The Power of Presence

November 14th and 15th  2015

California Institute of Integral Studies

San Francisco, California


 “In inner search work, the ideal client condition is one of being intensely “present” – that is, genuinely and nearly totally in the moment and what is going on. The truly present client is totally caught up in delving into subjectivity. This delving –and this is the important point which is often overlooked – is not a matter of “thinking about” or “figuring out” one’s self.  It is rather an openness to discovery within, which is more similar to meditation or to reading an intensely gripping novel than it is to doing arithmetic problems.”    James F.T.  Bugental, Psychotherapy and Process  

     What if we could bring this way of being present with ourselves, facing our lives, our situations as they are into the realm of cancer, chronic illness, life altering disease?  

Below are some of  the themes that arise when we explore what it is like to stay present when we face of the difficulties of  illness.

I . “ I’m still here.” It ain’t over til it’s over!  No matter where you are in the trajectory of your cancer diagnosis, you’re still here. How do you continue to stay with the present moment when you feel like your whole world is wrapped up with cancer? Look for ways to focus in other directions – interests, enjoyments, things that  inspire you. Meditation, contemplation, going within yourself in quiet moments all help you meet the challenges that you face daily.

II. Struggling with identity. You are not just a patient or “a sick person.” Spend time exploring and recalibrating your wants, needs, and expectations.  Commit to connecting with yourself wherever you are right now.

III. Loss.  As you explore the losses that you may be experiencing –  relationships, fertility, sexuality, body image, self-esteem, work, financial pressures and setbacks, diminished faith, trust, and hope – notice the differences between letting go and giving up altogether.

IV.Quality of life. How do we explore what our own quality of life looks like and feels like? I like the definition from  the University of Toronto Quality of Life Research Institute “The degree to which a person enjoys the important possibilities of his or her life. Possibilities result from the opportunities and limitations each person has in her/her life and reflect the interaction of personal and environmental factors. Three major life domains are identified: Being, Belonging, and Becoming.” It’s your life, you get to decide what quality looks and feels like to you.

V.Uncertainty.   “Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.”  Jim Bugental, PhD   Often uncertainty comes disguised as obsessive fear or shows up in searches for some kind of guarantee about our health. Learning to live with uncertainty may be the greatest challenge as well as the most profound opportunity after drawing the short straw of dealing with a life threatening or chronic illness.

VI. Self Care. It’s common for you not to know what self care means to you anymore. That’s ok. Imagine this as a nurturing, even enjoyable, exploration of how you take care of yourself. Remember that this may change so let yourself be flexible about your needs. And letting it be ok to rest  and not “fight” can be a wonderful way to relax and take a break from everything and everyone.   

Take care … of yourself.