Your Feet Face Forward narrates my holistic journey back from a debilitating spinal nerve tumor to abundant health and happiness. Using the tools of yoga, meditation, visualization, and a change in philosophical perspective, I was able to heal while completely sidestepping traditional medicine.
After my diagnosis, I was faced with the devastating prospect of autonomic function loss, with or without surgery. With almost no feeling in my legs and severe, constant pain in my back, I knew there had to be another way. I crawled onto my mat and began a daily practice.
Over a period of months, the MRI scans showed the tumor shrinking until it was finally gone. My life was forever transformed, and the powerful momentum of healing launched me onto a new path. I obtained certification as a Hatha, Vinyasa, Restorative, Yin, and Prenatal Yoga instructor and became a yoga teacher trainer.
I have since shared my story and inspired positive change, empowering thousands of lives through my classes, yoga teacher training, workshops, and seminars.
Your Feet Face Forward can guide you to find peace with what is and inspire you to move forward with intention; harnessing your power. Your Feet Face Forward will show you how to recognize the gifts of life.
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Read an Excerpt
Your Feet Face Forward
An Inspiring Handbook to Life
By Colin Wolpert, Bonnie Koehn
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Colin Wolpert
All rights reserved.
I thought my life's work was certain. I loved emergency medicine and had devoted years in service to various hospitals and paramedical organizations. I was bored with university, but it was a means to an end. After all, I had decided this was my path.
Things are often not what they appear to be. In fact, things are seldom ever what they appear to be.
It was a hot, dry day in Africa when my buddy booted up the first 8bit computer I had ever seen. It had a nauseating orange monochromatic screen, no mouse and a clunky keyboard. It was huge, heavy, made odd crunchy noises and beeped a lot. It is true that life surprises us, because mine was never to be the same after this.
I was flummoxed for weeks, figuring out how I was going to buy one of these and what I was going to do with it. As a student, the only way I could afford to buy one was at wholesale prices, so I had no choice but to start a computer company to qualify for this discount. Soon I was supplying computers to all of my friends and their friends. I hired my first employee when I was 20 years old and grew the business for 14 more years. How I ended up in Enterprise Resource Planning & accounting software is a book unto itself.
Working day and night to build a huge enterprise turned out to be an exercise in futility. When work is no longer about survival or creating a comfortable lifestyle, it sometimes becomes a toxic pursuit.
While it may seem obvious to some that we can only wear one pair of shoes at a time, it was a profound realization for me. I found it satisfying and cathartic to give away all but one pair of shoes on that same day that I decided to find a good home for all of my employees and clients, and move on to the next phase of my life.
I no longer felt I needed a fancy two week timeshare if it meant I spent the other 50 weeks working extra hard to pay for it.
When that penny dropped it left a dent in my head.
I spent the next few years working in the African bush among the wild animals. I worked with telecommunications and was infatuated with satellites. In 2005 one of my clients and I sent the very first live video stream of a leopard encounter via an entirely wireless system in a guest chalet.
It was a necessary time in the evolution of my thinking. I was able to just be among nature; a spectator of life. I didn't have to overthink anything. Once the chaos of commerce wasn't driving me, I began to see things with some clarity.CHAPTER 2
At the hospital, I lay motionless in the MRI tunnel for three hours. A few weeks before, I was bouncing around the world, cycling, running, swimming and practicing yoga in different cities. I had noticed some tingling in my legs and a constant dull lower back pain, but I was too busy to listen.
The neurologist said he was very sorry about the news, but the pain in my back and numbness in my legs was only going to get worse as the nerve tumor in my lumbar spine, which was already over an inch in diameter, would continue to grow and throttle my nerves.
I was referred to a neurosurgeon who spun a terrifying tale of gloom. He said that I had no other option but to undergo massive spinal surgery, albeit extremely dangerous with a debatable prognosis. The surgery was complicated because many vertebrae in my lower back would have to be cracked open to reach the tumor on the spinal cord. The reconstruction of the spine would involve a significant amount of metal, and of course I would never have flexibility in those areas again.
