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Tuesday
Nov022010

On Introspection 

Introspection ain't easy. At least, it isn't easy for me. By introspection, I mean being really quiet and still, listening to your body, reflecting inward, and really spending quality time with your own silent thoughts and feelings.

As you may know, I am fairly loud, and a pretty serious extrovert. Being quiet does not come easy for me. Being by myself -- as opposed to being surrounded with friends and family laughing it up and having a blast -- is even more of a stretch. So taking time for introspection is not exactly one of my natural strengths.

Back in my pre-diagnosis past life, I was way too busy and -- more importantly -- way too impatient to do this introspection thing. I believed that I was pretty in tune with my inner thoughts and felt that if my body needed something -- well, it could wait. Basically, the only time I had to really reflect was time spent in the car, and I was usually too busy belting out one of my favorite songs or talking on the phone to actually do any reflecting. 

These days, introspection is key. The first and most difficult part of this, by far, has been listening to my body. During the middle of the day, I'll ask myself, "Am I tired? Should I take a little nap?" While I'm working out at Educogym, I'm thinking, "Am I straining my core with this exercise? How are my muscles feeling?" As the night winds down, I query, "Am I ready to go to bed? Maybe a little more TV?" It's weird, this listening to my body thing. I used to tell it what to do -- ok, I'd demand it -- but learning that you've got some cancer kicking around the ol' body changes all that. In order for my body to truly work with me, my brain needs to partner with my body. No more pretending that I can just will myself to do something without giving any regard to whether my body thinks whatever adventure I've got planned is a good idea or not.  

Today, I spent a lot of time listening to my body and chilling out with my inner thoughts, and found that I still have a lot to learn. 

I started the day with a visit with my five-elements acupuncturist (Mary Ellen), where she tested the balance of energy between the right and left side of my body. Part of this test was putting the end of a small, lit incense stick near the skin right below each of my toenails and fingernails, and I'd have to tell her when I felt the heat from it. I was resting on my back, focused on my toes and fingers, just waiting for the sensation to hit me. Seems easy, right? Just say "hot" when your skin feels hot, right? Not so much. I actually had to strain a little bit to really get in the zone. I probably could've just withstood the mild burning pain and ignored it until it got impossibly hot. That started to freak me out. If I had the ability to ignore my body when there was a hot incense stick on some pretty tender parts of my skin, what else could I ignore? Once I took some deep breaths and got focused (and much better at sensing the heat, at least in my mind), I stopped being annoyed at myself and started to relax, which helped me focus more. I realized that, even now, I can be a really uptight kid. This relaxing, introspection thing takes work.

I decided to follow my session with some more introspection via one of the guided imagery/meditation CDs that OMM best bud Sabrina bought me way back when I was first diagnosed. The CD I listened to this afternoon is specifically geared for people undergoing chemotherapy, and helps you visualize the chemo as a magical, powerful liquid that encapsulates and destroys your cancer cells. It's really powerful stuff, and taking the time to really envision the chemo working gives me an added confidence about its effectiveness. It makes me feel awesome and prepared -- similar to an athlete visualizing himself playing a great game hours before the game is actually set to start.  After finishing the CD, I realized that this was only the second time I'd listened to it, and the first time was on the plane coming home from NIH before I had even started chemo. How weak is that? I realized that I need to make more time for serious, time-intensive meditation.  

In the battle against cancer, part of the journey is celebrating my strengths (for example, my attitude, confidence, and resolve to beat this cancer no matter what it takes), but also to recognize my weaknesses and the areas in which I tend to skimp. Introspection is one of these areas.  

But don't worry. I'll still be a loudmouth at heart. :)

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