Grace and Grit - Parallel Journey


One journey two paths, two words, One gift, and two souls: Treya  Killam Wilber and Nancy Goddard

In 1988 Treya came to an inner realization that her cancer need not be a struggle but an ally into the richness and mystery of living. We were gifted with that journey in the book by her caregiver and philosopher husband Ken Wilber in Grace and Grit (a profound testimony in a spiritually worldly life - a family living in a cancer journey). In 2011 Nancy Goddard also journeyed on the path and she too found an ally in that journey of richness and grace and grit and gifted us with her blog also titled Grace and Grit. Each found the language, the poetry, the passion that embodied those two qualities in a profound coupling of teachings: passionate equanimity. The following are those excerpts sharing their journey into passionate equanimity. Be ready for a deeply moving read!


Treya Wilber July 1988 Boulder ,CO


“I was thinking about Carmelites emphasis on passion and the Buddhist parallel emphasis equanimity. This somehow seemed more important to me than the age old argument about theism versus non-theism that these two groups usually engaging, and which seems beside the point to me. It suddenly occurred to me that her normal understanding of what passion means is loaded with the idea of cleaning, of wanting something or someone, or fearing losing them, of possessiveness. What if you have passion without all that stuff, passion without attachment, passion clean and pure? I thought of those moments of meditation when I felt my heart open, a painfully wonderful sensation, a passionate feeling but without clinging to any content or person or thing. And the two worlds suddenly couples in my mind and made a whole. Passionate equanimity, passionate equanimity–to be fully passionate about all aspects of life, about one's relationship spirit, to character the depths of one's being with no trace of clinging or holding, that's what the phrase has come to mean to me. It feels full, rounded, complete, and challenging. This feels very right to me, very deep to me, very central to what I have been working on for many years, going back to the name change. It's like the first part of my life was learning passion. The life after cancer, equanimity.  And now bringing them together. This feels so important! And it seems slowly but surely to be permeating all aspects of my life. I still have a way to go! But it feels like I can finally see the road clearly, on that “journey without goal.”

And for the task before me, it means to work passionately for life, without attachment to results. Passionate equanimity, passionate equanimity. So appropriate!

Boulder July 1988

page 335 Grace and Grit

Ken Wilber

   Nancy Goddard TUESDAY NOVEMBER 2010 Sebastopol, CA

Dear Beloved Friends, Family and Extended Community,

I have some news that I need to share with you. Many of you know already but for those of you that are hearing this for the first time, heads up, as this is surprising and shocking news. Also, before I launch into this story, I want you to know that I am in an incredibly good place, really in a state of grace. Please read on and through to the end so that you can see how this is true.

For the past 3-4 months, I have been experiencing some back pain. I went and had some bodywork, then chiropractic, acupuncture, blood tests, etc. Finally I had an ultrasound which revealed something on my pancreas. Two days later, Friday, Oct 29th, it was discovered that I have a malignant tumor on my pancreas which has metastasized to my liver in several places. There is also a mass on my adrenals which is not determined whether it is metastasized or not and my gallbladder is contracted and is inflamed all around it. So essentially, I am in stage 4 pancreatic cancer! I have met with an oncologist and it is inoperable and chemo and radiation have shown little effect with this advanced stage of pancreatic cancer.

Please take a deep breath.

I know. I know. How can this be? Healthy ol' me - I thought I'd be one of the last to go.

So that is the news, but the other news is the way that I feel a blessing in this all, as well as sadness. We are all on the journey to our deaths. I feel so fortunate that I wasn't killed suddenly in a car accident or worse, in a war. I have time to prepare, set my affairs in order, make any amends that need to be made, do some of my "bucket list" and say my goodbyes.

Now I do not feel that this is imminent. The Doctor said that the prognosis for an average person would be 6 months to a year left to live. However, I do not fit that profile, I am younger than most that get this disease, I don't drink or smoke, I'm not overweight, I have an incredible and vast support system of very loving friends and family and I am so very healthy! I think it is going to take some time before it knocks me out. I sense that I probably have years, but of course, I don't know.

