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Two women, one with HIV and the other a breast cancer survivor, now teach others to find an identity beyond their disease

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Making Peace with Disease, an online course

Facilitated by Helena Montelius, certified facilitator and meditation teacher; and Bethany Webb, certified facilitator and yoga teacher

To register for an eight-week class, visit http://www.lookwithininstitute.com

Weekly live sessions are held online via Zoom (free and easy to download)

Next session scheduled for 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Monday, March 30 through May 18

All live sessions are recorded for those who can’t participate during class times.

More info about Helena Montelius: http://www.lookwithininstitute.com

More info about Bethany Webb: http://www.bethanywebb.com

More info about The Work of Byron Katie: http://www.thework.com

Two women, each of whom experienced a life-altering health diagnosis and learned to find a new inner calm regarding their conditions, have teamed up to help others do the same.

In 2010, Helena Montelius got a phone call that explained exactly why she had spent several years sapped of energy and all motivation. A romantic partner from the past dropped a life-changing bomb. He was HIV-positive, and urged her to get tested. She did — it was positive. Despite the fact that more than a million people in the United States are living with HIV, Montelius was initially paralyzed by the stigma.

“At first I experienced a tremendous amount of shame, mental stress and fear for the future,” she said. “I pictured an awful death.”

But Montelius said she also had an edge when it came to facing her diagnosis. As a meditation teacher living in North San Juan, she had been studying to become a certified facilitator of a method of self-inquiry developed by Byron Katie known as “The Work.” An American speaker and author, Katie is known for her work in helping people to challenge and lessen the harmful effects of certain long-held beliefs. Her teachings proved invaluable to Montelius as she struggled with her new reality.

After what she calls a lengthy “deep process” of coming to terms with having HIV, Montelius said she at last reached a point where she could talk openly about it. Then, when she became a certified facilitator in 2012, she began sharing The Work with other HIV patients.

“Then my work developed into working with people with any kind of disease or chronic condition: cancers, M.S., autoimmune diseases, allergies, migraines and others,” she said. “I was blessed to be a part of that training program. I used the process to come to peace with the diagnosis and find forgiveness with myself. I used my meditation practice to connect with the part of me that is not my disease. When you dis-identify with your disease — but not deny it — it shifts the internal experience. One of Katie’s best quotes is, ‘Reality is kinder than the stories in your head.’”

At an annual convention on The Work, Bethany Webb of Denver heard Montelius speak about her journey and her work with people who have chronic conditions. Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 33, it resonated profoundly. Like Montelius, Webb was also a certified facilitator for The Work of Byron Katie, as well as a yoga therapist.

“I was at the end of my cancer treatment when I saw Helena speak and talk about her curriculum,” said Webb. “I said to myself, ‘Holy crap, I went through the same exact process — the same mental journey.’ So I ran up to her. I felt all tingly, it was meant to be.”

Since then, Montelius and Webb have teamed up to teach a series of online classes together via Zoom entitled, “Making Peace with Disease.” With weekly live sessions comprised of roughly 15 people from around the world, the two facilitators have now shared their eight-week course with hundreds of people. Participants become part of an ongoing online community where they can continue to share their journeys. Many live outside the U.S., including Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam and others.

“It’s a beautiful process to see what people share,” said Webb. “One of my favorite things ever is to be one of the first people that someone with a new diagnosis talks to. I love to connect at that moment, because later you see the transformation — how they become more inspired physically and emotionally. They’ve freed themselves in a way — it’s amazing to watch.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.


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