The Adversary

Between the Western separation of body and mind (and spirit,) the American fetish of thinness, and my own experiences with varied ailments and trauma, over my lifetime, my body became my adversary. When there was pain, or a new something to deal with, the thought “why is my body doing this to me?” was the automatic refrain.

I have been befriending my body slowly, carefully, steadily, deliberately, over the past several years. And although that process is far from complete, that refrain no longer has teeth. With this journey into this new territory called cancer, some clarity has come to me about how this journey is to be embarked on – how this new territory is meant to be discovered.

“Fighting” cancer, “beating” cancer, is the most common metaphor I’ve come across. “It’s me or the cancer” this metaphor seems to say. But, in reality, the cancer cells are mine – they are of my body. They are acting in ways that are consistent with their own instructions, even as they get in the way of other processes in my body.

I don’t want to take away the metaphor of the “fight” for others on this journey – we must all choose the metaphors that work best for each of us. But for me, this will not be a “fight.” There is no winner and loser. I will do what I can (including Western medical treatments) to heal, to diminish the cancer’s growth and effects, maximize my body’s vitality. But really, there is just me, the cells inside me, and death, which will come, sooner or later.  (By the way, it is unlikely this particular bout of cancer will cause my death – among cancers, it’s fairly low-risk.)

I had a conversation with a friend this morning about the healing available in being able to face the uncertainty of death, to embrace our fear, embrace how we wish to look away, to deny, to deflect its reality. That is also part of this journey into this territory called cancer. I will see how fear peeks out behind a bush as I round a corner, notice where it arises from the mists in front of me.

I happen to be reading a great book by Cynthia Bourgeault about the Gospel of Mary Magdelene. In that gospel, Jesus said:

Attachment to matter gives birth to passion without an Image of itself because it is drawn from that which is contrary to its higher nature. The result is that confusion and disturbance resonates throughout one’s whole being. It is for this reason I told you to find contentment at the level of the heart, and if you are discouraged, take heart in the presence of the Image of your true nature. Those with ears, let them hear this.

I’m sitting with the notion that attachment to matter is my true adversary. Attachment to matter brings judgement – judgement of my body, my condition, of myself, of others. Right now, I’m looking for contentment at the level of my heart.

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