The Healing Circle Book Chapter Blog Chapter 5 – Andrew: Opening the Door to a New Life
The Healing Circle Book Chapter Blog Chapter 5 – Andrew: Opening the Door to a New Life
Read Chapter Five: Andrew – Opening the Door to a New Life
Watch the Video: Meet Andrew in person in this 5 minute video.
Blog by Dr. Rob Rutledge
What is a miracle?
Andrew: Opening a Door to a New Life is a chapter about miracles. In it, Andrew’s uncle Arthur wakes up unexpectedly from a two-week coma after having had a near-death experience. Secondly, Andrew hears about rock star Ronnie Hawkins who recovers completely from an incurable pancreatic cancer after enlisting the help of Adam the Dream Healer. Lastly, Andrew, who has a profound spiritual experience while undergoing brain surgery while awake, is alive and well with no evidence of recurrence, eight years after being given a dismal prognosis by his physicians.
These true stories fit into the classic definition of miracles: “surprising and welcome events which are not explicable by natural or scientific laws and are therefore ascribed to a supernatural cause or divine intervention.” It is because they are so unexpected and fall outside our world view that we are so intrigued.
But what if we expanded our definition of miracles? As a medical student, I helped in the delivery of about twenty babies and every birth was a miracle to me. At this very moment I’m sitting on the bus beside a man who told me he has stage 4 incurable lung cancer. He has been put on a targeted therapy (chemo pill) with few side effects which has put his cancer into complete remission. It’s a miracle that he was so sick just a few weeks ago, and he now looks vibrant, and is playing tennis again, and travelling south for vacation.
Even as I sit here my breath is going in and out, my heart is delivering oxygen to my brain, I feel happy and fulfilled – all without my conscious control. It’s nothing short of a miracle. When I really contemplate my existence, I feel like shouting with joy “Oh, my God, I’m alive!” I can feel this overwhelming sense of peace and energy that seems to be inside of me and around me at the same time. It’s a miracle that you’re reading this now.
Why is it important to include these everyday experiences in our definition of miracles?
It’s natural for people who have been given an “incurable” cancer diagnosis to pray for a miracle, hoping that God, the Universe, however you conceive of it, will find a way to make the cancer go away. Setting the intention to heal and recover is healthy, as long as we can let go of grasping too hard. The paradox here is that although the remarkable cancer survivors set their intention to heal physically, they don’t waste their energy worrying about the future. Instead they focus their life force on living an authentic and fulfilling life now. When we truly appreciate the miracle of our own existence we invite the highest spiritual principles into our lives. We generate a sense of awe, peace, and incredible gratitude. When we’re in this space, the inherent love we feel for others becomes apparent to us, and directs our actions and words. We fall in love with the world and life itself. The effect on us can be miraculous. Our bodies become energized and engage our inherent ability to heal; our minds send the message, I want to live, I want to love, and our spirits begin to sing.
Dr. Rob Rutledge is a Radiation Oncologist in Halifax, Nova Scotia, specializing in breast, prostate and pediatric cancers. He is also an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University.
In 1999, Rob co-created the ‘Skills for Healing’ Cancer Weekend Retreats. These weekend support groups teach a powerful and integrated approach to the cancer diagnosis and ways to heal at levels of body, mind and spirit. To date, more than 1,600 people have attended the retreats in over 20 cities across Canada and abroad.
Rob also leads the Healing and Cancer Foundation, a Registered Charity, that freely offers educational videos, documentaries, and webcasting seminars – and he is co-author of a book called The Healing Circle, which captures the teachings and inspirational stories from the weekend retreats.
In 2010, Rob received Cancer Care Nova Scotia’s Award for Excellence in Patient Care and, in 2006 Doctors Nova Scotia presented him with the Health Promotion Award in recognition of his contribution to physician health and health promotion in cancer patients.
