Marie in Garden September 2019

In the past, on November 7th, I always posted about the significance of this day to me. You see, on November 7th, 2000, I had surgery to remove a small benign brain tumor, and it was one of the most challenging yet transformational experiences of my life.

But this year, I didn’t post about that experience because I’m facing a new challenge.

If you read my post from September 4th, you know that I’ve had some serious health issues.

I haven’t felt like posting since then because I’ve been trying to conserve my energy for the healing my body needs to do and for the procedures I’ve been going through.

But I feel it’s important to share my story now because you never know who will see it and be able to provide information that might help me figure out what’s going on, or by chance it might even help someone down the road who faces the same health issues that I’m having now.

So here it goes.

Over the past 3 months, I’ve had six emergency room visits, countless chest x-rays, scans, blood tests, biopsies, an EHCO of my heart and an MRI of my head, and numerous appointments with the critical care pulmonologist who is caring for me.

The cost of my medical care over this time is approaching $100,000, yet I still don’t know what is causing the serious issues I’m having nor do I have a diagnosis that would allow for any kind of treatment.

Let me give you a little history:

On August 8th, I had an appointment with my primary care physician, who ordered an x-ray of my chest because I had cough and pain in my ribs under my right breast.

The x-ray showed fluid in the right side of my chest and nodules on my right lung. Due to the findings, my doctor ordered a CT scan with dye of my chest, which I had done on Monday, August 12th.

I could tell by the look on the technician’s face that what she saw on the scan was not good. But I had no idea how bad it really was.

At 5:05 p.m. that evening, I received a call from a doctor in my primary care physician’s office with the shocking results of the scan: I had a large pleural effusion, which is fluid in the chest cavity, on my right side that had almost completely collapsed my right lung, a mass in my upper right lung, and the lymph nodes on the right side of my neck were swollen so severely that they were blocking blood flow to my jugular vein.

Listening to the doctor’s words, I went in to shock, and handed the phone to Michael because I couldn’t process what he was saying.

The doctor told Michael that he was referring me to a critical care pulmonologist because he believed that I had cancer.

He ended the call with a compassionate “I’m so sorry.”

Michael and I hugged after he hung up the phone, and I cried. It was a surreal moment that seemed absolutely impossible because I take such good care of myself.

But no matter how “unreal” the findings of the CT scan seemed, they were real and had to be dealt with immediately.

My body confirmed that as it struggled to try to compensate and overcome whatever was going on inside of it.

Michael and I didn’t sleep much that night, and when morning came, I knew I needed to get medical attention right away because I could barely stand or walk short distances without losing my breath. So we got ready to go to the emergency room.

On the drive there, I told Michael that I didn’t have the energy to talk, so we quietly made the hour drive while my mind wondered if I would be able to survive until we arrived at the hospital. That’s how bad I felt.

When we arrived at the hospital, I was too weak to walk so Michael had to use a wheelchair to get me from our car to the check-in counter.

Because of the condition I was in, I was immediately taken to a room and placed in a bed between two other patients with only curtains separating us.

Blood was drawn, my vitals were taken, and nurses, admitting personnel, and the ER doctor came in to talk with me, all of them asking me questions about my health, if I were a smoker, and a million other things I don’t remember.

While this was going on, we received a call on my cell phone from the pulmonologist’s office I was referred to wanting to schedule an appointment with me.

Michael told them that I was in the ER, and within an hour the pulmonologist was sitting next to me, explaining my care plan, which required tests and biopsies to rule out cancer.

When he told me this, I cried, and he gently held my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “We are going to find out what’s going on, and you are going to be okay.”

Even though, at that moment, it seemed impossible, I believed him.

The most urgent thing that had to be done was to drain the fluid from my chest that had collapsed my right lung.

Within the hour I was having a painful procedure done to place a chest tube in, through my back, which would allow the fluid to be drained. Once it was in, the nurse started draining the fluid.

While it didn’t take long to drain 1500 ml of fluid, yes,1500 ml, it was a painful process as my lung unfolded and expanded, causing me to cough and gasp as air inflated it.

The fluid was sent off to be biopsied. I weighed 8 pounds less after it was drained.

A biopsy of the inflamed lymph node in my neck was planned after this procedure, but as I was being prepped for it, I felt as though my body was in shock and couldn’t take anymore trauma. So the biopsy was rescheduled for the next day.

I spent the night in the hospital, not sleeping much because I was still in disbelief at what was happening.

The next day, I had to be squeezed in to the schedule to have the biopsy so it was early afternoon before I was wheeled from my hospital room to where the procedure would be performed.

