Burn the maps

No maps for the realm I live in now.  I no longer know if I am living or dying, there is literally no way to tell.  I feel better in the past few days, and even went swimming a day or so ago with a new friend who is fearless, and also has a Stage IV cancer.  We celebrated our day of feeling well!  Two old gals having a great time!

But I remember all too well my recent “episode” as my primary doctor called my collapse a month ago. And the sense of my death there, waiting.  One new possibility to explain it: maybe I had a TIA, or small stroke.  No way to know, but it does kind of fit.  Bizarrely, this actually sounds like good news.  Maybe it’s not the cancer, coming back with a vengeance.  But I really don’t know.

This evening I walked over to the Rose Villa prayer group and while there, not my intention in going, I asked for help in discerning how to proceed in my life.  Showered with prayers!  I’ve never been a good praying out loud type person.  We didn’t pray in my childhood, no one I knew did that.  As an adult, I have all sorts of practices that I use in a skillful and reverent way, but praying out loud isn’t one of them.  It’s a great comfort to hear, and my heart is full of gratitude. An easing up of the feeling that I’m in this all by myself.

Here’s the thing:  how do I proceed in a sustainable way?  Without too much efforting, but with enough that I do get stronger over time.  Without being so careful that I no longer know my actual boundaries, but without stepping into another episode, either.

There are no maps here, no one to look to for advice, no tried and true resource.  No one knows.  What’s interesting is the shimmering, the shimmering grace I named this blog for.  That shimmering is saying “you need to turn inwards and seek your own deepest wisdom.”  That keeps coming up over and over again, in a wide variety of ways.

In Buddhism, guru yoga is a practice I’ve tried off and on for decades.  In it, you imagine the Buddha, or Green Tara, or Jesus or Mary, or whatever form of the Holy that inspires you – in front of you.  From their head a white light flows into your head, filling it with white light.  A ruby red light flows from their throat to your throat, filling your words with their wisdom.  Lapis Lazuli blue flows from their heart to fill your heart with their compassion and loving kindness.  And then you rest in this direct connection.  Not as easy as it sounds, but powerful.

Now I have been introduced to a variation of this practice by Christiana, my Tibetan healer here in Portland.  For this variation, I visualize Green Tara (for me, because I have a devotion to her) inside my heart, inside my own body.  Her white light fills my head, her ruby red throat energy fills my throat, and so on.  It’s a little more complex than this, but you get the idea.  Filled with her green light in my heart, I rest with that and at some point, I will ask for guidance and direction, from within my own soul.  It’s promising. And not easy to do.

One easy answer is to simply live in the Now, without any map into the future at all.  Yes, but that really doesn’t answer my dilemma of how to get stronger in a sustainable way.  One of the loudest voices from my family is to override all pain and all obstacles with a force of will.  Just do it.  That mantra.  I did that, and went from a IV to a III.  It worked, I was successful against all odds. However, I also discovered that in so doing, I was draining the energy pool underneath my whole being, the Jing energy, faster than I was replenishing it, if that is even possible at this point.  Some practitioners of Chinese medicine say that Kidney chi cannot be replaced.  When you run out, you die.  Others say that it can be replenished slowly and with great care.  That is what I want to do, or try to do, now.  But who the fuck really knows if it’s possible.   No one really knows.

So, more alternative docs on the horizon as I check out a few, slowly.  I shall see Dr. Nida who is a master Tibetan doctor coming to Portland in a few weeks.  Restorative yoga seems right to me now.  Laying outside on the grass in the sun, check.  Practicing a little chi gung, check.  Eating with mindfulness, a nourishing diet, check.  Walking around the Rose Villa campus when I can, yes.  Meditation, check.  Adrenal support capsules, okay.

A fragment of a new map is forming, one little piece at a time.  I can do this!

Thank you and blessings to all of you who offer me support in such a tapestry of ways, weaving a blanket of love to catch me when I fall.  May you know a deep and abiding wellness, the joy that lies beyond all suffering,  throughout your days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medicine Buddha Improv

Sitting in meditation today with some folks from Rose Villa, I went around my sunstone mala saying to myself the Medicine Buddha mantra on each bead, slowly, still finding my way in the Tibetan language, tasting the lilt of it, the rhythm of it.

When, much to my surprise, I decided to say the mantra for not only myself, but for my niece who is struggling with her cancer again, and then with another bead, another person, sending the Medicine Buddha energy off to them through my heart chakra.

