After my cancer diagnosis, what came to me is that mindfulness is about being here now; being still; becoming aware of my Being; not allowing my mind to run me ragged with past and future thoughts, but remaining here in this present moment where everything is just fine and where peace and joy reside. My name is Chris, and this is my story.
Upon his winning of yet another gold medal at the Olympics recently, I heard Michael Phelps say, “This is the best day of my life.” It took my mind only a fraction of a second to decide that best day of my life was the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Looking back on that day it is hard to believe I am saying this now, but it’s true. Friday, December 7, 2007 (The day I now refer to as My Own Personal Pearl Harbor), I received the dreaded call from my doctor:
“Hi Chris, we got the results of your breast biopsy; it looks like that lump is cancer.
“I know that’s hard to hear.”
And so began the synchronicity of events, which I eventually came to realize, were the steppingstones on my journey to awakening.
After that call I had a full-blown tantrum: crying, stomping feet, pounding table, whining and wailing that I didn’t want to lose my breasts, that I didn’t want to get sucked into the system – very dramatic, very pathetic. And then after about an hour of that, suddenly I just stopped. I sat down with my husband, and he commented on the drastic change. I told him that if someone asked me how I felt at that moment, I would not be able to tell them. I didn’t know. I really didn’t feel anything. I said, “Okay, so I don’t live to be 120, maybe 99.” And that was it. I told my sister the next day that I felt like I was two people, as though I were watching myself go through this, and I was amazed at how well I was doing.
That weekend, unable to sleep, anticipating my appointment with the surgeon on Monday morning, I was spending the night on the couch, dozing on an off with the TV on. At one point I woke up and saw on the screen a man in a white robe, sitting in lotus. The camera closed in on his face, and he said, “Meditation is about finding out who you are.” And then I went back to sleep. The next day that image continued to return to me. “Meditation is about finding out who you are,” I never thought about it like that. I had started meditating in 1995 during a bout with depression, and always thought that meditation was about maintaining calm, building your immune system, connecting to the universe. But finding out who I am? That was something new to me.
The next day or so (still on the couch), a commercial came on with Oprah holding up her new book-club choice: A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. “If you want to know who you are,” she said, “you want to join us to read this book.” Okay, I got the message. I read the book. Words cannot describe the transformation I experienced after that first read. Talk about “when the student is ready, the teacher appears!” Then, beginning in March, for 10 weeks, I joined the millions of other viewers who joined the first-ever webinar and listened as Oprah and Eckhart discussed his book with the world, chapter by chapter. I was completely blown away. I have now read the book four times, and I am now able to look back and understand what happened to me on the day of that phone call.
I now know that the screaming, ranting and railing that I engaged in after receiving the news was my ego. I was truly suffering, resisting, trying desperately to change What Is.
I now know that the sudden stopping of my tantrum, sitting down and not knowing how to describe how I felt, was my acceptance of What Is. I was experiencing what St Paul described as “the peace of God which passeth all understanding.”
I now know that what I described to my sister as being two people and watching myself go through this was my Witness/Presence/Being/Consciousness – Who I Am versus my ego.
I have become aware of my Primary Purpose; I have become aware of my Being. The day of my diagnosis I was shocked into the separation of my self and my ego. I didn’t get it immediately, but it did seep in over the course of a few months.
A few days after I learned of my diagnosis and before the class actually started, I emailed my meditation teacher asking him for guidance and recommendations. He said, “Many people will tell you with deep feeling in their hearts about the sadness that they and you feel. I feel sadness for you as well, and no one seeks out this news. So please do not misinterpret what I say next as being unfeeling or uncaring: This is a great opportunity to do real work.”
And so it continues to be. -By Chris