Thursday, February 28, 2013

On completing chemo, and thoughts on healing journeys

We leap from the lion’s head on trembling legs. We breathe deep of belief, and crest into the clouds with wings we are only barely beginning to grow. We step off the cliff with no idea what’s below, if anything at all. We dive in at the deep end with absolutely no guarantees that this thing we’ve chosen will work. We embrace what will be hard, maybe even impossible, and grow it in our hearts, knowing that this is the thing that stands between us and death. 

In the process, we can become faithful, faith-filled creatures. We can begin to carry a bag of this essence with us everywhere we go, and hold it gentle as a baby bird, not wishing to crush it or see it flutter away. We can hold it and hold it and hold it, never grasping. We can see that we get the opportunity to hold it for the rest of our lives, so that it is always available to draw upon or to give a bit away to others who may need something similar themselves.

We can still have moments when we get depressed, furious, crazed, confused, frightened, stressed out, worried, doubtful. We all have our moments. This is how it should be. The good news is, we have easier access now to the antidote than we did before. Reach back into the bag of your essence. Breathe. All is well. Honor the dark. Embrace it all. It exists so that we can remember the glory of the light.

This is what healing can be like. This is why it can change you -- if you honor it, if you love it, if you are vulnerable to it -- forever. And, I don’t just mean physical healing. I mean any kind of healing journey that you may find yourself on. There is always the opportunity to love yourself a little more, to care just a bit more for some piece of your beautiful, unique soul, to take the next step in creating something magical that is just waiting to emerge from your heart.

No matter how much faith you had before, no matter how much belief played a role in your life, in an instant, it can shift to become even greater. You can shift. You may find you are no longer solely faithful in an unseen force who you hope can do FOR you, but rather, you may discover you are now awake to that force and your ability to co-create alongside it in a new way, immersed in it, at one with it. You may find you create your reality day by day, in love and in faith, knowing that truly, all is well, no matter how it may look or feel. You may find it looks exactly the opposite for you. Or, that it has an entirely different flavor all together. 

For me, 5 months after “the diagnosis”, my life looks like an ever-expanding rainbow of co-creation, and it feels like a deep ocean of gratitude to still be here putting my bare feet on the floor every morning, and to know, I’ll get the chance to do that at least a little bit longer.

Yesterday, I finished the final 8th of 8 chemo treatments. In a short while, there will most likely be a little more surgery, and then, around 7 weeks of radiation therapy will begin. 

This journey of healing beyond triple negative breast cancer is not a short one, and at the same time, in the grand scheme of the universe, it happens in the blink of an eye. As one of my doctor’s teased, “We cut you, then we poison you, and finally we irradiate you!” 

In addition to the conventional Western healing methods, there will be more Reiki, more yoga, more cardio, more shamanic healing, more meditation, more green juice and raw food, more soul work. Beyond that will be years of living in faith and hope: knowing that all is well, believing that I am can’t-sir free, honoring my body wisdom when others around me have way less certainty and a bucketful of doubt. There will be moments of the exact opposite of all this, and there will be moments of reaching into that faith-filled bag to return to center. And through it all, all is well.

Ahead of me, I see another cliff, and there is no bridge and no viable means of crossing, but when I reach to touch my shoulder blades, I can feel those nubbins of wings, and I know it’s all good. 

I have accepted that there will not be a point any time soon when someone supporting my physical healing declares, “That’s it! You’re there. You’re can’t-sir free!” They just don’t tell you stuff like that in the early days. And it’s all early days until it isn’t.

