Breathing Amidst Uncertainty

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the hardiness of our spirits. We are all filled with spirit. It is the essence of who we are. Within our spirit we find strength, resilience, character, places of hope and perseverance. The spirit within each of us is a life force that gets us through our challenges.

During the cancer journey, many discover that their spirit is stronger than they thought. As one man said to me, “Frankly, my spirit was just coasting along until I got my cancer diagnosis. Suddenly, everything was uncertain, and I just did not know how to deal with even getting up in the morning!”

Let’s face it, life is filled with uncertainties. We live with uncertainties in our everyday lives, but we don’t think about them. We take for granted that the world is safe enough. The earth is spinning on her axis, we have air to breathe, water to drink, people to love and care for. And so, we go forward with our living, until something shakes our world up.

That ‘something’ for many who are reading this is cancer. For all of us reading, that ‘something’ this year has also been the pandemic. Suddenly, we are all brought face to face with uncertainty. Just like my friend above, suddenly everything can feel uncertain.

Is it even possible to live in an ongoing way with uncertainty? I have heard this question posed in numerous ways over the last few months. People are tired of staying home. Tired of treatments. Tired of social distancing. Tired of masks, numbers, statistics. Tired of worry. Tired of the loss … of things we take for granted, and for some of us, tired of the loss of precious souls.

So, is it possible to live in an ongoing way with uncertainty? Well, yes! This treasured cancer community has been finding ways to live with uncertainty in an ongoing way for a long time. It is one of the gifts that can develop in the cancer journey. I remember speaking with a woman who had been living with cancer for, at that time, just over 23 years. She reflected with me about her own surprise that she had found ways for over 23 years to live a very full life, as she continued to manage her cancer. When I asked her what had helped her, she replied, “All of us have a still place inside which can be a safe haven. We simply need to know that place within, really know it, and then keep going to it for centering and renewal.”

And so, I invite you to bring your awareness to that still place within you. Rest your attention there for a few minutes. What do you notice? What sensations and feeling arise as you connect with your inner quiet place? What images do you see?

If your quiet place does not come easily to you, try taking a few deep breaths.

Breathe in slowly and deeply.
Hold your breath, and then exhale.
Do this a few times.
Pay attention to the change in you…to that space between breaths.
Just allow yourself to feel the peace in that space.

You were born with the ability to find quiet and rest as you slow your breathing. If you have ever attended to a newborn, you know what I mean. An infant has no way of explaining to us how they are feeling. Nor does an infant have cognitive thoughts about its needs. An infant can really howl with pain, frustration, want, and need … and an infant can find peace as they slow their breathing down. This is a quiet, still place of refuge we all have. As we slow our breathing, we revisit that place of refuge. It is a place of strength, resilience, and renewal.

Our inner core is always present. We just need to revisit it, nurture, and develop this resource. We all need safe havens during uncertain times. May your spirit be nurtured. May your spirit be well.

Lucretia Hurley-Browning, MDiv, MS, is a guest writer whose recent background includes Chaplain of Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital and the Director of Juniper Tree Counseling Center. She is a therapist and ordained United Methodist Minister. Currently she is a writer by day, a reader by night, and is passionate about living life meaningfully with a good dose of fun. 

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