Michael was in the room with me, and as I was being prepped for the procedure, we heard the doctor who was going to do it, say, “We’re looking for lymphoma.”

I was on my back, staring at the lights above me, but turned my head towards Michael with a terrified look on my face. He quietly said, “It’s going to be okay.”

I wasn’t so sure.

I was released from the hospital shortly after the biopsy procedure, feeling good because I could breathe so much better with two fully inflated lungs.

Now we had to wait for the biopsy results.

Fortunately, it was only a few days before we found out that the biopsies were negative for cancer.

Even so, my pulmonologist said that “lymphoma can hide” so he wanted me to have a PET CT to see if there were any other areas of concern.

I had the PET CT a week later, and it showed many lymph nodes in my chest that raised concern. It also showed that I was continuing to accumulate fluid.

Because of these issues, I had to have an invasive procedure to remove and biopsy tissue from my chest and the chest tube had to stay in so I could have the fluid drained as it accumulated.

Fortunately, again, no cancer was found in the tissue. But the chest tube ended up having to stay in for 5 weeks, which was painful and made it impossible to find a comfortable position to sit or sleep in because of the location of the tube on my back.

Over the next month I went through the many procedures I mentioned at the beginning of this post, but still no diagnosis could be made.

Then, in the middle of all of this, only a few days after getting out of the hospital, something dawned on me: I had had my teeth cleaned on August 5, only three days before I had the chest x-ray at my primary care physician’s office and eight days before I ended up in the ER.

I realized that after I had my teeth cleaned in March, the lymph nodes on the right side of my neck had swelled up a few days later and I felt like I had an infection.

I soon realized that I had been sick ever since I had a tooth refilled on October 12, 2018. After this procedure, I developed a deep, chronic cough and pressure in my chest that prevented me from lying down flat to sleep. In addition, I had constant pressure in my sinuses and small amounts of blood coming out of my nose.

I created a timeline of dental work I’d had since October and how I had gotten sicker with each procedure. It was astonishing!

I sent the timeline along with a letter explaining it to my pulmonologist, and also emailed him medical papers I found online about people who had experienced the exact same issues I had after having dental work.

While the information was compelling, my pulmonologist still continued to do all the tests necessary to rule out lymphoma and lung cancer, and even presented my case to the Tumor Board at the hospital because of how unusual it was.

During an emergency room visit on September 15, I had a CT scan of my chest done, which my pulmonologist had at my appointment with him the next day.

The results were nothing short of a miracle: Fluid was no longer accumulating in my chest and the mass in the upper part of my right lung had shrunk significantly.

He showed me the scan and with a big smile on his face said, “Cancer just doesn’t shrink on its own.”

It was such a joyful moment!

The only appointment that was scheduled at that time was a follow up with his office in 5 weeks and a chest CT to be done prior to the appointment to make sure my condition continued to approve.

Up to that time, I had done a lot of research online about dental work and the serious health issues it can cause, and I came across information that discussed reactions that patients can have to the materials in both silver and tooth-colored dental fillings.

I was convinced that I was having a reaction to the materials in my filling because I’d been sick ever since my tooth was refilled in October of 2018.

So I did research and found a biological dentist, who uses biocompatible materials to fill teeth, and scheduled a consultation and an appointment to have the filling replaced again.

I coordinated this with my pulmonologist, who wanted me on a short course of antibiotics and steroids, starting prior to the dental procedure.

I was feeling fantastic from the middle of September and for a week after I had the filling replaced on October 9th. The picture of me with this post was taken during that time. Then I started to feel the same symptoms I had after I’d had my teeth cleaned on August 5th.

A CT scan done on October 18 confirmed that fluid is accumulating in my chest again and that the mass in the right upper part of my lung is still there.

So I’m back to having more tests, and possibly a surgery, to try to figure out what is causing these issues that flare up after I have dental work.

As I mentioned in my September 4th post, I have found a place of “neutral” to rest in during all of this uncertainty. But I will admit that I have had days where I am depressed, anxious, and feel like giving up.

I appreciate the friends and family who have called, texted, and checked in with me over the past 3 months, offering support, encouragement, and information that has helped me through this challenging time.

I know that there is something causing the issues that are going on with my body and that we’re close to figuring out what that is.

If you have experienced anything similar to what I’m going through or know someone else who has and you can provide any information that could help me put the pieces together, please, please share it … because it could not only help me but also many others.

To all of you who are going through uncertain times as I am now, my heart is with you. I’m sending love and healing energy to you, hoping you find peace and patience on your road to recovery.

