It’s a Wonderful Life – Paul Morrison’s Story

Paul Morrison is a 52-year-old radio personality who was just enjoying a normal life when one day he found a lump in his throat. That’s a terrifying moment for anyone, but it’s especially terrifying for someone who uses his voice for his livelihood. Paul shares how rebuilding his life since cancer has helped him take everything, big and small, less seriously.

Two years ago, I was just living my life like everyone else: going to work every day, raising the family, enjoying life.  Then one day, I felt a lump in my neck. I knew what that could mean, but I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, and I certainly didn’t want to scare my wife and kids. So, I went through the process of seeing some doctors on my own without talking to anyone first. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a little thing; it was stage four throat cancer. At that point, I had no choice but to talk to my kids and my wife and tell them what was happening.

At first, the doctors didn’t know whether they wanted to do surgery or chemo. The cancer was pretty deep in my left tonsil. When they did the PET scan of my whole body, they found that it had already metastasized to my lymph nodes, but it had not traveled below the collarbone. The docs said if it had gone below my collarbone, there wouldn’t have been much they could do for me. Fortunately, it stayed above my shoulders, so we went after it with 35 radiation treatments and seven weeks of chemo. And I lost 85 pounds in 100 days. It was a crazy time, but I had my family, my friends and my community to support me. I’m not a religious person, myself, but I also had spiritual support from people in the community, which I appreciated.

One person I made friends with in this process is the senior pastor of the local First Christian Church. Brad and I have since become very good friends, and we have deep philosophical and theological discussions often. It’s interesting because we come from very different perspectives, but we actually see things similarly.

In your life, you have moments that shake you—say somebody in your life passes away or a traumatic event happens, even on a national level such as 9/11.  And in those moments, you have clarity of thought. Everything is clearer. Your perspective is changed—it’s all in line. But, the farther you get away from that event in time, the more that clarity kind of fades away and you once again get caught up in life and the web of just doing your day-to-day stuff. But the thing about cancer—cancer is that same moment of clarity every day for a year. When faced with that reality, it’s a profound experience.

I wasn’t really scared for myself; I was just terrified about how this was going to impact to my family, my kids, my wife. What would it do to them? That’s when you realize the important things in life and the things that aren’t important. Those unimportant things just go away. They aren’t even on the back burner anymore. They’re gone. Now, I fill my life with the things that matter and the people I care about and the people who care about me and who bring me great, positive energy. As it turns out, I am surrounded by great people with positive energy who have helped me through this. And the doctors did a miraculous thing and saved my life.

We had some friends who came to me feeling helpless. They wanted to help, but in this situation, their hands were tied as to how to help. They decided the best way to show their support was to pay for things, so they put together a fabulous benefit at a great local venue in town and pitched in their time and money for the evening. It was a terrific event, but the money they raised was secondary compared to the love from all of the people there. I also got to see firsthand the people’s lives I have touched, and that’s more important than the money.

The nature of the radio business is moving around and bouncing from station to station, but my wife and I really wanted to have a stable environment for our kids, so we wanted just one place to call home. We set up house here in this community and have stayed here for years. There’s no substitute for heritage and the time you spend with people and the events you share with them. Those are the things that you can’t replace. You can’t buy that experience.

It was not lost on me the similarity with the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s that same kind of moment I was talking about earlier—it’s the clarity. In that movie, George doesn’t know what to do, but then, he gets that moment of clarity and he has that perspective to see what matters—and that’s what life’s all about.

Since the cancer, I smile and laugh a lot more than I used to. I smile and laugh at things that I used to frown and scowl at. It’s a different perspective. It’s not that those things aren’t important to me, but I just don’t take them as seriously anymore. The things that bring me down in life—I have to categorize those things. The little irritants no longer matter. The woman in line at the grocery store with 17 items in the 15-item line—that just doesn’t matter anymore. It’s okay. I’m going to live if she has two more items.

