Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kundalini Yoga

We are visiting my in-laws at their summer home on the river outside of Annapolis, Maryland. During the week, the kids have camp and activities but on this particular Sunday, there was nothing on the schedule in the morning so I started to look on the internet for yoga classes nearby. Bingo. There was a class called Kundalini that started at 11:15 and it looked like it was nearby. I had no idea what kind of class it would be, but, “Hey it is a yoga class,” I thought to myself. I quickly found my yoga pants and shirt and scurried out the door.


After a few harried minutes of trying to figure out where I was, I found the studio and hurried in. When I arrived I was greeted by a nice woman who asked me if I was there for the Kundalini class.

“Why yes, of course,” I replied. “I don’t even know what it is but I am willing to try it.” I said.

“We will be doing a lot of energy work,” she said. She smiled widely and led me to the classroom. I followed her with interest.

There were only three of us in the room other than the instructor. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was keeping an open mind.

“We will be doing some chanting, singing and dancing,” the instructor said. I thought this was curious but again, I was keeping an open mind. The first thing we did was rub our hands together to get heat and energy going. My hands felt hot so I guessed that I was doing the right thing.

As the class wore on, we chanted an Indian mantra with our eyes closed, we danced around the room feeling free and “looking like we were at a rave,” as one of the students noted, and we sang a song. There were breathing and strengthening exercises as well.

• By definition, Kundalini yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline comprised of the physical and meditative techniques . According to one theory, kundalini energy can be awakened by openly practicing a combination of yogic techniques, including the use of mantra, prana, and breathing techniques, or purely through devotion and prayer.

Sounds a little bit out there, right? Well I certainly felt that way but hey, I will try just about anything once. I started to think about the way that people sometimes look at me when I say that I love yoga. This is what they think a yoga class is about; people closing their eyes and dancing with their arms flailing or people sitting and singing an Indian song.

It really is nothing like the yoga classes I have attended before. The yoga I have done is much more “Americanized,” focusing on the breath, meditation and movement but also very physical. I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not, it was so different than anything I had ever done.

When the class was over and I had moved my arms “with breath of fire” and chanted a traditional Indian chant, I thought about expanding my practice. There is so much to learn. The next Kundalini class is this Sunday and I plan to be there.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Tools in My Tool Box

I was explaining to a woman I met at our pool that I had experienced disappointment because of something I had recently tried to achieve. I told her how I had been trying to reinvent myself after breast cancer, ten years of child rearing and the fallout illness has had on my family.


“It was like someone was staring me in the face, telling me the answers and I couldn’t even pick up the cues,” I complained to her. “Here I have an MBA and thirteen years in marketing for a major corporation and I basically just failed Marketing 101.” I felt miserable.

She sighed. “You just have to say that it was God’s work this time and maybe you don’t have enough tools in your toolbox. That is why I volunteer so much. You get rusty if you don’t use your tools.” What a wise statement; it was really true. I haven’t used those tools for many years because I have been so focused on other things. Of course I failed Marketing 101, I need more practice.

I vowed to do a couple of things this autumn to sharpen the tools in my tool box. I decided that I am going to try to find a writer’s conference to attend and I am going to volunteer a bit more. Rust, rust go away! I hope that soon enough I will have a shiny new tool box and perhaps next time I set out to do something I will be ready.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Circle of Life

I move my hand in a large circular motion clutching the paper towel and watching the foam of the glass cleaner bubble up on the glass. As I clean the dinner table I begin to think about life as a circle; beginnings and endings intertwined. Sometimes it seems that the past, present and future are all one.


My mother called today and explained that she had to go back for a second mammogram and an ultrasound. She is pretty sure she saw a lump on the ultrasound. She has so much anxiety around cancer, she is upset. Her mother died of breast cancer when she was just twenty one and my brother and I have both had cancer. Clearly, her anxiety is well earned.

I am surprisingly calm when I talk to her. I was the same way when I got my diagnosis. I feel detached and clear about how things will move forward if the lump is malignant.

