Posts Tagged ‘choices’

Shadowland, Part 2

January 12, 2014

Catching yourself in the act of thinking or behaving in a way that is based on something you have repressed or denied—shadow—is a beginning. But what do you do next? And is awareness enough? 

The first thing to do when you catch yourself in shadowland is to be kind to yourself. Self-recrimination seldom helps. By that, do I mean that you should never feel guilt or remorse? No, that is not what I am saying. Guilt and remorse can alert you to the fact that some thought or behavior does not square with your internal value system, your sense of appropriateness and integrity. But as mechanisms to alert you, they need to be attended to and then put aside. 

If you use an alarm clock to alert you to the fact that it is time to get up, do you let it continue to beep after you wake up? No. You turn it off. It has done its job. Imagine telling yourself that you need to let the beeping continue, just to make sure you don’t oversleep tomorrow.  Or worse yet, imagine deciding that you need to let it keep beeping just to punish yourself for not getting up without it. To do so would be an act of aggression against yourself. And do you really need to be at war with yourself? 

Use that moment of awareness as an opportunity to be kind to yourself. Also use it as an opportunity to look at the choices you have made and consider whether you might want to make new choices. Those choices might be straightforward and simple or they might complex and challenging; they might be easy or difficult to enact. At the very least, appreciate the fact that you have actually caught yourself in the act of thinking or doing something based on old defense mechanisms. Without having done that, you would not be in a position to make new choices. 

This is no small thing because awareness means vulnerability. To be aware is to open yourself to being touched by both the external world and the internal one. There is a quality of defenselessness to that and, therefore, vulnerability. And once you have had that moment of awareness, there is no going back. You cannot become unaware of whatever it is you have just become aware. You may shut that awareness down and try to retreat to the cocoon, but you cannot eradicate that moment of awareness you have just had. 

Further, awareness has a way of expanding. You don’t simply become aware of your own internal state of affairs and your own behavior, you begin to become more aware of the world around you. And you don’t simply become aware of everything painful and problematic, focusing only on that, nor do you simply become aware of what is uplifting and delightful, focusing only on that. You become aware of everything, and you allow yourself to be touched by everything in that awareness. You will find that you are up to the challenge, that you can actually allow yourself to experience life as it is without dying or becoming overwhelmed and retreating. Abandoning the armor, even just at times, frees up an enormous amount of energy, and having freed up energy feels good. 

It is a beginning. As you become aware and make new choices, you become cognizant that you are interacting within two important relationships: the relationship with yourself and the relationship with the world (or more accurately, the relationship with everything other than yourself). Not only do you become aware of these two relationships, you may even become aware that within each of these relationships, you are interacting with what is visible and physical and with what is invisible and nonphysical (or energetic). 

As your awareness expands, it helps to avoid intellectualizing about it and just enter into a state of curiosity. Each of the relationships you are becoming curious about has dimensionality, a kind of dimensionality that transcends the three dimensions we usually think of. Each has depth and breadth. That is, each can be shallow or deep, broad or narrow. But neither a cube nor a sphere describes them. A spiral, expanding in both directions but otherwise in the form of a double helix, might be a better image, though even that does not quite capture it because any kind of spiral we can image is locked into three dimensions. 

What are you seeking, whether or not you realize it, through these relationships? You are seeking a sense of wholeness. But this is not a fixed wholeness, it is an evolving one. And how do you attain that sense of wholeness? You attain that sense of wholeness by healing yourself and your relationship with everything else. This is an interactive affair. As you heal your relationship with yourself, it impacts your relationship with everything else, and as you heal your relationship with everything else, it impacts your relationship with yourself. 

Awareness begins the process; an evolving wholeness is what you are pulled to.

Copyright 2014 by Melanie Mulhall


May 30, 2011

My husband’s faith in allopathic medicine was approximately as robust as my disdain of it. I’d had a handful of horrific experiences with doctors and I’d had good experiences with alternative practices. Coupled with my shamanic worldview, that made a holistic way of looking at well-being natural for me.

