When Cancer Dominates Your Life

For the second time over the last 16 years, I recently had the sensation as I was going about my daily life: “I feel like I have my life back.”

The first time was a few years after finishing active treatment for stage 3 breast cancer.  It had taken me several years to feel that I could return to what felt like normalcy, where I had choices on how to focus my attention and could trust in the future.

Again, things have shifted a lot for me personally and it feels like all of a sudden!

Many of you know that my husband of almost 30 years was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer 5 years ago.  After grueling treatments which included months in the hospital during the pandemic (for cancer reasons, not covid), he has reached a place of relative stability.

By stability, I mean we are still living between 3 month scans but he’s on a break from treatment for 9 months now. Gotta love these breaks from treatment where you start to feel your energy come back! And then he surprised me by going back to work after being retired for almost 2 years.

It happened after I had spent a month away over the summer.

My daughter Alima, who is 16 now, and I spent a month in Spain this summer visiting relatives. She attended a 10 day camp and I spent 7 blissful days by myself on the island off Menorca.  Read about how free I felt in Menorca: http://www.kellyinselmann.com/blog/what-makes-you-feel-free/

This fall, my daughter is in 10th grade at Westlake High School and works part time, while my husband was recruited back to his field and is enjoying himself.

And here I am asking myself a question I have asked before: “How do you connect with your identity after cancer has dominated your life for years?”

I feel a bit distracted as I turn back towards the work I love, with people who seek to make meaning of their lives, increase their vitality, and heal emotional wounds.

I’m grateful to the JoyBoots Inner Circle Group for keeping me devoted to our work together. They have continued meeting for 4 years through hell and high water, since initially meeting in yoga classes and my online course, Healing Well: Reconnect with Your Life after Cancer.

Together we have celebrated the life milestone of one member selling her house and building her dream cottage out in the country with her best friends. We have celebrated times of stability in treatment and good family news.

We have supported each other through recurrences and even through the heartbreaking passing of a beloved member, Jane.  In group, we ask each other: “What do you think Jane would say to that?” And the answer is always something irreverent, brutally honest, and empowering. Her spirit and wisdom live on in us.

In the past few months, I have grieved the losses of a dear friend and a of a dear client, both age 41, both irreplaceable and  leaving behind 2 children and heartbroken families.

I continue to grieve the losses of all these friends.

Sometimes people wonder how I work with people who are facing cancer. I admit, I have to pay attention to my own self care and make sure I’m exercising, and socializing and now…traveling!

But for me, it’s not a burden to meet with JoyBooters, it’s an honor and it’s often super fun.  Being with people who recognize the fragility of life, who love deeply and care so much for their loved ones, makes my life more vivid. I am reminded that time is shorter than we think, and each moment more beautiful.  For me, it’s an honor to have this deep level of connection.  It helps me make meaning of my own life.

Quite frankly, JoyBooters always end up inspiring me.

So, this fall, I have turned much more determinedly towards revamping my signature program which shares my 6 Steps for Emotional Recovery from the Trauma of Cancer. You can listen to this podcast interview I gave about my ideas. https://therapistuncensored.com/episodes/tu63-living-with-cancer-the-six-principles-of-emotional-healing-with-guest-kelly-inselmann/

In early 2024, the course will open for people who are newly diagnosed and for cancer survivors who have finished active treatment.  A version for people living with metastatic cancer and a caregiver version will come soon after.

As I work on the course, this question continues to guide me: “How do I connect to my identity after cancer has dominated my life?”  Does this resonate for you?



How DO You Heal Emotionally after the Trauma of Cancer? The 6 Principles

Over the years, I’ve received many messages from people who heard an interview I did with Dr. Ann Kelly (shared below) at Therapist Uncensored about how hard it is to heal after the trauma of having cancer.  And I explain the six keys to unlocking the healing process.

In September, 2023, new classes, therapy groups, and an online course will begin to help you learn and practice skills based on these principles.

Be sure you are on the JoyBoots community mailing list so you know when they open up!



Cancer sucks, no way around it. If you have it, had it or are supporting someone who does, this episode will be nourishment for you by bringing your mind and body into the healing and recovery process for cancer and trauma is so important.

Fighting cancer is often traumatic physically, emotionally and relationally. Podcast host Dr. Ann Kelley joins therapist and Yoga Instructor Kelly Inselmann (LCSW, C-IAYT,CGP) as she shares her personal journey through cancer recovery and describes her passion and process in supporting others to find hope and healing while in this compromised state.