In spirit,
Marie Kukula-Tyner

Finding You and Your Home, Where the “Crawdads Sing”

It’s hard to put into words how much I loved the segment on Delia Owens, who is the New York Times bestselling author of “Where the Crawdads Sing”, on the Sunday Morning show this past weekend. (See video of interview at bottom of post)

Delia is 70 years old, and “Where the Crawdads Sing” is her first novel.

She spent almost a decade writing the book.

In the segment, Delia talks about how she has spent her life in remote areas, Africa and now northern Idaho, and how she loves—and at times loathes—the isolation of these places.

She said sometimes she gets so lonely that she feels like she can’t breathe.

The reporter said, “But you like a little part of that?”

Delia responded, “I do. And I decided to write a book about it.”

I related to so much of what Delia said because of some similarities in our lives.

While I’m not a New York Times bestselling author, well, not yet, it did take me almost a decade to write and edit THE SPIRIT FACTOR.

And just like when she was writing her novel, inspiration came to me when it came and could not be forced.

Oh, and I, too, have a plastic storage tube full of old drafts, and scribbles and handwritten notes on pieces of scratch paper, that I wrote at all hours of the day and night when inspiration struck.

But I really found a kindred spirit in Delia when she talked about how she seeks out and loves isolation, and how she feels at home in nature.

The title of Delia’s book was taken from a phrase her mother used to use, when encouraging her tomboy daughter to take to the woods around their rural Georgia home and listen to what those woods had to say.

Delia explained that she learned from books that crawdads really don’t sing. But she learned from her mother that if you go far enough into the wilderness by yourself, and there’s nothing but you and nature, you will hear the crawdads sing.

Delia currently lives in a remote area of northern Idaho, and says that, “This is where the crawdads sing,” and that it took her a lifetime to find it.|

When my husband Michael and I decided to move from Southern California to a place in nature, we went on a year-long search to find a place “where the crawdads sing.”

We ended up finding a 10-acre property in the mountains of rural northeastern Washington that was surrounded by nature.

When we drove up to the property, I knew instantly it was home.

My spirit craved the silence and wisdom of nature, and also isolation after living my whole life in neighborhoods and working for many years in Los Angeles.

I fell head over heels in love with the forest that surrounded our new home and the nature that lived in it, taking long daily walks through it so I could hear the “crawdads sing.”

And, boy, did they sing!

What I “heard” in nature was different than the man-made information I had been taught and told my whole life.

It breathed life into me and my spirit, healing a depth of brokenness in me that I didn’t even know existed.

For the 9 years it took me to write and edit THE SPIRIT FACTOR, I spent as much time as possible in the woods, observing nature.

I crossed paths with a mountain lion and a lot of other wildlife.

I witnessed up close the courage and resilience that nature faces life with every single day.

I listened to nature’s voice and did my best to translate it into words without distorting it with any agenda.

I feel that I was successful accomplishing this.

To spend almost a decade on this project, and for much of the time not really knowing when I would finish writing, was challenging. So was the isolation.

But what I learned during this time is that you have to allow yourself the time and space to fully explore and understand what you are writing about.

In order to do this, it takes listening to the “crawdads sing”, or as I call it, listening to spirit, which requires isolation and time in nature.

Inspiration can’t be forced and ideas can’t be manufactured. You can’t rush them.

This can be a hard thing to surrender to. But it is important to understand.

It’s also important to understand that this pertains to us and our lives, too.

Delia started writing “Where the Crawdads Sing” when she was in her sixties and became a best-selling author at age 70.

Many of us think that if we aren’t successful by a certain age that we never will be successful.

But discovering and becoming who we are takes time. Actually, it takes a lifetime.

Delia said it took her a lifetime to find her home in northern Idaho where the “crawdads sing,” and that’s okay.

No matter how young or how old we are, the most important thing is that we keep searching, learning, listening, evolving, and becoming the truest version of ourselves we can be.

THE SPIRIT FACTOR is a completely new and revolutionary philosophy — based on the simplicity, intelligence, and wisdom of nature — that provides us the tools to tap into the limitless potential of the human spirit.

THE SPIRIT FACTOR helps you identify, understand, and remove the eleven most-common obstructions to spirit.

THE SPIRIT FACTOR is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.






We Are the Most Valuable Untapped Natural Resource on the Planet

The human spirit has limitless potential.

It has the ability to create art, music, and products that revolutionize the way we see and do things.

It has the ability to help and heal and care and love and solve and evolve.

It has the ability to not only dream but also to make those dreams come true.

It has the ability to overcome, rise above, and reinvent itself.

And it has the ability to give meaning to life, no matter what circumstances it faces.

But if the human spirit is so powerful, creative, and capable, why are so many of us sick and struggling and lost in the world?

Why haven’t we been able to tap into the endless well of potential of the human spirit?