I’m still a radio announcer. That was one of the most miraculous things. When they first told me it was throat cancer, I thought, “I’m going to lose my voice, and that’s my money.” The doctors said I could have a feeding tube or I could keep trying to eat through my mouth, which would continue exercising my throat. So I didn’t get a feeding tube. I just forced myself to swallow and use my throat. The benefit of using my voice for 30 years I think helped my throat recover. I was out of work for three months, and I really couldn’t talk, but then, it slowly came back a little at a time. It’s not all the way back, and probably never will be 100%, but it’s pretty close.

It’s a job that I love to do, so it’s really easy for me to get up and go to work in the morning. I like talking to the people on the radio, I like the people I work with, and I actually start work even before I leave the house. I get online and look at some work sites while I’m drinking my coffee. I take it pretty easy, and I don’t go to work until 10, so that gives me time to spend with my daughter as she’s getting ready for school and with my wife as she’s getting ready for work.  I have some coffee, oatmeal or scrambled eggs and then head into the station.

I’m a big believer in results-based work: do what you’re supposed to do and the rest of your time is not all for work. It’s about balance. I work to live; I don’t live to work. I work so I can spend quality time with my kids and my wife and my friends and doing the things that I enjoy.

At first, the cancer knocked me down, and I couldn’t exercise. I did a lot of lying around, recovering. Now, I’m more active. I spend a lot of time in the outdoors. Less of it is for the sake of exercise and more of it is to just be outside in nature. I like to walk in the park, play disc golf with my son, walk my dogs in the woods behind our house, go mushroom hunting—things like that.

I’ve made a conscious decision to not do things that I don’t want to do. I’m more concerned with how I spend my time than how I spend my money. I live a peaceful and happy life now.

Chasing the American Dream – A Story of Rebirth

Chip DeClue had pursued and won the American Dream, with a long-time executive position at a major rental-car company, a beautiful wife, and two daughters—yet he still felt unhappy. He lacked a sense of security and peace. When he learned to pursue his calling, instead, security, health, and happiness followed. 

I came of age in the 80s. My friends and I all knew we would be CEOs one day. I met the woman of my dreams, a wonderful, preppy woman with similar aspirations, and told her when I proposed that I would really have to be married to my job for the next several years so I could make partner. I worked 80 hours a week for a while, then “took it easy” working 70 hours a week at my next job. My life was measured by my financial success.

And I had the success—but my life was all about my work. I was obsessed with driving performance; I looked at the people in my life and evaluated what extrinsic value they provided. This came to define not just my work relationships but also my home life. I expected my wife, Karla, to perform a certain way, and I looked at my daughters through the same lens. Karla told me one night that our daughters actually dreaded when I came home because the fun would stop and everyone would have to get in line.

By most measures, I was successful. I had a beautiful family who had fun. We took great vacations, lived in a nice house, and had a membership at the country club. But I didn’t have security or happiness. Everyone in my life was a constant disappointment to me, including myself. In fact, the more money I made, the less secure I felt, like everything could come tumbling down at any moment. And it did.

In the 2008–2009 recession, I saw my income, which was based on commissions, drop so steeply that the company told me they’d front me 40% of my old pay on the condition that I would pay it back when I started making money again. Karla and I had to very suddenly learn how to live on a budget.

In this time of steep financial decline, we started looking at how to establish new priorities. We started going to church for the first time since high school, and I read a book called Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance by Bob P. Buford. The idea of moving into the second half of my life and defining it by my significance to the world spoke powerfully to me, as did the message of selflessness and service I was learning through my faith. I wanted to change internally and make a difference in the world.

I decided to reorient myself toward putting others first and asking not what they could do for me, but what I could do for them, in every area of my life. I went from being someone who put the process before the people, who rode my employees hard so they’d produce, to wanting to invest in people’s lives—and everything changed. My employees, whom I’d pressured so hard, performed better because I was managing them by putting them first instead of managing through fear. My marriage developed new meaning and intimacy. My daughters and I became closer. And I found my own heart healing because I was serving others.

