A Message to my Readers. . .
There are times in life when the opportunity for
inner growth presents itself through circumstances that
are challenging and ultimately transformational. I am
finding myself to be in just such a place. I am feeling
called to take time-out while I go on an inner journey
of healing and I will be taking a sabbatical from
writing further columns until May or June.
When Valerie, the light source and creative editor of
Soulful Living, suggested that I write a message to my
readers, I intended to prepare a short notice that I
would be away for awhile. "Keep it simpleÖ"
I said to myself. However, as I begin to write this, I
realize that there are many thoughts and feelings I have
to express. . . so perhaps the healing journey I
mentioned will begin here.
I am feeling called to share with you my personal
story that has brought me to where I find myself today.
I do this because I feel it is a story that is common to
many women and as the saying goes, "When one person
asks for healing, it opens the door for others to
In 1980 I had a double mastectomy and breast
reconstruction with silicone implants. The diagnosis
calling for such radical surgery came after several
years of repetitive biopsies for acute fibro-cystic
breast disease. At the time of the mastectomies I was
classified "High risk, in a pre-cancerous
Unlike women who undergo mastectomies accompanied
with the diagnosis of cancer, I was fortunate to only
have to deal with psychological/physical impact of the
mastectomy itself. My life was not being immanently
threatened by my illness. The operation I had is known
as a prophylactic or preventative surgery.
The years passed and the implants hardened and became
uncomfortable, and in 1995 I began to have migraine
headaches and chronic joint pain. I was then diagnosed
with auto-immune disease and fibro-myalgia. The
diagnosis took place during the same time that class
action suits against the manufacturers of silicone
implants were making headlines. To be safe, I decided to
have my silicone implants removed and replaced with
When the old implants were removed it turned out that
one of them had ruptured. There has been much reported
discrepancy regarding the relationship between silicone
toxicity and various auto-immune diseases that have
plagued women who had ruptured implants. I intuitively
feel certain that the silicone leakage has played a part
in the decline of my overall health.
After the second set of implants were inserted, the
years passed and the saline implants also hardened.
Then, one week ago, the saline implant in my left breast
Since the Sunday evening when I noticed a flattening
of my left breast, I have been wrestling with the
decision of whether to face a third reconstruction with
the possibility of more ruptures in the future, or to
remove both implants and remain flat-chested for the
rest of my life. After consulting with my plastic
surgeon and following long talks with my very loving and
supportive husband, I have decided to have the implants
removed without further reconstruction.
The process leading to my decision has been complex.
I have been aware in the past several years of how our
culture is fixated on womenís breasts. Itís a topic
(the objectification of womenís anatomy) that has been
raised in many of the womenís circles I have
facilitated. Now that I have decided to become a woman without
breasts, I seem to see breasts objectified everywhere I
look, through the images in advertising.
The cultural messages through the print and
television media impact not only the definition of what
the ideal breast size and appearance should be, but also
how important the breasts are to the overall
sexual attractiveness and beauty of women.
This morning it was reported on the news that
cosmetic surgery has increased 48% in the past year and
that the majority of this surgery is for breast
enlargement. This fact is statistically telling of how
the culture and how we as women view the importance of
not only the appearance but also the size of our
I feel itís important to admit here that I have
always been one who enjoys and appreciates beauty. The
aesthetics of my surroundings, as well as feeling
comfortable with the way I appear to others is important
to me. I believe that the beauty of oneís environment
and good feelings about oneís appearance enriches the
quality of life and comforts the psyche and soul.
Everyone knows how the heart is touched when we look
at a spectacular landscape, observe a sunset, or gaze
into the eyes of our beloved. Natural beauty is a holy
thing. It takes us to a deeper place within ourselves.
It opens doors to the numinous. It is sometimes
described as, "Seeing the face of God."
Our cultural definition of beauty has grown far from
the mark of the kind of beauty I am speaking of. In my
opinion, the way beauty is currently defined needs
serious re-evaluation. Not only the way beauty is
defined, but also the importance that is given to
"looking beautiful" in an airbrushed and
During the past week I have been asking myself,
"Why is it that our country is bombarded by the
media to erase every wrinkle on the face, tighten every
sag, build bigger breasts, suck fat from here and there,
etc. How more unnatural could anything be?"
Can we fathom the healing that could take place if
the same amount of advertising dollars that are spent to
tell us how we should look were instead spent
depicting images to enrich self-esteem and to affirm
that aging and change are a natural part of life? What
if magazines and billboards no longer displayed
airbrushed bodies and faces but rather real faces
with all their lines and wrinkles and life affirming
Iím referring to the kind of face that carries the
story of the personís life as an etching. It holds all
the complex layers of living, the inner truths of the
individual, the intensity of his/her experiences, as
well as the times of deep joy and pain, in other words,
natural beauty made visible.
