Shift of Temperature

The heat has been oppressive and sometimes it feels like it’s all you can do just to make it through the day. And if you or your loved one is in treatment for cancer, the stress and fatigue can magnify.

Recently, I listened to a podcast about the comparison trap and how we often measure our success, happiness, or status by seeing how we compare to others. 

Is she still working through treatment and I’m not? Should I be on a vegan diet like certain influencers? Am I living my best life and enjoying every moment like the people I follow on social media who also have cancer?

Comparison isn’t always bad. It can be a tool for growth where you get new ideas, learn new skills, or access resources.


But  it can also create misery, depending on whether you can hold onto your own worthiness no matter what it looks like others are doing and enjoying.

One takeaway for me was how as humans we have always needed one another to survive, but also how painful it can be when you don’t feel like you belong somewhere.  

The amygdala, the primitive brain of fight/flight/freeze in response to perceived threat, gets so activated that you can end up in a state of constant anxiety and stress, even during the phases or moments in life where there is a break from difficulty.

A cancer diagnosis creates a fight/flight/freeze response in everyone it affects, from the patient to loved ones, doctors, or acquaintances.

The fight/flight/freeze response is automatic but you don’t want to get stuck there.

Last weekend, my JoyBoots Inner Circle Group, that has been meeting for years, got together for our first in person retreat.  Talk about having so many activities that helped us relax out of fight/flight, stress, and anxiety!

We enjoyed the first bit of beautiful weather for practicing yoga and meditation outside, swimming, and looking at the stars.  Our view was bucolic country farms and we breathed in the peaceful natural beauty and sounds. Our delicious, healthy meals were beautifully prepared and served.

We shared our feelings and goals, tears and memories. We acknowledged our weariness. We left with greater tenderness for one another and for ourselves.

We felt safe and nurtured and, I believe, a sense of belonging and understanding.

These are the rare antidotes to chronic stress, especially among cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers.

What are the ways you are showing tenderness this week, especially towards yourself? Can you reach out for more support if needed?

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:


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

Real Healing Requires Community

“The reality is things may never be exactly the same. Be honest with yourself about what you are feeling and find community who allow you to show up just as you are” from the Healing Well Course.

This Wednesday on June 21, 2023 we have the last JoyBoots Yoga class of the summer. It’s been such a pleasure to reconnect with so many old friends and to meet new ones as well.

I will be away June 26-July 24, 2023.  After the summer break, that’s when you can count on our weekly class continuing…

JoyBoots Yoga is unique in that we address, experientially through our practices, some of the more challenging aspects of living with cancer or after treatment.  These are:

  • feeling gripped by fear (of recurrence, physical pain, our own mortality)
  • negative circular thinking that can’t be easily stopped
  • tension and stress you hold in your body
  • anger you pretend not to have (that comes out inadvertently)
  • desire to understand yourself and your precious path forward so you can make meaning of life
  • chance to deeply breathe and strengthen your relaxation response
  • feel more grounded and emotionally balanced

Being able to show up just as you are to find a seat for you at the table helps heal loneliness and isolation.

It’s hard to heal emotionally when you feel alone.

I’m excited to bring a variety of JoyBoots programs forward beginning the end of August.

My online therapeutic course, Healing Well: Reconnect to your Life After Cancer starts in September 2023 and will be available to take at your own pace.

By request, we will also have some In Person Workshop and Meet Up Opportunities beginning in the fall as well.

Please join the JoyBoots Community (free) or email me at for more information or for an individual session.

Stay Cool this Summer!

What Gifts do Your Bring?

In her podcast Incurable Joy, my dear friend Joy Engel asked the question of us all: what unique gifts can you offer a friend?  And who are your “troops” that can be called in?

Take a listen to her story here:

Does it have to be an emergency for you to open up to connection or assistance from a friend, doctor, therapist or loved one?

When I was going through a year of active treatment for breast cancer, as a new mother with an infant, I had to learn to ask for help.  Not because I wanted to-I was much more comfortable being the helper.  I learned how to accept help because I was faced with no other choice.

Receiving help can feel so vulnerable. You may feel that it shows weakness or gives up control.  

But softening your attitude towards help and helpers opens space for deeper connection and realization of our shared humanity.

Check out this yogic exercise that helps you embody the feelings of giving and receiving help:


Attitude of Gratitude

Carmen expresses gratitude and appreciation so readily, for her friends, for our Wednesday yoga class, for each day. She can be found taking the bus around town and sharing her spiritual depth and wisdom with others.

Share a little bit about yourself: I was born in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. I arrived in Austin, shortly before I turned 29. My hobbies are reading, writing, listening to music and taking walks in the park.

Share a little bit about your cancer experience. It was overwhelming! Until now I can’t explain how I could get ahead of such experience. I have no doubt that there is a Superior Force that watches over all of us! Cancer was a life teacher for me. My perspective of the things has changed for good, and also brought me many blessings. One of them, is that it has given me the opportunity to meet wonderful people who I otherwise would never have dreamed of knowing. From that time, I only remember the love I received!!

How has it benefited you to be part of the Joyboots community? A lot! The first yoga class in my whole life was the first class I had with Kelly, one week after I finished the medical treatments; and for me it was like an oasis after the storm.

What is your meditation practice like? I meditate in silence at least 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week. One day I do guided meditation for 25 minutes and on Sundays I do one hour of silence meditation.

How has yoga and meditation benefited you? To live in the Here & Now, focus on conscious breathing, calm anxiety & stress and above all, to understand that the health of my body depends on my emotional & spiritual balance.

