Body/Mind/ Spirit Teacher, Reiki Master
In this episode of Navigating Cancer TOGETHER, I have a fascinating conversation with Gwendolyn Mitchell. She shares her background growing up in a large family and the influence of her father, who had a gift for healing. She explains how her brother's cerebral palsy led her to pursue a path of healing and caregiving. Gwendolyn's perspective shifted when she realized that it was her and her family who needed healing, not her brother.
Caregiving at a Young Age
Caregiving at a young age is a unique and challenging experience that can have a profound impact on a person's life. When Gwendolyn's brother was born and her father was unable to heal him, he stopped doing healing work. This pivotal moment in Gwendolyn's life sparked her desire to help her brother and led her down the path of becoming a body, mind, and spirit teacher. She shares that as a young person, she was personally responsible for her brother's care, always ensuring that he was okay and accompanying him wherever they went.
What is particularly striking about Gwendolyn's story is her realization that her brother did not need healing. Instead, his presence in their lives was a gift that taught them important lessons about receiving, nurturing, and learning. Gwendolyn came to understand that it was she and her family who needed healing, not her brother. This perspective challenges the common narrative of caregiving, which often focuses on the needs of the person receiving care. Gwendolyn's story highlights the profound impact that caregiving can have on the caregivers themselves, especially when they are young.
Compassion and Acceptance in Caregiving
One of the key insights Gwendolyn gained from her caregiving experience was the ability to accept people as they are and to not judge them. This is a valuable lesson that she learned from her mother, who instilled in her the importance of treating others with kindness and understanding. As a result, Gwendolyn never engaged in the typical childhood behavior of making fun of others, demonstrating her ability to see beyond superficial differences and embrace people for who they are.
She also witnessed the impact of cancer on her sister and mother, both of whom were diagnosed with the disease. As a loved one, Gwendolyn used her gifts and abilities to support them through their journeys. She became her sister's primary advocate and caretaker, accompanying her to appointments and helping her navigate treatment decisions. This role was not without its difficulties, but it also allowed Gwendolyn to provide much-needed support and care for her sister.
"It's really important for us and for our overall sense of well-being, whatever we're going through, to be able to hold in perspective the balance point about the beauty that is within us and all the ways that we're supported by the body in the face of disease." - Gwendolyn Mitchell
The experiences with cancer in her family also shaped Gwendolyn's perspective on body image and self-acceptance. She saw firsthand the impact that breast surgery had on her sister's self-esteem and body image. This inspired Gwendolyn to start a project called Love Letters to Our Bodies, which aims to help African American women appreciate and celebrate their bodies, regardless of any physical challenges or diseases they may face. This project emphasizes the importance of self-love and acceptance, recognizing the beauty that lies within each individual, even in the face of illness.
Love Letters to Our Bodies specifically focuses on African American women because in general, we face unique challenges in terms of health outcomes. As Gwendolyn highlights, there are higher incidences of cancer in the African-American community, some of which can be attributed to various factors such as pollution in the environment and the use of harmful beauty products. Addressing the unique challenges faced by African-American women is crucial in promoting overall health and well-being.
Balance and Harmony in Healing
Balance and harmony are essential elements in the process of healing. Gwendolyn emphasizes the importance of balance within our bodies and with nature. This means that healing is not just about treating symptoms, but rather understanding the underlying cause and restoring balance to the body.
In Eastern medicine, such as Chinese medicine and Indian medicine, there is a different perspective on treating diseases. Instead of immediately trying to eliminate the pain or illness, these practices focus on understanding how the body came to be out of balance in the first place. This approach involves exploring the root cause and addressing the imbalance to restore harmony.
There is a need for both conventional medical care and integrative medicine. While integrative medicine focuses on restoring balance and harmony, it is not a substitute for conventional medical care. It is important for individuals to be their own advocates for their wellbeing and to seek advice from doctors.
Embrace and Listen to Our Bodies
We must care for ourselves and our bodies, not just physically but also emotionally and spiritually. This care extends beyond ourselves and includes creating safe environments for others to unpack their own issues and experiences.
Our bodies constantly take care of us, beating our hearts, breathing, and sending us signals when something is not right. It is important to acknowledge and appreciate all the ways in which our bodies serve us. Unfortunately, society often teaches us to override our body's intelligence. We are conditioned to suppress our emotions, behave "properly", and even ignore our body's signals. This conditioning can lead to a disconnection from our bodies and a lack of understanding of what they truly need. It is critical that we pay attention to the signals our bodies send us and making adjustments to support our health and well-being. By embracing and listening to our bodies, we can find balance and harmony in our lives.
Listen to the full episode to learn more about Gwendolyn's healing gifts and how she is helping people foster inner peace, happiness, and well-being. Check it out by clicking the episode in the SmartPlayer below, on Amazon Music, or on your favorite podcast app.
Read the transcript here.
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