Unfortunately this kind of beauty does not fit the
mainstream cultural definition of what is beautiful. Itís
thought best not to see wrinkles or lines these are
believed to be imperfections that can be erased with a
laser, a cut and a stitch, or a magical cream.
Perhaps creating illusion is truly our cultureís
obsession. Could it be that the idea of sharing oneself
intimately and openly with others is simply too
terrifying. For many people presenting a faÁade to hide
whatís inside and underneath is an easier alternative
than saying, "This is me. . See me for who I am.
The shadow and the light."
How sad, how sad for all of us, for the one who must
hide and the one who will never have the privilege of
truly knowing the one who is hiding.
This past week I have been all over the emotional and
physical map. Last Monday, I stood in front of the
bathroom mirror naked and I cried at the sight of
myself. I had a full-blown pity party over what I saw.
My left breast appeared like a deflated wrinkled
balloon. My right breast looked perfectly round and firm
like a tennis ball.
At first I thought how can I not have more
reconstruction. I wondered, "How will my husband
feel about me?" And of course thereís the issue
of going out in the world completely flat chested. Will
I or wonít I wear a prosthetic bra of some kind if I
decide to not have the implants replaced?
After the initial shock of being faced with these
questions I began to really look at myself. I had to put
the super model images that are a cultural measuring
stick in a box inside my head and not compare myself to
anyone else but rather to see myself as me. Now this is
pretty scary stuff. I had to find a new way of seeing.
I decided that gratitude would be my tool of
measurement and after a few rocky starts I began to see
myself differently. I looked in the mirror with eyes of
gratitude and I was grateful first and foremost that Iím
alive and reasonably healthy. I can see. I can hear. I
can walk. These gifts cannot be appreciated too much.
The blessing of cultivating gratitude began to color my
reflection in that mirror.
I said out loud to that naked woman staring back at
me, "I am growing older." It was spoken as a
declaration not a resignation. I realized on a visceral
level that I have had the privilege of living
nearly fifty-five years. Contrary to what the
advertisers would have me believe. I canít cheat time.
Hopefully I will continue to grow older still, then
someday I will die. I believe that every so often I must
remind myself of this fact in a conscious way. It
certainly makes the day seem more important and precious
and it encourages humility. My eyes continued to study
the image in the mirror with gratitude as my anchor.
The stretch marks I wear on my stomach and thighs
became beautiful when measured with a grateful heart. I
have been pregnant twice in my younger years and I have
two glorious adult children that bless my life in
countless ways. Stretch marks are proof of my bodyís
participation in birthing them.
I have had a double mastectomy and two breast
reconstructions and the results didnít turn out so
great. These experiences have scarred me both
emotionally and physically. Thatís a hard fact.
However, when revisited through the lens of gratitude I
must say I am grateful for the lessons and gifts that I
have received through these trials. I know I could not
have received them so deeply in any other way.
I have countless other scars, one on my right palm
from a childhood burn from a hot pan, another on my left
wrist from a fall in the middle of a street while
vacationing in Hawaii, and thereís an appendectomy
scar that is a remnant from my first surgery when I was
ten, and so on. I realized staring into the mirror that
my body is a map of my life and for this I am truly
grateful. I wouldnít want to erase any of it because
as I grow older and my memory dims I might need my map
to help me to remember who I am and where Iíve been.
I know I will have days after my upcoming surgery
when I will trip into the "Why me?" place. I
pray I will have the wherewithal in those moments to
remember when the assessment of my body when measured
with gratitude helped me to come to peace with my
decision to have the implants removed.
I feel itís very important here to state that I am
in no way suggesting that breast implants are wrong for
all women. I believe reconstructive and corrective
surgery for all types of physical traumas and
abnormalities are a very positive thing and most often
dramatically improve the quality of a person's life. We
are blessed to live in a country where there are so many
skilled professionals who can create miracles using
their gifts and modern science.
The issue that Iím addressing is our cultural
definition of beauty and how the current definitionís
importance is tearing a hole in the fabric of our
society. I would like to pose two questions. What does
beauty mean to me and to you and will we allow ourselves
to be "told" what beauty is, or will we each
make our own independent soulful conscious decisions as
to the nature of beauty? If we begin to define beauty
according to our unique individual concepts and
principles then perhaps we will be able to make choices
for ourselves that stem from our own truths
rather than allowing ourselves to be guided by the
economic motives of advertisers.
I feel that having the implants removed, implants
that for me have always felt uncomfortable and
artificial will be liberating. I plan on doing an
internal detox and cleanse in conjunction with the
surgery as a kind of purification of all the silicone
and other toxins that have accumulated through the
years. I will buy some new silky camisoles and
nightgowns to celebrate my femininity and I will create
a ritual to bless my ever-changing body.
My dear friend and teaching partner, Kay Adams, sent
me a gift this week. It is an image of writer, Deena
Metzger. She stands naked with outstretched arms, head
back, proud and open. Across her right chest where her
breast has been removed is a tattoo of a tree branch.
Written above the image she states:
I am no longer afraid of mirrors where I see the sign
of the amazon, the one who shoots arrows. There is a
fine red line across my chest where the knife entered,
but now a branch winds about the scar and travels from
arm to heart. Green leaves cover the branch, grapes hang
there and a bird appears. What grows in me now is vital
and does not cause me harm. I think the bird is singing.
I have relinquished some of the scars. I have designed
my chest with the care given to an illuminated
manuscript. I am no longer ashamed to make love. Love is
a battle I can win. I have the body of a warrior who
does not kill or wound. On the book of my body, I have
permanently inscribed a tree. ĖDeena Metzger
I am deeply grateful to Kay for this gift and to
Deena for her courage. Her words are a manifesto for me.
When seen through the eyes of gratitude, I see this
time in my life as one of transformation. Isnít that
what the natural course of life is...continual
transformation. The oceanís tides come in and go out
constantly changing the surface of the beach. Autumn
follows summer and the leaves that were vibrant and
green burst into new color before fading and falling
away. People live, love, laugh, and cry and each life
event etches the body with its story. We are a part of
creation. The microcosm is the human body, a mirror of
the macrocosm that is the natural landscape.
My implants will be removed on March 21st,
in the spring, the season of new beginnings. My friend
Prissy said recently that she takes comfort from the
word, "Restoration." Restoration has become my
mantra. I believe my surgery will be my restoration. I
am on a healing journey to being restored to the truth
of who I am. . . and I feel beautiful.
Dana's Past "Sacred Imagination" Columns:
2002 - "The Crafting of Relationship"
2002 - "Meditating with the Higher Self"
2001 - "The Prayer Cord"
2001 - "Explore, Express, Imagine"
2001 - "Seeking Sacred Alchemy"
2001 - "Invoking Your Muse"
2001 - "The Blessings of Daily Bread"
2001 - "Entertaining the Dream Visitor"
2001 - "Embracing the Whole:
Choices for Conscious Living"
2001 "Nourishing the Souls of the Children"
2001 "Opening the Senses to Beauty"
2001 "The Eyes of Love"
2001 "Patterns of Authenticity"
2000 "Finding Peace in the Fields of Time"
2000 "Cultivating Gratitude: Heart-Hugs and Prayer
2000 "Journey to the Center - The Sacred Mystery of
2000 "The Heart and Craft of Healing"
2000 "Transforming Lifeís Challenges into Beauty and Story"
2000 "Sacred Spaces Invite the
Muses of the Soul"
Dana's Soulful Living Feature Articles:
and the Sacred Imagination: The Dance of Co-creation
For ten years, Dana Reynolds has
been facilitating womenís spiritual presentations and
retreats nationwide. Her work as a Spiritual Midwife,
one who assists women as they birth their creative gifts
into the world, is the foundation of all her endeavors.
Her background as a visual artist and writer enriches
her Spiritual Midwifery: Birthing the Feminine Soul
As the creator of an art making
process known as visual prayer, Dana teaches
women how to combine ritual with sacred intention to
create altars, collages, spirit dolls, and other
touchstones. The creation of sacred spaces is also
paramount to the Spiritual Midwifery experience. Her
offers samplings of her visual prayer collages, poetry,
and a workshop catalogue.
Dana is the author of the
whimsical and colorfully illustrated book, Be An
Angel, a co-creation with illustrator and graphic
designer, Karen Blessen, (Simon & Schuster). Her
essay, Visual Prayers is included in the
anthology, Our Turn, Our Time: Women Coming of Age, edited
by Cynthia Black, (Beyond Words Publishing).
A trained labyrinth
facilitator, Dana incorporates the labyrinth and other
spiritual wisdom into her retreats and workshops. She
recently traveled to Chartres and Vezelay Cathedrals in
France to gather information pertaining to ancient
sacred mystical traditions. She currently lectures on
such topics as spiritual midwifery, sacred journal
keeping, feminine spiritual wisdom, and the early
Christian women saints and mystics.
Danaís life follows the
spiral path from rim to center and back again. She looks
for the sacred in forgotten places and openly embraces
the great Mystery of life. Guiding women to the
discovery of their creative inner gifts is the passion
that fuels her soul.