I have often had this provocative conversation with people, asking, if one could know when one was going to die, would they want to know? Many a person has said, "Oh no, I wouldn't want to know that!" But I have always felt that I would like to know. If I knew that I had 40 more years left to live versus two more years, I would orient my life very differently. If I was going to live a long life, my life would be a lot more about making money now, as I'd need  all the funds I could manage for old age. With this diagnosis, I am giving up the striving for that and am going to savor every bit of my life that I've got left. Ironically, I feel more alive now and more grateful for my life and all my relations than I ever have, knowing that it is finite. And you know what ... this is true of us all. For me, it is all about the quality not the quantity.

Apparently through Vedic Astrology, they can tell you when you are going to die. There is a code of ethic, where the astrologers are not supposed to tell one, but with a terminal disease, I have found a Vedic astrologer who is willing to read my chart and give me that information. I am expecting to set up an appointment with him in the next week or two. I will probably cross-reference this with other readings. This will give me a base (not that I feel that I should totally rely on this) with which to design my time. 

I want you to know that I am not in too much pain. I have some discomfort especially in certain positions but so far I have been able to manage it with something as innocuous as double doses of Advil. There is a stronger prescription waiting for me at the doctor's. Through palliative care, I can be made quite comfortable and functional so I can put my affairs in order, spend time with my peeps and do some of the great adventures I've always wanted to do. And of course, there is the possibility of spontaneous remission and miracle cures but strangely (or not) I feel somewhat detached. If I live - Great!  If I die, I'm off to the next great adventure! Anyone who has had a near death experience comes back with no fear of death.

I also want you to know that I feel no fear, or at least, very little. I am definitely not in a place of "poor me/why me? Ain't it awful?" Actually, life has taken on a numinous quality. I am truly able to live the teachings of Don Juan from the Carlos Castaneda books who always says "Use death as an advisor." Also if we treated everyone as if it was the last time we might see them, how rich and loving our relating would be - I am experiencing that now.

Speaking of this, the quality of relating has been over the top. The love, support and generosity that I am receiving is absolutely sublime! The outpouring of love is amazing from all over the world. As friends are shocked by this news, everyone seems to be expressing more love not just with me but with all their people, because quite frankly, what are we waiting for ~ we are all terminal! And everyone is also looking at their priorities. Many of my friends share several of the things on my "bucket list" and they want to come and do them with me. How fun is that!

One of the really special gifts that I have been receiving is that for whatever reason and this has come as a surprise to many, I have always suffered from terribly low self-esteem. So many people are coming forth and telling me how much they love me and how I've influenced them and moved them in many ways. People are telling "Nancy stories." I never would have known any of this, if it wasn't for the way that the imminence of death makes things more precious. It is like having my memorial service before I have even died!

When I first got the news of my diagnosis, I only shared with a few people. I wanted to tell a lot of people at once so that whence this news rippled out across my vast network of extended community, it was seeded with the energy with which I am carrying this. I didn't want it leaking out and then getting a ton of phone calls full of fear and dread and "OMG you poor thing!" I am so not feeling that way and have not from the first moment I heard. So I brought the news to my women's group and men friends of mine brought it to a parallel men's group that many of our partners/husbands are in. The feedback I am getting is that people are really inspired by how I am holding this.

I have been tracking myself. There are times when I get sad. I often spill tears filled with a bitter sweetness when I think about things, such as missing times with my son, Sean and other beloveds, the possibility of missing being a grandma and seeing some of my dreams and aspirations come to fruition. But I have not felt depressed. I actually feel spiritually elevated but in a grounded, awe-filled, grateful and reverent way.

So I wanted to give you the news in this way.  I want you to carry the message to other friends; that paradoxically, there is such great love and mystery and wonder in this so-called "bad" news. Now, I feel that my 91 year old Mom and me are strangely on a parallel journey. We are both at the end of our lives. Every bit of time together is so precious, now doubly so. And every bit of time that I get with some of you, my friends, is precious to me too.