As I reoriented myself in my relationships, I also reconsidered my activities. It started when I was practicing Guitar Hero because my daughter and I played it together. I looked down at the little plastic guitar and its multicolored buttons and I thought, “Chip, you have an American Standard in your basement. What is wrong with this picture?” I put that Guitar Hero controller down and never picked it back up. Instead, I started playing my old guitar again—not because it would give me peace (though it did) but because I could use it to help other people. Now, I play at church.

I had always rewarded myself for hard work with activities that entertained me, but as I considered moving from success to significance, I wanted my activities to help other people or improve my relationships. The things that emerged as a waste of time, like the country club membership and my video games, got kicked out of my life. The Red Wings season tickets I’d used to get away from my family with the guys became my way to get one-on-one time with my daughters. And I started volunteering with the middle-school youth group.

Karla and I also looked at our physical health. We don’t see becoming healthy as a goal unto itself, but as a means to an end. That end is being able to help others. We envisioned our perfect life ten years from now and knew that if we wanted to serve others effectively, we had to be healthy. It’s an interesting truth that to serve others, you have to take care of your own needs or your needs will consume you. We committed to follow a book called The Plan by Lyn-Genet Recitas this January to get our eating habits on track and are recommitting to yoga. Cooking and exercising together is an amazing way to stay motivated and strengthen our marriage. And we already feel healthier.

If there’s one word I can emphasize, it’s intention: Being intentional and purposeful with my time and resources has made my life meaningful. I set my intention every day with meditation, prayer, and nutritional supplements. I listen for what my purpose is, where I can best serve the world, and what makes me tick. And in this halftime of my life, I am going to create a second half that allows me to be involved with and passionate about the people I’m serving for the rest of my life.

A Passion for the Plants – A Conversation with Bonnie Dahan

Bonnie Dahan is a woman who knows that being connected to the earth is essential to not only survival but also to living the best life possible. She creates her rituals through being keenly aware of every part the earth, the soil, and the plants play in our healing and health and vitality. 

You know, I think that my life connection to the earth is one that—let me just put it this way—I believe it’s from the inside out. I’ve always believed in the healing power of plants, it was just an innate knowing that connected me to a natural way of life before it was hip and cool to be a part of that bandwagon that the world has joined (thankfully). It even goes back to when I had my children and leading a natural lifestyle back then. I made all of their baby food—and that was long before Cuisinarts were available! I made it with an old food mill. It was an instinct to hug the earth in every possible way. As the years went by and I began to study organic gardening, and became an organic gardener, I realized that in a very commonsense, basic way, when you touch the soil, when you plant seeds, when you see what rebirth is really all about, what the earth can give us, what the potential is in those seeds—it’s almost as if when you plant a seed, there’s a higher civilization going on underground that we’re unaware of and that we ignore until we see sprouts coming up and we begin to care for those sprouts and nurture them. But inherent in that underground civilization is every possible kind of healing, so I think it really connected the dots for me when I became a gardener.

When I fell in love with plants and the earth and the beauty of them, that led me to a study in herbalism both in Western medicine and a little bit in Eastern medicine. When I say healing, I don’t only mean medicinal healing. I believe that plants have a healing that’s possible with their beauty, with their scent, and of course with their medicinal benefits. I took a class once from a fabulous chef and healer who taught Chinese herbal healing. I learned a little bit about botanicals from that culture. Then, I dabbled a little bit in Ayurveda. All of that learning came together in the realization that we have the possibility—when we respect the earth and the bounty that it can produce for us in every possible way—to be our own advocates. Our own advocates to create a lifestyle of healing pretty much every moment of the day. In fact, I’m sitting here looking out on beautiful redwoods, and there’s a pot of flowers on my desk, and I’m drinking green tea, and thinking about all of the possible ways that we create a living—more than a lifestyle, a living. A way of living that nurtures us, heals us, and allows us to connect to all the possibilities that nature brings us. So if that is true, why on earth would we harm nature? Why on earth would we trespass on all this potential? That’s my way of coming to whatever you want to call it, environmentalism, ecological responsibility….

I also learned firsthand about the benefit of plants being able to heal when I was traveling and became ill. An incredibly wise woman who I could not speak a word to handed me a steaming glass of tea and indicated that I should drink it. I was in terrible pain. So I drank this potion, this remedy, this concoction, and literally within 20 minutes, I was pain free. That was a Moroccan herb, which I now actually cook with. It’s a form of thyme, and it really has wonderful healing powers. So, in every possible way, I look for enhancement from nature, enhancement from the possibility of botanicals.

Now, I’ve begun a pretty deep study of the benefits of plant oils and essences and essential oils, and they are remarkable. So, like I said, you go back to the seed, you go back to the soil, and you go back to the responsibility we have of preserving that and surrounding ourselves with them—all of the healing, all of the beauty, and all of the nurturing that the earth has for us.

And it’s really important as well to not have them filled with poison and pesticides and growth hormones and genetically modified, and destroy large fields of indigenous plants.

That’s why the organic gardening was such an important piece for me. Learning how to build healthy soil. It all begins with the soil, obviously. And why on earth would you harm this living organism that can produce so much health by putting poison in it and toxicity in it? It’s absolutely key not to do that. Fortunately, there is a consciousness around that idea that is beginning to take hold. I wouldn’t say it’s prevalent, yet, but people are beginning to gravitate toward that way of thinking. There’s so much more education that’s needed, and experience needed, too. When people experience, when they taste something that’s organic or feel the effects of it in their body, then they will learn.

Years ago, I started a business that was committed to preserving the resources that allow us to create beauty in our home with home décor— handmade furniture, wall art, all kinds of items for the home—because I believed two things: I believed that we have this responsibility to preserve resources and not cut down trees—and with no responsibility—and at the same time, I wanted to preserve the art of indigenous cultures around the world. I wanted to bring them into this century and make them available to folks because I believe in the touch of the human hand, whether it is in craft or art or design or whether it’s in the farmers’ hands who sow the seeds and nurture the plants that connect us all in a universal way.

Now that I’ve sold the business, I have devoted myself to offering my expertise that I’ve acquired over the years in business to folks I know, to nurturing their businesses and helping them grow and bringing them to market in a way that celebrates them and celebrates their products and their positioning and their point of view and their vision.

Now, I’m working with companies that I feel connected to that share my views.

By the way, that business was absolutely committed to everything we’re talking about, not destroying resources, and yet celebrating their beauty and creating a home that’s filled with handmade objects and beautiful pieces from around the world. Like I said, I believe that there is something about the touch of the human hand when we create something. And that goes all the way back to the farmers that you’re talking about with Vitanova and how they grew these indigenous plants, and they’ve grown them for centuries—there’s something in that beautiful heritage that connects us.

Can Vitanova’s Acai Berry Help Your Heart and Ward Off Disease?

When our medications come to us as uniform pills in childproofed bottles, it can be easy to assume that they originated in labs—but 40 percent of prescription medicines actually come from plant extracts or compounds. These plant-based medicines are more ubiquitous than we may think. Drugs from aspirin to quinine are derived from nature through natural products chemistry, as are many of the powerful ingredients in high quality multivitamins.

The vast majority of plant-based vitamins and medicines known in the West were first discovered by indigenous cultures around the world. In the Amazon jungle alone, where one third of Earth’s animal and plant species live, indigenous tribes have medicinal uses for 2,000 to 3,000 known rainforest plants. Among these is the acai berry.

Known to the west for only two decades, acai berries have been used for thousands of years by Amazonian tribes such as the Shuar to cure a wide range of ailments; they used it to increase their energy, protect their hearts, support their sexual health, and ward off diseases. They even used it to successfully treat a disease affecting 10 million Brazilians called schistosomosis. Acai makes up over one third of some tribal diets.

Western researchers learned of acai in the 1990s, and an antibiotic derived from the acai berry is now used to fight Staphylococcus aureus. Acai is also now known to lower cholesterol and is full of natural antioxidants. It contains essential fatty acids, protein, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin E, iron, and minerals.