I had long been passionate about wellness, favoring it over going to seed, becoming ill, and needing remedial measures. Maintaining wellness was, in my mind, necessary for the full contact living I preferred. That meant getting enough sleep, eating well, meditating, working out regularly, and otherwise doing whatever it took to give me abundant energy, vigor, and a strong immune system so I could take on everything life had to offer.

Wellness practices were, at best, an afterthought for Howard. He ate well to the extent that he was eating what I cooked for him and, fortunately, he loved my cooking. But left to his own devices . . . well, if good nutrition was in the mix, it was only there by accident.

We had very different ways of looking at wellness. I was proactive and enthusiastic about it. He was reactive and laid-back. A brilliant thinker, he just brought his body along for the ride. And I was willing to go along for the ride because I loved him.

He stayed in his head and out of his body and it never seemed to occur to him that the prostate cancer might return and metastasize. When he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1992, he had placed his faith in the urologist. It was his body and his choice. When the prostate cancer returned and metastasized, he again put his faith in what doctors had to say. Again, it was his choice. My job was to support his choices.

More than once during his illness, friends and acquaintances asked whether I was employing energy medicine techniques with him. The assumption always seemed to be that I would pull some tools out of my bag and work on him—with or without his knowledge. It was a poor assumption. I had been impeccable about receiving permission before doing any kind of energy work on anyone and was not about to change my approach with him. But I never actually sought permission because I was told by guidance during meditation to stay out it. And it was given to me as bluntly as that. Stay out of it. I could give him my support and I could direct the energy of love towards him. That was it. No energy healing techniques. No pressing him to try alternative healing modalities. Support and love. Period. I chose to accept that guidance.

It must be said that I can be opinionated and downright pushy on important matters. Most of my controlling behavior had always been directed at myself, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t be forceful in fiddling with the lives of those I loved. In this instance, though, I was strangely at peace with the admonition to stay out of it. I sensed that this was an unfolding of events agreed to before we’d ever met, before we’d even entered our human bodies. I didn’t like the diagnosis but I somehow knew that this was Howard’s heroic journey, and while I was lucky enough to be his companion along the way, he was the one choosing the path and he was the one choosing whenever there was a fork in the road.

So Howard began treatment. His doctors threw hormone therapy and chemotherapy at the cancer. They checked his PSA on a regular basis and periodically did bone scans, CT scans, and other tests to see what was happening with the disease. For years, bone scans had shown nothing, despite troubling PSA seven or eight years following his prostatectomy. He’d been put on hormone therapy to address those concerns.

When cancer did show up in the bones, it was in his spine, ribs, arms, legs, and skull—typical for metastasized prostate cancer, as I eventually came to understand from my research, but alarming when nothing has shown up in scans until cancer shows up everywhere in the bones.

That bone scan was the only one that ever definitively showed cancer in the bones. The doctors had trouble finding anything in scans from that point on. But when prostate cancer metastasizes to the bones, it forms osteoblasts, which essentially harden the bone. That seemed to make it more difficult to see in a scan. The PSA was, for a long time, the one test that gave some indication of whether the treatment de jour was working. And when one treatment failed to lower the PSA from bouncing-off-the-wall-alarming to just alarming or stopped impacting it much at all, another chemical cocktail was introduced.

Between early 2007 and late 2010, Howard burned through every kind of treatment his doctors at the urology center could throw at the cancer. And then he was referred to an oncologist at a cancer treatment center. They threw more drugs at the cancer, ultimately gaining Howard’s agreement to try experimental drugs.

Through all of this, he maintained good humor. Through most of it, he seemed to believe that allopathic medicine would hold the cancer at bay. I wasn’t so sure. I did a fair amount of research online. Nothing suggested that any treatment was curative. At best, the cancer could be held at bay a little longer. But the word palliative was used over and over. The treatment of metastatic prostate cancer was, essentially, palliative in nature and nothing from Lupron to Casodex to docetaxel to Zometa was going to save him. He chose to believe—until the last weeks of his life—that he was going to beat the cancer and eventually die of something else.

I chose not to tell him what I’d learned in my research.

Copyright 2011 by Melanie Mulhall