It is of utmost importance that you go your own way; that you trust in yourself enough to follow the path that is calling you. Regardless of the path your best friend, mother, doctor, pastor or teacher may have taken or think you should take, you have to trust yourself enough to navigate your own journey. For you are the only one that knows the truth in your bones and the wisdom in your heart. Others can guide, support, encourage and share their valuable wisdom and experience with you, but you still have to follow what makes sense and resonates with you.
Going other people's way....
I remember as a young child that I did not like milk at all. In England, at that time, everyday at school, everyone was given milk. Despite it being the pinnacle of healthy nutrition at the time, I did not like it. I was always the slowest on to finish. I tried, but I just did not like the stuff. I could just about get it down if it was cold, but warm, forget it! It must have been the warning sign that I was not a good match for dairy. However, thinking that dairy was good for me, because that's what everyone told me, I continued to eat dairy. Over the years I enjoyed cheese, yogurt and of course ice cream. I completely ignored what my body told me about it, through the disliking of milk, then the subsequent eczema, the gas and the bloating.
I suffered from eczema for years, on my hands, my legs, my arms, my neck.... and when I was in my 20's I was eventually told by a Chinese doctor to get off the dairy. The thought was radical to me at the time. But I went off dairy, and after a few months, the eczema cleared up and then I went back to the dairy. A decade later I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. It was much later that I learned about the link between dairy and cancer. While I do not believe eating dairy gave me cancer, I do believe it contributed to my body having the terrain where cancer could grow. And through my life, if I had listened to myself, I knew dairy was not good for me. I knew it. My body knew it. But despite that, despite my knowing, I followed what everyone else was saying and doing. I did not go my own way and follow what made sense to me and my body. I really didn't appreciate the wisdom of my body. If I had trusted it all along I would have been better able to take care of myself. But I trusted everyone else. Thanks to cancer, now I know better, although it is still very much a learning process! Through my relationship with cancer I learned clearly what it feels like to go other people's way and how it feel to go my own way. Cancer has been the best life coach!
When I was diagnosed with cancer, Ralph and I both did an extensive blood test that examines all the vitamins and minerals that are essential in your body. We had to ship our blood off to somewhere in the states. In over 35 of the 60+ different components that were measured, I was seriously deficient, not just a little, a lot. Ralph had 3 components that "could possibly use some improvement." We were stunned! His body had been up against far more abuse than mine ever had! He had smoked a pack or two a day for years and consumed lots of other things that weren't intended to strengthen his health! At least I had sort of whistled a healthy tune....but there I was significantly deficient.
It helped me realize that life is very different in a different body. It's like a game of cards. We never know what the other has been dealt. We only know our hand. We know our limits and our potential. It is a knowing that only we can experience, only we can tap into, because no one else lives in our skin, no one else dwells in our bones. We know instinctively what our body needs and what it can tolerate.
Ralph, it seems, has the constitution of the gods, so he can afford to stay up late, eat junk and not exercise for a far longer period of time before it catches up with him, than I can (not to say that he does!). I get a little off the balance and I am sunk! I have always known this about myself on some level, yet ignored it. I argued with my disposition. But what a relief to finally accept my body and myself. To let the truth of who I am lead the way and follow wherever it may lead. For me, my path eventually led to the Hippocrates Health Institute. Going to The Hippocrates Health Institute unfolded when I began to really listen to my body and trust myself. My experiences there transformed my life completely. Though my path may differ very greatly from another, what appears to be true is that miracles can happen when we listen to ourselves! I don't know where my journey is heading next, but based on the path I take when I trust myself, I am up for wherever I need to travel.
But where did our self-trust go?
For a long time I struggled with self-trust and I see many people up against a similar struggle. Self-trust is a tricky one. It sounds easy, "trust yourself." But most of us have learned from a very young age to doubt ourselves and trust someone else. Many of us have such self-doubt that we would rather trust anyone else! We defer to others for fear that we may make a mistake or get it wrong. Sometimes we defer to the experts so we don't have to take responsibility for ourselves. This can interfere greatly when it comes to making treatment decisions about our health. Chemotherapy may well do the trick for you, or your friend, or your neighbour down the road. While shifting your diet and changing your lifestyle may be the right path for someone else. With a variety of options for healing, all worthy of our consideration, we need our inner compass, our trust in ourselves, our connection to God, to make the choice that is ours to make. Fear can erode self-trust like a sand dune. What could be worse than making your own choice and then failing, when it is your life is on the line? The stakes are high, maybe the highest. We are more vulnerable than ever to the opinions of others. This is exactly why we need to take the time to get back our clarity, our wisdom and regain our self-trust.
