My daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2012 when she was in the fifth month of her fourth pregnancy. A few days before the baby was born, her online journal read, “I really need to stay in the day right now.” I responded to her entry with, “Yes – so wise – that’s where the peace is.” As I wrote that, I realized that my message was a reminder for me, as well.
In the face of harrowing life experiences, it’s so easy, and often automatic, to fall into catastrophic thinking, excessively focusing on the future and expecting the worst. If you had told me a number of years earlier that my daughter would have breast cancer and be undergoing chemotherapy treatments during the last three months of her pregnancy, followed by more chemotherapy, then surgery after the baby was born, I may have been consumed by fear and dread. There was, understandably, fear, and certainly shock, when we received the news, and we all continue to dip into and out of fear. But here we are, family and friends, walking through cancer together, one day at a time. Those of us who are able to keep coming back to the Now, including, most of all, Heidi, are really okay. Even my 85 year old mother, who isn’t known for her equanimity, is managing much of the time to keep her attention on the here and now and be fully present in other parts of her life.
What does it mean to “stay in the day” in the face of adversity? A lot of letting go is required. We need to unhook from the what ifs, the need to know what’s next, and we need to step back from the impulse to control every outcome. We learn how to be faithful to each moment as it unfolds – sensing and feeling what is true right here, right now, and trusting that is enough, that what we need to know will be available to us as we go. It also helps to know that, yes, we really can handle whatever life presents us with, no matter how difficult. We all know people and have heard many stories of those who not only survived seemingly untenable life situations, but thrived. In fact, these life-changing events can make spiritual warriors of us. Of course, not everyone is able to rise out of the ashes. Unfortunately, that is true, and sad. But people often amaze themselves and others by doing what seemed to be impossible.
“Staying in the day” puts us face to face with The Mystery. We realize that there is so much we cannot know. A great peace can occur when we release the mind’s quite desperate grasping and driving need to know what lies ahead. A trust builds in us and we become more and more aligned with Being, able to flow with and not resist the unpredictable nature of the phenomenal world.