Eve Ensler —
A Second Wind in Life: Inhabiting the Body After Cancer

Eve Ensler has helped women all over the world tell the stories of their lives through the stories of their bodies. Her play, The Vagina Monologues, has become a global force in the face of violence against women and girls. But she herself also had a violent childhood. And it turns out that she herself was like so many of us western women, obsessed by our bodies and yet not inhabiting them — without even knowing we're not inhabiting them. Until she got cancer.

Share Episode

Shortened URL

Guests

is a Tony Award-winning playwright, performer, and activist. She is the author of The Vagina Monologues and The Good Body. Her memoir is In the Body of the World.

About the Image

A Balinese Hindu devotee bathes as she performs the Melukat ritual during full moon at Sebatu holy waterfall in Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia. The Melukat ritual, where devotees bathe in the holy water of a spring, waterfall, or other water source belived to have the apropriate cleansing power for purification, is a symbolical and literal cleansing of the body and soul aimed at preventing misfortune and bad luck, including sickness or havoc caused by daily activities and sins.

Photo by Agung Parameswara / Getty Images

Share a Reflection

Filtered HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><span><div><img><!-->
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Embed content by wrapping a supported URL in [embed] … [/embed].

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
17Reflections

Reflections

This interview reminded me about not waiting for future selves to arrive. We can accept the greatness in our lives if we are present and open to goodness when it comes.

Beautifully said...

There is a lifetime of learning in this interview. It will certainly take more than one listen to fully appreciate and absorb the insights. I truly hope that we are in a "second wind" of understanding. Thanks to Krista, Trent and the whole On Being team for bringing another wonderful show to the waves. Thanks to Eve Ensler for sharing her experiences.. Jack really summed it up well on the previous comment. Live life in the moment. It seems to be in total opposition to our culture, but we need to figure it out. Life here is fleeting and I feel most of our days are spent chasing the things that really don't matter all that much.

As a man, I apologize to the women of the world for the atrocities men have done.

Thank you, Chris!

This was the most amazing interview I have ever heard.........seriously. Especially re cancer, chemo and some causes for depression. Thank you SO much and yes it will take more than one listen to absorb it all.

This was profound. I don't usually 'comment' on the web but I need to say thank you to Eve Ensler and the whole On Being team for the wisdom I just heard. I love her thoughts on love, and also on the metaphors of wrestling vs. fighting. And the tree! oh! so many gems insight here. Thank you.

It is 6am and I am in my kitchen with tears running down my face. What a radical new idea to me. Transistion without crisis. Peace to all. J

I can understand some of what Eve Ensler says, but she loses me and this interview loses me in several places. It seemed like Krista was so "into" Eve's worldview that at times the two of them were throwing phrases at one another and saying, "Yeah, yeah!" approving of one another's sentiments without explicating the subject. To me it seemed to devolve here and there into a club with two members, and too bad if the listener doesn't know the secret codeword.

Also, Eve Ensler loses me when she starts projecting her own state of mind onto the whole world. There was a place where she's talking about humanity evolving or humanity allowing a second wind move through it, for example. No, sorry, Eve, that may be where you are at present, but don't confuse yourself with the entirety of humanity. Sort of like saying that someday cancer and trauma will be treated simultaneously. Ah, no, I don't buy that. Maybe *some* cancer instances have roots in trauma, but it seemed like she's claiming something all-encompassing about the relationship. That's almost as ridiculous as those people who claim that people who get cancer are repressed, that therefore it's their own fault. But then in general I think Eve is seeing causality and meaning in places where it doesn't belong. As far as I can tell a lot of life is random, and working it into this meaningful and personal centerpiece is ridiculous. The universe doesn't center on me, or you.

I just listened to Krista Tippett's interview with Eve Ensler. The program is one of the best I've heard. Had not known about On Being. Just happened to be tuned to WWNO, our NPR station in New Orleans.
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE INVOLVED WITH THE SHOW.
I'll be a faithful follower and
I'll be sending the link to 50 of my favorite people.....

It wasn't only Descartes, but the Protestant Reformation, with the denial of the resurrection of the body, that led to an alienation from our bodies.

If she suffered a lot as a child, she probably was dissociated to some extent from her body.

This was one of the most moving and helpful interviews I've ever heard. So beautiful, so full of love. It's a bit like Susan Gubar's fantastic blog on cancer. Many thanks to Eve Ensler and Krista.

Transcendence comes from being rooted. This idea from Eve reminded me of these words from Elery Akers and Rainer Rilke.

