You’ve probably seen that I have a course on leading a gentle life which is starting next week. I’ve wanted to create something similar to it for a long time, and it wasn’t until a last minute discussion in May in my moving forward from cancer facebook group – about pulling back from too much, being kinder to ourselves and bringing about more gentleness in our lives – that the essence for the course was created.
However there’s another story behind it too and that story is this:
A quick aside: you may be thinking ‘I’ve got nothing to do with cancer how is this relevant to me?’ Partly it may not be because I do work with people who aren’t in the cancer world too and I reference below how cancer impacts our lives. However, take away ‘cancer’ and replace it with ‘change’ or ‘upheaval’ or ‘difficult times’ and we could be talking about similar things – in how our brain and body react, how our identity is adjusted, and how we push against or find acceptance in our new way of being.
So if you can tolerate the cancer references, do read on.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been very kind to myself. I’ve sort of pushed myself a lot and sometimes this pays off whilst other times it leaves me falling flat – exhausted, embarrassed, wishing I hadn’t tried.
If I think back to before having cancer, I can see this was a pattern then too. I wanted to do well in my career, for example, but can see where I made choices that weren’t always right for what I felt to be deeply true – that I could be more creative and speak up and be more open about what my body and mind really wanted (movement, play, questioning).
I can’t say cancer changed me in this respect, at least not immediately. In order to feel back to me again I continued to push and pursue things that I didn’t at the time realise weren’t always right. To this day, I know I went back to work, for example, far too soon after all my surgeries but can only look at that and say that I learnt a lot from it.
But even now, in a career that affords me much freedom – of movement and choice – I still push. I still don’t fully take advantage of all that I can have in this way, I am still hard on myself, unkind at times and still want to always be better.
Cancer potentially made this louder I think, because we have so much to do after we’ve been ill don’t we? We have so many places to be, to see.
In fact, when we have cancer, we are in fight flight or freeze mode for much of the time. We’re responding to many ‘threats’ around us (however big or small they are perceived by others, they are threats of different kinds and sizes) and we have those sometimes over a prolonged period of time.
When the threats reduce, either because we’re no longer in active treatment, or we’re in a different perhaps calmer (ha!) stage of treatment we’re able to reflect and review a little more on what’s happened. We can have objectivity and more time to assess what was going on.
This is normal but can produce that heavy feeling of anxiety – what if all those threats re-occur? how will I cope? What does the original threat mean for my future? and so on. This puts us back into a state of fight flight or freeze with our bodies and minds working overtime to find ways to reduce the threat.
I’m not talking about prevention of cancer here by the way.
I’m talking about managing our emotions specifically. I’m talking about attempting to bring ourselves into a state of well-being again, from the high alert state we’ve become used to.
This is very hard – we have to teach ourselves what our mind is capable of handling now, but we also have to find ways to comfort ourselves, bring joy back and gain a sense of control.
This is, in essence where the gentle living concept comes in.
Gentle living is about bringing an awareness to what we’re like for ourselves whilst being compassionate that we may not be there yet.
Gentle living is about finding a focus for the way we’d like to be and acknowledging that it’s OK we’re not there yet but taking small steps to walk towards it.
Gentle living is forgiving ourselves when we’re thinking difficult, painful or ‘bad’ thoughts. Gentle living is almost like being graceful I think and perhaps resilience personified.
Yes it’s also self-care and yoga and meditation or whatever floats your boat.
But it’s YOUR gentle life and it’s whatever floats YOUR boat that matters – however it makes you feel gentle, gentle it is to you.
I created the course off the back of a very off the cuff video I did in the moving forward from cancer facebook group back in May and it resonated – with me and you – in how we could be bringing a gentleness to our post cancer lives.
I’m pleased to say it is a proven concept and thus I’m rolling it our to a wider audience.
We use a variety of activities to have you thinking about your own version of gentle, your gentle life vision, awareness of where we get it right and wrong, what we’re pushing on that isn’t working, what we’re discounting that is, and mindset, coaching and accountability to bring about profound changes to support your gentle life development.
The course is open to anyone – cancer or not – because it’s such a profound message that we can all take advantage of.
I wonder how gentleness plays a part, or not, in your own post cancer* life?
*replace as apt.