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Begin Again

Several years ago, I took a mindfulness meditation class and the concept of “Begin Again” became an integral part of my daily life. In meditation, when your mind starts to wander and you recognize the distraction, the phrase Begin Again is often used to bring your attention back to your breath. This act of “awareness and return” IS the practice of meditation. It gave me permission to mess up repeatedly without beating myself up (a useful tool for recovering perfectionists!).

The Begin Again concept is simple, and, like most profound things, immensely difficult to master. The idea isn’t new — of course we begin again after we fail. Yet, somehow in this context, in the safe place of meditation, those two simple words allowed me to exhale more deeply, let go of some of the daily stress, and settle into my body offering myself permission to get distracted over and over. I knew all I had to do to “fix” the situation was bring my attention back to my breath — to pause and begin again. This repeated process helped me recognize that my definition of failure was too rigid. I needed to offer myself more grace, more love, and much more forgiveness.

The practice opened my eyes to other areas where I needed more clarity on what I was doing or thinking so I could choose to move forward in new ways. Was I spending time doing things I really cared about? Was I allowing myself to wish and dream? Or was I simply going through the motions because it was easy and comfortable? I especially needed to re-evaluate how I was dealing (or not dealing) with past traumas. It turns out that burying emotions inside for decades isn’t the best way to reach optimal health! So, I chose to Begin Again with a new kind of work. Deep inner work that would have me beginning again and again, in ways I never imagined.

Over time, I realized that I wanted to serve more, in meaningful and tangible ways. I wanted to share my knowledge and experience of how the body can heal itself, and how small consistent actions can lead to life-changing results. I believe that personal health is a journey, not a point in time or destination to be reached. Health must be tended to, and cherished, every day. When we make less-than-healthy choices or life dumps a health challenge in our lap, may we all remember to Begin Again with grace, love and self-compassion.

How will you choose to begin again today?

My Story

Growing up as a competitive gymnast, I had a fierce determination and tremendous appreciation for hard work, focus, and risk taking. After a back injury ended my gymnastics career, I switched to dance as my exercise and creative outlet — earning a BFA, then performing and choreographing professionally for several years before settling into “real” work.

I’ve always considered myself healthy — even though I was diagnosed with my first autoimmune condition (hypothyroidism) in my early 20s and disordered-eating/body-issues were no strangers. As I plugged along, checking off the boxes of life — getting married, having babies, building a career — I didn’t quite realize how much stress I was accumulating and how my overachieving, perfectionist tendencies were draining my lifeforce.

That all become apparent in 2014, when my pancreas stopped functioning properly. I was diagnosed with Adult-Onset Type 1 Diabetes. My initial reaction was shock and disbelief, followed quickly by, “How do I fix this?” Through frustration, anger, AND the belief in my body’s ability to heal itself, I started digging deeper and asking questions. Why was my body attacking itself?  What did I need to change to prevent further destruction? When I stepped back and started connecting the dots, the timing was understandable.

The previous 5 years of my life was a constant state of fear over losing my daughter, who was born with multiple heart defects. While I was doing everything within my power to support my daughter’s miraculous healing-journey, I didn’t realize how much my own health was suffering. I prayed endlessly that I could switch places with my little baby and take on her burden.

Ironically, I was diagnosed with diabetes exactly one week before learning that her heart was healed and open-heart surgery was no longer required.

My journey living with multiple autoimmune conditions continues, yet I hold on to the belief that my body can regenerate. Although I’d like instantaneous healing, I’m becoming more realistic with my timetable and expectations. Fixing 40+ years of stress-induced damage isn’t likely to occur overnight. These days, I focus on living in the present moment, offering myself copious amounts of compassion, and being grateful for all life lessons, whether painful or pleasure-filled.

    

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Melissa Chapman
Vivid Heart, LLC

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