Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Swept Away in the Sands of Time

It seems that all creatures have the urge, and indeed the need, to create. Birds build nests for their babies, rabbits dig holes called warrens in which they stash the young'uns, and humans build yurts, igloos, palaces and trailers, to name but a few variations known to mankind.

The need to find protection from the elements - and predators - seems to be universal for all critters inhabiting planet earth. Although we humans view ourselves as "the crown of creation," there are more similarities than differences amongst the species that inhabit our small sphere as it spins in an infinitely large universe.

Tibetan Buddhists have an art form rooted in deep spiritual meaning, the sand mandala. It takes about five monks, working several weeks of long hours, to create a magnificent mandala from colored sand. The detail is exquisite; to an artist a feat beyond majestic.

And yet, at the completion of these gorgeous and intricate creations, the monks say special prayers as they sweep away the sand mandala and pour its contents into a flowing river...a perfect metaphor of our lives.

For most of us, by the time we leave the nest called "our body," we have accumulated many objects and items, tangible and non-tangible. And yet no matter how precious these "things"or "thoughts" are to us, when we leave a.k.a. die, it all gets dispersed - taken apart - disassembled, invisible, like the sand mandala.

No matter how intricate the mandala of our lives, it all dissolves into the flowing river of time and space; an inexorable and never ending cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Blood Ties That Bind

When people lose a close relative such as a father, mother, sibling, or offspring, typically great sorrow descends upon the surviving relatives. When those same people watch a news report or see firsthand victims of war, accidents, poverty, or sickness, they will also feel an emotion that bespeaks of compassion or a desire to help. But not the overwhelming grief of a family death.

Why is that?


Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Birds Keep Singing

This lovely day inaugurates summer. Hazy blue skies form a limpid backdrop against the mountaintops - a foreboding sign that the innocent morning breeze will be replaced by simmering hot weather swelter.  

Two hummingbirds adorned in bright orange vie for one petite lilac flower, tumbling through the air at light speed until the victor drives off the weaker of its species. Amidst this mini-drama, a chorus of alto, tenor and soprano birds chortle to the beat of the slowly risen sun.

This multi-layered soundscape is so complex, so diverse, that the chorus of tones form a breathing tapestry of life; protection against the deadly silence of death.

Today the birds are singing; let us listen and rejoice.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

It's Not Fair

"It's not fair," is a phrase often used when bad things happen to good people. Although the law of karma has certain obvious qualities that define its movement with certainty (i.e. if you hit a brick wall going 100 mph, you'll get hurt or worse), karma also works in mysterious, inexplicable ways as well.

When my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, one of my daughter's mantras, intoned to the rhythm of great sobs, was,  "It's just not fair." It is true that a good man with gifts to share and a family to love should not be taken off the planet, when there are a scarcity of reasonable, intelligent human beings. And yet, if one tries to equate justice with goodness, Lady Liberty will end up standing on her head with her scales askew.

Were I to make a list of the places on this planet where innocent people are murdered, driven from their homes, imprisoned, turned into slaves, or other horrors, it would be a long one. Life is frequently not fair, but the arc of justice prevails in the long run. It's trajectory through time and space may be too long and wide for one person to perceive during his or her lifetime, but the pendulum eventually swings over the center point, at least for a measure of time.

The longer the mind can remain at rest on this center point, the greater the balance between the poles of fair and unfair. From a place of equanimity, our heart ceases to yearn for "fairness" and instead stands firm in a place of gratitude.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Love of My Life

In the world of human existence, the love of my life is my husband of thirty years. As I write this, he lies upstairs, breathing with the help of oxygen while lung cancer takes its vicious toll.

Fourteen years ago I took a weekend seminar called "Compassion in Action," conceived by Damion Brinkley. He had been struck by lightening and jolted into a death state, with no vital signs for the next 30 minutes. But to the shock of all present, he came back to life, this time with voluminous knowledge of the angelic planes and other realms of Light heretofore unknown to him.

After the seemingly improbable event, this Vietnam War veteran made it his mission to train people to sit with dying veterans in hospitals - choosing the lonely souls with no family or friends except their torn up bodies.

Part of the exercise during this seminar was to imagine, and then write on paper, what it would be like to die - the time, place, circumstance, who would be at your side, and so on. I wrote the imagined details of my passing, lying peacefully in my bedroom with family gathered around. But as my earthly body came to the dividing line between life and death, every single human relation fell away and the Buddha appeared, resplendent in a sunburst of light that seemed to fill all space.

