Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Self-Care as a Bold Act of Empowerment
Category:
Body

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re reminded of a sobering fact: While most women have a one-in-eight chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime, women with mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes may have as much as a four in five chance, and are more likely to develop cancer at an early age.

Alejandra Campoverdi, the founder of the Well Woman Coalition, is a certified cancer specialist known for her indelible advocacy around breast cancer awareness. Keeping self-care in mind, we recently spoke to Alejandra about our capacity to heal and uniting the body-mind-spirit connection.

Esalen News: When did you become interested in helping others understand the importance of self-care?

Alejandra: I was raised by a single mother who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico just a few years before I was born. Growing up was more about survival than self-care. It was painful to watch the women in my family struggle to make ends meet, many times to the detriment of their own physical and mental health.

Given everything I know now, I’m trying to break these cycles for myself, my family and my community by being intentional about self-care, health and healing.

Esalen News: Self-care is vital for all of us, but why so especially for women?

Alejandra: Societal pressure encourages us to put the needs of others before our own but it’s not selfish to perform preventive acts of self-care or to prioritize our own health and well-being.

My grandmother was a perfect example of this. When she first felt a lump in one of her breasts, she didn’t mention it to anyone because she didn’t have health insurance at the time. She didn’t want to burden our family to pay out-of-pocket for a mammogram.

She focused on everyone but herself, worried in silence and watched the lump steadily grow in her chest until there was no denying its presence. By the time she was finally diagnosed, cancer had already spread throughout her body and she died soon after, devastating our family.

Esalen News: Was your grandmother one of the most influential women in your life?

Alejandra: She is my hero. Everything I know about culture, faith and service is thanks to her influence. I also learned about the importance of empowered health through her battle with breast cancer. I thought about her a lot last year during my surgical journey, which is one of the reasons why I founded the Well Woman Coalition and LATINX & BRCA.

Esalen News: Well Woman Coalition empowers women of color to have agency over their own health and healing through awareness, education and advocacy. Why was it important for you to create the coalition?

Alejandra: As a Latina from a community that struggles with barriers to resources and quality health care every single day, I've seen first-hand what happens when communities of color are marginalized in relation to their own health and healing— physical, mental and spiritual.

This is why I founded the coalition: to cultivate a space for women of color to advance our own health and wellness priorities, to enrich our collective power and to nurture one another in our journeys.

Esalen News: How did being diagnosed with breast cancer change you?

Alejandra: Being diagnosed in your thirties has a way of refocusing your life and priorities in an instant. At the time, I had already tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation, which raises your chances of developing breast cancer to around 85 percent, and I had just undergone a risk-reducing double mastectomy.

But nothing prepared me for receiving that diagnosis after my surgery. Since then, I have expanded my understanding of what health and self-care mean to me, including an examination of the stress-disease connection in my life, family and community.

Esalen News: What is one proactive step women can take in regards to self-care?

Alejandra: The first and most important step will always be to stay on top of one’s breast health through regular screenings and self-exams. A good way to remember is to put a recurring reminder in your calendar to “feel it on the first.”

On the first of every month, take a couple of minutes and perform a self-breast exam. Even if your breasts are perfectly healthy, this enables you to get used to what that feels like for you, which will be useful in identifying any potential changes in the future.

Esalen News: Most life-altering journeys offer opportunities to learn more about oneself. So, what’s the most interesting thing you’ve been learning about yourself lately?

Alejandra: My journey with BRCA and breast cancer was a practice in honoring my intuition. From taking the genetic test to going through with a “preventive” surgery, I turned inward repeatedly for guidance and reassurance. Even when others doubted my decision, I trusted my gut. To beat breast cancer before I even knew I had it has been the greatest validation of the value of cultivating that inner voice.

Learn more about Alejandra and the Well Woman Coalition here.

Below, NBC's Maria Shriver talks with Alejandra about her personal experience with breast cancer and her mission to empower women to take charge of their health.

https://www.today.com/video/alejandra-campoverdi-opens-up-about-fight-against-breast-cancer-71367749663

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

Self-Care as a Bold Act of Empowerment

About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Category:
Body

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re reminded of a sobering fact: While most women have a one-in-eight chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime, women with mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes may have as much as a four in five chance, and are more likely to develop cancer at an early age.

Alejandra Campoverdi, the founder of the Well Woman Coalition, is a certified cancer specialist known for her indelible advocacy around breast cancer awareness. Keeping self-care in mind, we recently spoke to Alejandra about our capacity to heal and uniting the body-mind-spirit connection.

Esalen News: When did you become interested in helping others understand the importance of self-care?

Alejandra: I was raised by a single mother who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico just a few years before I was born. Growing up was more about survival than self-care. It was painful to watch the women in my family struggle to make ends meet, many times to the detriment of their own physical and mental health.

Given everything I know now, I’m trying to break these cycles for myself, my family and my community by being intentional about self-care, health and healing.

Esalen News: Self-care is vital for all of us, but why so especially for women?

Alejandra: Societal pressure encourages us to put the needs of others before our own but it’s not selfish to perform preventive acts of self-care or to prioritize our own health and well-being.

My grandmother was a perfect example of this. When she first felt a lump in one of her breasts, she didn’t mention it to anyone because she didn’t have health insurance at the time. She didn’t want to burden our family to pay out-of-pocket for a mammogram.

She focused on everyone but herself, worried in silence and watched the lump steadily grow in her chest until there was no denying its presence. By the time she was finally diagnosed, cancer had already spread throughout her body and she died soon after, devastating our family.

Esalen News: Was your grandmother one of the most influential women in your life?

Alejandra: She is my hero. Everything I know about culture, faith and service is thanks to her influence. I also learned about the importance of empowered health through her battle with breast cancer. I thought about her a lot last year during my surgical journey, which is one of the reasons why I founded the Well Woman Coalition and LATINX & BRCA.

Esalen News: Well Woman Coalition empowers women of color to have agency over their own health and healing through awareness, education and advocacy. Why was it important for you to create the coalition?

Alejandra: As a Latina from a community that struggles with barriers to resources and quality health care every single day, I've seen first-hand what happens when communities of color are marginalized in relation to their own health and healing— physical, mental and spiritual.

This is why I founded the coalition: to cultivate a space for women of color to advance our own health and wellness priorities, to enrich our collective power and to nurture one another in our journeys.

Esalen News: How did being diagnosed with breast cancer change you?

Alejandra: Being diagnosed in your thirties has a way of refocusing your life and priorities in an instant. At the time, I had already tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation, which raises your chances of developing breast cancer to around 85 percent, and I had just undergone a risk-reducing double mastectomy.

But nothing prepared me for receiving that diagnosis after my surgery. Since then, I have expanded my understanding of what health and self-care mean to me, including an examination of the stress-disease connection in my life, family and community.

Esalen News: What is one proactive step women can take in regards to self-care?

Alejandra: The first and most important step will always be to stay on top of one’s breast health through regular screenings and self-exams. A good way to remember is to put a recurring reminder in your calendar to “feel it on the first.”

On the first of every month, take a couple of minutes and perform a self-breast exam. Even if your breasts are perfectly healthy, this enables you to get used to what that feels like for you, which will be useful in identifying any potential changes in the future.

Esalen News: Most life-altering journeys offer opportunities to learn more about oneself. So, what’s the most interesting thing you’ve been learning about yourself lately?

Alejandra: My journey with BRCA and breast cancer was a practice in honoring my intuition. From taking the genetic test to going through with a “preventive” surgery, I turned inward repeatedly for guidance and reassurance. Even when others doubted my decision, I trusted my gut. To beat breast cancer before I even knew I had it has been the greatest validation of the value of cultivating that inner voice.

Learn more about Alejandra and the Well Woman Coalition here.

Below, NBC's Maria Shriver talks with Alejandra about her personal experience with breast cancer and her mission to empower women to take charge of their health.

https://www.today.com/video/alejandra-campoverdi-opens-up-about-fight-against-breast-cancer-71367749663

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Self-Care as a Bold Act of Empowerment
Category:
Body

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About

Esalen Team

Self-Care as a Bold Act of Empowerment

About

Esalen Team

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