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