Myelopathy Musings: Walking Towards Healing

Amidst the recent struggles with my condition, a blend of January blues and the biting cold weather, my IBS has become an unrelenting companion. The aftermath of festive indulgence served as a stark reminder that my digestive system rebels against processed and fatty foods. Attempting to embrace the Christmas spirit came at a cost, especially with the absence of my dad, who passed away last January; he truly cherished the essence of Christmas Day and the gathering around the dinner table.

Last week marked a small victory – dragging myself out for a walk along the familiar coastal line after months of confinement at home due to off-the-charts balance issues. The decision to seek solace within my four walls wasn’t the wisest. My mind, given the chance, spiralled into a maze of questions about new symptoms. Wearing my self-appointed “health professional” hat, my overactive mind inadvertently intensified the situation. Myelopathy is a delicate dance between the physical hurdles and the complexities of your mental well-being.

My summer ritual, a barefooted stroll along the beach from end to end, usually involves navigating both hard and soft sand for an added challenge. However, with the unforgiving cold weather, my feet remain bundled up for the time being.

Despite the harsh conditions, I ventured out, feeling the biting cold against me. The walk was tough, leaving my shoulder blades ablaze by the time I returned. Seeking relief, I stretched out on the bed, intending to catch up on emails. It was then that I stumbled upon an email from Esther regarding a blog by Cathan, a fellow support group member. Cathan had penned a remarkable blog about hope, resonating deeply with me. Suddenly, my chilly walk gained newfound purpose and realisation.

The following day, fuelled by determination, I set off even earlier for my walk, braving the colder weather to push myself a bit further. With miles of solitude stretching ahead, I found myself reflecting on the powerful blog about hope from Cathan. In that chilly solitude, I immersed myself entirely into that moment – feeling the cold breeze against my face, sensing the crunch of my feet on the ground, acknowledging the sensation in my hands, and finally focusing on my breath. I wasn’t alone at all; nature enveloped me in its own rhythm, and for those moments, I was fully immersed in the beauty of the present.

Only then did I realize that over the last year I had slowly let self-doubt back in, and it had certainly overstayed its welcome. But now I was present and could appreciate the seamless functioning of my body without the need for conscious thought. “Overthinking fades when we embrace the beauty of now,” and that is so true. In navigating my myelopathy journey, I’ve learned that the mind’s ability to find peace plays a pivotal role in the body’s healing process. Embracing a positive mindset has become my ally in overcoming the many physical challenges that DCM brings.

Myelopathy-Aware Walking Meditation

  1. Gentle Movements: Begin by standing comfortably, acknowledging any aches or sensations in your body. Take slow, gentle steps to start, being mindful of your balance.

  2. Mindful Weight Transfer: As you walk, pay attention to the weight transfer between your feet. Feel the ground beneath you and the support it provides, adjusting your pace to maintain stability

  3. Breath and Relaxation: Coordinate your breath with your movements. Inhale, allowing your body to gently lift, exhale as you lower your foot. Focus on releasing tension with each breath, especially in areas prone to aches tension or spasms.

  4. Adapt Stride Length: Adjust your stride length to what feels comfortable. Shortening your steps may help with balance, and you can gradually experiment with different lengths.

  5. Body Scan for Aches: Perform a gentle body scan as you walk. Notice areas of discomfort or aches without judgment. If you feel tension, visualize it dissipating with each step.

  6. Nature as a Support: If outdoors, let nature be a source of support. Use nearby objects like trees or a railing for balance if needed. Embrace the soothing sounds of nature to enhance relaxation.

  7. Mindful Pauses: If balance becomes challenging, feel free to pause briefly. Use these moments to reconnect with your breath and regain stability before continuing.

  8. Gratitude for Movement: Conclude the meditation by expressing gratitude for your ability to move. Recognize the strength and resilience within you, acknowledging the courage it takes to engage in mindful walking despite physical challenges.

Remember, this walking meditation is adaptable. Adjust the pace, length, and focus based on your unique experience and comfort level.