On July 14, I had a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. It’s been “interesting.”
Prior to surgery, I was in a very calm and settled place. I was happy with the decisions I’d made. I respected and trusted my medical team. The Charming Prince was a source of constant, steady support. I had love and healing vibes flowing in locally and via social media at a truly phenomenal level. (Thank you so much!)
At the beginning of July I posted my intentions for the month to a thread in the Brain Trust form. (The Brain Trust is a mastermind group of dear friends.) My first item was “Don’t freak out.”
In retrospect, I’m not sure what I was thinking when I wrote that. At the time I wasn’t freaking out, and I don’t think I was anticipating freaking out.Perhaps some wise part of me perceived that one might freak out from time to time when diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing surgery and treatment.
A less wise part of me seems to have thought that not freaking out was better than freaking out. I get that. By and large, I would much rather feel peaceful and calm than freaked out. But from where I sit now, it seems to me that setting the intention to not freak out is like planning to get on a roller coaster with the intention of not experiencing the descents.
The ride got dicey after eight days
Eight days after surgery I went in to have two of four surgical drains removed. The skin around the drain sites was very unhappy, and the surgeon decided, all things considered, that it would be best to take all four drains. She also suggested that I get my first “fills,” injections of saline into the tissue expanders that were placed after the mastectomy to gradually stretch my muscle and skin to accommodate implants.
I cannot begin to tell you how excruciating the drain removal was. I am still astonished that no one has figured out how to mitigate the pain of the process, especially because such great care was taken during all of my other exams and tests to prevent or manage pain.
Then came the fills. The injections were not at all painful; I felt only a mild sense of pressure.
But OMG, by the next day I was in agony.
The freak out commences
I had started to taper off my pain meds the day before drain removal, and I had continued to take half doses afterward. By Friday, two days after the drain removal and fills, I was a wreck.
On Friday morning I lay in bed arguing with myself about whether or not I could tolerate the pain.
I kept trying to figure out what an acceptable level of pain was. I wondered if my pain tolerance was higher or lower than other people’s pain tolerances. I don’t know how I thought the answer to that would help, but that’s one of the places my mind went.
By mid-morning I had three pain pills left. I couldn’t imagine how much worse I would feel when I ran out, so I finally decided to call the nurse and let her know what was going on.
To my embarrassment, I burst into tears on the phone. The nurse listened carefully and asked me nurse-y questions. She gave me some context for things seeming to get worse before they got better, including the fact that nerves that are damaged or insulted during surgery can start waking up at various times in the days that follow. It appeared that I had some very cranky nerves waking up.
The bottom line is that she arranged for me to get more meds.
Bursting into tears opened a door
Something about bursting into tears showed me how really crummy I felt, and that gave me a bit of self-compassion. (One of the biggest things I have am learning from this experience is that self-compassion is profoundly heart-opening. It’s doorway to compassion for all beings, the very opposite of selfishness.)
I decided to go back on a full dose of pain medication for a couple of days. Though it meant being woozy and confused and nauseous, I could sleep through that, and I couldn’t sleep through the pain.
A new intention
Fast-forward to the first of August. Once again it was time to post monthly intentions to the Brain Trust forum. Here’s how I opened the list this month:
“Go ahead and freak out knowing that I will come back to center. Show up for life, including all the feelings. Don’t spiritualize it before experiencing it.”
Spiritualizing life is pretending or seeking to not be affected by the roller coaster ride. It’s profoundly different from seeing that even though the ride is scary you are safe.
The mistake we make is not freaking out; the mistake is freaking out about freaking out, freaking out in advance of the ride, or continuing to freak out after the ride is over.
I love that I was able to stay in the present moment in the days leading up to surgery. I didn’t freak out by imagining how things would go or worrying about the future.
But I was mistaken when I set the intention to not freak out during and after surgery. There’s no need, nor is there an advantage, to trying to manage our experiences.
If we are truly safe and whole in our essential nature at all times (and I believe that this is so) then there is no need to manage our experiences at any time.
We are safe and whole whether we are freaking out or not.
