Scars and Imperfections: vulnerability and courage

ovarian cancer scars

For a long time I have been embarrassed by all the scars I have on my belly. I have actually felt shame that I didn’t have the super flat and amazing abs that I had all my life, pre-cancer and that we see in so many pictures. Last night, as I was watching a video of myself doing yoga on my paddleboard, I saw my scars and imperfections for what they truly are: beautiful, and a deeper healing is setting in.

I wouldn’t be alive today if these scars weren’t there.

These scars are an ever constant reminder of the hell I went through as a stage 3 ovarian cancer survivor, getting a 5 pound tumor removed, then 50 tumors removed, then a hysterectomy, then a hole in my colon, getting an infection, then being attached to a vacuum for 6 weeks, then a 12 hour surgery to remove more tumors and organs, then an ileostomy bag, then, and finally, freedom. These scars show the story of hardship and trials, pain, and tears of not only me, but my family and friends. I have wanted to get as far away from those memories as I could, for a long time. I have slowly faced them as I have been able. This is my next step in the journey: showing them, being vulnerable and open, facing fears, and inviting in even more healing.

I have prayed for them to dissipate. I have tried all sorts of creams and wraps and detoxes and exercise and yet, they are still there. The mountains and valleys, the craters, and holes, the lumps of fat displaced from all the surgeries, the crevices of stiff scar tissue that try to hold me back.

Today though, I am making the choice to see that these scars also tell an incredible story of hope, of courage, of the power of prayers and support of family and friends, of medical staff who were creative and revolutionary; all these people who believed. These scars do tell of the ugliness of cancer, the evilness of disease, the destruction of surgery, and yet, there is a beauty in them: the power of human ingenuity, God’s miracles through our work, that our thoughts of limitations are only in our minds, that truly anything is possible, and that there is beauty in imperfection. These scars show the story of where I have been, who I am today, and in my story, I wouldn’t be where I am, doing what I do, without them. So, I embrace them.

I know that I will continue to walk out this journey called life, every day. Today marks a new one though, and I’m setting up a marker.

Hope exists. Nothing is impossible. Keep moving forward. Fail a lot. Have the courage to stand back up again, and maybe, just maybe, we can change the world through our courage.

Thanks for reading and loving.

Namaste.

Bali Yoga training: Day 17: peak

This is the final week of my yoga teacher training! I can hardly believe it, yet it does feel like it’s been a long time. I’m very, very happy to be here, in hot, humid, sweltering Bali while there is SNOW in Redding! God is so perfect. I am not opposed to snow, at all, but it does present a challenge to leading/teaching a stand up paddleboard yoga class with On Water Yoga when the lake is frozen. I actually hope that it begins to warm up for when I return! I would love to be able to take my new skills to the water, but one step at a time, which leads me to this video.

I am scheduled to teach an active Vinyasa Yoga class this Thursday morning with my group of 7 (8 total including me). We will be the last group to teach and so far we’ve seen 2 groups go already. It’s been really nice to slowly take our time, practicing, gaining insight via what other groups have done, continue to learn adjusting techniques, sequencing, alignment, etc. I am really happy with my group, our choice of poses, intention, meditation and opening, and the peak pose I picked and am leading. Each of in the group teaches 15 minutes of the 2 hour class.

A Vinyasa Yoga class is designed around a “peak” pose so that the warm up and middle of the class is designed to prepare one’s body to be ready for the most difficult, or the peak pose. I picked one we haven’t done yet here in Bali and one I have introduced to my land yoga classes in Redding, but would like more guidance and skill at teaching, particularly the modifications. When I asked my yoga instructor Gabrielle about the pose and it’s name she said, “Wow, you’re not messing around! Going straight into it!” Well, yes! Yes I am! It’s been a good challenge for me and the group to think how to structure for something we haven’t done in class and which no one in my group has ever done before, yet, it’s been easy at the same time. I am really happy with the way my group is working together, being supportive, open, and up for the challenge. There was really no questions asked, just an ok, let’s do it attitude!

