I'm not one to slow down. This recovery hasbeen a great opportunity for me to practice deep listening to my body's needs.I would like to post much more on my site, but I just haven't had the energy to heal, hang out with family and friends and read through all of the many lovely messages (and view the videos!) from strangers and friends alike. I am humbled by the outpouring of love, support, creativity and generosity. Trying to keep track of everything sent to my CaringBridge site, my personal Facebook site as well as personal and work emails has been overwhelming. As such, I request that people start posting on my Facebook page: DeborahCohan's Healing Journey.
I hesitate to start reflecting publicly, because the experience (of finding out about my cancer diagnosis, mobilizing and resourcing around that, undergoing bilateral mastectomy and the mediaaftermath) is still percolating through my body, mind and spirit. The overarching experience has been profound appreciation for my family, friends and strangers who took it upon themselves to care about my health and my family. I am thrilled that millions around the world apparently understand the healing potential of dance and movement and understanding that we are capable of feeling joy over fear, even under stressful conditions. I want to very explicitly acknowledge that I have also experienced plenty of fear and sorrow during this process. Fear of complications, loss of physical strength and fluidity, energy to meet my kids’ needs, not living as long as I had anticipated. Profound sadness that I would be spending more time during the day as a patient than a doctor, parent, friend. Worried about the impact of my illness on my young children’s experience of youth. I have compassion for those with health conditions whose main emotional experience is fear, sorrow, anger. In no way do I want to suggest that they are choosing to not be happy. I can only speak from my personal experience. I credit the Dharma talks that I have listened to nearly daily during my commute to work for the past year and a half and the time I’ve taken out of my day to meditate and act mindfully (even if just for 2minutes while brushing my teeth). I have come to understand that I must fully experience – really embrace and work through -- fear, sorrow and other constricting emotions in order to walk the path to joy.
Thank you to those who have complimented my "moves." But... really, for me, the joy while dancing in the OR was not related to my body moving in specific ways that were good or right or followed some societal expectations about how to dance to a type of music.
Instead, it was conscious dancing, mindful movementin the present moment. I truly felt joyful in that moment – I had deep trust and confidence in my surgical team, and I was thrilled that the Mt. Zion OR staff was willing to go out on a limb and agree to (and ultimately participate in with zeal) a very non-traditional request. Because I could bring dance into the operating room, I could bring my full self into that space. It was a ritual that was fully me. My body knows how to release while dancing, and my mind can release when my body is released. These are acquired skills that I have cultivated over the past 2 years. It was also thrilling to know that my community outside the OR was dancing instead of biting their nails and worrying in the waiting room.
Dancing with intention – to connect with one's inner core, one's community, the divine. Individuals' intentions vary, and the many conscious dance styles and movement philosophies are diverse. I do not claim to be an expert in or spokesperson for conscious movement, but I am certain that since delving into this world 2 years ago, my relationship to my body, psyche, spirit, soul and community transformed dramatically. I have been dancing in a pretty traditional way since the age of 3, but conscious dance has revolutionized my movement experience and has helped me approach internal and external alignment. Dance is my most potent medicine.
For the past year, I have begun to incorporate movement and dance into my work as an obstetrician/gynecologist for HIV+ women. As part of my mission to help medical providers become more embodied healers, Iregularly dance with the UCSF ob/gyn residents after Labor and Delivery roundsat San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH). I have also begun to teach basic contact improvisation techniques to the residents as they learn obstetrical delivery forceps; the principles of deep physical listening (to one’s own and the other’s body), vector physics and mindfulness are crucial in both realms. Additionally, we are in the beginning stages of converting the traditional “waiting room” in the Women’s Health Center at SFGH into a movement and dance space. Why cultivate a sedentary lifestyle among these low-income women (many of whom are also obese) when instead they can move and dance while they wait for their appointment? I also have a dream of integrating authentic movement practice (see below) into pregnancy care to help women integrate the mind, body and spirit before the transformative experienceof birthing (and then parenting!). I also envision bringing the practice of authentic movement to those with HIV and cancer, helping them honor the wisdom of the body instead of seeing the body as a battleground.
Some generous souls have asked if there is away to contribute financially to the mission of creating dance and movement opportunities in health care settings. Yes! We have just created a HealingThrough Movement Fund at the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation to support more healing movement programs for the patients served by this public hospital (who do not typically have access to dance and movement opportunities) and my colleagues (many of whom are very cerebral but look forward to becoming more embodied).
As Confucius said, “Never give a sword to a man who cannot dance.”
For those interested in making a tax-deductible contribution to the Healing Through Movement Fund, you may do so here: http://sfghfoundation.net/donate_HTMF.html
If you are interested in donating to my work with HIV+ women, you may do so via the SFGH Foundation (http://sfghfoundation.net/donate.html) and list “Bay Area Perinatal AIDS Center” under Gift Designation. (http://hiv.ucsf.edu/care/perinatal.html)
For those interested in learning more about some of the various styles of movement and dance that have influenced me, hereare some resources:
**I especially appreciate the work of TInaStromsted: http://www.authenticmovement-bodysoul.com
**A shout out to Saturday’s BASOMO sessions andMonday nights with Valerie.
** My Wednesday night weekly re/treat!
** Check out the work of Karl Frost: http://www.bodyresearch.org
5Rhythms and Gabrielle Roth:
Some of my spiritual influences include:
http://www.tarabrach.com(or you can listen via the Dharma Seed phone app)
I get a Buddhist quote and assignment sent tomy phone every day at 9am pacific time from her app Transform you life: A yearof awareness practice. It has been a sacred pause in my day, every day and abeautiful way to stay connected with my friends and family who read the quoteat the same time every day..
www.amma.org Ahug from Amma is like no other experience of love.
Myprofound relationships with several soulful individuals. Blessings to all ofyou.
I list these resources not because I think everyone should follow a path that I have taken. Only you know your authentic path. Rather, I credit these various spiritual leaders and dance/movement modalities for unveiling my inner courage and joy that allowed me to have a fantastically fun dance party in the OR minutes before I underwent major surgery. More generally, through this process of trying to live mindfully I have learned to allow the full range of my emotions -- the 10,000 joys and the10,000 sorrows -- and to have compassion for myself and others.
We humans are capable of such beauty. A deep bow of gratitude to all of you.
May you live a full, generous, compassionate life.