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Sheila Keilty

Hello from Portland, OR! SO excited to be here. Longtime dream of mine.

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I first had an introduction to Mindfulness in UCLA’s spinal rehabilitation center in 2016 while recuperating from my 9th surgery on my spine in eight years. I had HAD it with pain, operations, physical limitations, never-ending Physical Therapy and being asked – yet again – to “dig deep” and find a way to cope with the intrusion of serious chronic health challenges. So when I was sitting across from a doctor who looked fresh as a daisy, hair perfectly mussed, and young (I’m talking his white doctor’s coat looked overly-ironed-and-right-off-the-showroom-floor young), I had all I could do to not roll the eyes right out of my head when he told me that pain was temporary and to accept it. If I had the strength, I probably would have tossed him out of my room right there. 

Then he began to tell me about Mindfulness. I went along with this. I figured that it was still an hour before lunch, and I was a captive audience in a carefully positioned articulated bed in a rehab unit. He talked about pain being all in my head (REALLY? Because I was sure it was in my spine next to the metal they’d put in there 4 days before), and that if I controlled my perception of the pain it would reduce my suffering. He may have sensed my impatience with the topic and left me with some reading to do and a few links to UCLA’s Ted Talks on the subject. 

That night, while up at 3am and staring at the ceiling of my rehab room, I started to watch the Ted Talks and read the handouts and articles he’s left me with. Over the next 10 days, I attended daily sessions to create modulation of my pain sensations, and I was really enjoying the calm guided meditations that truly seemed to help with my stress and anxiety levels, and didn't feel like crying all the time.  

The next year I was in the same rehab unit after my next spinal fusion and redux, this time on my thoracic spine. On day two, in walked Dr. Young-and-New, now more seasoned and a touch less fresh, ready to start in again on Mindfulness therapy. This time, however, I was MUCH more open to the teaching, meditations, affirmations, and mind-framing that really and truly seemed to be lessening my pain and suffering. It worked particularly well on the emotional and traumatic side of the sense of victimhood and PTSD you get when your body turns against you (and in my case, tosses you under a cross-town bus!). 

This time, after I left rehab, I joined the UCLA Mindfulness Training group and learned far more about what the practice of Mindfulness could do for my suffering and loss, and to ameliorate my (yes, temporary) episodes of pain. I found that with the practice of Mindfulness, the pain happened, but I saw it as a transient state. I had taken away its power over me, and saw myself less and less as the victim of an assault, but rather the Tour Director on the Lido Deck of my own life’s journey who did not let pain take up residence in my life any more. 

By the time I had my last stint in rehab two years ago, I was excited to see my old friend the once-young doctor. He was someone who had patience and compassion for me at a time when I truly needed it. And he was actually right about Mindfulness after all. Much to his credit, he never said “I told you so,” and was genuinely happy or my journey within. 

Now I negotiate the landscape of my good and bad days as a Health Coach, empowering women to achieve lifelong, optimized health and wellness, even with chronic health challenges. I have found that mindfulness and self-compassion are invaluable tools to have in my toolbox in my own - and my clients' - journeys to wellness.

Thank you for accepting me into your community.  I am so excited to be able to partake in this course as a next logical step in my journey within.

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Sheila,

Thank you for sharing your story with us and welcome to the program! Apologies for the lengthy delay in responding to you - I have been on retreat and am starting to clear up some things before my full return to work on Monday.

It sounds like you have been through a lot! And I am so happy to hear that mindfulness entered into your life and supported your journey through this painful experience. Your first-hand experience with pain and the ability for mindfulness to ease it will go a long way in your work with others. 

I'm Gillian, by the way - the community moderator and part of Sean's support team. As you navigate the program, let me know if you have any questions. 🙂

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