I’m learning to be really, really good with this. First of all, it reminds me that the time of allowing anyone else to declare anything about me that could affect my awareness of my self, of my identity, of my healing, of my own body, is something that lives in the past. We learn to live our lives waiting for a stamp of approval from someone else on just about everything we do, even the smallest things like proper eyebrow shaping, but really, is any of that what gives us the sense of calm peace that we so crave? Or is it just one way we’ve learned first to disempower ourselves, and then, to shortcut doing our work? Second, I understand that I have the power to describe my health and my wholeness, and anything else about myself, using any words I choose, and unfold a life fueled by that awareness. So I choose to do that. I choose to do the work, or as the actor and Zen student Jeff Bridges suggests, I choose to blend play and work and do the “plork”. I see I’m lucky I get to be here at all to make a choice at all. What a magical, unimaginable gift is the power of choice.

There is truly no destination in this game, only a journey that spirals on. Yesterday was a milestone on one piece of my journey, and I chose to celebrate it. Today, I choose to keep celebrating, for just as yesterday contained its milestone, so today will have its own, and so tomorrow will have its own again. It’s important to take that time to savor, to enjoy, to relish the fabric and texture of our lives. For I know that so very soon, I will indeed stand on the edge of the next cliff, take a deep, full breath, and leap once again into the unknown, winging away into that great space that holds so much possibility and potential.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Reiki for Transforming Pain and a Practice for Being Love

As part of my journey as a Reiki practitioner, I do a daily self-healing practice, which I believe contributes enormously to my overall health and well-being. Every day my practice is a little different, and every day I learn something new about myself and the contribution I am here to make. These are just two of the things I just love about Reiki and tuning into a regular self-Reiki practice.

During this morning’s self-Reiki healing session, as I now do each morning, I focused on reinforcing my body experience as one of being in perfect health. Keep in mind that I believe an important piece of “perfect health” -- particularly when we're experiencing something that feels less than perfect -- is recognizing that we may not yet even understand what “perfect” even looks like. We might already actually be experiencing it, even if it doesn't feel like it! Just like so much of life’s journey, belief that such a state exists and is accessible to us is all that is really required. 

This morning, in addition to traditional hand placements and use of Reiki symbols as I felt called, I visualized Reiki energy rebalancing each of my chakras and deliberately creating an environment inside my body that transcends and transforms my understanding and experience of pain.

As you know from this blog, my journey of late has included some pretty intense joint pain thanks to Taxol chemotherapy, so I also focused on creating a specific visualization in which I imagined Reiki energy clearing away old, crusty energies inside each of my joints. As each joint cleared, I visualized it filling with a violet-blue cushion -- lovely little velvet pillows made of light that can live and provide relief inside my hips, under my kneecaps, inside my ankles, wrists, fingers and toes. I then imagined wrapping each one of my large joints in rainbow-light colored “tapes” that can be loosened or tightened at any time as my body needs different kinds of support as I move throughout my day. For me, this combination felt like a very practical activation of Reiki energy into the physical areas I have been experiencing pain, and it was immediately soothing. I experienced a real reduction in the amount of pain in my joints.

On the intuitive side of things, as I went through my practice, I also asked for guidance about what I could do for others in pain. I believe that any pain or illness I’m experiencing -- particularly when there is increased intensity to it -- is a signpost of the work I am here to do as a healer, and represents an opportunity to explore new ways to contribute to our shared healing as a planet. So I see that all of the work I am doing for myself on this can't-sir journey is really something I extend into the world as one contribution I can make to our overall growth and healing.

The intuitive guidance I received in response was: “Your only job is being more love into this world.” It's not the first time I've gotten this message. And I admit, it confounds me every time. I found myself asking, “being?” or “”bringing?” I was really longing to DO something physical and active about this! Like, give me a pick and shovel, baby, because I am READY to dig some holes and move some mountains! And, since I've been talking a little about this power of love thing lately here on the blog, I felt like perhaps I was being called to DO something more, something bigger. And somehow, for a moment at least, “bringing” seemed like the only way to get where I thought the universe wanted me to go. (Don't we always love to make it hard on ourselves?!) But, the word “being” would not shift, so I decided to go with it and drop my apparent hang-up around "bringing."