Blog by Dr. Timothy Walker
Miracles of Each Moment and a New Life
Rob’s blog above is a beautiful contemplation of this question: what is a miracle? The consistent practice of mindfulness helps us to perceive, appreciate and rouse deep gratitude for the miracle that is every moment of our life. In fact the cover art of our book is titled “Miracles of Each Moment”. Created by a Japanese Zen teacher and artist living in California. Kazuaki Tanahashi, now in his 70s, has been painting these Zen circles or Enso for over 50 years. Zen arts such as calligraphy, painting, flower arranging and serving tea as well as martial arts such as the way of the bow and sword are actually rituals of mindfulness that lead the practitioner to embody the principals of spontaneous presence, natural creativity and deep gratitude for the miracle of each moment.
My own experience in a calligraphy and painting workshop with Kaz released a powerful sense of joy, playfulness, and awe. A poignant moment for me occurred when Kaz lovingly wrapped his gentle hand around mine while holding the brush and guided me through the calligraphy strokes for the characters of water and fire. Something ineffable was transmitted from teacher to student. It was as if the essence of his many years of practice, a lifetime doing calligraphy strokes, and even the lineage of his teachers, in some small way passed on to me.
In contemplating the chapter, Andrew, Opening the door to a new life, miracles and the theme of a new life stand out. A cancer diagnosis is, of course, a huge shock to one’s psyche, rousing fear, anxiety, anger and many other emotions. But as many people have pointed out it is also an opportunity to reframe loss by embracing change, learning to let go, and consciously moving toward healing and transformation. Andrew’s story exemplifies this as he was a very busy and highly acclaimed businessman, writer, consultant and speaker who let this all go to focus on his inner healing journey. This wasn’t easy, and he had many setbacks, dark nights and deep frustrations.
Many people with cancer might be inwardly asking, “What can I do to invite a miracle?” Andrew’s personal mantra, noted in the chapter, “Pray as if it is up to God but act as if it’s up to me” crystallizes a wise response to this open-ended question. It also points to the living paradox of rousing courage, strength and proactivity while opening oneself to the vulnerability of “not knowing” or clinging to an outcome. This invites the power and blessings of something greater than oneself. My healing teacher, steeped in the mystical Jewish tradition, said the degree to which we reach out to God is the same degree to which God will reach out to us. Similarly the great 13th century mystic Meister Eckhart said “the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me.” These words of wisdom begin to point us toward an awareness of a deep truth embedded in the very structure of reality; on one level we are separate and independent and on another we are all one, thoroughly interconnected and interdependent as a part of the infinite universe.
For me, this cold week of February has been filled with festivities, practices and teachings celebrating the Tibetan New Year. Traditionally a time of rebirth and renewal, a phrase associated with this practice is Tashi Tendrel, Auspicious Coincidence. This term points to this paradox; that we are at once immersed in a universe operating on the relative level and at the same time consciousness and our personal awareness are both part of this relative matrix and transcendent. Thus in a truly holistic and integrated approach to health and healing we can value both the miracles of modern medicine, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and all of the other emerging tools of science as well as the healing power of prayer, meditation and consciousness. There is another saying in Tibetan I have heard several times this week: “the die has been cast but the outcome is not yet determined.” Always remember you can do something that makes a difference and the miracle of every moment is always – right here, right now – displayed before you.
Timothy Walker Ph.D. is a mindfulness teacher and psychotherapist living in Halifax Nova Scotia with over 30 years experience integrating mindfulness into counselling, education and healthcare. He is co-author of the The Healing Circle: integrating science, wisdom and compassion in reclaiming wholeness on the cancer journey and co-founded with Dr Rob Rutledge the Healing and Cancer Foundation. He designed and has taught with Dr. Rutledge the Skills for Healing Weekend Retreats for people living with cancer and their family members 42 times since 1999 in 20 cities across North America touching the lives of more than 1600 people. He has taught at Dalhousie University, Acadia University, and Mount St. Vincent University as well as hundreds of workshops, seminars and retreats Internationally. In his private practice, The Healing Circle, Timothy sees individuals, couples and families and welcomes distant consultations.