There has been an overall sense of things starting to wind down and come to an end, along side the energy around us teaching classes. Today Chris, one of the co-founders of the Awakened Life School of Yoga, talked about meditation after our training is over and suggestions for how to integrate it in to our everyday lives. I have to admit that when we first started I wasn’t that interested in the meditation component as was presented in our pre-work assignments, but I can really see and feel how meditation can be used to tame the wildness of the mind and let our spirit be our guides. Before this yoga training, I had only done contemplative prayer meditation (choosing a verse, some words, or other such inspirational teaching and turning the mind repeatedly back towards it for a set amount of time) but now I’ve done several different types of meditation here, maybe 5 or 6 different ones. I’ll probably write more about this in another entry. It’s late now and I’m starting to fade, but to touch on it briefly, I am beginning to think about how I can incorporate more meditation into my life back in Redding.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for supporting me. Thanks for praying for me! I pray that you are encouraged, enlightened, and that you experience more freedom and happiness in your life from reading this.

Until next time, namaste!

Bali Yoga Training: Day 16: perfect

This has been day 2 of sitting out of asana practice. ☹ My arms have been tingly and somewhat numb for a little over a week, progressively getting more so as the days have gone by. I mentioned in an earlier post that I had an acupuncture treatment because my wrists hurt and that it relieved some of that pain, but it has slowly crept back on.

It’s an interesting place to be: at a yoga teacher training where we are doing yoga daily, sometimes twice a day, and not able to participate physically. I was pretty upset about it yesterday, but it was a powerful moment. One of the many things Awakened Life School of Yoga is good at is cultivating a space to let one sit with and work through stuff. Chris, one of the co-founders, let me cry, laugh, cry, and process these feelings of disappointment, frustration, awareness, pity, realization, and then enlightenment. He did such an incredible job of lovingly sitting beside me, but not stopping the process. “Getting a tissue” as we have jokingly yet realistically called it. I saw, yesterday, that it’s not a big deal if I don’t complete every single yoga asana class! I realized that it’s not normal for people to have tingling and numb arms. I realized that I had been pushing through this just for the falsity that I “needed to keep up and be like or be more advanced” than the other students in the class. When I realized that, I laughed and laughed, and then cried some more. I told Christ though, that I wanted to create a new normal. His response: “You will.”

Today I had a 1.5 hour “healing massage.” I’m giving myself some more time to determine how much help this has been, but there has definitely been some shifting. He did some good work with pressure points, muscle, myofacial tissue, tendons; it was intense, yet relaxing! My body is settling into this new alignment. We will see how things are in the morning. I’m hoping, and expectant, for a miracle. One of the yoga instructors told me yesterday that I need to take a break from yoga asana practice until I don’t feel pain, then slowly ease back into it, determining which poses are bothersome. I think it all stemmed from shoulders stands, which I am pretty sure I was actually doing as neck stands; however, as I was sharing with both Chris and the yoga instructor yesterday, I have been through a LOT of trauma, surgeries, near death experiences, chemotherapy, organs removed, chemo, broken bones, falls, etc. And as the yoga instructor so eloquently stated, things are all interconnected. With my abdomen having a lot of scar tissue, it can create a pulling forward of my spine and tension on my neck.

In tonight’s Restorative Yoga class, we ended the class with some chanting and contemplative silence. As I was sitting there, I began asking myself the question “when will I be fixed? When will I be healthy?” What immediately came to me, almost audibly, was: “you are perfect just as you are.” It rocked me. It was so freeing! I am absolutely perfect, right now, right here! There is no “fixing” that needs to happen! I am free to be me.

Enjoy this video. I hope it’s not too shaky. I obviously took it while walking.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are inspired to keep on moving forward, regardless of your past traumas, pains, hurts, and to stop, be vulnerable, be real, honest, and open, and realize that you are perfect: right now, without changing a single thing. You are loved.

Namaste!

