If you’ve been following Zen-N-Juice since the beginning, then you know that the inspiration to start this blog came from an experience I had in Peru a few months ago involving my friend Bryce Astill. He spent two weeks in a coma, and everyone thought he was going to die.
The way Bryce’s friends and family rallied together all over the world speaks to the kind of person he is. Bryce is not a famous person, but literally thousands of people came together to donate and support him. Every person he comes into contact with is affected in a positive way, and they ALL remember him. I attribute a lot of my success and happiness to him leading the way.
Here is an article written by Bryce on his recent near-death experience (and others) and the perspective he’s taken from it.
I’m So Full of Shit
I’m not always full of shit. But nearly every time I don’t believe in myself and my ability to persevere and solve a problem in life, I am. The truth is I have everything I need in this and every moment to problem solve and thrive in life. Actions that go against that truth can make life tougher than necessary.
I guess I’ll introduce myself because some people reading won’t know me. My name is Bryce Astill. I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah. I am window cleaner specializing in Highrise work. Off and on I also work or have worked in Wilderness therapy programs for youth, substance abuse treatment centers, certified Mind Body Bridging instructor, as a running coach, and a as Crossfit coach.
I’m passionate about trail running, yoga, climbing, Crossfit, and especially family, friends, music, and connecting with others.
I’m 34 years old and have thus far packed in what feels like an enormous amount of life experiences. I never actually believed I would live this long, and a few times that has almost been the truth. Very recently again that was nearly the case.
The first few times I was near death was because of drug use. I was an alcohol, cocaine, and heroin addict for many years. It nearly killed me a few times. Through what felt like undeserved grace of life I went through treatment and have been able to remain sober since August of 2006.
I had become the worst version of myself and getting worse. I had a lot of reasons to believe I was piece of shit. I was a liar, thief, and all around degenerate. I couldn’t complete or follow through with anything. Especially if it was good for me. Treatment and ultimately working with others to share what others had shared with me worked.
It changed the trajectory of my life entirely. It felt like a second chance at life. Or a first chance really. One with real tools to build and create happiness for myself and others. To navigate the immense difficulties and complexities of life with the most simple tools. Simple, yet not easy. Today I have an enormous toolbox for life and continue to build it. I fail sometimes to use it, sometimes really epically…but to simply say my life is better than it was would be the understatement of the century.
Fast forward to a few months ago and I woke up on what was almost my deathbed in Lima, Peru staring at my best friend Michael Cazayoux and listening to him tell me that I’ve been in a coma for nearly two weeks and almost died.
It’s been a surreal experience to say the least. To say more it’s been confusing, heart wrenching (in the most positive way), and well…beautiful. We all know we are going to die (sorry to break this to you if this is the first time you’re hearing this), but in my experience there is nothing that highlights the preciousness of life better than a good tightrope act with death. I wish I could bottle up that experience and give it away to fight off the apathy and jadedness that can easily effect us all.
It woke me up. It forced me to face tough questions again about what the hell this is all for and what am I going to contribute? What allows me to be so lucky as to get to survive and be here? What will I do with that gift of another day?
From overcoming drug addiction and having that experience I learned how to answer those questions with better actions. I learned how to authentically live the life I actually wanted to live. It’s been tough at times. It’s still tough. This latest brush with death has reinvigorated all the lessons I learned from the previous times and added some more.
While I could go on and on about this I want to share just one key thing that this latest experience has taught me. Or re-taught me really. The power of community. Of being a part of something or many things bigger than yourself.
Stop trying to do everything alone.
No one of any great consequence or success ever did it alone. Ever. For years and years I attempted to solve my problems alone. (Still do too often). It’s never worked.
My problems compounded and became worse and worse. One of the most helpful tools I received in treatment was how to ask for and receive help from those who had walked the paths I needed to walk before me. It’s what allowed me to play a part in a community of recovery. Then a community of runners, cross fitters, yogis, climbers, and the greater larger community that I live in.
I learned how to be a contributor. One without expectation of anything in return. I ended up gaining so much more than I’ve ever given. Support, friendships, a feeling of being a part of, the joy of watching others grow, and most recently…my life! That last one is a pretty big one.
Friends in all of these communities rallied together for me and raised medical funds in the amount of $57,000. That amount covered all hospital bills and even some travel expenses for my family. In Peru the private hospitals need money up front and as you go for treatment. All covered by these amazing communities.
