I had the opportunity last week to hear Joan Borysenko, writer of eleven books and renowned speaker. This woman, whom I had wanted to hear for some time, was in Las Vegas as a part of the Susan G. Koman Cancer Foundation and spoke on The Power of the Mind to Heal. Dr. Boysenko’s work bridges medicine, psychology and the world’s spiritual traditions — so it was right up my alley! I broke my work schedule at midday and drove downtown to come away with a renewed Spirit and an added appreciation of the body-mind connection.
Joan, a cancer research specialist, recognized the connection of the mind and the body when her father who had been diagnosed with cancer had such trouble with the treatment that he chose to jump out a window to his death rather than take the medication. In this space of ‘no longer’ being whom one used to be and the place of ‘not yet’ healed or having not yet accepted that things will NEVER be the same, is a place some have referred to as the dark night of the soul. This place between ‘no longer’ and ‘not yet’ is the place between ‘desperation’ and ‘transformation’.
Not only does the rest of one’s life depend on how we handle this place between no longer and not yet, but also those who love us. According to Joan, 80% of cancers result from environmental causes. Yet, when quizzed, almost unanimously people say when they ask themselves, “Why has this happened to me? The resulting answer is: “I’m bad and I deserve to be punished.” It is very difficult to move from desperation to transformation if we believe we deserve to be punished.
If we can come to the place of acceptance that we can’t fix it, that life will never be as it was before, that we are not at fault, and this is not a punishment; then and only then, can we change our attitude. We can then see this place as an opportunity to enter a place of more love and more freedom. We can allow grace to bring us to a new place.
Why is it so difficult to admit that we can’t fix something? We try so hard to be all things to all people. It’s difficult for us to let go control even when we’re ill or dying. In a graveyard one tombstone reads: “Got it all done and died anyway.”
What will yours read?
Healing comes from being in the moment and enjoying the moment. Punishment has no place in healing. Society and even religion has reinforced the punishment theme. But the word repent means to re-think or to think through. Perhaps it’s time to rethink a belief, an idea, an agreement or resentment. How can you be more in the moment? First step is to stop and re-think. We don’t take care of ourselves. We think (or actions show that we think) we don’t matter much, that others matter more. ‘I should be taking care of others’ is the underlying belief.
There was a study done on survival times after a serious illness. The question was: If you are feeling sick today, exhausted, and a friend needs a favor. Will you get up and go to the aid of that friend? The answer to that question is the difference between the short-term and the long-term survivor.
What makes the body immune system stronger? It seems that two big factors are the way you take care of yourself and the social support you have around you. Being able to talk and say what’s on your mind, what’s true for you and to have your words received, relieves stress. Journaling your honest feelings raises the immune system because it gets the trauma out of the body and relieves the brain. Getting out in nature, taking a walk, nurturing a plant are all ways to boost your system. In a nursing home several patients were given a plant. The staff cared for one half of the plants and the patients the other half. Those patients who cared for their own plant lived an average of one year longer.
Loneliness is the most harmful stressor of all. We need that connection to others in a heartfelt way. Even though breast cancer received much attention and rightly so, there are still 5 times more heart attacks.
Let’s begin to let go of guilt, the need for punishment, the need to fix and begin to really care for ourselves. Reach out to others including animals and nature. Healing is to be made whole again — stressed means meaning fragmented, scattered, less than our full glorious Self. Begin today to enjoy the place you are NOW and to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness means to be present, to come back into the fold of wholeness. It means the lights are on and somebody’s home.
Copyright 2003 Judy Irving. All rights reserved.