there.
After practicing for 4 years, the invite to participate in a teacher training was offered and after a lot of thought, and self doubt, (ego telling me that there was no way I could remember what was going to be taught), I took the training with absolutely NO intention of teaching…ah but the Universe knew better, there was a bigger plan, not only did I learn, was I able to retain the information taught to me, then I realized that I did want to teach, but not to the general public, there are plenty of awesome teachers out there who do that. I wanted to do something different, I have a gift of knowing what it’s like to live with MS, an invisible at most times, chronic illness and I knew what yoga can do to help those living with any disease or condition but especially MS and I wanted to bring yoga to those who are living with MS, gift it to them as it was gifted to me. Granted at the beginning I was afraid to actually teach (ego trying to convince me that I wasn’t good enough, sure enough, wouldn’t remember what I was taught, all self doubt),so I began a Free Yoga for MS Program with two amazing yoga studios who offered out their space and time to give free yoga to those living with MS, however I would only demo until eventually I was pretty much forced to get in front of the room and find my voice, it didn’t come easily but eventually it came. I began teaching and learning through my students as I taught and it was great!
Then as things would happen with a disease such as MS, I had a relapse, a stumbling block, the worst one ever and after being in the hospital and rehab coming home to limited PT, what brought me back was the same thing that taught me so much, my yoga practice, one pose every day until I built my strength up. It was as simple as sitting firmly in staff pose literally working to flex my feet and point my toes evenly up towards the ceiling, pressing my thighs into the ground and oh yes, grounding down through my sit bones while sitting up tall, holding myself up at the same time without losing my upright posture…staff pose (dandasana) soon became my greatest challenge, but with time I did it, then it was plank (top of a push up), holding it as long as I could, engaging every single muscle in my body, waking up all of my muscles that had become atrophied during the relapse. In time I came back and learned so much more about myself than I had known before, learned so much more that I could take back and share with people, the one major lesson is to never give up.
MS relapse’s ‘look’ like stumbling blocks, however they are stepping stones, they come into our lives for a reason, we can ask why me, why now but then the answer is, if not you, who and if not now when? Is there ever a good time? No there isn’t, but that’s the funny thing about life, we can’t ‘plan’ out every moment and yes life throws us stumbling blocks but these blocks are placed there for us to learn, to find out our strength and then to take what we learn and share it with others…
“When you learn, teach, when you get, give.” Maya Angelou
I’ve since discovered my passion and my purpose, I love to learn and I love to share what I learn, I teach, I advocate, for myself and for others. I try my best to help those who are newly diagnosed. I get the absolute joy of sharing the practice of yoga with others living with MS or any chronic illness and I get the amazing gift of seeing the shift, changes and growth as their practice unfolds for them as it’s meant to.I have MS for a reason and it’s a good reason, if I didn’t have it, if I wasn’t ‘living’ it, I couldn’t understand and I couldn’t be of service in the same capacity that I am now. It’s been a gift, having MS, I’ve said that before however I clearly see it more than ever now.
When life throws me a stumbling block, I ask myself, what is this here to teach me? What can I learn from this moment, from this bump in the road?
I listen for the lesson, then I stare right at it and step on it and then over it …because, the only way out is through….
Lisa Bachrach Zeankowski
11 years ago today, the mystery of all of the symptoms that I was having for the previous 6 years was solved, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. 17 years ago was my onset of this disease. 17 years later I am so completely grateful and blessed, I have learned so much in all of these years as well as I’m grateful for the gifts MS has brought to me. I have met and befriended so many amazing people, I found out that I am so much stronger than I ever thought I was, and not just physically, but mentally. I have discovered that our inner strength is everything and we are not our bodies nor are we the disease or challenges we face. I found out that I have more love and compassion than I ever thought possible and my awareness to the needs of my body as well as the needs of others has heightened tremendously.
MS has taught me self love and self respect, it’s taught me that we need to really listen to our bodies as well as become the very best advocate for ourselves and yes, for others…MS has taught me to live vicariously, fully and totally in the moment and to appreciate every moment, the present is all that we really have and nothing past matters and the future is always uncertain so why worry about it? It has taught me how to handle situations with grace and that we really are not in control, but we are in control of how we prepare and how we react to situations.
MS gave me the gift of being able to stay at home with my kids to raise them and be involved with their school needs as well as their personal needs. MS shares my body with me and we have learned how to co-exist, however MS does NOT define me by any means, if anything it has shown me just how strong I can be and how we (me and this disease) can teach others.
MS is an amazing process and journey, not one to be taken for granted and truly if one chooses to, they can look at their diagnosis as a gift and choose how we are willing to live. I chose to live well and in the best way I know how. I am grateful for the lessons, we have had our ups and downs for sure but in each experience there was a lesson to be learned and one to be shared and taught to others.
