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Spiritual Reflections on Life's Third Trimester

05/22/2011 01:04 am ET | Updated Jul 22, 2011

Now that I'm moving into what will be the last trimester of my life experience, it seems much harder than I thought. Granted my perspective has been profoundly influenced by a high risk cancer diagnosis at age 42. A bone marrow transplant not only secured my recovery but offered me a spiritual rebirth, a fresh start, a sense of promise that the other side of cancer would be beautiful in a way that could not formerly have been imagined. And it has been. But that was fifteen years ago and those survival years have rebuilt my confidence that I have a reasonable expectation to live as long as anyone. And it is my intention to do so.

It has been hard to adjust to the physical challenges of an aging body. As is the case with many former dancers, I suffer from scoliosis (24 degree right curve with a 23 degree compensatory left curve) that was, according to the spine specialist, aided and abetted by the sudden loss of estrogen as my ovaries shut down from high dose chemo following my transplant, weakening my bones. This caused a gradual rotation of my spine and asymmetry in my body that is enough to drive any body aware dancer, former or otherwise, absolutely crazy. And the discs in my lower back have become problematic and should be manageable if backward bending is avoided like the plague. I wish I had known that when I was practicing backward bending intensive Bikram Yoga in a 105 degree room for the past two years. All the post-class pain could have been avoided. I now practice Iyengar yoga, modified for my scoliosis, that features wonderful props such as blankets, blocks, ropes, small towels, bean bags and rolls.

There was a case of cellulitis in my breast last 4th of July that landed me in the Mayo Clinic Hospital. It presented very similarly to my original and very aggressive breast cancer so that had to be ruled out. I was admitted to the oncology ward and it allowed me to revisit all the lessons learned from my terrifying diagnosis so long ago. I purchased a big jug of the body lotion provided by the hospital after I recovered so the smell would always remind me of my little cancer reminder.

The constant stress of the business I own always leaves my head spinning, literally and figuratively. My husband also works in the business so it is hard to separate our personal and professional lives and the stress is a continual drip, like a perpetual IV. Then one day about three weeks ago, my head started spinning for real. Actually, it was the room that started spinning out of control, similar to being on the teacup ride at Disneyland only the guy who stops the ride left town while you were on it. It took place at the end of a yoga class and was so severe that I could not get up and walk across the room to exit. Finally, holding onto the wall for support, I made it down the hallway to the bathroom where I spent an hour spinning and vomiting. My ENT says most people think they are having a stroke or a heart attack when labyrinthitis hits them as hard as it hit me. A viral inner ear infection, it knocks you so far off your center that you have to retrain your brain to find your balance. You do this by deliberately provoking the vertigo and focusing hard on one spot, not allowing the spinning to intimidate or control you., not giving in to it, until one day it stops for good.

So as I lay on my back each day, inviting my own personal vertigo attack, the symbolism of my imbalance reveals itself. Yes, my head spins a lot but it is up to me to take control, not be intimidated by the stress in my life, and find a way to focus hard enough to rediscover my center. How literal can you get! My body and I have a history. If I don't get it on my own, a symbolic physical manifestation presents itself, forcing me to deal with the issue. It is my job to discover the symbolism and pay attention.

I find myself spending more time in yoga practice, despite disappointment that my third trimester body resists going to class every day as I would like due to the physical and emotional intensity of the experience. I'm guessing that continuing to be patient and practice slowly and mindfully will allow me to expand to a solid daily practice.

These days I am satisfied with so much less stimulation and appreciate the beauty of the most simple pleasures in my life. The hard part is adjusting to the truth of that statement. When do you stop seeing yourself in the dynamic tail end of the second trimester and surrender to the quieter joys of the third? And my yoga teacher warns that just because you believe you have successfully experienced the intention you set for any particular class, be sure not to try to hold onto it once you have it because that wouldn't be yoga.

It is natural to worry about financial security as retirement is contemplated but it is hard not to wonder about the cost of that perceived security. Time seems more precious because you no longer see your future as an unlimited horizon. And you begin to weigh the value of freedom and peace of mind versus continuing to wage the career war to make sure you make the absolute most of your earning years. The natural rhythm of life winds down in the third trimester and all those things that meant so much to you during the second trimester just don't have the same appeal.

So I am trying to learn to listen to the vibration of my soul like never before. It seems louder in the third trimester because it is becoming easier to block out all the other noise. But what I am working on the hardest is to have the courage to act on what I hear. My life intention is to be happy, healthy, and peaceful and when I have fleeting moments of success, don't try too hard to hang onto it.

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