From Elery Akers, Advice from An Angel

I know it's in your nature to want air,
ozone. To float: to be free. But stick with what you know:
you'd be surprised at the effect of sheer blundering
and doggedness. To evaporate is nothing:

to sprint, to travel. It's weight
that divides the known and unknown worlds. It's your boots
that impress us, your squads of boulders,

From Rilke, Sunset

Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth,
leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs—
leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.

A second Wind in life: Eve Ensler on inhabiting the Body After Cancer.

I found that Eve's story very real, and interesting. What I found interesting was how she actually talked about how her view's changed after she got cancer. Before cancer she was not a very happy person. While after/ dealing with cancer she found herself a much happier person. For me I think that there are so many things that we all take for granite. Until we are at the dark side realizing all the good things we have going.

In this on being by Eve Ensler talks about her believes, and how she felt about cancer. Eve states that all the years of neglecting her body/and the neglect her body took, could have been some of the cause of her getting cancer. I find her thinking of cancer so interesting. While many people don't really realize what emotion neglect can actually do to someone. Along with taking in; and listening to all these different woman's own personal stories, Eve believes that could have something to do with her cancer. I find this could easily happen. While we may not be able to prove that other people pain and suffering can take a toll on others is a very interesting topic i think should be looked at.

I think that there are many people who would agree with Eve that have had cancer would say that their lives, and the way they look at the world ;and the things around them in a different light. I have found that people tend to realize what they were missing in life when they are not happy.

Eve Ensler is an American play writer, best known for her play The Vagina Monologues. Ensler is a feminism activist against the violence made toward little girls and women. She was herself abused during her childhood. In the broadcast she talked about her cancer with very uncommon angles.

First, she developed the idea that cancer can be a result of profound traumatisms. She mentions her own story. She was molested, and abused during her childhood and then she depicted also how she absorbed the pain of the abused woman during her writing investigation. Furthermore, she related the example a rape center where three staff members in charge of collecting the traumatic stories developed cancers as well. She emphasized on the fact that today society is disconnected. She thinks that people consider that their feeling and body are not related. She pointed out the story when a Tibetan monk was hilarious when scientist was putting electrode on his head to study his mind because the mind for him was coming from the heart as well. I do think that her thought is rational. I do myself easily suffer from stressful situations due to my hyper sensibility[mm1] . I got torticollis and migraine. My feeling, my mind really hurt my body in those cases. So traumas can maybe engender cancer, some study have yo be made to at least refute this idea.

Secondly. She explained that her cancer has transformed her. Before cancer, her body was disconnected. When she woke up after a surgery, she washed the beauties of a three and felt that for the first time that she was inhabiting her body. She felt her humanness and she knew who she was. Her cancer made her aware that fulfillment his a choice. She also explained that the capitalize system made us unhappy, disconnected to her present because we are always waiting for the ‘next new big things’. She concluded that cancer was her turbulent opportunities to who she was supposed to be. I personally really like the way how she positively receive her cancer has an opportunity. This idea probably helped her a lot to get through all of the chemo. I do agree with her that being happy and fulfill is a choice that you make. It is in your mind that it is all begin.

This is a wonderful brief video relating to cancer as a turning point.

Gary Malkin, one of the creators of the "Graceful Passages" CD, was a speaker at the 2008 "Cancer as a Turning Point, From Surviving to Thriving" free conference in Sacramento.

"'True healing is focused action and intention [which is everything we do to heal ourselves overtly]
wrapped in the arms of surrender'"
quoting Dr. Jeremy, oncologist.

"Music as a tool for the integration of heart and spirit and mind"
He cites research that shows The 1st human sense to come in, at 24 weeks, is hearing. It's the last one to go before we die.

Would be a wonderful guest to interview! And to get out the word about Graceful Passages, it's well known in some circles but so worth sharing to the On Being Audience. Not just for those who are dying and their families, but for any major life change or transition.

"Created by the cofounders of the Companion Arts Foundation, Graceful Passages addresses themes of letting go, closure, expressing love, forgiveness, appreciation of life, and continuity of spirit from different perspectives and faith traditions. Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish clergy are represented as well as Native American, Confucian, and Buddhist voices, creating a truly multifaith resource. A compelling musical score, created by a pioneering healing music artist and award-winning composer, lovely still-life photographs, and elegant design create a gentle invitation for the reader and listener to reflect upon what matters most in life."

applicable to "life-changing transitions, serious illness, or end-of-life process" http://www.gracefulpassages.com/

with messages from Wisdom Leaders, including Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Ram Dass, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, among others.