e/u: meditation. mindfulness. equanimity.

Blog

Posts in life stuff
First came cancer

First came cancer...

As of a couple weeks ago, I got through my first check post-cancer: all signs point to negative. No abnormalities. No cancer. While I knew my chances for good results were high, I also held my breath. I think that maybe that’s what happens after any major health crisis. Things start to trigger worry well before they ever would have before. I’m not as worried about my next check and I know that each after will feel a little better.

While my cancer was “easy” to take care of, in certain ways, it has also been quite the opposite. I know my body is still in the process of letting go of the trauma it suffered through surgery. My mind is at least finally starting to shift gears into what is coming next… All while also thinking of those who are still suffering or who have passed. It’s not fair. I didn’t understand unfairness until cancer.

Cancer arrived for Chris around the time it came for me. Chris was a dear and special man. He left his body in April after a six month journey through medical treatment, physical ailment, and yet also the most profound examples of love and care. At least that’s what it all looked like from here. I felt lucky to know him and also I felt the deep unfairness of the disease that treated us so differently. There are no words to express how much I wish we were both okay.

Then came grief...


I didn’t know what I would mourn in my experience with cancer, but it seemed as if there was nothing off limits: my uterus, my plans, the changes in my relationship, the way nothing gets to be the same.

Shortly after Chris passed, I was heavy in so much loss. In talking with other people about grief, it occurred to me that there is no bottom that I have seen. It is as if grief gets a hold of you and opens the door a little, lets you experience the dark, and then each time it grows. The death of my father at four was a small window into the room. I watched other people cry and wondered what was happening. The passing of grandparents, the end of relationships, various deaths and loss that we all see in life take us on different journeys with grief. Then something like cancer comes and is a storm that blows the doors off the building.

But the grief doesn’t have to be… whatever it is that we seem to believe it to be in this world. It would be cliche to call it a gift, but grief does bring party favors. Some of them are not so great, like the inexplicable crying at random moments in the day, for instance, or the wide array of grief coping skills that aren’t the healthiest. On the other hand, grief can bring clarity. Grief brings you low, but it can also give you the tools to build. We all reach that (or don’t) in different ways.

And now...

Now, life moves along. The plans I had made won’t work on the same timeline, but I am making new plans and new timelines. My body isn’t the same body that it used to be, but it’s still mine and I’m learning to love and accept the differences. If you thought that just being present in your daily life was something, try being present in a world where your body is decidedly different than it was six months ago and not by choice. Or maybe just sitting with the knowledge that your very own cells started their own little rebellion against you.

Now, I’m grateful all the time for the strength of my relationships. I try to remember regularly the love and well wishes and good thoughts that went with me into the operating rooms and the doctor’s appointments. Before all this, I’m not sure I had ever felt that palpable sense of the care of others, but there it was.

Now, I can see different perspectives on grief and illness and loss. I can see life a little differently. Every day, we take for granted that next breath and I do often feel the wash of gratitude for just breathing and feeling the sun. What would life be like if we just had that sense of gratitude or that recognizing the next breath is here! And this one! And the next!

What a life. Unfairness and gratitude. Sickness and health. Living and dying.

Buddhism teaches us that a human birth is rare. I don’t think I could agree with that idea more from this side of things.


Note: Patrons received this blog early. Want early access? Check out the Patreon.

2019: the first and next six months

Hello and happy… 2019?

Almost six months in and I don’t know where the time has gone. In the past few months, I’ve seen fluctuations in almost every aspect of my life: finances, employment, health, time, etc. One thing I haven’t seen fluctuations in? Practice.

Okay. That’s not true either. Total transparency: I have a practice every day, but that practice may vary. Am I only doing seated meditation? Am I doing mantra? Walking? Some of all three? Fluctuations everywhere.

January through March felt like times of hibernation and attempts to heal. In January, I received good news from the doctor with all my restrictions cleared and a six month follow-up schedule planned out. But cancer wasn’t far away. At the end of February, a friend passed away from a cancer she’d been fighting for years. Barely a month later at the beginning of April, a dear, dear man also passed away from a cancer he was diagnosed with around the same time as I was. It has felt like my heart’s been breaking for awhile now. 

As life goes, nothing stays the same and it hasn’t all been sad. I took my Buddhist refuge vows in March, officially dedicating myself and my life to working toward compassion and the benefit of all beings. In April, I had the good fortune to attend a retreat with Yoga on High focused on talking about death.  Aside from the grief of those passing, I have had the grief of my own losses and cancer experiences. We probably all have losses of many kinds that we have grieved over, maybe never healed from. The retreat was an amazing weekend with a group of women that I will never forget. It brought much into focus for me, including future endeavors (a whole other blog by itself…). In May, I was treated to some good concerts and things that made me feel more like “me” again.