Even more impactful was the amazing kind words so many had for me. I got the rare experience of basically getting to die and hear what people would say about me. Except better because I didn’t actually die.
This brings me back (finally) to the title of this. I’m so full of shit. What do I mean by this?
So often in my life I have struggled to believe that I’m a person worthy of love and good things.
I beat myself up easily and often.
I sincerely believed something was inherently wrong with me and that I was doomed to always feel and be that way. I was wrong. I was really wrong, and if you believe this about yourself you are too.
I’ve come to learn there is nothing wrong with you that can’t be changed by what is right with you.
I learned that through communities of people who are striving to be better each day. One day at a time. Tim Ferris often repeats the statement that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. It’s worth reflecting on.
I learned about and started to experience my absolute value vs. my relative value. What does that mean? We have tons of relative values in society and life. An example is a company has CEO and that person makes we’ll say $120,000/year. The factory worker for the same company may only make $30,000/year.
Our minds love to take these relative values and place what we or others are worth in general. We start to believe that we are worse or better than someone else based on these relative values and often times act accordingly within our lives and communities.
The problem is these types of comparisons fail to take in our absolute value. Who you are, the value and worth you provide to the world is infinite. It is beyond our mind’s comprehension.
It’s like if I handed you a piece of paper and asked you what it was you’d likely tell me it’s a piece of paper. But that paper is really much more than that. It’s the tree the paper came from and all the water, nutrients, and sunlight that grew that tree. It’s the factory it was made in and the people that created the factory and the method of making paper and so on and so on into the rabbit hole of creation. Your absolute value is that. It’s everything that has been, is, and will be. While it’s difficult to comprehend that it’s more important that we experience it. Moment to moment.
Waking up in Peru to the communities I’m a part of supporting me reminded me deeply of my absolute value. It took me weeks to get through the kind words that so many wrote of how I had affected their lives. What a gift. I had no idea in some cases. It’s what reminds me today when that negative, worthless views of myself creep in that I’m full of shit.
I’ll share what a friend wrote about me that filled me with so much joy even though my first internal response was to deny or discount most of it…
“While I am still connected, I would also like to take a minute and share with you. I am fortunate enough to have met someone this past year who has made me question my reality and what I perceive hard work to be. My imagination is put to the test when I begin to contemplate his achievements. I am talking about someone who has overcome addiction, started his own company, ran multiple ultra marathons, traveled the world under his own capacity, and the list goes on. BUT these accomplishments are NOT what I would like to emphasize. This individual is so kind hearted, committed, supportive, caring, mentally and emotionally strong that he FINDS or MAKES time to help his people in any endeavor when they need it. His aid ranges from pacing a friend for an extended run or race to potentially saving a life in a time of crises or panic that may rapidly manifest into a relapse or overdose. He does not take shortcuts. His manner of work and ethics demand respect because they are so thorough. He will endure any physical strain if he has made a commitment. (Period) His manner of existence in my opinion is impeccable. He also makes time to enjoy and pursue his passions i.e. travel, recreation, camping, motorcycling, biking, cooking, and spending time with his cat. During his travels in Puru this last month he fell ill while adventuring in the Andes. The pneumonia quickly evolved into pulmonary edema due to the altitude and before long my friend was in critical condition and even a transport to Lima to receive the proper medical aid was almost too dangerous. Local support for medical expenditures and many caring and beautiful people have made it possible to him to return home in one piece. From my understanding, my friend was in a coma, and battling for his life with the help of a ventilator last month and recently woke up and made the trip back to Salt Lake City last week….He did NOT forget to wish me a happy birthday. Bryce Astill, you my friend are extraordinary. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to question my morals. Thank you for setting an example worth fighting for. Thank you for defining what potential and perseverance actually mean. It’s good to have you back.”
I share this (uncomfortably) because it’s quite likely you have people in your community that feel the same about you or that you’ve effected in ways you have can’t even imagine.
Do something kind in your community for no other reason then to do something kind and watch the ripples.
Be a piece of something bigger than you in any way you can.
Be and act according to your absolute value and watch your life follow suit in every way.
When you believe that you aren’t worth anything, recognize that thought for the bullshit that it is. Recognize your absolute value and that it is not definable by yours and others thoughts, behaviors, and actions alone. Although it is enhanced and experienced by these when they are in alignment with your true self value.
You are worth more than you’ll likely ever know.