Bali Yoga Video Day 10: Puri Bagus Candidasa Resort

It’s the end of Monday, December 2, and I’ve just come from a really great, fresh, coconut drink, sunset, and conversation with the 2 birthday girls, Betsy and Claire, and several amazing others. Among the highlights of the day, were a nice break from Vinyasa Yoga class for a time of observation (which was AMAZING! I have learned so much from Basil and his skill as an instructor. My students back home are going to love it. ☺), I just had a great conversation with Nicole and Claire about blogs. Shout out to all you lovelies, btw! One of the things that stuck out to me about our conversation are concerns over who will read our blogs? What I shared with Nicole is that that really isn’t my concern. What I know can happen is that we get stuck with this thought and wonderment of “Oh, but what I write about is ‘trivial,’ who would want to read it?’ and this can actually paralyze us with inaction! I have no idea who will read this, if anyone actually cares, but this really isn’t the concern or the point. There are several reasons I am writing this blog: 1. I know deep within, that I should be doing this and I feel overwhelmingly compelled to be doing so. Of course I could not do this, but I make the choice to every day. 2. I want to improve myself and writing things down and recording them is a way to do that. 3. Blogging is forcing me to be very vulnerable and open it is helping me to rid shame. Shame that has tried to hold me (and us all) down, and keep me from being free. 4. I want to better the world and even if my blog is for no other purpose than tonight’s conversation about getting rid of shame, I am bettering the world through it!

So, enjoy this blog. Enjoy the video tour around some of the buildings here at the Puri Bagus Candidasa Resort and I will chat with you tomorrow, hopefully having encouraged you too to live a courageous life, following your dreams, living out loud, and encouraging others as you do.

Namaste!

The importance of goals

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Summer has ended and rain and cooler temperatures have come to Redding sooner than expected. Although I absolutely love the sunshine, the heat, and the busy-ness of summer, the slower pace that fall and winter provide help me to reflect, reevaluate, and take a step back to see how things have gone and how I want to move forward.

I haven’t always been so focused. I haven’t always set goals. In fact, I used to purposely not set them because I wanted to live “free” and take things as they came, but really, it’s only through setting goals that have I gained freedom! So counter-intuitive.

With the plethora of injuries and health problems I’ve had, because of financial hardships, because I am passionate about helping others, and because of my faith, I have begun to set goals, cast vision, and take time to stop and reflect. I used to be scared of slowing down because I didn’t like who I was, although I didn’t realize that. Hind-sight is 20-20 and I’m now using it to move forward, and get bigger, better, stronger. Like with a yoga practice or any other exercise, muscles only get stronger from momentary “pain” or discomfort and the level of sacrifice that a vision requires determines the size of the person or people who follow. I want to be great and inspire greatness in others, so goals need to be cast, revised, and celebrated!

Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (KJV). Perish means to die; to pass away or disappear; to suffer destruction or ruin; to suffer spiritual death. This signifies the importance of vision: stated aims and objectives; the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be; a vivid, imaginative conception or anticipation (Dictionary.com). Speaking for myself and comparing where I am now with where I was even just 2 years ago, I am so much more alive because I practice en-vision-ing, goal setting, vision casting, and because I stop to reevaluate, and celebrate how far I have come.

If we have no vision or goals for our life then what shapes or defines how we makes choices? Looking at my own life, I can see that a lot of decisions have been made based on what was easiest, what was least likely to cause pain or discomfort, I have flittered about like the wind, directionless, and I have been searching.

I know a lot of others are searching too, maybe even you. I want to encourage you to start right where you are. Set a goal. Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to run a marathon? Do you want to be debt free? Do you want to get married? How might you get there? Set some goals for the month, 6 months, the year, etc. and then set some tactics, or smaller more manageable steps to take in order to accomplish the bigger goals. The good news is that if you don’t accomplish something, you can try again. To be successful, one must fail. I pray that you know the 1John 4:18 love that casts out fear (of failure, etc.) and step forward, get back up if you fall down, and try again.

I have some large goals with yoga and I took some time today to practice and watch my “Yoga Journal Advance Your Practice” DVD. What was really cool is that I haven’t been practicing these exact poses but maybe once in the past year and I was shocked at the amount of flexibility and strength I had to get as far as I did. An amazing fact about goal setting is that sometimes, the goals get accomplished without even trying! It’s because we took the time to put them to thought, or en-vision them, that they manifest. I haven’t found all goals to be this way, but it sure is encouraging when some are! I think it’s God way of giving us fuel for the harder or more challenging ones.

May you dream big, cast your nets wide, and see your children’s children prosper because of what you did today and do tomorrow. It’s not really not even about us and when we stop and take time to set goals and make steps towards them, the world is better for it.

Namaste!