On Day 4 of the retreat I woke with a smile.
The first few days really reiterated what I already believe. Mind body medicine is real and important for healing. Chronic underlying stress is bad, good nutrition can heal, and meditation is one of the keys to calming excessive thinking and allow more presence into your life.
As per normal my emotions have been high and low, especially after chemo, but I was never bored or checking my watch. I’d actively take notes. Keen to remember the words, which have provide renewed clarity. Everything that is communicated is backed by science or is well researched. It’s what I’ve been looking for. I have a new found love in Qi Gong, dandelion coffee and flaxseed oil on my porridge. I haven’t eaten so much in my life and I realise how lacking my ‘pescetarian’ diet has been.
But I woke with a smile because of a session we had the day before -‘Laughter and your Inner Child’. I was in need of a lift after some dark dreams and strange meditation imagery. I was hopeful that this session could break down a few barriers and get me to have a real laugh. I was not disappointed.
Laughter has been shown to boost certain immune cells but I was pleased to learn that even a fake smile can trick you brain into releasing happy hormones into your bloodstream.
Siegfried, our teacher/facilitator/therapist, was your typical German businessman. He looked and talked like Grandad Bill, but this is where the similarities ended. He was in IT and wore a lot of expensive Hugo Boss suits. He had it all. A high flying career, a growing family and his health.
I am not sure how he came to work at the Gawler Foundation but in the late 90s he was asked to pick up Patch Adams (the Amercian clown doctor) from the airport and bring him out to the property. Patch was giving a workshop for health professionals that had been organised by the Gawler Foundation. On the drive Siegfried became intrigued with this man, his ideas and his lifestyle. So much so that he decided he would participate in the four day workshop. He was obviously moved by what he learnt as for the next 12 years he wore a clown suit everyday, everywhere he went! Odd coloured shoes, ‘fat pants’, mis-matched socks, colourful shirts, a crocheted hat and even the red nose. To work, to dinner, downtown, on planes, everywhere! I laughed uncontrollably at the thought of Siegfried (dressed as himself – a clown) and Ian Gawler (who has one leg and wears a kaftan) going into the small country town to apply for a bank loan. Or Siegfried clearing queues at airports by pulling his pants above his head and barking like a dog. Makes me giggle now.
Life was too serious and this enabled him to bring joy back into his life. He wanted to get back in touch with his inner boy and this was his way of doing it. He read out a poem he’d written. I cried my eyes out. It was beautiful. His little boy had spoken to my little girl. It touched my heart. Here is a snippet:
Siggi came into this world full of trust and joy…..
At the end of his childhood Siggi was bruised and scarred…..Joy and trust had given way to serious striving for outer success. Siggi was forgotten and went hiding deeper and deeper……
Siggi…after 40 years of hiding enjoys the warm autumn sun…tickling the clouds….barking!
The new friend is my oldest friend…..
We hold each other tightly and cry….A magical force lifts us up….open our arms to the world and dance a wild dance. Fully alive, present in the moment, open, trusting, joyful, playful…
Siggi and I make a vow. We are going to spend the rest of our lives in each other’s presence. I will never betray my little boy again!…
It made me think about the meaning of my name. Little Ana. When did I shut her down? And how I could reach her. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start wearing a clown suit. But I did find that I had my own set of fat pants at home. And I’ve been practising barking whilst in them.
The following day, Siegfried took the ‘Death and Dying’ session…We talked about our fears, practicalities, our wants and wishes, an ‘end-of-life’ checklist. Siegfried shared several stories. One stuck with me.
Dying can take some time. Apparently your senses slowly go one by one. Your hearing is the last. He was invited to be at the bedside of a dying man. Friends and family had been gathered for several days waiting for him to pass. Unsure what to do they turned to Siegfried. He suggested they tell stories about their experiences with the dying man. It sounded very carthatic for all of them. But even more so for the dying man, who had tears streaming down his face. He could hear every word although the rest of his senses had gone. Beautiful. It had me in tears then, and has me in tears now.
Wow! What extremes!!! Laughter one minute. Tears the next. But this is life. Happy to be a part of it.