Cancer touches all of our lives, directly and indirectly. How should we most effectively meet it?
Co-host Walter Mason reviews Finding Our Life Force - an inspiring book of reflections and meditation programs for people living with cancer, as well as other life-threatening illnesses.
Walter writes: "Even as a perfectly healthy person I was moved beyond description by following the Journey of the Stones series in my own daily meditations."
Caro Jonas is one of the co-founders of the Life Force Foundation, a 20 year-old Australian support group for cancer support. Together with Jane Gillespie, breast cancer survivor and member of Life Force, she has written an extraordinary book of healing meditations that work on an emotional level to help those diagnosed with cancer.
It is fascinating collection and will be of enormous interest to anyone struggling with serious illness, or caring for or loving someone who is. The book is described as a tool by which "cancer patients and their carers can move through the emotions that emerge with the cancer journey gently and compassionately". The book's practical exercises are powerful and very easy to use and follow; in doing some of them I could see their immense potential for everyone. The real-life stories that follow the exercises also help readers to understand what happens to patients and their loved ones after a cancer diagnosis. It is a new and gentle approach to caring for oneself in a time of serious illness and the perfect complement to other books that have become justly famous classics in the field, books such as Petrea King's Quest for Life and Louise L. Hay's rather more controversial You Can Heal Your Life. The fact that it is based on the actual work of a cancer support group makes it tremendously solid and complete and it is a book I wouldn't hesitate to give to almost anyone faced with a diagnosis of cancer.
Caro Jonas begins the book by explaining the meditative healing philosophy behind Life Force:
"When we go inside and allow images to unfold - for a flower to open in our hearts, to go on a sea voyage, to have a strong warrior protect you, or a healing figure strengthen you - it is remarkable. Individuals expand by doing this by awakening and reinforcing their imaginative power. They feel that an extra dimension is active within them, and they are buoyed by it. It strengthens them and adds to their being."The book then goes on to set out the benefits of meditation - something not necessarily stressed by the medical establishment, but frequently used by people living with cancer as a way to restore hope, manage pain and even, sometimes, to effect healing. Finding Our Life Force explains that, with meditative practice:
"We can attain personal growth. We can discover something exciting and deeply personal, an idiosyncratic creativity and our individuality. Most importantly, as modern medicine and science sees the power of this inner focusing, we can discover for ourselves our own inner wisdom and power."While the book offers a systematic process of meditative visualisation and imagery, it points out that each reader can decide for themselves how and in what manner they will use what the book so generously offers. The gentle and nurturing tone of the writing reminds us that "the rules are for you to decide". And while this is sound advice, particularly for people who might be feeling in any way coerced or bullied by the medical system, the meditation series on offer in the book are so exquisite, and just so much fun at the most basic level, that following them in sequence would not be a chore. Caro Jones' meditation series included in the book are: the Golden Galleon, the Meadow, and the Journey of the Stones. Each is lyrical and, in my opinion, deeply profound and filled with healing imagery. Even as a perfectly healthy person I was moved beyond description by following the Journey of the Stones series in my own daily meditations.
The essays by cancer survivors are extremely interesting and also eye-opening. In her account contained in the book Dr Lyn Gow writes about how, though relatives and friends might want to forget the whole experience and move on to more comfortable states of being, the cancer survivor remains in a more reflective place of knowing:
"To others we may be better, but to us, no matter what anyone says, the fear of 'C' returning looms constantly in our conscience. So, the search for ways to reduce recurrence continues."Finding Our Life Force represents the perfect tool in the healing kit of people diagnosed and living with cancer. Reading it I found myself informed and aware in a way I never have before. I know it will be a great comfort and source of help and happiness for anyone you know in your life dealing with a serious illness. A cancer diagnosis affects everyone in a patient's life and working through a practical and beautifully constructed book like this one will certainly be a way to strengthen support and relationships. It deserves to be read widely and used by many.
You can read more about the work of the Life Force Cancer Foundation here. You are also very welcome to leave your comments below. Just move slowly through the "Captcha" demands (always two "words" with a space between). They save us from spam - and we do love to hear from you.