Anybody else ever feel a little unsure about all the “warrior” imagery in the breast cancer world? I know some people feel a little off-put by all the pink ribbon stuff, especially in October (or Pinktober, as some call it), when it seems like it is everywhere, being crammed down everyone’s throat, from the grocery store to the football players’ uniforms and more. The pink stuff doesn’t really bother me. In fact, I really embrace it, and am glad for the visibility of the push for advances in breast cancer care. However, the pink warrior/fight like a girl theme doesn’t really work for me. Don’t get me wrong, the breast cancer experience is indeed a tough battle, and our bodies and minds have to do a lot of fighting to get through it. But I guess that is exactly my point. Especially when I was actively in treatment, I really felt like I had more than enough fighting going on inside of me, like the last thing I needed was to perpetuate the idea of battle any more. From the toxicity of the chemotherapy and my body’s reaction to that, to the physical wounds from surgery and the inflammation from radiation, and the emotional resistance I felt against the cancer in general, I felt like my entire being was a war-zone. What I truly craved was peace; peace in my body, and peace in my mind. It seemed (and still seems) to me that what I needed most was to try to help my body and mind return to a place of peace, so that healing and recovery could take place. Yogic ideas from the yamas and niyamas (2 of Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga) helped me find that space.
Eckhart Tolle has been a favorite of mine since long before my cancer, and many of his teaching are right in line with basic yogic principles. During my active treatment, his writings about non-resistance and acceptance of the present moment spoke to me so profoundly. He says “To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease, and lightness” and “The moment that judgement stops – through acceptance of what is – you are free of the mind. You have made room for love, for joy, for peace”. This was exactly what I needed, to help me recover from all that breast cancer brought. Rather than go on mentally perpetuating the fight against my cancer, which I felt only created more turmoil and suffering in my mind and spirit, I accepted it, made peace with it. I mean, no amount of being angry could make the cancer go away, so why would I allow that anger and resentment to stay and make me more miserable than the cancer itself did?! Now, this is not to say that I enjoyed it, or that I wasn’t thrilled each time I passed another milestone, such as the final chemotherapy or the last day of radiation. But by releasing my resistance and aversion to the things that I needed to do, I felt such an increase in the sense of peace in my being, and the treatments actually became easier to tolerate. It is said that it is actually our resistance to, or our attachment to things or experiences that makes us suffer most. And this is taught in the yamas and the niyamas of the 8 limbs of yoga. We will talk more about these in detail in some of the videos.
Of course, if the warrior theme speaks to you, and makes you feel more empowered in your breast cancer recovery, by all means, fight on sister. We all have different ways of approaching this experience, and only you can know what feels healthiest for you.
In the meantime, I do love the physical asana warrior II (as in the photo above) in my yoga practice, so I’ll just take it nice and slow, with long deep breaths, and call it a peace warrior.
Wishing you all peace and healing on this breast cancer journey. Namaste