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The Bliss Blog

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Twenty five years ago, what was merely a seed kernel of an idea, called Living Beyond Breast Cancer,that was cultivated in the mind and heart of Marisa C. Weiss, MD, a radiation oncologist, became a dynamic, expansive event in Philadelphia’ the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ and ‘Sisterly Affection’. In 1991, she sought to bring together support and information for her patients who had received diagnoses of breast cancer. Knowing that she had medical knowledge, but not first hand experience, she went directly to the source..her patients themselves.

Five years later,  Jean A. Sachs, MSS, MLSP, the organization’s first executive director  (now chief executive officer) added her passion and dedication to the mix.

Fifteen years ago, yoga teacher Jennifer Schelter brought her inspiration to the team for what was once called Yoga Unites For Living Beyond Breast Cancer and has evolved into Reach and Raise. Back then, 150 gathered on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to raise funds as they lowered and raised their bodies on their yoga mats.

I found out about the event via a high school friend named Abe Morris. His wife Andi is not only a survivor of breast cancer, but indeed, a thriver who has gone on to take her experience and empower others. A few years ago, I joined other intrepid yogis and yoginis on a blustery and rainy May day as I stretched both on and off the mat. The experience became a chapter in my book The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming The Ordinary Into The Extraordinary, called Mammogram Mambo and stressed the importance of breast care.

Then, in 2012, on a considerably more hospitable day, I returned to the steps and went even deeper into the practice; writing about it for Beliefnet in an article called Yo-ga Adrienne! which was a nod to the cinematic character Rocky who had dashed up those same steps.

On May 15, 2016, I joined a group of hardy souls once again on a day that nearly mirrored that first time I went. Clouds scuttled across a steel grey sky with the occasional sun-burst initially. Layers of jackets and coats covered clothes more appropriately suited for a warm studio than a gusty inner city out door venue. Rainbow hued mats covered the area, like so many beach towels, awaiting reclining bodies to lie down on them. As I scouted out my space, I decided to remain on the lower level, rather than traverse the steps which were more exposed to the wind.

The day began with Alexa Fong Drubay getting us giggly with the bubbling over power of Laughter Yoga. Warmed us heart and soul and set us in high spirits for the rest of what was to follow.

I meandered around, soaking up the energy that permeated the space, through the smiles and hugs of those who were stretching, laughing, hugging and chatting in anticipation. I had the chance to connect with Jennifer who was garbed in a grey winter coat, that matched the sky, and with kirtan artist Yvette Pecoraro whose lovely voice wafted over the crowd of over 2500, during the class that Jennifer led.

This was done with grace and humor. The focus was on living our dreams, without hesitation, even if we tremble at the thought of it. Many who were there had the opportunity to renew or perhaps, for the first time, establish theirs, following their diagnosis or that of someone they love. Some of the asanas (poses) were meant to reflect that. I looked at the heart opening poses as allowing me to bare myself to all that I want. I viewed the balancing poses as a way of showing me that even as I may sway and sometimes even topple over, I can still regain my composure and stand once again. I was grateful for the supportive postures: tree and Lord of the Dance, being done my placing a hand on the back of the person next to us. Jennifer asked us to hold in our hearts and minds, the image of our deepest dreams.

The end of the practice had us lying in Sivasana , as Yvette offered her exquisite new song called We Are One, accompanied by the sweet voices of The Philadelphia Boys Choir. I could feel the sun peering out, melting away the chill and sealing in my deepest heart’s desires. As Yvette declared at the beginning of her musical offering…and so begins the love.

 

 

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This year, Living Beyond Breast Cancer partnered with Fox 29, Einstein Health Systems and radio station WOGL.

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