A couple weeks after the cancer diagnosis, I was on a plane to Costa Rica for an Ayahuasca journey I scheduled months beforehand. Originally, I booked this trip to support a friend and felt called to sit with this South America psychoactive brew, a plant medicine indigenous cultures historically used for spiritual ceremonies. Many were (and weren’t) surprised I was committed to attending despite the recent upheavals in my world.
I had a divine date after all, me and Mr. Tumor had sh*t to figure out, literally.
I participated in four nights of ceremonies. Shamans and their helpers held us each evening as I witnessed people around me reach into the darkest corners of their psyche and release pain that had been lodged in their soul for years. I heard yelling, crying, laughing and purging. I could feel so much energy in and around me as I laid on the mattress in my personal world, hearing words, seeing visions and surrendering to what my soul wanted to reveal to me.
In this journey – in Aya and in life – you must be open to whatever messaging comes through, for you will receive what you need, often not what you want in this moment.
The very first night we were bravely nervous and excited. We each knew there was going to be an uncovering of truths and our lives as we knew it, were destined to change from that moment. Hours into the first evening I heard the words, “I’m Dying.” I was shocked. Later, my arm reached out and I felt the words, “Help Me.”
Initially, I thought it was my mother’s energy as it didn’t seem like my voice. As the week progressed, I understood how much denial, distraction and being optimistically delusional played a part in my ego’s defense. In a separate experience at a spontaneous Bio Magnetism session in Mexico weeks later, the facilitator told me my cancer was activated at age 12. When I read journal entries dated in 1992-1993, I found several entries wishing death upon myself and one page, where I indeed wrote the phrase, HELP ME.
When I was twelve, I became President of my elementary school. My first poem about saving an injured bird was published and I won an oral language fair for my passionate recitation of, “I have a Dream.” I experienced school bullies for the first time. I endured unexplained hives. My closest friend was secretly competitive with me. I started weighing myself and watching my intake. I began a strict routine of waking my mother up at 5am for work, cleaning the house, walking the family dog and getting high grades. I thought if my life looked ‘perfect’ that everything would be. Awards brought my parents – who often fought – proudly together. A clean house made my mom less stressed. I began controlling my schedule, grades, food, weight, home – and believed truly, that I was in control.
And for a long time, it looked like I was.
Last year I felt like my world was spinning. I was on a plane every two weeks for work, kids or vacation. I experienced divorce and was processing a challenging spiritual connection with a former acquaintance. I had health concerns but was regularly seeing a functional doctor because I was disputing health coverage with Kaiser. I had anxiety attacks. My brain was moving faster than my body and I couldn’t keep up. I knew something had to give.
As I sat in the healing circle with the Shaman during the last ceremony, he told his translator that I needed to find joy again.
I knew immediately what he meant.
For anyone with disease, it’s not enough to ‘not want to die’. The most profound question I’ve asked myself is, why do I want to live? It may seem easy for an outsider to pick my blessings – and I have many – but deep, deep, deep down inside…
When my mother passed, I took off my precocious apron as caregiver. I saw my early maturity and conditioning to be a giver. In my worldly distractions and steady denial, I kept lying to myself that I was okay…when my stomach, my skin, my sadness and my spiritual connections were revealing truths about my life. I needed to wake up and see who I had become.
In my meditations I didn’t understand why I felt suffering even though I had forgiven past people and traumas in my life. In the silence I understood that real forgiveness is loving yourself and letting go of the person you felt you had to become to endure difficult periods of your life.
I forgive the person who neglected me, but I had to let go of the ambitious woman who proudly created a world where her independence was publicly praised but her continued loneliness was privately felt.
I forgive those who hurt me, but I had to let go of my idealized belief in people’s potential and stop making excuses for continued hurt and titling it, love.
I forgive the childhood chaos, but I had to let go of my daily structured stress – and naming it a busy life, but all still chaos, nonetheless.
Every time I let go, I realized there was more to let go of. I radically sat in silence day after day. Not traveling. Not making plans. Not distracting myself. Not doing.
I cried. I wrote letters. I prayed. I let go.
Most importantly, I rested.
My body needed to learn how to rest.
My mind needed to learn how to relax.
My spirit needed to learn how to receive.
As we clean our vessels daily, especially when undergoing treatments for disease, the biggest cleanup will be in your emotional closet. That’s where the work begins. If something presents itself to you, it’s there for a reason. Figure out how it got there, so it never comes back again.
As I opened my eyes from my very last Aya ceremony, I was in bliss. I understood the brevity of this lifetime but knew I had existed in past ones. I knew I was separate from people I loved but knew they are always with me despite the physical distance. I embraced the uncertain question of “what next?” because I knew it didn’t matter…while so many people are scared to die, there are many more people who are afraid to authentically LIVE.
As I continue my journey with Stage 3 cancer, I will leave each day differently and play joyfully in this human existence until my body is ready to die. I will live my truth, BE genuinely me and serve others seeking their way back to source. I will LOVE deeply, courageously and passionately. I am still here.
I am still here.