I found this beautiful quote from Thich Nhat Hanh- “To meditate is to come home to yourself”
In my opinion, this captures the essence of the spiritual path one takes when you are emotionally healing from a life threatening illness or injury. When the dust has settled because the interventions have stopped or transitioned to managing a chronic condition, the identity confusion waltzes on in. It takes time to sort out how the experience has changed oneself, our loved ones, and the outlook on life. As I had mentioned in a previous blog post titled, Back to Life, Back to Reality?, when treatment ends the expectation is that things will return to normal. Yet how can that be, because in confronting death we have faced a deep and transformative experience that will take time to truly express itself.
To integrate the transformation, finding a meditative practice is crucial. Through this practice, we will be lead home- to our deepest center, our sense of self. The energy of self is multifaceted. The Oxford Dictionary defines self as “A person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action” and offers these synonyms: identity, character, personality, psyche, soul, spirit, mind, (inner) being. We express essence of self in our relationships, in our work, in our habits and practices. With that in mind, it is important to have compassion for how complex it can be to integrate the ripple effect from a life threatening condition.
For some, this may be a traditional practice of meditation, for others it may be yoga, for me it is a blend of physical movement, body work, and art. During treatment, I used art as a way to relax and capture glimpses of what was going on internally through abstract drawing. As I grappled with the emotions related to having a mastectomy, the idea came to me to make papier-mache casts of my natural breasts. My husband and I made several together, and that has become the canvas on which I have reflected and meditated about my experience. It has been unexpectedly peaceful to be able to touch them and be with the former self.
Of course it is not necessary to have body casts to benefit from the practice of meditating through art. When I was sifting through the impact treatment had on my professional identity, I knew that I wanted to develop a method of helping others develop a practice of using art and meditation to heal emotionally. And thus the birth of this blog, the individual program and workshops.
So imagine that we are sitting together, contemplating your personal experience. What do you do to come home to yourself or what have you wanted to try? Maybe today it is simply contemplating Thich Nhat Hahn’s words- “To meditate is to come home to yourself”. Share your thoughts below, because you never know they might be just the thing someone needs to hear.
– Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing from a life threatening illness or injury. Creative Transformations offers individual sessions, in person or via Skype, workshops, and this weekly blog. Sign up today so you never miss one by visiting: www.creative-transformations.com.