I have become an advocate, an activist, a yoga practitioner and a teacher and I have discovered that my true passion is to help others and hopefully bring to as many people as I can the gift that yoga has to offer. I wish to be able to continuously show people through my actions that we are not our bodies but we are spiritual beings living a human experience and that yoga is such a natural way of helping ourselves, mind body and spirit.
My passion is to hopefully inspire as many people as possible to embrace whatever their challenge or obstacle is and open up the opportunity to bring yoga to their lives so that they might experience what I have. Yoga really saves lives as well as shifts how we look at the world and ourselves. Yoga teaches us to live in the moment and to be still and to listen to the amazing silence between our thoughts, as well as it teaches us to listen to the needs of our bodies and yes, yoga has saved my life, in more ways than one and if it weren’t for MS, I’m not sure if I might or might not have found Yoga and all that it has to offer us.
So today I celebrate my 11th year since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and I celebrate 17 years since my life began to shift and change. Happy Anniversary to us! The journey and the lessons will continue and until the day a cure might be found, we will love each other with the greatest unconditional love we can share.
To quote one of my favorite inspirational teachers, Deepak Chopra, “You can believe the diagnosis but you don’t have to believe the prognosis.”
Today is a celebration of my life and that’s how I am embracing this day that changed my life some 11 years ago and it really did change it for the better Namaste Lisa Bachrach-Zeankowski
Have an attitude of gratitude everyday! Not just intellectually, but from the heart.
Life is short..live it! Life if precious..appreciate it! Sometimes things aren’t easy, but often times the best things in life need to be worked hard for and earned.
It’s easy to blame, but it’s braver to own it! The ONLY way out is through! There are no mistakes only lessons, and everyone we meet along the way, is a teacher and even if they don’t stay in our lives, they were meant to be in our lives, maybe for a moment, or years but they are meant to be in our life and possibly lead us to our next teacher.
Life is not a destination but a journey LIVE IT, BE PRESENT, LOOK UP appreciate it., inhale, exhale, feel the breath, feel the ground beneath your feet, go hug a tree!!!…
Life is GOOD even when we think it’s not or it’s just too hard, we are blessed, we really are…Be Grateful ….
Namaste Lisa Bachrach
We have all heard or used that saying “Home is where the heart is”.
Recently I’ve had to really delve deeply into this, and search within my heart for answers to many questions. Am I where I’m supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing and am I happy doing it the way that I am? Now many people would immediately think, oh she must be talking about her relationship, however they couldn’t be further from the truth, but when something tugs at your insides and you’re not sure you are where you should be, it can hurt every relationship in your life, including the most intimate ones and that’s when it’s most important to look inside.
I’ve spent the last 4 months discovering different things, experiencing Yoga in different ways and trying hard to adjust to a new way of learning as well as teaching, and maybe this is where my conflict lies, I’ve been “trying”.
Shouldn’t something that is right come naturally to us? Yes, there are challenges and moments of panic, the ego kicks in and makes you think that you can’t, however this I truly believe isn’t the case here. Sometimes when doors are opened, it’s for a reason. Maybe it’s so you can walk through them specifically so you can experience something new and different? Maybe it’s even to just show you what else is available to you so that you can decide what road or path it is you want or need to take? Maybe it’s part of the lesson. Maybe it’s just another way to help one recognize their authentic self? Whatever the ‘maybe’ might be, in this case, as in every case, it’s definitely a lesson, there is a teacher or two involved (one of them being yourself) and as always whether the experience has been all good, all bad or a combination of both, something very valuable has been learned.
I have also spent the last 2 months struggling with a decision and even more so over the last month over what to do with this conflict I’m having. I’m not a ‘quitter’, I don’t even like the power that is given to that word and I also struggle with who gives that word it’s power. Is it me, is it my ego or is it my fear of those I love most judging me for what they don’t understand the decision I need to make and they refer to it as ‘quitting’ not understanding that I don’t see it exactly that way? To help me work through some of this I’ve asked my nearest and dearest friends for advice, all of whom have graced me with their wisdom and their understanding. I’ve looked to my mentors and those I respect and I’ve been so lucky to not have any one of them to tell me what it is I should do. Not one of them said “you should do this or that”.
I was given very good advice, “Lisa, I think you need to get back on your mat, not for anyone else, but for yourself”, how true that is…I miss who I feel I was before this venture that I took on, I miss the calm that was me.
I was told, “look into your heart, it will never lead you wrong, Sometimes we fear doing the right thing for ourselves because ego puts a different view on it. When clear and sitting in your heart center you will have no doubt of what u need to do. Trust yourself.”
