Standstill – Hexagram 12 - Pi
How often do you voluntarily stand or sit still? Do you notice when your body says enough, time to stop? This week’s moment is the moment when things come to a halt, a standstill. It happens sometimes, a useful moment, though likely a disconcerting one, for most of us. Illness is a common way we receive this moment, this invitation to stop, to rest, to reconsider. It is not often a grand moment in that we are not often feeling our best when it happens. What comes into focus in that moment though, is the small indispensable details, the needs that can no longer be ignored. Getting a glass of water in this moment could be all that is possible, all that, indeed, is actually necessary. Yet, this simple relationship of you to your basic needs, ordinary as it may seem, is actually the pivot point for all our best choices.
This week, I want to introduce my client, Katharine, to you. The big stop moment for her came when she received a cancer diagnosis 20 years ago this year. We have been a part of each other’s lives for over 30 years and we have been journeying with her health for the better part of the last 25. I have, needless to say, learned a lot. And evolved in all kinds of ways in how I offer my work with health through our extraordinary relationship. This is just the beginning of the story. A moment that she has offered to share and that I am honored to be invited to share with you.
For twenty years cancer has been part of my life. After reviewing the pathology report, my surgeon called it a “garden variety” breast cancer. Not an aggressive form, and not to be ignored. For twenty years I have engaged in a dance with my body and the cancer cells - the now familiar cycles of confidence and worry, feeling better and feeling worse, forgetting about it and focusing intently on it, feeling fear and feeling ferocious commitment to enjoying every moment of my life. While I am regularly monitored, my only western medical intervention was surgery. I have employed Chinese herbs, acupuncture, supplements, bodywork, rest, and more.
Throughout the years, working with my mind and emotions has been important. I’ve never considered cancer my enemy because that skates too close to calling my body the enemy. I’ve always viewed my cancer as my body’s coherent response to the conditions it has faced. My path and practice is to rest in not knowing why, to explore and consider how I can help my body manage what’s going on, to accept my cycles of exertion and laziness around those choices, and to stay present in the uncertainty of whether or not my life will end soon.
It is time for me to talk and write about what I know. Time to stop calling myself just lucky, and to claim responsibility for the health and well-being that I currently possess. I have earned it with my effort and commitment. I have earned it by showing up, over and over, in the full experience of my life. I don’t have any answers for anyone else. But perhaps my stories can offer encouragement for other people facing disease or illness.
Next week, as we head into Summer, we’ll look at more of Katharine’s story, bringing the topics of Spring cleaning, detoxification, release, containment and adaptation into focus. For more on the topic of Chinese medicine and working with a cancer diagnosis, check out these two free offerings:
First is a 2-hour presentation called Getting to the Essence: Evolving with a Cancer Diagnosis given a few years ago in Halifax, Nova Scotia:
Second is a podcast with a Chinese medicine colleague, Michael Max, called Reckoning with the Essence: A Conversation on Cancer. It got deep and interesting!