Many of us are familiar with the Serenity Prayer. It is recited at most AA meetings, at least in the Toronto area. This simple, yet very effective verse is relevant to cancer patients and their families and friends.
The first line of this prayer is "God grant me the serenity." This is a rare and precious commodity. A minority of people seem to have it regardless of what life throws at them. Some others, no matter how things are going, perceive their lives as a series of tragedies. Most of us are somewhere in between. Regardless of where you are on this scale, serenity is priceless, especially when you have a life crises like cancer.
During these times, fear can be overwheming and your thoughts are a ceaseless series of awful possibilities. Our minds can work at warp speed occupying every moment with never-ending chatter about our situation. As we grow more addicted to the fear and worry, serenity becomes more and more valuable. Even five minutes rest from the stomach clenching worry is a wonderful experience.
Our modern day world is not conducive to serenity. Even at the best of times, we are inundated with responsibilities and information. Almost everywhere we go there is something that requires and demands our attention. Even washrooms in restaurants have TVs as if the 25 screens in the eating area were not enough. Change is accelerating and it can feel that we are running at top speed just to stay in place.
So what does serenity feel like? Go to a time when you were totally absorbed by something negative. You just could not stop thinking about a situation in your life. We've all been there. Addiction to nicotine, drugs or alcohol, the pain of lost love, death of a loved one, stress and worry about health, work or finances. Any situation where we felt drowned and possessed by something outside of us. Now remember when you had that first hour, that first day when you realized that you didn't think about the substance, the lost love, your health etc. It was a wonderful feeling to realize that you were released from that pain. That is somewhat like serenity.
The first line of the prayer says we need to reach out God (or some kind of higher power) and ask to be granted serenity. If you have cancer and don't believe in a power greater than yourself, maybe it is time to start. It would take a special kind of self destructive pride to not believe that someone or something would have a kind of power that would help us out of this mess. Don't we acknowledge a power higher than ourselves by allowing the medical system to determine and implement treatment?
Activities like prayer, meditation, yoga, group therapy, massage, reiki, and reflexology will help you to become calmer. To make it easier, many of these things are offered for free at cancer support centres. After all if you are working towards serenity you are working away from pain and worry and doing something positive to fight your cancer. Sounds like a journey worth taking.
When you make bad lifestyle choices about diet, exercise and stress, you are making a holistic decision. You cannot isolate your choices from your body. Become more aware and accepting of your body. Make connections through sensations and feelings; bring to the surface of our awareness what has been blocked and rejected.
Before acting on a habit, pause. Ask yourself how you feel. Propose to yourself that other choices exist. Habits are broken by stopping the automatic reflex and injecting new questions, from which new choices arise.
Become part of the new old age. The period of late middle age (now expanded from fifty-five to seventy, if not beyond) gives you time to construct your own old age, building on the first half of life not for declining years but for renewed inner values that can be expressed in wiser, more fulfilled activity.
Make uncertainty your ally, not your enemy. All leaps forward depend on reaching into the unknown. Once you see the unknown as the source of creativity, you no longer fear it. Instead, you welcome the fact that life renews itself in unexpected ways.
Memories, for good and ill, are woven into your personal self. Fortunately the true self does not have to be guilty from personal experience. The more your awareness expands, the lighter the burden of the past. You find spontaneously that your attention is focused on the present, from which all creative possibilities emerge.
Relationship isn't an object you can take down from the shelf and polish, or haul off to be repaired. How you cope from minute to minute becomes the sum total of your relationship. What you need to do is cope wisely and well from moment to moment. What you need is a connection with a deeper level of yourself, a level from which love and understanding can arise spontaneously.
You do not approach surrender as losing. Instead, you ask how much you can give to your partner, and in doing so you attain a higher level of surrender. At this level it is an honor to give because one true self is bowing to another. Every time you give, you enrich your true self, so the net result is gain.
There will always be contending voices in the room; total agreement is suspicious whenever it occurs, in fact. Understand yourself completely. It is futile to seek to be completely understood by others. Once you have complete trust in yourself, the opinions of others can be seen without threat, and you will have a reliable inner guide that allows you to weigh fairly what contending voices are telling you.
It was always true that life's real purpose was to be found through a personal search. You can find purpose simply through growing and evolving. Everyday existence tends to blur our purpose for being here, swamping it in mundane practical demands. Purpose only survives by paying serious attention to it.
As long as you confront a daunting obstacle, quite naturally you will take the course of least resistance. The solution is to keep making it easier to overcome your resistance. Take positive steps every day - most of the resistance we encounter inside comes down to old, outworn habits and inertia. Getting past them is more than half the battle.
It's the core self that gets people through crises. Externals come second. Yes, the recession and the blows it has delivered to the lives of good, well-deserving people are real. But inner resilience and the ability to bounce back are personal qualities, and they prove decisive. Before you worry about staying positive, take small steps to get out of crisis mode. Once you move in that direction, the doors that need to open will begin to do so.
Passively waiting for time to heal you won't work. You must work to become objective and realistic. You must be fully committed to reclaiming your own life. In doing so, you can become a living memorial to the love one that you lost. A living memorial is one that they can be proud of.
The first step is to look at yourself closely and find a reason for your depressed state. The tendency with depression, because it makes you feel helpless and hopeless, is to cloud the truth. The truth that you need to glimpse is that a way out exists.
The first place to start is with boundaries. Learn when to say no by first checking on how you feel. If someone is taking advantage, the feeling is never good. When you find that your limits are respected, you will discover that, good as it feels to help others, it feels just as good to be strong.
If your vision of life contains love and peace, if you yourself have renounced violence, if you set yourself on the spiritual path, these things don't mean you aren't a realist. They mean you aim for a higher reality. You can choose to accept the darkness and lament it, or you can choose to expand the light until the darkness no longer dominates.
We have all been conditioned to mistake ingrained beliefs for reality and stubborn habits for the inevitable. There are other kinds of choices that bring a new level of happiness, known as bliss or ecstasy. This sort of happiness is permanent, deep and part of your true self. If you decide to seek the path of expanded awareness, you will find the secret to experiencing happiness and peace at the same time.
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