OCT 01

The Gift of Hair

 

Hair loss is a side-effect of some cancer therapies. It symbolizes fear and loss of control in the face of cancer diagnosis. And it’s a big concern for many cancer patients.

As silly or vain as it may sound, our appearance is a core aspect of our identity. It has a powerful impact on how we understand and locate ourselves in the world. Sure, fashion and gender styles are fluid . . . in 2018, lots of people shave their heads. However, sudden, undesired hair loss from chemotherapy (or for any other reason) is a different thing.

First, unlike shaving, hair loss from chemotherapy is not intentional. It can also be messy; exposing irregular, patchy spots on our scalp and leaving clumps of hair on our pillows and clothing. Hair loss is embarrassing. To get closer to a worse-case scenario, just imagine what it might look like if a small rodent chewed your hair over a period of days or weeks.

Second, unlike shaving, which leaves a shadow of shorn hair in the follicles, hair loss leaves nothing—no definition. Our scalp looks different without hair roots because there is only skin.

Third, in addition to the hair on our head, we’ll often loose our eyebrows. This can be a terrible shock. While it’s understandable to feel self-conscious when we lose our hair, especially if we already look pale and unwell, the loss of our eyebrows alters our appearance dramatically. Hair signals youth and vitality. Without our hair and eyebrows, we can look and feel vulnerable. We don’t look like ourselves. To be frank, our face may look baby-like, especially if we’re taking steroids that give us a round or “moon face.”

Should you lose your own hair, you may or may not want a wig. Fewer people want them now than in the past. When I was diagnosed with stage IV non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, almost 20 years ago, I had a $950 wig constructed out of real hair. I never wore it with confidence because it always seemed to shift position and end up at some unflattering angle. I had foolishly ignored expert advice to get a short style, instead insisting upon recreating my previous look. It was an impressive wig but even with heavy make-up, my face no longer matched the strong look of the long, thick, brown curls. I probably wore the wig five or six times before I finally abandoned it entirely. When I look at it now I’m touched by what a lovely and generous a gift it was from my family. The natural hair is still beautiful.

A Cancer Wig
In this photo, the wig looks like a wild animal. I don’t know whether to smile or cry. Now, of course, synthetic wigs are more popular and people are more daring with colour and styles. But real hair wigs still hold a special place for many patients because they help them to recognize something of themselves when so much of who they are has gone. People all over the world donate, offer and even sell their hair so that those without hair can feel more like themselves.

You can contribute, too. Do some research to find out how you can help. Here in British Columbia many people donate their hair to create wigs for adults and kids who are facing difficult journeys.

Consider Wigs For Kids BC if you’re interested in gifting your hair to a child.


selfArchive Blog 10/18 | Cancer | Awakening | Transformation | Words


© 2018 Arlene Cotter selfArchive
© Arlene Cotter The Gift of Hair
SEP 01

Kindness

selfArchive Blog 09/18

09/18 :
Modern 
reflections
about being human

I took a moment to reflect on if I was kind to each person I met today. My answer wasn’t all that comforting: Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.


selfArchive Blog 09/18 | Awakening | Transformation | Words


© 2018 Arlene Cotter selfArchive
© Arlene Cotter Kindness
AUG 01

The End of Seeking Project

selfArchive Blog 08/18
The End of Seeking Project

Consciously awakening to our life is the single most transformative thing that a human being can experience. It’s also the foundation for building a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable world. 

The End of Seeking Project shares lessons from more than 40 years of spiritual enquiry. It has become the most significant communication project of my life. 

We write about what we know or need to know, and in my case, there has been a movement towards transformation and this ineffable thing called Awareness. I’ve spent much of my life drawn to silence; often experienced in solitude but also through openings when sitting with spiritual teachers, healers, psychologists, psychiatrists and, occasionally, awakened masters. 

At an early age I found peace in this stillness and felt no need to understand anything more. But as I moved through childhood and entered adolescence, this shifted. That’s when I lost what was once familiar and close. And that’s when I became a seeker.

I’ve since read many books, listened to many speakers, and attended many workshops in search of something I sensed was missing in my life, always beyond my grasp. Even after surviving a terminal cancer diagnosis and training as an integrative energy healing practitioner, the searching didn’t stop. And then, one day . . . it did.

The seeking ended without my being consciously aware of it until months later because it was so quiet that I almost missed it.