I don’t know why we are here
I don’t know why spiritual beings are having human experiences. It works for me to assume that there is meaning and value in it. If that is true, I propose that there is meaning and value in all of it, from freak out to transcendence.
It’s all good.
When we make an aspect of the human experience into a problem, we impede the natural process by which what troubles us invariably subsides and we are returned to peace.
That’s what matters. Not that we never freak out, but that we come to see that freaking out is not terminal. Freaking out is a temporary response to a temporary set of thoughts and perceptions.
In other words, this too shall pass.
It happens that as we see more and more clearly the temporary nature of our freak outs, we naturally get more comfortable with the roller coaster. As a result, we tend to freak out less often and less intensely.
But that is a side effect. To make it into a goal activates a sort of spiritual competitiveness. Not helpful.
Spiritualizing experience disconnects us from life and each other
Trying to spiritualize our experience preempts whatever insights might arise if we would only simply be with what is arising. It disconnects us from life and from each other.
Time and again the freedom and peace we seek are to be found right here, right now in the heart whatever joy or sorrow, pleasure or pain we are experiencing.
NOTE: The last video in this month’s video Roundup says more about what I’ve been learning in the wake of surgery. You’re also welcome to visit my CaringBridge Journal, and as always, I welcome your comments.
I recently reread Viktor Frankl’s classic Man’s Search for Meaning.I was struck by the difference between getting preoccupied with the idea of a meaningful life and being engaged moment to moment in making life meaningful.
There is no combination of rules that will make you okay. Making your bed every day will not make you okay, not making your bed will not turn you into a slob. Eating right – whatever that means at the moment – will not make you a good person or a whole person or even in the most fundamental since a healthy person.
So the question arises, what’s right for you, and I’m what basis will you choose what’s right for you? How will you decide?
And what if you don’t even have to get this answer right?
I am SO excited about this month’s Wholeness Hangout!
My guests are Steve Adair and Tony Fiedler, two Three Principles practitioners from the United Kingdom, who simply radiate love, goodwill, and wisdom.
I had the pleasure of meeting and having lunch with Steve and Tony last year. We laughed heaps, always a good thing, and I found myself profoundly moved by their embodied wisdom. They spoke eloquently and simply about how wisdom guides them in life and business. Never once did I want to run screaming from the room as one does when in the presence of holier-than-thou, too-good-to-be-true, happy talk.
They are genuinely nice gents with genuine insight to share. Their formal bios and photos appear below the information about the Hangout.
Guided by the Feeling of Wisdom
Our topic, which may well morph in the moment, is Guided by the Feeling of Wisdom. As I said above, I was moved by the way Tony and Steve speak about what it means to be guided by a good feeling. I think they make this sometimes slippery concept palpable and accessible.
Watch the Replay Here
About Steve Adair
Steve Adair is an international speaker, trainer and Three Principles based practitioner. As co-director at 3P Life & Soul he is committed to supporting you to realise your true identity and to uncover innate mental health to bring unlimited balance and depth to life.
From an early age, Steve has been fascinated by how people think and behave. This, blended with his passion for helping others, has guided Steve to work within the human potential development field since 1991. Steve has studied and practised as a coach, trainer, mentor, and peer educator. He is also a qualified psycho-therapeutic counsellor.
He has always followed his compassionate and helpful nature and has the rare ability to touch people with a feeling of love, which in turn wakes a person up to their true identity.
Steve co-runs a Three Principles practise in Bedfordshire and London, UK, in which the focus is on working with individuals and also practitioner development. Steve has spoken at both the Tikun Innate Health conference in London & the 3PGC conference in the US about this work.
Steve is dedicated to helping you to uncover your innate health and wisdom, from within.
About Tony Fiedler
I have a diverse career in both the corporate & third sector, through which I have gained invaluable experience in management, training & coaching.
I uncovered an understanding of the Three Principles in early 2011, following attending a seminar with Jamie Smart and Aaron Turner. Since then, I have completed intensives with Aaron Turner and George and Linda Pransky. My most significant experience of deepening my understanding was gained through Fellowship with Chip Chipman and Elsie Spittle, a six week programme in 2012.
