Finding Courage

Recently Marcia wrote 3 parts of a blog—My friend has Cancer.  They were written in response to finding out that her friend and one of the founder of Yoga on High, Martha Marcom, was diagnosed with cancer recently.  Martha read the blogs and this is her response.

I have finally mustered up the wherewithal to read these posts from Marcia and to try to respond. I glimpsed this first one when it was shown to me after she wrote it, and I had to turn away and put it down. It was too overwhelming and powerful to read her words and see her anguish and most of all, the depth of her love and friendship.

It was--at that time of diagnosis--far easier for me to accept a death sentence of stage IV ovarian cancer than to face what the loss might mean to beloved individuals, and to have to stare into the overwhelming, blinding light of love. Marcia is my dear, true friend over many decades now, but she is also a living ideal of love, service and accomplishment. Marcia has manifested so many remarkable things into being--the Yoga on High Foundation, with its service to countless souls in need of yoga’s balm and skills, the Urban Zen program, for which she patiently and tenaciously fought on innumerable fronts, her own dedicated garden which provides organic produce for those without access to such food, the students and teachers she has trained and given to over decades. That Marcia, who lives her life with such integrity and dedication could love me so deeply and completely and that my loss would mean despair--it was too much to take in that first time I tried to read her words.

I think now of that moment in the Gita when Arjuna asks to see his charioteer, Krishna as he is, as god, and then Arjuna must turn away, blinded, over-dazzled by the immensity of the truth.

In this series of three posts, Marcia reveals and gives insights to many of the wisdom practices of yoga. She illustrates some of the ways its teachings reveal how to conduct our life and our death, our despair, our helplessness in the face of hopelessness. She used her questions and strong emotions to explore and square them with her understanding of the teachings, and what a rich brew of insights is the result! Marcia, we all benefit from your pursuit of the truth in its range of anguish through bliss!

Marcia’s questions pointed out to me what seems to be one of my many lessons from cancer-- I was more willing to surrender to my fate than fight. When a group of doctors came to give me the conclusive results of all the tests and explain how very serious the cancer was, how it was deeply interwoven into my tissues and aggressively moving elsewhere. I noticed with interest that I didn’t cry, or feel robbed or anything like that. Sorrow, shock, pain, anxiety yes, but no rage and very little fear. And Jerry was right there with me, also not falling apart, just taking in the information.

I noticed this reaction with wonder and thought, This is the yoga training that is giving me the feeling of calm acceptance! The Yoga teachings are filled with the reality and images of death, quite contrary to our culture’s approach of institutionalizing, avoiding and sanitizing it. In yoga, the death of the physical body is sometimes likened to death of the ego. My own dear guru, Pattabhi Jois said of the end of life, “This body is but a rented house”. Death is a passageway to returning to Samadhi, merging back home with the Divine, our true nature of bliss and freedom.

My life has been--is--extraordinarily blessed. I have two lovely daughters who live right here in town. They are married to fine men I am proud to have as my sons-in-law, and I delight in coming to know them more deeply. I have a kind, smart son who lives and works in New York. Jerry and I have an on-going love story--we fell in love at first sight in the spring of 1975 and have been together ever since on a journey that has made us both more whole. My mama, who will be 88 in a few days, is vital and generous and loves to take us all on adventures--we had a big one planned for 2015. Last year, we were given the precious gift of a grandchild, and Jerry and I (our grand-names are “Oma and Ziggy”) were able to be the caregivers when her mama went back to work. Zig and I got to witness this lovely baby emerge into her dazzling strong self, and to cultivate such a precious, easy connection with her. We live in a beautiful condo in the Short North, and we have a cabin where friends and family can gather in Hocking Hills. All this, plus, the Yoga on High community, which is also about love and connection and wholeness! I was teaching a sweet and fun but kick-ass class and also working with a long-time private client. My yoga practice was an ongoing blessing. It was a perfect life.

I’d been gifted with so much, it seemed, that it was enough and time to let go of all of it gracefully. But another force that was at play here, if I am to be honest, which was a growing despair with how the world has been going. The near global inequity between rich and poor, racism, violence against women, endless wars, climate change, corporate greed polluting our Earth and corrupting governments, and just so much suffering of so many souls. All of these were haunting me and so was my helplessness in the face of it all. What would our sweet granddaughter have to face as a young woman?

In her blog, Marcia wrestled with the questions of her reactions to my diagnosis--were her responses to the sad news yogic? Now I have come to wonder if my resigned, docile acceptance of a premature death was yogic. The passion and intensity Marcia felt and expressed was so real, authentic, true and beautiful. Marcia always valiantly leads the way--I want that clarity, knowing and passion too! Yoga gives us the tools and guidance to work with life’s suffering and sorrow. ut it also offers joy and encourages us to become ever more authentically who we are. Our own unique expression of divine love expressed fully.

Thank you, my beloved friend, Marcia, for always looking deeper and wider, for keeping it real, for your heart of compassion, for making the world a better place every day, for your fun and joy, for your knowledge and wisdom, for your true love, the divine love you manifest.

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3 Responses to Finding Courage
  1. Jenn

    Wow, this is truly beautiful and powerful as are the two of you! Thank you both for your words of wisdom and expressions of love!

  2. Amanda

    Yet another beautiful blog, Martha! You are such an inspiration.

  3. Dale Ann

    Oh that we all might be blinded by love!
    Love you, Martha!