I asked what “being” might look like. And oh, lucky me, I got an answer with a kind of a doing component after all! The message that came through in my subconscious was clear: begin every interaction -- and particularly any I’m fearful of, worried about, doubtful about, feel may be difficult, or suspect may contain elements of conflict or aggression -- with the silent or spoken words, “I love you.” And, keep saying it silently as the interaction proceeds, no matter what may transpire. 

The hit I got tells me this goes for every interaction with others, and also with self. Dreaming a big dream? Start with, "I love you." Conceiving a new project? Start with, "I love you." Worried about how you're going to make enough money this year? Start with, "I love you." Scared to talk to someone? Start with, "I love you." Feeling guilty and upset for being angry with that lady at the bank? Start with, "I love you." And don't stop. Keep up with the love as each worry, doubt, fear or guilt comes rolling over you. 

I found this to be a really simple message, but a powerful one, and wanted to share it here. It was my strong impression that this approach will help my own healing, as well as that of those I interact with, and is needed more now than ever. 

What does it bring up for you? Have you received intuitive hits of your own that you’re exploring as you go about self- or other- healing practices you’re engaged in and want to share? Have you ever started an interaction from a place of love, and if so, have you noticed a difference in the energy or results?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

V-Day: Share the Love

Ah, Valentine’s Day. A day of love and delicious candy conversation hearts and, oh yeah, plenty o’ commercialism and angst. 

After a rough few weeks, thanks to a killer combo of Western and Holistic healing, I’m back almost to normal. At least normal for Week 14 of chemo treatment. For me that’s showing up like a crazy combination of weird body symptoms including ten numb fingers and a matching set of toes, mood swings that take me from super happy to super grumpy in less than 3 seconds, exciting hot flashes complemented by freezing cold arctic cooling trends, and a severe craving for cookies. Any kind of cookie. As long as it comes in pairs. Or triples. Or quads. Ok, I admit it, mostly quads. (Note: Please do not send cookies when you read this. There are literally no fewer than 100 cookies in my kitchen waiting to be consumed. No. More. Cookies. Needed. Remember, despite this ridiculous craving, I’m supposed to be avoiding the sugar. Thank you.)

As I emerge back into the post-fever, post-pain world, I have been thinking so much about love. V-Day seems like the perfect day to talk a little about it. 

Because these last few weeks have been so much about love. Even though it wasn’t at all my intention to focus on my symptoms in my last post, and my writerly goal was just to use them as part of the narrative to share the learning they’d produced for me, so many people read my last post and reached out to me to let me know how much they were thinking about me. 

Other folks who don’t read my blog heard from others that I was having a bit of a rough go found ways to reach out too. I had so much Reiki flowing my way, it was fantastic. All my nurses and doctors were so supportive and quick to respond to my calls, and the reception staff at my treatment clinic remembered my calls in and the first thing they asked this week when I showed up for chemo was how I was feeling. I had flowers and cards and calls and emails and texts from folks, sharing their love, letting me know they were praying for me, telling me positive energy was flowing my way, offering their support. I shared the most amazing yoga practice with my yoga teacher Jen, and the most incredible Reiki session with my Reiki Master Denise. As always, my hubs was beyond amazing, supporting me through it all every day in every possible way with his quiet, steady love and support. 

All of this loving, caring, compassion flowed over and under and through me like a huge wave, washing clean all the pain and suffering I’d had the opportunity to experience. It literally brings tears to my eyes just to think of it. I am so grateful to everyone. 

I share all this because what it brought up for me was the intense reminder that love is available to us, all of us, in every moment. There is so much love out there just waiting to be unleashed. We are, each of us, a channel and conduit of divine love, of source love, of the very heart and core of this universe, at which I believe is a goopy, soupy, rainbow-colored wellspring of love, always available, always full. 

