In the matter of 2 hours, I met 2 different people who’d been told they have 6 months to live. In their presence, I felt all of my worries, issues, and concerns fall by the wayside. These people know the true value of each and every moment.
I was presenting at the National Cervical Cancer/HPV Cancer Coalition conference this past weekend in Chicago. It was totally mind-opening and absolutely life-changing. I’ve never met a group of people who enjoy life more than the ladies attending this conference. They laughed harder, smiled wider, and lived each moment as if it could be the last. I chatted it up with one attendee for an hour about sports, sleeping late, and countless other topics. Only later did I discover this lady has stage 4 cervical cancer with a diagnosis of 6 months to live.
Winding down the evening, I spoke with another attendee from my hometown of Santa Monica. We complained about parking tickets and the cost of living in Southern Cal while trumpeting the healing power of our shared passion, yoga. I was again shocked to learn that this lady also has 6 months.
To be in the presence of two human beings filled with so much energy and passion yet told by doctors that their number has been Chosen… This made me think very very carefully about life. Here I am worrying about my ever-increasing Blue Cross premiums, my chronically clogged bathtub drain, the zit on the tip of nose, and why a client won’t return my calls. Contrasted against the ladies at the conference who squeeze each moment for all its juice, my anxiety was an even darker sludge. As Arthur Somers Roche said, “Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”
In the Great Recession of 2009, so many of us have been sucked into that channel, feeling as if each day we’re being swept toward some new conflict, illness, or headache. These cancer survivors taught me how to say “To hell with the current!” They taught me how to latch onto the shore and climb on the back of laughter to a lofty perch in some brilliantly tropical corner of the mind. They taught me that while death will come for each of us, why not let it pluck you from the mountaintop rather than slurp you from the sewer of doubt, fear, and anxiety!
The cackles, hoots, and haws of these joyous cancer survivors served as a reminder of the age-old question facing every human being. “Is each day a step closer to death? Or does each day fill you with another drop of life?
Following are 3 tips to break free from anxiety’s current and reclaim your passion for life:
1. Honor death, don’t fear it
When we live in fear of death, we give in to the current. I invite you to think a little differently about Halloween 2009. A few years ago I traveled to Mexico during Halloween season and observed the most intriguing tradition. In Mexico, the people mark November 1 and 2 as a window when they believe its easier for the souls of the departed to visit the living. Rather than Halloween, the natives call it “Dia de los Muertos” (see above photo). The graveyards turn into a scene of raucous celebration. I always thought the graveyard to be such as solemn site but after seeing the festive Oaxacans sing and drink tequila while dancing on their loved one’s final resting place, my perspective on death forever changed. This Halloween, consider taking the festivities a step deeper. Celebrate the lives of those have passed to another world. As the Oaxacans would tell you, on these sacred days, they are closer than you could possibly imagine.
2. Consider the Beautiful, Funny, Delicious mantra
There’s a mantra that I embrace to maintain my passion for life. Each day, check off one funny moment, one delicious moment, and one beautiful moment. While it might seem over-the-top, consider how busy we are and how easy it is be stuck emailing instead of watching the sunset…or sorting thru your thoughts instead of stopping to enjoy the street musician on your way to work. There’s nothing more healing than a hard laugh or a delicious piece of chocolate to lift your mood and sweeten your day.
3. Open up
If troubles in love and relationships are fueling your “current,” the yogis would tell you the solution is easier than you think. When we are rigid and closed off to life, love has no way of finding us. The yogis believe that simply by opening your heart, love moves through you. Whether by reading a book or taking a yoga class or going to an art museum, open up. Rumi put it perfectly, “Don’t seek for love. Seek to find and remove the barriers you’ve built against love.”
If you feel like the current has already sucked you into the sewer in this long and painful year, why not claw your way out? Live, love, laugh…take in a breath of Fall air, give someone a big ol’ hug, and let loose tonight with a little laughter. As goes the Chinese proverb: “Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.”
For more on the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, check out: http://www.nccc-online.org.