When Illness Happens to Healthy People

As you many of you know, throughout the years I have been a strong advocate of yoga and Pilates for maintaining health and wellness.  Now I find myself once again facing the prospect of dealing with cancer.  My first experience some 12 years ago was relatively mild compared to this one.  So some of you may be thinking “how could a health practitioner and advocate like Peg become so sick??” Or  worse, “why should I bother if illness may come to me whether or not I practice yoga or Pilates or even exercise regularly?”

Here are my responses:  First, illness or accident or anything unexpected can happen to any of us at any time.  If you are reading this and are over the age of, say, 20, it is probably safe to say that not one among us has escaped trauma during our lives.  All trauma is relative.  What may seem trivial to one can mean serious suffering to another.  The way we perceive experience is the way we internalize it.  We have all had difficult experiences.  The older we get, the more these experiences accumulate.  This is life.  These are part of what makes us who we are.

One recurring theme you may recognize in my writing is the constancy of change.  Everything is always changing.  The best predictions are guesses.  No one knows what the future holds – good or bad.  That’s assuming we still want to use those labels:  “good” meaning things we think we want to happen and “bad” meaning things we don’t want to happen.  All of which is, of course, very subjective.  None of this is to say that cancer is a “good” thing.  But it is what it is.  It has no agenda other than survival – just like healthy cells.  It’s not right or wrong or good or bad.  It just is.

During these past 3 weeks as I recover from surgery, I’ve been struck by the number of people who have told me how “good” I look.  This brings me to the second question, “why should I bother . . .etc.”.  The answer is simple:  if you want to survive life’s traumas you need strength, flexibility and balance.  Does that ring a bell?  It should!  These are the main benefits of yoga, Pilates and exercise in general.  And there are so many more.  In response to hearing how good I look I’ve been saying that I am a walking advertisement for the disciplines I advocate and try to maintain.   Something else you’ve all frequently heard me say – it’s never too late to start.  No matter where you are, you can gain in strength, flexibility and balance.  Just like any other experience, these qualities are relative also.  What’s strong for you may be different for someone else, but it is still strength.  All you have to do is start and then keep practicing.  Yet another sentiment I frequently express is how practicing yoga and Pilates will help you with all aspects of your life.  Perhaps my experience will help you to see how true that rea is.

None of us can escape trauma.  But we can learn to roll with the punches.  Or at least we can try.  It’s never easy, but fighting with reality doesn’t make it any easier.  Acceptance doesn’t have to mean giving in or in any way being happy about the state of things as they are.  All it means is that we acknowledge what we cannot change and move on from there.  We may not be very good at this and we certainly will never be perfect, but we can practice.  And each day – maybe each moment – offers a new opportunity to practice.

I am exceedingly grateful to the wonderfully supportive community of which I am privileged to be a part.  You all make my efforts at practice that much more significant and rewarding.  Thanks to all.

“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and to endure what cannot be cured.”

BKS Iyengar

“A hundred flowers blossom in spring, the moon shines in autumn, there is a fresh breeze in summer, and there is snow in winter. If your mind isn’t occupied with trivial matters, every time is a good time.”

Wumen Huikai, “Zen Basics”

 

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