Christine Sherwood is writing a book — but it’s much more than that. “This book should act as a resume of sorts,” Christine told me when we spoke on Friday. “The book is acting as my thoughts, the things I’ve learned, what I think I have to share, my style of doing it — all of that coming together so I can create holistic cancer workshops.”
A healing-arts practitioner for 25 years (she’s lived here in Taos for 18), Christine was thrown headfirst into western medical treatments in October 2006 when she was diagnosed with rectal cancer. She identifies the time as a catalyst — the overnight paving of an entirely new life path, which she learned to walk, unexpectedly, as a writer (although she wouldn’t necessarily call herself that — the poems, she says, just “happened”). Her first collection of poems, Help Me Remember Who I Am, are what she calls transformational. “I start off lost, something’s going on, and I find my way through this opening to a lighter place of being.”
The second book, Listening to Incense, is nonfiction prose — part memoir; part contemplation (“I think about things, why they happen, I want to understand them — not ‘why did they happen’ but ‘help me learn’); and part passing-on (“things that worked for me, that kept me grounded, able to stay with myself more often”). Christine stresses that it’s not just another cancer memoir — it’s her effort to bring purpose to the fact that she had cancer, her own powerful catalyst for change.
And it’s really the catalyst that Christine is focused on in this project. “When the time is right that you are willing to release the catalyst and be with what is given you — that’s the turning point in healing. The story itself is not so important anymore — where and who you are now takes precedence. Maybe some of us never get there, maybe some of us can do it in a year — my journey took seven years.”
Lastly, she adds, the book is a tribute to the divine within us, that gets us through these things. “I don’t know why I lived. There are people who worked harder than me, or maybe went through less, and still died. Death is not a failure, so I won’t call myself a cancer survivor. That term separates me from people who didn’t happen to live — it just happened that it was their time to go. I don’t know exactly what to call it, but it’s about these lives of ours that are so powerfully endowed with vital force that’s always there — even if my body can’t get out of bed from pain and lack of energy. Whatever that is — God, Buddha, energy — whatever I want to call it, it’s there. I want to give tribute to that force.”
She’s currently running a Kickstarter campaign that will help her complete and produce Listening to Incense. When she emerges with the book, she plans to begin developing her own style of cancer workshops. During her own illness, Christine leveraged her years of experience with alternative medicine while receiving western treatments for a truly integrative healing experience that she’d like to share with the world. “I can only think about it from how I view my own interior — if nothing else, my years of practice have given me an anchor. I practiced. I practiced while I was sick, and I was so glad to have all those years of practice to draw upon.”
As a bodyworker and a yoga person, she remembers feeling like something was missing from the cancer groups she attended during her illness. “It was great to talk, but what was missing was, ‘Gee, I wish someone would just lay their hands on my back right now.’ Because I’m a massage instructor already, I’m hoping that I can get people touching each other, finding out where the stress is being stored — asking, ‘are you breathing?’ Because the first thing you stop doing is breathing. Plus, it’s good to be in a position of giving. When you can touch someone and they say ‘Oh, that feels good, thank you for helping me,’ there’s really something to be gained on both sides.”
Ultimately, she hopes to bring her own experience and understanding to integrative health centers around the country, to provide free holistic support workshops to cancer patients — and to help people find their own catalyst. “This is all to inspire people to find themselves in the midst of wherever they are,” says Christine.
Since we spoke at the end of last week, Christine has actually passed her Kickstarter goal with a few days yet to go. But as we all know, every little bit helps — so if this project speaks to you, even $5 will help her dig a little deeper, take this journey a little further. You can learn more about Christine, and read some of her poems at www.Christine-Sherwood.com.
Click Here to visit Christine Sherwood’s Listening to Incense Kickstarter Page!
The Campaign ends on Thursday, October 31