Thursday, September 17, 2020

Life Moving Forward

Life moving forward needs to be different. This is always true, but now, more than ever, the necessity to change some of the ways we live is evident. Whether it’s Covid, fires, drought, hurricanes, politics, racism, or cancer, we are being called upon to live differently. 

I ask myself each day what I can do to bring balance and connection to this disconnected world. I begin with my own body. I believe that having a diversity of movement and breath within myself opens me to a greater diversity in my outer world. I listen. I respond. I am coherent in the face of chaos.
As we all know, life has been filled with distractions, hence my late follow-up to my post from May. I had a follow-up scan in August and we have decided that there’s nothing new rising on the cancer horizon. The PET scan is a very sensitive and fickle test. It seems ironic that too much movement, the very “medicine” that helps to inhibit cancer growth, can also create a “hot spot” on a scan. None of the suspect areas that lit up in the previous two scans are new. They are just glowing more brightly than they have in a while. Most of them looked better this time. None of them were worse. I have chosen to go back to scanning every 6-12 months, depending on how I feel. Considering that right now, as I enter my 11th year with Stage 4 cancer, I feel the best I have in over a decade, I will continue living and caring for myself as best I can until my body tells me otherwise. I am resting my mind after this false alarm.
We all have some issue that causes us to implode with fear. Whether it’s coronavirus, fire, or cancer, we are all at risk of embodying a rigidity that we imagine keeps us safe from the unwanted. Perhaps in the moment of being stalked by a predator, our primitive brain triggers this paralyzing survival response, but in our modern world, the catastrophes that trigger our fears are not usually helped by playing dead.
No one expects catastrophe. The day before an earthquake, a fire, a car accident, a cancer diagnosis, or a pandemic descends upon us, we rarely suspect that life will change suddenly and drastically.
I did not expect this pandemic. I expected something else: a climate catastrophe, an oil crisis, a toxic spill, a war, but not a pandemic. If you replace the word, "illness" with "pandemic" or whatever else scares you these days, in John O’Donohue’s poem A Blessing For A Friend On The Arrival Of Illness, our old lives do indeed feel distant. 
Now is the time of dark
beyond a frontier that
you did not expect.
Abruptly your old life
seems distant.
Our old way of life is not only distant, it is gone, and I'm fairly certain that I don't want things to go back to exactly the way they were. Of course, I'd love to hug people, teach a class in a room full of people breathing deeply together. I’d love to travel. I long for theater and live music to return. I'd love to go to a comedy club and share the air with other people’s laughter, or go out to eat with friends. I'd love everyone to be earning a good living and have access to good food, health care, and affordable housing, but oh, that didn't exist before! We need to find a new balance in many aspects of our lives.

Nothing before has made
you feel so isolated
and lost.
When the reverberations
of shock subside in you,
may grace come to restore you to balance.
May it shape a new space 
in your heart
to embrace this illness (pandemic) 
as a teacher
who has come to open 
your life to new worlds.
May you find in yourself
a courageous hospitality
towards what is 
difficult, painful and unknown.

Courageous hospitality is something I've practiced for almost 11 years - with cancer. Like the pandemic, I would prefer to live without it, but since it's here, I am willing to listen to its message and allow it to open a new space in my heart or any other place it needs to inform me of another possibility. I learned that being in relationship to cancer is the way to successfully co-exist with it, and perhaps this approach is necessary with coronavirus. We can't kill it, so let's learn what we can from it, and find a way to co-exist with this difficult, painful, and unknown entity.

Co-existence is not a popular approach to this virus or anything else in our culture, when you look at the overall ethos of our way of life. We have a cultural of killing. We kill the viruses, bacteria, and fungi that live in or on our bodies with antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, hand sanitizer, deodorant. We kill weeds with herbicides like glyphosate. We sterilize the soil so that our food will grow without weeds. We "freshen" the air. We wave ultraviolet wands over suspected contaminated areas. We put poisonous chlorine in our drinking water. We even kill people who are different and deemed unwanted. There has to be another way to connect and co-exist with difficult, painful, and unknown entities.
How do we find connection while living in isolation? Most of us have opened to the unexpected world of Zoom and other online platforms. I've participated in events that I could have never attended in person. I've seen and heard and felt so much unexpectedly, even while on an unstable internet connection. Emilie Conrad, the founder of Continuum, called the internet a “prosthetic device” for communication and connection. It may not be as good as the real thing, but it is better than having no opportunity to be together. And like the people who have amazing prosthetic legs that allow them to participate in the Paralympic Games, being together on Zoom grants us superpowers. We can gather without the fossil fuel we would use to travel. We can participate from the comfort of our own homes. People can attend who would not be able to make it in person.
This fall and winter I will be offering an online study group based on my book, Engaging The Movement Of Life, for those who want to dive more deeply into what my words mean to them as a felt experience in their bodies. If you’re interested, go to: for more information.

As we move towards autumn and winter, we must become curious about how to keep connection alive in relative isolation. All life is phasic: inhale/exhale, expand/contract, coil/uncoil, fold/unfold, flex/extend, contract/relax, sleep/wake, form/dissolve. There is constant interchange between receptivity and expressivity. Seasons come and go and so do pandemics as the phases of life move forward.

What has changed in you and your view of life moving forward from this unexpected unfolding? What are you learning? Where and how do you find refuge and respite? Life moving forward needs to be different. What does this mean for you?