The meaning of "Buddha"  is awakened mind. Whether you name that expanse of being as Buddha, God, Jesus, Allah, Yaweh, Great Spirit, and so on, the real love of my life is the very light that infuses us with consciousness - and the ability to love the human loves of our lives.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Motivation Makes the World Go Round

Motivation is the driving force behind all actions. So what exactly is the mindset that gets us out of bed every morning? What motivates us to do what we do every day?`

It is the ability to see beyond the current moment and envisage a desired outcome. We need a positive "future vision" to spark the current of motivation to pull the future into our present reality. Without the cognition of that which we desire, a gray and dull reality can settle upon us.

And then the purity of a motivation comes into play. Are we motivated by the power of the ego, which needs constant reassurance and reinforcement to justify its position? Are we motivated by love, a desire to give back to the human race? Or any of the infinite combinations and permutations between the two poles...

By studying our motivation - what makes us willing to make effort (or not) -- we can crack the code of our egoistic mindsets and cleanse ourselves of self-serving goals. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hospital Hell

For all the wonderful services hospitals provide for the severely sick or injured, one drawback makes a hospital stay hellish.

In prisons, the most effective torture is sleep deprivation (although it seems more innocuous than some of the other horrific techniques). 

Hospitals, like prisons, also ascribe to middle of the night awakenings with sudden loud noises, needles being unsheathed, bright lights shining in eyes accustomed to the dark, and questioning from the authority (nurse) who holds the power to deprive you of water, food, medicine, and bathroom facilities until she feels damned ready to attend to you.

Having just spent the night in a hospital watching over a loved one, I can bear witness. Thankfully, there was a chair for me that converted to a bed albeit it with three different back-twisting levels (derived from the back, seat and footrest sections). Between the needs of the patient and the needs of the staff, I feel like a zombie who barely has the energy to rise from the dead.

But the sun is shining, a strong cup of coffee is on its way, and freedom is only one hour away when the patient will have been processed through the system to be released.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

A rolling stone gathers no moss. A statement of poetic origin that offers up several interpretations: on the one hand, it connotes a rock that tumbles hither and yon, tossed about by the vicissitudes of change - never allowed to nestle into a safe and quiet quarter where little green fellows will grow upon its surface and lend a settled, ancient feeling to the eminence gris of the mineral world.

On the other hand, one could interpret this proverb as meaning that the stone maintains its pristine condition, unsullied by moist, clingy things that smother its uniquely textured surface. A symbol of non-attachment, it moves freely through life unimpeded by green growth that seeks to hinder its pure trajectory through champagne air.

And then the life process itself: we may think we are growing roots and settling in - or the opposite - flying free with no restraining elements. But the bottom line evidence reveals that neither stone nor moss last forever; sooner or later both the solid and the squishy will melt away, joined together in the sameness of infinite birth, death and rebirth.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Future Vision

"Future vision" sounds like a television with some sort of landmark technological acheivement - maybe a holographic, interactive television show where we are part of the action in 3D and can also influence the trajectory of the plot as we interact with the other characters that are projected into a 3rd dimensional space.

In this case, the reference to "future vision" isn't so sexy. It simply refers to the act of imaging the future and putting yourself in that scenario to acclimate to its inevitability - so that when you arrive at that time and place, you will have been there in your imagination so many times that it is no longer strange and unreal. Without this kind of pre-rehersal, the worst case scenario might occur - a strange place of deeply personal dislocation; a place to go mad.

Knowing this to be true to a certain degree, rehearsing future scenarios is one of my part time occupations. This fact doesn't imply that I am projecting fear or hope into the unknown; simply imaging various outcomes helps to pre-acclimatize to a situation. It's hard enough to "be there" when you are "there," but a little dose of foreknowledge goes a long way towards acceptance and equanimity.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Lost and Found

Recently, I took an Alzheimer's factoid safari into the wilds of Google. The most fascinating clickable beastoid, found deep within the word jungle, was a comparison chart which differentiates between normal forgetfulness in the aging (young dope addicts not counted in this study) and those with with a bona fide case of Alzheimers.

