I have said before that research has shown that one of the qualities common to people who cope best with a cancer experience is being able to look at the experience as an opportunity; an opportunity to learn something, for personal growth, or to change one’s lifestyle for the better. So I have tried to embody this in my own cancer experience, seeing all of the ways that I have grown and become better as a result of my breast cancer, rather than focusing on any of the perceived “negatives”. In fact, if we really think about it, many of those “negatives” might actually be turned into positives if we can just train ourselves to see the things that we have learned from them.
One of the biggest lessons that I continue to learn from my cancer journey is patience. Anyone who knows me knows I have historically been one of the most impatient people alive. It makes me a terrible cook! LOL I am always watching the proverbial pot that then never boils! But I have finally realized that my impatience also makes me suffer unnecessarily. If I can just learn to be more patient, to trust that things happen when they are supposed to, to release my desire to control everything and my need to have things happen on MY timeline… then I can have so much more peace in my mind, and thus truly feel better all the time. I mean, why obsess over something when that will NOT make it happen any faster, right? So this really was a lesson that I needed to learn. And man, did having breast cancer give me a big serving of it! I always imagine a big spoonful of whatever I needed to learn being shoved right into my mouth. Mmmmmmm patience.
From the very first week of my diagnosis, waiting on my biopsy results and special stains, I just could not get the information fast enough. Then during chemotherapy, a couple of times my treatment got delayed because the meds didn’t arrive at the clinic, or there was some snafu with the insurance. And waiting that week (that seems like a year) for PET scan results to arrive! All of these things drove me really crazy, and challenged me to come back to my breath, to realize that my stress would not make things happen any faster, but instead just make me feel physically ill and miserable for however long I wound up having to wait. I learned (very slowly, admittedly) to just breathe deeply, release my impatience, accept whatever timeline the universe had in mind, and recognize that there was plenty of beauty in my life at that very moment that I could enjoy while I waited. In fact, I read some advice from Eckhart Tolle that said (paraphrasing) that we should learn to release the idea that we are waiting, that next time we are made to wait in the doctor’s office or in line at the post office, and when it is finally our turn and the person says “sorry to have kept you waiting”, we respond “oh, no problem, I wasn’t waiting, I was just enjoying the view” (or watching the kids, or enjoying a magazine, or whatever thing we find around us that can be interesting or enjoyable, rather than boiling up with irritation that we have been made to wait). Isn’t that great advice? So I try to use that. Full disclosure, I still get pretty impatient when waiting for those PET scan results or something sortof scary like that. But I am dramatically better than I used to be. And I thank my cancer experience for that. I am a much happier, more patient, less irritable person, thanks to breast cancer.
Interestingly yoga is a great teacher of patience as well. As you know, if you have practiced any yoga at all, our bodies aren’t often able to do certain things right away. It can take months and years to build the flexibility and strength that it takes to get into certain asanas. And so it is a key teaching in yoga to learn to NOT be so attached to the end result (yoga postures aren’t like prizes or badges that we collect or perfect), and to be content with just working on ourselves wherever we are on any given day. To recognize that all of the good stuff, the growth and the transformation, lies in the journey, not in the destination. So we must cultivate patience every single day on our mats, and recognize that wherever we are today, is right where we are supposed to be. We must open our eyes to whatever we are experiencing right now, rather than rushing off to a future time when we might reach some distant goal.
So whether you struggling with waiting on important steps in your cancer journey, or you are on your mat and working on a new asana, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience”. And if you find it difficult, you’re not the only one, so be patient with yourself 😉