EBMC’s Season of Gratitude continues with a moving story from Sangha member Tsehaynesh Abebe about using the powerfully transformative skills EBMC offers us to deal with life’s challenges and uncertainties.
When I began the Practice in Transformative Action (PiTA) program for social change activists at EBMC, I was completing my yoga instructor training, continuing my plant medicine studies, and had been practicing various forms of mindfulness and meditation. Specifically, I was engaged in a lot of self-study to learn more about how African histories and influences play an integral role in these spaces. Being involved with PiTA exposed me, for the first time, to the experience of studying mindfulness and meditation with a diverse group of other BIPOC practitioners. We celebrated one another, our cultural backgrounds, and explored how our identities inform our spaces and practices; we were living the lesson that there is no one way to meditate or practice mindfulness.
It was during PiTA that I had a couple of experiences with breast cancer that hit closer to home. I saw that doctors were great at providing medical care to rid bodies of cancer, but that there could be a stronger mind, body, and spirit approach to the whole person in conventional cancer care treatment. Many times receiving holistic cancer care was not covered by health insurance, or the out-of-pocket fees were so expensive that it was out of reach for many – costing thousands of dollars. I recognized that many of the approaches being taught in holistic care were those I had found through my own research or learned at EBMC and were accessible to me because of the commitment to the practice of dana there.
I knew that the teachings I received at EBMC offered something powerfully transformative for people who are diagnosed with a chronic illness, like breast cancer. And, it offered an approach that did not deny pain or discomfort, but also made space to acknowledge gratitude in the process. EBMC taught me that an experience did not have to be one or the other – that you can be in discomfort and also be grateful. And that you can seek to remain balanced and positive in your approach to the stress, since uncertainty is a part of life.
I remember talking one rainy day with someone who mentioned how terrible the weather was. I replied with my gratitude for the rain and for the way that it nourishes the earth and our bodies. This was an automatic response that had arisen from my practice in PiTA with mindfulness around everyday tasks. My approach to eating had changed too. Now, I was consciously chewing and experiencing the tastes and textures of my food and thanking the earth, the sun, the rain, and the people who made this food possible – from the farm workers to those who transport the foods and those who stock the shelves, etc.
This way of experiencing the world has strengthened my foundation for building an integrative approach to self-care and has been integral to creating an affordable and accessible integrative self-care resource for others to access this kind of support. This year, I started “Our Breast Care,” a site that offers meditations, affirmations, guided imagery, and other evidence-based resources for people who have been affected by breast cancer. This site offers instruction in a wide range of mind-body practices. Using sound, art, breathwork, and movement meditations like qi gong, Our Breast Care focuses on integrative self-care in mind-body wellness, nutrition, sleep, exercise, and the environment.
I am so grateful to EBMC, to PiTA, and especially to Mushim Ikeda, for generously offering an experience that continues to serve as an anchoring resource for me as I evolve in the work that I do. They have made it possible for me to share what I have learned with other BIPOC individuals who do not have access to these teachings as sources for support, resiliency, healing, and wellness. My hope is that Our Breast Care can offer a source of support and community to anyone with breast cancer, at high-risk, and/or their loved ones. And, I hope this inspires your generous giving to EBMC.