I will share glimpses of the project in the coming months.


selfArchive Blog 08/18 | Awakening | Transformation | Words


© 2018 Arlene Cotter selfArchive
© Arlene Cotter The End of Seeking Project
JUL 01

About Canada Day


selfArchive Blog 07/18

About Canada Day

On Canada Day I stand as a proud first generation Canadian*—but not that proud. As Canadians we collectively and individually need to examine our thoughts, behaviours and actions more closely, specifically the national conceit of living in “Canada the Good.” 

I’m not questioning our international reputation as a civilized democracy. Canada is good. It’s very good. But it could be much better if we put an end to xenophobia and the ugly forms of racism and social injustice it foments. 

July 1st is a day to remind ourselves that we have opportunities to practice inclusion, not just in theory, not just through legislation but within our daily lives. Inclusion has always been a personal choice.

Frankly, it’s not just new immigrant children and their families who confront xenophobia. Every day there are thousands of citizens here on Canadian soil who are made to feel “other” by fellow Canadians, by us or people like us and our children. This despite the fact that Canada is a country of global migrants living on ceded and unceded traditional territories. 

We can all do better. We can be better Canadians and better global citizens. And it begins with being better people. I was reminded of this recently. If you haven’t seen the documentary Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, please rush to your local theatre. It’s a poignant reminder about being human that might bring a tear to your eye.

Over 50 years ago Fred Rogers understood what it meant to sow the seeds of human dignity, respect and love. Recognizing television’s growing influence, he directed his ministry towards children’s programming. Whether we are children or adults, the wisdom he shared is foundational to what it means to be human. 

Happy Canada Day.

 

* Both my parents immigrated to Canada from Hungary as children. It was hard to get here in 1929 and it was hard to get here in 1939. It’s still hard to get here in 2018. It takes untold courage to start life in a new country but the suffering should end here, not continue. And if your ancestors were born here, however late, the suffering must stop.

selfArchive Blog 07/18 | Awakening | Transformation | Words


© 2018 Arlene Cotter selfArchive
© Arlene Cotter About Canada Day

JUN 01

Finding Quiet

selfArchive Blog 06/18
Finding Quiet

It’s uncommon to experience the complete absence of sound in the contemporary world but we can still make an intention to spend quiet time alone. We can walk away from distraction, find a private place and sit quietly for long enough to sense the subtle realm that surrounds us.

Most people don’t do this.
But many do.

Sometimes
there is nothing to say.
I put aside my discomfort

and welcome
silence.
And the world unfolds. 


selfArchive Blog 06/18 | Awakening | Transformation | Words


© 2018 Arlene Cotter selfArchive
© Arlene Cotter Finding Quiet
MAY 01

Living Consciously

selfArchive Blog 05/18  
Living Consciously

All lives are precious. This suggestion makes some people indignant. But to judge one life as more valuable than another is an unsettling idea for many of us.

I thought a great deal about this when I survived my own encounter with death, and continued to live. My experience was not so uncommon. Every day, human beings die from violent trauma and ordinary things like the flu or falling down the stairs.

The Canadian Cancer Society celebrates Daffodil Month each April in an gesture to honour people with cancer and those whose lives have been impacted as survivors, family and friends, researchers and healthcare professionals. April is over but I’m celebrating May by recognizing the individuals among us who have overcome the odds and continue to live—regardless of what they’ve faced. I’ve known many such people, and have lost many others. I’ve also come to respect life more than I have in the past. I now realize that we all have an opportunity to wake up and live our lives consciously

My new book project honours our every small intention to live an awakened life. It shares what experience has taught me: Every life is valuable and deserves to be honoured. This is our birthright. 

If we’re conscious,
our lives can transcend
the privation of
our own self-interest.

On 10 May 2018, please celebrate The Courage to Come Back Awards 

Over the past 19 years, Coast Mental Health has celebrated 114 British Columbians who have shown courage in the face of extraordinary adversity to emerge stronger and with a deep compassion to help others. Each year, at the Courage To Come Back Awards, we share their stories of triumph with the goal of helping others facing adversity regain the belief that, with courage, reclaiming their lives is possible.

Source: The Courage to Come Back website

selfArchive Blog 05/18 | Awakening | Transformation | Words

© 2018 Arlene Cotter selfArchive
© Arlene Cotter About Daffodils and Living Consciously
APR 01

Distillation

selfArchive Blog 04/18
Distillation

Thirty years ago I was captivated with Rollo May’s book The Courage to Create. Later I found confirmation of my experiences in the work of Edward de Bono, David Bohm and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Creativity has shaped my life through the exploration of ideas and potentials.

