Monday November 16, 2015, marked my 14th "re-birthday" – the 14-year anniversary of my stem-cell transplant with cells generously offered by a then-anonymous 23-year-old donor. Without his amazing gift, the support of my family and friends (you know who you are!) and my amazing team of traditional and integrative providers, I am quite sure I would not be here today. And then there is simply the mystery of what allows one (me, in particular ) person to survive against the odds.
I am deeply grateful for each breath I take and each new day I welcome. It seems ironic that some kind of stomach bug arrived on my re-birthday, forcing me to spend the day resting, reflecting, and sleeping. I found myself moving between the extremes of my comfort and privilege and the shear fear, hunger, and terror of so many – in this country, in refugee camps, in Paris, Beirut and so many other parts of the globe. I recognize the simultaneous truths of these opposites – in yoga, what we call "pratipaksa bhavana" – and I work at truly knowing in my heart and mind that both are true now.
It is all too easy to respond to fear by closing up, walling ourselves off – attempting to create a sense of personal safety at the expense of others. But this cannot be a path I choose for myself. I know it matters how I live in the reality of this world. And I choose love and open-heartedness and the accompanying determination required. Counter terror and fear with love? No, I am not naive. No, I am not brave. No, I am not above the fray of fear, whether it be at the most personal level or the meta level of the peoples of the world or the earth itself.
I remember an image I had as I headed to Seattle for my transplant. I imagined myself up in the sky above the clouds. For mysterious reasons, I leaned back and completely let go! And suddenly I knew I would be okay – coming to rest in the beautiful white clouds below me. What I didn't know was whether I was alive or dead. And, strangely enough, it didn't matter. I knew – really knew – I would be held. This combination of confidence in being safe and the not-knowing (about the outcome) has stayed with me and is perhaps my own strange brand of non-religious faith. I did not choose that image, but it found its way into every fiber of my being.
And it is this image and feeling that offers me safe ground to move from in times when I might want to hide or retreat. I choose to have confidence in our shared humanity because to do otherwise would certainly be too much to bear.