Love Blooms in Murky Waters
There is a famous Zen story about two monks who were traveling together. One was an elder monk, the other a younger student. They came upon a stream with a strong current and as they prepared to cross they saw a beautiful young woman trying to cross. The elder monk offered to help and proceeded to carry her across the fierce waters to the river bank on the other side. The younger monk became very upset but didn't say a word. As they continued their travels the elder noticed the odd silence and inquired of his traveling partner, "Is something the matter, you seem very upset?" He replied "As monks we are not permitted a woman, how could you carry that woman on your shoulders?" The elder replied "I left that woman on the river bank a while back, but you seem to still be carrying her."
This illustrates for me the way I carry my own internal emotions and resentments. I realize this could go on for a lifetime if I were to allow it.
I wasn't fully aware of the extent at which I've remained stuck until recently when I realized that much like the young monk, I've been carrying the weight of things that have long since passed.
After my diagnosis, while I was researching healing therapies, I repeatedly came across information about the emotional aspect of healing cancer. I didn't doubt that my emotions could impact my health, surely we all understand the basic concept of the mind-body connection. But cancer….? Really? Yep. Really.
There was a study conducted at the Institute of Heart Math called "Local and Nonlocal Effects of Fear", where 28 researchers were given a vial containing their DNA. They were instructed to feel positive feelings such as gratitude, love and appreciation and direct those feelings toward the DNA vial. In response, the DNA relaxed, unwound and lengthened. Conversely, the researchers were then instructed to emit emotions such as stress, anger and fear and the DNA structures shortened, tightened and switched off some gene codes. (Its true, our genes do NOT determine our destiny). When they reverted back to emitting feelings of gratitude, love the DNA again responded by lengthening and relaxing.
Indeed, we are walking miracles. The more I researched the more I began to understand why my immune system became compromised and why my body responded the way that it has.
Unlike the monk, I wasn't carrying the weight of a beautiful young woman on my shoulders, I was carrying the weight of an emotionally wounded inner teenager, the weight of heavy "single-mom" worry, of financial lack and disconnection, the weight of knowing I had caused pain to those close to me over the years, the weight of a guarded heart that was barricaded after too much heartbreak and unrequited love. I carried all of this against the backdrop of my life, wondering why things weren't changing. The problem with carrying such a heavy burden is that one ends up living life just "going through the motions" mostly out of pure mental exhaustion. Creativity, spontaneity, vibrancy can not thrive in such conditions.
For me, this translated into a sort of automatic-pilot type living. I lived healthfully--according to the facts and textbooks but wasn't truly embarking on the journey of actually living and experiencing the vibrant pulse of health. I did my best to perform well at my job--but wasn't truly investing myself creatively for the sake of reaching my potential and helping the business thrive. I did my best to be a good wife and beyond the divorce a good girlfriend--but I wasn't able to truly open my heart and plunge in to the experience of union and see myself and the other person clearly for this weight became my own personal imprisonment. Even in my yoga practice for a time, I was reaching to attain a posture-- rather than embarking on the journey of learning the postures from the foundation up.
In essence, this can also be called "half-ass living"; a symptom of fear. Perhaps the only area of my life that I feel I have genuinely given of my heart, is in my journey as a mother. Perhaps because the experience is so immediate and demanding and I was determined to be the best mother I could be. Perhaps it was the one thing I was determined to succeed at. I'm still working to improve every day. Of course, I realize now, I am much more available to my daughter when I leave the excess weight at the river bank.
Once I set out on this journey to heal my body, both myself and my naturopath knew that this would not be a journey of just healing breast cancer. This would be a whole-istic approach and no amount of half-ass will get me through this one. Its about whole-ass living. Both cheeks fully on board.
"A breast cancer healing journey is very similar to that of a butterfly. You may start out having certain beliefs, habits, and lifestyles but if you open your heart and mind, and are patient, you will see that your journey is more than just healing your body physically. It is also about transforming the inner you. You will come to understand that your healing journey has a greater purpose--that you will emerge on the 'other side' as a happier, healthier, more-fulfilled and spiritual you." (Dr. Veronique Desaulniers
The past several weeks found me descending in to layers of myself that I had not encountered before and for a while there it was….murky. For the first time in my adult life I no longer have the notorius glass of wine to take the edge off. No buffer for this gal. Its a game changer for me and while yes, one day I look forward to striking that balance and imbibing ceremoniously with friends or a loving partner, right now its about choosing what will serve me in the highest way. Its not about 'easy', or convenient, or 'oh just this one time.' Those are just bullshit mind games my ego plays as a way to grasp at comfort. I finally know better. This is the real deal.
So, with the removal of said distraction, I've also been more available to finally dive in, look at my demons in the eyes and prepare to leave them by the riverside and say goodbye. A process that requires a fierce willingness to let go of the familiarity and illusion of comfort that old stories provide us. Strange, I know. But so often, we hold on to that which we know, even if its painful, in favor of jumping in to the unknown, even if it may set us free.
There is a dangerous habit that can take hold when trying to heal one's life; its called "woundology". This is when "you become victimized by your wounds and let the negative power of the pain control you---you become invested in the authority of your wounds as opposed to actually healing them." In essence, our wounds become our language and a bonding tool we rely on to connect with others. An example of this would be someone who joins a support group and 10 years later is still churning out the same issues but has not moved beyond it. Or perhaps this becomes the bonding tool when meeting someone new or maybe we make excuses in life about what we are or are not capable of. The journey of healing these wounds can just as easily become our cage.
When I looked back, I could see elements of this playing out in my life over the years as I had unconsciously absorbed other people's wounded story and made them my own. Until we heal ourselves, this is how things often roll. If there was ever a time to renounce those stories it would be now, for they were never mine to carry.
These stories foster separation and distance from life itself. It can seem safer to keep this distance because wrapped up within the hard shell of holding life at arm's length, there is the tender, vulnerable ache of self-doubt and potential pain and rejection. Only thing is, that's not living. Its merely existing.
I'm no longer content with this ineffectual game of playing it small. No longer am I willing to believe that because I don't hear from my father that something is inherently wrong with me. No longer am I willing to bow down to the notion that because I'm a single mom I must also live in financial lack. I no longer need to manage other people's emotions and conflicts around my decision to heal my body naturally. No longer am I content to keep this cage locked over my heart and not risk loving for fear of losing. For the bliss and joy is in the very act of loving with abandon, regardless of a 'happily ever after'. I'm willing to be here for myself where others can not. These days, even in the midst of the murky waters, I feel a love brewing. A love for myself that I tried so long to 'get' from others, ultimately I first needed to receive it from myself. this isn't a sugary, fluffy or egotistical love. This is a heart opening, resonant, down-on-my-knees, joyful-tears-in-my eyes, fierce, true love for the light that's in me; in everyone. Its a recognition and a respect. From here, love blooms even brighter for this beautiful life. This gorgeous earth.
“You have to live spherically - in many directions. Never lose your childish enthusiasm - and things will come your way.” (~Federico Fellini)
So here I am. In between. Lost and maybe not quite yet found in translation. Leaps of faith every day. No longer am I the woman I was prior to this diagnosis. She is gone, assimilated in to this morphing that's undeniably taking place. However, I am not yet the woman I know I am evolving into. That journey is underway. I am en route but not yet arrived. This is not just about self improvement. This is about showing up fiercely for my self. For my life. For my healing.