It was an ordinary day. I was at work. My phone rang.
When I looked at the screen it said it was my doctor. I answered it and she asked, "Where are you?" I said I was at work. "Can you find somewhere private to go... right now?" I found a small room and shut the door. "I don't know how to tell you this... but you have a rare, aggressive and advanced cancer."
In so few words, everything changed.
For me, it was a cancer diagnosis and ultimately a wake up call. What I didn't know then, was that wake up calls happen more often than we realize, but much of the time we're 'too busy' to pay attention to them. Until we're forced to. My wake up call led to a new kind of wakeful awareness. Kind of like the wakeful awareness we experience as a child.
Let's explore the notion of wakeful awareness a little more closely for a moment.
Life is difficult. This is a universal truth. From time to time we all experience stress, adversity and unexpected challenges. When we are open to and accepting of this reality, the body and mind tends to relax and this has a positive impact on our health. The picture above illustrates my point. This is a picture of me and my two sons Gabriel and Samuel. It was taken just after I'd finished four months of chemotherapy and right before I was about to start three months of radiation.
Despite very difficult circumstances, I was genuinely happy. Actually I was more than happy, I was experiencing a transformation which was allowing me to be more fully present. I was learning through mindfulness how to focus my attention in a different way. I was paying attention to what was happening in that moment and not worrying about my past or whether or not I could control the outcome of my future.
This is what happiness looks like independent of circumstances.
This wakeful awareness is allowing me to see things that I've seen a thousand times, in completely new ways. I'm more open to what life has in store, be it pleasant or unpleasant. It's like time has both slowed down and sped up in a GOOD way. I feel like I'm growing every day.
If you haven't watched Tony Robbins Ted Talk on Why We Do What We Do you should. Towards the end, he mentions 9/11 and shares something that I know has touched everybody in some way. He says, "When do people really start to live? When they face death."
This is what I'm talking about. This wakeful awareness. All of us are going to die someday. Having an early awareness of the end of life isn't such a bad thing. But you have to get past just knowing this and intellectually understanding it and feel it in your body. In your heart. Even in your gut.
So here's my challenge for you:
Take a moment in your day today and reflect on how fleeting life is. Then bring your attention to how that makes you feel in your body. Use that feeling to free yourself and empower you. You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain.