Think about a rabbit who escapes capture from a fox. It shows all the signs of the “fight or flight response”: it’s eyes are popped out, it’s breathing is quick and shallow, and it’s heart is pounding. But soon it calms down and goes about the work of being a rabbit.
We too experience the fight or flight response when we are stressed. Our breathing is quick and shallow, our legs may be shakey, and our hearts pound. But unlike the rabbit, often we don’t let it go once the stressful event has passed. Instead, we perpetuate the feeling by reliving the stressful event over and over in our minds. The rabbit does not go to sleep at night thinking: “Geeze, I almost had it today! I could have died. What if that fox had caught me?” Nor does the rabbit wake up thinking, “I don’t think I’m going out of this hole today, that fox might chase me again. That mean old fox could be lurking anywhere.”
For those of us who have experienced cancer, cancer is the fox, and we are the rabbit. However, unlike a rabbit, too often we re-live that stressful time over and over in our minds, living in the past (“I could have died.” ) or worried about the future (“What if the cancer is still lurking somewhere in my body?”) If we are to experience peace, we must strive to be like the rabbit, and just BE in the present.