I believe that we need to have a wide spectrum of response options available to us, for diverse situations and circumstances. We also need to be flexible in our application of these various tools and strategies, so that we can optimize our response. I see it like a dance: We need to be in tune with how our dance partner is moving – whether it’s a challenging health condition or relationship or work issue. The more we have awareness of our abilities and limitations, the more we are in tune with our bodies (whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental), and the more we practice different kinds of movements, the more fluid we can be, and therefore, the more effective we can be.
I recently attended the Cancer as a Turning Point conference. One of the speakers, I think Marianne Williamson, was talking about accepting cancer, embracing cancer, and inviting Gd’s healing arms to surround cancer cells and/or Light to surround cancer cells, instead of visualizing attacking cancer cells. Yes it was definitely Marianne, because I remember her saying that cancer is like the psychic cry of a hurting child. In the case of a hurting child, one must comfort and love the child, rather than exacerbating the child’s pain by yelling or physically punishing the child – which will just make matters worse.
I loved this suggested approach. After trying visualizations for beating cancer, I stopped and focused on nutrition. I didn’t like the idea of “beating” – ie, attacking — cancer, but I was concerned about “loving” it. What I chose to do, ultimately, was to focus on healing myself – my whole entire self, and not put my attention on the cancer. The idea came to me because I posed a question on my blog, about a year ago, asking, “How do I self-heal from cancer?” I wrote the question in different colors on poster paper, as an art project, and hung it on my wall. Then someone responded to my blog post, saying, “The answer is in the question: You self-heal.”
I loved that answer. And then I highlighted the words “you self heal” with more color, in the poster on my wall. And I stood or sat in front of it and meditated on it. And then it came to me: What felt right was to amplify my intention to heal myself – mind, body, heart, and spirit. And just let the cancer work its way out of my system. All while taking measures to create an inhospitable environment to cancer, in my body – by eating a 90% raw foods diet; eating some organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised meat and poultry, as well as fresh Alaskan salmon; drinking copious amounts of vegetable juices and berry smoothies; and ultimately going on a 30 day juice fast.
But when Marianne was talking about surrounding the cancer cells with light, and treating them as a wounded child, and when she was talking about inviting the healing arms of Gd/dess to surround those cancer cells, I resonated thoroughly and decided I am going to re-engage with visualizations and meditation and proactively engaging with the nodule. And it’s interesting, because back when I was doing some guided imagery and visualization, with the support of a body worker and integrative medicine practitioner respectively, the cancer first appeared to me as black tar, and it was venomous and scary, like a monster, but as I continued engaging with it, that scary monster turned out to just be a front; and in fact, the cancer was a big, dopey, goofy, awkward amoeba shaped entity that didn’t quite know what it was doing there, and was confused, and really truly harmless.
But I didn’t quite know what to do with that image, and I was scared to interact with it. Because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing – as this is all experimental (I refer to my body as a walking laboratory), and, well, I didn’t really want to fuck with cancer and potentially introduce counter-productive energies. Meaning, I didn’t want to be loving to the cancer and accidentally contribute to its growth. Energy is powerful! So I focused on what I knew was positive: healing my whole being. That’s very much the Dancing with Pain approach: I focused on the parts of my body that felt good, and filled up that space with light and love and health and movement. That healthiness and positivity in itself healed the places of constriction and pain in my body.
But I’m really resonating with and excited about approaching the cancer cells as a wounded child who needs love. A friend of mine said, a few months back, that she had a hard time with the idea of attacking cancer (as is recommended as one of the visualizations, ie, seeing the healthy cells violently attacking and destroying the unhealthy cells, with the goal of destroying and eliminating them), because the cells are in the body, and hasn’t the body suffered from enough attack, namely the cancer cells attacking the healthy cells? I really liked what she said, because I also had a really hard time visualizing the whole attack-cancer thing.
And it was weird, because I have been very effective at, and dare I say, enjoyed fighting in certain situations – such as combating street harassment. In fact, I wrote a whole book – Consequence: Beyond Resisting Rape – about a period of time where I pushed the envelopes of response to street harassment, by physically hitting men who were harassing me, without their touching me. And I think that as a survivor of abuse in my family, as well as in this society at large (as a woman – while we don’t recognize it culturally, women are attacked visually, verbally, and psychically, throughout the day, every day, in ways big and small, never mind the physical attack that many women face, as well as the threat of physical attack that all women face; and as a Jew – with all the subtle and blatant forms of hatred, devaluation, and shaming, coupled with the denial that these forms of hatred even exist), it feels very important to me to be willing to fight, to be good at fighting, and to take aggressive action in fighting, to open up and take up, with light and love and healing, my rightful space in this world. (And I know there will be people who will slap a platitude on what I just said – saying you can never create peace through violence, but that gets into a definition of violence and exploration of violence vs. self-defense, and that’s a whole other topic I’m not going to get into here.)
And yet, my nature is a deeply gentle and loving person. While I love having the ability to fight and being strong at it, I do not want to have to fight. One of the conclusions of my book, Consequence, was that I just want to walk down the street in peace. I do not want to have to hit men, spit at men, act crazy to scare men, use humor to transform the energy of men, verbally combat men, ignore men, or any other possible options of responding to street harassment. I do not want street harassment to happen, period. And yet, as long as men choose to harass women, that decision and energy will impact my life some way, somehow, because I will need to respond to that uninvited intrusion in some way – even if the response is a non-response. And I just don’t want that interaction to exist, period.
