First off, I wanted to say a big THANK YOU for all of your positive feedback and comments about my UCLA Grand Rounds talk. I had so much fun doing it and I’m thrilled my message resonated with so many of you out there!
I also wanted to thank all of you for the support of my Cancer Quick-Start Guide. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, you can download it for free here. I’m hoping this guide will spread far and wide to all the people who could benefit from it. You are all free to share, use, or repost any part of the guide under a CC license.
On to today’s topic.
This past year has been a huge life lesson for me on how to handle challenging life experiences. The most common way to deal with painful experiences is to reject them. We squash down the difficult feelings, distract ourselves by keeping busy, and ask ourselves, “When will this be over?”
The problem with this approach is that pain is a part of life. Part of being human means living a life that encompasses the highest highs and the lowest lows. It is not possible, nor desirable, to string happy moment after happy moment, as if we could prevent anything bad from happening in between.
Maybe you’ll be able to muscle through one bad experience, but then what? What do you do when the next catastrophe strikes? How much of your life do you want to fear? How much of your life do you want to reject?
If we reject all of our painful experiences, we are rejecting a big part of our lives, and a big part of ourselves. We are rejecting the opportunity to learn from these experiences and therefore transform into more evolved people.
Over this past year, I’ve struggled with how to integrate my cancer experience into my life story. While there are moments of serious (physical) pain and discomfort that I just have to muscle through, there has not been a day that does not bring some sort of challenge. I’ve had to learn how to accept these days—the good and the bad—into my heart, with as much compassion as possible.
How do I do this? Thankfully, there are many tools available to us to help transform difficult experiences into opportunities for acceptance and growth.
Equanimity is the practice of holding all experiences (the good and the bad) with evenness. Equanimity is the cliff that holds fast in the face of crashing waves. We can practice equanimity by repeating this phrase:
May I accept things just as they are
May I accept myself just as I am
I’ve written a whole post about equanimity here.
Acceptance is not an excuse to sit back passively when there are ways you can better your situation. Examine the difficulty you are going through. What do you need to accept? What do you need to change?
When you identify areas of potential change, create small action steps you can accomplish immediately. This will boost your confidence and help you recognize that you do have power and autonomy over your life.
For example, during one moment when I was having a lot of physical pain, I wrote a list of things I could do to help. It included: Make an appointment to discuss with my pain doctor, go for a walk, sit in the hot tub, get a massage, take a medication, etc. Now when I have pain that feels unbearable, I look at my list and take advantage of the tools I have available to address it.
Find joy in small pleasures
As I’ve said before, the problem is not that there is not enough joy in our life; the problem is that there is joy all around us that we fail to notice. Practice noticing small joys—a good meal, a beautiful sunset, a pleasant breeze, a fun song on the radio.
There are lots of ways to practice bringing joy in your life, including keeping a gratitude journal, getting a “joy buddy” (someone you call, email or text your small joys to throughout the day), and setting a joy intention (put a post-it on your fridge that says, May I open myself to joy or a similar phrase that resonates with you).
Here is a guest post I wrote about opening to joy.
Looking for more guidance?
Are you looking for more guidance on this topic? I have some exciting news for you!
As many of you know, I’ve been talking for a while about wanting to create my own digital course on transforming trauma into spiritual awakening.
This is still in my plan, but given my waning energy levels, realistically this is a project I won’t be able to take on until after I finish the intensive round of my chemotherapy (scheduled to end in December—woot woot!).
However, as I did not want to wait that long to start this project, it occurred to me I could instead create a more limited class to get the message out in the meantime. Enter: my first digital class offering!
Reclaim Your Resiliency: 4 Strategies for Healthy Coping
In this 90-minute webinar-style class, I will review 4 key strategies for how to cope when dealing with a difficult life stressor (whether illness in yourself or a family member, the end of a relationship, life throwing you a curveball, etc…). The class will include 60 minutes of teaching followed by a 30-minute live Q&A.
I won’t just be spilling platitudes—I’ll be teaching specific tools you can use immediately to start feeling happier and more at peace.
Along with access to the live course and Q&A, you will also get a PDF workbook so we can work through the exercises together as I teach.
Not only can you sign up for the class yourself, but you can give it as a gift to someone you know it could help. When you go to pay, next to where you input your email address there is a present-shaped icon—click that and you’re on your way.
The class will take place next Wednesday, September 24th. If you can’t make it live, no worries—everyone who signs up will get a copy of the recording, and you can ask questions via email ahead of time that I can address during the Q&A.
I am very excited to offer this class—it’s a big step forward for me to create something and ask for payment in return. I’m deeply appreciative of everyone who supports me, monetarily or otherwise.
Pain does not need to lead to suffering. While pain is an inevitable part of life, suffering is the unnecessary difficulty we create for ourselves on top of that. We can’t end pain, but we can work to end suffering.
Want to win a free spot in the class?
I had talked about offering two payment tiers for my upcoming digital course so that ability to pay would not be a factor preventing people from accessing the information that could be helpful to them. I still plan to do that, but with this project, since it is lower cost, and creating two pricing tiers complicates the matter, I’m going to give away 3 spots instead.
How to win your free spot:
Leave a brief comment (not more than a few sentences) explaining why you want to take the class, what you hope to get out of it, and why you need the free spot*. I believe the only person who has the power to transform you is, well, you, and so the more motivated you are to learn and grow, the more likely you will be able to.
I will choose 3 people based on my favorite comments to win a free spot. Make sure to fill out the email address field so I will have a way to contact you and let you know!
*I will be closing comments this Sunday, September 21 at noon, so make sure to get yours in before then!
**Comments are currently closed. Thanks to everyone who submitted a comment!
Photo by Michael Dorokhov