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I recently attended a celebration of life, courage, and hope. Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center had its 5th annual performance of Visible Ink, a writing program that encourages cancer patients to document their complex emotions about their disease.
I was there to support one of my best friends—a former patient at Sloan-Kettering, and one of the writers whose work had been chosen for this performance. I have known her for 20 years, but grew incredibly close to her after her diagnosis.
During this celebration, actors performed selected pieces from the writers, whose words came alive before our very eyes.
I expected to cry a lot.
What I didn’t expect was to laugh out loud, to be captivated by the humanity in the reenactment of a fight between a husband and wife on their way to her chemo treatment.
If I can get all Buddhist about this for a moment—Tibetan Buddhists believe that everyone we meet is our teacher and a mirror of our own loving heart. Even a perceived enemy is a mirror of a certain quality that we may find unsettling or downright loathsome in ourselves. To “hate” our neighbor is useless because it means hating ourselves. As I sat in the theater, I saw the most inspiring side of humanity.
Friendship with a cancer survivor is no different than any other friendship, except for one glaring difference: There is a true sense of gratitude for what really matters.
Pastimes like speaking negatively about others or judging their struggles feels like a cheap thrill. Complaining about work loses its appeal when speaking with someone who had to stop working due to illness. We talk about our joys and how to better cherish them, how meditation can really help to slow us down, and awaken our inner calm at times when we need it the most.
We gravitate toward certain people in our lives. They are our mirrors. They reflect our desires. Sometimes, we are stuck in self-doubt and we gravitate toward people who affirm the negative messages we're sending ourselves. We may even become so plugged into our darkness, sorrows, mistakes, or simply become addicted to telling our negative stories that we connect to people who reflect that back for us.
Only when we are pulled toward our innate desire to bask in our luminous, higher qualities do we find ourselves gravitating toward people that we perceive to be at a more elevated level of consciousness. They reflect our own light and their eyes become our mirror.
With a fearless open heart, I felt I was part of something sacred on that night. I only cried twice. I shimmered in hope alongside my beautiful friend, in gratitude for the vision that I see in her eyes.
Who do you choose to walk beside you? What are they reflecting?