What would you do if you were diagnosed with a terminal disease?
In September 2016, after surviving a sudden life-threatening illness, actress Leah Bracknell heard the shocking words we all dread.
“Sorry. You have stage 4 cancer”
With no option of surgery, ‘palliative’ chemotherapy was all that was offered to her.
Based on her blog somethingbeginningwithc.com – Leah shares her remarkable and inspiring story of learning to live with a terminal illness. Drawing upon her experience as an actor, yoga teacher and shamanic healer, she shines a light on the human spirit’s power and capacity to be extraordinary, even in the darkest of circumstances. Discovering transformation, wonder, hope, joy, possibility, positivity, and beauty along the way.
“I chose to cultivate a relationship with my disease. To ask it: why are you here? And what have you to teach me? I discovered that when I ceased regarding cancer as my enemy and looked beyond the fear, it gave me the opportunity to embark on a profound personal healing journey, emotionally and spiritually that has transformed my whole outlook on life.
Having cancer has restored a deep appreciation and gratitude for my life. It has been an awakening. Cancer has been my greatest challenge, but also my greatest teacher, one that has rekindled my passion for life. It has taught me that a life well lived is the best medicine, that we can all be the alchemists of our own “healing”, whatever the outcome, and that life is not merely about existing or surviving, but thriving with a capitol T.
Cancer has given me back my life.”
This is an experiential event and you will be able participate in some of the healing practices: meditations, visualisations etc that Leah uses on her journey to assist you with your own.
“Having cancer or any serious illness can be a dark, frightening and lonely road. So, let’s walk it together, standing tall, side by side, hand in hand.”
WHEN: January 18th 2018 7.30pm
TICKETS: £19 and £14.50
WHERE: Venue and Booking : Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regent’s Park Road, London NW1 7AY
Leah Bracknell, mother of two, actress, yoga instructor, shamanic healer was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in September 2016, after suffering a near fatal pericardial effusion. She has worked in TV and theatre for forty years, from Shakespeare to panto and is best remembered for her role as Zoe Tate in Emmerdale. A yoga instructor for over a decade, she has taught workshops around the country and at the Yoga Show, MBS, Wilderness Festival, and Mind Body Soul Exhibitions and written for Om Yoga Magazine, Yoga Magazine, Spectrum, her teaching has been widely featured in the press, including This Morning, Lorraine, BBC Radio. She has released 2 DVDs Yoga & You and Yoga for Life. In 2010 she underwent an intensive Shamanic practitioner training.
You can read more of Leah’s work on her blog Somethingbeginningwithc.com
If I can wake each morning with a prayer of gratitude in my heart, and close each day with the same, I know I am living well.
If I can acknowledge all the blessings and gifts that come my way, now, yesterday and tomorrow, it blows away the cobwebs of fear and grief and confusion and despair, and my life feels sweeter and richer than never before.
If I can plant the seed of hope in the garden of my soul, and nourish it with love and compassion, and fertilise it with forgiveness, and water it with the sweet cleansing rain of faith, trust and belief, then I will witness how it flourishes and grows and reaches its roots deep into my heart and every cell of my being, and blossoms in the winter of my yesterdays lost and blooms on the horizon of tomorrow, with the gift of divine grace and beauty, until my spirit soars like an eagle high above the mountains of the Sierra Madre.
If I can remember that each step I take is supported by a thousand ancestors, then I need never fear being alone, abandoned or forgotten. No matter where the path leads.
If I understand that everything happens for a reason it colours my experience with the understanding that all challenges we face are an opportunity to learn and grow, to heal what we have ignored, to love harder, live more passionately, to serve more gracefully, to reach out and join hands with those who need a friend, and to take the hand of those who reach out to us. To embrace life, to embrace one another, build bridges where the way is blocked, and honour this wonderful earth, our Mother, our home.
I have awoken with a fire in my belly, a good fire, one that speaks of life, a beacon in the dark, and if I place it on a high enough peak perhaps you can see it, perhaps it can light a flame in your heart, and when you feel its warmth, then you may be able to light one too, to pass it on, for each of us can be a light in the dark for someone else, and someone else, and someone else, until there is a chain of golden light shining far and wide connecting us one to another. Encircling us in our connection not our disparity, healing not dividing, loving not hating.
