Michele McGuinness - Looking Forward

Breathe Believe Grateful Grace

After I was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, I found a meditation that I repeated it in doctor’s offices and during hospital procedures and chemotherapy over that next year.

It was written out on an white index card with blue lines. Stuffed into my purse pocket, crinkled, I brought the card out, stared at it and repeated it daily. Sometimes hundreds of times daily. As I was wheeled into surgery, I wouldn’t let the nurses take the card away until after I was out cold. And even then I made them promise that they would put it close so I could go back to repeating it after surgery.

May I be filled with loving-kindness
May I be well
May I be peaceful and at ease
May I be happy

And it wasn't that I needed the index card to remember. The mantra was practically printed on the back of my eyelids. Physical reminders help me.

Remind me sometime to tell you about the pony.

In 2012, I walked from the known of my life into the unknown. Cancer changed me. I left everyone and everything I knew in cold Chicago to stay in warm Arizona with nothing but a job. I needed a new set of life guidelines for focus.

My cancer mantra had done it’s job but it didn’t cover the new uncertainty. What evolved were principles I live by. They came to me one by one, hard earned with sleepless nights, plenty of alone time, and hours on my bike, yoga mat and a meditation class.* And I memorialized them on an anklet that I built with charms from Etsy. Again, a physical reminder, so I would remember. This one a little nicer than an index card.

When everything fell apart I learned I just needed to remember to breathe. A hard won learning after a painful divorce left me scattered and disheartened.

Once I was able to breathe, I remembered that I believed in myself. And as a new community of friends emerged, I remembered how grateful I was and am for the joy of getting up every day, the ability to choose what food I put into my body, the luxury that I can breathe. I take pleasure in my dog leaning into my leg, the blue sky, the sun warming my skin, no matter what else is going on.

Grace is the last, and the most important charm, that I added to the anklet. Grace is also the hardest for me to define.

It is the ideal of the life I want to live. It means living with the blessing of gratitude. It means that all the pieces of my life are working together. It means that I am being the best self I can be. It means that I am serving others. It means that I live in loving kindness. Grace is the practice of combining gratitude, breath, and belief in the goodness of the world.

So now, even though I've warned you about Bb, the B^t*h in the back of my head who is trying to derail my training and ruin my bike trip across the southern US. I breathe and believe that I can. I’m grateful that I can try. I know that I live in a state of grace. I’m a practicing optimist.

*footnote: I reccommend MBSR training (mindfulness-based stress reduction). Interestingly, my first mantra came from a Jon Kabat-Zinn book, and in the 1970’s he created MBSR for health patients.

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About MJM
The adventure begins. I'm preparing to bike across the United States. 3100 miles in 50 riding days. Come along with me...while I train, wander and search for chocolate.