Natural Dreamwork with Mary Jo

how do we live…

Inspired by a friend who has received difficult and painful medical news, who rightfully and sincerely asks…

“How do I live a meaningful life day-to-day
…and make a contribution to the world before I die, in the midst of challenging circumstances: uncertain life expectancy and physical ability…”
I have a sense that my friend is already living the answer to this question…just has to look around and see the care and love they provide for others, the work done with those who are suffering…are dying…how they live their life from their heart…their own relationship with soul.  
Maybe many of us we are also living that life, making those contributions and aren’t quite aware of it. Mother Theresa said, “We aren’t all meant to do great things but we can all do small things with great love.” And many of us are…so can we pause, take a breath and acknowledge this simple truth of ourselves? I discovered this for myself in a most unexpected and healing way…
In 1999 I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, which over the next four years would recur two more times, include surgeries, go on to become stage 4 and put me in the two percent survival rate. (As I was writing this I had to smile a bit; we all are actually in the zero percent survival rate. We all will be leaving this planet one day. Some of us, whether through a health issue, a life changing circumstance or a deep meditation practice, already have this awareness.)
The morning after the diagnosis I got up as I did everyday at 4:00 am to begin my day in meditation. As I sat down, took a breath, the question and wondering arose…would this practice of almost four decades rise to meet me? The rubber was about to meet the road. What mattered to me most in this place? 
And then as this first day of the rest of my life unfolded I knew…
I finished my meditation, I sat with Joe for our morning coffee together as we had for the previous 30 years, I got dressed and went to school to be with my students. I went through that day and all the days that followed living as I always had..
There was nothing else in that moment or moments to follow that I would have rather done…no bucket list of last minute trips and adventures. I was already living the life we wanted, had created together, the life that had meaning for us. There was, and is, a sweetness in the simplicity of my day, my being in relationship with others, my inner and outer work. 
“How do I live a meaningful life day-to-day
…in the midst of  the fears, griefs and frustrations that come with rapid change, physical pain, major losses and the unknown?”
The first response for both Joe and me was tremendous sadness facing this unknown…the possibility of no longer being together in this way.  Then a few days in there arose in my morning meditation a heart pounding fear of dying.  I knew I couldn’t go into this experience with so much fear.  So every afternoon I would go for a long walk, feeling my fear, of dying, of leaving Joe, letting it all be present, knowing it had a right to be there.  

After about two weeks, as I was turning a corner I’d turned every day, I ‘felt’ a presence step in stride with me.  In my mind’s eye I turned and looked at it…it was Death.  I said, out loud actually, my voice broken with tears, “Oh, I know you.”  It was an old and familiar presence, a presence whose love I felt.  We kept walking and I felt like I’ve felt right before going an exciting vacation, anticipation, fear and excitement. I knew then that I could do this, go through this frightening journey of cancer and that at the end…either way…I would be okay.

All feelings kept arising including sadness and fear, they still do, but they have become the known companions of my journey…my teachers…the feelings of my soul.
(Image by Baron Pollock)
 Mary Jo Heyen is a Natural Dreamwork Practitioner working with clients throughout the country and abroad in person, phone or Skype. Learn more about her work with dreams at or 

1 thought on “how do we live…”

  1. Mary Jo, this post is so beautiful, and it really does help me with my own questions. Your insights are a true blessing. I am so glad that, moment by moment, you continue to be among us in this world, offering your generous and gentle wisdom.

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