STEP 1 - STOP
"When you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace". ~Author Unknown
The first step on this journey is to STOP. Just stop. Stop. Stop doing. Stop researching. Stop waiting for results. Stop worrying. Stop crying. Stop the lot. Stop and BREATHE.
Not many journeys start off with stopping! But when we are given a serious diagnosis or any shocking news we tend to hold our breath. Fear does that. It halts our breath. Before we can go anywhere we need to stop and catch our breath. It's most important. Our breath connects us to our life and all that we need for our journey. So this step is vital for all the rest that follow. If you have been dealing with an illness for a long time and have become apathetic about your condition, your breath will reconnect you to your passion and hope. You may well have stopped breathing deeply when you were first diagnosed, or sometime a long time before that. Now is the time to get your breath back!
When we are frightened or in shock our breath becomes shallow. We shift into a survival mode because the news of our illness often feels like an immediate threat to our life. Our body, however, interprets it as something much more immediate, like a tiger on our heels!
In the most amazing way, our body prepares us immediately for that possible attack. It coagulates the blood and restricts our circulation so there is less blood in our extremities. All in a marvelous effort to prevent severe loss of blood in the case that we are bitten by the tiger! It shortens our breath and concentrates the oxygen only to the vital organs, such as the heart, which beats faster in response to the release of adrenaline and other stress hormones. It assumes we don't need access to our most enlightened thoughts and can do without our big ideas on life. Hence, it limits the oxygen available to our brain. We only have access then to the impulses of survival - freeze, fight or flight. This is appropriate when being chased by a tiger, but not when setting out on a journey to turn cancer on its head. While it may be helpful at times to view cancer as a tiger (those times when you need a little healthy motivation) generally, we need our breath on this upside down journey.
So many of us, after hearing a diagnosis or feeling a lump are caught in the fight/flight/freeze impulse. We make our life changing decisions about treatment and our health from that place! No wonder we are in such a panic! We think cancer means a death sentence so we rush to the doctor for a quick fix. That's what panic will do. Panic demands immediate action. We don't consider how we wish to proceed with our treatment. Do we want to move forward with confidence, optimism and joy or with terror, feeling powerless and small? We don't stop to explore the many successful options for our treatment. Most of us don't even know there are options for our treatment because everyone we have known has bolted right into the oncologist's office. But yes, there are options! Chemo, surgery and radiation are a popular few, but there are many more. As you explore our resources you will discover other ways the body can heal.
First we need to stop and breathe. Though it may feel like it, we are not in danger right now. Let's reserve survival mode for when it is really needed! When we breathe we turn off the panic alarm in our body. We then calm a little and can breathe deeper. This allows the oxygen to return to the brain and we again have access to our wisdom, our knowing and our guidance. So, stop and breathe. Alternatively, if you feel no emotion about your condition, you are just numb and lack motivation for your life, your breath will ignite this again in you. So breathe. You may have to do this consciously many times through the day. You may catch your thoughts racing, your heart racing and your anxiety peaking or you may feel nothing. Remember to breathe. Your breath is the fuel for your journey, the fuel for your life! Never go anywhere or do anything without it!
"Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again." ~L. Frank Baum
When we take the time to breathe feelings arise. Tears may flow and hearts may ache. Many of us have been running from our feelings all our lives, caught in the survival mode since childhood or since a divorce or a death in the family. When we breath again we find our feelings. As we allow ourselves to breathe we may feel relief but also pain, sadness, or grief.
"Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so you apologize for truth." Benjamin Disraeli.
Shallow breathing through our life has allowed us to keep difficult feelings at a distance. It also keeps our passion and joy at a distance too. As we breathe more and deepen our breath, we have access to the rich depth and variety of our feelings. We are alive again to feel the deep sorrows and the purest of delights. As we start to breathe it may feel overwhelming, so remember, we are more than feelings. We are more than feelings and situations. Keep breathing and allow your feelings to breathe right through you. When we hold our breath or allow it to be shallow, then feelings get stuck and we believe they will never go away. Our breath allows the feelings to pass through us. Like waves on the shore, they come in and go out. Feelings only stick around when we ignore them! Breathing through the hardest feelings allows us to release them and move on. So keep breathing!
"Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor." ~Thich Nhat Hanh
There is a wealth of resources on this site to further explore your breath and your feelings! Click here to explore more about feelings. Click here for our breathing resources to help you quickly calm your mind and reconnect with your breath. Or spend a few moments writing some thoughts or feedback in our sharing box below. Share any ideas or feelings that arise when you start to breathe. See what other people are saying too. Whenever you feel you have your breathe about you, move along to Step 2.