Transformation: Working with Cancer, Illness, Death and Dying
Transformation is my love after having radically, with self-compassion, transformed my own life. My own near-death experiences took me to the depths of darkness, broke me open inside, and allowed me to emerge on a road to serve others. Here are parts of my own story:
About 20 years ago I healed from a grape-fruit sized non-cancerous brain tumor, after being found unconscious by my family who feared for my life. I was rushed in for multi-hour brain surgery; it took a few weeks to get back on my feet, and 2 full days to recognize friends and family. My brain tumor (called a meningioma) became a ‘clearing metaphor’ where I began to live inside of my body and not my head; as a teen I lived in a fantasy world in my head and read anything I could get my hands on to escape the discomforts of my life. After the surgery I resolved to concentrate on entering and using my physical body in a new way—mindfully and lovingly. I revisited playing tennis, horseback riding, and my hatha yoga practice blossomed. I was very grateful for still being present in the world. During that year, I was introduced to the practice of Authentic Movement, another life-changing event.
One year and one month (almost to the day) after recovering from that first frightening illness, I received a serious breast cancer diagnosis. My brain-surgeons, having done 7 hours of surgery to remove the tumor just the prior year, were shocked: These two medical events so close together led me to a deeper soul search about what life and death personally meant for me. By grace and perseverance, over the course of years of challenging alternative and western medical and health regimens, I was able to heal completely. With the skills and love of professionals, family and those trust-worthy people in my life to whom I learned to reach out for help, I can now say that my life is authentically transformed, with more room to grow of course. I hope parts of my story in overcoming two life-threatening illnesses, and listening to the tiny flame inside of me that lit up my path, will help you on your own transformative journey.
Here are some of the training and living opportunities which have contributed to my current path in my work as a healing practioner. Links to these organizations and teachers, mentors and philosphical insprations are listed on the page on this website called "Links and Inspirations":
1) Movement in the Field of the Unconscious: Between the 2 illnesses I discover and became impassioned with Authentic Movement. After healing from cancer, I was training to be a yoga teacher. During Authentic Movement I had a miraculous, near-religious experience leading to some clearing of the injury to my brain following my tumor; I felt this deeper healing on a cellular level, and many of my lingering symptoms were alleviated. In the summer of 1999, when I became a certified Integral Yoga teacher, I was fired up to serve those with cancer by teaching them yoga. Recently, i have completed a Healing Yoga for Cancer certification process, and my desire has come to fruition!
2) Currently I’m part of a Bolinas, CA-based nonprofit center called Commonweal, which initiates monthly weeklong retreats for people who have cancer. I am trained by Commonweal to start a Healing Circle in my community. Healing Circles are being formed world-wide, with the goal of extending intentional healing and support for those facing cancer (patients, survivor, caretenders).
3) I am also a member of Heavenly Messengers group, sponsored by Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Metta.org (SF Zen hospice founders). Nearly 100 of us from all over the world meet for 5 retreats, with our teachers plus esteemed end-of-life special guests, to help people through their process of death, dying, illness. A small sanga in the East Bay has developed, and through these several offshoots of the Dharma, including personal mentorship I receive, I am providing service work to some good friends who are living and dying with life-threatening illnesses.
Here I am now! Having lived through this, I received sacred inspiration: I provide clinical psychotherapy to people with serious illness or cancer. Additionally, as a Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) teacher and yoga teacher, I have returned to teach yoga to those with cancer, and to their caretenders. As I teach these yoga classes I witness groups of students coming together to form their own healing circles.
To support my vision of leading an ongoing weekly Healing Circle divided into 16-week cycles, and to teach yoga for cancer therapy, I seek funding through grants proposals. This work is my deep soul work and I hope to serve and inspire others. The gift of life from my own healers, teachers and mentors throughout the decades has brought me full circle and I am fortunate to have found that healing others has become my own passion. I am grateful for my life and dedicated to serving and empowering others in a healing capacity.