And finally the very thing that really made me smile because it echoed the first advice that I was given and deep inside of my heart I knew it to be true; “Get back to your practice. Get back to you.You most certainly will not regret this decision. I am sure and so are you when your ego isn’t shouting obscene things at you.” and finally just a few moments ago I had lunch with someone I highly respect and even though my decision was pretty much already made, I still needed and wanted her wisdom about what it was I was feeling and her thoughts on the choices I have, to either stick it out or let it go. Her soft ears while she listened to me and her advice as always was wonderful, she said and I’m going to try to get this right..”if you aren’t finding flow; that if you aren’t able to build upon what have already learned, that it’s not helping you to refine your teaching, then your decision to leave is the right one.” She actually said that much more eloquently than I just did, but then again, she’s awesome. 🙂
How crazy is our Ego that we allow it to try to control us, we are aware that it’s happening and yet we still allow it to try?
I guess growth and awareness is knowing that ego is doing this and instead of allowing Ego to get away with it, we do become that change we want to see, we recognize who’s doing that talking, we overcome that fear and make the choice that ego tries desperately to stop us from making, the one we fear everyone will judge us because of.
We say, you know what, this is what I need, me and it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks, the best I can hope for is that those who I love, those I am close to will understand that this is what I need and this is what serves me best and will make me happy and bring my Santosha (contentment) back…
I need to be home, home is on my mat, where I began, for myself and not because I have to but because I want to.
I was recently asked to read a book, part of my required reading, The Mirror of Yoga by Richard Freeman. I started to read it about a month ago long before I was told that I had to start reading and long before I was told I had to finish it before our February meeting, I was also asked as homework to tell what it is I got from this book, I’ll get to that in a moment.
I picked up my book where I left off a month ago and the very first page that I read began with a story about a man who kept digging a hole for water for his well, and when he didn’t reach it he moved onto a new hole, trying again and each time never giving it time before moving along to begin digging again. Richard explains that we often do this with Yoga and in life as well.
He says “So it is with the restless ego pursuing yoga, seeking ornaments for an improved self-image and new ways of feeling better, but avoiding the true facts of life. When the school or practice becomes difficult-which is precisely the entry point into reality-it is at this crisis point that you really have to drop your pretenses and keep digging deeper into the experience. However, all too often it is right at this juncture that we tend to give up the practice. We move on to a “better” teacher or a “more interesting” school, rather than sticking with it and investigating the inner work that is the purpose of the school and the teachings in the first place. Of course if the teacher (or school) has not done his or her work of sticking with the practice as the point of difficulty, then is could be time to find a different teacher, and this discriminative awareness-knowing when to stick with it and when to move on- is part of what a good yoga practice teaches.” Richard Freeman
After reading this paragraph, on this page, I sat in amazement; first let me tell you first thought, Universe made it so I read this right now, while I was in all of this turmoil of not knowing what to do, then I thought about the passage. Am I avoiding the true facts of life, has the school or practice just become too difficult so I’m giving up and saying okay let me move onto a “better” teacher or a more “interesting” school? I listened to my heart and inside of me, not from my ego, I heard a voice say, no Lisa, He is a good teacher and their school is interesting, the work is not become so difficult that you can’t handle it, it’s just this simple, it’s not a good fit and you are discriminatively aware of this, it’s time to move on and “this is what a good yoga practice teaches.”..you’ve learned well.
Answer to the homework assignment, what did you get from reading this book? So far, I’ve gotten that what I’m feeling is legitimate and the choice I’m making to leave this program is the right one. As for finishing the book, I will be finishing the book, not because it’s required of me to do so, but solely because I want to, Richard Freeman is an inspiring writer and I’m sure a great teacher who I will not get the pleasure of meeting in February during our training now that my decision has been made…another time I’m sure. “When the time is right, the teacher will appear.” 🙂
I have learned so much in the last year and a half, I’ve made new friends, lost some and then found our way back. I’ve met new people, done different types of yoga and read all kinds of books. So many experiences, that have been part of this amazing journey and I’m grateful for every minute. Each day, every minute, every step is a lesson and every single person you meet along the way, IS a teacher and within every experience, whether you deem it good or bad, IS a lesson…embrace it. Never regret…acknowledge it, be grateful for it because it molds us to be the person that we become, the person we keep becoming.
I am so grateful for all of you, my friends and all of the experiences each and every one of you have brought to me, that I know you will continue bringing to me, as well as I am grateful for the journey we are on and look forward to continuing on it with you…
With this, I’m going to take that step back onto my mat for not because I have to but because I want to…
Going back to taking care of me and going inwards
To the teacher(s) and the practice that I know and love;
I’m going to keep walking through the amazing doors that have opened for me and enjoy the view;
I’m going to hope that those I love support and understand why
I’m going to reunite with my friends who I dearly miss….
I’m going to continue my journey and help those with MS through the gift of Yoga as it was gifted to me
One day I will get my 500 hour Teacher Certification but for now…
I’m going home…..where my heart is
200 hour Certified Yoga Teacher
Long Island Yoga School