Then, totally to my surprise, I decided to say the mantra for all the beings I love who have died, sending the energy off to them each, one bead per person, one mantra per person, or in a few cases, per dog and cat.

In Die Wise, the book I’m reading by Stephen Jenkinson about  death in the Western Hemisphere, he spends some time talking about the care of our dead, how we don’t have to “lose” them (i.e., “I lost my friend last week…” ) but rather we can continue to care for them after death.  It’s complicated, I’ll post about that later.

So that idea has been percolating along in the back of my mind, and lo! Here comes a new practice, to say the Medicine Buddha mantra for each one of my dead.  My dead.  What a concept.  It brings me to my knees.  Quite literally.

And here’s the thing that caught my attention.  Instead of each mantra for each bead feeling the same internally for each person, each one felt completely different!  The pace was different, the inflection, my memory of the Mantra itself more or less fragile or intact, my ability to focus, my ability to collect and then send the energy through the membrane into the other realm.  And my sense of whether or not that energy was received.

No cannabis involved here, by the way.  I stopped taking the oil for a few days while Eric was out of town, unwilling to be alone and perhaps needed while under the influence, so to speak.

While I’ve never read or heard of such a practice, it seems very powerful to me.  I sincerely hope that I have not overstepped in some way. Perhaps Dr. Tenzin or Christiana will let me know. I am grateful to them both for introducing the mantra to me in their own kind ways.

The Medicine Buddha mantra entices me.  It simply brings me a sense of joy, a fullness in my heart, a sense of plugging in to an ancient thread of enormous healing power.  So these two threads just came together today: care for my dead, our dead, and this mantra.

If you want to learn it yourself, there are multiple versions online if you just google it.

May you be well.  May you be healed.

 

 

Tibetan Medicine update

Dr. Tenzin is back in Portland, and I got to see her today.  She encourages me to eat better, especially broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.  And soursop, a strange fruit I’ve never seen.  My husband Eric looked up on his laptop where to find it in Portland.  I’ll let you know.  Dr. Tenzin says that some folks are finding soursop to be 90 times more effective than chemo!  Worth a try, part of the adventure of this process.

And says “Joy.  Focus on joy.”  In her own very respectful way she indicates that I am worrying too much, thinking too much, and need to relax.  Yup, got that right. Easier said than done, that.

Dr. Tenzin did her Tibetan bowl magic on my body again, this time focusing on clearing my lungs.  When the last vibration had sung itself out, I felt my whole chest cavity open and clear, and my breath deepened. Christiana, who lives in Portland, is learning and I bet she will be extremely good at this, too.  I plan to provide this to myself as often as we can afford it; it’s delicious and effective.  I wish everyone in the world could have this experience at least once!

Dr. Tenzin taught me a Medicine Buddha Healing chant, and even suggested that I record her singing it in Tibetan on my phone.  The idea is to sing it for every bead on my new sunstone mala, 108 times a day.  Memorizing just about anything is hard for me, but I look forward to this practice, and hearing her voice every night, with her profound encouragement: Trust yourself.  Live your life fully every day, find joy.

And I will be sending out the energy of the Medicine Buddha to everyone I know and to all sentient beings, as well.

Because, hey, I am stronger now!

Body Mind as one

Drove over the raggedy Sellwood Bridge last week to visit an old friend, Frank Coppieters, who is a Reiki master and a shaman from Belgium.  Such a warm welcome! Brought him up to date, then we decided to give Reiki to my cancerous kidneys so I could tune in deeply.

Having been a Hakomi therapist for decades, I’m very used to working the interface between mind and body, mindfulness and how the mind and body interact together.  Lately I’ve been studying again about mind and medicine, and how the mind affects the brain, which affects the nervous system, which in turn affects the whole body.  It matters what we think and what images we hold in our minds as we try to heal at this level. (See resources at the end of this blog, if you’re interested and want more detail.)

Frank put one hand under my left kidney and one hand over it, and then arced up the Reiki stream several notches.  I just lay there and watched internally, moving into the felt experience.  At first, I could only feel the underneath part of that kidney, the part that is healthy, shiny and happy.  Reiki coming from above through the tumor just wasn’t getting through.  The cancer felt dense, thick, not moving, and rough, kind of like a skinned knee that has a scab on it, only way more.  After about 20 minutes, I suddenly felt/saw a blaze of light slip through between Franks’s upper hand and his lower hand, going through my kidney with a very narrow needle of light, on the right, internal side.  The Reiki on the left and lower side of that kidney shifted slightly and I could feel waves of Reiki moving through, very slowly and very faint, creating a sense of spaciousness. The tumor “crust” broke into a type of dust and eventually disappeared.