So what about the next six months?

I am so lucky to be partnering up with my dear friend at Pinned Acupuncture + Wellness to have a little space for individual meditation and reiki sessions. I can’t tell you how special this little nook in the world is and I hope you’ll come see. Walking meditation and Meditate614 classes are in season too! I’m still working on the Patreon and I’ve got a few other things up my sleeve and coming soon.

I’m finally planning out and gearing up to tackle my acupuncture board exams. I hope to have these completed in the fall so that I can start practicing and sharing this medicine that has helped me so much.

My first six month check is upon me and I know that can throw a wrench in all these plans. I’d love to tell you that my practice is keeping me from worry and it is, but I know that life has its ways. I’m happy to be moving in new directions and to see what comes next.

I have a lot more to say, but that’s for next time.

I hope you are taking good care.


Patrons get early blog access. Find out more about supporting my work and becoming a patron: Patreon.

Learning to Swim

Between getting the cervical cancer diagnosis and my first surgery, I went a little crazy. Maybe no one is surprised by that given the circumstances, but I kind of have been in retrospect.

We take all of this time to train in meditation, to get to know our ups and downs, to bring more awareness to the ebb and flow of life as well as our feelings and reactivity. We think maybe… just maybe… we have some sort of handle on something. Then a big thing hits and BAM. We find ourselves spinning anyway. What was all that time even for?

Well… imagine if I hadn’t done all of that training already. I may have slipped straight off the side and into the deep end without knowing any swim techniques. As it was, I still had things to keep me afloat, even if the water was just about at head height and I was on my tippy toes. I may be mixing some water metaphors here, but hopefully you get what I’m saying.

All of that said, I really did surprise myself in the ways I did not go crazy. Facing a surgery of any kind, I tend to be a bit nervous and scared (as can be understood). Anesthesia is no joke and having anyone take a knife anywhere (especially into the most sensitive parts of your body) is not something you wake up hoping happens on just any random day.

But the surgery was not random. I waited six weeks between my first procedure/diagnosis and that first surgery. My body had to heal in between. As those six weeks came to a close, I started to feel a rather strange calm. I was working with my breath in some way every day. The day of the surgery, I didn’t cry or find myself worrying too much. I took a few quiet moments to myself as I changed from my clothes to the hospital gown. Any time my heartbeat started to go up on the monitor, I tuned into my breath and brought myself back to a more regular speed. I hadn’t lost it completely after all.

As I’ve gotten back around to my Regularly Scheduled Meditation Practice (and not just taking the bits and pieces the day gives me), it has also been good to feel the roots extending again. This week, I’ll find out more about the next surgery I’ll have (“the big one” as I like to call it) and I’m hoping I can do things a little differently this time. As in, maybe not lose my mind quite so much to begin with. There are still hard things to come, but what an experience to see how it all goes and find out in new ways how the tools and practices and little bits of magic fit in.

It's Not About You

The title of this post is a phrase that I think about a lot.  I think about it in traffic when someone cuts me off.  I think about it when I find something that a person does annoying or when someone is rude. I take a breath and remember: it's not about me.  

 

Because it probably isn't.  99% of the time, we take things personally when they don't have anything to do with us.  We get upset at someone in the movie theater using their phone as if it is a personal insult. We rage in traffic because someone won't let us merge. We get angry at our spouse because they forgot to pick up the bread. We get riled up about the opinions of strangers on the Internet. We take everything so personally when it isn’t meant to be.

 

So then what if it isn't about us?  Well, if we can see that, we can see the space between the action, the person acting, and ourselves. In that space, we have room to recognize and then let go of the anger or upset.  We can stretch out there and make the space for the reality of the situation.  Someone cuts you off? Maybe they didn't see you. It doesn't mean that they're a jerk whose sole purpose in life is to make you miserable. A store clerk doesn't help you? Maybe they're getting pulled in ten different directions by other customers, not making a judgment on you as a person. You never know the whole story of someone else or what their reality is like.  Why? Because it's not about you.   

 

Does this idea excuse someone's poor behavior? No.  It doesn't mean that you shouldn't confront someone who insults you or that you shouldn't say "hey, that really upset me.” It also doesn’t give you a free pass to treat others poorly. It just means that you don't have to take everything personally, so you don't have to carry the weight of it and pass that onto other people. Snapping at someone in traffic easily leads to snapping at people in your office or at home who had nothing to do with it.  It weighs heavily on your well-being to take these things on as personal affronts every single time.  

 

We've all had these encounters (both on the giving and receiving end) and our self-involved society has convinced us that everything is about us.  What if it's not? What if there can be that space where it isn't about you? What if we can just breathe and live in that space where compassion and understanding reside?