The most exhilarating and reassuring pointer: if you are simply an aging and forgetful old fart, you can usually retrace your footsteps to find that lost pair of reading glasses or the TV remote. But if you have real Alzheimers, faw-getta-bout-it.

Fortified with this knowledge, I now know that when I can't remember where I parked my car (every time), the little red triangle on my car keys will set the car alarm blaring to a monotonous beat. (Thank god my hearing is still functional.) Or upon awakening, when the topic of yesterday's blog eludes me, Firefox's bookmark system comes to the rescue and poof! I see what ramblings made it onto the page 24 hours prior. (Thank god I'm not blind.)

If any of the over 40 set find this a useful distinction, then my good deed for the day has been fulfilled. Everything else from this moment on is a bonus.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pity Party Etiquette

If you have ever been in an unfortunate or sad situation that pulls at the heart strings of human witnesses, you will know how distasteful it is to be their object of pity. Nothing feels worse to the person experiencing sorrow than a wanna be helpful person feeling pity for you - experienced as a layer of slime with the label "caring" that is smeared all over one's etheric body; a suffocating blanket of misplaced emotionality by "the outsider" that evokes repulsion rather than comfort in the grieving receiver.

I was talking to a friend today who has experienced the loss of deeply loved family members, and most recently her mate. As we were together through much of his transition, a solid ground of commonality binds us together. She too has experienced the gloomy looks of would be consolers, their cloying touch pre-programmed to telegraph solace, but more resembling a Hallmark card. During her own ordeal, she thought of posting a sign at the front door that said, "No petting." 

Lest these sentiments be misconstrued as the ramblings of an inveterate Scrooge, I might add a caveat. In the grieving process, a revolving cycle steadily spins, passing through moods like the swinging door of a busy restaurant kitchen. So if  being petted feels yucky one day, it might be the very human touch that triggers healing tears the next time around.

So let's hear it for human emotions, in all their glorious shades of color and black and white - predictable, unpredictable, glorious, heinous, and ephemeral.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Touched by an Angel

Touched by An Angel
by Maya Angelou

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sleeping on the Job

Today was a first. I sat down at my desk to write. But fatigued from a long, busy day, I cradled my head in my hands with elbows resting on the hard desk surface to prop up the aforementioned aparatus. Incredible though it may seem, that deskside snooze was divine. Some awake part of my consciousness told me that this position was not ideal for sleep but the other part was relieved to check out.

The awake part of the sleeping me and the asleep part of the sleeping me kept up a debate about the appropriateness of sleeping on the job until a deciding factor woke me up. My elbows had been resting on hard wood, with the added weight of my nogen atop it all. And they suddenly reached a breaking point and told the sleeping me to wake up and give the bones a break.

So here I am now, able to finish writing about writing with lids half closed. Time to sign off and find a real bed.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Just Say "Yes" to "No"

We normally think of energy healing as a phenomenon where positive energy is poured into an ailing being with love and light. However, sometimes those microscopic terrorists that inhabit their host must be kicked out with a forceful gesture - wrathful energy.

For example, once upon a time when my precious doggie was still on earth, she developed big cysts on one of her large ears. After the veterinarian had sliced off the little buggers to the tune of $800, said dog had the nerve to manifest a new batch of little tumors on the other large ear,  just two weeks later. When I saw them, my first reaction was to think about another small fortune paid to the dog doc. I turned to the dog, pointed my pointer finger at her and pronounced loudly, "NO! You will not have these."

The next day, the dog appeared in the kitchen as the refrigerator door was opened - a sure sign that food would soon appear on the counter - and voila! Her ear tumors were gone; simply vanished overnight.

The moral of the story: sometimes we  must say "yes" to "no," and be bold, clear, helpful, and forceful with our intention.

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Tale of Two Cancers

Apparently, one in six Americans will develop some variety of cancer in their lifetime. Scientists have peered through their microscopes and cultivated petri dishes for decades, looking for a way to cure, or at least subdue, those little mutant terrorists. 

Advances have been made, such as the development of chemotherapy. The essence of chemo is that it sets up a horse race: will the chemo kill the cancer before it kills you, or will it kill you before it kills the cancer? Las Vegas whales, maybe you should have a cancer casino to place wagers on who will win -  the chemo or the cancer.

When I had stage 3B cancer three years ago, in which I barely beat the chemo, people lauded me for my determination to show those little bastard cells who was boss. Since I am alive to tell the tale, one could say, "Job well done," with a little help from my friends, as the Beatles would croon.

