In breast cancer, as in life, there are always going to be some days which are “better” or “worse” than others. But one thing that yoga teaches us is that so much of this has to do with our own judgement of the situation, and how we choose to react to that judgement. Santosha, which is the 2nd of the niyamas (the internal practices or guidelines for our behavior as we relate to ourselves) in the 8 limbs of yoga, teaches us to find contentment or a sense of satisfaction with ourselves and our situations, despite external circumstances. This allows us to find peace, true joy and happiness, despite the fluctuations in our surroundings and material things, which of course are all impermanent. Practicing santosha, or contentment, allows us to break free of the suffering we put ourelves through by always wanting things to be different than they are. When we drop that attachment to things or conditions, and instead become open to receiving whatever life brings us, we open ourselves up for gratitude, growth, peace, and bliss.
Of course, some days truly are very difficult, and it can feel almost impossible to be content. This is natural. I mean, the first few days after each of my chemotherapy treatments were truly crappy (no pun intended, as I received Perjeta, which causes severe diarrhea!). But like everything, those sensations and side effects were temporary, and eventually subsided, leaving space for better days to come. This photo is from one of those better days, about 2 weeks after my first chemotherapy. My hair had begun to fall out, so I shaved my head. But I was getting my appetite and strength back, was feeling a little better, and decided to do some yoga. It felt amazing to feel good again, and I realized I would be able to get through this, knowing that the bad would come and go, with beautiful rays of light in between, illuminating all that I had to be grateful for.
I was grateful for the chemotherapy I was receiving, which is really a modern miracle, capable of curing many women with breast cancers that would have killed them just decades earlier. I was grateful for the supportive care medications that helped with the side effects, for my loving and supportive family, for peanut butter cookies that tasted like magic when my appetite returned, and so many other things that were truly good in my life.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama said “Unfortunate events, though potentially a source of anger and despair, have equal potential to be a source of spiritual growth. Whether or not this is the outcome depends on your response”.
So don’t worry if you have some rough moments. We all do, and it is natural when going through something difficult. But try to remember santosha, and find some level of contentment, despite all circumstances. Remembering the things in your life for which you are grateful is a great practice to help you cultivate santosha. Listen to some music that you like, take in a little nature, or practice some calming breathing exericises (more on this in the Pranayama video coming soon). As you feel the contentment creeping in and replacing more negative emotions like anger or frustration, you will feel the peace and joy expanding in your life. And the next time something difficult comes along, you will find it easier and easier to minimize the negative effects of those difficult experiences. And maybe instead of Zeppelin’s “Good times, bad times”, you’ll feel a little more like Louis Armstrong’s “What a wonderful world”.
Sending my love and light to you, as you progress through this cancer journey. Namaste.