Speaking Gratitude

It’s a raspy, gravely voice which works well if I want to do my pirate impersonation. Can’t project it out but that will come. Sing yet? No way.A return to the world of conversing with others is imminent. In fact, it has begun and will take some more time to return with full function.

Thank you for your support, books, cider doughnuts, apples, spinach lasagna,chicken soup,other assorted and delicious soups, salads, poached pears, art supplies, custards, prepared dinners, recorded songs, noodle kugel,  check ins, e mails, private fb messages, public fb messages, goofy gifts that made me crack up, humor, laughs and mostly, thank you for your simple presence.

The world is spinning in a crazy orbit of destruction, fear and bewilderment right now but it seems to me that along side this wacky orbit there is a wide net, a net of sanity and humanity, that is swooping up the shattered shards of light, collecting them so they can find each other to coalesce and find strength. Here’s to that force.IMG_2802



Unspoken: Speaking About Not Speaking

It’s been since October 22 that I have been without a speaking voice. If you are reading this, and we are FB friends, then you know I was sick with a virulent infection that included a bout of what is called “community” pneumonia. Community pneumonia simply means it was not picked up in a hospital and I could have been picked up absolutely anywhere. Crappy luck.

Being without a voice is an interesting kind of liminal space to be in. Of this world 100% but absolutely unable to vocally react or respond to anything and finding myself behind this veil of silence is both liberating and frustrating.

Funny thing: I’m a long-time yogi and practitioner (and teacher) of meditation. I know the world of retreat induced silence and the benefits of withdrawing from speech now and again. But this current, unintended retreat bears a very different kind of fruit from intentional silent retreat. The primary difference being that this time, I’ve got no choice. This silence is foisted upon me and because of that, there is an even deeper surrender that is taking place. There is also the added: “Will my voice return? How? When?” Soon enough an appointment with an ENT specialist should answer those questions but it is a funky, sharp edged unknowing that I am living with. Kinda scary but not full out scary yet.

The liberating part:

No automatic speech means less reactivity. I can witness habits of speech getting weaker and weaker from lack of repetition. There is a cool principal in the field of neuroscience called the Hebb principle: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Keep activating the same neural connections and the behaviors associated with those connections keep gaining traction. Now, I get to experiment with how language plays into this undoing of habits.

Loved ones call to chat, I simply listen and offer no responses. I am hearing them with much less self-agenda rising up. Interesting. If I need to share some information with my husband, I write a few choice words on a pad and leave all commentary out. An opinion arises in me, a reaction to a current political or social event and, I can feel, think and experience my reaction but it does not fly out of my mouth. The thing is, I am not missing hearing my own voice. Not yet.

I am not pretending that much of this does not suck but it sucks so much less than I would have thought had you told me I would be without a voice for two weeks and counting. Anticipating not having a voice would have created much more freak out than the reality of having no voice.

Six years ago I encountered voicelessness after surgery for thyroid cancer. Six years ago the experience was so layered with other issues that I was not able to surrender like I am now. I pushed for speech. I croaked and whispered through my recovery and did not fully bow to the experience. Not this time. Now, I am practicing a kind of patience that I was not able to fall back on before. I like this more patient me. Let’s see how much it spills out into all aspects of my life or how long it takes – when my voice returns- for me to get right back into my hyper verbal mode. Maybe there will be some permanent change. Maybe not. All will be revealed.

If you care to communicate with me, I would love it. Communicating via writing (so last century!) is rich so if you want someone to do it with, here I am!

What The Sun Delivers

” I heard the news today, oh boy….”  and promptly turned off my radio and went outside to put my hands in the soil of our latent garden.  Then I opened a book of poems by Hafiz  to see what gem might reveal itself. Here is what I got: “Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that, It lights up the whole sky.”   – Hafiz IMG_0727

YOGA Fundraiser for Thyroid Cancer


Saturday March 14, 2015   2:30- 4:30 pm  at The Living Seed Yoga Center, New Paltz, NY

Donation: 25.00  ALL of which will go directly to an organization that is indispensable to  thyroid cancer patients and thyroid cancer research. Every penny goes to:

Thyroid Cancer Survivors Association (THYCA, Inc.)   http://www.thyca.org

  THYCA is a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization.  Can’t come but want to donate? Contact me and I will walk you through making a donation in honor of this event. Want to donate more than 25.00? Please do!

How to ensure your space:

Please send in your 25.00 check (asap) made out to Thyroid Cancer Survivors Association,along with your snail address, phone number and e mail address to:

  Donna Sherman/ Thyroid Cancer Fundraiser

The Living Seed Yoga Center    521 Main Street    New Paltz, NY 12561

If you are local you can either drop off your check (marked in envelope) or you can contact me and arrange to register, or donate (or both) with me. Contact button up on menu bar of this home page. Or email at:  centerpoint2@earthlink.net

Why am I doing this?

