Apr 01 2009

Step by Step, Breath by Breath – Courage 4/1/09 Issue #6

Posted at 11:27 am under Enlightenink Newsletters

I walked into the hospital on Monday morning for my surgery trembling like a dog walking into the vets. I put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, one breath at a time, and I got through it!

I’ve always been afraid of hospitals and the idea of surgery. In the past I thought if I had to choose between hospitalization and death, I would choose death. I didn’t think I had it in me to be able to handle it. But I am handling it. I am braver than I thought!

Cancer has been one of my worst fears. Over the years I’ve performed all kinds of anti-cancer rituals (taking vitamin D, wearing sunscreen, eating broccoli, etc.), trying to keep it at bay. It’s like I’ve been tiptoeing around a sleeping beast, trying not to wake it. Yet despite my best efforts, the beast awakened.

A friend told me about someone she knew who had taken great care of his body, mind, and spirit; yet still he had a heart attack. He was sure it was a mistake and said, “Somewhere, there’s a guy sitting in front of a TV watching wrestling, clutching a beer, with Cheetos dust floating down onto his big belly…. and I HAD HIS HEART ATTACK!” We humans are so funny! We actually think we can control these things!

In early childhood I had a recurring dream: I was walking into a field with other kids and they wanted to walk into the woods at the edge of the field. I was afraid of the big bad wolf in the woods, so I didn’t go with them. I lay down on a picnic table in the open field by myself and thought that I was safe; but when I opened my eyes, the wolf was there, right next to me, staring at me with sparkling flinty eyes! Even as a young child I was struck by the irony of it.

One way I’ve tried to keep the wolf from my door is by very carefully avoiding x-rays, not even wanting digital dental x-rays. When I had appendicitis a few months ago I was given a CT scan which has 500 times more radiation than a normal x-ray!  That wolf has a way of finding me no matter what I do! I’ve finally come to a place where I give up; I surrender; I throw up my hands; I let go of trying to control everything; I stop running.

I lay on my hospital bed pre-op, and in a field of awareness, I took slow deep breaths and faced the wolf. I got up close and curious about it’s sharp teeth and claws. I looked into its flinty eyes…and I discovered…it is Fear in wolf’s clothing! What I’ve feared is the biting discomfort of my throat clutching, heart pounding, gut wrenching fear. FDR was right, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” The Fear of the cancer feels so much worse than the cancer itself.

I am facing my fear, sitting with it, keeping it company, holding its hand, feeling compassion, allowing it to be here. I’ve heard two acronyms for FEAR: one is Feel Everything And Recover. The other is F__k Everything And Run!

These are the different agendas of our ego and our spirit. Ego wants to run for the hills and be safe. Spirit wants to fly like an eagle as high as it can go, fully experiencing life, including fear. When challenges befall me, my ego wails in a Mr. Bill whine, “Oh Noooooo. Not another learning opportunity!” My spirit says, “Oh Yeah! Another opportunity to grow! Bring it onnnnn!”

My ego moans, “We are in deep doodoo!” My spirit exalts, “Rich soil!” Ego scolds, “Now we’ve gone and done it – our fear has drawn the cancer to us!” Spirit exclaims, “Cool, cancer! It will help us come face to face with fear, feel it fully, and make friends with it!” Who knows what our souls are up to; there’s so much more going on than meets the eye – We are so much more.

When faced with the thing I most feared, I’m finding that I have more courage than I ever dreamed possible. My mind has been telling me that I’m “the biggest scaredy cat in the world.” What I’m actually discovering is that I am someone who has the courage to be present with my worst fears, one breath at a time, one trembling foot in front of the other. Hand in hand with my Compassionate Witness, I am doing this! And if I can do this, anyone can!

We have more courage and spirit than we know. When we are tested, we somehow find the strength to soar with the eagles; no longer circling the drain, we circle the sky!

In Love,

Jan Jacobsen

 

 

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