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The Circle of Strength Women’s Event brought together over 150 women from throughout the world for a day of conversation and workshops around empowerment, gratitude, finding inner strength and trusting and understanding your own body and mind. This event was a celebration of life, love and friendship and Stand Up Speak Up co-founder Karla’s 50th birthday as she continued to live and work with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer.

Dear Circle of Strength,  Welcome to the ‘I am Grateful’ workshop. I chose this as a theme because this simple practice has been the foundation I have leaned on since my diagnosis. It has helped nourish my  soul and continuously brings peace to my heart.  Hearing that I had stage 4 cancer has rocked my world and it would be very easy to become  depressed and anxious and to focus on the darkness I feel at times. For my mental and  physical salvation, I have adopted a practice of gratitude. I am learning that no matter how  bad things are, there is always something I can be grateful for. When I become aware of any  negative thoughts or uncomfortable situations I work hard to change my perspective…for  example when my chemo pills cause my pain to intensify, I think ‘I am so grateful for these  meds and the work they are doing to fight my cancer!’   When I look at my son, Zach, instead of being scared about our future and feeling sad, I  am incredibly grateful for the close relationship we share and I treasure the time we spend  together. My eyes & heart are so open to him … I see the strength and wisdom in him and I  feel so proud of my son.  I am scared to leave my husband Al and when I am alone in bed, I’m scared of not being  with him, again I gently shift and realize how grateful and lucky I am to have met him and  the love and care I feel from him every day.   When I spend time with my family, I wonder what the table will look like without me. But  then I think of how grateful I am for my family and how close knit we all are.  This summer was hard because I could not be at my most favourite place, Lake of the  Woods, but I am grateful for the view of the lake right here out my window, the walks in our  little backyard paths and the serenity of the water.   Recently, I sat in my bedroom with Cheryl & Maristela and realized I was still not able to be  fully grateful for all the good fortune I have experienced in my life… I have felt ashamed and  embarrassed by my successes – living in such a beautiful home, traveling extensively and  having no financial concerns. Instead of being grateful for it all, over the years I have tried  to hide it all, I rarely entertain and have driven a minivan instead of my BMW. I wouldn’t  even wear my engagement ring and other beautiful, thoughtful jewelry my husband has giv en me over the years. Until that day I could not fully release the guilt I have been carrying. These ladies then said something to me that helped me let go of the shame and finally feel  gratitude for all of my life…  They beautifully explained that our souls are on a journey of learning through many life times. That our soul chooses the circumstance and the lessons we need to experience in  order for us to grow and evolve. These lessons are unique to each of us and come to us  through people in our lives or through situations we find ourselves in. They both believe  that life gives us whatever experience is most helpful for our consciousness to expand.  Thinking about their words suddenly helped me see that my good fortune, my wonderful  family, all the beautiful relationships, the business & financial successes are to be enjoyed!!  It was all my health challenges that were the real teachers. Here is where I was going to find  my biggest lessons and evolve.   The lesson repeats until your soul learns…it keeps coming back over and over in different  forms…I had a stroke while I was pregnant, had a fungal disease, Blastomycosis and now  stage 4 cancer. In this round, my soul was meant to learn that health cannot be taken for   granted. In fact, nothing can be taken for granted. Not the good fortune, nor the chal lenges…. In that moment I got it…. I finally felt a release of the shame I carried for being so  loved, so fortunate and felt deep gratitude… I had clarity …this cancer is here to help me  grow….I felt the deepest gratitude for everything in my life at that point. I feel the power in  this mindset!  This practice and the conscious intentional awareness of giving thanks for everything life  has given me has helped me find peace, happiness and understanding. I will continue this  practice for the rest of my life.  I am grateful you are here in my home today sharing in this day….thank you, Karla xo   

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