Mystery

Coming home the other day, I discovered what looked to me like a pile of sticks on our cottage front door, about eye level, not moving.  Hmmm…  I walked closer, quietly, and discovered to my deep and abiding surprise a praying mantis!  I know that nature talks to us just like the Shimmering in the written word, so after supper, I pulled open my animal discernment books.  What is the message?

The power of stillness.  Meditation. Chi Kung, using life force energy to strengthen and heal, directing it through the body’s organs and systems, empowering.  

One new friend here at Rose Villa heard about this, and sent me a link for more divination:

Praying Mantis animal spirit will often appear when calmness and contemplation are needed, not to sit still, but to reach a conclusion to a situation so decisive action may proceed. Even though Mantis is the symbol of meditation and contemplation she is also the symbol of action and decision-making.”

Praying Mantis animal spirit is often seen when major internal and external life changes are taking place.

Meaning of praying mantis on front door: “Praying Mantis at the front door of your home is a strong spiritual message, asking you to look within and approach your inner feelings for contemplation. Soon you will be asked to do something you are not comfortable with. Bringing about the need to change in this area, to give yourself a better life, by doing so you will expand and grow your higher consciousness.”

So, that’s quite a set of messages, all of which are pertinent and relevant.  Amazing.  Mouth open type amazing.

A few weeks ago I learned some new things about my cancer:

  1. “Nothing has changed since your diagnosis in February of 2015. No CT scan followup needed for a year, instead of 6 months.”  From my oncologist. Who reminded me, as always, that kidney cancer is slow growing, not to expect much.
  2. I am no longer eligible for hospice, whether I want them or not.  No one will state that I only have 6 months to live.  This shifted just a month ago.
  3. Two of the five lesions in my lungs have disappeared.  To me, that’s change, but hey, I am not an MD.  (Thank you Dr. Tenzin, I attribute this HUGE change to you and your magic Tibetan bowls on my chest! Hope to do some more.)
  4. No one is worried about my fatigue, as it’s not considered life threatening.  I do.  Hence the praying mantis, as my question has been: Now what?  Can I live like this much longer? How?
  5. I am no longer thinking of myself as living with a terminal diagnosis, but rather living with a chronic illness, at least until or if it shifts back.  No pain, just prone to sudden collapse  with extreme weakness, so I can’t plan, and need to rely on other people for nearly everything now.  A new realm, but it feels the same.
  6. I need help learning how to live with this, long term.  Help!

And then, an old friend of mine contacted me a few days ago, out of Facebook land.  She is an  acupuncturist, teaches medical chi gung, is a practicing Buddhist, and was a hospice nurse at one time.  Much to my everlasting astonishment and gratitude, she is coming next week and we’ll figure out a chi gung practice for me to blend in with the practices that I am already doing.  I am open to whatever she might want to share.

Another dear friend is excited to provide soul collage here at Rose Villa; all I have to do is set it up.  That is a wonderful discernment process and has helped me for years and years.

Eric and I are planning a short vacation up on Mt. Hood towards the end of the month; a time away with great sweetness.  I need to be in wilderness where I can think clearly.

Help is on the way!  (Wasn’t that John Kerry’s campaign slogan?  How did he get in here? Egads. )

May all of you find a way into your own next breath, your own path to joy. We stand with each other, we do.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tricky Place

On Tuesday I drove out to Maplewood, through the trees, to see my acupuncturist, Geri Ota, a healer.  When she felt my pulses, she said, “Hmmm…. well, the underlying kidney chi (or energy) is fragile and weak.  But the pulse above that is strong.  This is a very tricky place for you.”

Yup.  It is indeed.  Here’s why.

Both these energy streams exist in me at the same time.  It’s a little like having one foot in the realm of death, and another foot in the river of life.  It’s not that I live in one and then the other, shifting from foot to foot, but rather that it is I’m living in both realms at the same time, in very real ways.  This is not a theoretical situation, this is a physical reality.

My awareness does seem to shift from foot to foot, however.  Whole days go by, a week or two, when I feel myself edging towards death.  I don’t feel death itself, just a slippage in that direction, a lessening of the “give-a-shit” energy that Stephen Jenkinson talks about in his book Die Wise.  For example, I see that I’m eating more sugar than I should be, and inside I hear voices saying “Who cares?  You’re dying anyway – enjoy!”  That’s just a small example, but there are ramifications everywhere – feeling too sick to go to fitness class or yoga class, too sick to take a walk, too sick to go outside and look at flowers, too sick to remember how to find joy in life itself.  Too sick.  Just too sick.  That’s the realm of my death, and it’s very real.  I think that’s the weak kidney chi that Geri identified on Tuesday.