I believe we haven’t, not because we don’t want to, but because we don’t know how to.

We have been held captive, prisoners of our obstructions, in cells of “safety and sameness” that we either walked into willingly, unknowingly, or that we were placed into by other people.

Even so, there is a yearning deep in our beings that continues to call us to do more and to be more than who we are.

Imagine the lives and world we could create if we individually and collectively tapped into the potential of our spirits.

Imagine the things we could accomplish and how we could continue to grow and evolve each and every day of our lives.

Imagine how would could transform our lives and the world.

I spent 9 years writing THE SPIRIT FACTOR, and in the process created a simple yet revolutionary reality-based approach to understanding spirit and its power and unlimited potential that lives in all of us.

If you are truly ready to transform your life to one of meaning, beauty, peace, and possibilities, THE SPIRIT FACTOR is for you!

Together, we can make 2019 the year we finally begin to discover our individual and collective potential!

THE SPIRIT FACTOR is available worldwide on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions.Untapped Resource Final

Richard Marx at the Bing Crosby Theater: A Concert with Spirit


My husband Michael and I have lived in the Spokane, Washington, area for more than 13 years, and in that time we’ve attended many concerts, but we have never been to one at the Bing Crosby Theater in downtown Spokane. So this past Sunday night it was quite a treat to see singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer Richard Marx perform there.

Michael worked for Richard many years ago so he reached out to him when he heard he was coming to town. Richard responded back quickly, kindly letting Michael know that he would arrange to have his manager get us tickets for the show.

On Sunday, the air quality in the Spokane area was hazardous due to wildfires in our state, and also in Oregon, Montana, and British Columbia. It was a dreary, depressing day that looked, smelled, and felt like what you would imagine a post-apocalyptic world would look, smell, and feel like. Because of this, we stayed indoors and didn’t do much all day but look forward to seeing the show that evening.

We left our home around 6:00 p.m., making the hour drive down Hwy 395 to Spokane through heavy smoke that made it hard to breathe and see beyond a quarter mile or so. When we arrived in Spokane, we had to drive around for a while in order to find a parking space close to the theater so that we wouldn’t have to walk too far in the smoky air. We were fortunate to find one of the lasts spots close to the theater, and made the short walk trying to breathe as little as possible until we entered the theater.

Walking into the Bing was both literally and figuratively a breath of fresh air. Built in 1914, and originally called the Clemmer Theater then several other names before it was changed to the Bing Crosby Theater in 2006, the building was designed by architect Edwin W. Houghton as an 800-seat movie theater, or as they called it at the time, a “movie palace.”

When it opened in 1915, the Spokesman-Review commented that “an atmosphere of richness is over everything.” To this day, the attention to detail and the ornateness that created this “atmosphere of richness” over a hundred years ago is still very present. This, along with the acoustic shell over the stage and the small capacity of the theater remind us how unique the theater is and how different the entertainment experience was for both the performer and the audience back when it was built.


Over the hundred years since the theater opened, the entertainment experience has, for lack of a better word, evolved. Now, most concerts take place in arenas or stadiums with capacities in the thousands, and even tens of thousands, and include sound systems that reach decibels that can make our eardrums ring for days; there is also technology that can turn those with little vocal talent into superstars and concerts into pyrotechnic-filled, every-move-choreographed, over-produced productions.

But on Sunday night, Richard reminded us that an artist is most powerful when their performance is simple. Using his talents and the intimacy of the venue, he gave a brilliant acoustic performance that transported all in attendance back in time to when artists didn’t have technology to hide behind; to a time when musicianship, lyrics, and vocal talent were required.

Alone on the stage, with only a few guitars, a piano, a microphone, and a martini, Richard played many of his hit songs, and also short pieces from some of the songs he wrote with and for other artists, including “This I Promise You” recorded by NSYNC, “Long Hot Summer” and “Better Life” recorded by Keith Urban, and “Dance with My Father”, which he co-wrote with his friend Luther Vandross. Vandross recorded the song, and the pair won the 2004 Grammy for Song of the Year for it.


In a small venue like the Bing, the artist is close to the audience, and Richard seemed comfortable with this “closeness,” using it to interact with the audience, and in turn allowing the audience to interact with him. His warning that he would be using the F-bomb gave the audience permission to use it too, and both parties did, making it feel as though we were all just hanging out at a jam session with a bunch of friends, only one of those friends was quite a bit more talented than the rest of us. Michael, who had seen Richard perform many times in the past, said that he had never heard him sound better.

