to feed courage and strength, start with joy

December 12, 2021

to feed courage and strength, start with joy

While I write you, the morning sun is beautiful over the snowy covered gardens of the monastery. Watching the murmurations of the birds flying off the tower in perfect synchronicity makes a delightful meditation for tea.

It's been nourishing to savour these little delights while dealing with some health issues this last while. In a message from a friend recently, I was called one tough lady. That struck me funny, as I never think of myself as tough, but maybe resilient. Truly, we are all equipped to handle whatever hand we are dealt. Sometimes we forget this and when we surrender our power to the mind, the mind too often intertwines it with fear. In this way I am grateful for the years of teachings and practice of mindfulness, and the extraordinary teachers I've had as influencers.

I have come to understand that if you feed your joy, you will do well, no matter what. The most powerful joy arrives in the smallest things that have no conditions and need no requirements. Therefore, accessible to all. It is not complex to find it but easy to overlook it's importance. The more we live within the heart, the more strength we have to face any adversity. When fears lose their hold, we can deal with whatever arises. 

When I had cancer in 2015, I didn't see it as an enemy but an uninvited guest, and most important, a messenger. I listened carefully then and realized that my life, (body, mind and spirit) were completely out of alignment. That was an invitation to get more intimate with every aspect of my walk in life. Walking with cancer was not a journey anyone would wish for, but it opened amazing doors that I may never have had the courage to walk through. Every door had many profound and beautiful aspects that taught me so much about tenderly embracing life. That beauty and suffering were not separate.

Of course, we’d all rather have our ‘time to wake up’ epiphanies while singing in the shower or on an enchanted walk into a sunset on the beach or in the forest. However, many of us wait to have the rug pulled from under us to say okay to making change. A health scare is a pretty good wake up. However challenges arrive, a worthwhile greeting that Thich Nhat Hanh always mentioned was "hello old friend."

When cancer returned this year, it provoked the same fears and inner dialogue of where balance got thrown off. I didn't have to think too long, as this last couple of years have been more strange and stressful than any of us could imagine, globally. I often remind myself to trust and surrender, but in order to truly trust and surrender, we have to exhale fully. I have been holding. Have you ever noticed that you hold your breath when you are stressed? We are capable of releasing all the stresses we experience. With a deep inhale, fill your lungs with pure prana (life force). On a full exhale, release every ounce of tension from every corner of the body. This is a wonderful exercise that can be done anywhere and any time. Hanging on to stress serves nothing but toxicity.

My chosen healing path this time was a little more radical than the first round, but I am now on the mend and grateful for the extraordinary caring medical team here in Italy and the love I've been showered with. Whenever I start to feel heavy, I remind myself of the second arrow sutra that reflects dealing with suffering skillfully. To be shot by one arrow is painful, to be shot by a second arrow is even more painful for all the connotations we add to the situations. In life pain will always be inevitable, but suffering is optional. Feeding our joy is the best path to resiliency.

Whatever our biggest challenges are, if we face them with a full heart, they will dwindle to the force of our joy.

Wishing you a tonic of light and laughter,

with love, a bow and a smile,

Gisele



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