Belly Breathe

Here is a picture of me meditating in a dermatology operating room. The fluorescent lights were blaring, the air conditioning was blasting, and I was surrounded by medical equipment.

And yet, I had to create a moment for myself before the procedure that was to remove a part of my shin that had been diagnosed with malignant melanoma.  Cancer.

During that moment, my partner sat nearby to send me good energy (and to take this photo).  I breathed into my belly. I was in shock (and still am) about this diagnosis, so I didn’t have any wise mantra at the time. I just thought “belly breathe belly breathe belly breathe.”

In truth, I was scared, terrified really, and meditating on the operating table was the best thing I could think to do.  Belly breathe.

Pema Chodron writes, “It’s not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is part of being alive, something we all share. We react against the possibility of loneliness, of death, of not having anything to hold on to. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” (When Things Fall Apart)

Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth. My thoughts were coated with the word cancer and my heart was with my father who died from cancer. My truth was “belly breathe cancer father died miss love grief belly breathe.” Confronting my fears, my truths, enabled me to get through the procedure. I cried in front of the surgeon and nurses. They listened and handed me tissues. My partner kissed me on the forehead.

I realized that the room was full of men — my partner, the nurses, the surgeon. I was thankful for this male energy for some reason that day. Perhaps it made me feel closer to my father. All I know was that my vulnerability was honored and I was allowed to feel my truth, however complicated or confused, without judgment.

I will find out the pathology results this Thursday. As I live my life and wait, I stop myself to breathe again — belly breathe — as I stay in touch with the present moment that reminds me that I am very much alive.

About Courtney Putnam

I first came to healing work through art and writing. Creating collage art and poetry in particular allowed me to deeply understand the benefit of self-expression in the healing process. But, I also began to see the benefit of bodywork (manual work in the form of massage and energywork in the form of Reiki) as keys to unlocking the emotional stresses we hold in our bodies. I became a Reiki practitioner in 2002, received an MFA in Creative Writing in 2003, received my massage license in the spring of 2006, and became a Reiki Master in 2010. In my practice I bring together these three areas -- the body, the mind, and the spirit (or energy body) -- so others may experience profound and positive change in their lives.
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