They discuss how modifying the six principles of emotional recovery into the basic principles of yoga can have an immense impact on well-being and recovery.

What Makes You Feel Free?

Each of us in the room resonates with a desire to feel free, spacious, and connected to a deeper pulse of life through our breathing and dancing. More than most, we know how fast time goes.


Check out “Melinda’s” update 8 years after her diagnosis for stage 3 breast cancer.

There is so much post traumatic growth in her life.

My first blog, Liberation Dance, describes how Melinda began trying new activities and moving her body in new, less inhibited ways to experience moments of joy.

In honor of Independence Day, read the whole story here:  http://www.kellyinselmann.com/blog/liberation-dance/


After treatment, “Melinda” had the life goal of retiring and building a cottage on her good friend’s beautiful property out in the country.

She spent a year preparing her house for sale.  To free herself up to live in a new world of her own making, she had to go through generations worth of memories, keepsakes and clutter. It was not easy.

But she did it!

A few years later, she lives in a custom built little casita. She shares that her mind is free to prioritize her own physical health, and connection to nature and gardens. The design of her home is all clean lines and consciously chosen pops of color and art.

What makes you feel free?

On my trip, I have felt free walking along the shore in Menorca, stopping where my intuition leads me to swim in the clear Mediterranean, even though I have to walk past people not feeling great about how I look in my bathing suit.

I am not deterred! The blue waters beckon.

My strength to walk alone in an unfamiliar place makes me feel free. My confidence of not worrying what other people think of me makes me feel free (and yes, I agree they aren’t paying attention anyway)

Being willing to take up space and share my experience makes me feel free.

How about you?

What makes you feel free?


Do It Now

When I was learning to meditate, after each session, I felt so much more mental clarity.  That’s what has kept me going all these years later.

Even if my mind is full of (not so zen) thoughts, by the end I feel grounded and able to think through and organize my day.

The layers of distraction, memories, and anxiety are sliced through and I feel myself alive in the present moment.

In 2002, my close friend Anita Stoll and I began collaborating to create Yoga and Talk Therapy® groups, as yogis and psychotherapists.  Before meeting to discuss creating and publicizing the groups, we would often meditate.

Afterward, as we went through our lists of “to do’s” we encouraged each other, especially if it was something that had been put off, to “Do it Now.” So that our goals and dreams could take form and not just fantasy.

We understood that the mental clarity gifted us a (time limited) opportunity to take action, unrestrained by distractions, self doubt, or a desire to procrastinate.

Could having cancer, facing great loss, or a life threatening illness or injury be clarifying?  Can it help you ask for what you want and need more directly and be open to receive when your community or the universe gives to you?

I have found that facing the nearness of my own mortality, or a loved one’s, can have much the same effect of cutting through the day to dayness of my busy life.  And the exclamation Do It Now rings in my ears.

Of course,there are plenty of times you feel foggy, from medical treatments, chemo, insomnia, fear, worry about family, grief (including anticipatory) at losing beloveds. 

 These feelings of anger, terror, grief, and loneliness are aspects of the cancer experience that my JoyBoots therapy groups attempt to acknowledge and address honestly. We have the belief and experience that speaking the truth about what you feel is powerful and allows for connection, meaning, and transformation.

The reality of fighting cancer, both as a patient and a loved one, is that it really sucks.  It destoys your illusion of things “working out for the best”

And yet, most of us also find moments of insight, meaning, and even joy along the way.  Through connection with who we love and care about and our own relationship (even if it’s a questioning) with God or the Infinite, however you may imagine this to Be.

With the Summer Solstice passing last week, comes the reminder that life is flowing and that everything is impermanent.  

This can and will sadden us.  And it doesn’t always have to. 

Recently, as happens, I’ve faced the deaths of people I loved.  One was a dear friend and another was a JoyBooter client. I learned and benefitted so much from my relationship with each of them.  

And their loss changed my perspective.  

Right now,

It’s a clarity that tells me to “Do it Now” and it cuts through my normal hesitations-both physical “Can i handle this?” And mental/emotional-“Can I really do this/have this/offer this?”

And right now I’m listening to the Do It Now and moving forward with it.

This includes today! This Monday my 15 year old daughter and I are traveling to Spain for a trip we dreamed up in the Spring. We are very excited and not allowing worry to hold us back.

