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Stepping Forward/ New Path with Right Foot

"Resilience is often defined as the ability to bounce back after a devastating event. Eileen could have fallen into the "Freeze" survival network and given up or fallen into depression after her accident described below. Instead, she found inner strength and received timely support to discover a new and excellent pathway forward."

By: Eileen Lichtenstein, MS. Ed.

The career path I’m on now was not always it…in the middle of owning a dance-exercise studio (thought I’s come full circle wanting to “be” a dancer – never encouraged by my parents; in fact they refused to help with college finances if I pursued that – only for something “steady” like nursing or teaching they said. Both of my parents were quite modern and liberal for their generation and this was incongruent.

So after getting my degrees in Education, traveling with my college sweetheart and getting married, being a stay at home mom and deciding not to go back to the elementary school classroom (which I had done for a few years), I opened “Eileen’s Dance & Exercise Studio” in our renovated basement level with ballet bars, mirror! I included child care in my den – as I felt going to adult classes while my daughters were babies in great childcare onsite “saved” my life. All was going wonderfully, including my “Mommy & Me” classes! On a fateful day, while scurrying across a local avenue to post office with PR – a van made a sneaky move on his way to left turn lane – and ran over my right foot in a sandal. I fell down – and thought I was dying. Luckily it was only my foot – my spine and head were OK. A lovely angel lady on the sidewalk came over and swooped me up to the sidewalk where emergency services and buckets of ice were arriving.

My “new age” friends said this right foot forward run over meant it was time to begin something new, on another path. I turned a deaf ear at first…and was wallowing in self pity for weeks, even with a psychotherapist making house calls. Soon enough, a few positive things occurred by my own actions – as I couldn’t deal with all the bickering with my husband and daughters – they understood, up to a point. I decided to talk to a friend who was (and still is) a successful biofeedback therapist, and at the time president of the NYS Biofeedback Society. She encouraged me to go for training to be a practitioner. I asked for and received family support and my husband drove me into the city for trainings each weekend. Sometimes I stayed over at friend’s. The education and relaxation techniques involved in this mind-body modality truly helped me heal fast!

Additionally, during this period while my cast was on I was sooo grateful that it was only my foot (broken in 5 places) and summer in NY with a newly built deck to relax on! Subsequently learning about gratefulness I know this attitude really help keep my spirits up.

Then! Another wonderful event occurred: A local physician called me whom I’d met networking. He didn’t know my condition and thought I still owned the Studio…and asked me to write and teach –including Hatha Yoga- a Stress Reduction course for his patients (immune challenges) based on the new work of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, of UMass. Medical Center who was passionate about teaching and “prescribing” Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for outpatients at U Mass. Medical Center. When I stated my situation, he simply said that I’ll be fine when we’ll start in October, and to read “Full Catastrophe Living”, by Kabat-Zinn and call him when I completed the large book which mostly documented the medical success stories of patients who were already in his program. Well, it all came to pass! I read this amazing book , helped write curriculum for our course, and healed quickly and fully. I attended Kabat-Zinn’s week long training for “practitioners” and worked with the doctor in three locations for two years, until he needed to close the course. I took on an adjunct position at Hofstra University, Health & Physical Education Department which included teaching Hatha Yoga and Stress management and went on to receive business and life coaching training-certification and later Anger Management and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques, tapping). Early in my Hofstra career I decided not to pursue Biofeedback (even though I know it truly has it’s place in reversing many conditions and diseases) as I found people could truly heal mind-body with the guidance of a skilled practitioner, without machines when they have a strong intention to do that.