Once you have crawled through the shards of glass associated with a cancer diagnosis, just learning how to live with the thoughts and emotions of a “possible reoccurrence” requires in my opinion, and in no order, self-love, spiritual practices, loving and supportive connections, gratitude, affirmations, a positive attitude, life affirming choices, courage, faith, hope, trust and the strength to accept what is.
Recently, during a routine breast exam, the doctor said, “hmm, I’m not sure what this is here in your breast” followed by, “and I think it would be a good idea for you to have a scan.” Instantly very familiar and unwanted feelings of fear, masked as panic, hijack my nervous system. Within seconds of hearing her words the heart is pounding, palms are sweating, breath is shallow, legs wobbly and the earth beneath me feels like it is gone. I’m groundless. Sitting on the edge of the exam table naked, staring at stirrups and now clutching a yellow ill-fitting paper gown I am suddenly no longer a strong, resilient, courageous 65 years old woman. Instead, in this moment, I am a very young little girl who feels frightened, confused and abandoned. In this moment there is zero evidence of a reoccurrence of cancer - just the reoccurrence of familiar fear-based thoughts and feelings around my own mortality.
Once home I am given the courage to take my seat in meditation led by my determination not to abandon this little kid inside of me. She is scared to death. I pretend to carry a flashlight and move from my head towards my heart. I ask in the silence while shining this flashlight into my heart, “what is in there?” I ask over and over, “what is in there, who is in there, what do I need to know, is there something, anything that I need to learn? What are you trying to tell me? Who am I even talking to?” No response. There are no words.. but, I “notice” a feeling – a tightness around my heart and it hurts. I mean really hurts. This is why I don’t want to meditate! What is this pain - is it grief? Is it …..? I try to turn away – I’m not staying here – this is too much to feel - but, I don’t. Miraculously I tap into courage, and I can’t describe what courage feels like in words. It fills my Being. Was it always there I wondered? “Yes” I hear in the silence, courage is always with you. I Am always with you. Every single time you turn towards what you fear Colleen you generate more and more courage. Wow – that’s a lot to learn from one heart exploration meditation! Tears begin to flow and keep flowing and I sit and simply allow. The silence guides me to breathe deeper - only this time to breathe in and out from my heart. I have a name for the silence –Spirit – sometimes I say Holy Spirit. The light from my flashlight seems to be expanding. I stay for a few more moments because suddenly I NEED to stay in this space. The constriction around my heart seems to ease and a sense of peace washes over me. My shoulders drop and breathing becomes deeper. Familiar feelings of being safe and connected to something very powerful within reoccurs in the stillness.
I return to my seat the next day to begin again. Holy Spirit fills me with grace and the perfect amount of concentration and courage to sit with all the messiness. Once again I connect to my silent witness who is watching thoughts come and go. In this holy space of silence, Spirit reminds me that nothing is permanent, nothing. Everything is in constant change. This body, the one that I am gifted to live in, is indeed a temporary dwelling. Suddenly I can hear the whispers of my heart – “you are not your body, you are not even your mind.”
You were never born and you will never die. Wow. I delight in the consciousness I have tapped into.
Mysteriously the tightness around my heart releases. I feel my heart softening. There seems to be a beam of light illuminating my entire heart area. That’s when I “see” something. A crack. Actually, looking deeper, I notice there are many cracks. I am left with an understanding that they have reoccurred due to loss. And, in that moment Holy Spirit whispers, “don’t be afraid of the cracks in your heart Colleen – for as long as you stay in connection with me, continue to love and keep your heart open, cracks will reoccur. But, know and trust this, that’s how the light gets in.”
I bow in gratitude with the reoccuring knowing that I Am fully alive. All is well. I am safe. Only good will come from this situation.
And so it is.