On July 3 I heard the three words that will forever change a life: you have cancer.
There remains just a slight waft of disbelief as I type those words these four weeks later. The “c-word” has moved from being a scary concept about someone else to a living reality in my daily experience. I have committed myself to both not identifying with this diagnosis and not letting myself fall into the trance of disassociation. I am most appreciative to already be dwelling in the peacefulness of a heartful “both and.”
I am profoundly aware as I compose this missive that the majority of people who will read these words are fellow sojourners on a similar spiritual quest. I am also aware that this information is being received and processed by as many perceptual lenses as there are readers. I have been surprised and even shocked at the myriad reactions I have received by the relatively few people with whom I have shared this news. It has reaffirmed for me the painfully low threshold we as human beings have for the capacity to simply be with pain. I have been dealt reactions ranging from “it’s no big deal” to the subtle but arrogant hints of arm chair metaphysics to silent non-response to suggestions of everything from immediate radical surgery to ingesting fields of wheat grass and endlessly chanting ohm. While many of these suggestions have certainly made waves in the field of my highly sensitized consciousness I also feel profoundly grateful to possess the capacity to simply be with how others are choosing to be (or not to be) with this, and also for my willingness to own all of this as gift.
You really cannot know the felt-impact of those three words until you have heard them for yourself. Until they apply to something that is happening in your body. It is all theory until the pathology report is bearing your name. I have sat with countless people as they received their own diagnosis. I have held many a hand as the finishing breath exhaled and the final heartbeat ceased. I have stood beside hundreds of hospital beds and have been honored to deliver many a eulogy and memorial. I empathically and intimately participated in all of these scenarios. I have been at varying levels of consciousness throughout this wondrous journey of sickness and death. And yet these past few weeks have expanded me far beyond anything my clinical or seminary training prepared me for. Now I am in my own journey of contextually exploring my mortality, and it has opened me to a level of felt-sense Source that perhaps no other adventure could lead me to.
Cancer truly is the gift I have often heard it described to be. I realize even as I say those words that the blessings of this gift have only begun to express. And I am very aware that it is a gift that no one would consciously choose to invite in. But here it is. And I know that it is a visitor that comes in service of my most High sacred emergence. I know that down to the very marrow of my bones. As difficult as this has been for many of those around me I know that I currently reside in a perfect place in consciousness to allow this so called disease to awaken, open, and expand me. I do not choose to see this as something that is wrong or in need of fixing. I do not see this as an indication of my spiritual failings. I do not choose to resist this or to reject this. I am certain that the only way for me to glean the good from this is to remain open to it.
This does not mean that I will not choose to seek treatment of it. I may very well have the surgery and eat the recommended wheat grass. But even while I take the practical steps I am led to take I will do so in a containment of gratitude and faithfulness. I will do so knowing that this is the next right place in my Soulful unfoldment. I will take action from a place of tenderness, loving-kindness, and compassion for myself and for those who share this journey with me. I am committed to standing between the polarities of awfulizing and minimizing. And I am keeping my heart open to those who simply are not able to be with this experience exactly as it is.
It has taken much prayer and contemplation to come to the decision to share this news with my readers and with my audiences. I do so against the advice of some well meaning friends. I do not feel called to make this a new type of platform for my teaching, but neither do I sense that it is something to be hidden. There is no shame for me in having cancer. Authenticity and transparency are compelling values for me, and I am committed to living in and teaching from a place of humility and honesty. I want to let my life be an example of both an engaged spirituality and a fully embraced humanity. I want to give voice to how we each will face challenges that will try us to our very core. The spiritually dedicated life is not a life in which no challenges happen. The spiritually dedicated life is a life in which we choose to face whatever we are called to face knowing that we do so within the Embrace of our ever-present Source. I have never felt as spiritually centered and as lovingly held. I do not know how all of this is going to unfold but I do know that I will move wakefully through the process. I know that I am going to allow for all that arises within me and around me. I know that I will emerge as more of What I am on the other side of this adventure.
On July 3 I said three words that have indelibly changed my life: I have cancer.
It is not the whole of who I am, yet it is an experience that is awakening me to more of what I am. It is a guest that has come to visit and so I welcome it for what it has come to share with me. I listen to it, and I smile at the wisdom it comes to teach. I suspect it will not be here for long, so I bring a sustained and loving attention to it. I know I will endure long after it has left, and so I lovingly and gratefully open the gift that it has come to bring:
More and more of me.