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Compassion For Self – Part 11

Brady can’t remember ever experiencing this feeling before. Maybe as a child, as a very young boy he may have felt something like this, but not as a young man and not as an adult.

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Living a compassionate life begins by taking compassionate, loving care of your health and your self. This is the 2nd Compassion enabling each us to achieve The Great Healing – for ourselves and for our planet. This weekly 11-part series excerpts and adapts Chapter 2 of the new book, The Great Healing – Five Compassions That Can Save Our World.

“An exceptionally well and persuasively written clarion call to personal and collective action, The Great Healing – Five Compassions That Can Save Our World is unreservedly and urgently recommended.”
— Midwest Book Review

“The ambitious book’s five chapters highlight compassionate approaches toward animals, self, the land, community, and democracy. Erickson’s writing displays passion, clarity, and a grasp of every topic he tackles.”

— Kirkus Reviews

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. . .

Brady can’t remember ever experiencing this feeling before. Maybe as a child, as a very young boy he may have felt something like this, but not as a young man and not as an adult.

“This was the day — and I wanted to see what I could do.” So, he started, and he kept it up. “It felt like I was free. And it was shocking. It felt like I was a new me. It felt really good.” Discovering each passing second that he was able to keep going, that he might be able to do it, his excitement grew. “It felt, for lack of a better word, like I was baptized. Go in dirty and come out clean.” Brady is at a gym where he is now a member and he is running on a treadmill. Four minutes, four and a half, and he doesn’t feel the need to stop. He is running. “It felt so satisfying.” He can keep going.

He remembers running for the girls when he was 9, how exciting that was. Not the actual running across to the playground and back, but the fact that two of the cutest girls in his grade had their eyes focused on him the whole way, and they were cheering him on. Five and a half minutes. He’s there. He’s done it! But he doesn’t stop. He runs even faster — to see if he can. Joy swells inside, fills him. At six minutes he stops. Elation rushes, surges, overwhelms him.

As he steps off the machine, he can barely keep it together. Sweat drips down, as do his tears. He is overcome.

“I felt free. I felt good. I felt healthy. It was great.”

It is January 2018, about one year since his stomach surgery. Brady weighs 200 pounds. He has lost 138 pounds. He has never run like this on a treadmill before. His body would not let him.

When I last saw him, his body fit on his frame. His goal is to get to an ideal body weight of around 175 pounds. I believe Michelangelo either wrote or said that when he first looks at a block of marble, he can see the statue within that will emerge. There seems to be more Brady because there is less of him, almost as if the essential person that is has been chiseled out of a larger, less feature-defined mass.

The surgery was successful and did not involve complications. Brady healed quickly.

He lost weight in a series of plateaus, 15 pounds in the first month and a half following surgery, then it stabilized for a short while, then another 15 pounds disappeared, more later still. He has to eat smaller portions of food about 5 times a day. While he can eat almost any kind of food, his body tells him what works best and what doesn’t. And he listens.

At some point in time, years ago when he was a child, without even consciously realizing it, he stopped listening to what his body was telling him when he ate. Over time those signals were overwhelmed by what he was eating — to the point where he no longer even realized he was full. He’s back in touch now. His stomach and digestive system are more assertive. He typically begins eating with vegetables and other proteins before shifting to a small amount of a starch. He feels discomfort when he has eaten non-nutritious foods, especially bad carbs like white breads or pasta made from processed flour. He has to be selective.

When I was with him, Brady had to go to the emergency room at the Greenville Memorial Medical Campus. He would remain there seven and a half hours. The ER is busy with a number of sick and injured people getting attended to. Brady is not one of them. He is one of those doing the attending. He works there, logging full time shifts as a medical scribe. He is now in his senior year as a pre-med at North Greenville University.

In the ER, he’s on his feet virtually his entire shift. The painful plantar fasciitis he endured for years has disappeared. The persistent soreness in his lower back is gone as well. He sleeps soundly at night. The sleep apnea has vanished like a bad dream.

Brady’s BMI is now 29.5%. He is no longer obese.

His recent A1C result — the blood test that measures average blood sugar levels over the preceding three months — is 5.2. Under 5.7 is normal. Brady is no longer pre-diabetic.

While he still doesn’t contemplate what life in his late 60’s or beyond will be like, the odds are now really high that he’ll get there. And that he’ll get there with a healthy body and alert active mind ready for new adventures and experiences in this wonderful life.

He enjoys working in the ER because he wants to help make patients well. Nothing gives him greater satisfaction or a larger sense of purpose. He wants to give back.

Brady is now preparing for the MCAT, the super challenging Medical College Admissions Test. A really competitive score is 510; a perfect score is 528. On his most recent practice test he scored a solid 506 which he is pleased with given this stage of his preparation. Studying hard, he knows he can improve even further before taking the official MCAT later this year, “This is the only thing I want to do, so I need to give it my best try.”