“I didn’t want to worry you,” she begins, “I know that this must be hard for you.”

“Well, you don’t know what it is yet,” I say, trying to stay in denial, “they would have to biopsy it to see if it cancerous.” I know I have had six biopsies over the course of many years. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and go down the path towards worry. It won’t help.

“If it is anything I am not sure that I want these people to treat me here,” she says, appearing to have thought this through already.

“You have to let them get a diagnosis first mom and then you can figure out where you want to be treated.” Our roles are reversed; I am calming my mother, providing guidance.

I think about my mother, her mother, me and my brother. If she does have cancer it would be a continuation of this circle of cancer. I begin to worry about my son and daughter, for they could be affected too.

Now the glass on table is sparkling and the circular motion of my hand has stopped. I leave behind a fresh, clean table ready for the next meal. I hope that this is a metaphor for my life. That the circle will stop and that all will be well for the future. All I can do is hope.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dreams of Summer

The summer has officially begun. The children are out of school and the days are longer. The air is heavy with humidity and the pool is officially open. I breathe a sigh of relief because the school year is ending and the picnics, parties and concerts are all winding down. It is a good feeling to be on the summer schedule, yet the season always takes me back to the year I was diagnosed with breast cancer.


It was three years ago this coming August that the lump that I had found was determined to be malignant. So each year as summer begins, I tend to relive the moments that preceded that day when I felt a lump so different from anything I had felt before.

I remember that I hadn’t been feeling well for quite some time. It began when we moved to Philadelphia a couple of years earlier; I started to get migraine headaches. At first they were only right before my period and then it seemed like I was getting them all of the time. They were quite severe and debilitating.

I finally went to a neurologist who diagnosed the headaches as menstrual migraines. My hormones were fluctuating severely every month. I even began to get the headaches mid cycle. Eventually, it seemed like I was always on the verge of a headache and reaching for a migraine pill virtually every day.



One July evening of that year, I started to feel a headache coming on while we were on vacation. It put me in bed for two days. When I started to feel a little bit better on the third day, I performed my routine self breast exam which I did religiously every month. I felt something very hard in my left breast. I knew immediately that it was different. In fact, I actually screamed, “Oh my God!” Out loud.


My thoughts raced back in time to a story our next door neighbor told me several years earlier. She too found a lump and exclaimed the exact words aloud. They discovered that she had Stage IIIB breast cancer and after two years of treatment that included a bone marrow transplant, she nearly died. Every speck of my female intuition told me I was in trouble.

Sure enough, two weeks later, after a fine needle biopsy, the malignancy was discovered. The rest, as they say, is history.

So as the summer begins and the fireflies come out, I vow to try not to worry too much or dwell on the past. “Enjoy these days,” I think to myself, “the summer will be here and gone and you will be one more year out from diagnosis.” I cross my fingers, say a quick prayer to God and breathe a deep breath. “Yes,” I think, “I am lucky to have this summer, now go and enjoy it.”

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Love Heals



They say that things (primarily bad things) happen in three’s. This past week I heard of three young people who were diagnosed with cancer. It is weeks like this that give me pause. Two of these three young people had been in remission and their cancer returned. The other little girl was diagnosed with leukemia and will be in treatment for three years. It is very disheartening to hear these stories and my thoughts immediately go to the mothers of these children.


That is because I can’t imagine the horror they must be experiencing. In spite of this, they must be strong and supportive and hopeful. They have just found out that they might see their child die but they must persevere.

Going through cancer treatment as an adult who has lived half a life is one thing. First of all, when it is you, you feel like maybe you can control it, or at least understand it. When it is your child who is ill, all you can do is hope and pray for the medicine to work and their little bodies to be strong enough to fight this disease.


I guess when it comes down to it; it is the ultimate test of a mother’s love. I am sure that each of these parents will do whatever is in their power to help their children. I try to keep this in mind as I face the daily challenges of parenting and remember that through love we can heal. Through love we can grow into the people that we strive to be. Through love we will survive.