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In yoga class, the teacher instructs us to assume the tree pose--Vriksasana it’s called in Sanskrit. Perched on one leg like a flock of flamingos, the other cancer survivors and I find our balance and slowly raise our arms from a prayer position into tall branch-like limbs. The teacher invites us in a soft, ethereal voice to become a tree - any tree that we wish to be. So what vision comes to mind in my moment of Zen? The Lone Cypress, a California landmark that juts out of the cliffs above Pebble Beach, a botanical miracle that has defied the elements for nearly 250 years.
The coastal cypress trees are different from the suburban nursery varieties. One could say they are rough or damaged, but they are considered luminaries of the spectacular landscape of the Pacific Coastal Highway. Their beauty and unique character is the result of years of being battered by storms and soothed by breezes. They have embraced vast changes – hot and cold, sun and rain - becoming one with earth and rock and time. Groomed by Mother Nature’s hand, they reveal their true force as survivors, majestic with their missing branches, exposed roots and precarious perches.
And so are we.
Cancer survivors are physically, emotionally and spiritually transformed by our journeys. We endure the droughts and the floods, accepting what must be at this moment. We cope with the discomfort of the squall because we dream of a better day tomorrow. We dig our roots deep into the earth of our support to get better grounded while in the storm. We drink the sweet, pure water of love and family and friends, nourishing our spirits while giving life to our every cell.
As I quiet the mind and flow into my yoga practice, I think of the cypress and call her wisdom into my soul, inviting an acceptance that my transformation will be as it should be. It is the wish I wish for all cancer survivors, that we are being formed uniquely and extraordinarily into a new kind of beauty; the beauty of survival.