I’ve reached my five year mark since initial, aggressive treatment for thyroid cancer and I want to do my part in raising awareness, support and research grants.

Space is limited. Sign up soon. I look forward to seeing you!

Gratitude to Carisa Borrello, owner of The Living Seed for her generous support, to PDQ pdqbiz.net of New Paltz and Stop & Shop and ShopRite.  All sponsors. Thank you!



Muhammad and Me: A Very True, Very New York Story

IMG_1905Muhammad and Me: A Very True, Very New York Story

By Donna Sherman

I walked off my cancer treatment moments much like a distance runner might walk at the end of a long race to prevent the build up of lactic acid. Since the fall of 2009 I’ve had many visits to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and I developed a habit, which I call my Post- Medical –Walk- Down (PMWD). My Walk Down looks something like this: I walk out the doors of whichever upper east side building I happen to be in, decide on a direction and commence to walk.

I walked to give my anxiety a physical release. I walked to quietly chant my personal gratitude prayer. I walked to give myself time to move from one realm of my life to another.

Most of my PMWD walk downs were unremarkable. Some were awful as I negotiated crowded sidewalks while feeling weak or nauseous. A few have been delicious because I had minimally invasive procedures and/or I had a meeting with one of my doctors that moved my mind closer towards the “I might be getting closer to on the other side of this cancer” side of the equation.

It’s June, shortly after noon. I’ve just walked out of the main building of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Care having had a visit with the surgeon who performed my surgery in November of 2009. After this appointment and an invasive procedure in which a scope was placed up my nostril and then down into the back of my throat, I exit the hospital on 68th and head west for my PMWD.

I’m guessing I was somewhere around 58th and Madison when my feet said: “Girl, you need to give these new- sandal -blisters a rest.” So it’s stretch out the arm time- time to hail a cab. A few minutes later a cab stops to let out a passenger. The driver sees me and gives me the “ OK, you’re on” look.

Exit a tallish, well dressed man who holds the door for me and says, as he’s points his head towards the driver, “He’s a good guy– when he’s not stepping too hard on the pedal.”” I reply: “ Better buckle my seat belt.” The passenger pays the driver, they exchange smiles and handshakes and I’m surprised and impressed by their mutual good cheer.

“ You two seemed to get along, is he a friend? “ I ask.

“ Just met him- he’s from Israel.”

“Cool, I didn’t hear much of an Israeli accent.”

“ No, he speak good English and spend much time in New York. Good man”

I feel a sudden urge to really talk with this man- this random cab driver that I am sharing time and space with because my sandal straps are hurting my toes.

“Where are you from?”

“Egypt, Alexandria”

“Aren’t elections happening right about now? What’s your take on things?”

My driver begins to talk, in a general way, about the Mubarak regime and the difficulties of life for many Egyptians.

I ask him: “Think Egypt and Israel will maintain peace”?

He replies, “ I hope so.”

“Me too. I’m Donna. I’m Jewish, and I have to ask you: “Do you think that Jews and Muslims are like brothers and sisters who fight without stopping to notice how, at their core they are more similar than different?”

One of my cancer gifts is that it often leaves me unhinged from my usual reticence and cautious nature. I feel foolish after blurting out this question.

“ Yes, we do. I’m Muhammad.”

Now I’m thinking, this guy is humoring me, an American who knows little about actually living in the Middle East with its intractable conflicts and complexities. Again, I feel foolish but my filter is temporarily missing in action so I ask him this:

“At core, do you think we are brothers and sisters?”

I’d been sitting directly behind Muhammad since getting in the cab. Now, I move over to the right side so I can see more of his face. He’s looking in the rear mirror as we are stopped somewhere just south of Columbus circle.

He says: “Today, all my passengers so nice- today I smile more then usual.”

Okay, so I’m not being perceived as a babbling idiot.

“Seems like you’re pretty nice yourself.” I reply.

Muhammad tells me a little about Alexandria, how it is very Mediterranean, how the food and architecture is Greek influenced. Good universities. He tells me about his schooling. Then he tells me how medical care is much cheaper there than here. How you can buy five diabetes pens there for the cost of one here. I respond with a vague agreement that our health care policy needs some tweaking when he begins a story about having had a cancer. Now, I’m catapulted into full-unhinged zone:   “ I’ve just come out of an appointment with one of my doctors at Sloan Kettering! I’m dealing with cancer too! “ I just had a scope put through my nose and throat so my surgeon could check my neck. It hurt something awful.” The way I say this- with excitement and recognition- is as though I’ve discovered that Muhammad and I share love for the same odd indie movie. For a moment I feel foolish again until the next thing that flies out of my unhinged jaws is:

“I’m sorry, I am not happy that either of us is dealing with cancer but I’m guessing you understand this boldness that comes over me? And relief…. relief when the news is not as bad as expected. Do you know what I mean?”