What is calling to you this summer?

What actions do you want to Do Now?

What’s holding you back from these?

I’d love to hear! XO

Ocean or Mountains?

The Yoga & Talk series features Joybooter stories and words of encouragement to nurture, heal and inspire— and in doing so, helps us to get to know one another, stay connected and to remind us that we are never alone in our healing journeys.

Rakefet Laviolette brings a zest for living, open curiosity and deep empathy into our community.  Her willingness to take risks and embrace new adventures inspires others, as does her honesty and generosity.

Share a little bit about yourself.

I am a 42 year old woman, yogini, breast cancer thriver, meditator, mother of two amazing bonus daughters, mamma to two sweet chihuahua-mix rescue puppies and a grey tabby kitty, wife, world traveler, mental health therapist in training, vegetarian home chef, and lover of deep connection. I've lived many different lives. 

I was born in Israel hence the name Rakefet which means cyclamen (a three petaled flower that looks like it is falling up that grows on the mountainsides in Jerusalem). 

I grew up in rural Pennsylvania next to a cow pasture. 

We were the only Jewish family in the school district. I am the eldest of three daughters + many foster teens my family took in when I was 11-18 years old. 

I served 8 years in the US Army Reserves as a forklift operator and truck driver. I was deployed to Hungary and Bosnia during my first year of college. I am now a disabled veteran due to hearing loss and tinnitus. 

I spent 20 years working in non-profits who worked with issues ranging from domestic violence to child care advocacy and Judaism. I've lived as an adult in NYC, San Francisco and now Austin for the last 10 years. 

In 2007 I walked for 30 days from the base of the Pyrenees in Spain to Santiago de Compostela on El Camino de Santiago. I went on to travel for 6 more months over land and sea through western and eastern Europe, the Balkans, Greece, Turkey and Israel. 

For the last 6 years my husband and I ran the Rattletree School of Marimba, a community music school teaching Zimbabwean marimba and mbira music.

Share a little bit about your cancer experience.

I have been getting mammograms since I was 35 since my mother had breast cancer when she was in her early 40's and my maternal grandmother had it in her later years. I do not have the BRCA gene. In May 2018, they found a lump in my left breast which turned out to be invasive ductal carcinoma, ER/PR positive. My health care is through the VA system and the part-time male breast surgeon in Temple told me that I was too skinny for DIEP and that the most important thing was to get the cancer out quickly. I chose a bilateral mastectomy. He said that he would leave me with flaps of skin that could later be filled. My husband and I were both in shock and didn't know any better. 

I process things through sharing with community and fortunately, I shared a FB live video talking about the surgeon's recommendation a week or so before the scheduled surgery.

A fan of our marimba band reached out privately and he said that he and his wife, who happened to be one of Austin's best breast reconstruction plastic surgeons, would like to invite us over for dinner to share information about other options for care. 

It turned out to be Dr. Christine Fisher. She and her husband graciously spent 2-3 hours with us in their home over dinner talking in clear accessible language with us as human beings about the possibilities. She truly saw me as a human being and helped to pair me with the right breast surgeon and guided my care once I asked her to be my plastic surgeon. Her staff worked tirelessly with me to climb the chain of command at the VA to approve outside treatment in Austin. 

I am blessed beyond measure. I had a bilateral mastectomy with delayed DIEP flap reconstruction, 3 revisions including the addition of small gummy bear implants to fill in the hollows that fat grafting couldn't without several more surgeries. All together I had 5 surgeries, one infection, and lots of humbling poking and prodding. I'm now on tamoxifen for 5 - 10 years. 
The brain fog, night sweats and fear of cardio toxicity from tamoxifen are what I work with every day.

How has it benefitted you to be part of the Joyboots community?

The Joyboots community has been there for me throughout my cancer journey. I love coming into the yoga space and being able to be 100% myself. I don't have to explain anything. I feel held and seen. The movements and breath work feel nourishing to my body and soul. 

Kelly is an inspiration to me personally and is one of the reasons I am pursuing a career in mental health counseling. I love the way she weaves together movement, breath, chanting, and community into promoting wellbeing for the Joyboots community.

What is your meditation practice like?

I have an on again, off again meditation practice. My life was changed dramatically when I attended my first 10 day silent Vipassana retreat in Kaufman. I meditated for 10+ hours a day and for the first time in my life I was able to truly drop in. 

