A second chance and finding a smile in the face of illness

- through Sophie Solere

Published on

After twelve years of remission, Brigitte has a recurrence of her breast cancer. A medical protocol is planned, and she asked to meet Venerable Nyanadharo for advice on how to get through this difficult period. Here are some excerpts from their discussion.

Bridget: Hello Venerable, I come to see you because, today, I have anger, sadness, emotions that are coming. Sometimes I manage to enter into myself and find a calm and clear mind. But, at times, I find that it's hard, and I no longer know what attitude to adopt in the face of it: should I ignore it, should I act as if it wasn't there, or should I ignore it? annoys, that I fight it, that I work with? I don't know what to do...

Venerable Nyanadharo: How do you feel physically?

For example: Sometimes I feel a lump in the breast and tension, sometimes I don't feel anything.

NV: It's like the ticking of the clock: if you pay attention to it, you hear it, if you don't pay attention to it, you don't hear it. It's the same.

For example: Despite this, I feel really good, in good shape.

NV: It's important to feel good. Look for conditions that help you feel good, eg healthy eating, meditation, so you don't get carried away by your anger and emotions.

For example: Yes, but the problem is that the treatments, surgery and chemotherapy, are tiring. Sometimes it's hard for me to practice...

NV: No, sometimes fatigue can be an asset: if you are tired, try to do nothing, stay lying down, motionless, calm, without sleeping, but maintaining this attentive presence no matter what. In order not to get bored, in order not to fall asleep, the ends of the fingers of the hands and feet must be in rhythm with your breathing to make it sound like the ticking of a clock. The fingers of the hands, one by one, touch the thumb, then wiggle the toes. You can move physically or mentally; the position of the fingers is changed at each pause between inspiration and expiration. This vibration absorbs time, worry.

For example: Yes, it's not a question of the mind, it's at the level of the body that it happens.

NV: It is necessary to immobilize and remain conscious, without intervening. No matter what, accept worry, anger, etc., play dead, be ready for anything no matter what. In this technique, the body is paralyzed, your will no longer commands, you can no longer think. And in this floating state, you can communicate with the dead or with yourself, perhaps to find out how long you have left to live. The attitude is “I'm ready”; “Whatever happens, I am ready to assume with a smile. It is this acceptance that enables the sick and dying to find joy, regardless of their circumstances.

We must maintain this movement of the fingers at the pause of the breath, alternate the pause and movement, and we must keep the sensory contact with the eyes, the ears, otherwise, little by little, we fall asleep. And when you are lying down, you can also, from time to time, make undulations with your body, like snakes. These small movements, instead of pumping up your energy which is weak, give you energy.

For example: Is it this immobility that prevents energy from being dispersed elsewhere, neither in thoughts nor in emotions?

NV: Exact. It's this ticking of the breath that becomes like a mantra, instinctive, it happens all by itself and there you fall into a state of vigilant sleep, you are listening and, without forcing, the words, the emotions and the thoughts will diminish. You have to find this breathing pause at the end of the exhalation, there is no more movement, it is this point of rest that recharges your batteries.

For example: I tried, sometimes it comes naturally, but quickly the mind comes back and it says: “Ah but, what are you doing here? »…

NV: Observe the chatter, it is the greatest exercise. And then, after a while, you manage to reach silence: there is no one, but you, you are in silence. All of a sudden, there's nothing moving and it's going to provoke these reactions: “What's going on? ". Do not refuel, stay calm.

For example: Of course, there is something in me that panics.

NV: Cheat death. If the interior monologue resumes, repeat the technique, it gives you a second chance to see what you haven't seen. It's the same for your cancer recurrence: learn from this second chance; this time you may see something you didn't see last time. Your friend is coming back.

For example: Yes, it's true, I know him, I know him well. Even if it is difficult, it is still through trials that we are transformed. Without him, I would have stayed in my little purr. There, I know that it made me progress, find the path of Buddhism, take refuge, meditate, give meaning to my life... And, at the same time, I don't want that, treatments...

NV: And since it makes you angry, you have to admit that this friend is disturbing, but it's interesting. He may be coming back because he's like a longtime close friend you've neglected; he's coming back for you, take a good look at me, learn the lesson well, this is your second chance. It's kind of a warning, and if you recognize it, it leaves you alone, and you have the solution. If you are ready to die right now, you find joy and you are not afraid.

For example: Yes, well, sometimes yes; sometimes no...

NV: (Laughter) There, you give the point to the adversary, you lower your guard. We are human, but you have to be corrected, you are smart enough and strong enough to take care of yourself. There are these two attitudes: at times, we struggle; at others, you just accept whatever happens, and then you're set. According to the tradition of the monks of the forests, you must face fear, like the beasts in the forest. At a minimum, you must stay put, not run away or, if you're braver than you're willing to move forward, walk through the danger. This is the test.

For example: But I still have attachments to settle…

NV: Yes, but attachments and commitments hold as long as you are alive and well, otherwise they fall. So don't worry: if you're in good shape you'll fulfill your commitments, if not you're not bound, people will manage without you, think of yourself first. Life is only a breath away, prolong again, gain more breath. There is this alternation, the pause, the movement, the pause, the movement, in the moment, like an internal clock. This ordeal can be a chance to find your smile and consolidate yourself in depth.


You can ask your questions to Venerable Nyanadharo in the section B-questions.

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Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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