“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.” ~Denis Waitley
Why is it that it can take something as dramatic as a cancer diagnosis to wake you up to the way you should be living your life? One wasn’t even enough for me. I needed to be hit with the C-bomb twice in order to get the message that I was looking at life all wrong.
Just a few years ago I was working at my hectic dream job as the online editor for a teen magazine, partying three nights a week (and that was just the week nights) and living on a diet that consisted mostly of champagne, canapés, and late night Lean Cuisines.
But then in 2008, when I was just 22 years old, I was diagnosed with a very rare, aggressive, and essentially “incurable” form of cancer called Epithelioid Sarcoma, in my left hand, arm, and armpit. Chemotherapy and radiation don’t have any success with this type of cancer, and I had too many tumors to perform surgery.
With no knowledge whatsoever about cancer, apart from the fact that Kylie Minogue has survived it, I was eager to do whatever my doctors told me to do—everything except have my arm amputated.
So I went for their second choice of treatment and had an extremely high dose of chemo pumped into just my arm. If that amount went into my body, I would have been dead in an instant.
Following scans showed I was clear of cancer, but in 2009—not even a year after going into remission—the cancer was back. The doctors told me that my only real chance of prolonging my survival would be to have my arm amputated at the shoulder, but that this would just be biding my time.
I decided then to take matters into my own hands. I refused their offers and began searching for natural, alternative cancer treatments.
The way I saw it I had two choices: I could let them chase the disease around my body until there was nothing left of me to cut, zap, or poison; or I could take responsibility for my illness and try to bring my body to optimum health so that it could heal itself. For me it was an easy decision.
This all led me to Gerson Therapy—a strict and rigorous regime of hourly juicing, round-the-clock coffee enemas, a basic vegan diet, and a program of cancer-fighting supplements. I went to Mexico to stay at the Gerson clinic for three weeks, and then came home to continue the therapy with the help of my family.
I am now 16 months into the therapy and I am ecstatic to report that it is working. I have had no cancer spread, no more lumps popping up (they were popping up rapidly beforehand), and I can actually see some of my tumors coming out through my skin and disappearing.
My cancer journey has been the most emotionally taxing, but completely liberating and fascinating experience, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything. Before, I was just going through the motions. Now, I live my life with intention and authenticity.
When everything is peachy, it is easy to get caught up in superficial pursuits and pleasures. Hard times call for us to go deep and tap into a source of happiness that miracles are made from.
We tend to think that life comes at us, not from us; and that our thoughts are a result of our reality rather than the other way around. We are constantly looking outside of ourselves for happiness, when all we need to do is send the search party within.
I think there’s nothing worse than someone acting all holier than thou and telling you that happiness is as easy as sitting in a trance for an hour a day. So that’s not what I’m going to do.
Instead, I’m going to share some of the powerful practices that I employ daily to keep the drunken monkeys in my mind in line.
How to cultivate happiness from within, right now:
Control what you can, and let go of what you can’t.
Instead of struggling, fighting, and beating yourself up over things that don’t flow as smoothly as you’d like, accept what you can’t control. Worrying about it won’t change it, so why waste your time spinning your wheels?
This doesn’t mean that you should just surrender when things start to get a little tough. If there is one thing I have learned through my dance with cancer it’s that we generally have more options than we realize. This just means that with practice, we can learn to recognize the difference between what’s within our power and what’s not.
Sometimes, we need to accept that something is over. Sometimes, our options run out. I was completely shocked when someone suggested that eventually, I’ll need to accept that I’ve learned all my lessons and my time is up. I thought, “How dare they be so casual about something as horrible as death?”
But death is a part of life for all of us. Coming to terms with your own mortality adds an extra layer of empowerment to your life.
Learn to love yourself.
According to the Mighty Mother of Metaphysics, Louise Hay, most (if not all) of our issues stem from the belief that we are not good enough. We’ve been berating ourselves our whole lives—of course we aren’t happy! It’s time to turn that around.
I have the affirmation, “I love and approve of myself” on constant repeat in my mind. I also have it stuck to my bathroom mirror so that it catches my eye whenever I go to criticize myself.
Spend time with people who make you happy.
When you hang out with Negative Nancy and Alexander Downer, there’s no wonder you’re in the doldrums. Surround yourself with positive, inspiring people who you love to be around.
This seems like a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how often we keep people around just because they are familiar or because we don’t want to rock the boat.
I’m now very careful about the kind of energy I allow myself to absorb from other people. If they aren’t supportive or considerate, I don’t let them zap my enthusiasm.
Of course, this is a little more difficult if the negative energy belongs to someone you love. If this is the case, perhaps it could be helpful to gently let them know the way you feel. If they are receptive and take it on board, great! If not, it might be time to reevaluate whether the relationship is still serving a balanced purpose.
Get some perspective.
When it seems as though life has handed you a bad hand, take a moment to think about all the people who are in a far worse position than you. I watch Oprah every day and it always helps me realize that as bad as it seems, there is always someone dealing with a bigger pickle than me.
Pay it forward.
Remember those people who have it far worse? Look out for them. Being charitable, doing your bit for humanity, going out of your way to do something for someone else—it all helps to make you feel good, as well. Not only will it help others and attract good karma in the long run, in the short term it will give you a great feeling of self-worth.
Get your OM on.
I know I said I wasn’t going to tell you to sit in a trance for hours each day, but how about starting with just five minutes? In my opinion, the absolute best way to re-connect your mind with your body is to meditate.
I aim to do about 30 minutes to an hour each day, and just lately I have really been noticing the subtle changes being carried out into my everyday life. Start with five minutes a day of sitting silent and still, focusing on your breath, and work your way up to half an hour. It might be a struggle at first, but the benefits will make it worth it.
What helps you cultivate happiness?
Photo by Dave-F