- Tania Elfersy
Three Important Lessons For Midlife From Anita Moorjani
When in life, and especially at midlife, we have thoughts that tell us:
I should be / I could have / I’ve never / I will never / I can’t …
We can acknowledge those thoughts without judgement and let them pass through us. After all, when we let thought be, its nature is to move through us, 100% of the time.
Instead of fearing what has been or what might be, midlife offers us a chance to open ourselves up to a future of infinite possibilities.
The story of Anita Moorjani is one of infinite possibilities; of accepting the flow of what had been and the potential of what could be from any moment in time.
Anita’s life changed in her 40s – a time when in women’s lives, our bodies often start creating chaos to convey a message, a lesson about life that we need to learn.
In perimenopause and menopause the chaos created by our symptoms may cause us discomfort. For Anita Moorjani, the physical chaos she encountered at midlife was disease. And yet from that place of extreme physical chaos, she touched upon some truths of the human experience that feel all the more pure.
Anita Moorjani’s story is of midlife magic, documented in two fascinating books: Dying To Be Me (a New York Times Bestseller) and the recently released, What If This Is Heaven?
Anita spent four years battling with cancer before she stepped into a miraculous journey of recovery. The insights she gained from this time are not only useful for those who are struggling with disease; they offer important lessons for all of us who are seeking joyful and healthy lives, especially, I believe, those of us at midlife who are struggling with symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause.
For those of you who are not familiar with Anita’s story, I'm happy to offer a short summary:
In 2006, a month before her 47th birthday, Anita Moorjani slipped into a deep coma.
Anita had been suffering from end-stage lymphoma, her organs had begun shutting down and her doctors believed she was in her final hours. Yet in the coma, Anita entered into a Near Death Experience (NDE) where she realized her infinite worth, the root cause of her cancer, and her path to healing.
30 hours after falling into her coma, Anita awoke and entered a period of spontaneous healing, which doctors who treated her at the time, as well as doctors who have studied her case since then, struggle to explain in medical terms. Within four days, her lemon size tumors had shrunk by about 70%. Within five weeks, she was cancer-free.
Anita had to reach extreme suffering and journey into a coma to realize her cure.
WE DON'T HAVE TO. We can share in her lessons for healing and see if they ring true on our journey to joy and good health.
Lesson 1: Let Fear Go!
Anita was born into a traditional Hindu family and for most of her life she lived in Hong Kong.
She grew up feeling like an outsider in the dominant Chinese and British culture, while within her Hindu family and community, she struggled with the expectations placed upon her.
Anita took decisions in life while deep in fear of who she was disappointing. Her fears began to multiply so that she feared “just about everything” – failing, being disliked, letting people down, and not being good enough. When her brother-in-law and best friend were diagnosed with cancer, she started fearing that too.
As the world appeared ever more menacing, Anita’s life became caged by her fears. In her words, she was afraid of living, and terrified of dying…and then she got cancer.
Anita is convinced that her cancer found its roots in fear; a fear that left no room for self-love. Her experiences throughout her life were real, but her fear was based on her interpretation of what had happened and could happen to her. In her NDE, she realized she had nothing to fear and that she could live life fearlessly. By the time she regained consciousness, her fears were no more.
If at this moment, you are reading this post and becoming gripped by your own fears – worrying about what might become of all the fears you hold – say hello to this new fear, hello and thank you! Because when fear appears it also brings with it a reminder that you don’t have to continue down a path of fear. You can instead recognize fear, understand that you are its creator and thus you can also, in the words of Elsa from Frozen, “LET IT GO!”
And what has this got to do with midlife and perimenopause and menopause?
If fear can create disease and its absence profound healing, fear can certainly generate the physical and emotional discomfort that so many women experience at midlife, and dropping fear can help heal us from our symptoms.
Remember the thoughts I listed at the beginning of the post? These are thoughts of fear that each one of us can hold on to…and let go.
Lesson 2: Each one of us is born and remains magnificent.
When we live with fear, it’s very hard to recognize our magnificence. Anita had to reach her lowest physical moment and enter a coma before she could recognize hers. It was only there, where all fear of life and death had lifted, that her magnificence became apparent, even though it had been there from the moment she was born.
Anita reminds us that we don’t need to do anything to claim our magnificence – we don’t need to try and be more worthy, more deserving of love, better at anything and we certainly don’t need to almost die, since if magnificence exists when we almost die, it certainly exists at every moment in life. All we need to do is become aware of its existence.
I love that Anita chooses the word magnificence to describe our being. It’s not a word that (before I read her books) I could imagine anyone using to describe themselves, except perhaps a child – a child standing on a box of toys, waving a wand and shouting out: “I am magnificent!”
And that is one of the points Anita makes. As young children, we are far more aware of our magnificence and even parents are aware of the magnificence of their babies. But then as children grow up and the expectations grow bigger, and beliefs about who we should be keep us distant from our true selves, we bury our magnificence and become blind to the true beauty and power that has always existed in each one of us.
And so it is that we may enter midlife with a feeling very far from magnificence – with a sense that if we wanted to reach anything close to magnificence we’d have to work very, very hard, or that if we ever had a chance to shine as our magnificent selves, we’ve already left that chance in our thirties or twenties. Yet all of these ideas that hide our continuous magnificence are constructed from the limiting beliefs we have internalized, and even come to defend, as we live our day to day lives.
Lesson 3: At the heart of good health is self-love.
Anita describes a long list of practices, food avoidance, routines and beliefs she had adopted prior to and during her years of cancer with the hope they would keep her healthy. In her NDE, she realized that more than anything else, she needed self-love.
Chasing what we think we should be doing can keep us starved of self-love. And taking up new routines or diets through a sense of obligation rather than because we are practicing self-love, opens us up to guilt when we don’t meet our expectations. Without self-love there is little room to be compassionate with ourselves and enjoy the ride which is life.
If meditating an hour a day, journaling, eating a raw diet, avoiding all sugar, and training for a marathon feels like self-love and an enjoyable lifestyle, then these practices could be right for you. If, on the other hand, you are forcing yourself into what you consider healthy practices out of fear or a need for certainty, then maybe you could ask yourself what you really love and what feels good.
We will best serve ourselves by practicing self-love in a light-hearted way, by not taking our thoughts too seriously and by being open to experiencing the joy of life.
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Want to gain a deeper understanding of what happens to us at midlife and how we can naturally cure the emotional and physical symptoms often associated with perimenopause? Check out The Wiser Woman Course.