It’s 18:18 on January 1st 2021 as I begin writing this.
This time last year I was facing an operation and was filled with fear. Anxiety overwhelmed me as I found myself in whirlpool of irrational thoughts and feelings I struggled to control. They were all to do with my mother. A dark cloud descended on me as I played out in my head her breast cancer diagnosis and her final years when chemotherapy treatment damaged her heart beyond repair and she died of heart failure with cancer rampaging in her bones, her lungs and her liver. As I trailed through these unwanted memories, all I could focus on was a feeling of extreme foreboding and isolation as I approached a procedure which would leave me with only one breast.
Like my mother before me, I was going to have a mastectomy. Her mastectomy was essential. It was needed to remove cancer from her left breast. My mastectomy was not essential. Thankfully, I did not have cancer.
I decided to have a mastectomy so I would not not get cancer in my left breast. Simple to say but not so easy to face.
In October 2019, a routine mammogram revealed I had micro-calcifications in one of my breasts. Not cancer, but these abnormal cells could develop into a cancer if left untreated. My consultant said there was no way of knowing if they would turn into a cancer or not. He told me because of the wide area the micro-calcifications covered in my breast, a ‘lumpectomy’ was not feasible and so I faced the choice: Have my breast removed or not.
I didn’t hesitate. ‘Off with her breast!’ I remember saying to him with David quiet be my side. We all laughed. Strange how my black humour made me feel instantaneously better at a time when I could have cried.
That was then. This is now and what a difference a year makes!
As we begin 2021, I am relaxed, calm and overflowing with blessings and gratitude. I only have my right breast, but I am well and above all, I am grateful for only having one breast. I know having gone through the trauma, I have grown in love and understanding. I love my flat side; I can see and feel all my ribs and I can sense the closeness beneath my palm of my heart as it beats. I cherish my remaining breast as I cherish the whole of my body and I do truly, for the first time in my life, love the whole of me – my body, mind and spirit. Living through this experience, I have grown and developed as a human being and I would like to share why and how.
In a year when the human race reeled and faced the global challenges of Coronavirus with repercussions we continue to experience and a future that is still uncertain, in my inner world, I faced my own challenge – the first significant threat to my health and wellbeing. When faced with adversity, we have a choice: to stand strong or to crumble. Drawing on our innate inner strength and wisdom is our choice. We all have it. I chose to access mine through:
- Searching Within – what did I need, what would make me feel better and how could I take care of myself? I established a routine of self care activities that would sooth and comfort me and would help still my mind.
- Practising Yoga – I already had a long established yoga practice, but this was now the time for me to really deepen my practice, to develop a habit of deep listening and meditation and focussing within.
- Reaching Out – I needed help from others. I turned to my husband first and foremost. He was and remains my rock, but he couldn’t be my everything – I needed someone to help me at a spiritual level. I knew this would not be any of my family or my friends. I knew I needed a spiritual guide. I am fortunate to have two people in my life who were open. loving and willing to help me. Vonnie, my yoga teacher and Dinah, my spiritual guide and healer. Without them, I would have struggled.
- Reading – books are one of my lifelines, one of my go-to’s. I read to learn and to develop as a person. In fiction I am taken in to other people’s lives, experienced through my senses and wonder about my own life. In non-fiction, I am in awe of the knowledge and wisdom of others and aghast by how little I know and how much I have to learn. This year I have read far too many books to list here, but every single one of them were chosen with care to keep my spirit soaring and to keep me growing.
- Meditation – it’s essential for me to sit and to be still, to connect to my higher being, the unwavering part of me that is the eternal awareness, the ‘I am that’. I meditate to discover who I am.
- Being Open and Showing Vulnerability – I have tried every day to be aware of my ego and put it aside so I can be available and open for connection with others. To do this, I have to show my vulnerability. Not always easy, as conditioning and the need to survive in this world has meant like all of us, I have developed a strong ego. To show my vulnerability, I need to feel safe. I feel saddened this is not always possible in my relationships. This is an ongoing process for me … finding those people (my tribe) who, like me, are willing to engage in a ‘real’ relationship. I keep trying.
- Appreciating – every day I am grateful for all I have; the ability to experience awareness through all of my senses. I am grateful for my body, my mind, my heart and lightness of being. I am thankful for the safety of my home, my husband, my family and friends. I am grateful for my breath. I am grateful for my writing, my art and my willingness to grow. I am thankful to be part of nature and the universe.
I have peppered this entry with a selection of images of trees. Photographs I have taken throughout the year. Trees are symbolic of eternal life. The Tree of Life is a popular and universal symbol that represents multiple different things across various cultures and religions. The tree is seen as sacred and carries significant meanings:
- Connection to everything in the universe (we and everything are one)
- Growth and strength (we root to earth for stability and grow our branches, reaching for the stars and the universe beyond)
- Individuality (we all are unique and grow in different ways, at different times, and at different speeds)
- Immortality and rebirth (a tree may die but its seeds develop into saplings and grow to be trees themselves – representing eternal life)
- Peace (stillness and steadfastness, trees represent the calm and peace we all yearn for in life)
In my yoga practice, Tree Pose (or Vrikshasana) is a regular asana. It’s a balancing pose and like all balance poses it helps improve my concentration and focus and calms my mind.
What I practice and learn on the yoga mat, I take off the mat. Practicing Tree Pose helps me in all areas of my life, especially when I feel ‘off-balance’. The pose has a positive impact on the grace and ease with which I approach all circumstances, even during times of difficulty. It teaches me the benefits of a meditative state of mind, and is a gentle reminder that I can bring calm focus and clear-headedness to all situations.
With love and Light to all.
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