All of you who have called, written me cards and emails and offered your generous support, thank you so much. It really means a lot to me. What an amazing loving extended family and community we have. I have wanted to reach back out to each of you but it has been a bit overwhelming and a lot to adjust to my new circumstances. Please forgive this bulk mailing. I feel your love and support and I appreciate it so much. Writing me either through emails or snail mail is a really great way to reach me.

Sebastopol, CA 

With much love,


And because I love this life

I know I shall love death as well

The child cries out when

From the right breast the mother

Takes it away, in the very next moment

To find in the left one

Its consolation


- Rabindranath Tagore




One short month later .....

Only a short month ago, I was making big plans for wintering in Santa Barbara and Ojai, going to school, promoting my electric bicycle business in that warmer climate, and reconnecting with friends and family in that special place  I love so much.  

HA!   Make God laugh ..... tell her your plans!!!

As it turns out, all my life since I was 14 (when my father died at age 50) I had been writing on medical forms that he died of stomach cancer, which is apparently non-hereditary. While speaking with my step-mother, who I basically have not been around since my father's funeral 40 years ago, she confirmed that -- no, he had actually died of pancreatic cancer.

I feel that this is important to share with all of you because I imagine that many of you were thinking: if "state-of-health/does-everything-right Nancy" can get cancer, we're all toast!  So, as it turns out, I am the "good-luck/bad-luck who knows" recipient of my father's pancreatic cancer gene.  This explains alot.  It is good to know the source of this malady.

Within the last month, my life has taken on the pursuit of many strange, fascinating, and bizarre studies. I've been to the Marin Chapter of the International Association of Near Death Studies and listened to many a story of people who have peered through the veils and come back to tell their experiences of the other side.  I've received a Vedic Astrology reading revealing a probable (but not determinate) sense of when I might be passing to the other side myself.  I've been through a Native American Lowampi healing ceremony. I've been signed up for Hospice and given access to all the palliative care I could possibly want.  I've been poked and prodded, given many a blood sample, and now have a pic-line port in my arm that makes me partially bionic - so that I may get IV's of all sorts.  I am going to be receiving psychic-surgery treatments, hands-on-healing, and more love and support than a girl could possibly hope for in her wildest dreams. 

How's that for an interesting month?!

A support team is forming around me, and I often feel the strangest mix of elation and sadness.  People from all segments of my life have been reaching out to me, and I am so grateful for all the love that is being sent my way.

I have much more to share, and will do so soon.   For now, I'm off to play music with friends!

Posted by Nancy Goddard at 5:04 PM 7

A final Poem for Nancy

Born to Something Else


I am the Monday handmaiden

for our green-eyed princess.

I enter her room quietly,

slowing myself to match her rhythm.

What does she need today?


Death is a messy and beautiful business.

The mystery of it is taking us along,

through heartbreak, through the logistics of her care,

through her particular royal crabbiness,

through calm talk of pine caskets and green burial,

through the luminous field of love in her room,

and back to heartbreak.


As her circle of women we are taking turns with her day by day,

as her body gets weaker – swollen in some places,

skinny in others,

and her spirit gets stronger – brave and soft. 

She is more honest, having run out of time

to be polite.

She is picky about small things, having lost control

over most everything else.

She wants the cup here, not there.

She wants the light dimmed, but not that dim.

She wants this person to visit today, but not that one.

She is also loving and grateful for every bit of life she has.


We are all going to die.

I know this already,

but now I see it beyond fact.

We can want a certain quality of death

someday –

painless, peaceful, with loved ones –

but each death has a life all its own


and as I said, death is a messy and beautiful business.

Like childbirth,

beautiful but not pretty,

pure but not tidy


and we are watching our green-eyed princess

go through the stages of labor

toward another kind of birth.

Like any mother, she is moving through

her own birth canal, letting go of everything

and becoming everything.


She is being born to something else – 

we can see it in her eyes.


with love to our Nancy and all of you,

Margaret Barkley

February 21, 2011

We are guided in our imagery, our poetry, our relationships and we remember with Grace and Grit , Passionate Equanimity our journey …. Namaste 




Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites! Google! Facebook! StumbleUpon! Twitter! LinkedIn! Joomla Free PHP
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger



A visual tour into things
Guided Imagery for beginners.

Register to receive this free download.