If I remember that it is not personal, that the universe is not out to punish me or anyone, that I have not offended god, I have not been bad in a previous life, but that the nature of existence for every inhabitant of this incredible planet: human, animal, plant, mineral, follows the natural order of birth, life and death. At least in the physical and material sense. Then I see that it is not a matter of justice or injustice, it just is. And our spirit sings the song of our soul long before we understood that we had chosen to come here, and our story will echo in the hearts of those we touch long after our job here is done, like a whisper to those who come after us for generations to come. When we become the ancestors who guide the way.
I had the honour and privilege this week of sharing a beautiful and profoundly moving ceremony dedicated to honouring our ancestors and those who have passed, sitting in circle with our dear sister and brother from Mexico and friends old and new to celebrate el Dia de Muertos – The Day of the Dead.
In a teepee, in a field, under the stars, surrounded by pigs, the call of the owls disturbed by this unexpected nocturnal intrusion piercing the quiet, we gathered together to pray.
In the centre the fire unites us, one to another, and carries our prayers back in time to those who have departed, melting the boundries of life and death. To be able to acknowledge the gift our ancestors have given us, through the living of their lives, generation after generation, their stories flowing in our veins if not our memories, their successes, their failures, their struggles, their joys, to be able to thank them, to weep for them, is a truly humbling experience. One that is not merely about mourning, but celebrating and honouring. And more than that, it is about remembering, even those we didn’t know for they live in us, and feeding them with love.
The altar was resplendent in offerings of flowers, favourite foods, candles, fruits, interspersed with pictures of loved ones. Sacred songs were shared, and beautiful, healing prayers offered to Grandfather fire, with Mother Earth, the stars, the moon, and each other as witness to this moment of beauty. A moment in time in which all our stories weave together across space and time, one unique moment never to be repeated, where we become one with each other and all that is the great mystery of life. To be able to make a prayer of gratitude, to give thanks before and above all else is, I have discovered , one of the most powerful medicines I know. I realise prayer, is not merely for demanding what I want or feel I need when the chips are down or when the horse has bolted, but is a doorway to connect with something which unites and inspires, and transcends the material, the mundane, the profane, and gives voice to the person I aspire to be.
So, if I may, on this beautiful, mysterious, misty morning, I’d like to share my morning prayer with you:
To all our relations, those who have walked before us, and those who will come after, to our allies and guides who walk with us in invisible realms, Thank You.
Thank you for my life. Thank you for my health. Thank you for guiding me and giving me strength and inspiring me each day.
Thank you for my beautiful family, my husband, my mother, my children, my friends far and wide, I pray that you watch over them, keep them well, protect them, give them strength when they feel weak, inspiration when they are lost, and keep the flame of hope alive always in their hearts. I pray they feel loved when they are alone, and that they see and know the beauty of their spirit.
Thank you for all the support and prayers with which I have been blessed, and I pray that I have the grace and humility to truly accept them. And that I may find a way to honour them in return. I give thanks for the ceremonies that have been held in my honour and for those who prayed for me there. I thank you. Deeply from the bottom of my heart.
I give deep thanks for the friendship of our brothers and sisters from Mexico, for the journey shared, for their love and prayers, I pray for them, for their healing and protection of their land and their home. Long may our friendship continue. I pray I may return soon.
Thank you for the healings I have received, for all the medicines that I work with, conventional and alternative. For those that are part of my healing journey. For the abundance of food I have to eat. For my home, my shelter, my haven.
Thank you for my feline friends, who sit with me, make me laugh and drive me mad with little “gifts”.
Thank you for showing me the joy in life that once had become hidden from view, which, despite the greatest of challenges, has exploded like a dazzling firework in the darkest night sky, reinstating a profound sense of wonder and awe.
Thank you for teaching me that a life well lived is the best medicine, and that we can be the alchemists of our own healing, that we can chose to be extraordinary, that life is not about merely existing or surviving but about Thriving with a capitol T.
Teach me to be compassionate and forgiving. Not to judge or criticise neither myself or others too harshly.
And remind me to sing and laugh and dance each and every day, if not literally, then let my spirit dance with wild abandon wherever I may find myself.
Thank you for giving me my voice, and for daring me to use it when my instinct would have me hide away and retreat to my cave.
Thank you for helping me to see and to understand why I am here, for giving me meaning and restoring purpose, for showing me how I may continue to be of service in gratitude for the life I have been given.
I pray that we may all remember the song that the stars were singing when we were born, that tell us who we are, how precious we are, and how brilliantly we can shine.
I dedicate this prayer to you, with respect, with gratitude and with love.
I would love to know what you think of this idea.
Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is the last thing anyone wants to hear. I know, because it happened to me: stage 4 with very few options. No surgery. No radiation. And no hope. Because that, of course, is a dirty word. (It’s lucky I have a filthy mind!!)
So . . .
How do you pick yourself up off the floor when all the doors are slammed in your face?
How do you continue to smile?
How do you put HOPE back on the menu?
How do you continue to see your glass half full?
And most vital of all, how do you turn a devastating, frightening situation into a journey of personal empowerment and healing?
The last year has forced me to take a good hard look at all aspects of my life BC (before cancer). Shedding what no longer serves: habits, patterns, relationships, beliefs etc and replacing them with behaviours and practices, in fact a whole new way of being in the world and inhabiting my life that fills me not with fear, anxiety or negativity, well, not all the time anyway, and creating a life I am worthy of. A life I am proud of. A life that says, you may kick me, but I am going to get up, again and again, as many times as I need to, sometimes it may take a while, but I gonna keep on keepin’ on no matter what.
This last year has given me such an enormous appreciation of life and all the gifts it has given me. Cancer has challenged me to be strong when I feel weak, to get up when I fall down, to honour those difficult emotions that spew all over the life I once lived, to take up my sword and shield and endeavour to become the person I have always hoped I could be. It has demanded that I am honest with myself, even when I can’t face what I see, be honest with others even when I am clumsy, to express my love and gratitude for those who walk with me.
Since the day my world changed irrevocably, I have tried to develop a relationship with my illness to ask it what it has to teach me, what it wants me to change or face up to, in order that I don’t merely react to it with fear, loathing or avoidance. I don’t see cancer as my enemy, but a challenge, a gauntlet thrown down for me to seize with both hands. And it has repaid me: I have learned to be so damn grateful for my life, every last bit of it, to forgive myself my “mistakes”, and to try to forgive those who I believe hurt me. And each and every day I love and thank my poor scrawny body, tumours and all, because its doing its very best.
I decided that cancer was not going to be my gaoler, but my teacher. Not my darkness, but my light. I’m not going to lie. It’s a tough road. It’s a lonely road, even when you are surrounded by love. No, not every day is wreathed in smiles. But when I smile, I smile, and when I laugh I laugh, and when it rains I put my umbrella up and wait for the storm to pass.
We cannot always change the situation, but we can choose how we respond to it. One step at a time. One breath at a time. Together. It’s always better together.
It’s time to collectively change the narrative: to seek empowerment not defeat at the hands of cancer. We are told that only a “cure” is a win. I disagree, I don’t know if cure is on the cards for me or indeed you. But I do know that there is so much healing to be discovered along the way, and it’s right there in the palm of your hand. Yes, it is.
I’d really like the opportunity to share this with you. I draw on my experience as a yoga teacher, workshop facilitator and shamanic healer, and even my acting career, to inspire and guide me through these difficult times. I believe that our mind is our most powerful medicine when we learn how to tame it, for there are times when it feels like an unbroken stallion forced under the saddle for the first time. Granted it’s not particularly conventional: I use journeying to connect with spiritual helpers and ancestors, visualisations, meditation, breathing excercises, yoga practices, and allow my creative juices to flow. I am not saying it’s a guaranteed recipe for a radical remission, but that ain’t gonna stop me. I am still here. Still banging my drum. Still causing trouble. And this time last year, I wasn’t so sure that would be so.
I ask myself, would I turn back the clocks to a time before cancer? Genuinely, I don’t know. I can’t answer that. I am certainly in no hurry to go anywhere. But the last twelve months have shown me not just the absolute worst of times, but some of the best times in my life. Little nuggets of gold that I would not have found otherwise. And I had to wake up to the fact that my life was in desperate need of an overhaul. Cancer was my call to action. It has taken a huge leap out of my comfort zone. And, yes, it’s work in progress. Constantly. But it is paying off. And for that I am grateful. Every day. 365 days of gratitude. My incredible year.
So, I am thinking of putting together an experiential/interactive talk to share my experience of living with cancer and some of the methods I use. Probably in London later this year. In order to get an idea of feasibility, as these things can take some organising and I do have one or two things on my plate right now, please indicate below if you think you might genuinely be interested. Just so I can get determine if it’s a good idea or just one of my madcap brain waves.
Sending you much much love, strength and inspiration on your journey.
To healing. To empowerment. To Life.
Blessings. Om shanti. Peace.
Yesterday, I began to write a story.
