Cancer Is A Symptom

I believe the epidemic of cancer is a symptom of a psychic or sensory deadness that fails to register toxins in our environment. We don't dodge or avoid them when we should, and our societies continue to tolerate toxins in our industries. Retraining our senses is a powerful first step to eliminating the widespread incidence of cancer.


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Cancer cells develop because of multiple changes in their genes. These changes can have many possible causes. Lifestyle habits, genes you get from your parents, and being exposed to cancer-causing agents in the environment can all play a role. Many times, there is no obvious cause.

The American Cancer Society, “What Is Cancer?”

Cancer has been with us since the dawn of time. And an individual illness can have deep and mysterious reasons that are no one’s business but your own. But the epidemic of cancer in our world speaks to something else. I believe it is a symptom of humanity’s disenchantment. I believe that cancer proliferates in the presence of a psychic deadness which causes us to fail to register the harm we increasingly surround ourselves with in modern life: drywall, gasoline, paint, carpet glue, processed foods, preservatives, polyvinyl chloride. We close ourselves up with these materials, moving from air conditioned car to air conditioned office to air conditioned home. How rarely do we get out into the unspoiled wilderness? Do we even miss it? Is there any left around? If you hadn’t noticed, we are converting wilderness to industrial wasteland and bedroom communities at an astonishing pace. But if you hadn’t noticed, you’re not alone because most of us live indoors.

Logging in the Canadian boreal forest, Ontario – photo by River Jordan, NRDC. Read more in this NRDC article about the terrible approach Canada is taking, and remember that the U.S. is their major market.

Cancer would not be everywhere if our senses were awake, if our bodies were alive to the golden light of sunrise, if we delighted in the the fragrance of the forest. If we could really smell and taste and sense the living earth, we would step out of the way of car exhaust, we would say, “Ew!” rather than relish the sizzle of hot dogs on the grill, we wouldn’t reach mindlessly for booze or cigarettes, and we would collectively say, “No!” to known carcinogens in our industries.

Did you know that sometimes only one exposure to a powerful mutagen–radiation or benzene or hexavalent chromium–is enough to break the coding in our cells, to trigger the mutations and unchecked cell growth of cancer? And yet we permit their use to go on, while our titans of industry insist upon reasonable safety levels and our politicians pave the way in the service of economic growth. (I could point out the literalistic metaphor… but it’s low-hanging fruit.)

Fortunately, industrial level exposure isn’t an issue for most of us (though God help those who do work in those conditions). Rather, for everyday you and me, it is the slower poisons, the lower doses, the million tiny cuts which accumulate over time, that present both our most insidious danger and our greatest opportunity. Obviously, ordinary everyday toxins are not enough all by themselves to cause us harm, or we’d be dying off in droves! Living with particle wood furniture or breathing that “new carpet smell” for a month won’t cause anyone cancer. But that smell comes from volatile organic compounds in the backer glue which holds carpets together. Those VOC’s include benzene and formaldehyde, chemicals with well-established links to leukemia [1] [2] [3] [4]. It’s something to think about before setting your precious child down on that new carpet while he learns to crawl.

Articles on Baby Home Safety

Articles on Everyday Carcinogens

With some types of cancers, like breast cancer, genetics may increase one’s vulnerability to carcinogens. But we can’t change our genes (yet). We can work to purify our home environment and food choices, but the bewildering array of potential dangers and their pervasive presence, particularly in the human-created world, is an argument for seeking for additional and more comprehensive ways to avoid the dangers in our environment. Fortunately there are simple methods that don’t cost any money, and don’t require us to wait around for costly and troubling gene therapies or other advanced medical solutions. For starters, we can retrain our senses.

I’ll never forget coming to a campground after hiking all day in the Smoky Mountains National Forest. The smells of vinyl tarps, gasoline, charcoal smoke, and hot dogs on the grill hit me like a disturbing and nauseating wall. I was also aware of something I can only describe as a downward current to the odors. Everything smelled dead to me. It was as though by spending all day breathing the fragrances of life in an old growth forest, I had become not only incredibly sensitive to odors I only vaguely registered earlier that day, but that I could literally sense a decreased vitality about them. So when I allude to being able to sense everyday toxins, I don’t say it as someone specially gifted. I was simply lucky enough to spend a day deconditioning my senses in an old growth forest and then step into the contrast of that busy campground. I believe that anyone can reawaken their senses.

Protocol for Opening Your Senses

  1. Go outside – choose a pretty location far from pollution if one is available to you. Find a spot in the natural environment that draws your attention and go sit down. Take a few calming centering breaths. Spend at least ten minutes, or as much as an hour, really looking at everything in the vicinity of your spot. Observe the shapes and textures as if it were all new. Sniff and smell all the odors and fragrances (close your eyes to focus on these from time to time), listen to the sounds (you can also close your eyes from time to time for this). Run your fingertips over the ground, the rock you’re sitting on, the bark of the trees immediately nearby you. After a while, you may notice animals returning. Observe them. Greet everything with gratitude. Do this regularly – several times a week if not daily.
  2. Find a nice day hike near you, preferably in an old growth forest, or at the very least, a mature wild space – hike for 3-4 hours at least once a month. Take a picnic, take a friend, and practice basic safety protocols: let someone know where you’ll be and when you plan to get back, bring a cell phone for emergencies, wear good shoes and take layers, and maybe a few emergency supplies.
  3. Plan a 1-2 week retreat in nature every year in a beautiful remote location in either a tent or an ultra rustic cabin made all of wood and natural materials, with no new furniture, preferably no insulation, and no television, internet, or cell phone service. Listen to the audio for some ideas about how to spend your time so you don’t go bonkers!

Once your senses are more attuned, you will not only start making different kinds of choices, you will instinctively protect yourself when exposed to unavoidable everyday toxins. You’ll step to the side, rather standing in the way of the car exhaust. You’ll seek the outdoors as a break from your time inside. You’ll notice the fact that hot dogs when they’re char grilled don’t go down that well and they won’t seem like the treat they once did. And you’ll crave more wholesome foods, environments, and experiences. Your senses were meant to protect you from harm and lead toward life-giving experiences.

In the next post, Cancer Is A Symptom II, we are going to look at opening the heart to help us make more life-giving choices, and to find the greater resonances that hold the potential for activating a healing vitality that sheds harm like water off a duck. 🦆


  1. Benzene. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:08, February 19, 2022, from
  2. World Health Organization. “Exposure to Benzene: A Major Public Health Concern.” (2010).
  3. NIH: National Cancer Institute. “Cancer-Causing Substances: Formaldehyde.” (February 14, 2019).
  4. NIH: National Cancer Institute. “Cancer-Causing Substances: Benzene.” (January 14, 2019).

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