Recent Interview on KPBS San Diego:
(click on the screen and you will hear interview)
It is Autumn. The days are shorter and the nights seem longer and darker even though for these few weeks near Equinox, light and dark are almost equal. We know the longer times of darkness will come however, and it will be a blessing.
It is “dojo” in Chinese philosophy—the 10 days before and after the seasons change, when our bodies, our beings, are most vulnerable, as the Earth shifts and turns on her axis trying to reach the balancing point of another change.
It is Rosh Hashanah, and the “days of Awe” in Jewish tradition. It is the time of introspection and exploration of where our path has taken us in the last year. What have we learned, where might we have done things differently? Are there situations that require forgiveness or deeper understanding? What can we let go of from this past year? And of course, as with any “new beginning,” a time to prepare our soil for what is to come. The time to re-assure that our names will be re-inscribed in the great Book of Life, for another year, another season, as long as we are able to allow breath to move freely, in and out of our temples, these bodies that work so hard to maintain strength and health and balance as we walk our walks on this planet.
For me, this year in particular, is a time of “awe.” Awesome? Awe-ful? What was that huge cataclysmic, transformational “event” that happened this past year, called “cancer diagnosis” that changed my life forever? Did it really happen? Yes. My body is not the same. My energy is not the same (though some people seem relieved that perhaps my ultra-energizer batteries have been replaced by simply regular energizer batteries). I have to work harder to set boundaries in order to maintain my health and equanimity.
But as I sit in Albion, sun just beginning to warm the dry meadow and shed light on the fuzzy coats of the feeding deer, after a night filled with millions of stars, feeling the changes in the air, seeing the colors of the leaves slowly shift from greens to reds and golds and orange, I am SO GRATEFUL. I forgive the “betrayal” I felt towards my own body for having a genetic mutation that causes so much suffering. I am SO GRATEFUL, for the lessons learned, the time to slow down, forced as it was.
At a recent symposium on Ovarian Cancer, I spoke about what it was like to be a patient who is a nurse:
We are all in this boat together. We have different cell types, different stages, different protocols, different ways our bodies react to these medicines, different ways we incorporate illness and dis-ease into our daily lives. But we, who have had cancer, who have cancer, know something about the importance of living each day fully, in ways that others can imagine and talk about, but have not lived through in the same way.
At the end of my treatment phase, Michael Broffman, my Chinese Herbal doctor, said 2 very important things to me:
1—What you need now is a gentle recovery, as opposed to a drastic detoxification
2—To truly be healed, we must be transformed. The goal, in Chinese philosophy, is to be as unrecognizable as possible. Disrupting the past, the status quo.
CHANGE is imperative.
Cancer offers us the possibility of shedding a skin of who we were and in order to be truly healed, become someone new. New cells, new ideas about ourselves and about lives, and what we continue to HOPE for, new ways of being. I cannot be the workaholic I once was. I cannot focus 90% of my energy on helping others and only 10% on healing myself and staying healthy. I can’t say YES to every patient consult, every presentation, every one who needs me to do something right away! Learning to have much better boundaries is a huge lesson for me. Whether it’s at work, or in my personal life—I’m finding it’s really ok to say NO. (No, I don’t really want to go to that party; No, I don’t have the energy to go out; No, I really can’t have visitors this weekend).
Taking really good care of ourselves –through what we eat, how we exercise, the healing modalities we receive, the love we accept from others, the love we give to ourselves—all of these are critical to how we thrive for the rest of our lives.
We have been humbled and brought to our knees by our dis-eases and our treatments, and we have experienced different places in our beings that, when we dig down deep, we recognize as places that need to shift.
We learn from our mentors, from each other, and from the simple acts of kindness that we continue to experience day in and day out, if we allow them.
May this Season be one of blessings and awe, for everyone.
ALL THAT’S AHEAD OF ME
All that’s ahead of me,
I don’t know
How can I?
Such tight circles form the spirals
of this life
No straight lines
No breath is separate
From the one before it, or after
Each step allows us to see the very next one,
That is all
Not the illusions or circumstances
That lie beyond the curve of the path we walk
How can I know what is ahead?
I can imagine
I can wish
I can dream
I can hope
I can even plan
But ah, the suffering of humans that comes
with attachment to our plans
If I dig down deep
And come up slowly for air
What I know is this:
I must let the tides take me
I will never become a warrior in the battle against cancer
because I have no enemies whom I wish to defeat
I must allow the unfolding of life and love,
All the possibilities
I must develop acuity of listening
And to the inner workings
and complicated mechanisms
of the ticking timepiece
of my own heart