Camino de Santiago: Another Perspective

I’m really excited to have finalized a print piece on my insights on the Camino de Santiago for the Winter 2016 issue of Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center’s Momentum Magazine.  I can’t wait to post it, as soon as the article becomes available online.

In the meantime, here’s a video of my Camino companion, Kevin, who gave a talk at his synagogue earlier this month where he shares the important lessons and messages other pilgrims were sent to teach him. Perhaps you will recognize a someone in his story (around the 5:00 mark). 

 

 

On Yoga, Cancer & Fulfillment

I recently fulfilled a dream of becoming a certified yoga teacher.

When I signed up for the 200 hour, 30 day intensive training, I knew I would be challenged physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, but I could never imagined the enormity and how much cancer would interweave itself in the experience.

One of our first homework assignments was to write an essay on how yoga contributed to our highest aim in life. This prompt forced me to examine what my highest aim was and it surprised me that it was a topic I’d never contemplated.

After days of thought, I concluded that my highest aim is to live a life of fulfillment, which is defined in Merriam-Webster’s as, “satisfaction or happiness as a results of fully developing one’s abilities or character.”

For me this fulfillment comes from experiences, health and relationships where happiness, love, growth, creativity, compassion and gratitude are continuously expanding. I believe that yoga makes all of these things more attainable and/or enhances them.

Since my cancer diagnosis, my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health has become my number one priority above anything else. Everyday I want to be healthier than the day before. Years ago, my yoga practice fizzled. I became “busy” with climbing the corporate ladder, a husband, a social life, etc. Looking back, I sometimes wonder if the cease of regular detoxing and moving my body in such a way contributed to cancer.  In addition, I let stress and constant busyness consume my life. No doubt I was compromised mentally, emotionally, spiritually and then, physically.

My belief is also that yoga has aided me in opening my mind to new experiences and cultures. When I started practicing 10 years ago, I had never been out of the country.  Yoga helped open my eyes to uncomfortable zones and cultures. What I discovered is that I love experiencing new things and places. Since my yoga practice began, I’ve been to 20+ countries and attended yoga classes in many of them, where I often don’t speak the native language, but am able to connect with others through movements and breath. Heck, a yoga class is even a great way to travel to places and spaces you never knew existed in yourself, without so much as leaving the four corners of your mat.

However, the most important part of fulfillment is the relationships with my loved ones and, above all, with myself. I always wanted (and still do) a reciprocal love with others, but, in the past, I almost always skipped over the relationship with myself. I was never skinny enough or smart enough or rich enough or fill in the blank enough. Call me crazy, but I do believe I attracted cancer because I had a dysfunctional relationship with my body. My faith is strong in the law of attraction and I experienced the consequences of always saying, “I’m fat” or “I hate my thighs, butt, stomach, whatever.” I have since banished those words from leaving my lips. Yoga has helped me improve my self-love when it taught me not to compare, judge and that I am limitless.  This enriched relationship then overflows to my relationships with other people, animals and things.

So, yes – yoga is the great multiplier, aider, element and secret sauce to fulfillment, which is the highest aim in my life.

I challenge you to think about what is the highest aim in your life and do your actions get your closer or farther away from this aim?  

The Ordinary World

 

464161_10150632883924227_479406370_o

As featured on carcinoid.org

The Hero’s Journey is a narrative template identified by writer Joseph Campbell. It is said to be the greatest story ever told because it has appeared over and over in some of our most beloved stories and movies such as Jaws, Star Wars, and my personal favorite, Thelma and Louise.  It is an overwhelming obstacle assigned to an un-wanting individual who must find the strength to endure and persevere.   

It is my story and the story of many cancer survivors.

(…READ MORE)

 

This essay is a revised version of my April reading at the Bluebird Cafe, which was part of My 2nd Act: Survivor Stories from the Stage.