We learn early on that someone else knows better than we do. Of course it all starts with our well-meaning parents who teach us what is right and wrong behaviour. They teach us to pay attention to them and do as they say. So we learn to ignore our own inner guidance. They train us out of what we might naturally do, so that we conform in some reasonable way to the social norm. Then off to school we go, where we are well and truly trained to conform, do what we are told and respect authority. I love how Trudi Schoop in "Won't You Join The Dance?", describes this shift from our body being our guide to the outside world:
As soon as possible children are taught what their anatomy is allowed and not allowed to do. "Don't be such a cry-baby!" "Quit the silly giggling!" "Sit still an be quiet!" "If you don't stop playing with yourself, I'll tie up your hands." "Get down out of that tree before you break your neck." "Don't touch me, you're a mess!" " Stop asking so many ridiculous questions!" And the ultimate squelch: "You ought to be ASHAMED OF YOURSELF!" As a child tries desperately to conform, he begins to censor his feelings, contain his curiosity, limit his actions, and suppress any behaviour that is contradictory to the desired image being thrust upon him by the older people. (p.52)
This may be needed to manage a diverse society with so many people, but perhaps we are off balance on the conformity/authority side of things. Perhaps we need some more support for the free thinking, curious questioning, self-respecting side of things. Many of us conform so much that we check ourselves out. We abide so much by the rules that we forget to consult ourselves about if the rules actually make sense and what the cost is to abide by them. Trudi Schoop in "Won't You Join the Dance?" questions this:
If we want to benefit society we must live within its dictates. That would be work enough for the individual if it ended there. But along with the lawful behaviour that any society prescribes, there is also a "social behaviour" demanded of us which often seems totally irrelevant to our relationship to the rest of the group. Why must the personal habits that are socially acceptable be so artificial?...Must we also find it necessary to suppress, alter, or deny our physical expression in order to be good citizens? Must we disguise our emotions, masking a very real sorrow with a determined smile, or a beautiful exhilaration with a bland composed visage? If only we had the liberty to show how we honestly feel! If only our bodies didn't have to lie, and pretend, and behave so falsely! If only we could be free to enjoy ourselves as we really are!"
Our bodies always keep us honest, even though we may participate in incongruities. It is the incongruency that makes us sick. Living for years with our lives going one way and our hearts going another has a high price!
"Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike and rejoice at what brings you nothing but misfortune." Boris Pasternak. Doctor Shivago.
In my experience, my father, though I loved him dearly and I believe he had my best intentions at heart, taught me that he knew more about everything than I did. He taught me young to respect his opinion about everything and to consult him about all life's big decisions and respect his authority on my life. I always looked for his approval, to make sure what I was doing was right. The shift from consulting my inner guidance to looking to him for direction, set me up to blindly follow the next authority figure, whomever I perceived them to be. Lucky for me it wasn't Hitler. My ability to hear my objection to something and voice it had been muted by my upbringing, and along with it, my confidence to strike out and follow my heart and trust in my own path. My upbringing was not extreme, but very similar to how many people were raised.
Fortunately for me, therapy and the training upon which I embarked, provided overwhelming support for me to hear my own voice and speak it. It enabled me to reconnect with my inner guidance, that inner knowing that can navigate even the darkest territories, if we just but let it! Over the years I have learned to listen inward and trust that guidance beyond anything else. It has never failed me and grows stronger the more I trust in it. My experience with cancer challenged this and as I come through that experience I feel my self-trust has been strengthened. Now it is the loudest voice, I experience it as the voice of God, and it is from that voice that I take my marching orders!
All this reminds me of studying the Milgram Experiments in psychology. If you didn't get to study these, they are a fascinating, disturbing series of experiments into issues of conformity and authority. Though deemed unethical, they shed the light on how atrocities can occur in the landscape, of what I would call, "no self-trust."
A cross section of the public were asked to participate in an experiment which they were told was about how people learn. They were asked to be the teacher and administer electric shocks. They had to administer electric shocks with increasing intensity to another "volunteer', with each incorrect answer they gave in a series of multiple choice questions. Each participant watched as the "volunteer", who was really an actor, was strapped into a chair in another room and hooked up to the wires for the shock. The experiment was set up so that the actor "volunteer" was not receiving any shocks and intentionally answered incorrectly so that the participant, in the teacher role, had to continue to increase the shock up to extreme pain. The experiment explored if people would knowingly inflict pain on another under the guise of science and with direction of an authority figure. Many of the participants, very disturbed by hearing the yelps of pain of the "volunteer," questioned the experiment, but then continued when instructed to by the scientist. They overrode their own inner knowing, their own voice, their conscience, the voice of God, because the firm authority figure told them too. Interesting. They did not have the self-trust to go against something they felt was wrong. I wonder if this happened in your house growing up? Do you ever put your children in a similar position? A position where you demand their conformity at the expense of them trusting what is truly congruent for them? If this experiment is of interest to you, check out it out below. Below is an updated version of this experiment. The participant, after much inner torment, eventually calls a halt to the experiment. In reality, in Migram's study, 65% (two-thirds) of the participants continued to the highest level of 450 volts. All of the participants continued to at least 300 volts! It is tough stuff. Put yourself in that seat.....what would you do? If nothing else, this experiment highlights the essential need to listen to ourselves and trust in what we feel!
