Who are you without cancer?


There are times when we feel disconnected from ourselves. When we’re ill, when we have strong emotions, when we compare ourselves to others, when we’re distracted – all of these times can cause us to look into the mirror and say, “Who is that?” There is such a deep, human desire to be connected to our own thoughts, feelings, and body. When we’re out of balance in this way, we can spend days, weeks, months, even years working to return to that place of inner recognition. I’m not talking about what we do, I’m talking about who we are. Who are you without cancer? Who are you without the job that defined you? What’s at your very core? What makes you smile? Or cry? I have found that the simplest yoga postures can bring me back to that wellspring of self-awareness. It isn’t something as foreign as “enlightenment”; it feels simple, like comfort or like a moment of clarity. I remember what I like to do that soothes me and what I like to wear or eat that helps me to feel like Me again. Often, it begins by deepening my breath or from an experience in nature.

Last week I was in San Francisco with some friends. We were on a hike near Crissy Field, along the Bay. It was a glorious, warm, windy day and there were people all over the place biking, playing, swimming, running, eating, and hanging out. The fog was rolling in below the Golden Gate bridge, and the foghorn was booming in rhythm. All of a sudden, a great, blue heron came gliding overhead and landed close by. I watched him for a long time as he focused on something that I couldn’t see. I began to breath slowly and held as still as I could, then he took to the sky, caught the wind and disappeared. Just like that. I felt fully myself after that close encounter with such a wild and wonderful being. That bird showed me full presence, beauty, power, and wonder, just by being. What a moment of grace!

I wish the same for you. Inhaling, exhaling, may you return to yourself in this breath.