In one of those cosmos aligning, kismet life occurrences, I've found a place that was seemingly built just for me in this time in my life. Just a few weeks ago Enlightened Way Wellness Center opened in the Tariffville Mill, a 3-minute walk from my house. They offer yoga, free meditation classes, massage and body treatments, an herbal tea bar, lifestyle programs and more. But most importantly the couple that runs it are two of the most kind, generous and inspiring people I've ever met. I've had the pleasure of spending time learning from them and plan to do more.
It's been especially great as the center is so new that morning classes are sparsely attended ... I've had a one-on-one yoga class and a private meditation session with both owners. They've offered me suggestions, tactics, visualizations, breathing techniques and a calming focus to lean on as I prepare for the daunting treatment ahead of me and deal with the physical and mental effects of the treatment I am currently in.
After a strengthening yoga class the owner, Mark, pulled me aside and said he had been thinking about me and had some thoughts that he wanted to share if I was open to that. Oh, am I ever. I'm looking for everything I can find to help get my mind, body and spirit in the right place to survive this. We went into the comfy and calming meditation room and discussed:
When we are born we are perfect. We are a perfect manifestation of 100 trillion cells each working in synchronized harmony like a choreographed dance. It's when we hit the world and outside influences come into play that the cells lose their place and get out of step. Enter cancer. Thinking of it this way helps me to realize that it's an organic process. It is nothing of my fault or anyone else's fault that this happened to me. Something just set these certain cells off course and into mutation and now it's just a matter of them finding their way back to that pure and perfect state where everything is once again in harmony.
Rather than visualizing chemo eating away at the cancer cells like a game of Pac Man, I'm working on visualizing my treatment as creating a healing light inside of me that fills me with the power to repair those broken cells. I'm visualizing the cancer cells inside me not as an enemy trying to kill me, but instead as my children that have lost their way. They just need some help in getting back to their pure state. If you have a kid that's seemingly out of control, you still love that child unconditionally, right? By listening to what they're asking for (rest, the right nourishment, peace), with intention, I have the power to get things back in order. By setting the right intentions, I can help those cells rejuvinate and remorph into healthy cells, just like they morphed into unhealthy ones. That may require some tough love, but love nonetheless.
I believe strongly that those who survive and can stay sane during something like this are those that can embrace the negative things that happen to them and learn to work with them, not against them. This fits my personality much better than the idea of killing and anger.
What we give attention to grows. If I focus my attention on being angry or being as "pissed off" as the cancer is, then that anger is only going to grow to other parts of my life. From the beginning I've never been angry or resentful for more than fleeting moments as I know it's energy wasted – and most days I don't exactly have energy to spare. Rather than hating and cursing them, if I look at those cancer cells as part of me and love them then that love will grow. Attention is what I am focused on right now. Intention is what I am setting for my future. A future of health and harmony.
By no means does this mean I'm giving up the battle. I talk often about the Rocky mentality and having that story as my inspiration. What strikes me so much about it is it's about going the distance; getting back up when you don't think you can. It's not necessarily about being stronger or more blood thirsty than the enemy, but instead about knowing how to fight smarter. In fact, Rocky doesn't even win the fight in the original movie, but he does go all 15 rounds with Apollo Creed – a big deal. That does not happen by accident ... it all goes back to his training, to harnessing fear, to digging deep and finding that place, to rolling with the punches.
Mark pointed out that in ancient martial arts when one opponent is being attacked by another, instead of tightening up and puffing out his chest like burly guys in bars after a few beers, he leans back to absorb the hit and lets that force ricochet off him and into space. It's a similar concept to Parkour or Freerunning, the physical discipline of training to overcome any obstacle within one's path by adapting one's movements to the environment. This allows those that practice Parkour to be able to land seemingly inhumane leaps and bounds without shattering every bone in their bodies. In short, I can't control what's happened to me and the physical challenges that it brings, but I can control my attitude toward it and how I absorb it into my life.
For me it's vitally important to be an active participant in my care, complementing the powerful medicines and scienctific advances that I'm subject to. It's easy to sit back and say "everyone is going to get cancer anyway so why should I care how I treat my body?" This is a detrimental way of thinking. Life is about building a foundation so that if and when we do face deep stress, loss, or illness, we've built the foundation we need to be able to handle it, that we've learned not to puff our chests and attack it but to absorb it, listen to what it's trying to tell us and use those answers to carry us forward. If our bodies and minds are not strong during "regular life," what is going to happen when that life is turned upside down? I am forever grateful that I was in the mental and physical place that I was when I was first whopped with this diagnosis and that I've been able to maintain that with each diagnosis since.
Sure there are days when I turn into a crazy person for a little while. No matter how much yoga and visualizations I do there are days when I cry and scream and become resentful and frustrated. But that's an important part of the process too. Without going off balance I wouldn't appreciate the stability. There's no better feeling than getting to that low point, reeling myself out of it, then being able to look back, take a deep breath and learn from it.