One of the interesting things about having cancer is that it forced me to stop. Really stop. This also gave me the biggest gift of all: the experience of being in some strange kind of free-fall. I had to let go of all that had defined me before. This meant no teaching, individual consultations, retreats or workshops in my professional life. It also meant no cooking, cleaning, caring for my home and family, visiting friends …. the list in my personal life was endless.
Thankfully I knew that this concept of stopping is crucial to mindfulness. It allows space to reconnect with the very basis of life itself; my breathing, my body. To connect with the small things that fill my days and add up to my experience of being alive. So my cancer experience became the ultimate gift of pure, uninterrupted mindfulness practice. Yes I felt physical pain, but I could choose either to feed that pain by spinning stories of fear around it, or I could just accept it completely, breathe, and hold myself with compassion and a gentle curiosity. It felt like a strange privilege to have such an extreme human experience. How was I feeling? How did it make me respond? What could I learn from it?
It was during this time that I began to write myself questions. These were little prompts to help me appreciate the wonderful things that were happening to me in the midst of all the trauma. It stopped me dwelling on the past or living in fear of the future: in other words, it helped me to be mindful of the present moment and discover the joy that could be found there.
This practice of gratitude and appreciation is something that I have held on to over these past few months, and I am now starting to share these little questions with you over social media. I hope that they help you to reconnect with the world of your direct experience, and begin to water the seeds of happiness that are within each of us. I also hope that they help you to keep stopping in the midst of the madness of modern life, to take a breath, to ponder for a while, maybe to be amused by your own thoughts, and to experience the joy and liberation that mindfulness can bring, even for a moment.
I send them out with love, and a smile.
Please write your own responses in the comments box below! It will be lovely to connect with you.
Katie Sheen, Founder & Director of Soul Nutrition