At one point, when Richard was telling the story of how he wrote the song “Hazard,” a lady in the audience shouted out, “It’s a great f***ing song!” This made Richard and everyone else in the theater laugh. In our world that is so politically divided and filled with such daunting and devastating problems that we often find ourselves overwhelmed by, it was nice—and very much needed—to spend an evening being entertained and laughing with some fellow human beings.

While Michael and I enjoyed the show from start to finish, we both agreed that the highlight of the show was when Richard told a story about attending a Tony Bennett concert that his parents had dragged him to as a teenager, and how this experience left a lasting impression on him, particularly the moment in the show when Mr. Bennett sang at the edge of the stage without using microphone. After telling this story, Richard unplugged his guitar from the sound system, walked to the edge of the stage and performed a song without any artificial amplification, only using the well-designed hundred-year-old acoustics of the theater as projection for his voice and guitar.

It was a simply stunning moment, and the audience loved it, which was evidenced by the fact that just about everyone in the audience picked up their phones and videotaped the performance. (FYI – I choose to “unplug” from my phone and just enjoy the moment so I don’t have a picture of it.) While the audience may not have completely understood why they were so moved or exactly what they were feeling, they knew they were experiencing something special … and rare.

Since Michael and I spent 9 years writing THE SPIRIT FACTOR, a book about, well, you guessed it, spirit, it was easy for us to understand what was happening in this moment: It was what we call a “SPIRIT FACTOR moment.” And these “SPIRIT FACTOR moments” happen when we, individually or collectively, transcend or remove obstructions that hinder, handicap, or separate us from each other in our everyday lives.

When Richard “unplugged” and performed, there were no obstructions between him and us, the audience. This is a vulnerable place for an artist to perform from because there is nothing to hide behind, which is why most artists don’t have the courage, confidence, or talent to do it. But this is the place where a performance transforms and transports an audience, where a speech inspires the masses, and where an idea changes the world. And it’s the place where we as individuals and as a species need to start creating, performing, living, loving, and governing from if we want to not only evolve but also survive.

I know that we are individually and collectively starving for these “SPIRIT FACTOR moments” because we seldom experience them in our everyday lives. That’s why when we do, we remember them and are inspired by them. These moments are important because they remind us of what’s real and true in a world that doesn’t seem to value or care about what’s real or true anymore.

In our book, Michael and I discuss the importance of “environment” so I want to talk about the role the theater played in Richard’s performance Sunday night.

In century-old buildings like the Bing, the spirit of the artists who have performed in them and the audience members who have attended these performances are forever imprinted energetically in the makeup of the building, becoming a part of its story and its history. This collective energy accumulates over time, becoming a tangible part of the building’s “environment,” turning the building into a living, breathing participant in every show. Even though you can’t identify or point to it in one specific location, this “participant” is as present, tangible, and important to a performance as both the performer and the audience.


A venue such as the Bing, with its history, intimate setting, acoustics, and unique and beautiful design, creates an environment for the performer and audience that makes the entertainment experience more meaningful and memorable than those in larger, more modern venues. The Bing definitely provided the perfect environment for Richard to create such an inspiring and memorable show!

When Richard took the stage Sunday night, he mentioned that he had always wanted to perform at the Bing, and that this was his first time doing so. I think everyone who attended his show would agree that he did the theater proud. And, now, as with the countless performers who have taken the stage before him, he has left his unique energetic imprint on the theater, as have we, the members of the audience.

But I also feel that Richard’s performance and the theater have left their energetic imprint on everyone in attendance that night. And because of this, maybe, just maybe, it will inspire us to create “SPIRIT FACTOR moments” in our own lives, knowing that we can transform our lives by doing so; and if enough of us do this, our individual “moments,” when pieced together, will, without a doubt, transform the world into a kinder, safer, healthier place for all of us.

If you have the chance to see Richard Marx live, I highly recommend that you do. And if you live in Spokane and have an opportunity to see a show at the Bing, I highly recommend that you do that, too.

Depression and Anxiety: The Battle Is Real

Your Mind Chapter

When I heard the news of successful fashion designer and entrepreneur Kate Spade’s suicide this past Tuesday, I was shocked and deeply saddened. I have spent the last few days reading online articles and some of the many comments people are posting regarding her suicide.

The comments range from deep compassion for her and her family, to anger at her for being so “selfish” and doing this to her daughter, to people saying if she believed in Jesus she never would have taken her life. But what I have found overwhelming in these comments is the number of people who have opened up about how they, too, suffer from depression and anxiety, and the battle they face every day trying to live their lives.

We don’t hear about the many people who battle depression and anxiety every day and we probably don’t know how many people we come into contact with throughout our days who are suffering. And we sure don’t hear about the people who lose their battle with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses that take their lives every day in this country. But since Kate Spade was a public figure who was successful, married, and had a beautiful daughter, everything that would seem to make a person fulfilled and want to live, we heard about hers.

