Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Do Be Do Be Do

About a year and a half ago I attended my first official meditation retreat. It was with Deepak Chopra and the Chopra Center. Prior to this, I was what would be described as a "crisis meditator" tapping into the practice at the most expected of times (ie: New Year's resolution) or the most desperate times (ie: overly stressed, overwhelmed, etc).  My decision to attend the retreat was a poorly timed and illogical given all of my other commitments, but there was a feeling, an indescribable guidance that was beyond me, and I knew I simply had to go. I now know, that feeling was my spirit, my higher self, G_d, (I'm still not quite sure how to describe this presence, but I'm certain it is there) and as I reflect on this past year, I can see that was the guiding force that I'm pretty sure saved my life.

I remember the first day of the retreat, we were given our own personalized mantra and then told to go meditate for 20 minutes.  What? What do you mean? Just start meditating? I needed more information. I needed to be guided. I needed someone to do it for me.  But as I quickly learned, meditation is not about the moments of enlightenment, but the discomfort of the unknown. It's taking that first sitting of 20 minutes and repeating the mantra. It's continuing to peek one eye open and see how much longer. It's recognizing the chaos of our thoughts.  Once we start to become AWARE of the chaos of our psyche, that's when you introduce the mantra, repeatedly, over and over and over. And sure enough, the 20 minutes are complete. Over time, that 20 minutes becomes 30, 40, 50 - sometimes twice a day. Other times, it just a few moments.  The gifts of meditation are not necessarily in those moments of sitting, but through the discipline of the practice however chaotic, we become more present for the rest of the moments in our day. We begin to take more pauses, we begin to notice our reactive nature, we may begin to act with more patience, more compassion, more love. Or at the very least, we are simply more aware and from awareness breeds change.

There has not been one day that has passed over the course of this year that I have not meditated. Even if it was for just a few moments, I looked to my mantra as my grounding, my centering. I explored different types of mediation (ie: visualization, metta, and others I hope to share). Regardless,  I am convinced it was my discipline leading up to my diagnosis and then the embracing the practice even in the most dire moments that has simply been my saving grace and provided the sense of awareness to listen to my body, to hear the whisper of my spirit, and to surrender, simply surrender.

As I try to make sense of what just happened over this past year, I find myself recalling the words of Deepak Chopra during a question and answer session during that retreat a year and half ago. Ironically, I remember a woman who was actually a breast cancer survivor got up and expressed her frustration over not feeling the peaceful and enlightened moments during her meditation that she expected. What was she DOING wrong? What could she DO to change the nature of her practice? What could Deepak DO to help her?

And with his iconic glasses and his present nature,  Deepak simply shared with the woman that you recognize your thoughts of DOING and then you BE with them. You DO and then you BE. You DO BE DO BE DO.  And then the most delightful giggle emerged from this wise modern day guru.

I'm reminded of this moment frequently lately and using it as my daily mantra as I continue to step more fully into myself everyday.

With the holidays literally upon us, I wish everyone the gift of presence and pause. To find some light, love, and goodness that exists in some capacity for each of us and simply BE with it. Trust me, this is the good stuff...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What Just Happened? - The Official Book

Thank you to Kelly Curnow for capturing, compiling, crafting and caring so much to put together this most gracious gift. I'm touched beyond words and grateful for this metaphorical + literal bookend. #movingon #newbeginnings 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Stepping Forward

I'll be honest, it's been a pretty emotionally challenging time following my treatment. While I expected to be elated that my treatment was over, what I encountered is that EVERYTHING about my treatment was over.  The constant attention. The focus. The community I visited weekly that nurtured me. While it took some time, I grew accustomed to these things and without them I was disoriented.  Despite still being surrounded by so much love and support, I was on my own and living the life of a survivor.

All of these feelings were validated during my "survivorship" appointment with my Doctor a week ago. During our time together she spoke about the sense of loss that follows treatment and simply acknowledged that without the focus of the weekly treatments, our emotions have freedom to finally express the trauma we have experienced physically and emotionally, and the importance of exploring different channels of support (which I am).  And it was at that moment that I realized I am in mourning. Not just over the loss of who I was prior to my diagnosis, but the loss of the community that I came to love and rely on during my treatment.

As I emerge back into the world, I find myself wanting to just let people know that I have in fact survived cancer.  I keep saying it repeatedly almost as if I'm trying to convince and remind myself. Not just what I overcame, but the gifts that I discovered. I've felt overwhelmed with the past but uncertain of my future. I've felt paralyzed as to how to move forward, knowing I am forever changed.

Just as I was experiencing this realization of my journey, a dear friend (thank you Jen Spencer) introduced me to a book called Second Firsts by Christina Rasmussan. In it she talks about the "Waiting Room" where we are in between the past of our old selves but have not yet stepped into our new world order.  It's safe in the Waiting Room  and kind of hard to leave.  Let's just say my waiting room is super cozy, so I could totally relate.

It just so happened that the author was speaking at my local bookstore so I went to hear her.  She shared her own story of loss and the amazing transformation she has experienced in her life by having the courage to really honor the grieving process and start to re-engage with life in a conscious and loving way. It was inspiring and reminded me that perhaps the best is yet to come. It allowed me to peak beyond the window of my waiting room and see a future where I was living a life of love, vitality, light, grace, ease, mindfulness, creativity, joy, laughter, and spark!  All the things that I discovered at such a monumental level throughout my treatment were manifesting in this future life but without the illness and treatment as the catalysts. I also learned through this book, that while I was now technically deemed a survivor, my survivor self had served its purpose of protection and I could let her go.  With her release and shedding of that armor, I can start to feel the tickle of my new regenerating cells and sprit percolating with light, sparkle, and shine as they begin to breakthrough into the world.

Now the challenge is having the courage to open the door into this new life and all the uncertainty that it holds.  But if there is one thing that this year has taught me is that I can do uncertainty. Or rather I can BE with uncertainty.  It's in the uncertainty where being present (if we allow it) provides the space so we can discover new things about ourselves that we never knew possible and live from that place of faith and grace. And for me, that is kind of the adventure.

I had Christina sign my book and we spoke for a few moments. She looked straight in my eyes and said "I see that sparkle in your eye, and you need to know that you have such unbelieveable gifts waiting for you and a beautiful life ahead that you can't even imagine." I was overcome by her empathy and validation. But more importantly, I believed her.

And so I start with small steps forward knowing that they will become bigger, more frequent and fuller everyday.