Sometimes in life, you just get blown away by how beautifully things can turn out. This year’s Yoga for Breast Cancer Retreat was one of those times. This group of amazing breast cancer survivors, and a few of our support people, gathered in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to relax, restore ourselves, learn about and practice yoga, support one another, delight in nature’s beauty, share stories, empower one another, and heal ourselves in body, mind, and spirit. We also had a few margaritas, a lot of laughs, and some fun adventures. It was truly moving to see the love and support shared by this beautifully varied group of people. We all have different stories, different stages of cancer, different treatments, different physical abilities, different backgrounds, and are in different places and stages of our lives outside of cancer. But we all came together, listened, and offered what we could to each and every other member of the group. My heart honestly just swells a little, even now a month later, as I think about it and look back over the photos (just part of the group pictured here, see the slideshow on my homepage for more!).
As another cancer survivor friend of mine said recently, the Cancer Club sure isn’t one you want to join willingly. But once you become a member, there is something really special about how we rally around one another, offering advice, support, or maybe just a hug and some understanding. We all recognize something of ourselves in one another, and true compassion springs forth from there. Perhaps we remember when we were in the same difficult situation waiting for test results, or we recall having those same side effects, or those same fears and stressors. Our differences melt away, and we see another beautiful soul going through a shared experience. Cancer, as shitty as it is, is a great equalizer. No matter how rich, beautiful, famous, or talented you are, cancer and cancer treatments affect us all deeply as human beings and human bodies, without much regard for all of those things that we sometimes think are what define us and that can divide us if we let them. In the face of a cancer experience, our differences pale in comparison to our commonalities, and we feel a fellowship and a camaraderie with those around us.
Interestingly, a very similar thing happens in yoga. Yoga practice teaches us compassion and understanding of ourselves (through practice of the yamas and niyamas, asana, and really all of the 8 limbs), which then develops naturally into compassion and understanding of others, and a recognition of our oneness with all beings. Sadhguru (an Indian yogi, teacher and philosopher) said “If you can break the illusion that you are separate, and begin to experience the oneness of existence, that is yoga”. This is, of course, referring to yoga as a state of being (not as just the physical asana practice part of yoga), to yoga as a state of union and oneness with the universe.
So in a weird way, cancer can be the catalyst that nudges us into a state of yoga, opening our hearts and minds to oneness and connecting us to others and to all of life’s experiences. And what magic ensues when that occurs! That is the magic that I felt at our retreat, with all of these beautiful people.
As Ram Dass says, “we’re all just walking each other home”. I love walking with all of my gorgeous, loving, and awe-inspiring cancer-surviving sisters!