And then there’s the issue of my dad. And my sister, whom I haven’t written about much at all, but who also has been a source of profound hurt, outrage, confusion, distress, and frustration. When you are faced with a person or cultural norm or situation that is fucked up, and when the individual or institution or society as a whole refuse to do their work to recognize and heal and transform that fucked-up-ness, it affects everyone who interacts with it. Bringing it to the personal level, it affects me. I spent decades attempting to heal my relationship with both my dad and sister, to no avail – only to come to the conclusion that there is no reconciliation. Which is a really tough thing to accept, especially around the time of the High Holidays, considering that I deeply believe in Judaism at my core, and the whole idea of the High Holidays is transformation, repair, reconciliation, repentance, healing, and renewal, not necessarily in that order. The only way for all of that to work, though, is for all parties involved to take accountability for their actions, to rise above and beyond their own experience and have compassion for another person’s experience, while simultaneously holding that person accountable for egregious behavior, and to take steps to repent and repair and move forward in Light.
But when someone is refusing to recognize their actions, refusing to have compassion for how their actions have hurt someone, refusing to take steps to change their behavior in the present and future, well, it’s basically hopeless. And so, after decades of trying this way and that and the other, I have given up. Not really, but mostly. I can’t help it, I’m the eternal optimist. I believe that Life is never stagnant. Even something that appears to be stuck and one-dimensional has molecules moving around, albeit super slowly. Even a mountain can change shape over time, with a persistent drop of water.
But I can’t be that persistent drop anymore, because it’s draining.
Anyhow, where this all is going is that a few years ago, I was trying to put a psychic shield around myself, and I was having a really hard time with it. And without getting into too much detail, I realized that it’s not my nature to block out Life or people or experience. Which is a problem when there’s a whole lot of gook in the world. How do I block out gook but let in the beautiful energies and experiences? It then occurred to me that the way it works for me is to beam Light and Love and Healing, from my inner core and emanating outward. So that, similar to not fighting pain in the Dancing with Pain approach, I fill my energetic/psychic/physical/mental space with Light, so that there is simply no room for the darkness. I do not have to fight the dark. I simply spread the light.
And yet I do believe that, in the physical world, there needs to be a little of this and a little of that. We need the ability and flexibility to fight the darkness, as well as to spread the light. When to do what? Who does what? I feel that in my teens and 20s, and even into my 30s, I was fighting the good fight, doing high-level activist work. And I believe, from my experience, that when one is a pioneer, there is a lot of darkness that needs to be fought, so as to put radical new systems in place. Even if you look at it historically, it appears that effective change requires the radical wing that is willing to engage in combat so as to shake up the system. When the Black Panthers emerged, Martin Luther King was suddenly seen as the peaceful option. And so on.
What does this have to do with cancer? I don’t like a lot of ways the world is operating. I don’t like the existence of a lot of dynamics and cultural norms. I don’t like the behavior and thinking of two of the people who are most important to me.
And I don’t like cancer. I don’t want it in my body.
I remember coming to the conclusion, years ago, that if I couldn’t change a relationship, I needed to change my relationship to the relationship. I need to continue creating an environment that is inhospitable to cancer, through diet and exercise. Side by side with that, I need to continue healing myself as a whole – working less, playing more, sleeping better and for longer hours, socializing, going on a real vacation (which I haven’t done since the late 1990s). And side by side with that, perhaps I need to invite Gd/dess’s loving arms to surround the cancer cells and heal them back into being normal, healthy cells.
I believe in healing. This is why I have chosen not to get surgery. I believe in the integrity of the body and in healing it as-is, all body parts intact.
Similarly I believe that every relationship can be healed – truly, fully, and profoundly. But, I have discovered, only if the circumstances are right. I can see the hearts and essence of people, even when they are acting like assholes and following their basest impulses. But I have learned that I cannot continue to engage with those people, when they repeatedly, in every way and in every situation, continue to act on those base impulses, because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if that’s their essence or not. That’s how they are walking through the world; that’s the being that they are emanating. And when I interact with them, I am impacted by that deeply hurtful persona. They need to want to change, I have discovered, they need to have interest in walking through the world with the same values as I have, or there is really no common ground. Which makes me sad.
But I can heal internally, and I can surround that relationship with Light and Love and Healing. And I can pray to Gd/dess with all the love in my heart. And I can imagine – and therefore experience — the relationships as I wish they were. So that somehow, in some way, the healing and transformation can occur, and I can walk through the world Happy, Whole, Free and intoxicated with Love for Life.
And perhaps, by approaching the cancer cells not as foreign invaders, but as a part of my body that is hurt, misguided, and confused, and by offering powerful and healing love and guidance to those cells, as well as an inner landscape that facilitates health and wellbeing, I will create the environment where they will evolve into balance and harmony with the rest of my body – healing naturally, in every sense of the word. After all, unlike those things that are truly outside my being and my control, the cancer cells are a part of this body that I inhabit. Mind is Body is Spirit is Heart is Wellness.
We have so much more Power than we think. And I am here to Connect, to Create, to Celebrate, and to Manifest my greatest possible Being. Right down to my cellular level.