It occurs to me that I might be breaking some protocol by being so open with his man who could be a devout Muslim but the truth is, while I blurted out that I was Jewish I did not ask anything about his religion.

I launch into some more rambling talk about fear, gratitude, pain and my appreciation of modern medicine. I tell him how my once fat, raised neck scar is now barely visible. I ask about his current condition. He wants to know what kind of procedures I have had. We exchange more medical talk. Then silence.

Muhammad is quietly negotiating the crawling mid-town traffic puzzle.

After some more silence Muhammad says:

“ I have tears. Today God brings me good.  Remind me that people are good. Now I remember that people are good. I have tears. We both stay healthy.”

He begins playing with his phone. I refrain from launching into my hyper- vigilant, control freak mode and manage to not say: “ Please don’t pick up that phone while driving!” Then I see that he’s holding his phone over his right shoulder and on the screen is a photo of his wife and child. “Beautiful family” I say, meaning it.

I think better of having him turn is face towards the back of the cab so I don’t scroll my to family photos.

“I don’t smile much when I work. Today I smile. God bring me people to remind me of him,”

I say something like “Maybe it’s you, or us, who choose to let the love in. I really don’t know if a God orchestrates these moments or if we choose to widen into what feels like God- like moments; but, if God is ALL then, I’ll go with that! “Muhammad, are you my brother?” I was unglued from caution or carefully crafted words, I had to ask – and this time I felt neither silly nor naive.

“Yes Donna.” “I am your brother.”

Now we’re quiet and about to pull up to Port Authority. I gather my bags and open my wallet to pay him.

I move to back to the left side of the cab so I can exit on the sidewalk. I’m reluctant to leave as I have this desire to know so much more. Where was he when 9/11 happened? What was it like to drive a cab and be named Muhammad? Does he fudge his name if he senses mistrust? Does he have Jewish friends? What happened that caused him and the Israeli passenger just before me to become so friendly? Will he get continued cancer care here in NY or back in Egypt? How much family is back in Egypt?

But I know how moments as rich and unexpected, as this one can’t be exploited and how attempts to stretch them out only diminish their beauty.

I exit the cab. I’m feeling many things at once. There is optimism in this mix of emotions I’m enveloped in and profound appreciation for the fact that New York has stung me again with its potential for synchronicity and raw, random human exchanges.

I leave the cab. Muhammad steps out and looks at me. We’re both smiling and I see that he really does have tears in his eyes. I’m taken aback.

“Brother?” I ask.


“ Sister?” He asks.


I smile, nod and salute him. I have no idea why I do this; I never salute people – I’m more of a subtle Namaste slight bow- of- the head -kind of person- but the salute just happens.

“I think we meet again.” He says.

I lift my shoulders with a kind of “Who knows?’ expression.

I doubt that we will ever meet again in the vast cauldron that is New York City; but I do know, as I am walking into the wide teeming- with -life main terminal of Port Authority that a future meeting does not matter. I know that today; during a cab ride from the Upper East Side, Muhammad and me met. We absolutely, truly met.

photo credit: From collage piece by Lila Nadelmann   lilanadelmann.com

Dropping Into Stillness: A Deeply Restorative Afternoon

This soothing afternoon will combine practices from yoga science such as yoga nidra ( a guided restorative process done lying down), buddhi shuddi ( a guided meditation practice aimed at cultivating wisdom and discernment) and very, gentle fluid movement sequences (no prior yoga experience necessary).

I’ve been using these practices for many years on both a professional and personal basis and  I know how effective they can be in decreasing excessive anxiety, quieting the over-active mind and supporting optimal functioning of the autonomic nervous system.These practices have been known to benefit people with chronic pain, sleep disturbances, anxiety, hypertension, restlessness, poor concentration and high blood pressure.

If you wish to join us, here is the information you need:

Saturday, November 8th 2:30- 5 pm at The Living Seed Yoga Center, New Paltz, NY

Cost: 25.00   Register: 845-255-8212 or on line http://www.thelivingseed.com  (events/workshops) or contact me at centerpoint2@earthlink.net

Please bring a thick blanket, eye pillow or scarf, yoga mat ( we have mats you can use of you don’t have one), notebook,pen and wear comfortable,layered clothing.IMG_1772