As a designer, I’ve been confounded many times when breathlessly elegant solutions were dismissed as simplistic in favour of flashy trifles of meaningless complication. Far from solving anything, providing clarity or offering good design, these empty concepts added nothing of beauty to the world. One might argue that visual illiteracy was to blame. I would suggest that an absence of clear thinking was an equal partner.

In stark contrast to visual and mental clutter—but only if they make it through the gatekeepers—sit apparently simple solutions that are assimilated immediately. Things like elegant programming code, poetry, mathematical equations and minimalist design. Here ideas are rigorously distilled until the underlying complexity is essentially hidden; subsumed by an overarching solution. Such clarity shines with intelligence for those who recognize its form. But not everyone does. It can be easily overlooked because it’s so obvious, it’s transparent.

selfArchive 719 | Creativity | Simplicity | Words


© 2018 Arlene Cotter and selfArchive | distillation
MAR 01

On Life and Living

selfArchive Blog 03/18
On Life and Living

Several years ago I had an opportunity to stay with the internationally renowned psychiatrist and thanatologist Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926 – 2004). Dr. Kübler-Ross was a pioneer of hospice in the USA, a courageous advocate for both adults and children suffering from cancer and AIDS, and author of the ground-breaking book On Death and Dying (The Five Stages of Grief) along with over 20 other books.

By the time I met her, Elisabeth’s health was in decline. She had already survived at least eight strokes and was living well beyond what she and everyone else had expected. Having previously confronted the spectre of my own death, I was presumptuous enough to think that I could help her to die well. Instead, confronted each day with her formidable intelligence and devastating wit, I became her student. Fortunately for both of us, Elisabeth didn’t pass away during my stay but she did show me what living a fierce and fully engaged life can look like, even as death draws near.

Live, so you do not have to look back and say: “God, how I have wasted my life.”
—Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross from Death: The Final Stage of Growth, 1975

This week I revisited some personal work I had prepared and presented to Elisabeth. Recognizing the level of social intimacy involved in caring for a physically compromised individual—especially one with both fame and notoriety—I had written two small booklets for Elisabeth with the intention of fostering rapport and engendering trust between strangers.

Book I
Elisabeth : On Life and Living assumed the form of a social contract and served as an introduction.

Book II
Elisabeth : On Taking and Giving was a social note, debriefing, farewell and thank you.

As I re-examined the booklets, I considered whether they had any value outside my personal experience. That’s when some memories began to resurface.

How did I come to find myself living in Elisabeth’s Arizona adobe as her companion? Contrary to whatever convincing words I told myself, I was there because I thought that I just might be the one person who could finally bring Elisabeth to peace. It was no secret that this world expert on dying was having difficulty. Candid about her frustration and anger over her compromised physical state, she wasn’t the first person who’s had to depend almost entirely on people less knowledgeable than herself. (That alone had to be a master class in patience.)

As a follower of her work, I was disturbed by some of the articles I’d read that year. Despite having devoted much of her career to speaking for the voiceless and ceaselessly advocating for death with dignity, Elisabeth was again being attacked in the media, this time because she was not dying as it was felt she should. The presumption of the writers was galling. Instead of recognizing her courage in speaking truth, they were framing Elisabeth’s candour as weakness. 

Reflecting upon my experience of meeting Elisabeth, staying and leaving, I wrote a third and final booklet for my series:

Book III
Arlene : On Listening and Healing was a personal reconciliation of the lessons I learned from Elisabeth about dying and living.

I understand why people were drawn to Elisabeth. Her personality was magnetic. Even at the most intimate stage of her life, a time when common decency would dictate that strangers should extend her and her family privacy, people wanted to talk to her, interview her, know her, see her and claim some piece of her. They seemed to want to be in the aura of her legendary brilliance and fame. Of course, I was no different—except that I cloaked my own needs in the guise of service. Where others had failed, I would bring peace. My conceit was folly for all manner of reasons but primarily because at the core, Elisabeth, like many of us—like me—was navigating the healing realms of acceptance, forgiveness and love. Frankly, Elisabeth didn’t need me; I needed her. She was showing me the fierce grace of healing though I couldn’t quite see it at the time. 

It was only years later, back in Vancouver, that I understood more about this thing called healing when (after years of degenerative illness) my close friend died. This was because something remained between us that was not healed prior to his death. After he died, I would sometimes ask for his forgiveness or for my own, until one day when the concept of bestowing forgiveness fell away entirely. What remained in its place . . . was love.