He told me that regaining sensation in my legs was highly unlikely and that in fact this was the least of my concerns as I was about to lose bladder and bowel control as the tumor grew and constricted the spinal cord.
Recovery from the surgery would take 9-12 months – and a lot of this time would be spent on my back.
The doctor went on to inform me that there was a considerable chance I could I end up worse off after surgery. It was an intricate procedure and sometimes the dissection 'doesn't work out.'
I got a third, fourth and eventually an eleventh medical opinion. I consulted with professors at the university hospital. I was desperate to hear a different answer. Maybe there was a miracle pill or a doctor with a magic wand. I even investigated a radical science-fiction-like device used to blast tumors.
How was this happening to me? What had I done so wrong to have created this bleak situation? Without surgery I was doomed and with surgery I was potentially more doomed.
As children we are taught that doing bad things will result in adverse situations. Accordingly, as adults we perceive that the untoward events in our life are a result of our previous 'bad' actions. The burden of this responsibility weighs on us heavily. We often blame ourselves. While taking responsibility for experiencing the events of our lives is helpful, apportioning sole responsibility to ourselves is incorrect. We do create the events in our lives, but there are seven billion other people simultaneously creating their reality and ours. We create the events in another person's life as much as we create our own.
When we are aligned with universal integrity, the events of our lives are created seemingly more quickly than if we are not – simply because all of the people in the world are creating the same events.
All actions are balanced by reactions. This is the physical law of the universe. What goes up must come down. The reactor pushes into the responder and the result is equal opposite force until the stronger one overcomes. A person who is in pain will do almost anything, whether consciously, subconsciously or spiritually, to ease their pain, and this often has the side-effect of creating pain in the lives of others.
I was completely cornered.
One day in the midst of the panic, it dawned on me that I was rapidly losing traction of the situation and that I had no control anyway. My desperate, reactionary behavior of gripping onto whatever I thought would fix things was actually an exercise in futility. I gave up, surrendering to the fact that I would eventually not be able to walk and I'd be without basic bodily functions. I imagined being this way and totally accepted that if this is what it was going to be – then so be it. I found solace and peace in this place and managed to rest for the first time in a long time.CHAPTER 3
When you stop interfering with outcomes, by surrendering instead of clinging, and by releasing instead of attaching, you empower yourself with freedom in this moment.
Be prepared to lose everything. Your job, your relationships, your standing in your community, even your existence on this earth. Be willing and prepared to accept losing everything that you are attached to. Nothing is permanent anyway and clinging only makes your life complicated and painful.
I'm not advocating that you actually lose everything. I'm just suggesting that you imagine not having all the things in your life to which you are attached. I'm also not asking you to throw your hands up in defeat and give up. Instead, I'm asking you to be here now and deeply experience your true self without all the attachments in your life.
Practicing this surrender will invite peace into your consciousness, creating freedom and space in the present moment.
Whether the attachment is a valuable piece of jewellery, social status, a job, a lover or a situation – allow all thoughts of attachment to vaporize and realize that you could manage without it. Soon you will discover that the attachment is still there, but you are no longer placing so much importance on having it or needing it to be a certain way. More often than not we create anxiety, stress and pain in the process of desiring something to be a particular way and attempting to influence the outcome.
Clinging to a desired outcome never serves. It only diverts the energy of the situation and creates unnecessary obstacles.
How would I be without this thing to which I am so desperately hanging on?
Would my life go on?
Would I really be so much worse off if I didn't get it, or lost it?
What kind of gratitude am I expressing by invalidating what I do have?
What would shift if I simply accepted where I am instead of desiring everything to be different?
Although advancement and improvement are positive things borne of discomfort and a desire for change, this is very different to negating the experience of where you are right now in this moment. You may wish for things to be different in the future, but it is important not to invalidate what you have in this moment right now. This moment is all you have – the next may not come and the past is already gone.
You can be happy with where you are and also seek to have something different in the future.
