Finding stillness in the breast cancer storm

Lao tzu said “To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders”. Before I found yoga, I don’t think I ever even knew what the word stillness meant. There wasn’t much time for stillness in my life, or so I thought. Between long busy hours in the office and the hospital, driving to and from work, meetings after work, trying to get some exercise, drinking enough water, running errands, spending time with my hubs and rarely my girlfriends, there just really wasn’t much time for anything else but sleep. I literally cut my own hair for years because I didn’t want to take the time to go to a salon! LOL, it wasn’t pretty. Imagine a hamster on a wheel. And I actually thought that if I was being still, I was wasting time that could be spent actually accomplishing something “important”. I’m pretty sure I am not the only one who felt this way. It is common in our culture to always be doing, running, achieving. And if we aren’t constantly doing something, then we either feel lazy or like we are missing out on something fun. Then throw cancer into the mix, with the appointments and treatments and everything else that is required of us, and wow, there is even less time for stillness. Or so I thought.

Yoga and yoga philosophy (and actually my cancer experience too, now that I think about it!) opened my eyes to the fact that when we allow ourselves to run, run, run, in this epidemic of busy-ness as it is sometimes called, we are cutting ourselves off from so much. We are actually missing much of the richness of life, the beautiful texture of the little moments, the simple joys hidden in each experience, the glory of nature or the smile of a loved one, the true bliss of just being ourselves. If we are constantly thinking about and/or running off to the next moment, the next accomplishment, or the next thing to mark off of our list, all of these beautiful little still moments of presence are lost. Talk about a waste!

Importantly, it is in the stillness, in these moments of just being, that our bodies and minds can rest, relax, heal, and regain balance from whatever challenges our lives have brought. Without that stillness, we remain in that vicious cycle of stress, tension, and disequilibrium that is SO unhealthy. And we, as breast cancer survivors, need to heal and restore harmony and balance as much as anyone! Having cancer sort of forced me to be still at times, because I just really didn’t feel well enough to do anything else. And I consider this such an important gift from my cancer experience; learning that it is not just ok, but tremendously important, to put down my desire to run and do, and instead just be. So now, I make stillness a priority. I always begin my yoga practice with settling in to find that place of stillness. And I try to revisit that place throughout my days, as often as I can.

What I eventually learned is that we can learn to choose. Once we recognize the profound importance of stillness, and of really relishing those moments of just being, we can actually choose NOT to let ourselves get swept up in constantly running and doing. We can change our commitments, our schedules, and our priorities to make the time for stillness and present moment awareness. We can make time for yoga, or meditation, or walking in nature, or just spending time with loved ones really being together and soaking up all of those beautiful little moments. For many of us, we will still have busy lives with work and family and responsibilities. But if we can just take a few minutes for stillness here and there, I think we’ll find we really love how it makes us feel. Just take a few minutes and look away from your computer screen and out the window at a beautiful tree or a blue sky, listen to the birds, and just feel your breath. Breaking up a busy work day with just a few short interludes of stillness will help tremendously, and give your body and mind a break to enter into that relaxation response where deep healing can take place. And as we learn to practice stillness, we will be better and better able to shift into that place with ease whenever we want to. As with everything, it just takes practice.

I’ll meet you on the mat to practice finding our stillness.


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