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My Breast Cancer Story That Isn't About Breast Cancer

Updated: Jan 29




I am slowly emerging from my healing cave. It's been an extraordinary time with a lot to process physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Winter provides the perfect time for quiet introspection and reflection.

 

In December I had a double mastectomy with Diep flap reconstruction. I mention the type of reconstruction because it's a major (11hr) surgery that was difficult to wrap my head around beforehand. This was one of, if not the biggest personal decision I've ever had to make. There is no one right way to handle the diagnosis of breast cancer, or any diagnosis for that matter. I researched my options, spoke to experts in the field, and then I got quiet. Among many varied opinions, I learned to trust myself deeper than I ever have. I witnessed the nature of my mind, searching and turning things over and over again. I felt my body's visceral and primal resistance to being cut and altered...especially these tender, soft parts. I felt sadness and attachment to my physical body as I had known it. There beneath it all, was my truth, the path I believed would ultimately bring me the most peace.

 

I held all parts of myself compassionately and I was held by my loving community. It wasn't about being strong, it was about softening. As I identified more as the loving witness to the whole play of events, I felt safe, resilient, grateful, and more curious. What's the learning here for me? Me, the personality or ego of Teresa. This experience hasn't been about cancer, it's been about surrendering into spacious, loving awareness.

 

What an amazing opportunity all of this has been! An opportunity that gratefully never threatened my life, but challenged my comfort on all levels. All of life is Yoga...so many invitations for self inquiry, observation, and awakening into the loving, intelligent, and intuitive heart space. The practice of yoga and meditation is just that, a practice. We practice so that when life gets real lifey, we can get spacious and become quiet observers of the whole play. We can become unconditional in how we receive the unfolding adventure without having to label things good or bad, right or wrong. It's all experimental. Life is a giant laboratory. We have choices. The path is not rigid. There is no one size fits all formula to any of life's predicaments. It's about discovering what is true for you and what brings you the most peace. One of my favorite Sanskrit words we use in Ayurveda is upashaya. It is a part of both diagnosis and treatment of any ailment. It translates to "alleviating factor" or what brings harmony.


When we're truly unconditional in how we receive life, we can observe the mind and body with more clarity and self compassion. How to receive life unconditionally? In my experience, this gets easier when we come to believe that life is a benevolent, loving force...when we trust that the mysterious unfolding is working in our favor (especially when it doesn't appear that way). The Vedic practices have prepared me for this kind of surrender and curious compassion. This has been the medicine to recondition my nervous system and restore my sense of wholeness over the last 20 years. The practice is an internal posture or disposition that remains beyond any formal yoga or meditation practice. This context, in which to contain all of life's contents sure makes life so much easier in my eyes.


Being human is painfully beautiful. We all have our personal challenges and predicaments, in one form or another. There is an ebb and flow. What is the path that will bring you the most harmony?

Sthira Sukham Asanam.(sutra 2.46) The balance between flexibility and stability, effort and ease...land in the seat that brings the most peace. One breath at a time. From this inner domain, our challenges won't completely rock us or when we do get rocked we know we'll come back to ease because it's become our set point. Yoga isn't all about the asanas (physical postures). It's about hearing the inner voice of wisdom, beyond the doubts and fears of the mind and body. May we all soften into that deep knowing.

 

Hridaye Chetana Sthanam 

The seat of consciousness resides in the heart

-Charaka Samhita 

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