Shine the Divine:

Creativity IS a Spiritual Practice

When we see through our hearts, we recognize that every single one of us is infused with creativity. Divine Sparks are embedded in everyone and everything. It's up to us to be courageous, to look and listen deeply, to find the sparks, gather and release them back into the universe, transformed into something new. Join me as we wake up to the sacred-ordinary blessings waiting to greet us each and every day.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Walk on the Bright Side of the Road with author Anne Marie Bennett

This is the end of October, and the end of
Breast Cancer Awareness Month for 2009.
I am honored to share today's special blog entry with all of you.


For those of you who are not yet acquainted with the shining soul smiling in the photo above, I want to introduce one of my mentors, author Anne Marie Bennett. Anne Marie has become not only an inspiration to me as a SoulCollage® facilitator, but on a much deeper level, a trusted and supportive friend. Anne Marie is a seven-year survivor of breast cancer. In an interview I recently read by Peggy Nolan on my friend Lance's website Jungle of Life, Peggy used the term “breast cancer thriver”. That really resonated for me. As most of you know, I have recently been diagnosed with MS, and it is no simple task on many days to haul my stiff and aching body out of bed, dress, and get downstairs to be with my family (not to mention the slow, seemingly just awakened from hibernation bear-crawl back up the steps when I'm thoroughly exhausted after dinner). But I do it anyway. I have to consciously decide moment by moment am I merely surviving with this disease? Or, am I learning to thrive, to live my life as fully as I can despite the limitations/boundaries MS has imposed on me? I want to believe that I am indeed a thriver. I know for fact, my friend Anne Marie Bennett is.

In a blog tour interview about Bright Side of the Road with our sweet SoulCollage® sister Cheryl Finley, Cheryl asked Anne Marie "What was the gift […of living through your breast cancer experience]? What an important question! I find that this is one of those queries I put to myself daily, but with slightly altered phrasing: "What is the blessing in this moment?" In many ways this is the same question, one that allows me to see past the suffering in my life to the beauty inherent in a given moment. Asked of myself in this way it keeps me from traveling forward and back to the “what if’s” and “the last time’s” that prevent me from experiencing what is true in this very moment. This is the sort of re-framing that allowed Anne Marie to discover the “bright side” of a road that could have easily been clouded with unrelenting fear and suffering. Anne Marie chose a path of light, despite the pain and anxiety of living with cancer in her body while she was undergoing treatment, a choice that opened a door to even more creativity in her life and a world of new friends when she eventually discovered SoulCollage® and founded www.kaleidosoul.com .

Let's take a walk on the Bright Side of the Road with Anne Marie Bennett...


Me: Anne Marie, because my blog is primarily about creativity and spirituality and the way these facets of our beings are intertwined, my first question to you is in regard to creativity. How has living with cancer and surviving it transformed you in the creative aspects of your life?

Anne Marie: I was fortunate to be able to take several months off from my customer service job while I was going through my treatments for breast cancer. During those weeks, even though I didn’t feel well most of the time, I was able to remember my innate creativity, which I had put on the back burner for many years. I chose to go back to my customer service (non-creative) job part-time, and that freed up a lot of my time for my art and writing again. Since then, I’ve given my Creative Self lots of room to breathe and grow. It was all a matter of priorities.

Me: "Giving your Creative Self lots of room to breathe and grow", this is advice we all could take to heart, healthy or ill. Sometimes, when we are sick, it feels like we have too much time on our hands, (or the opposite, that time is limited and running out rapidly) and yet, are we allowing ourselves that freedom to "breathe and grow", or are we spending that time lost in anxiety; contracting? What would you like everyone living with a chronic and/or life threatening illness to know about how you discovered the Bright Side of the Road over and over again despite the dark days?

Anne Marie: I think the main thing is that it is a choice. I discovered that I could choose to respond instead of react. I could choose to be grateful. I could choose to see the glass half full. It’s always a choice. Feelings, however, are not chosen. They simply ARE. And it’s really important to give yourself full permission to feel whatever feelings arise, especially while you are going through something difficult. Accept your feelings without judgment, and choose to change your thoughts. That, for me, is the key.

Me: I love what you said about our choices and accepting our feelings without judgment. Sometimes, when we are in the midst of the fear and chaos of an illness (or any difficult situation really), we forget that we do indeed still have some choices; we are not completely powerless. We can use our minds as tools to support us instead of allowing our thoughts to spin out of control and cause us even more suffering. Witnessing and accepting all of our feelings without judgment, ties into the realm of spirit; loving ourselves with authentic compassion.

In regard to tools, I know you were not yet acquainted with the SoulCollage® process when you were going through cancer treatment. Now that
SoulCollage® is a big part of your life, can you talk a little about how it is source of healing for you?

Anne Marie:
For me, SoulCollage® takes regular collage play to a whole other level. With SoulCollage® I am activating my soul’s intuition as well as my imagination, and getting to know myself and my spirit guides/archetypes on a much deeper level. The beauty of SoulCollage® is that it brings into my consciousness parts of me that have been lost or isolated. It gives voice to parts of me that have been longing to speak even though I have forgotten about them. I wish that I had known about SoulCollage® when I was going through my cancer treatments. It would have really helped me to more fully embrace my fears and give voice to the different parts of myself that I shut off during that time. But we get what we need, when we need it, I guess!

After I started practicing SoulCollage® three years after my treatments ended, I made several cards about my breast cancer journey. You can see them and read what they “said” to me here.