What I would like to see happen in the wake of this tragedy is a new openness, awareness, and understanding about depression, anxiety, and mental illness, and for people to realize that the daily battle those dealing with these issues face is real.

Because I have suffered in the past from depression and anxiety, I want to participate in making this happen so I am sharing in its entirety what I feel is one of the most important and honest chapters from THE SPIRIT FACTOR: Your Mind.

In this chapter I talk about my life-long battle with depression and anxiety and the tools I’ve used to overcome much of it. While I have made tremendous progress, there are still times I can feel myself losing ground, when depression and anxiety find there way back into my life. But being able to identify when this is happening, and having the tools and knowing what to do, means I don’t have to suffer for long.

Whether you suffer from depression and anxiety or not, I hope you read this chapter and also share it. It just might make a big difference in your life or in the life of someone who is suffering in silence.




I think my mind is trying to kill me. —Marie Kukula-Tyner

OKAY, SO YOU’VE REMOVED ALL YOUR obstructions to spirit, but there is still something you’re struggling with: your mind. It’s constantly racing with doubts, fears, and noise, and now that your other obstructions are gone, you can really hear it. It talks to you all day, telling you what you should be doing, what to worry about, that you’re not doing anything right, that you don’t dare rest because the world will fall apart, and a million other things you probably don’t remember. These thoughts continue into the evening, making it hard to relax or fall asleep. When you do finally fall asleep, they can fill your dreams and interrupt your rest, waking you up in a panic. Then, there you lie, wide awake, your mind not missing a beat with its fears, worries, and doubts. Only now, in the middle of the night, everything seems much worse.

After a night like this, you’re glad to see the morning come—until you feel how tired you are. But guess who’s not tired? Yep! Your mind. It’s been up for hours, had breakfast and a couple cups of coffee, and is off and running with its doubts, fears, and noise again. It doesn’t care that you’re tired, not only from lack of sleep but also from its constant chatter, and it doesn’t need rest or your approval to keep doing what it’s doing.

This vicious cycle can keep us sidetracked, making it impossible for us to create the kind of lives we want. The struggle to overcome these racing thoughts is an exhausting, daily battle. No matter how hard we try to talk ourselves into doing things differently, our minds will quickly talk us out of it. No matter how much we tell ourselves we are capable of creating the kind of lives we want, our minds will tell us that we’re not. No matter how much we tell ourselves we can write that book, lose the weight, or ask for what we want, our minds will tell us that we can’t. No matter how hard we try to quiet our minds, they will not rest. I know, because I’ve tried.

Losing Jesse … and My Mind

While working on this book, I reached a place where I had removed most of the obstructions in my life, but to my surprise—and frustration—I was still struggling through my days. There was absolutely no good reason for me not to be happy. But I wasn’t happy. To be honest, I was more than “not happy.” I was depressed. Depression is something I’ve struggled with my entire life, but I’d never identified it as “depression.” Instead, I blamed my deep sadness on my circumstances. This seemed valid since I had gone through some pretty hard times. But I wasn’t at the time, yet I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, and I was having a hard time finding meaning in anything, including writing this book.

I was already feeling pretty low when Michael and I received the devastating news that our beloved 12-year-old dog Jesse was dying. Our veterinarian had found a large cancerous tumor in Jesse’s abdomen that had metastasized. Even though we were told there was nothing that could be done to save him, we weren’t about to let Jesse die without a fight. So Michael and I spent hours online searching for information that might help us save him. We found a lot of valuable information from people who had healed or prolonged their pets’ lives with food, herbs, and supplements. We used this information over the next 3-1/2 months to try to do the same for Jesse. We fed him home-cooked meals, gave him herbs and vitamins, and both Michael and I did healing work on him every day. For over three months, I gave everything I had to try to heal Jesse. It became my purpose. And, amazingly, Jesse’s health improved.

Because I was so focused on healing Jesse, everything I used to worry about disappeared, that is, until Jesse suddenly got worse. Even though we’d been told he was dying 15-1/2 weeks earlier, he had improved so much that we had stopped thinking of him as being sick. But when he started showing signs of distress one night, we knew there was something seriously wrong—and there was. Jesse died that night. Michael and I felt fortunate that we were with him when his spirit was released from his body. But the loss of this being in our lives threw me deeper into my depression—so deep it seemed too hard to go on feeling such sadness.