Being in silence and not having any responsibilities or roles to fill was transformational. It was the first time I remember being truly alone with myself. I have since attended one more 10 day Vipassana retreat which brought up a lot of fear. I haven't been back to Kaufman since the cancer diagnosis, but I plan to go when my schedule allows. 

For now, I am taking part in a 50 day introduction to meditation course through the Waking Up app by Sam Harris. He approaches it through his background as a neuroscientist and avid meditator. I find the 10 minute meditations simple to stick to and profoundly interesting in exploring the landscape of my inner world. Here is a link to a free month of the app for anyone who is interested in trying it:
Waking Up

How has yoga and meditation benefitted you?

Yoga has brought me community first and foremost. Yoga and meditation have allowed me to get to know myself more and more each day. My practices change as I grow. They give me space to pause and drop into my body, soul and mind spaces. I feel more now and have more tools to be in the world in an authentic way. I have more opportunities to consciously act instead of react to stimuli.

What practices have benefited you the most?

Yoga, breath-work, and meditation.
What are you still struggling to cope with?

The fear of recurrence. How to tell my story of who I am becoming each day and who I was. The night sweats and brain fog from tamoxifen. Figuring out how to take care of myself while being there in a healthy way for friends who are with me on the cancer journey. I am particularly having trouble with fear and deep empathy when I connect with friends who have metastatic cancer.

What brings you moments of joy?

Being greeted by my Penny (6 month old chihuahua mix rescue). Time with my bonus daughter Siena. Cooking in my instant pot. 
Sunshine! A good yoga twist. A workout that takes everything I have and leaves me spent in a great way at the East Austin Athletic Club through Team Survivor.

What is something you'd like to share with the community to help them along their healing journey?

I'm really enjoying this book Walking Wonder by John O'Donohue, Walking in Wonder. It is available as an audio book for free from the ATX public library through their Hoopla app.

WILD CARD: Ocean or Mountains?

I grew up on the east coast and had the narrative in my head that cold and winter are the devil. They meant cold, damp, hard, icy, and grey. I had such negativity around even the mention of cold. 

Last weekend I was gifted the opportunity through B4BC Boarding for Breast Cancer to go to a retreat in the mountains of Wyoming near the Grand Tetons. The weather was in the negatives and teens the whole time. I wasn't sure about going but something told me to try it. The tamoxifen hot flashes were a blessing :-) Also, the dry cold with the powdery snow that felt like clouds hugging me was transformational. 

I learned to ski and had no fear of falling on icy patches of snow. Instead, falling was a delight into the powder. I was surrounded by women on their own cancer journeys. I was gifted the right warm clothing and was nourished with home cooked healthy food. We did yoga every day, received acupuncture treatments and were supported as we explored something new. 

So as much as I love the ocean, I'm choosing mountains for now.

If you wish to connect with Rakefet, you may connect with her through email at rakefet@rattletree.com.

Let the Infinite In!

What if doing it together beats doing it alone?  For deeper healing to happen,
I believe community is needed!

You are cordially invited to a daily meditation to take you through the Holiday season and beyond.

Yesterday, I was thinking about WHY I’m so attracted to group work even though I’m a MAJOR introvert.  It’s because being part of an ongoing group means you get to cut through the small talk and get down to what you are really thinking and feeling.  You can give and receive energy and support.

I was also thinking about my life and how off balance I have felt in 2019.  I came to the same conclusion I always do: daily meditation practice is essential. It enhances my daily life, mental health and physical wellbeing.

With the topics of community and daily meditation on my mind, I taught my Wednesday Wellness Yoga class today where one woman shared how hard it is to do the practices on her own.  

Practice IS hard to do on your own. There are SO many distractions.  Creating space for yourself can be hard.

Someone else said she was setting an intention to “let the universe in” to a difficult situation that she knows she can’t control. As cancer survivors, we are all familiar with feeling like things are beyond our personal control.

And so as the class was lying in sivasana, I decided to initiate a 40 day community meditation.   The class had a very positive response!  And we’d love you to join in.

We are going to challenge each other to participate in a 40 day meditation.  This is a challenge by CHOICE and INSPIRATION, NOT obligation.  You can participate as much or as little as you like and start anytime. It’s completely free.

How will it work?

1.Each day, STARTING TODAY (or whenever you open this email), you are invited to begin and continue during the 40 day period as often as you can.  Daily if possible!