Your friends, your family, your posse, even complete strangers, are full up of love. And, they are just waiting to share it with you. No, not just waiting. They are overflowing with love, and they are longing to share it. Our capacity to feel love and offer it to others is one of the greatest gifts we possess, and we know this, inherently. Yet we so often struggle to know how to express it, and so it builds in us and builds in us until we practically drown in it ourselves. Until we go about our days silently suffering ourselves, gurgling away with unexpressed love and compassion for those we see around us stuffing up our throats, feeling helpless to know what to do or say.

So often when we are having a down day or week or month or year, we bottle it up. It is so tempting to believe that no one understands, no one cares. That we are All Alone. It is a terrible spiral slide to be on. If you stay silent, if you suffer alone, if you never reach out even just to share a word of how it’s going or one small thing you might need, you will most likely keep sliding until you reach the sand at the bottom. And, that’s a real drag. Because then you’ve got sand in your shorts, a big old ladder you’ve got to climb all the way back up to start again, and, unfortunately, you still feel as awful as you did the whole way down.

So my great reminder over these last few weeks was two-fold: we have an opportunity to fix this equation. 

If you are suffering, share. It’s useful to do your very best to come from a loving heart, a place of learning and growth, not a pity party place, if you can. But wherever you’re at, start there. Stand in your truth, open your heart, and share. This goes if you are in the midst of your low, or if you are in the midst of your love. Meaning, whatever side of the equation you find yourself on -- having some challenges or wanting to share some support for someone else -- be open, be vulnerable, be loving, and share. There isn’t a right or wrong way in these moments. Don’t overthink it. Just share from a loving place.

One of the greatest gifts I had these last few weeks was when a dear friend shared how much she values me and our friendship and we told each other we loved one another. Just that open, heartfelt expression of love opened up so much space for us in our friendship, and gave me such an intense feeling of heart healing. To hear that I was so cherished and valued from one I already knew loved me, to hear it and feel it in the midst of my own healing, was a powerful gift that I knew immediately was leading me towards more healing, towards more growth, towards more love. Her courage to share her love gave me the courage to share my own for her. Suddenly no one was on the spiral slide, no one's throat was stopped up. We were in the flow, and it felt wonderful and whole to just be. 

I’ve read articles that say it’s not okay to want to hear you’re loved, or it’s not necessary to tell others you love them. That all this is some kind of expression of co-dependence and ego. I may be totally un-evolved, but I think that’s bullshit. I think we give each other a great gift when we share honestly and without expectation that we love each other. I certainly don’t think it does any permanent damage. And even if I'm wrong, I'll still argue that writing a loving card, sending a caring text or saying, "I love you" is a heck of a lot better than the usual negative, depressed, complaining stuff that comes out of our mouths 90% of the time as we drive around asleep at our metaphysical wheel. 

So, my wish for this special day is that we may all experience and be willing to gift others with these types of loving, compassionate experiences. For we are all of us healing and growing and learning to love ourselves a little more every day, and I think we need all the help we can get. It is easier to do all this life journey stuff with a posse. I think every day is a wild, incredible, unexpected journey to be on. And it’s useful to remember we are not driving, or riding in, the bus of life alone.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. My heart is full of love and gratitude for you all.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Taxol, Wild Donkeys and How We Be Through It

I’ve mentioned along the way of this journey that, absolutely, A/C chemo isn’t easy. Candidly, Taxol (“T”) has been even tougher for me, which the doctors say isn’t usually the case. Voila, more evidence that treatment is a very, very, personal journey, and no one size fits all, so no need to carry any story forward that isn’t your own.

There’s no doubt in my mind that chemo tests you, mind, body and soul. It is a big decision to have it. It’s a big decision to stay with it. And, every day, it’s a big decision about how you’re going to be with what lies before you.

As I navigated some “typical” symptoms of pain, fatigue and numbness and a really interesting newfound ability to walk like an ancient, dying troll (thank you, Taxol, for the awesome, awkward joint pain!) after my first T treatment, I also spiked a 102 degree fever for 6 days, the result of some mysterious secondary infection acquired along the way. 

