Cancer gives a person perspective.  I wonder frequently what to do with this perspective because it’s complicated. I’ll tell you why.

I mentioned before I was laid off from my job at Cornell. So normally – wait, what was “normal”, again? I’ve forgotten. Let’s just say, IN THE PAST, if I lost a job I would actively search and seek another one.  This habit is leading me to put out that same effort and energy and I’m look for and apply to jobs in my field. But perspective gives me pause.

On the surface the pause is simple. I’ve been pretty public about having cancer. Who wants to hire somebody with cancer? Cancer is considered, rather is, a disability for many people. And it is for me on many days when the chemo side effects really take hold.  Secondly, what’s the point in getting a job? I could just get cancer again and once again, it will derail my life (and the lives of my husband and family). I would again go on disability, maybe get laid off again, put my life goals on hold, etc. etc.  So I asked, why pursue the habitual paths I have always taken if they led to my current situation?

In my more intelligent moments, I pause to seek perspective on life. I ask myself how I truly want to spend my days and my time. What gives me pleasure? What gives me satisfaction? What gives me happiness? What kind of person do I want to be? What will I “do” that cultivates this person? In yoga teachings, we often call this our Dharma. So I sit, I walk, I stroll, I meditate, and I wonder “what is my Dharma”? Simply speaking – what is my truth and how do I cultivate it?

The life I lived before cancer (and much of my life that still exists when I see and feel clearly and chemo brain hasn’t fogged my mind and vision), this life gives me much joy, tremendous satisfaction and intense moments of happiness.  My favorite moments are spent outside, many of them using my body to work the land in a way that will lead to regeneration and growth.  The times I feel most authentic and thus empowered and truthful to myself and to others are when I teach from the heart. Teaching gives me these gifts – especially teaching yoga.

Again, perspective gives me pause because I desire a home. One with lots of insulation, with plumbing and a bathtub. I want a room to practice yoga in and where Steve can play the drums and an extra room for the child we hope to have one day. And I wonder, would farming and teaching about farming and yoga enable us to have this home? Is it one or the other? Can I have both? Can I have it all?

Where do these answers and reflections lead me?  In my positive moments, I don’t doubt for a second that I can have it all, and that I will. In my less hopeful moments, I assume I will have none of these things because cancer or something else will distract my life forever.

What I see on my path of perspective these days are options…and I’m going to embrace and explore them all. I’m applying for jobs that interest me. I’m writing a business plan to start a yoga shala. Shala means “home” and in my vision this would be a studio for yoga classes and other healing practices, as well as a place for community growth through learning and doing. I’m also re-writing our farm business plan to assess how we are doing and where and what we can expand and assess if it will have income.

What I do know, is that life is too unknown not to follow my heart. It’s too short not to take the path that is satisfying, empowering and nourishing.



2 thoughts on “my dharma, my path

  1. I love your posts and this yoga shala idea! and have had similar dreams over the years to build a practice incorporating massage, acupuncture, yoga, and perhaps creative arts/psycho therapy (my field).


  2. i also love your posts Elizabeth, they always make me smile. and think. you have such a way with words and i am in awe of your sustained grace, courage, and sense of humor in facing this cancer fight. you continue to inspire me and i so enjoy your musings. wishing you a beautiful thanksgiving holiday, i think of you so often and am sending healing energy ❤


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