I purposely use a small "c" with cancer...it will never be a big "c" for me! I don't intend to give it any power. As many have said, I may have cancer, but it doesn’t have me.
The first time around, cancer was just something to deal with, something to get through and get past. I was too busy being a young mom and climbing the corporate career ladder. I had different priorities and important things to get back to.
The second time around, I woke up. I realized cancer was a messenger for me and I needed to heed the wake-up call to bring me to more awareness. Bring me to consciousness. This time I got it! I stopped everything and took a hard look at what I needed to change in my life. I looked at the obvious things – my diet, exercise, stress, and environment. I also looked at the not-so-obvious – my emotional and spiritual state, as well as my destructive behaviors.
I went cold turkey on my diet and cut out all meat, dairy & sugar, including alcohol. My life depended on it after all! I also restarted therapy and did the hard work of learning to love myself and recognize some of my behaviors for what they were, destructive.
I took an immediate leave of absence from work and cut out the stress of international work & travel. Luckily my kids were old enough that a focus on me was relatively easy, though the work itself was not. There were plenty of tears as I adjusted to my new lifestyle, but I can honestly tell you, it was worth all the work and tears. I am in a much better place and so much healthier in mind, body, and spirit than ever before.
How You Can Become Conscious
Perhaps you have already questioned how this challenge can be your teacher. Perhaps this is a new idea for you, but it resonates. Becoming conscious, waking up to the meaning in our life, is not a switch you can flip. It usually happens when life hands us a challenge or a crisis. It can be easier if we already have a spiritual practice that helps us to perceive this challenge or crisis in a different way.
Those who can see that the challenge is their path, rather than an obstacle on their path, are on their way to becoming conscious. They are the ones seeking meaning and purpose in life, and from the events and situations that happen to them. Those who want something more, but recognize it comes from within and from being in touch with the Divine, are more likely to understand the challenge as a wakeup call.
For those of us who need that nudge, or the hard push, it's not too late to learn. Taking time to quiet the mind, to just be. This is how we can go deep within – not into our minds, but into our souls, to listen to what our soul already knows. Introspection and thinking are useful, but we must go beyond the thinking mind to touch that place, that wisdom, deep within us that has a knowing. It is true that everything we need is already inside us. We are a spark of the Divine, so why not tap into that Divine place within to connect to the greater Divine all around us. Let that place inform you and guide you.
“Everything you need is already inside you” ~ Bill Bowerman
Recognizing that you are not your thoughts; you are the observer of those thoughts is also key. Use the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and others to find the observer of your thoughts. You can also take the advice of the bumper sticker that tells us “Don’t believe everything you think!” Robert Fulghum, the author of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” can be thanked for this bit of wisdom.
Our thoughts are on a rampage from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep. You are not your thoughts! Wouldn’t it be terrifying to have all of our thoughts known to others, to be defined as the sum of those thoughts? Yikes! That is scarier than realizing that what we say on social media when we are young will be out there forever!
Fortunately, our thoughts do not define who we are. We obviously do not act on all our thoughts, and some are pretty wild, horrible and downright disturbing! So, recognize that your thoughts are not who you are, or what you should believe. Find that still quiet observer within you and make time to listen to that part of you.
Resources and Actions
Start a practice of sitting quietly every day. Research tells us that 20 minutes of meditation is the sweet spot where we get the most benefit, but more or less time certainly has benefits as well. If 5 minutes is all you can do to begin, that is fine. Just start. You do not have to do formal meditation on a cushion with incense burning. Just start to practice and realize that it will always be a practice. You will likely never achieve an empty, quiet mind. I bet those monks that meditate 8 hours a day still have thoughts!!! The point is to notice the thoughts, be aware that you are having thoughts, and then let those thoughts float on by without following them or judging them. Just bring your mind back to your point of focus – the breath, a candle flame, a mantra, whatever works for you. There are endless apps, videos, and teachers that can help you learn to meditate. You can also find that quiet place in prayer, walking in nature, etc. Just watch your thoughts and practice reigning them in!
Practice finding the observer of your thoughts. If you are quiet, you can also notice that there is an observer within. Your true self, your soul is deep within you ready to guide you, but you have to wake up and understand that your mind is not in charge. There is something much greater and deeper than your mind. Guided imagery can help you find that place and that wisdom within. Again, there are many resources and teachers, like Eckhart Tolle and Zen masters.
Separate your thinking mind & the observer. When you feel a strong emotion or thought, acknowledge it, disidentify with it, and then take possession of a new thought. This will take practice. You will need to do this regularly to turn it into a habit.
Original thought – I’m nervous about my upcoming scans”
New thought – “I feel nervous about my upcoming scans.”
Original thought - “My scans are going to show more cancer.”
New thought - “My scans will show what they show. But I am having the thought that they will show cancer.”
Original thought – “I am lonely and depressed.”
New thought – “I am not lonely and depressed. I am feeling loneliness and depression.”
Original thought – “I hate my job.”
New thought – “I feel hatred toward my job.”
No matter where you are on your journey to health and healing you can learn new things and change your thoughts and perception. Doing this is worth the effort. It’s not too late to wake up and become conscious of the life your soul wants you to live.