By Rev. Shirin McArthur
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Just a few days ago, the Susan G. Komen organization announced that it had funded 98 breast cancer treatment research grants in 2017, to the tune of $30.7 million. Since the inception of this breast cancer organization in 1982, they have invested almost $1 billion in breast cancer research and over $2 billion in community programs for breast cancer screening, education, and treatment support.
Certainly this is monumental work, and it keeps on growing. In honor of this year’s Awareness Month, Komen is introducing crowdfunding as a new platform whereby people can support their work.
Naturally, other organizations have jumped on the Awareness Month bandwagon, perhaps because it is so successful. You can find dozens of Awareness Month observances listed on Wikipedia and the US Department of Health and Human Services has put together a list of over 200 health-related Awareness Month foci, complete with links and materials.
I found myself thinking about all this in terms of what it means to live a conscious life. Our culture tells us, through these Awareness Months, that there are certain issues of which we should be aware—that we should educate ourselves and take certain steps to protect ourselves or reach out to help others.
I have no problem with that—and certainly the limits of our human brains mean that we cannot focus on everything all the time. And yet…one subconscious message of all this seems to be the idea that there is a mont for focusing our attention in a certain direction and, when that month is over, it’s time to let that thing go and bring our awareness to something else.
If we are to live as conscious beings, it isn’t enough to flit from one Awareness Month to another. Instead, we need to learn how to integrate awareness into our lives as a whole. For example, say I am educating myself this month on the various issues surrounding breast cancer and making certain to get my annual screening. That does not mean that I do not think about that part of my body for the rest of the year. Instead, I need to integrate that awareness into my life as a whole—doing a self-exam every month and making healthy choices that will minimize my risk for developing breast cancer.
How might you integrate the need for awareness into your life as a whole? I invite you to join me in living an Awareness Life.