Wheatgrass, which Western scientists began studying under 100 years ago, has been used for its medicinal benefits for millennia—ancient Egyptians and possibly even Mesopotamian civilizations knew wheatgrass supported their health and vitality. More recently, the Interior Salish people of British Columbia used wheatgrass in food preparation. Studies have shown that wheatgrass can reduce symptoms of ulcerative colitis and the side effects of chemotherapy for breast cancer. It’s packed with nutrients, including fiber, iron, zinc, potassium, and vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6.

Botanicals like acai and wheatgrass have had a pervasive impact on our society—and they never would have reached us without being discovered by indigenous people, who passed down knowledge of their health benefits from generation to generation. While the plants hold the healing properties, Earth’s tribes are the keepers of knowledge about those plants and their great potential to strengthen and revitalize human life. As global citizens, we must work to preserve indigenous cultures and their intimate knowledge of the world’s botanicals. It is only by partnering with tribes that we can preserve our world for our children.

Vitanova proudly supports organizations that respect and preserve tribes, tribal knowledge, and the plants yet to be discovered by Western medicine. We include acai, wheatgrass, and other botanicals in our vitamins, knowing that it is thanks to the world’s indigenous cultures that we have the knowledge to create potent whole-foods vitamins. We support Living Tongues in its preservation of indigenous languages, without which great wisdom will be lost. And The Answers Project, our partner organization, is seeking new Dalai Lamas and bringing them to the forefront so their rich historical knowledge and wisdom can be shared with the world.

Rebirth in and Through Dante’s La Vita Nuova

The powerful imagery of rebirth weaves itself through our world and history, appearing in major religious traditions and the spirituality of indigenous peoples, in story and song, in the sacred and the secular. Many tales of rebirth center around a crisis that becomes a catalyst for change—change which depends on the protagonist’s self-expression as the gateway to being reborn.

In the year 1294, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, known widely as the author of the Divine Comedy, crafted a work that both described his rebirth and created it: La Vita Nuova. In this profound poem, Dante tells the tale of a woman he loved, Beatrice, who married someone else and died a few years later. His love for her abided after her death, and the crisis he faced became his catalyst for not only his spiritual rebirth, but his poetic rebirth.

Dante transformed his grief for Beatrice into a profound religious dedication. Dante lost her both in this life (to marriage) and to the next (in her death). These losses could have consumed him. Instead, his poem shows how he used them to purify himself—her memory came to represent Divine Philosophy and guide him to ultimate truth, and his love for her was transformed into his love for the truth.

The poem narrated a transformation, and it also facilitated one: in writing La Vita Nuova, a writer of love poems was reborn as a serious poet, one who would one day write his Divine Comedy. The groundbreaking La Vita Nuova, which was more personal than the work of his peers and combined prose and poetic verse in a new way, was the vessel of Dante’s artistic rebirth.

And La Vita Nuova—translated as “the new life”—continues to be reborn itself as new generations encounter it. Poet Andrew Frisardi, whose translation of La Vita Nuova was published in 2012, lists over a dozen ways it has been understood over time, from a mystical mind’s journey to God, to an allegory in opposition to a corrupt Church, to an Augustinian-esque biography, and more. Its rich imagery allows new readers to find new meanings beneath its surface.

http://poems.com/special_features/prose/essay_frisardi.php#bio

The imagery of rebirth affects us so powerfully because it expresses the human capacity for self-renewal and self-transformation, in the face of (and often because of) crises we face. Like Dante and like musician Bonnie McCoy, we can step boldly into our creative power to bring about our own spiritual and artistic rebirth—and when we use our creativity to transform ourselves, we open a space for others to begin their own process of rebirth.

Other sources: http://www.enotes.com/topics/vita-nuova#critical-essays-vita-nuova-principal-english-translations

http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Italian/TheNewLife.htm

http://vitanova.com/blogs/news/78492803-bonnie-mccoy-comes-alive-a-story-of-rebirth

Daily Rituals

Rituals are fundamental to the human experience. 40,000 years ago, Neanderthal humans were already engaging in rituals, and the wisdom of ritual has permeated cultures all around the world today. You can create your personal transformation by starting your day with a ritual of affirmation and nutrition.