I think modern medicine has become like a prophet offering a life free of pain. It is nonsense. The only thing I know that truly heals people is unconditional love.
—Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Learn more about Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and the foundation that continues her legacy at ekrfoundation.org



Time brings change. While this scene no longer exists, here’s a glimpse of what the gate to Elisabeth’s Arizona property looked like back then.
a   The sign that simply said “Elisabeth”
b   The Swiss Flag
c   The Tepee
d   The Totem Pole
Three Booklets for EKR from Arlene Cotter

© 2018 Photograph of Arlene by Christopher T. Hall
© 2018 selfArchive | Arlene Cotter Three Booklets for EKR
FEB 01

Direct Experience

selfArchive Blog 02/18
Direct Experience 

Not vicarious.
Not simulated.
Not virtual.
Not someone else’s experience,
but your own.

Today is a day like any other. I think I’ve seen a blue whale but, oh . . . wait . . . I haven’t. I think I’ve passed discarded oxygen cartridges on my final ascent of Mount Everest but, oh . . . wait . . . I haven’t. I could go on in a similar vein. And I know exactly how such impressions occur.

Whatever I’ve read or heard or watched in my lifetime, I’ve filled in the gaps with my reason and imagination. Like most people, I have a facility to weave sensory tapestries that connect narratives and create experiences I’ve never had. Except that I have had them . . . in some way. I’ve been touched by them, emotionally and psychologically. I just didn’t experience them viscerally for myself. But who cares. It’s all experience, right? We can’t be everywhere and do everything.

This is true, of course. But maybe it’s beside the point and there’s a bigger thought here. What about direct personal experience with things like creativity, intimacy, pain and reverence? Empathy is a valuable human capacity but the idea of it is not the same as empathy drawn from personal experience. And then there’s courage, and the development of character.

The opportunity to experience life—however quotidian—is the gift of being alive. This primary emotional imprinting transcends any hollow simulacra. And it roots our experience in context. Otherwise, what exactly are we doing?

Are we doing anything hard, unpleasant or meaningful, or just bombarding our senses with thrills and avoiding emotional engagement?

More directly:
Are we deepening what it means to be fully human, or are we losing a core connection with ourselves . . . our self?

selfArchive 719 | Awareness | Awakening | Illustration | Words


© 2018 Arlene Cotter and selfArchive | Direct Experience 2
JAN 01

Re:Considerations for 2018

selfArchive Blog 01/18  
Re:Considerations for 2018

We live in relationship with all living and non-living things. The global conversation about being human includes: ethics, science, health, philosophy, spirituality, the celebration of human potential, and a growing sense of personal accountability for our economic, environmental and social impacts. It is from these diverse influences that many of us struggle to build an integral foundation for waking up. We’re unconscious when we ignore the vanishing forests and the weekly extinction of species, or when we deny the correlation between our daily lifestyle choices, dead whales, and the bare mountainsides that were glaciers only a generation ago.

My leather sectional,
once my pride, has become
an embarrassment.
I sit less comfortably on it
now that I know better.

If you’re interested in animal-free biofabricated leather substitutes, you might be interested in this New Jersey startup called Modern Meadow. Here’s what they say about themselves on their company website: We believe in a future where animal products are animal-free. There are those who wish the world was different, and those who work to change it every day. At Modern Meadow we are working tirelessly to see this new future materialize; one where humans make the material and the animals roam free.

We each have an opportunity in 2018 to re-consider our impacts.

selfArchive 718 | Awareness | Illustration | Words


© 2018 Arlene Cotter | selfArchive Re:Considerations
DEC
2017
01

Tiny Trees

selfArchive Blog 12/17
Tiny Trees

I searched patiently for stray needles and sprigs beneath the long rows of cut evergreens waiting to become Christmas trees. Then I stopped to twist and break my tiny finds. Some had no scent. Others released fragrant bursts, reawakening my senses and a lifetime of forest memories—fresh air, pine, spruce, fir, cedar and snowy silence.

When you walk among trees, consider Tree Canada. It’s the leading national tree planting charity in Canada.


selfArchive 717 | Awareness

© 2017 Arlene Cotter selfArchive
© 2017 Arlene Cotter photograph
NOV
2017
01

War and Peace

selfArchive Blog 11/17
War and Peace

November is an opportunity to reflect upon the impact of war and peace in our lives.

A project about War.
Moving A Wall

A reminder about Peace.
Living Peace


Information about Remembrance Day Ceremonies
City of Vancouver
UBC Remembrance Day Ceremony


© 2017 Arlene Cotter selfArchive
© 2013 – 2017 Arlene Cotter Transformative Spaces
Ceremony photograph by Don Erhardt | UBC © 2017

© 2017 Poppy illustration by Ping Ki Chan
error: Content is protected !!