Last year, after a routine mammogram, it was discovered that cancer cells were abnormally accumulating in one of my breasts. Cancer cells are in all of us, and throughout our body. When they cluster, but do not spread, it is pre-cancer. When they spread, it is cancer.
This news took me to the twilight zone. Every step I took felt as if I was walking on a liquid earth.
How could someone who lived their entire life in the Bay Area, following its decades long lifestyle of organics, happy chickens, no hormone meat, exercise, mindfulness and hot tubs— have this malady?
I couldn’t speak a word. I couldn’t voice its name.
A year before, I had a perplexing dream. I entered a large warehouse with a bunch of other women. We were instructed to form a line. There was nothing else in the warehouse except its concrete floors, bright lights, high ceilings, a table of neatly folded blue robes, and what looked like an airport screener. A heavy draped curtain to our right was hiding the contents behind it. We lined up by the table, were instructed to disrobe from the waist up, put on a blue robe, and get ready to go through the screener.
As my time approached, I didn’t feel right about being there, and being told what to do. It’s a dream, so I called upon my magical powers to fly high above the lineup, and hover near the ceiling. There I could see the other side of the curtain. My dream transitioned to a nightmare when I saw a factory full of meat hooks. Initially, what hung looked like oversized chicken breasts. They weren’t chicken breast however. With a closer look, I realized they were bodies, from the torso down, skin on, like frozen chicken. Women’s bodies hanging on hooks, with arms tied behind.
A large bat-like figure with claws appeared and started to chase me, grabbing to bring me back to the fold. With my superpowers and flying agility, I wove through the ceiling rafters, and escaped.
When I shared this story with my therapist at the time, she became very concerned that the dream was perhaps a sign that I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It wasn’t until a year later as I proceeded down the road of surgery, radiation and endless tests, that the “aha” hit me. Day after day, treatment after treatment, I disrobed from the waist up…and put on a blue robe.
I realized then — my dream was a premonition of sorts. I would survive and escape the direction my life was taking — one where the instructions I was following were from forces similar to lining up a herd for slaughter. Directions on a path leading to nowhere I really wanted to go. A direction that would render me faceless, with no identity and a victim of following someone else’s wishes for my life.
A year out of this, I am outside the factory. As I walk further away from it, I have an increased awareness of not only turning up the volume of my voice for my life, but what else I allow to enter it and what I allow my body to absorb.
Your energy, the energy of a room, the conversations one overhears, the anxiety of the news hour, any false accusations hurled your way, tolerating unkindness, and any drip from an old narrative or pattern that no longer serves — these are all energies our body absorbs. Unseen waves just like the nutrients we get from food and water, or the vitamin pill we pop. They trickle through our cells, blood stream, tissues, neurons, and DNA like the strings of string theory that connect the universe. When we allow our bodies to absorb bad energy, our resilience deteriorates, and eventually we become drained.
Sweeping an issue under the carpet doesn’t serve us. The head in the sand doesn’t work either. Neither does appeasement, or the tolerance of bad juju in the hopes that if we ignore it…it will just solve itself, or go away. In reality, sometimes it does go away, but I no longer am willing to take that risk.
I practice like a captain of the Starship Enterprise, activating my force field when I need it. Addressing any fireball of bad energy the moment I see it coming and stop it in its track.
In reflecting on my dream I curiously notice that the predator was a bat, something rumored to be the root of a lot of trouble these days. I’ll escape that too.
The awareness my malady brought is a gift, even though it didn’t come in a nice package. I suppose the greatest transition that took place is an awareness of practicing with clearer eyes to watch.
My voice is stronger as I make time to listen to it.
So I ask you…What is your voice saying to you? Whether it be in the plain language that we speak every day— or in your gut, your face, your eyes in the mirror, the wind, and in your dreams. It is speaking to you now as you read this.
Give the gift of your voice to yourself. Watch what you absorb. Walk away from the factory you did not choose to enter. Pause and feel your feet.
Rhonda Diaz Caldewey is a practicing yogi, adventurer, and endlessly curious Modern Elder. She is involved in retail and restaurant commercial real estate, and a board member of Madre.org. As a current student of the MEA online beta, this story came to her during an exercise with one of her colleagues in the class.