Dr. David Simon, cofounder and medical director of the Chopra Center, concludes his three-part series with a discussion of life after cancer treatment, answering the question, "Now what do I do?" and helping women to make sense of the profound experience of being a breast cancer "graduate."
Having navigated the treatment phase, cancer graduates often move into a period of self-reflection. What have I learned about myself and life as a result of this experience? How can I use this learning to create a life of greater well-being, happiness, love, and meaning? How can I approach the future with enthusiasm and optimism?
It is a rare person who has not been or will not be affected by cancer sometime during his or her lifetime. What is this disease telling us? As individuals and as a community, on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels cancer is delivering a message that requires our attention. With more than three-quarters of cancers having some relationship to lifestyle or environmental factors, we must look at the choices we are making and reduce our tolerance for toxicity in our lives. What we eat, what we breathe, and what we allow into our soil and water all contribute to our risk for illness. Each of us is individually and collectively responsible for the environment, which according to Ayurveda is our extended body.
On an emotional level, we know that there is an intimate connection between our mind and body. If our inner dialogue is one of stress and discontent, we transmit that message to every cell in the body. Our immune cells are continuously listening to the conversation we are having with ourselves and responding to the task of protecting us from illness with greater or lesser enthusiasm. Learning to communicate consciously and using our five senses to invigorate our inner "pharmacy" are essential keys to enlivening our mind-body connection and fortifying our immunity. Our societal confusion about who is friend and who is enemy is being played out in our personal immune systems. Making the commitment to peace of mind is the most essential step to create peace in our bodies and peace in our world.
Spiritually, the message is the perennial reminder that life is delicate and short. Cancer reminds us to live in the present, ensuring that our hearts and minds are free from resentments, regret, and hostility. Underlying the field of thoughts that define our minds and the field of molecules that defines our body is the field of consciousness -- of spirit -- that while remaining beyond space/time give rise to subjective and objective reality.
Rediscovering our essential infinite and eternal nature is the secret to accessing our deepest source of energy, creativity, and healing. Only by tapping into the timeless realm within our own awareness can we experience genuine freedom from the inevitable challenges of time-bound existence.
Use this experience to explore these core questions: What am I carrying with me from the past that is no longer serving me in the present? What have I been resisting or ignoring that will bring greater nourishment into my life? Use the opportunity for facing a serious illness to make the changes you have been putting off. Knowing that life is brief and precious, don't waste time. Give yourself permission to expand happiness, well-being and love in your life.