Tag Archives: safe

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Embrace Wisdom

After about a month of weekly visits to a woman in a mental institution, I realized how rare it is to spend that kind of quality time with someone. In the institution’s visiting room, there were no distractions—television or music or chores—as there might be anywhere else. It was just two people, talking for two hours once a week. We got to know one another very well in a short period of time.

I was reminded of that experience during the recent cancer caregiver training I attended. The four-day workshop consisted of three presentations each day—on topics like mindfulness, guided imagery, movement and breathing. We practiced what we were learning in the large group (about 100 people) and also met in small groups.

My small group was made up of eleven women of varying backgrounds and ages. It is unlikely we would have come together under any other circumstances, but there we were, meeting twice a day for two hours each time. That’s a lot of face time.

These “mind-body skills groups” were opportunities to practice the skills we had been taught during the presentations. We were led through breathing exercises, guided meditation and other mindfulness practices, all meant to cultivate greater awareness. We wrote, drew pictures and shared our insights.

One exercise was a guided imagery exercise to find our “wise guide.” Eyes closed, feet firmly planted on the floor, our group facilitator invited us to visit a place where we felt safe. I allowed images to float into my consciousness—the New Jersey shore, a friend’s cottage and my friend Ted (who died from esophageal cancer two years ago).

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New Jersey Shore

Images of being with Ted at my home in Pennsylvania, his home in Oregon and travelling around the world reminded me of how safe I always felt with him. Gratitude filled me—how blessed I was to have been so deeply known and loved. But Ted is no longer with me and so I began to allow other images to surface.

I saw myself on the Irish Sea coast, in a place I had gone for a week’s silent retreat a few months after my Jim died. Ireland is one of those places where I feel incredibly safe.

I imagined walking along the shore of the Irish Sea, and looking at the sun on the horizon.

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Irish Sea

The facilitator’s words brought focus to the question, “who will be my wise guide?”

As I looked across the Sea, the image of a white light emerged at the horizon. It was different from the yellow sun—not as defined and bright white. This light moved across the water and came near to me, and I saw that it was Wisdom. As Wisdom approached me, I became aware of my heart beating. Wisdom wanted to enter my heart, and I embraced her.

It is no mystery to me that I left this four-day training feeling like my heart had expanded and I was more open than I ever remember feeling.meditation-mindfulness-vulnerability

 

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Safe and Free

Before he got sick, Jim used to go to the Jersey Shore several times a year. Part of his shore routine was to get a massage at a local spa. Monique was his massage therapist there, and he often told me stories about her—he thought she was a gifted masseuse and an interesting person.

When Jim was sick, we spent some time at the Shore, and one day he wanted to get a massage. We were at a coffee shop near Monique’s spa so rather than call, we just went into the spa to make appointments.

Monique greeted us and I scheduled massages for the following day. When I gave her Jim’s name, she did a double-take. “I didn’t recognize you,” she said apologetically.

“I have brain cancer,” he stated simply.

Tears welled up in Monique’s eyes. She stared at Jim, searching for some feature she could recognize. “I’m so sorry,” she muttered. He shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “What can you do?”

The next day, we went back for our massages, and at the end of my massage, Monique recommended a new practice for me:

She suggested that at the end of the day, just before I go to sleep, I take a deep breath, exhale and say, “I am safe.” Upon waking in the morning, she suggested I take a deep breath, exhale and said, “I am free.”

Safe and free—two things I was not feeling at the time. I was much more aware of the threats and dangers I was facing and all the times my insides were tied up in knots.

I felt ill-equipped to care for someone who had brain cancer, and I continually feared I would make a mistake, a fatal mistake. I had never before given anyone injections or infusions, and each needle stick terrified me. And then there was Jim’s frequent falling and my worry that he would seriously injure himself.

Safe and free? Not so much. So I thought her suggestion was worth a try.

Over the coming days, weeks and months, I practiced this breathing exercise and mantra. Every night I would remind myself that I was safe and every morning I would declare that I was free.

After a few weeks, I added a line to my morning mantra. I would take a deep breath, exhale, proclaim, “I am free,” and then remind myself, “Be free.”

It was one thing to say it and another thing to live it, to live as if I believed it.

I started to become more aware of when I was not feeling safe or free, and I would restate my claim, “I am safe” or “I am free.”  It helped.

I still get emails from the spa at the Jersey shore and I keep deciding not to unsubscribe. Every email reminds me of my lesson from Monique—I am safe and I am free.