If you decide to participate even for one day, reply to this email so I know to include you in the Facebook group (email and Facebook name) or in a group text if you don’t like Facebook (phone number and name)

2.We are going to be using the RA MA DA SA Sa Say So HUNG Meditation from the Kundalini Yoga tradition.  This meditation is for healing through compassion and being open to miracles to work in your life – in other words, allowing the Universe in! The meditation is simple and melodic.

3.Suggested times for meditation: 3,7, or 11 minutes up to 31 minutes.  You can set a timer.

4.You could also simply have the mantra playing as you work, drive or sleep.

Step One:

Tune in with the Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo mantra 3 times.  Here’s a link to remind you. http://www.kellyinselmann.com/monday-morning-videos/learn-and-practice-the-adi-mantra/
Set your intention for the day.

Step Two:

Use a version of the RA MA DA SA SA SAY SO HUNG meditation.  You can look it up on Youtube for many different versions and melodies or you can use: http://www.kellyinselmann.com/monday-morning-videos/healing-meditation-for-eclipse-day-and-every-day/

Step Three

Sit for a few moments/minutes afterward and practice inviting the Universe in.  Be open to healing and offer yourself compassion.

Step Four

Say “Sat Nam” to honor your True Self.

Step Five

If you wish, share in the facebook group or text that you completed your practice for the day.  You can write up to a sentence or more or simply say “did it!”  When you share that you have done your practice, you will inspire and remind others.

Step Six

Be kind to yourself.  If you forget, just start again. If it’s not right for you, that’s ok!

Step Seven

Invite your friends.  Anyone can join.  The more the merrier!


Here’s more information on the meditation:


Ra – Sun

Ma – Moon

Daa – Earth

Saa – Impersonal Infinity

Saa Say – Totality of Infinity

So – Personal sense of merger and identity

Hung – The infinite, vibrating and real.

This mantra taps into the energies of the sun, moon, earth, and the Infinite Spirit to bring deep healing. It is important to pull the navel point powerfully on the first Sa and on Hung. Note that the word Hung is not long and drawn out. Rather, it is clipped off forcefully as you pull in the navel. Chant one complete cycle of the entire mantra with each breath. Then deeply inhale and repeat. Remember to move the mouth precisely with each sound. Try to feel the resonance in the mouth and in the sinus area.

Mental Focus: Healing for yourself or someone else.  Letting go of your need to control.  Allowing the Infinite in.

Time: Continue chanting for 3, 7, 11 or 31 minutes.

To End: To end the meditation, inhale deeply and hold the breath, as you offer a healing prayer. Visualize the person you wish to heal as being totally healthy, radiant, and strong. See the person completely engulfed in a healing white light and completely healed. Then exhale and inhale deeply again, hold the breath, and offer the same prayer again. Exhale.

To complete, inhale deeply, stretch your arms up high, and vigorously shake out your hands and fingers for several seconds. Keep the arms up and hands shaking as you exhale. Repeat two more times and relax.

© The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan

Let’s move through the holidays with as much consciousness and compassion as we can.

New Yoga and Talk Series Featuring Joybooters!

with Linda Griesel

The Yoga & Talk series features Joybooter stories and words of encouragement to nurture, heal and inspire— and in doing so, helps us to get to know one another, stay connected and to remind us that we are never alone in our healing journeys.

Share a little bit about yourself.
I am an Air Force brat who settled in Austin in 1988.  31 years! My husband and I share Austin with our daughter, son, and a semi-obedient Airedale Terrier named Beau.  I’ve worked as an attorney – mainly as an advocate for abused women and children.  I’ve also worked as a special-ed and substitute teacher, caterer, and volunteered throughout my children’s educations – as well as caretaking my parents.

Yoga and meditation are centering parts of my day.  I also belong to 2 book groups, binge-watch lots of Netflix, and like spending time with my friends doing all of these things.

Share a little bit about your cancer experience.
Before I was diagnosed, I learned about cancer from my mother who was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer in the bad-old-days of treatment, 1973.  I learned how to LIVE with cancer by watching her as a survivor for 35 years.

In July 2014, I was told I had II-B Invasive Breast Cancer. After treatment (slash/poison/burn), I was left with familiar side effects including Lymphedema, Chemo-Brain, and the inability to continue with the prescribed Aromatase Inhibitors.