Me: I hope folks will take the time to check out that link. Thank you for allowing us another glimpse into your life. I think healing is a process that never really ends, there's always more stuff that rises up and needs our attention. Like creativity and spirituality, healing can be a practice. Like all practices, we get to do it again and again throughout our lives.

Ok Anne Marie, close your eyes and take a deep breath In...Exhale...
What is the blessing (gift) in this moment?


Anne Marie: Thank you for the reminder, Laura! The blessing in this moment as I am typing this answer is the presence of my loving husband, sleeping dog, and beloved cat Sasha who is sleeping at my feet. The blessing is loving and being loved by these fabulous beings.

Me: Love and presence...two of my favorite presents! One final question: Where can your book be purchased at this time?

Anne Marie: Bright Side of the Road is available at www.annemariebennett.com It’s also available on Amazon.

Me: Thank you dear one for taking the time to stop
by and share your wisdom with my readers.

To experience the joy of SoulCollage® check out Anne Marie’s phenomenal website: www.kaleidosoul.com Here's an example of one of Anne Marie's SoulCollage® cards that guided her in integrating her journey through breast cancer treatment and the "I am the one" wisdom that it revealed for her:


I am the one who survived nine months of breast cancer surgeries and treatments.

I am the one who was held in the arms of a beautiful angel while enduring those harsh, cold treatments.

I am the one who got up and stood on my own two feet and walked away from cancer when the treatments were over.

I am the one who walked away from cancer after being held in the arms of a beautiful angel.

To all brave individuals living with breast cancer, as well as their families and friends who are currently going through the shared experience of breast cancer treatment, I offer this:
May you be blessed with strength, courage, love, healing and peace.

For those of you reading this who are grieving the loss of a loved one to breast cancer or any other illness, accident, tragedy or simply succumbing to age, I offer you the same words:

May you be blessed with strength, courage, love, healing and peace.

I cannot end this blog entry without mentioning two more very important people in my life who know a lot about breast cancer, and cancer in general. First I want to honor my Mom a breast cancer thriver (13 years cancer free). My Mom is a private person and did not want me to publish her name here. We all have unique ways of finding the support we need, and my Mom's way was to depend mostly on my Dad (her best friend) and her 4 adult children. Her circle of support was small and loving, it worked for her, and I completely respect and admire her way of surviving her cancer journey on her own terms. She is a spunky, life loving woman; wise, kind and brave. My Dad, a semi-retired physician specializes in Internal Medicine, Hematology, Oncology and Nuclear Medicine. (He also did not want me to publicize his name...my parents possess deep humility and that's part of what I love about them!) I am proud to say that my Dad was one of the first few of a hundred or so physicians to pass the Oncology Boards in the United States when the exam was first offered back in 1970 or '71. He's a pioneer in my mind, one of the docs on the ground who helped bring cancer treatment to the level of excellent care it has reached today. He is certainly a hero to our family and to his many patients and their families over the years. Both of my parents inspire me to be compassionate and courageous in all that I do everyday of my life.

To learn more about breast cancer, the importance of regular monthly self exams, yearly mammograms and to make a donation to breast cancer research please go to: http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org

*One additional place to offer a donation for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research is to go to Jungle of Life In return for your donation you will receive the new E-book Blog for a Cause "the collective effort of over 150 writers from throughout the world. Writers uniting together in a race for the cure." One of my recent blog entries is included in this book. I am so honored to be part of this wonderful project!

5 comments:

  1. Dearest Laura and Anne Marie,

    This is such a beautiful interview. Laura seemed to ask all of the right questions which provoked wonderful answers from Anne Marie.

    Laura, your parents sound like two very special individuals. No wonder you are such a special person. I am very happy to know that you have such a wonderful support system in your your family. That can make such a huge difference.

    I am on my way over to check out Anne Marie's book. It sounds very inspiring!

    Hugs,
    Debbie

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  2. Laura,
    First off, I want you to know how much of an inspiration you are! You shine such wonderful and amazing light, and it's a gift to be here and witness that.

    And thank you for introducing me to Anne Marie. Anne Marie, what a thriver you are! And I really love how your creative side came out with a switch - I think that's important for all of us - that we may have something buried within, and a change of pace can be just the thing to bring that out. So, so good to "meet" you here.

    And thank you, Laura, for the link back to the "Blog-4-Cause" e-book. It means the world to me. Even more, though, having you share your writing within that book was deeply moving for me, especially the piece you shared. Thank you, my friend...it has been a complete honor to get to know you here in this space...

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  3. I'm so pleased to be part of the expanding friendship and gathering in of the world community through blogging; sharing the love, wisdom, courage, compassion and inspiration so many of us human beings have to offer one another in this virtual yet very real electronic/energetic space. How marvelous to be alive in this time of global connections.

    shalom, salam, shanti, peace

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  4. Beautiful, poignant questions and answers, dear friends.

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  5. Laura, what beautiful and inspiration-filled post. And how nice to meet your mentor Anne-Maria, a remarkable woman obviously. I love how both of you hone in on creativity as a tool for healing and growth--for stabilizing and equanimity--during difficult times with health.

    When I had my own health issues years ago (nothing compared to what you two have gone through) I discovered journaling. If I had not made the connection between writing and personal wellness (I'd write and immediately feel better :-) I would not be doing what I am today...writing all over the place.

    Blessings to you both. Heal on! May wholeness be yours...

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