Sunday, 22 December 2019

Fear; Part three ‘Ego, awareness and purpose'

 Living with cancer has made me more aware of every little blip in my health. I had an ache in my hips. It passed but I was wondering has the cancer spread to the bones? More scarily I had a marble size lump in my armpit that went away in three weeks, but had me thinking it was possibly in the lymph nodes. Fear.

Even as I wait in oncology it is interesting to see that the signs or other aspects of the visit that can increase my own fears. The radioactive sign on the door or an innocent poster about scalp cooling. Or the large crowded waiting area with quiet people; some not wanting to make eye contact. Fear.

In my last blog on ‘fear’ I had a short clip of Sophie Sabbage saying; “If you don’t take hold of your fear your fear will take hold of you.” She talks about people dying of fear and shock and the need "to pass through it (i).” Her books and workshops are a wonderful help and I again strongly recommend them. It is not about suppressing fear or losing all our fear - fear is a survival mechanism - the problem comes when it is part of our conditioning. 

At Sophie Sabbage workshop in London talkingfear
In the last two ‘fear' blogs I’ve talked a lot about how a culture of fear is being perpetuated. Even health service doesn’t always help. It seems to be less about keeping healthy and more about looking for illness to treat; this feels more fear-based and many of us can slip into what can feel like victim mode.

I recently caught Anita Moorjani being interviewed in a youtube talking about fear and what you can do (ii). It was a wonderful reminder that I still need to do work ahead of starting radiotherapy at the end of January. She is one of those inspiring people and I heartily recommend her first book, 'Dying to Be Me'. My partner came across it in the German clinic waiting room ahead of my transurethral hyperthermia treatment (iii). In that book, which we’ve since bought, Anita tells her story, how in 2006 she fell into a coma as her 4-year struggle with cancer was coming to an end. While doctors tried to attend to her body she entered into a near-death experience where she discovered one of life’s greatest truths: "Heaven is not a destination; it’s a state of being”

When she regained consciousness, her cancer was healed. In her book and the youtube she shares some of what we can do to work with our fear. For example it is easy to say 'don’t fear the fear', but so many of us fear say a treatment or strange symptoms, but know that our fears are only making it worse and that the added fear could lead to worse outcomes. 

Loving ourself

Loving ourself is key - accepting ourselves right now including any fear. It is more important than positive thoughts. But it is not always so easy. How can we best work on it and even love those fearful thoughts? Anita says that only in a place of acceptance can we change.

She goes on to suggest that the next step is to establish what we want instead; how can we create that reality? When we focus on our fear we focus on the opposite of what we want. We have to feel the fear, as that is the way we can come through it to a place of calm. And then, understanding that if I love myself, what do I want to be different? We need to focus on bringing what we want rather than focusing on disease. She argues this is not a war on cancer, it is not about irradicating sickness but promoting wellness. See my blog and short film here saying very similar about us not battling with cancer (iv).

Anita's new book, “What If This Is Heaven?”, looks at the cultural myths that impact on our daily lives. Myths like, “We get what we deserve” or “Coincidences are just coincidences”, are often accepted as truths without questioning. Anita’s experiences have allowed her to see heaven not as a physical place but as a state of mind, right here and right now. By freeing ourselves from these myths that are falsehoods "we can leave fear, heartache, and self-imposed boundaries behind and instead live lives full of purpose and joy”. I’ve already ordered a copy of this second book as this chimes so true with my own thoughts.

In her first book I remember reading one of the last chapters where she talks about how the external world mirrors what we feel about ourselves. And wow, is it difficult for many of us not to be disturbed by the world at the moment. I covered a bit of that in my blog and film with Heinz Bude (v), who I met in Bergen earlier this year - although since then things seem even more challenging!!

Anita Moorjani writes: “By letting go of any negative self-judgement, we allow our world to transform; and as it does so, we’ll be able to feel greater and greater trust. The more we are able to trust, the more we’re able to let go of trying to control the outcome.” This isn’t about negative thoughts attracting negativity into life; that isn’t necessarily true. It is more about emotions than thoughts. Similarly as I covered in the previous blog about fear, attracting positivity is not simply about being cheery and upbeat (vi). As Anita says 'being true to ourselves is more important than just trying to stay positive!’

But hey, where does that leave the world? I am still trying to get my head around all this!

More on loving ourselves

Loving ourselves makes sense but isn't always so easy in practice. I was interested to see that when we are young so many of us are taught not to be egotistical, not to have an exaggerated sense of self-importance. This can lead to us mistakenly suppressing our egos; that ’self’ that is distinct from the world and others selves. 

Yet to love yourself you must love your ego. We need the ego but also we need awareness or an awakening. Ego and awareness are different. Anita describes this in the youtube, how we must embrace our ego to know how to take care of ourself and awaken ourself to others. She says if our ego is poor but we are aware, then we can’t protect our self. For example as a 'people pleaser' we might do things out of fear of people not liking us. If we have the opposite, where our ego is high and we have no awareness then we are egotistical. If both are low then that leads to depression, addiction or escapism.

Sophie slide from Penny Brohn AGM 2019
So we need to love our ego and have awareness. Then when we are helping people we are doing it out of self love and the more that happens the more it will nourish us. This isn’t the blog to go into how we can do that - there are loads of books on it - but it must surely start with recognising where we are at (see slide left) and where appropriate learning to say no to the things that are not for you or when you are just doing it to make others happy.

Indeed the more you love yourself the more you will do the things to honour who you are. Loving yourself means uplifting yourself, keeping your energy high, doing things that make you happy and the more you do that your very presence uplifts other people. In contrast if we are always beating ourselves up for not being good enough or doing the right things, our energy is drained and quite often this then has a negative impact on other people’s energy. 

Finding our purpose

Many of us spend too much of our lifetimes being something we are not. Anita says don’t focus on loving yourself, don’t focus on getting rid of sickness instead focus on what you would do if you do love yourself. We all have a purpose and the way to find it, is to be ourselves: "to be who we are”. Indeed in all spiritual wisdom there is something along the lines of “know thyself”.

I’ve mentioned Kelly Turners’ excellent book, ‘Radical Remission’ (vii), well in that there are nine key factors that she has found that can unlock pathways to dramatic healing. Number nine in her book is ‘Having Strong Reasons For Living’. She notes, similar to what both Anita Moorjani and Sophie Sabbage say, that "allowing emotions to flow in, through, and out of us - as opposed to letting them get stuck in our minds and bodies - is vital for our health.” It is through enough desire for life, rather than complete fearlessness, that sees us through; a desire to live long but not avoid death at all costs. 

A key question Kelly Turner asks her patients is “Why do you want to stay alive?” Kelly Turners’ book has some great suggestions for action like writing down reasons to live, writing your ideal obituary, listing current reasons for living plus an exercise to find your calling.

Lots more I want to write but am grateful to be having another look at fear and what helps with it - no more time now - I don't think it will be the last visit to writing about this topic!



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