Ritual is so powerful because it is a place where research, respect, and rebirth converge: its positive impacts are proven by research, it expresses respect for the self and the wisdom traditions of the world, and it facilitates our rebirth.

We are grounded in research when we partake in ritual. A 2010 article in the Journal of Psychological Science describes how repeating a positive phrase or carrying a good luck charm concretely improves not only our belief in ourselves, but our performance! And in 2013, Scientific American confirmed that rituals powerfully impact our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They build our confidence, help us get better results, and heal our grief. Ritual can truly help us succeed.

http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2010/05/27/0956797610372631

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-rituals-work/

Research also supports the importance of taking a multivitamin each day. The Harvard School of Public Health describes the importance of both a healthy diet and a daily vitamin. Note, however, that not all multivitamins share the same health benefits. Those manufactured with synthetic ingredients cannot provide the same overall health benefits as those crafted with organic fruits and vegetable sources.

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vitamins/

Simple things such as the ritualistic daily use of the right multivitamin can create a dimensional behavior when coupled with positive thoughts, the warmth of a cup of tea, and inspirational visualization. You can give yourself a healthy, research-supported start to your day by making your morning vitamin a catalyst for your own affirming daily ritual.

We respect ourselves as individuals and world citizens when we partake in ritual. Around the globe, rituals celebrate children coming of age, inspire performance, honor grief, and support physical healing. Tapping into the power of ritual joins us with our ancestors and our global community.

And engaging in a daily ritual respects the self. When we pause each morning to affirm ourselves, engage our senses, and take our vitamins, we are expressing love for our whole selves—we are engaging our inner selves in personal healing, growth, self-unity, and power, and we are thanking our bodies for giving us our earthly experience.

You can also respect your body by choosing scientifically based, organic, healthy foods and vitamins sourced in an ethical manner. Say “no” to synthetic compounds and “yes” to organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs and to cultured, whole-foods vitamins and minerals, including DHA.

We create and invite our rebirth when we partake in ritual. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.” The great paradox and power of ritual is that by engaging in the same affirmations and actions each morning, we can transform ourselves and embrace a vita nova—a new life—every day. Ritual both unifies our days and makes each of them new.

A morning ritual that includes affirmations and your vitamin supports your inner and outer rebirth. Transformation happens not only in our minds, but on the cellular level in our bodies: right now, your cells are regenerating! The cells on the surface of your lungs regenerate every two weeks, and even your skeleton regenerates every ten years. Your positive thoughts and botanical supplements directly affect this process of transformation and rebirth.

Take a moment to envision what a reborn you would feel and act like. Imagine affirming yourself each day, telling yourself that you can experience this rebirth. Now, visualize yourself achieving it. Doesn’t that feel good? Resolve now to begin affirming yourself towards your rebirth each day as you take your vitamin.

Every day holds the opportunity for your rebirth. Join us, your ancestors, and the world in transforming yourself through the scientifically validated power of ritual and nutrition. You can find affirmations to support your journey at www.facebook.com/vitanovanutraceuticals/.

“My life is hectic, and getting myself up and motivated in the morning is crucial to my success. I always brew some green tea, close my eyes, and picture myself on top of Mt. Everest. I say an affirmation, such as ‘Today will be my day because I am smart and strong. I will succeed.’ Then I take my Vitanova Women, take a deep breath, and make it so. This ‘me time’ is when I give myself a morning lift.” Amy Rose, 46, from San Francisco, California

“When I play competitive tennis, I always wake up extra early. Every morning, I brew a pot of coffee, stretch, grab my bike, and head to the gym. It is really important that I use three identical racquets all strung equally and wear my special socks that have a left- and a right-specific sock. This ritual gives me the focus I need to envision myself winning.” – William Scott Sutter, 50, from St. Louis, Missouri

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