Norman Plotkin

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Unwrapped Gifts

What if I told you that you could reframe cancer to be a challenge rather than a threat? Life whispers to us, and if we do not hear it, or, worse, if we ignore it, life will yell at us. When this yell takes the shape of illness, it is a message to change. The challenge and message of cancer is a siren call, an opportunity to undergo personal growth. In this personal growth lies the prospect for true and lasting healing.

I’m not alone in seeing my cancer as an opportunity for personal transformation. Many cancer patients use the experience as a turning point to expand contemplation through techniques like meditation; to radically change their diet; to deepen their spiritual connection; to follow their intuition and establish rapport with their subconscious; to release suppressed emotions; to take control of their health; and to embrace a reason to live instead of a fear of dying. These are the people who survive and thrive.  

My mother had a plaque that hung in the hallway of our house when I was a kid that read: The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The saying seemed so simple at the time. In retrospect, a single step is a deliberate move, a conscious act. Too often, our journey begins the way I was taught to swim at two years old: thrown in the water and told to find the side, reach and pull, kick, kick, kick.

I swallowed a lot of water. And I barfed. But I learned to swim.

And so, our journeys begin, often less with a deliberate step and more with a plunge, reaching and pulling, kick, kick, kicking.

And you swallow water. And you barf. And sometimes you are so busy keeping your head above water that you miss the wonder, the beauty of life in what truly is a paradise if you only have eyes to see it.

And sometimes you miss the gifts that life has given to you because they are unwrapped, disguised before your very eyes but in plain sight if you have the right perspective.

There is a Taoist saying that the journey is the reward. Insofar as the journey itself is rewarding, it can be made more so when you embrace a perspective of gratitude that will allow you to see gifts in all of your experiences, even those that on their face might seem awful, even tragic.

But in order to get to the place where you can have this kind of perspective, you need to know yourself. While this may seem obvious, think for a moment about the fact that in modern society, we have drastically reduced the use of our senses for survival, and so they are being diminished. We turn instead to external sources like the Internet, which is perpetually at our fingertips on our increasingly powerful personal devices, and we rely on government and institutions for health and safety. When sick, we turn ourselves over to a medical community that usually removes patients from the planning process while the experts decide what is wrong with our bodies and decide what to do in order to fix them.

There is a school of thought, however, that is characterized by the belief that the body has an innate, intuitive knowledge regarding what it needs in order to heal. Those who subscribe to this belief system believe that the body can also let you know why you got sick in the first place. And while there are powerful lessons to be learned from your own body if you listen, you must be careful regarding your thoughts because your subconscious is listening.

Are you connected to the power of your body?

Norman Plotkin