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.

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