Jesse had come into my life when I was in an abusive relationship and I felt alone and scared. From the moment we met, we clung to each other for comfort and survival. Because of him I had the courage to end the abusive relationship. Jesse showed me what true love was. He was my first love. My heart felt permanently broken when he died. Even though I had a loving husband and two other wonderful dogs, life without Jesse seemed empty. What’s wrong with me? I thought. I always knew that losing Jesse would be hard, but what I was feeling was much worse than I’d ever imagined. Even though friends and family told me it was normal to feel sad and grieve such a loss, I knew that some of what I was feeling was not “normal.” Some of what I was feeling scared me.

Watching Michael deal with the loss of Jesse only made it clearer to me that what I was feeling was not normal. Although he was sad and missed Jesse, he could see past the moment, knowing his heart would heal from the loss and that it wouldn’t always be so hard. I couldn’t seem to understand this. My mind kept telling me that I would feel the way I was feeling forever and that it was just too hard to go on feeling so much pain. I felt out of control, like I was falling down a deep, dark hole I might not be able to get myself out of.

Michael watched me struggle and tried to help as much as he could, but one night, sitting across from me at our dinner table, he said, “I don’t know what else to do.”

This place of “not knowing” was not the place I wanted or expected to be in. I had worked too hard to end up there. And, at times, I felt like it was where I would end up—permanently. I told myself that I deserved better, and I truly wanted to do better for myself and for Michael. But I was out of ideas, and Michael, who had always been there for me with his support and healing abilities, was out of ideas, too.

My Brain Is Not Wired Right

I had worked hard for years to overcome many of my self-defeating beliefs and behaviors. Even though I had come a long way, I kept feeling that something just wasn’t right. I talked to Michael about what I was feeling, and the only way I could explain it to him was to say, “I feel like my brain isn’t wired right.”

My mind felt like a tangled mess—my thoughts wrapped around each other, creating a knot that I couldn’t untie no matter how hard I tried. I felt confused and powerless most of the time, struggling to organize my thoughts even while doing simple chores around our house. And no matter how hard I tried to be positive and look beyond my current circumstances, I couldn’t. Something was wrong. This is when it became painfully clear what my mind had been doing to me my entire life: abusing me. Not on purpose, though. It was just doing what it had been trained to do from the experiences I’d had and the environment I was born into and lived in for much of my life.

My mind found the worst part of every situation then obsessed over it. It jumped from thought to thought, not allowing me to focus or finish any one thing. It told me I was incapable of making intelligent decisions, even though I had made many in my life. And even though my life had been really good for the last ten years, my mind was incapable of understanding this. It only knew how to feel unsafe, insecure, unloved, sad, and alone no matter what the situation. It had denied me happiness, peace, and much-needed rest my whole life. Although I had allowed myself to be abused and treated poorly by other people, I realized that no one had treated me worse than I had treated myself. This made me incredibly sad.

It’s an Inside Job

The inner battle I fought my entire life had been a brutal one. I had survived, so far, but it felt like I was beginning to slowly die from the internal wounds my mind had inflicted on me. I had grown weak, and my mind, knowing this, was going in for the final kill with its constant arsenal of questions, doubts, abuse, and fears: What’s the point of going on? Life is too hard. You’ll never get through this. You’ll never make a difference. No one cares about you. You’re a failure.

Even though I felt that I was fighting a losing battle with my mind, my spirit wasn’t about to give up. Spirit never gives up; it just continues to create, move, and evolve. And even though I didn’t know what to do, it did. Fortunately, I was paying attention and willing to take action. I remembered that, a few weeks prior, a friend of mine had told me about a therapist she was taking her foster children to for their depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the amazing results they were experiencing.

This therapist used “brain mapping” to identify areas of the brain that were overactive or underactive and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR) to help with issues such as trauma, abuse, anger, guilt, etc. I got the therapist’s name and number from my friend and booked the first available appointment with him.

Fixing My Brain

At the appointment, I first met with the therapist in his conference room, where I briefly told him how I was struggling with depression, obsessive thoughts, and an inability to focus. For the brain mapping session, we went to another room that had a comfortable chair, a computer, and some monitors. The therapist then attached a few wires that were attached to the computer to my head with a light adhesive. Once all the wires were attached, the therapist started asking me questions. As I responded to the questions, he watched a computer monitor and commented on the activity that was taking place in the different areas of my brain. When he noticed a particular area that was extremely active, he said, “You must be really tired at the end of the day!”

I laughed and said, “You have no idea!”

We quickly moved on to talking about other things, and something that was said reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, so I said it out loud. When I did, the therapist said, “Wow!”

I thought he was impressed with the quote, but he wasn’t. His response was actually to what my brain was doing as I said the quote: It was denying what I was saying.

