“In Mexico they say when someone you love dies, a part of you dies with them. But they forget to mention that a part of them is born in you- not immediately, I’ve learned, but eventually, and gradually. It’s an opportunity to be reborn.”
–(From Have You Seen Marie? by Sandra Cisneros)
I begin my rebirth June 24, 2012 as family gathers to celebrate my Mom’s life. I wear one of her hats. This hat became part of a dance I created, Traveling with Bits of Mumbo Jumbo. By wearing it I honor how dance and my mother’s spirit have intermingled.
Coupled with Mom’s death is the loss of my right breast. This too calls for rebirth. Restoring body, mind and spirit …
Some field-notes on healing July thru December 2012
- I miss my caregivers. I feel adrift. I remind myself everyone remains part of my life. I practice gratitude for my life and all those who are a part of it.
- My physical stamina, emotional stability and faith are weak.
- I do not know what or if dis-ease might surface in the future.
- Returning to work (even with reduced hours) is difficult and at the same time a hopeful sign I am returning to my life.
- Walking in nature is a necessity to keep my moorings.
- I look to new healing resources that help me focus beyond breast cancer.
- I am disappointed that I must go thru another surgery and recovery for reconstruction of my breast.
- I am working with self-compassion because there are so many things I feel I could/should do and am not doing.
I return to dancing in fits and starts. On the one hand I am so very grateful to be dancing again and on the other side I do not know/recognize my body. Time alone in the studio is still unthinkable.
The first holiday, Thanksgiving, arrives without Mom and I experience my aloneness as never before. In order to transform this crippling feeling, I schedule a ten-day personal retreat at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Here I imagine that I will be in a spiritual community and have a sacred space to daily dance in the zendo, which will be the gift I give myself to heal the ultimate tear in the fabric of my dance life. My 30 plus year practice of two to three rehearsal sessions a week has been missing since March when I knew I faced the mastectomy.
I arrive in Upaya in the snow and in the midst of a big gathering. I am welcomed, and this is a loving acceptance I gratefully receive. I begin an adventure that will unfold on many levels. I am feeling lost, and this seems good.
During my time here I return to the practice of Beauty a Deborah Hay work that I learned in 2002, knowing that there is healing to receive in this practice. Now that my breast and body are altered surrendering my habitual ideas of beauty is a needed kindness. With each practice I trust that I embody “the absolute dignity of (my) perceptual experience of Beauty. Maintaining this persona, as water pouring.” As I approach each of my practices in this way I create faith in the rightness of my self-expression.
I also practice something new and of my own making. On my third day of dancing in the zendo I create a score. It grows out of a 45-minute free-form practice from the day before where I dance small counterclockwise circles in front of the beautiful giant Green Tara figure. This is the score: space—circles; theme—blessings; quality—generosity. Here are a few excerpts from my practices:
- 3rd Practice: More true to the circle in a non-conventional way. I enjoy the apparent leave-taking as it reverses itself into a turn and a humble bow.
- 5th Practice: Lots of flapping from low to high arms. Gradually increasing in speed all the while I am circling. I bow in the 4 directions and exit with hands extended overhead. I feel I am with the immensity of space.
- 9th Practice: I end facing Green Tara saying, ”I need help.”
- 11th Practice: I keep with the circle paths throughout and allow varying tempos to emerge. The ending feels likes a blessing. My feet are soft, and my hands carry sacred energy.
My ability to practice this score is a sign of the following:
- I am healing.
- I am honoring the creative force as it is coming to me in this moment.
- I affirm that acceptance without criticism is key to recovering my joy in the process of creating.
- I know that self-expression, self-care and self-love go hand in hand.
During this time at Upaya I am supported before and after my dancing by Feldenkrais, qigong, foot massages, wonderful wholesome food, beautiful nature and meditation. Most importantly a loving, accepting community surrounds me. All of these are essential to maintain a loving attitude toward my spirit and my body in its process of rebirth.
On December 25th I send out a message to family, friends and community: “I am here on a snowy winter retreat at beautiful Upaya Zen Center in magical Santa Fe, NM. I am dancing in the zendo in the free time between the meditations. My spirit soars with the privilege of dancing in this sacred space. I am grateful for your presence in my life. May you experience warmth, comfort, joys and blessings of this winter season!”
It is my last day at Upaya. I offer to share the practice of Beauty with anyone in the community who would like to join me. Three women join me. My experience of sharing is lovingly revelatory.
My final practice of Beauty is a performance for these women. I practice remembering the absolute dignity of my perceptual experience of Beauty. Yes, maintaining this persona, as water pouring.