The other day I had the startling realization that everything in my life I’ve resisted the most has also changed my life the most.
First, there was kundalini yoga.
After cancer, I was losing my mind and rabidly angry. I’d literally lose my shit in restaurants and grocery stores over nothing. My now-husband would whisper, “People are staring,” and I’d glare at him. “I. Don’t. Care.”
Not many people know this but the worst part of cancer is actually after treatment.
It’s like a war ended and only then do you have the time and emotional capacity to survey the wreckage of your life, your body, your mind.
The proper social-worker term is “finding your new normal,” but let me tell you there’s nothing normal about finishing cancer treatment.
I was bald, boobless (implants yeah, but they’re not the same), and so deep inside the hole of my suffering that all I wanted to do was run away.
This desire to run away was nothing new in my life. It was my coping mechanism.
But this time couldn’t. For life reasons, I had to stay.
Somehow I discovered kundalini yoga, and although there were times I’d literally storm out of the room during one of the exercises, always skipping the post-practice meditations, slowly the practice changed my life.
During one DVD, there was a part that involved spinning around in circles, arms stretched to the sides like a bird, and the teacher joyfully said, “wherever you go, beauty follows and healing happens.”
I remember wearing a pale pink turban with remnants of lost hair stuck in the threads, feeling like an alien, out of my body, out of my mind, but when the teacher said those words, I believed it.
I wanted it to be true, and I told myself, one day, I would heal myself and uplift people with my very presence.
The second thing was not being able to move.
About a year after cancer, I moved from this little town in Central Arizona where I worked as a newspaper reporter to the Phoenix Valley.
My now-husband’s family was from there, and although we talked about moving to California or Colorado, the Valley was easy. It was 2009, the economy was crashing, everyone was losing their minds, and Phoenix was close by.
A couple years later, guess what? I wanted to leave again.
I hated Arizona. I mean, despised. I never planned to live there, it just kind of happened, and living there seemed like one more thing that I didn’t have control over.
But my husband didn’t even want to talk about moving. He would not budge.
For the first time in my life, I wanted to move and there was no end in sight.
I spent probably a couple years living in utter resistance, feeling so sorry for myself, like I just got done fighting cancer and all I wanted was to be happy.
And then one day I realized, life is too short to be miserable. For a long time, I knew that — life is too short to be miserable, but always followed it up with, “so I should move now.”
But my suffering grew too great and I realized that no. If life is too short to be miserable, then I should stop feeling that way. I wanted to move to California so I could be happy, so I should just let go of needing California to be happy and be happy here. Now.
My new mantra became, “If I can be happy here, I can be happy anywhere.”
It led to a beautiful time of spiritual surrender and exploration. A time that truly changed my life.
And that leads to the third thing — meditation.
I never really share this experience, but one late night/early morning during chemo, my whole body ached. So I went into the living room to stretch.
This is before I considered myself a yogi, but knew a few postures.
Feeling a little out of my mind, right there, in the pre-dawn dark, a voice boomed in my head. “You must meditate.”
I think it was the voice of God. It was loud and it was scary, and being the rebel that I am, of course I didn’t listen.
I couldn’t sit still for anything. I’d been running from myself my whole life. I’d lived in seven states in three years, didn’t have the patience to write a blog or a book like I’d always wanted, couldn’t even keep a job for longer than a few years.
I knew I was smart and wasting my potential and that killed me — almost did quite literally with cancer — but I was full of so much pain and sadness that I couldn’t sit with myself.
Somehow I understood that if I was going to write, if I was going to find happiness, then I had to meditate.
It took me four years to begin. Four years, and I started with one little minute.
Even then, I stared at my cell phone timer the whole time. It hurt. It felt horrible.
But I kept showing up. And over time, I came home to myself. I was guided to a way to sit with my emotions to dissolve them. (That I now teach.)
And those three three things turned me from an absolute mess to who I am today.
Which is not a perfect person. But I’m so proud of myself. I have a devoted spiritual practice through which I show up for myself, feel my pain and work to embody my true self.
I remember the love. I speak kindly to myself. My relationships have improved since I feel more at peace.
And you know, some days, I even feel like what that yoga teacher said is true — wherever you go, healing happens and beauty follows.
Some days my insides feel so light and bright and full of good vibes that I feel my heart extending out to everyone I meet.
It’s not every day, but those days inspire me to continue the work of embodying my true self at all times. To keep showing up and to keep trying.
Because if I can learn to sit with myself, then so can you.
If your heart tells you that meditation is the next step for you, then you should listen. Not to me, but to your heart.
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Love hard, live free,
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