5 Lessons Breast Cancer Taught Me About Living With Intention

Written by Shira Kulok

While confronting a battle with breast cancer, my focus turned toward building a suit of armor and collecting all the tools necessary to end this fight victoriously. Throughout this process, friends and family provided me with gear to nurture me, make me laugh, or give me strength. One of these gifts was a Jon Kabat-Zinn book entitled, Wherever You Go, Here You Are, which introduced me to the lifesaving skill of mindfulness.

I say "lifesaving" because mindfulness truly helped heal me during my battle with cancer. It taught me how to focus on the present, rather than the anxiety-producing uncertainty ahead. But the practice of mindfulness also affected me much more deeply, because after winning my battle with cancer, a regular practice of mindfulness led me to live life with purpose and intention.

During my illness, I developed true gratitude for the life I was given, and I wanted to be sure I was living it with intention so it didn’t just pass me by before realizing my gifts and using them to develop to my fullest potential. So how do we slow down or even stop our ever increasingly busy and demanding lives to become more mindful of our choices and actions? How do we begin to look deep within our heart and mind for the aspects of our life that bring us true happiness and then develop them to their fullest potential?

The next five steps outline how to begin living a life with purpose, rather than allowing every day to roll into the next and settling for a life of to-do lists and paying the bills.

1. Meditate.

Carve out time, even just 10 minutes, in your busy day to be still and breathe. Breathe deeply and slowly, focusing on your breath and how your body responds to it. Allow your busy thoughts to come and go naturally. Technology can actually be your friend at this stage, as there are many guided meditation apps available, which I have found extremely supportive in this process. From here your meditation practice can grow as much as you allow it.

2. Observe. 

With a regular practice, our intuition begins to send messages during our daily routines. Aspects of our life begin to present themselves as positives or negatives. By recognizing that contrast, we begin constructing a compass pointing us in the direction of a life filled with pure joy and satisfaction. At this stage, mindfulness is essential. For when we listen and reflect on these internal messages, we embrace an extraordinary opportunity to live life with meaning and intention.

3. Write it down. 

Journal, make notes on Post-Its, record thoughts on your phone. Use any method of documentation that works for you to allow time to reflect, remember, and move forward with purpose.

4. Take action. 

Make a footprint on this path leading you to your dream. Even the smallest task (for me, writing this article) can bring you one step closer to joy in its most honest form.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 regularly, daily when possible. 

When you feel yourself being pulled away from your focus by stress from your job, housework, demands of raising a family, or even disbelief in this process, recognize that and with intention begin again to recreate a meaningful flow to your life.

Implementing these few simple steps to mindfulness will allow each one of us to live a life with intention and free of regrets. Our opportunities to touch others and leave our mark on this world are truly gifts not to be missed.

Photo courtesy of stephanieandersphotography.com

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