But now we have a different tale, one where the terrorists have snuck in so silently, armed so mightily, that the territory has been overrun as quickly as the Chinese invaded Tibet. In this case, nothing but the almighty force of miracles and perhaps a landmark drug will drive the enemy out of my husband's body.

The winner here is Love. This wonderful man has fully grasped the situation. He understands that every second counts as long as there is breath in his body. He smiles readily, appreciates absolutely everyone (which only Buddhas can usually accomplish), and only wants to savor the essence.

Looking at the big picture, can we call this a tragedy?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Myth of Fairness

Tonight my sister tearfully expressed her pain over my husband Michael's advanced stage cancer. She said, "It's not fair." I thought about it for a moment but all that came to mind were little children starving in Africa with flies in their eyes. Next on the inner movie screen were visions of political prisoners wasting away in cold cells with no food and battered bodies for the crime of nothing.

I don't know why a smart, talented, loving man has discovered his body to be filled with tumors. I don't know why my family might, and I say might, be left without his golden presence sitting at the head of the table for our weekly family dinners. 

Maybe some of those kids in Africa will be rescued by an international aid organization. Maybe those prisoners wasting away in a far away province will be pardoned. Maybe my husband's cancer can be beaten back with a miracle drug.

But fair? Nothing is fair except rules governing games like football, basketball, soccer and such, where there is foul play and fair play. In the real world, fate and bad luck (or good luck) are more likely to have the upper hand.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Just Say Yes!

Please don't become a drug addict as the result of reading this missive. But I must toast a certain small skin patch that contains a strong narcotic closely resembling synthetic heroin.

After my husband spent week after week tossing and turning from nightfall to dawn - the dreaded time of increased agony in back and legs - finally my favorite Dr. Feelgood came to the rescue. He is an esteemed man of medicine who understands that pain is more destructive to the person with advanced cancer than a narcotic that comes with the risk of addiction -- assuming that the patient will even live long enough to have to kick a habit.

After carefully applying one little patch to the abdominal results....then results....then results...then four...BINGO! For the first time in a month my suffering husband could get up and walk by himself, smiling not only out of gratitude to his nurse (that be me), but also at the joy of an almost pain free stroll from the bedroom to the hallway and out to the terrace where the wind blows sweet green.

Pain is painful. Relief from pain is freedom. And those little magic patches (which cost thousands of dollars a month without medical insurance, BTW, but $42 with insurance) are a ticket to samadhi for those afflicted with monsters invading the body cavity.

So to you, Nancy Regan, I think we should Just Say Yes!


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Old Quote for New Ears

How do I love thee? 
Let me count the ways. 
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height. 
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight 
For the ends of being and ideal grace. 
I love thee to the level of every day's, 
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. 
I love thee freely, as men strive for right. 
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. 
I love thee with the passion put to use, 
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith. 
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose, 
With my lost saints. 
I love thee with the breath, 
Smiles, tears, of all my life; 
and, if God choose, 
I shall but love thee better after death.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

In the Neutral Zone

My husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer last week. What we thought was a back problem turned out to be a large tumor that had metastasized from his lung into his hip. It seems that the hungry little cancer cells also took a liking to his gray matter and the adrenal glands.

When I started this blog in August of 2013, it was a way of re-entering the world of human activity after my own serious bout with cancer. As inhumane as an internet blog might seem, it actually reaches computer screens worldwide, where real live humans read and react. Although the prisoner was still locked up in the tower, she was sending messanger pidgeons out to the world, and they were returning with messages. 

The idea was that after a year's worth of daily blogs, I could look back and see my progress. Never would I have guessed that the topic of the writings would swing from my return to the land of the living to a literary landscape depicting the descent into a human hell, where the battle for survival is in full tilt boogey.

And yet, I am in "the neutral zone" where one dares not hope nor dares to give up. People survive the most horrendous cancers, but more succumb to the Grim Reaper. Who am I to presume the karma of my lovely man?

And so I wait and watch as he hangs in the balance. Will it be life? Or will it be death? In this balance point lies a peaceful neutrality, where neither side has yet declared victory. And I am grateful that I have at least this small patch of land upon which to stand.

George Washington, Visionary

George Washington, our first American president, understood the duties of the office and the pitfalls inherent in such power. He grasped th...