He also moonlights part time on a national crisis hotline. Once he may have been the one calling for help. Brady now could be the person answering your call. A sensitive boy has become a compassionate man.

Sometimes a day that includes bad news like a dire diagnosis can become your best possible day. Awareness is empowering. Knowledge gives you focus and direction. The day The Kluges learned that the term “pre-diabetic” might soon apply to one of them, The Kluge family became empowered. They avidly sought a solution and their pediatrician started them on a path to one. The journey to health took Brady longer than they thought it would because they didn’t fully realize what he was up against. They didn’t realize that the shift they were making to healthier food at first included food deceptively designed and packaged that would not be a solution. They didn’t realize how addictive processed food, junk food, fast food and sugar-laden beverages were, and how pervasive unhealthy food was throughout their environment. In fact, neither did Brady’s peers, his other relatives, school officials, some of his doctors, their community, or their culture, or their country.

It has been seven years since Brady and his parents learned that he was pre-diabetic, that he was on the trail from early onset diabetes, to diabetes, a life path with a vastly increased chance of a heart attack, stroke, cancer, neuropathy, kidney, liver and other organ failure, or some or all of the above. A life path with not only a much shorter lifespan, but a significantly diminished quality of life throughout. They didn’t realize the danger — what he was subjecting his young developing body to.

Brady at age 21 is no longer risk-inclined toward any of those conditions.

Tinna proudly regards her son. There are few emotions as sweet as a parent realizing with certainty that their stricken child is going to be fine. Brady, her little “chatterbox,” has always done things that made her proud. She smiles looking at his face, a slimmer handsome visage, the double chin gone, throat and neck lean, his back straight as his torso shifts, moving freely in the absence of pain, how he moves deftly and sits with well postured confidence and presence. His clothes fit his slimmed down torso. He has more clothing choices now so he’s exploring a sense of style. He carries himself like a man now, a well-proportioned adult, not an overstuffed gawky youth.

He meets her eyes. His eyes are clearer, his gaze more assured. He has the energy, the focus, the clarity, contentment, and a confidence that comes with good health. “When I was younger and I realized I was gaining weight, there were periods when I was self-motivated and where I’d lose weight but then I’d gain it back. As you go on and you keep trying and trying and failing and failing and failing to overcome my appetite and my addiction to food that was not good for me, eventually you give up. The difference now is that I have lost the weight and I can control my weight, and that feeling is what keeps me going. I now have a lot more energy. A month after surgery I started to notice an energy increase. It feels great. I get out of bed — my feet don’t hurt. I go to work all day; my feet don’t hurt. My back doesn’t hurt. I don’t have any health issues. I can go on a run. I can go to the lake. I can do different things. I can go outdoors and play a game of football or basketball — things I couldn’t do before.”

“I hold valuable my whole experience with the weight problem and the journey. It is a huge motivation for me connected with my physician aspiration, as I want to one day be able to treat not just patients’ symptoms but treat the cause.”

For Joanna Macy, “Acknowledging the depths and reaches of our own inner experience, we come to… the discovery of what we are. We are experiences of compassion. Buddhism has a term for that kind of being — it is ‘bodhisattva.’ The bodhisattva, the Buddhist model for heroic behavior, knows there is no such thing as private salvation. She or he does not hold aloof from this suffering world or try to escape from it, but returns again and again to work on behalf of all beings. For the bodhisattva knows that there is no healing without connection.”[i]

Brady told me, “Just because someone has had a problem with depression — with anything — that doesn’t mean that person doesn’t have value and things to add to society. He or she may become a great doctor and can help people who are going through the same thing he or she did.”

He wasn’t describing himself. He’s too modest for that. But he just as well could have been. Based on his life experience and his sensitivity, he feels he can be a really good compassionate doctor and healer.

I do too.

. . .

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The Compassion For Self Series ©2020 by Stephen Erickson, excerpted from The Great Healing – Five Compassions That Can Save Our World ©2020 by Stephen Erickson

Buy The Great Healing – Five Compassions That Can Save Our World on Amazon or at thegreathealing.org

“Erickson’s ability to connect climate science, copious data, and public policies with the lived experiences of people and other creatures sets this book apart. His emphasis on humane and caring methods reminds readers that winning hearts and minds is a prerequisite to capturing carbon. An inspired synthesis of environmental, cultural, economic, and political calls to action.”

— Kirkus Reviews

“Everyone with an interest in Agriculture (that is any person who consumes food) MUST READ The Great HealingThis book will catapult the agricultural revolution of Modern Times.”

—Ted Dupmeier DVM MVSc, Dr. Ted & Associates Veterinary Consulting – Food Animal Veterinarian renowned throughout North America

“An exceptionally well and persuasively written clarion call to personal and collective action, The Great Healing – Five Compassions That Can Save Our World is unreservedly and urgently recommended.”
— Midwest Book Review

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[i] Reprinted from World As Lover, World As Self (1991, 2007) by Joanna Macy with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California, www.parallax.org pg. 107

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