But running concurrently is the river of life, which recently is beginning to look more interesting to me.  After my diagnosis, moving to Rose Villa, reorienting myself to life in community and adjusting my life to living with cancer, I am just now pulling my head up above water and taking a look around.  What does life look like from here?  I have volunteered to be a “Comfort Companion” here at Rose Villa, agreeing to take an evening shift if needed to sit with a resident who may then be dying alone at the Health Center.  I volunteered to help support a local candidate running for Congress who identifies with Bernie Sanders and pledges to support Bernie if they get elected.  I am eyeing our back yard and find myself planning a garden there for the first time since we moved here, with fruit trees, berries, grapes and vegetables as well.  I can hardly wait to tackle that.  I want to attend to some papers and a book that I have written that needs to be published in some form.

So, which realm am I in?

I am in both at the same time.  And it’s tricky.  She really nailed that one.  I cannot survive if I am only in the realm of death, it’s an oxymoron.  But I am not well enough to step fully into the river of life that is brimming with ideas and options.  I can see the river now at least; I couldn’t even see it a month ago.  But I can’t quite reach it, either.

It’s tricky.  I can’t reach out too far, and fall.  Nor can I live too small, and not grow stronger.  Reminds me of a time, years ago, when I was learning how to run long distance.  I’d just keep running, daily, and very gradually I could run a little longer, until finally I could run 5 miles with power.

Maybe what I can do is just take one small step a day towards the river of life.  Maybe I’ll walk down, quite literally, to the river.  And say hello.  And see how strong I am now.

And therein lies the problem.  The energy above says “Wow, what a great idea!  Let’s do that!”, and the weak energy below says “Are you kidding?  What happens if you get down there and you collapse?  Or fall? ” And because both voices have complete integrity, reliable experience, and my well being in hand, I have no fucking idea what to do.

It’s tricky.  And another stop on this journey. I’m just taking a look around, reporting back to all of you who read this.  I want to say that all will be well, not to worry, but the truth is I have no idea.

I actually think that this is, in the long haul, a hopeful sign that I am getting better.  My job now is to be respectful of the process and to listen carefully every step of the way.  And to keep both of these energies communicating with each other, creating equanimity.

As Eric, my husband says, “It will be what it will be.  And we’ll face it together.”

 

 

The Medicine Buddha shows up

Well, I memorized the Medicine Buddha mantra, after a long effort.  I looked it up online, and figured out what I was actually saying, and then how to say it in Tibetan, using Dr. Tenzin’s song on my cell phone.  Thank God for my voice recording ap.

Even after all that, I’ve only been around my mala once with this mantra.  But here’s the thing: it works.  It really works.  By that I mean that at some point, about half way around the 108 beads of my mala, slogging through the memorization trip, all of a sudden I felt the mantra take on a life of its own.  It began to vibrate throughout my system, kind of like a plane about to take off, but of course very subtle, faint, just discernible to me.

The main word, Bekandze, means essentially healing energy.  It’s repeated three times, indicating the three levels of healing, from a person, to the spiritual realm, to the entire universe.  Buddhists tend to think big.  So, here comes the mantra round again, new bead, and boom!  I could actually feel the healing energy of the Medicine Buddha, coming in to me through my heart center or chakra.  Then flowing out from me into the spiritual realm, and then I pretty much disappeared or became transparent, and the healing energy flowed out into the entire universe.

Now we are talking about me, an often lazy person, a non-striver of sorts, a broken being on many, many levels, so I understand that this was a tiny thimble full of what’s actually possible by someone like the Dalai Lama, for example.  But I felt it, my inner eye could see it, and I trust it.  My experience.  And how is that healing?  Well, my whole being felt clear, because of this mantra.  No cancer cells anywhere.  No toxicity.  No fears.  Just  clear sky like nature of my mind, clearing my body.  For a split second.

The idea is to say an entire mala’s worth of this mantra every day.  I can do about 1/3 of a mala at night, laying in bed, saying it silently so as not to wake my beloveds. (I include our dog in that category.) So I am not there yet, not by a long shot.  But it’s a start.  Thought I’d report.

Christiana came to visit me today, for an interview that she wanted to do.  We talked for over three hours!  Such a patient, kind soul.  She brought me a gift of a rose quartz, which is a healing crystal for kidney disease.  I put it near my chair, and will soak it up over time. She knows a great deal about this type of medicine, and I listen and learn.

In one of my catalogs from Wisdom Publications I discovered a book entitled How to Enjoy Death: Preparing to Meet Life’s Final Challenge without Fear, by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.  What a concept, huh?  Christiana knew of the author, so I will order it at some point.  Curious, frankly, about how anyone could hold such a thought, never mind write an entire book on this subject!  Reminds me of how women in the early 70s were talking about birth as an orgasmic experience.  It seems counter intuitive, but we live in a death phobic culture.

Meanwhile, I am pondering hope.  In one book I’m reading, Die Wise, the author has an entire chapter called something like “The Tyranny of Hope”, and another book that shimmered into my awareness is “Mystical Hope” by an Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeauldt.  An amazing little gem.  So what is the role of hope while living with a terminal diagnosis?  An obstacle to dying wise, or a mystical dimension of Life itself?  Or both?

Stay tuned.

Tayata Om Bekandze Bekandze Maha Bekandze Radza Samudgate Soha.

 

 

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.