To Release or To Contain
Summer is here and this week I'm taking a short break from talking about the hexagrams to share more of my client Katharine's story. Her theme and mine today is the notion of when and whether you might choose to release, contain or adapt to something that you discover in yourself. In some ways, though Katharine's story is about her work with a cancer diagnosis, you could apply this idea to anything that you discover that you might feel is toxic or unwelcome in your body and experience. One of the ways I like to talk and think about this is the analogy of the trash. Trash accumulates, waste happens. In some cases you can take it right out. In others, you may put it aside to take out later. Though most often trash is stuff you don't want anymore, sometimes you find that you have thrown away something that you wish you hadn't. Or you discover that you threw something out by mistake. Either way there comes a time to take the trash out. Taking the trash out to the curb is analogous to release. Keeping the trash in a cool spot in the garage or in the shed is analgous to containment. Adding a shed in the yard when the space in the garage is full is analogous to adaptation. All of these are reasonable ways of dealing with "stuff".
The question of when you would want to release, contain or adapt in a given circumstance is extremely personal. And it is very closely tied to what your body is willing or able to do at a given time. Our culture, especially our culture around medicine, can definitely show a preference for release when something is named as toxic. Cancer cells, even though they are, in fact, your very own cells, are especially vulnerable to this notion. Immediately we want to get rid of them. As you can see from Katharine's story, there are actually many options and many ways to work with the situation. And as she says your body is "brilliant and beautiful" in how it can lead the way.
Summer is a great time to consider what you might wish to release, what you might wish to contain and keep and how you might adapt to what life presents. Release and adaptation are amply supported in the Summer by lots of warmth and light. In contrast, containment will require more rest and coolness, so you might want to buy more air conditioners if that is your choice for this season. If you have trouble deciding which is best for you, check out The Blueprint for Change, where you and I can take a close look at your health together and outline all your options.
I hope you'll enjoy hearing more of Katharine's story and look forward to more on the hexagrams next week.
To Release or To Contain
I want to be very careful to say that I do not value release over containment or adaptation! It has become one of those things that release is always a good thing. Words like cleanse and detox and so on are based on the assumption that we all need to get rid of the bad stuff. I question that and feel it can be dangerous. Here’s why.
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer I headed into the lumpectomy surgery with the strong invitation for my body to release what needed to be released. I also changed my diet and began many courses of herbs and supplements, Chinese medicine style. AND I GOT REALLY SICK! Jaundiced in particular. Essentially I overwhelmed the capacity of my body to process what was released and my liver freaked out!
It took me a couple of years to regain my energy after that. It was my first round of learning to really truly rest. I’ve had many more. The strategy shifted to supporting my body in containing the cancer. And the focus of my intention became preventing metastasis by not giving those wandering cells a place to land, physically, emotionally or in any other way.
It is natural to want to be rid of the things that cause us pain or scare us, whether cancer, emotions, trauma reactions, whatever. I had a lot of flash cards at the beginning of the cancer journey and one said the following. It was from one of Josephine's colleague's:
“I trust your symptoms. I am not going to take them away from you. They are your teachers.”
It is from this outlook that I question the inclination to value release over containment or adaptation or whatever you want to call it. In one of my consultations with Josephine's teacher, I asked, “What more should I do?” He said, “Not more, less.” Boom! I am still processing that instruction!
The idea of release can easily become another one of those things we think we should be able to do. Now! Another thing to be ambitious and righteous about. Please don’t!
Your body’s ability to contain cancer cells is brilliant and beautiful. Your adaptations - the ones grounded in the life and circumstances you face right now - are brilliant and beautiful. Can you honour them? What would that look and feel like?
My recent experience of what may prove to be meaningful release (I really don’t know yet) was different in that it bubbled up from the simple daily practices of my life. Diet, mindfulness, posture, rest, walking, horse time, letting people help me, and more rest. Rest the body, rest the mind. The possibility of release came from softening and making space, NOT from pushing. Rather from opening and invitation.
I still have the impulse to do MORE. But I am slowly gaining confidence in less.