The Gap

The Smell of  Autumn For Breast Cancer HrealingBy: Dr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer and a licensed psychologist.

I had the pleasure of listening to Pema Chodron (Buddhist Monk and author) and K.D. Lang (musician, singer, songwriter) in a conversation this morning on Live Stream. I was struck by several things, but the one that stood out for me is the concept of the “Gap”. The Gap is that in-between space where we come to understand the presence of NOW. It is that moment when we look up from a hiking path and notice the sky or the tree or the bird. The Gap is a sacred space within, when we realize we are part of the outer world.

It seems to me that as people living in the world of cancer, we can use the practice of the Gap regardless of where we are on the path. Fall is my favorite time of the year and I am so excited about its arrival that I know I will have many Gap moments when I see beautiful leaves dropping the magic of their colors on the ground as they leave naked branches ready for winter. The Gap is a space within that allows us to breathe deeply from the inside out.

As people experiencing cancer, life can become very ugly and painful as rancid smells and nauseating waves of emotion run askew inside the inner darkness. It is important that we do not live in the darkness. Pema Chodron might say something like don’t run from the darkness; touch it, explore it, and move on past it. The practice of the Gap is a tool to help us move past the darkness into the NOW.

Find something good and magical in the day. If you can’t see magic in your day then create magic in your day. If you are irritated with not getting the results you want with your health care, go and purchase some fall flowers. Take time to have a Gap moment with those flowers. Smell them, touch them and notice how each one is uniquely different from every other one. Have you ever noticed that no two roses are exactly alike? Notice the nuances in the shades of the colors, notice the stems. Notice each flower as you arrange it in the vase. These flowers traveled from rich fertile soil and were “harvested” for your delight. All cut flowers will die. But each flower has its own elegance, story, and purpose in your life today. It is here to bring you joy and to put a gentle smile on your face. Enjoying flowers is a Gap moment. Take a breath and look up and see your room come to life because you placed a vase of flowers on your night stand or kitchen table. You took the time to create a Gap that brings you delight.

As you learn to experience Gap moments, be the Gap in someone else’s life today. Pick up the phone and call a friend and tell them how much they mean to you. Send a card to someone who needs a connection. Smile at the clerk in the grocery store and tell them, “I hope you have a really good day.” as you look them in the eye. Be the Gap in other people’s lives on a daily basis and you will experience more Gap moments in your day-to-day life that is full of the necessary doctors appointments, follow-ups and tests. I even imagine your health care team will respond to you more positively if you are practicing Gap moments in your life.

See, you are not cancer. You are not your disease. You are a person with many roles and facets to your life. Don’t let cancer define you. Smile in spite of the cancer. Bring smiles to other people’s lives. Make a difference today and you will be happier because you did.

The word Gap is meant to be literal and is not an acronym for any fancy practice. It is experiencing the magic around you because you allow yourself to wake up and pay attention. It is that first whiff of morning coffee. It is the smell of rain falling on the dirt, or the aroma of the sea rising to the morning’s heat. There are many opportunities to practice Gap in your day. The best gift of Gap is that it allows you opportunities to enjoy the small things in life and harvest joy in the midst of darkness. Nothing fancy but the practice of Gap is very powerful.

As I said in the beginning of this article the concept of Gap is something Pema Chodron and K.D. Lang spoke about in regards to their individual Buddhist practice. I have read a lot of Pema Chodron and up until this morning I have not heard her use this word. It spoke to me and I am punctuating it for you, in order that your day may be filled the magic and mystery of Gap moments making your journey a little lighter along the way.

Dr. Robin DilleyDr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

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  1. Thank you! Within the gap, we also need to let go of what we have been hanging on to, or we just get pulled back into where we were.


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