Walking, or rather hobbling, down the Taxol path, my goal has remained constant: hold myself and this treatment with love and light, and find a path through whatever comes that embraces ease, even in the midst of, “Holy crap! This feels really, really hard!” 

How do you find ease when your body is on fire? How do you find love when your mind is locked on pain? When your entire world seems to be made of one dimly glowing red ball of suffering, is there even a path back to the light? When you can’t even move, let alone think, can you really manage a way to something more?

On Day 5 of my first T treatment, I was spiking yet another morning fever and my vision was black and blurred and full of stars. My ears pounded with dizzy blood and I couldn’t get a half, let alone a full, breath into my lungs. Over the last several days, I had also come to an uncomfortable awareness that something had shifted in me: I was inhabiting this wreck of a body, and this body was doing its very best to fight the can’t-sir and heal and get well from the treatment, but my spirit was struggling. Inside this dark feverish place, I was clinging to roots, trying to find one with a tough enough center to hold. It was like riding a wild donkey in an ocean of melting jello. Each time I thought the final wave had hit, another shivered right behind. It seemed as if there could be no purchase. I felt as if my soul had come un-cinched. I felt as if my spirit were adrift.

My practical nature says, these are the times that call for tactics. I believe that to move beyond suffering, to move through pain, to create the life we seek in each moment, requires discipline and a solid set of tools. So I started to pull all of mine out. I could pray. I could meditate. I could do affirmations. I could do self-Reiki. I could invite support and help. I could do yoga. I could do visualizations. I could get some coaching. I could sleep. I could drink green juice. I could, at least to some degree, and so I did, all these things. And, yes, they helped. Each one, like pulling a tiny red thread, helped just a bit to move me through.

But there was still a problem. I was still adrift. 

It has been my experience that in the deepest shifting places, there is really only one way through: do one thing, the very simplest thing before me. Do just that one thing, really, and encourage myself to be 100% present to it, allowing no distractions.

The morning of Day 5, I decided that one thing I could do was walk to the kitchen, let the dog out, and get her a biscuit. I thought I had the energy for this. Even if I was totally dizzy, even it wasn’t easy, I told myself I’d do this with ease. I was wrong. I bent my dizzy head down to get the biscuit and came straight up into the spice rack with a huge smash and crash. 

As I stood there rubbing my injured noggin, I realized, aha! An opportunity! It wasn't the biscuit fetching that had been my one thing. This was my real chance. A chance to do the one, simplest thing --  really, really -- no ego, no gladhanding, no pushing through. This was the chance to do precisely what was available to me in that moment, 100%. And so, I sat down at the kitchen table and for a few moments, I just cried. 

This wasn’t a pity party cry. This wasn’t a poor me cry. This wasn’t a dear-God-make-it-go-away-and-I’ll-be a-better-person bargaining cry. (Lord knows, I gave up on any form of bargaining months ago when this whole triple negative thing showed up in the first place!) This was simply a cry. A cause and effect cry. Like the kind of crying I used to do when I was a child: smash your head, feel that it hurts, cry and shake and rock away, and gradually, infinitesimally, feel the relief as it spreads over your bones and the pain begins to recede into memory. This was the kind of cry that reunites spirit and skin. I can't remember the last time I had a cry like that.

I think that acknowledging the moment of pain and being able to separate it from suffering is, in itself, a vital tool to reach through what is difficult and carve away the shadows. My learning was that finding your way to ease and back to center is sometimes less about great mental acrobatics and self-help techniques, and more about what is essential and what is visceral. It’s about asking, what is here for me now, really, no shit? And being willing to hear the answer, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you.

I think I forget that sometimes. That there is really nothing to do, nothing that wants doing at all. That all is in right and perfect order, all the time. And that rather than a need to do, there is simply someone I need to be willing to be, in all her crusty, dizzy glory. The wonderful surprise is that this someone is available to me in every minute of every day, no matter how wild the donkey, no matter how strange the ride. I just have to settle down and let her show up.