When you surrender to allowing the next moment or day or week to unfold as it does, while nurturing it with positive intention, you come to see that the moment you are in right now is the present tense of a past moment. Does this give you any more space to simply experience this moment and the next with full engagement, whatever the content? You can change your life in the future, but you owe it to yourself to be present now. How can you enjoy anything if you know that it will eventually end? Would you deny yourself a great meal because you knew it was going to end? Why not engage fully in this moment? Rather than denying the enjoyment of this time, embrace it and its infinite possibilities.
Being present removes the pressure of having to want, which in turn creates freedom and empowers you in the now.
We often endure pain and suffering because we are too scared to rock the boat. We are fearful that if we upset our partner they may leave the relationship. We worry that our boss may fire us and we are anxious that people may think differently of us. So instead, we endure situations that cost us dearly and we overpay to remain in the relationship, job or social circle. We put up with abuse and pain because we are afraid of what we think may be the alternative. We imagine that the only way to reduce pain is to remove the situation and thus we become trapped in our thinking and remain in painful circumstances.
When we realize that it's not the end of the world if we don't have a particular job or relationship, then we have the space to safely explore ways to improve where we are. We have to be prepared to lose it all in order to reach this realization.
Thousands of times a day items are purchased at auctions for much more than they are worth. People are scared of losing, being outbid or simply find themselves automatically reacting and competing for something that they think they want.
No attachment can make you happy or sad. No thing can make you any thing. It is merely the thought of having or not having the attachment that creates emotion. When you cling to the idea of anything, you create fear of losing it. When you accept that attachments are here in the now and may not be in the next moment, then you will find the joy of now. Joy is simply living in the now, whatever it is.
We often assign credibility to the voices of authority and so- called 'reason' inside our heads by accepting that this way is the only way. It seems that we trap ourselves within limited outcome thinking and make broad decisions based on rules that only apply to specific situations.
Once you give yourself permission to leave a situation, you will find the freedom to remain in that space.
Once you give yourself permission to let go, you will find the strength to hold on.CHAPTER 4
All actions are energy in motion. Words are energy with sound. There are experiments where scientists subject bodies of water to different sounds and then freeze the water to take photographs of the crystal structures. Beautiful symmetrical patterns develop out of peaceful, joyous harmonics. Loud disturbing sounds create inconsistent disorder.
Newton said for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As you stand on the earth, the ground responds with an equal force in the opposite direction. If it didn't, you would crash through the earth. If any one force is stronger than another force, the larger force will overcome the weaker.
The same is true with personalities, emotions, words and thoughts. A strong personality needs to be balanced by another or the weaker personality will capitulate. Not only is this detrimental to the lesser entity, but it also damages the more powerful being because it enables the energy to leak out and free flow without temperance.
Because thoughts are energy in motion, they can easily translate into other forms of energy such as words or actions.
When a thought solidifies it becomes a memory. Traditional belief is that memory is stored in the brain. Every single cell in your body contains the same memory as the next cell. The difference between the brain and any random cell in the body is that the brain is also the main processor of energy exchange. The brain is able to sift through memories and relocate their structures within the body.
A memory originates from thoughts, actions and emotions. When a memory contains more energy than a simple pixel of information, it groups with other similar memories and together they form an e-motion. Energy in motion = e-motion.
Like attracts like. Matter attracts matter. This is a universal truth. The more similar two pieces of matter are, the greater their affinity toward each other.
E-motions affect everything around them and vibrate energy at the particular tone or frequency delineated by their composition. Deep sound is amplified in the belly; high tone is magnified in the head. Each e-motion or group of similar energies that exist together will gravitate toward a particular part of the body.
When e-motions are not free to flow because they are attached to other stagnant emotions, they will settle in specific areas of the physical body until mobilized. If they are not mobilized they will begin to manifest as a lack of congruence in that part of the body, and discomfort will develop. Discomfort causes reaction, usually in the form of movement, which often resolves the blockage. This is why exercise can feel so good and why the body responds positively to it; because the body it is ultimately a temple of moving energy.
Energy resolution can also be achieved through mental processing. Meditation is very powerful.