What practices have benefited you the most? Yoga, meditation, Pilates, weights and walking. They complement one another.

What are you still struggling to cope with? My emotions!

What brings you moments of joy? Learning something new every day, watching the sunrise every morning, hearing my favorite song, meeting new people and counting my blessings.

What is something you’d like to share with the community to help them along their healing journey? Nobody is alone. We are all in this together.

WILD CARD: What is your favorite saying, quote or personal motto?


If you wish to connect with Carmen, you may connect with her through email at





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

Why Do I Do It?

“You have given me the strength to carry on and find happiness and light.” Suzanne Cowper


Sometimes people ask me why I want to work with cancer survivors. They wonder why it doesn’t bring me down. It may seem strange, but I usually have the opposite feeling from my work with people faced with cancer or those who have been through treatment.

I generally feel so uplifted and encouraged by the strength of the human spirit, the poignancy, the depth and the humanness we all share. I also like being with people who can deeply understand what it’s like to consciously face their own mortality and carry on, even while living a day to day existence. I get to see people experience the whole range of normal human emotions– the
shock, the fear, the anger, the ecstatic experience of the present moment, the appreciation and gratitude for the gift of life and their blessings. I get to see immense courage which always includes such touching vulnerability.

All these experiences that people have, they bring with them to the yoga mat and to counseling sessions and I get to be inspired by their courage and touched by their vulnerability. I’m deeply moved by the common humanity we share and the different stages of emotional shock, anger, fear, gratitude and wonder we all experience. I get to witness and share in people’s moments of awareness and healing no matter what is happening with the cancer in their bodies.

I had a friend who came with me often to chemo. Her prayer with me as we would begin the treatments was “Thank you for this breath. Thank you for this moment.” I hold this with me today as the highest prayer, simply to be present and aware and show gratitude for this moment, right here, right now.  True healing is not the same as cure. Cure is something else. To me, healing is about coming in to reality and accepting it while maintaining appreciation of the gift of this present moment.

When faced with a life-threatening illness which draws you into a confrontation with your own physical vulnerability and mortality, your system is awakened. First, you are in shock, but then you remain very alert. You are alert to your fear, the side effects, ideas of the future, the urgency to take action, your desire to protect loved ones. More than ever, you have the opportunity to be very alert and sensitive to what is most important.

I want to be around people who have been awakened. I want to surround myself with those who, even though they would not have chosen this path, are using this path to connect to their own hearts and pulse of life. The people I’m drawn to are those who have the undeniable strength to carry on, seek happiness and light even when rummaging around in the darkness of difficult moments.

So many people have reached out to me during my husband’s illness with love, encouragement and deep understanding. They have shared their own experiences of surgery and treatment with great advice and deep empathy for my husband and me. I learn so much from the Joybooters who come to my classes and groups. I get as much energy as I give and learn at least as much as I teach from the brilliant minds and warm hearts I am connected to.

Anticipation vs. Expectations

In yoga class, as students begin turning their attention inward, noticing their thoughts, feelings, and sensations, I give the suggestion that they also let go of their expectations of what they imagined the class would be like, whether they will like it or not, and whether they will “perform” perfectly. At this point, I often notice a shift in the room as breathing deepens and awareness of what is happening right here and now increases.

Practicing what I preach, this week I’ve been working on the theme of managing my own high expectations in real life.

The month has been chock full of activity and emotions for me.

Two friends passed away and I was shocked and saddened, feeling their absence and realizing the transitory reality of life.

A week ago we hosted a large holiday party benefitting my daughter’s dance school and felt the warmth of being surrounded by lively community, bright spirits, and excited children.

Three days later my family and I boarded an early morning flight to NYC for the Bar Mitzvah celebration of my dear friend Shari’s son.

I’m on my way home now, Sunday evening, writing this blog from the JFK airport where our flight is delayed 4 hours.

Before the holiday party, I was feeling overwhelmed about how the party would turn out, packing for our trip, and making it to the end of our NY adventure without something going wrong, one of us catching the flu, or simply running out of energy.

I called my wise friend, a long time yogi and meditator who knows her own boundaries and isn’t afraid to set them.

“You want to know my mantra for when things get crazy like this?” she asked. I agreed, expecting something from the yogic teachings.


I laughed out loud at the phrase, so opposite to what we hear in popular culture, with its emphasis on high standards, positive thinking, working hard, and manifesting your dream. And I laughed with recognition at how out of whack my expectations had become. In theory everything was possible, yet events would inevitably unfold beyond my control, just as they always do.

As a cancer survivor, I’ve had a lot of practice with events unfolding beyond my control. I’ve had to learn over and over to release my emotional attachment to the OUTCOME looking a certain way in order for me to feel successful or happy in this moment. Instead of focusing on outcome, I can choose to focus on the PROCESS, and by that I mean the moment to moment interactions with others and my awareness of my inner experience.

The process also includes maintaining my commitment to showing up and being as present mentally, emotionally and spiritually as I can be. Being truly present means I can see, hear, and sense the actual REALITY of the situation, not just a mental fantasy about how things COULD or SHOULD look or be.

To have a chance at enjoying the moments, I needed to let go of my VERY strong personal attachment to things working out just exactly the way I dreamed them up.

When I arrived in NY and had lunch with Shari, I passed on the advice about lowered expectations. She laughed as well. Her mind was on overdrive, trying to remember every detail and manage everyone else’s experience.

After the amazing party on Saturday night, when we were having brunch and talking about how fun it all was, I heard her share the mantra that helped her be happy with things exactly as they were. She said, “I just kept telling myself: “lower your expectations.”