How has it benefited you to be part of the Joyboots community?
The Joyboots Community are my TRIBE.  I didn’t know I was looking for (or needed) a support group the first time I tried out the Weekly Wellness Warrior Group (you know, Cancer Yoga).  When Kelly explained to a group of cancer survivors the concept of Sat Nam – that we could make room for our own true selves – I was hooked.  She built a group that accepts each other as we are right now.  In the five years since my diagnosis, the group’s kind and generous spirit and Kelly’s wise and graceful teachings have seen me through.

I saw my mother be a true leader and builder of her cancer support community.  She connected people together with acceptance of where they were in their experience.  Even without the benefit of yoga in 1970’s Wichita Falls, she helped a  huge number of survivors find the room for their true selves.  I’m fiercely proud of the Tribe she built and hope I can be a connector, too.

What is your meditation practice like?
Some days, I simply repeat Sat Nam on a repeating loop. Other days I use Kelly’s Joyboots website for a variety of great meditation ideas. Add self-guided meditation Apps, and of course, yoga practice.

How has yoga and meditation benefited you?
I learned how to breathe.  It allows me to realize that moments of joy and contentment can erupt and it has given me the tools to recognize and appreciate them.

What practices have benefitted you the most?
The Weekly Warrior Practice with my Tribe.  At the start of each class, Kelly has us listen for and identify 3 sounds. When I hear the breath of my Tribe, focused in our work, settling into practice – that to me is the most joyful sound.

What are you still struggling to cope with?
Like everyone, life! I think that’s what surviving means.  How are we going to live our lives faced with the uncertain and burdened by the past?  I feel that Kundalini has given me tools to use everyday to move forward.

What brings you moments of joy?
Being able to choose to live in the moment, being able to practice gratitude, and putting both those concepts into practice with my loved ones.  And a good glass of wine.

What is something you’d like to share with the community to help them along their healing journey?
I have a friend who said “we’ve all been broken at times and we will be again.  It helps us reach out to hold onto each other.”

To be a supportive member of my Tribe, it helps me to look for inspiration, not obligation, to find my true self and to find moments of joy.

Sat Nam.

If you wish to connect with Linda, you may send her an email at lbgriesel@sbcglobal.net.

Can I get a Witness?

When I was in the middle of chemo, I looked in the mirror with great curiosity. Sometimes shocked. Sometimes incredulous.

“This is me?”

No hair, no eyebrows, deep pain and fatigue. But also beauty, depth, surviving against the odds, making it through each day even when there was fear or suffering.

I hadn’t spent much time in front of the mirror before, barely wearing makeup, and not interested in the latest fashions. But now I did.

And I could see my soul.

I had no outer defenses. Sometimes I would cry at how changed I was on the outside. Deep lines had appeared out of nowhere and there were dark circles under my eyes.

But I also felt great empathy and love for this Self I was looking at. How amazing her life experience was and how hard she was trying.


You go through cancer alone.

Even if you have supportive community around you, which I did, there are still many moments that you feel profound aloneness. Everyone else’s life is going on around you. But you are going through uncertainty, procedures, tests, waiting for results, blood draws, infusions, surgery, radiation, medications, hiding your fear and fatigue so you can still participate in parts of your life.

After treatment, when the “emergency” is over for everyone else, you move forward with side effects, both physical and emotional.

And if you are in ongoing treatment? My understanding is that your aloneness can become a companion.

You feel most alone when you feel marginalized. When you are trying to hide your anger, feelings of loss at “what was,” and fear of death, so as not to make others feel uncomfortable.

In my online Winter Sanctuary Series session, I shared that when trauma occurs, you feel fragmented.

Fragmentation happens when feelings get pushed aside in favor of survival. Parts of your experience are forgotten, the changes in your body create unfamiliar and unwelcome sensations. Your identity shifts as well as your sense of who you are.

As uncomfortable as it is, fragmentation is a normal response to a traumatic, life threatening experience.

The problem is that you don’t always re-integrate.

And Integration = Healing


What does “integrated” feel like?

Settled. You have access to your emotions (i.e.you don’t feel numb). You are more in charge of how you act and react. You can talk about your experience in a coherent way.

What creates a feeling of integration?

Feeling truly seen, heard and witnessed by a caring other person is one way. Personal reflection through meditation is another. Both of these invite “the witness.” When you include others, they are your witness. When you are meditating and/or being the observer of your own experience, you are your own witness.

A feeling of compassion, either from another human or from yourself, are key ingredients of Integration.

