Cancer had been something of a peripheral conversation in my life until the past few years. Since then, it has made some home visits.
In 2010, I was in a bizarre accident that necessitated many hospital visits and surgeries. It was a time of much pain and fear, which led me to imagine the fragility of life and health, and the horrors that might befall me or the people I loved. I heard stories of illness, disease and loss, and felt every single experience as if it were my own. As you can imagine, this only increased my sense of unease and anxiety.
I also, concluded that because my immune system was weak, I would be a prime candidate to host a cancer. So I began to think about “the c word”. I thought about it a great deal, imagining the sickness steadily growing in my body, and my slow death by its hand. It became a living fear – by which I mean I couldn’t switch off my disquieting thoughts about it.. until one day, I forced myself to face my fear about cancer.
I delved past the story (a dramatic, full length feature which I imagined daily) and searched for the composition of the fear.
What did cancer mean for me? What was I really afraid of? I dove within my consciousness until I could palpably feel the anxious knot in the core of my belly.
It was a clenching, suffocating cry, a black hole of dread. It was a place of no escape or salvation. What was the cause of these terrible feelings? I asked myself the question again and again. I sat and waited. Breathing. Discerning. Listening.
Slowly, I began to realize that what I feared most was the loss of choice – that something else could decide my life for me and create pain. Even if I did everything in my power to stop it, it could still destroy me.
“I“ was not in charge and “I” could be destroyed. There it was – simple. It was not the cancer, but the loss of choice/life that I feared. Cancer became the symbol that triggered a deep subconscious fear of mortality, suffering, loss and death.
I felt immense relief when I discovered the root of this fear. The tight knots I had wound myself into released, and I began to breathe again.
By cluing in to the exact nature of the fear, I found correct placement for it in my consciousness. When I finally put the anxiety in its place, I was given a new perspective, and refreshed compassion for the healing process I was in.
When our fear speaks, it is the opposite of an epiphany, and yet if we pay attention, we can still find our way to peace. You see, fear demands that we become still enough to discover our truths, no matter how deeply unsettling – truths like “I am dying,” or “I am broken,” or “My body is in endless pain.”
We struggle with and fight this kind of transformation as it occurs – whether it is our own failing health, or some other form of break down. Yes, while this transformation may be signalling the end of something, remember that it is also a beginning. For this end & beginning to happen with some semblance of equanimity and composure, we must engage and use our consciousness.
It is the listening, discerning, breathing, meditating, and engaging that constitutes consciousness – the very act of choosing how we interpret or experience each situation creates our personal reach to the new shores of Being.
We have to learn not to fear death and remember that it is part of the blueprint of life. We know of no life form that exists in perpetuity. Even the bold sun will die out someday. Once we make peace with this – and I include those of us who like the idea of many lifetimes – we come to the understanding that because one chapter will end, another must begin. Life and death walk always hand-in-hand; balanced, cyclical, unavoidable and certain.
Imagine a world in which we all accepted death like we accept the setting of the sun. Instead of trembling in the face of our own inevitable ends, we could see them instead as radiant, awe-inspiring conclusions that allow for the dawning of a new & beautiful day.
Could you see yourself in a world like that?
Photo Credit: The Four Familiars by Troy-Anthony Baylis