Now I have an image of how that cancer will or could be removed by imagery.  I can simply see it becoming more porous, gradually filled with light and warmth, as it crumbles away, erodes, slowly.  That feels right to me.

The right kidney was very different.  The cancer there seemed to me to be more vertical in structure, and was very dense, rigid.  Frank introduced Reiki top and bottom, and eventually I said “I hear screaming in this kidney.”  “What kind of screaming?” Frank asked.   I said “Fear.  And some anger.”  A memory from a year ago surfaced when the surgeon was getting ready to put me under, to run a tiny tube up my urethra with a camera and a zapper thing, the idea being to zap the kidney stone that was lurking there and get rid of it.  He was talking about how I was going to die soon – to the four other men in the operating room.  I became furious, and told him not to bring that kind of negativity in there, and asked for a woman to be with me.  A woman quickly appeared, to hold my hand as I went under.  One of the men in the room said “She’s got that right, you know…” and I went under, knowing that the surgeon was pissed at me.  I will not work with him again.

That energy, his negativity and my fear and anger, was still stuck in my right kidney – not the cause of the cancer, but not moving.  We brushed it all away, and later on, at home in bed, I could feel the chi just pouring out of that kidney like a wave, on and on.  Great feeling.  More spacious now, at ease.  I slept, exhausted.

Now I have a healing image to use that is directly coming from my kidneys, that I can practice on a daily basis.  So who knows?  Worth a try.

Resources:

  1. The Healing Power of Mind: Simple Meditation Exercises for Health, Well-Being, and Enlightenment.  By Tulku Thondup.  Very simple, Buddhist oriented visualizations for healing and the role of devotion or belief in such healing.  
  2. Imagery in Healing: Shamanism and Modern Medicine. By Jeanne Achterberg.  An older reference from 1985, technical reference on how the brain and nervous system work in tandem with our minds.  

 

 

 

Tibetan Medicine and devotion

Tibetan medicine is hard to come by here in Portland.  After asking around and searching for months while we dealt with my diagnosis and prognosis, gave away 14 pickup trucks full of belongings and moved to Rose Villa, I finally was given two names, and contacted one a month or so ago.

Christiana Polites is the owner of Yangchenma Healing Arts, and brought to me today a collection of Tibetan pills made to order.  They are like little herbal rum balls without the rum, no sugar, and no wheat.  I start tomorrow.  After decades of reading about Tibetan pills and medicine (I once took a class from Yoshi Donden, at that time the personal physician to the Dalai Lama, a one-day class in Washington DC )  I am finally getting to see and touch and will be tasting. Its like a little miracle to me.  It’s not like you can just go to a store and buy these things, or even go online.  For me, it was like asking the universe to provide me with something very rare and special, maybe life saving, and out of the mists of everyday life, here comes this true soul with just what I asked for and much more.  To my door, mind you.  Kindness, such kindness.

Tibetan medicine is old, and comes from the heart.  Much of how it works (but not all; they use herbs, acupuncture, and sound healing, for starters) depends on devotion, both on the part of the medical practitioner, and also the patient.  Buddhist devotion is not what we think of here in the West, when we use those words.  It’s not a giving away of one’s power. Devotion is a way of opening one’s heart and soul in order to receive teachings, wisdom, a transmission of any sort from a guru or teacher to your own being, and to receive medicine as well.  A way of trusting completely.

For example, Christiana embedded a thousand mantras into water for me, sealing her mantra recitation with a long retreat, and offering healing and protection in these liters of drinking water.  As a skeptical Westerner born into a medical family, I might simply push that gift aside, thank her for the water and deny Tibetan medicine in general. I think there might be some racism in such a stand, a false sense of superiority, an education solely grounded in Western thought.   But I am no longer skeptical, I was in the healing profession myself for decades, am a practicing Buddhist, and I know the profound value of devotion.  It isn’t magic, but it can feel like that.  You touch the very membrane of Pure Love, the thin places in human existence where Mystery is close at hand.  It is my belief that ultimately all healing comes from there.

