This weekend I had the honor of being host and Chair for an event raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research. It is called Breast Strokes, and it the second year we have taken on this project. It is one of the many powerful programs offered by Hadassah, a women’s empowerment organization.
As many of you know, I am not your traditional stress, pain, and chronic illness solutions teacher. I am a tell-it-like-it-is, upbeat, and yes, a bit strange teacher, and that is exactly why this program was so compelling to me.
We begin with Paint Day, the program I was chairing. Female artists painted 35 models breasts, with a variety of designs, mostly chosen by the models. There were female photographers and volunteers. It was a day of pampering, emotions, community, yummy food, and a bunch of fun.
I was involved last year, but being in charge gave me a gift I had not received in the past. The battle scars that many models both young and old had from surgeries had left them with many inner scars. The healing that took place was astounding, as many walked around baring their painted breasts to others around them.
Knowing that we are a part of, rather than feeling different from, can only be experienced when we are able to be vulnerable and seen.
One model told me she hadn’t looked in the mirror for 5 years and this experience helped her move on. Another now sees more than scars when looking in the mirror- she carries the painted image in her mind.
This day was much more than getting a great image painted. It was not about perfect photography or whose art was better. It was the process of seeing yourself beyond the externals of what your body looks like and sharing it with others. Everyone was more than their scars, experiences, abilities, and limitations.
This is at the heart of yoga philosophy:
If you visualize an iceberg, on the top are all of your identities; who you see yourself to be. You might be a teacher, a daughter, a southerner, and so on… Then one of your identities goes away. In this case it might be that you were young and healthy and now you have breast cancer, leaving your breasts uneven and scarred. You ask–who am I now? You might feel lost.
Since I am in the solutions business, the answer is simple but not easy. Look beyond the top of the iceberg into the water beneath–the iceberg is vast and you miss this when you only focus on the top of the iceberg. You are much more than your identities.
I saw this clearly at Paint Day. The models, artists, photographers, and volunteers had no idea of the impact they had on one another. They were looking beyond the tip of the iceberg. It was community at its best–there for one common purpose. To celebrate who we are.
The day was worth the intense preparation and long exhausting day. The only thing I would change is coming home Sunday to a sick dog keeping me awake all night (thanks Kiddo!)
I look forward to the Big Reveal on February 20th where all the art is shared. Stay tuned!
I leave you with this thought: Remember, everything you have gone through is just part of your story, not who you are. Please, never forget that.