Although I like to believe I would not fall for a situation like that now, unfortunately, there was a time in my life when I too would have done the same as many of the participants in Milgram's experiment. Disconnected from my self-trust, I would have continued to participate in something that I knew deeply was not congruent with who I am. For much of my life I was too alienated from my inner awareness to trust in it enough, to speak up for myself and speak my truth. I know that many others have experienced the same disconnect. Ask yourself, "If the whole world stands against you sword in hand, would you still dare to do what you think is right?" Swami Vivekananda. For those of us up against a serious health condition, we should ask, can we do what we feel is right for our bodies?
I believe cancer demands us to regain our self-trust and to "re-member" our body. It urges us to bring ourselves back into balance. Our parents had the right idea. We do need to be part of a community and fit in to a group of people. We are not meant to be estranged and alone. Some conformity is needed. We also benefit greatly from respecting an authority and hearing their knowledge or expertise on a subject. But conformity and respect for authority must be contingent on our self-trust. All of this must pass through the lens of what we sense in our bones that is beyond all knowledge. It has to match what we are and cannot not be. Our elemental self. Our truth. If it resonates then, then we can move forward with congruence, not demanding ourselves to be something that we are not. Nor pushing ourselves to do what we truly do not want to do.
So start an Inner Revolution!
So how do we turn it all upside down? How do we regain trust in ourselves enough to follow the path that calls us? How do we begin to listen to the inner knowing and let everything else become secondary to that? How do we start an inner revolution and go our own way? Well. perhaps it all begins with a gentle listening inward and tuning out the outward. "If you don't go within, you simply go without." said Victor Frankl. We are all geared for this, hard-wired to listen to our own wisdom. Once we set out with a strong intention to listen, maybe it will start to unfold. The path can be simple and gentle and fun! You may be amazed by how wise you are! You really do know where you want and need to go but you have to listen to yourself. Here are a few suggestions to get you started. These playful ideas are designed to free you up to enjoy yourself and get back in the flow with yourself. From there your wisdom will start to bubble up and with it your trust in yourself. Enjoy.
1. Laugh. Find someone to laugh with, find something to laugh about. Watch a great comedy. Laughter is a wonderful healer for the body and unites body, mind and spirit. You feel it all when you laugh. Or try Laughter Yoga. Listen to the therapeutic power of laugher:
2. Love. Fall in love with yourself! Feel all that you love. Family, friends, strangers who smile, horses, bananas, watching the sky, listening to music. Bask in all that you love. It connects you to all that you already know and deepens your connection to it. It opens your heart and then your awareness grows! Write a love letter to anything or anyone.
3. Write. I love to write it out. Grab a pen and let the words come. Perhaps you could start with "What my body knows is...." or "What I know about myself that haven't been listening to..." or " If I lived dangerously I would....." I think you get the idea. Write for 10 minutes without stopping on any of these topics or just write.
4. Surprise. Surprise yourself and do something completely not you and you may get clearer about what is you! Do something you would never do. Maybe it is as simple as smiling at everyone you encounter or as grand as going sky diving. But challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone. This is the fast track to developing self-trust! The following is an inspiring example of how one man surprised himself.
5. Give. Give love, give food, give support, give money. Give away hugs, give away smiles, give away your time to help someone. When we give we feel empowered and limitless. Being able to touch the life of another reconnects us to our own agency and our own life.
6. Date. Take yourself out on a date! When was the last time? This is an idea from Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way. She refers to this as an "Artist'S Date." As you connect to the creativity within you, you start to hear the callings of your own path. Listen to Julia talking about this idea:
This can start by just enjoying being with yourself. Dine yourself, take yourself to a movie, a walk in the park with a picnic....enjoy being with yourself. Simple or elaborate...whatever suits you! Here's a few ideas...
7. Meditate. This list just has to include the practice of sitting and breathing and letting thoughts do what thoughts do...drift past your steady breathing being. A simple, powerful tool for your life. For those of you new to mediation and perhaps a little intimidated by the idea, this is a great easy intro called the "One-Moment Mediation." Simple, easy, powerful. Remember, the moments make up the minutes and the minutes make up our lifetime!
8. Forgive. "Forgiveness is the scent that the rose leaves on the heel that crushes it." John Arnott. Forgive yourself first. Being human is a wonderful journey of forgetting we are human and making mistakes, and then remembering we are human again. Forgiveness lets you move forward into what is possible for your life. Figure out what you feel you have done so terribly wrong and then forgive yourself. Here's a beautiful collection of quotes that may inspire you to heal and to forgive. After all, we are all human.
9. Silence. Be silent for a day. Wear a sign that says "Silent today". Say nothing. Breathe. Sometimes wisdom is born in silence.
10.Express. The opposite of the previous suggestion. Find a way to express yourself. Shorten the time it takes between when you feel a feeling and when you express it. Write it, dance it, draw it, paint it, sing it, play it, sculpt it, speak it, bounce it..... Whatever form invites your expression....have fun!
Feel free to explore our resources for more ideas. When you follow your heart and your path, not only will you surprise yourself with what you can do, but you give permission to others to follow their path too!