First published January 24, 2013 on

To know that you do not know is the best.

To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease.

Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu

A few weeks ago I embarked on another journey – that of mindfulness meditation.  It feels as though since late October 2011 this life has morphed into one of never-ending wandering through various minefields.  Whether you are new to the cancer trek or well down the pike perhaps some of what I have to write will resonate.

Cancer Dragon’s latest post (another in her brilliant series) addressed the issues of what first timers should know and she’s bang on with her advice – no surprise there.  If you haven’t read it please do so as this posting may be a companion piece.  I won’t even attempt to embellish her well-documented list.  I will though suggest that regardless of how much we try to learn there always will remain unknowables.  And, if you agree with Lao-tzu the important realization is not to try to fill the unknowable with made up stuff simply to fill a void.

My friend, Rabbi Len Rosen, could expound at great length on how nature abhors a vacuum.  So do most people.  We are driven to find explanations and reasons for everything that happens to us and to those whom we love.  We are purportedly hardwired to solve and our logical brain tries devilishly hard to bring clarity where none may exist.

While still on the very first leg of the mindfulness learning process a couple of ideas really stood out for me.  One – thoughts are not facts.  Two – we can in fact rewire our neuro-circuitry to allow us to find nothing and to be o.k. with that nothingness.

Yeah, I know…it all seemed kind of hippy dippy to me to when friends started the course. But when you first engage in the cancer battle, whether riding shotgun or in the driver’s seat, one experiences an insatiable need to KNOW.

How did I/she/he get this goddamned disease?

Why her/him/me?

What did she/he/we/I do wrong?

How could this have been avoided?

What happens next?

Will it hurt?

Will it kill?

Will it go away?

Will it come back?

Will anyone ever feel the same again?  (Note: this one we know the answer to – NO.)

However, in the midst of all of that there are several things that we can know.

We can know that a 3-year old boy can find pant-wetting, gut-busting fun by adorning his nose with a plastic plug and pretending to be a ninja piggy!

We can know that there are complete strangers who will perform real acts of kindness just because they can.  Watch for a future blog posting about Katie’s new shoes and you’ll see what I mean.

We can know that coming face-to-face with our greatest fears can lead us to insight and positive life-changing opportunities even if it means retraining our brains to perform entirely different functions when challenged.

We can know that communities such as this one offer genuine support, compassion, and strength for everyone exposed to the rigours of cancer.

We can know that people such as Chantal Richard, Mara Bonadie and Sherry Abbott are true vessels of inspiration and commitment to helping all of us in the fight enjoy a better quality of life if only we reach out to seize it.

We can know that our children are resilient and able to overcome some of the incomprehensible challenges we put in their way as we adults struggle to come to grips with the many facets of cancer’s brutality.

We can know that frightening obstacles approached with curiousity, openness, and acceptance might show us a new way forward that is, in fact and reality, better than that we experience before ‘C’.

We can know that peace, contentment and comfort can be found even while a hurricane rages.

We can know that we really can sleep tight and not let the bed bugs bite when we learn to recapture some of the innocence that still remains within us.

We can know that fighting this fight does NOT mean we have encountered the end of innocence and that love can survive in the midst of such a graceless undertaking.

We can know that humour will arise from pitch black and that it is our obligation as shotgun riders in particular to identify those moments when laughter can bring about true improvement to our health.

And, finally, we can know that even if we never, ever approach a state where everything makes sense, where all the cards fall into place, where the curtain of uncertainty is rent, we are better for the knowing and much better for knowing that we may know nothing at all.

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