I can now safely state that I am much more comfortable in my own skin having uncovered insight into the nature of thought and my true identity.
Presently, I co-run a Three Principles practise in Bedfordshire and London, UK, in which we focus on working with individuals and practitioner development. I have a passion for community based projects and have spoken at both the Tikun Innate Health conference in London and the 3PGC conference in the US about this work.
For more information about the Three Principles
There is a wealth of information online about the Three Principles. Here are some great places to start.
The Three Principles Global Community is a non-profit organization that is committed to bringing an understanding of The Three Principles to people throughout the world. Click on the Media Tab in the navigation menu to access videos and podcasts about the Principles.
Brainchild (love child!) of Rudi and Jenny Kennard, threeprinciplesmovies.com is a comprehensive resource for interviews, documentaries, and full length trainings in the Three Principles.
For insights into the Three Principles and Mental Health
There are numerous practitioners working with The Three Principles and mental health. A good place to start if you want more on that topic is to search the above sites for Judy Sedgeman, Bill Pettit, and/or Linda Pettit. You can also click on Judy’s name to go to her web site.
Have you ever run yourself mentally haggard trying to convince yourself to see a spiritual truth more deeply or clearly than you actually do?
It’s easy to do. After all, the fundamental principles behind the human experience are quite simple to articulate. According to Sydney Banks, Mind is the infinite formless intelligent energy behind all things. Consciousness is our ability to know reality and our ability to understand how our reality is created by thoughts. Thought is a source of all mental activities and source of all feeling, actions and reactions.
Our experience in any given moment is created by the interplay of these principles.
When I first came across Syd’s teachings, I was frankly underwhelmed. I didn’t disagree; I just didn’t see anything earthshaking. I had studied intensively with Byron Katie, and the notion that thought generated our experience seemed obvious.
Still, I kept returning to Syd’s work because of the profound changes I saw in people who had been influenced by him. And one day my own understanding shifted, deepened, expanded, and what had seemed obvious and verging on trivial started to blow my mind.
I’ve shared many of the insights that have emerged from that in previous blog posts and videos, but I want to take a little different look at things today.
You see, there’s a way in which we can become addicted to knowing. We can chase insights as if our wellbeing lies in having more of them.
When actually, our wellbeing is nonnegotiable. Invariable. Innate.
Our essential wholeness does not depend on our moment to moment experience of life. As I’ve written before, we don’t have to feel okay to be okay.
But damn! I don’t know about you, but sometimes all I really want is to feel okay. Which last week had me wrestling with this notion of essential wholeness. I was frustrated by feeling fragmented and, frankly, stupid. Where was my innate wellbeing? Where was wisdom?
How could I get there from where I was?
What good does it do me to have a theoretical understanding that I am okay when I feel cornered by the limits of my current thinking?
And then something funny happened.
It occurred to me to simply doubt.
To drop the gospel.
To quit trying to feel or believe or find wholeness and wisdom.
To drop my story that I should trust it.
And to drop into my honest in that moment experience of WTF? Where is it?
To ask in an open hearted and abandoned way, are we really whole? Does God or Mind or whatever you call it have our backs?
Where is wisdom? Is it really always on, only sometimes obscured?
I dropped into the questions, which had a whole different feel from struggling to believe in the answers.
And I can’t account for just how or why, but as the days passed, I started to get a glimmer.
A felt sense of something beneath the surface.
Not an intellectual understanding, but the barest shimmer or breath of a feeling that something is there.
Dim. As yet unknown. But palpable.
I don’t know what, if anything, that does for you, but it did a lot for me. Somehow out of my honest doubt I had touched bedrock.
I don’t know what the bedrock is. What it means. How to talk about it.
But I know down to my toenails that it is there.
Thank you, doubt.
Your turn: What’s your experience with what Byron Katie has called trying to live beyond your current level of evolution? What might doubt have to offer you?
Sometimes we lives as if the rules of the game of life are set outside of us and our fates are determined by those rules. But the reality is that we get to make it up. What rules are ready to be changed in your life today?