If we ignore the messages the body is sending us by failing to initiate such shifts, energy will continue to build until injury or illness forces the situation. We set traps for energy by invalidating this information. Sometimes we are so distracted from our bodies that we have no awareness of the warning signs and don't find out about an imbalance until it has become dire. This is when medicine steps in. We can sometimes cut tumors out or heal cancer. But until we resolve the underlying energy leaks and e-motional sources of stagnation, the tumor, illness or injury will return.
It is widely believed that anger resides in the liver. What happens when an angry person hurts another by way of words, actions or thoughts? Does this resolve the anger stored in the liver? Yes and no. Yes, it gets some angry energy out. But does it dissolve the anger? No. Does it transfer the anger to the next person? Absolutely. Being angry at the world hurts others.
There has to be an equal and opposite reaction. Either someone will take on that anger and ultimately retransmit it, or it can be met with an equal and opposite amount of love, which will neutralize the energy. There is an infinite amount of love in this universe. A tear of anger doesn't last long in the ocean of love.
This is why love is the answer to everything. Not romantic, happy love, but love as the universal entity. Love that is life, love that is you, me, everything that is and will be. If you realize that you are only passing through this state of humanness as an expression of the existence of love, you will have no option but to abandon all ego and live your life in a loving state.CHAPTER 5
During my high school and university years, I worked as a volunteer medic at numerous hospitals, clinics and fire stations in Southern Africa. For five years I spent 40 hours per week in public service instead of hanging out with my peers at parties and nightclubs. I missed out on many youthful pastimes, yet I would unequivocally choose this path again.
I learned so much that had absolutely nothing to do with medicine in the emergency room. I loved my weekend shifts in the huge government hospitals. Outside of this, some of my favorite times were vaccinating children in rural clinics where we collected water in buckets from the river to wash hands between patients. I wasn't particularly fond of travelling at high speed in the paramedic response vehicles, but I quickly learned how to maintain composure in frantic situations.
No lesson that we learn is ever wasted. Situations that require these skills will present themselves in time. The existence of tumultuous and challenging circumstances in this moment creates our future capabilities and aptitude.
Excerpted from Your Feet Face Forward by Colin Wolpert, Bonnie Koehn. Copyright © 2015 Colin Wolpert. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Impermanence, 1,
Chapter 2 Western Medicine, 3,
Chapter 3 Overpaying, 6,
Chapter 4 Energy, 10,
Chapter 5 Reality, 14,
Chapter 6 Physical Presence, 17,
Chapter 7 Pain, 19,
Chapter 8 Yoga, 24,
Chapter 9 Meditation, 28,
Chapter 10 Goals and Intentions, 34,
Chapter 11 Your Now-Life, 36,
Chapter 12 Deferred Living, 39,
Chapter 13 Congruence and Integrity, 44,
Chapter 14 Distraction, 48,
Chapter 15 I Am Not Me, 50,
Chapter 16 Hope is Hopeless, 52,
Chapter 17 Traffic Lights, 55,
Chapter 18 Fear of the Fear, 58,
Chapter 19 Timing, 60,
Chapter 20 Destinations, 63,
Chapter 21 Hooks, 64,
Chapter 22 Difficult Situations, 66,
Chapter 23 Anger, 69,
Chapter 24 Gut feeling, 70,
Chapter 25 Regret, 72,
Chapter 26 Guilt is Expensive, 75,
Chapter 27 Acceptance, 76,
Chapter 28 The Bow Wave, 77,
Chapter 29 Beacons, 79,
Chapter 30 Teaching Yoga, 84,
Chapter 31 It's Just an Ice Cream It's Not Forever, 86,
Chapter 32 Trying, 88,
Chapter 33 Life Is Important, But It's Not Serious, 90,
Chapter 34 Life, Death and Grief, 92,
Chapter 35 Faith, 94,
Chapter 36 Samskaras, 96,
Chapter 37 Love, 98,
Chapter 38 The Three People Challenge, 100,
Chapter 39 A Second Chance, 102,
Chapter 40 Shine Alive, 103,