Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Heart Practice

Someone the other day said I'm tough. In a good way.

It came as a revelation to me during the marathon portion of last year's race. Way tougher than I ever realized. I take the compliment with gratitude, and I'll unapologetically pat myself on the back for pushing through discomfort and fatigue through this training. I used to think that this race involved a fair amount of suffering.

But my perspective is shattered to pieces every single time I think about my dear friend and co-worker, Kelly Gray Hall, who is at this moment waiting for the nurse to get the IV out of her arm so she can say she's finished with her 16 weeks of chemotherapy.

This, my friends. This is what toughness is about.

Also grace, lightness, humor, authenticity, courage, and an opening of the heart that is so raw and real and brave, I cry when I contemplate it. The day after my Ironman on July 26th, Kelly will have surgery to see if any cancer cells have survived the brutal chemical assault of these last four months. To see if the disease has metastasized.

I will carry so many people close to my heart on that long, difficult day, but every stroke, every pedal turn, every footfall will be dedicated to Kelly and her total healing.

One thing I know is that this Ironman--this voluntary, exhilarating, joyful, finite event--this is not suffering.

There's a Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice called tonglen that I have loved from the moment I learned it. With the in-breath, you take in suffering--of an individual, a group of people, a whole place--and with the out-breath, you offer joy. They call it a heart-practice.

Kelly would be the last person to use the word "suffering", by the way. But as I watch how tough this stupid disease and the treatment are on her body, I'm going to just say she's qualified. I wish I could actually carry Kelly's suffering on July 26th while I'm racing. I would shoulder it for every one of those 140.6 miles just to give her a day with out it. An hour. A minute. Instead, as well as I'm able, my heart, my mind, my breath is for her, breathing in suffering, breathing out relief from suffering.

If you'd like to support this amazing woman, one option is to buy one of these stickers I designed for her. All proceeds go to Kelly and family to help offset the tremendous financial expense this disease brings with it. Go here: www.kellykickscancer.com


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