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Defiant

By Janine Shepherd

I have spent most of my life trying to hide the extent of my disability. By sharing my story in Defiant, at long last, it feels like I have ‘come out’ as a spinal patient and it is liberating. I now embrace the word ‘disability’ with pride as I consider how far I have come and what I have achieved since my accident.

I spent almost six months in the spinal ward after a near fatal accident in 1986 left me with life-threatening injuries, including multiple fractures to my neck and back. I still remember the day my father drove me out of the hospital gates, my wheelchair in the back of the car, my emaciated body wrapped in a full plaster body cast to protect my newly repaired back. Life as I knew it would never be the same. In many ways I was fortunate, and in other ways, not so.

Although I was initially told that it was unlikely I would walk again, or have children, or do the things I had done before in my days as an elite athlete, I was determined to defy the grim prognosis. I would eventually go on to learn to walk again, albeit with a limping gait that would lead to many other complications.

My remarkable recovery from wheelchair bound to walking paraplegic was a combined effort on the part of many caregivers. And the great lesson I’m privileged to share with you, in my new memoir, is that I’ve learned that I’m not my body and you, dear reader, aren’t yours.

Janine Shepherd: A Broken Body Is Not A Broken Person

Janine Shepherd is an author, motivational speaker, and former Olympic-level skier whose work draws upon an incredible journey of personal healing. She details that journey—from the car accident that broke her spine through intense rehabilitation and beyond—in the Sounds True book Defiant: A Broken Body Is Not a Broken Person. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon and Janine talk about the active choice to be alive and the power in knowing that decision. They speak on what it means to be truly resilient, and how one can experience fear without being afraid of it. Finally, Janine explains the realization that she is more than just a body and how that has reshaped her view of death and dying. (55 minutes)

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Wim Hof: The Cold as a Noble Force

Wim Hof is an athlete and extremophile daredevil nicknamed “The Iceman” for his feats of withstanding extreme weather conditions. The holder of more than 20 Guinness World Records, Wim attributes his endurance to specific meditation and breathing techniques. In this intriguing episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Wim about the Wim Hof Method of exercises, mindfulness techniques, and cold exposure, and how this regimen can shift our mental perspective as well as physical resilience. Wim describes the ways his practice dovetails with ancient Tibetan Buddhist inner fire meditation and how it alters body chemistry. Finally, Wim describes coldness as a noble force, asserting that by testing our physical limits we also gain a better understanding of the boundless capacities of the human spirit. (72 minutes)

 

For more information about the Wim Hof Method, please visit wimhofmethod.com.

Being Witnessed In Grief Is A Powerful Balm For Healin...

Dear friends,

Two days after my cat, Hedda, died in 2016, my friend Francis sent me a sketch with a note “from” Hedda that read, in part, “P.S. I love you more than tuna.” Through my tears, I thought that would be a great book title. I had a clear vision: an illustrated gift book that people would give to friends, family, colleagues, or clients after the loss of their cat. A step beyond a sympathy card, this would be the first “empathy book” for adults grieving the loss of a cat.

Thinking About You - Being Witnessed In Grief Is A Powerful Balm For Healing Blog

 

Inspired in part by Eckhart Tolle and Patrick McDonnell’s Guardians of Being and Charles M. Schultz’s Happiness is a Warm Puppy, P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna offers comfort and inspiration through New Yorker-style drawings and simple, evocative language. My goal was to make it heartfelt without being cloying.

Every year, six million Americans and Canadians must say a final goodbye to their cats—buddies who leapt into their hearts as kittens, purred away heartbreak through multiple breakups, snuggled by their side in homes large and small, and occasionally deleted folders of work by stretching out on a warm keyboard.

“Pet loss” is considered a disenfranchised form of grief; it’s not culturally sanctioned. We don’t have any universal rituals for this grief, like sitting shiva or holding a wake. This often leaves the bereaved feeling isolated and misunderstood, which compounds the grief and makes healing more difficult.

People grieving companion animals have a need to be seen, their grief validated. Being witnessed in grief is a powerful balm for healing.

Friends of those grieving companion animals are often at a loss for ways to show their support. P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna gives all of us the opportunity to make a profound impact with a simple gesture.

When Francis sent me the sketch and note, I felt seen. Francis’s gift acknowledged the bond I’d had with Hedda and my grief at her death. The present tense of the note also reminded me that Hedda was still with me, even if I couldn’t see her. That was significant in terms of helping me heal, and that’s the comfort I hope P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna will provide to other cat lovers.

Sounds True has created a lovely video preview for P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna. I hope you’ll check it out below.

Best Friends Animal - Thinking About You - Being Witnessed In Grief Is A Powerful Balm For Healing Blog

Ultimately, I hope this book will benefit the world in multiple ways: for the recipient, witnessing and healing; for the giver, a tangible action they can take to help another; for Best Friends Animal Society, to which I’m donating 10 percent of my proceeds, contributing to their work of keeping pets in the home. This includes helping low-income people connect with resources they need to feed, train, and care for their companion animals. And of course, I hope this will benefit Sounds True and their work in the world, which is quickly becoming more needed than ever.

Take care,

Sarah Chauncey

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Elizabeth Stanley: Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness

Elizabeth Stanley is a Georgetown University professor and the creator of Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training (MMFT)®, an approach taught to thousands in civilian and military high stress environments. A U.S. Army veteran with service in Asia and Europe, she holds degrees from Yale, Harvard, and MIT. She is the author of the book, Widen the Window: Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive During Stress and Recover from Trauma. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Elizabeth Stanley about her 8-session online course, Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training: A Trauma-Sensitive Online Course to Build Resilience and Thrive During Stress. They also discuss why MMFT is a practice we can all benefit from; the value of expanding our “window of tolerance”; the relationship between personal agency and trauma; the “thinking” brain versus the “survival” brain; when stress becomes trauma; the importance of recovery from stressful situations; and more.

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