My mom has lung cancer.
She shielded me from the diagnosis while I was teaching my Wyoming retreat last week, but the news arrived swiftly and sharply upon my return home.
Margherita is almost 95 and has enjoyed excellent health her entire life. Which is why I assumed, perhaps idealistically, that her eventual death would be an undramatic event — a generic death-by-old-age if you will. I suppose keeping things vague and gauzy is a worthy coping mechanism.
But lung cancer? Really? This is how it ends?
The words themselves slice through vagueness like a scalpel.
The abstract just got real.
Mom’s otherwise boring cough now carries a ring of despair.
And the once-comforting notion of infinite time has just morphed into time scarcity.
In the first 48 hours after hearing the diagnosis, I toggled between grief (in my heart) and panic (in my brain), until eventually both grief and panic just collapsed into each other.
But I’m observing two ways that my years of yoga practice are rising to serve me now:
1. Stay steadfastly in the moment
Cliché yoga-speak, I know, but it is vital. It is compelling to futurize and fantasize about what the journey and final destination will look like. Tempting as that may be, I vow not to conjure the final scene of Terms of Endearment, complete with Shirley Maclaine manically screaming for the pain shot. It’s too overwhelming.
One day. One moment. One breath at a time. Anything more than that, and I will be steamrolled by overwhelm and rendered paralyzed.
And a paralyzed Marc is of use to no one.
2. Self-care is non-negotiable
Emotional Eating (junk food) is tempting. The pull to over-sleep is real. Postponing meditation, avoiding the gym, sabotaging my healthy habits … It’s all so compelling right now. But I am already experiencing, firsthand, the stress placed upon my physical and mental body in ushering the end of one’s life whilst maintaining my own.
For a strong body and clear, vibrant mind, the self-care routine must continue not in spite of, but because of, my sorrow and anxiety.
On the first day of my Ayurveda practitioner training back in 2014, my teacher
Vaidya Jayagopal wrote the following in big block letters on the blackboard:
RELIEVING PAIN OF THE SUFFERING IS THE HIGHEST DHARMA
This was the overarching WHY behind the entire program.
Is this not the overarching WHY behind … everything?