This may be controversial, but I would submit that you cannot truly recover emotionally and feel whole and integrated UNLESS you are seen and heard and feel cared about and understood.

You can survive, yes. But we are social creatures and to really thrive, you need people and places to be yourself and connect more deeply.

Who is this new person you are becoming? How will you integrate the different parts of yourself? Where can you open and be witnessed in your pain and joy, change and growth?

Ripen Your Potential Through Mantra

Do you ever feel like you are losing yourself by being overly focused on what others want from you?

How do you remember to take a breath, feel grounded in the present moment, and act from your most authentic self?  

Mantra, it’s sound and meaning, can be an easy and effective tool.

Sat Nam is a mantra from kundalini yoga practice which translates as True Self or  Truth is my Identity. I say this to myself several times a day to direct my mind to focus on what is essential in this moment.

Inhaling, I think Sat. Exhaling, I think Nam.

When I meet a new client, speak to my daughter’s teacher, connect with a friend, bring up a difficulty with my husband, I remind myself to focus on the Higher Truth of this moment, which I can enjoy more if I feel grounded and compassionate towards myself and others.

Sat Nam reminds me that I’m not in control of the behavior of others.

Feeling grounded and connected to your sense of Self is an important concept for everyone, but can be especially useful to cancer survivors. To continue prioritizing your own healing, you have to be willing to put your own physical and emotional needs NEAR the top of your list if not at the very top!

I often hear from clients and yoga students that Sat Nam is a practice they carry with them.

Jennifer shared that she says it to herself as she swims laps, moving in the rhythm of her backstroke, creating her own meditation in the pool.

Leslie reminds herself of Sat Nam as she goes through medical procedures and has to keep still. It’s a relaxing mental focus and reminds her of the wellbeing, feeling grounded, and self acceptance she experiences after yoga class.

Anna has always been shy and reluctant to assert herself with her husband and family members, preferring peace (or at least no conflict) to talking about her needs, ideas, and opinions.  But at what cost to her? After her experience with cancer, she decided to make some changes.  Recently she has begun taking a deep breath, thinking Sat Nam, and then taking the “scary risk” to speak her mind more often. She’s been shocked at the willingness of others to listen and care about what she needs.  

Sat Nam reminds you of the path of assertion and healthy boundaries.

Mantra is a tool to cut through automatic thoughts and momentarily choose a neutral mindset that is non judgmental and open to possibilities.

My teacher Dr. Gurucharan Khalsa said, “Everything  in the world makes a sound.  The question is: Who is in charge of the sound?”

When you recite mantra, you vibrate the sound of your own voice in the present moment.  When you speak your truth and assert yourself, your voice has an impact.

Ancient sound technology in the form of mantra in Sanskrit or Gurmukhi, has many benefits:

  • Stimulates the vagus nerve to help you relax.   
  • Helps your mind focus on an uplifting message.
  • Your tongue touches meridian points in the upper palate which correspond to the brain and glandular system and create a state of emotional wellbeing. 
  • Activates the frontal lobe of the brain which controls emotional stability, executive functioning, and compassion for yourself and  others.
  • The vibration itself creates chemical changes in the brain which help the body and mind feel peaceful and even blissful.
  • From a spiritual perspective, chanting helps you align with the Divine in yourself and in the universe.
  • Interrupts the negative thoughts or worries that may be on “auto-pilot” and transforms your state of mind.
  • For people with PTSD, high anxiety or a trauma history, meditating with mantra can be an easier way to practice meditation because it gives your mind something to focus on and interrupts negative cycles of thinking.
  • Studies show that mantra meditation can help lower inflammation in the body (Kirtan Kriya, UCLA Study)
  • Can improve memory, sleep, and symptoms of depression and anxiety.


The ancient sages describe Mantra as a seed, which when ripe, flowers the Divine within you.

Deep Quiet

Yesterday I was at a day long meditation, enjoying spaciousness and the stillness.  During one of the breaks, I sat next to a friend, both of us quiet and content.  Finally I turned to her and said, “I have nothing to say and nothing to do.  I NEVER have nothing to say and nothing to do these days!”  It felt so good to sit in that space of deep quiet and peace.

The effect of the meditation is more important than the experience of the meditation itself.  You may feel bored, distracted, blissful, or any other emotion during the meditation.  Regardless of the details of the meditation, your brain and nervous system still benefit. It’s important to remember that the main purpose of meditation is to have access to a calm, stable and neutral mind when you are not in actual meditation.