Wednesday, August 21, 2013


“This will teach you who your friends really are.”

Some sage advice received since my recent cancer diagnosis. It landed heavily in my solar plexus as I heard it. I immediately recognized it as a well-worn perception that I suppose contains a relative truth. The message was that I will learn as a result of this life challenging condition which of my friends is in it for the long and sometimes tumultuous haul, and which are only here for me when the seas are calm and the sailing smooth. I have indeed witnessed some surprising reactions from people that have been in my life for a considerable length of time. I have experienced and felt some sadness and disappointment as a result of non-response from individuals I would have expected to be supportive in this difficult time. There is a key word contained in that preceding sentence that awakens me from a potentially prolonged contraction: expected. It is my expectations of people that have always led to my relational suffering. It is demanding that people show up in a certain way that sends me right into recoil. If others do not meet my demands and expectations does that mean that they do not care about me? Doesn’t my reaction say much more about me than about them? Perhaps if I had bestowed upon my friends a copy of the “How To Treat Taylor” manual they would better comply with my rules. The truth of the matter is, I am not even clear yet about how I might be best supported through this sometimes scary and chaotic journey through cancer. How can I expect others to be present and clear? And there it is again. Expect.

I am not in any way diminishing the need for support and loving attention during this more than challenging time. And I have received some astoundingly beautiful sentiments from people I barely know. But while the advice given by my friend points to a deeper potential for intimacy at this time ( or not), it is for me a calling to a more rooted and unwavering sense of autonomy. Autonomy must always precede true intimacy. At a certain level we go through these deeper valley’s alone. Please don’t disparage me with spiritual correction. I know ultimately I am not alone and separate from my Source, and I relish deep connections with both family and choice family. And yet I am the one that has this messenger in my body. I am the one that will undergo often painful treatments and procedures. While others may walk with me to an impending portal, I will make the passage alone and on my own. I am the one that is deciding how I will show up in this most profound experience. I am the one that is choosing how to see it and how to relate to it. While I would prefer to have the company and the spiritual energy of those I love and am in relationship with, I do not choose to categorize others based on their ability to be with something so frightening and evocative.

If this experience is truly teaching me who my friends are it is doing so by revealing deeper levels of what goes on in individuals when they are faced with their own mortality. Because that is what unconsciously gets triggered when others are looking at me. Looking into the mirror of my experience reveals things most people don’t want to see. My chosen transparency can be daunting. I am more than willing to own that. I will not define or exclude people from my heart based on how they are able to relate to my honest communication regarding this challenge. I will not use someone’s fear-based projection to measure a relationship and then deem it lacking. In fact, I will not lead myself into story telling about any aspect of how others choose to show up or not show up for me at this time. The gift of autonomy is maintaining my capacity to love those around me even if it appears that they are not actively bringing love to me. I choose to compassion the pain and fear that my current situation has invoked in others. I welcome those who choose to stand beside me, but I will not withdraw from those that don’t. This is a time for me to open and to deepen, not to shut down and pullback. I will not deaden myself to my own need for compassion and care. But neither will I kill off a connection based on my own expectation and demand.

So in a way cancer is indeed teaching me who my friends really are. It is giving me insight I didn’t have before and that I didn’t need to have before. It is allowing me to steady my autonomy and deepen my intimacy. My compassion for those around me is more acute and engaged than ever before. To those who seem to be keeping a silent distance, I love you exactly where you are. To those who replace themselves with detaching advice, I hold you in just how you are being. To those who invite me to call when I am in need, I must say thanks but probably not. It is much harder for the vulnerable to make the call. But I will know that you are there in the way that you can be there. And I know you are here. You are always here within me. My friends are not what they do or don’t do. They are the felt-sense love I have deep within my heart. And that is present even in those times when I need to walk this path alone.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


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.