During the time I was having chemotherapy, I attended a local movie premiere of Sex In The City. The evening was a fundraiser for breast cancer. Given the nature of the movie, the cinema was naturally full of women with the odd token male. As I looked around, I sadly observed that one woman in each row of the cinema would be affected by breast cancer within her lifetime.
The latest statistics from The Cancer Council NSW state that one in seven women will develop breast cancer by the age of 75. This is an astonishing figure. I was one of those people who had thought to herself, “not me, I’m too young, I’m too healthy”.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2008 at the age of thirty-three. It came as a shock as I had considered myself in near-perfect health condition. I led a holistic and balanced lifestyle with a nutritious diet, exercised regularly and practised yoga and meditation. I was the last person my friends would expect to be diagnosed with the disease.
As a yoga teacher, my job is all about the connection between the body, mind, spirit and soul. Yoga is about our relationships, with ourselves, with others and our environment.
From a yogic perspective, I did not believe that my breast cancer was random, nor that I was plain unlucky. In yoga, disease is caused when one becomes disconnected on some level.
I turned to Ayurveda for some answers. Ayurveda is the ancient Indian healing modality that addresses not only the physical body, but the cause of the disease. It teaches the “causes of breast cancer are both hereditary and acquired; the acquired causes being physical, emotional, spiritual, and environmental”.(Alakananda Devi Director of Alandi Ayurvedic Clinic, Colorado). Ruling out genetics and many of the other contributing factors that are listed as putting one at “risk”, I innately knew that I would have to search deep within to understand where my disease had stemmed from on an emotional and spiritual level.
Yoga and Ayurveda considers each person a multi-dimensional human being and therefore addresses illness and healing in a holistic way. According to yoga, there are five layers to our existence; our physical body (annamaya); our breathing/energy level (pranamaya); our intellect (manomaya); our personality/nature (vijnamaya); and the level of bliss/spirit (anandamaya). All of these levels are entwined, interconnected. What is manifested on one level affects the other levels. The body is not considered separate from the mind. For example, an illness can appear on the physical level, however its cause may derive from the emotions. An example is when we feel sick or have butterflies in the stomach when we worry.
I had come to the understanding that I had developed breast cancer because on some level other than that of my physical body, there was dis-ease. The cancer was a result of an imbalance within my being. I thus began my inward search to find the cause.
This quest led to an energetic healing modality in which I discovered how it was that I was “holding” on an emotional level that contributed to the breast cancer. I had lived my life in “protection mode” so as not to get hurt. The way we “hold” is not always so easy to see on the outside, however, it is an energetic pattern that I had learned from a young age and continued to build throughout my life. It has taken a lot of self-honesty and commitment to make changes in my life to shift this pattern.
My more recent studies over the past couple of years with Universal Medicine has helped me to understand on a deeper level that the energetic underlying cause of breast cancer is a lack of self-nurturing. It’s that simple. We do not love and nurture ourselves enough. To know this and then to change how we are is another (and much harder) story. We need to address the energy that we are living in.
How often do we as women put everyone before ourselves thinking that this is the “right thing to do”? Mothers are great at this. However, in reality, we can never truly love another, unless we have that relationship with ourselves first. For me, self-nurturing used to be about having a nice bath, perhaps attending a yoga class, or buying myself something nice. I have learned that none of these things have truly changed the energy that I’m living in.
How do we make this change? The first step is to be honest about where our bodies are at. To be honest, we need to re-learn how to “feel” our bodies. To take a step out of our heads and dive into our bodies. When we do this and are honest, for most of us we will see that we hold a lot of hardness, pain and hurt. How can love express in a body of hardness?
There is quite a gap between hardness and self-love. The key and the step between hardness and self-love is to be gentle. When we build gentleness in our bodies, we begin to experience living in a different energy. This energy now becomes gentleness. Over a period of time and with consistent practice, this gentleness becomes a way of being/living. We are then able to “feel” when we are not being gentle and it doesn’t feel lovely. With gentleness as a reference point, we are then inspired to go about being gentle in all that we do.
How do we learn to be gentle in our bodies? Some simple examples to look at within ourselves are: How do I walk? How do I open the door? How do I make my cup of tea? How do I do my yoga postures? How do I breathe? Is it with a hardness in my body or could I do these things with a gentle energy? How do I feel when I breathe a gentle breath? How do I feel when I walk in a gentle rhythm?
Interestingly enough, as you start to live in this rhythm of gentleness, the anger, the resentment and the constriction around the heart starts to dissolve – because you have changed the energy that you are living in. You will start to feel self-loving and then the choices you make in your life will reflect this.
Having learnt to make these changes in my own life, it feels beautiful when I re-connect with myself. I feel like me. I feel and connect to that amazingness that we all are and that we can all access. It’s all there – right inside of ourselves.
So that you do not become a statistic and perhaps saving yourself from surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, you might want to ask yourself – what energy am I living in?
How can I be more gentle with myself? It does require time, patience and commitment to build the gentleness. I work on this on a daily basis. By living life this way, I do not live in fear of a reoccurence, as I know that I’m addressing the root cause of my cancer. Plus – it’s joyful, so why wouldn’t I?
Donna Nolan is a Sydney-based Yoga Teacher teaching gentle private, group and corporate classes and retreats. She also runs specific retreats for Cancer Support and offers Esoteric Healing for people with Cancer. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org