I didn’t know until it started that it would feature a girl, an egg, a yew tree and a feather. But it did.
Then I went for a walk amongst the corn rows, as the sun set and a hush fell, just as the giant stalks were coming to life, chattering , peering and pointing at the strangers in their midst. A vast sea of green faces, curious, animated, laughing, mischievous. Clap clap clapping and a-rattling their spikey green limbs, rattling. A festival of foliage. A tribe of triffids. A clan, a gathering, a chorus, a congregation. Waving.
And I waved back.
As we strolled home. I found an newly hatched egg on the path. My second such find of the day as it happened.
After ten more paces, we looked up. And a yew tree looked down. I knew there would be something else: then, ten more paces, I saw it. The pub, patriotically named for the Prince of Wales, and there painted on the signage, were 3 white feathers.
Sometimes, the universe leaves you in no doubt that it is trying to communicate, and it is the job of us mere mortals to decode and decipher the information. In this case, I am still scratching my chin.
But here is how the story begins:
One day, KooKuri fell from the stars.
Stars that shone in an ebony sky a million years away.
She fell, not like you or I might: that is, in the wink of our father’s eye and the blush of our mama’s cheek, but rather like a feather would.
Like the feather from the breast of a snow white dove.
Lighter than a passing thought. Softer an angel’s caress.
A feather to make a wish upon.
She tumbled, and cascaded and floated until the world found form and she a safe place to land.
When that day finally arrived, and it was a Thursday, I remember clearly, she alighted on the branches of an ancient Yew, and there she made her nest, cultivated from twigs and leaves and a warm lining of hope.
It was nearly time.
Nearly time is the same as almost time, but nothing like in time, on time, or for the unlucky ones, out of time.
As KooKuri didn’t own a watch, for they hadn’t yet been invented, she understood the concept of time only by the journey of the sun in the sky, and the rumble in her belly. Never the less, Kookuri knew that it was almost time. And she was ready.
To behold her, is to be transported to a dream of the realms of heaven. Her skin is luminous, and shimmers with all the promise of a desert mirage, she wears the distinctive and intoxicating aroma of morning jasmine and woodsmoke, and her hair is like melted charcoal and as lustrous as a raven’s wing. She is adorned only by the blessings of the Mother Maker.
She is neither small nor large, young nor old, sharp nor blunt. Were you to meet her, you would not see her. You would not know her but you would not forget her. She is everywhere, she is nowhere. She will see you whether you would like it or not. But you would like it. And she would know the answer to the question that had not yet formed on your lips.
All this and more is the magic and mystery that is Kookuri. Kookuri who fell from the stars in the ebony sky a million years away before the earth found form. And she has been sent in answer to our prayers.
High up in her Yew tree eerie, Kookuri, gave a little burb, spun around three times anti-clockwise, clicked her fingers three times, and lo and behold, blow me down, if it didn’t just go and happen, right there in the embrace of the tree, just like the oracle said it would.
Kookuri laid an egg.
Do you see?
There it goes again
Slipping through my fingers
just like that
like a half heard whisper
the taste of a half remembered kiss
the scent of a childhood memory
buried at the bottom of the chest
beneath a lifetime of laughter, love and loss.
Time waits for no man, so they say,
You can’t go under it, you can’t go over it, you can’t go round it,
you gotta go through it,
careful don’t waste it
don’t spill it
don’t lose it
don’t kill it.
Wrap it up
with knobs on
and a cherry on top
like it’s happy birthday every day.
Before it runs away again
and babes become children become adult become parent become children become
ain’t no stopping it
like a runaway train
clacketty clack clacketty clack
wild horses a-gallop
and freeze framing memories in gold
and wrapping them in love
and rose coloured glasses
and placing them in a locket I wear around my neck
above my heart
I want to slo – mo my life.
Slo- mo the good bits,
like in the movies,
talk . . .ing . . . slow . . . ly . . . .voice . . . deep . . face . . gur . . nee . . inggg .
Fast forward through the dross
and rewind da good times!!!!
And press pause.
Slow down, wait, let me catch my breath,
wait for me.
A million yesterdays make mockery of tomorrow,
while today waits
with baited breath
on her cheek
and a question mark under her tongue.
Oh Time, are you friend or foe?
More relentless than the sea
more elusive than the wind
holder of secrets and memories and promises
grain by grain
ever ticking and tocking
ever marching on
Happy ever after.
The time is Now.
No time like the present.
The greatest gift.