What the … ? Who the … ? How the … ? Really? Yes, as I was saying the positive quote, my brain was literally saying, “Nope! I don’t think so!” Well, that explained a lot. In that moment, I realized why I had struggled my entire life. I had read and affirmed and forced myself to “act as if,” yet I had failed miserably to overcome my low self-esteem, insecurities, and debilitating fears. Now I knew why: my mind was denying anything good I said, thought, or attempted to do. The enemy wasn’t “out there, where I could see it, identify it as such, and protect myself from it; it had silently and methodically infiltrated my very being, undetected, through my childhood experiences, environment, people, media, and anything else I had been exposed to. It not only knew my weaknesses, it was my weaknesses.

The Enemy Within

I never got a break or vacation from this internal and invisible enemy. It was with me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It had made me too weak and exhausted with its relentless attacks to do much of anything other than drag myself through my days. It had sucked so much life out of me that, at times, I felt I couldn’t go on. What scared me at this time was how this enemy seemed to be getting more aggressive. There was nothing fair about what it was doing. I mean, how do you fight an enemy that you don’t even know you’re in a battle with? And how can you win when this enemy knows your every move before you make them, who wears brass knuckles to a street fight, and who goes in for the kill when you are at your weakest? You can’t.

So, how did my mind become such a bully? The same way other people’s minds become bullies, or, for the lucky ones, their ally: through the information I’ve learned and absorbed, and the experiences I’ve had, in the environments I was born into and lived in. The same is true for you. Your family, country, religion, education, the media, etc., contributed to wiring your brain to think and perceive yourself and the world in a certain way, creating your individual “reality.” But when we are the recipients of other people’s fears, faulty information, or propaganda, our perception is not actually based in reality, even though we believe that it is. Because of this, we can live our entire lives handicapped by our mind, not seeing beyond its limited perception.

There is a scene in the movie The Matrix that talks about this:

Morpheus: “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”

Neo: “What truth?”

Morpheus: “That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch—a prison for your mind.”

This “prison for your mind” does not have any walls, barbed wire fences, or wardens, but it is real and it is self-patrolling. This prison can keep you locked up and powerless for your entire life, unable to move beyond the confines of its invisible walls without you even knowing it. It will keep you chained to an imaginary pole, limiting the distance you can go, leaving you drowning in the unquestioned “sameness” you have always known. And it will keep spirit just beyond your reach.

Free Your Mind

If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.

—Lao Tzo

How do you get beyond this prison that is your mind? How can you begin to see what you don’t even know exists? From my experience, overcoming the obstruction of your mind requires professional help. For me, I went to the therapist I mentioned in this chapter. In addition, I ate healthy and worked with an acupuncturist and chiropractor to help bring my body back into balance. I found that having a healthy body is important because imbalances in your body can have a significant negative effect on your mind.

Working to overcome the obstruction of your mind is a very fragile process that requires patience and love. If you rip off your blinders too quickly you could go into shock. As you are exposed to new thoughts and challenge your faulty perception of reality, you will begin to create a new reality, one that is based in truth. This requires some adjustment. I recommend allowing yourself to adjust organically, in your own time. Don’t be surprised if part of the adjustment period includes grieving. When you realize the suffering you’ve endured and how your life has been limited by your mind, it’s perfectly normal to feel grief for what you and your life could have been. You will grieve for the lost opportunities, the bad decisions, the wasted time, the broken relationships, and so much more. These moments can pass quickly, or they can take some time.

As I mentioned before, let it happen organically, in its own time. Just know that you are not the first person to walk this path, and that, over time, you can free yourself from the prison of your mind. I know, because I have.

A Long-Overdue Goodbye

In closing this chapter, I want to share something I wrote after my therapist asked me to write a poem about letting go of some lingering feelings I was recently struggling with. When I wrote the last line of this poem, I felt a quantum shift in my being and a sense of freedom I had never experienced before. I hope it will help you, in some way, feel freedom, too.

A Long-Overdue Goodbye

I’ve carried you around for quite some time

Little did I know, you were never really mine

I took on your burdens as if they were my own,

and you gladly handed them over, then left me to be alone

I waited for you, hoping you would come back for me,

but the days and months and years went by,

and never again did you I see

I tried to move on and hide my wounds from the world,

hoping no one would notice I was just a broken little girl

I looked for someone to rescue me from the prison of my pain,

but no matter how much others loved me, there it would remain

The inner war raged on for, oh, so many years

It was a brutal and bloody battle, that would never end, I feared

But just as I was ready to surrender and let my life slip away,

I realized I had suffered a debt that was never mine to pay

So I must say a long-overdue goodbye

to the sins of our family tree

For I’ve decided that it’s time for me to finally be free