Sometimes I imagine that people will think I am trying Tibetan medicine and IV turmeric and medical marijuana as a desperate person, seeking a way to keep on living.  A clutching at straws, I think the idiom goes.  I’ve investigated that in deep meditation, to see if it’s true or not.  It is not true.  I would and will continue to open my life to healing on every level, whether I live another month or another decade or more.  It’s quite a lovely way to live!  I’ll learn much and pass on as much as I can along the way.  I’m not feeling desperate. I am thrilled to be able to do this my own way, following a dark path without a whole lot of guideposts along the way. Following my heart, my curiosity, the shimmering that catches my attention.   Watching the tides of life begin to ebb back up into my being in their gentle, subtle way.

And tomorrow I get to taste my first Tibetan pill!  The people who make these pills also say mantras (or repetitive prayers) over and over while they are making them, so that not only are the herbal combinations potent and part of human healing for centuries, but they are also blessed actively.  Not like buying aspirin from the store, that’s for sure.

So I am sipping water that has a particular vibration embedded in it, a prayer of sorts from Christiana who has a big heart, and I know that it is part of this journey I am on.  And rejoice.

 

 

 

 

 

Green Tara steps up.

Green Tara and I have been good friends for decades, she more constant than I.  Who is Green Tara?  The masculine Buddha cries a river of compassionate tears, and from that river emerges Green Tara, wisdom personified, one leg set down ready to protect, to intervene, to help.  Green Tara claims that she will continue to be reborn as a feminine figure until all suffering has ended.  She is, for me, a mixture of Mary and Sophia, the Christian image for wisdom, and so much more.

One of my stalwart friends, Renette, traveled to Tibet and Nepal years ago; I was to go with her and another, but I fell and broke my shoulder which then slightly crushed together.  I had to stay home, so asked her to bring me a Green Tara tangka, or picture.  Which she did.  Boy, did she ever! It’s hand painted by the head of a Tibetan tangka painting school in Kathmandu.  She shines and shimmers and keeps me company.

IMG_0753

At one time, I chanted over 100,000 mantras to her, counting on my yak bone mala which is like a Christian rosary only with counters, 108 beads.  Devotion is an alien concept for most of us in the West but for Tibetan Buddhists, it’s one channel or doorway into the absolute realms. It’s real. At some point, I participated in a Green Tara Empowerment and brought her along to be blessed.  Somehow or other, I developed devotion to Green Tara, so here I am.

Towards the beginning of July this year, after we moved to Rose Villa, I put my finger on her hand which is open, on my tankga, and prayed: “Help me!”  It’s like plugging into her unique channel or current, and opening mine up to her.  Boom! Electric sizzle ! Help poured into me on every level, completely blessing me through friends, family, resources known and unknown, pouring in to me.  I heard that it was going to take time, and to rest.  Staggering experience.  I’ve only recently decided to speak of it here. Lasted all of about one minute.

So, a month or so later, I decided to see if I could find a doctor of Tibetan medicine here in the Portland area.  Tibetan medicine is similar to Chinese medicine but coming from the Bon tradition in Tibet.  I asked many people. Nothing.  I asked my shaman friend who also put out the word, and was recently connected to a lovely young woman who is a student of Tibetan medicine, as well as Chinese medicine at the Naturopathic College.  She arrived at our cottage carrying water that she infused with a protective healing mantra, and a Medicine Buddha practice that is fairly simple. I need simple these days.

I fell promptly in love with her, of course.

Now, here’s the miraculous.  She is bringing to Portland a teacher of Tibetan medicine, a doctor who graduated from the Tibetan Medical College in Dharamsala, India.  She practiced for many years under Dr. Kunga Gyurme, the personal physician of the Dalai Lama.  She travels all over the world treating patients and teaching.

And I have a private consultation with her this Friday.  I am amazed, completely amazed.

And bow to Green Tara in profound gratitude.

Delusional?  Who cares, if it works.  I am not looking for my cancer to disappear in a cloud of magic dust, but seeking a way through this thicket with trustworthy companions.  It doesn’t really matter to me at this point whether I live or die anytime soon.  I’m just showing up, and sharing as much as I can along the way.  Who knows.

So, if you are one with cancer and are lost like me, don’t follow me but find your own seeds of devotion, your own due north, your own internal compass, what you resonate with, who you trust, and follow that. Send us reports, if you can, along the way.  I’d like to know.  It may be important.

Send smoke signals.