Facing death with mindfulness

I began to question my existence and reason for being alive after my brush with death in 2009.

Through the years, my spiritual journey has blessed me with much to question. These opportunities for questioning always create freedom—freedom from limited beliefs and mind-made suffering. 

Mindfulness has been a tool that I have grown to rely on for those questions, to discern what was even real or what was illusion. For example, mindfulness affords me the experience of nature, rather than just thoughts about it. I can actually feel the breeze on my skin, hear the wind through the leaves, see the blue sky and feel my breath. I no longer experience those moments through the judgments of my mind. My mind is no longer trapped in past or future. I am present. I am aware. I am free from illusion and suffering. Those experiences are rich with joy and the true meaning of life.

This past year, I have come close to death once again, as I watch cancer overtake each cell within my mom’s body.

Though death is not imminent for me, it still stares me in the face and it’s close to home. The stage 4 cancer was discovered in September 2015, in her lymph, lungs and liver. It metastasized, spreading to her kidneys, spine and blood. The cancer has taken over the lining in her lungs, and her left lung recently collapsed.

This is yet another beautiful opportunity for mindfulness and spiritual growth.

I began meditating on my mother’s wellness rather than her illness. I held her health in my mind each time we spoke or visited. Though we have had a complicated relationship, I longed to forgive and move on. I believe holding on to anger and resentment creates illness. I no longer wanted that burden or fateful future. To be free meant to grieve and forgive. I grieved for the hope of reconciliation and for getting apologies I know I’ll never get. I saw the big picture of not wanting her to suffer and for her to make the most of her last days. 

She chose Western medicine for treatment, swallowing each spoonful of hope they fed her. I’ve done my best to offer up my knowledge of ancient treatments and diets for cancer. I’ve said what I needed to say and shared uplifting stories of the people that I’ve met battling cancer and winning without a drop of chemo, radiation, drugs or toxins.

I accept the choices she has made without judgment. I can only hold space while she blames doctors for her cancer. I can say over and over that she is in control of her health but it falls on deaf ears.

Once again, mindfulness comes to my rescue.

This practice brings me back, and I’m reminded of what’s here, right now, in front of me; what’s important in life; what really matters. Being mindful of these things and accepting what I cannot change and accepting people as they are saves me.

Mindfulness means being present for what is and experiencing it as it is, without wanting to change it.

This practice allows you to see and experience what is happening before you, rather than just experiencing the thoughts or judgments about the situation.

Without attachment to thoughts, you become free to feel your life. There is much joy and peace in the present moment.

The present moment is all we have. The past is merely a past present moment and the future is merely a present moment that has not come.

Mindfulness can help you tune into that joy and peace, no matter the circumstances or situation.

Each day, I contemplate the purpose of life: what is success? What is happiness? What can I give? Understanding life and how joy resides in simplicity and presence is my mindfulness practice.

I hold my husband and son a little bit tighter with gratitude and appreciation. I express myself truthfully and practice self-care. I have so much knowledge about what really matters. And as my hair dances in the breeze while I chase my 2-year-old son at the playground, I feel my feet on the ground, hear his joyous laughter and I know that that moment matters.