In Eight Steps to Happiness Geshe-la says "'Self' and 'other' are relative terms, rather like 'this mountain' and 'that mountain ... 'This' and 'that' therefore depend upon our point of reference. This is also true of self and other. By climbing down the mountain of self, it is possible to ascend the mountain of other, and thereby cherish others as much as we presently cherish ourself."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mahamudra Dreaming

Hello friends,

This weekend we are receiving a review of the summer festival teachings on Mahamudra. Kadam Lucy just led us in a wonderful meditation on the emptiness of the self - naturally quotes from some of Mimi's earlier blog posts on emptiness are in order. Follow the links if you'd like to read the entire post (recommended).

She posted in 2012 about a teaching that Gen-la Dekyong had given at summer festival that year. Gen-la mentioned that she had mistaken a dead brown leaf blown by the wind for a little mouse scurrying across the yard. Mimi says about hearing this story, "I was thinking that I didn't have this kind of mistaken appearance very often, but then I soon found two examples: I saw a bowl with a curled-up banana skin as sliced lemons, and a small stick as a thin black slug like the one that I'd seen earlier that day. Because we have so much faith in what we see, recognizing these mistakes helps undercut that confidence and helps lead us to understanding subtle mistaken appearance, believing that the things we normally perceive truly exist."

Also from 2012: "Years ago at an offsite emptiness retreat on Vashon Island, my first Teacher described our involvement with objects we see as being like a dancer and their dance: There is no dance without the dancer. There is no object without a mind perceiving the object. "It takes two to tango," as the expression goes : ) "

Who knew Mimi was a poet?! In this post during election season 2012 entitled "Lies" she shares a bit of emptiness wisdom in poetry form, then ends the post by saying, "And you thought I was going to write about the election, didn't you? : ) "

Finally, from summer of last year, she shares this story in a dream she had: "In the dream, a bunch of Sangha friends came to my house and sang chanted prayers and recited the Heart Sutra. It was glorious. Obstacles were definitely removed, blessings definitely received. A person called Mel had apparently organized it all and played DJ. All the Buddhas were there, with the female wisdom Buddha Prajnaparamita in the starring role... Even though it was hot, everyone seemed to go away even happier than they arrived."

This last post especially touched my mind because, well, it's hot again :) and Buddha Prajnaparamita is still in the starring role :D. Mimi had a visit from Kadam Lucy yesterday, which I think was very meaningful to her. Kind, wonderful friends are spending time at the house this weekend so that Richard can attend the review teachings at the temple.  Health-wise, Mimi's still in the phase of gradual decline, no major changes. She's still fatigued, still has a pretty good appetite, a bit of occasional nausea when she overexerts herself. For those of you who have been looking forward to regular posts, I'm going to hold off posting further until there's a more significant change in Mimi's condition. So if you don't hear anything for a while, be assured that things are continuing along here as they have been for a while.

With love,
Boswell
rebecca-dot-lafond-at-gmail-dot-com

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Virtuous Desires

Hello lovely supporters of Mimi,

Just another brief update. Mimi continues to be in a state of low energy and isn't seeing any visitors this week. Kind friends are still stopping by to deliver treats, or spend some extra time visiting with Richard, or help out by being here while Mimi sleeps, or do housework/gardening. We are so deeply grateful for the care and support! Next weekend Kadam Lucy will be here in Seattle to give a review of the Summer Festival 2016 teachings. Mimi's hoping that she'll be able to attend some of the sessions - we'll see how she's feeling in a few days. Mimi has a special connection with Kadam Lucy and has been two separate times to Colorado to enjoy teachings and advice at KMC Colorado's annual Rocky Mountain Retreat. Here's what Mimi had to say about her experience there last summer: "So many blessings, wisdom blessings, that gave me many small insights. Those tiny sprouts of realizations were handed to me - I did nothing except set up the conditions where they could be revealed, and listened to the supreme Mahamudra teachings and perfect meditation guidance of Kadam Lucy, a true Meditation Master."

So it makes sense that Mimi is conserving her strength, and setting up the conditions for receiving teachings next weekend. Please make prayers that she is strong enough to engage in the teachings, it's something she wants very much.

Your friend,
Boswell
rebecca-dot-lafond-at-gmail.com (This is the same email address, I had to disguise it because of spammers. Please comment on the blog if you can't reach me directly)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Let It Snow...Again

Friends,

Just a brief update on Mimi. Not much change since last time I posted. Continuing with a lovely influx of friends and family, and Mimi continues to rest. Since I didn't have much to report here, I thought I'd quote a post that Mimi wrote about a month ago after she announced her terminal prognosis and before she introduced me as her Boswell. The post feels really relevant right now. The title is Let It Snow... and here it is in its entirety:

"Why is that out-of-season song in my head at the moment? I DO have a place to go - an important place - I just don't know yet where.

This former English major has also been thinking about those lines from T.S. Eliot's poem The Love Song of Alfred Proofrock, " ... and in short, I was afraid." But actually I'm not. ...
Maybe just too dumb for that : )
Something better than nothing? Or are you one of those "no news is good news" folks?
(Sorry.)

Maybe soon a more reasonable person will be posting updates here.


Mainly I wanted to thank you all for the outpouring of support and love, to which I cannot reply with what you deserve. This is the best I can do right now. Accept ... or unsubscribe : )"

With love,
Boswell (rebecca-dot-lafond-at-gmail.com)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Going Inward

Dear friends,

There hasn't been much change since my last post, but I thought I'd offer this update nonetheless. Mimi's dad Bob and stepmom Marilyn are here visiting this week; sister-in-law Vicki and niece Lizzie arrive on Friday. Mimi's energy and appetite are still up and down, and she's requested us not to add any further visitors to her calendar for the time being. She spends a lot of time resting between visits - the amount of time seems to increase gradually each day. This, according to the information provided by hospice, is to be expected. In addition to the physical need for more rest, "the dying person begins to withdraw from the world and do the important work of processing one's life." (Paraphrased from the Barbara Karnes booklet I mentioned in the previous post.) So we don't expect Mimi to try harder to interact or push herself to have more energy. She doesn't expect this of herself either. I've been enjoying looking at Mimi's previous blog posts about her meditative experience, and here's something from 2012: "For ordinary activities we're usually told - and we tell ourselves - we need to try harder. But years ago I learned from a young woman who attended KMC NY to try softer. I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I find it beautiful and enjoy contemplating it." So imagine with me that Mimi is absorbed in trying softer, even in the midst of visits with family, friends and hospice personnel. (In a strange twist of Boswell-scheduling, we had eight people at once in Mimi and Richard's small house today. Even as I write this post, Mimi is resting on the sofa while Dad and Marilyn visit with Susan in the dining area and Liz chats with Richard in the kitchen. The hospice social worker just departed.) It's a pleasure and an honor to abide with Mimi at this time, and as she says in a reference to the quotable cult movie The Big Lebowski, "I tell myself the Dudette Abides...or tries to." I hope you all have a similarly fun and inspiring experience with abiding.

With love,
Boswell
(rebecca-dot-lafond-at-gmail.com)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Questions and Answers

Dear ones,

Many of you are asking wonderful, insightful questions by email and in person. Boswell has been answering your questions individually, and thought it would be helpful to everyone to post those answers here. Leave more questions in the comments or send them via Boswell-mail: rebecca-dot-lafond-at-gmail.com.

How is Mimi doing?
Mimi's health is pretty much the same since the last post three days ago. Her status probably won't change suddenly, it'll be more of a gradual decline - more on that below. If any sudden changes occur, they'll be posted asap here. This blog server seems to take several hours to send out updates by email, so you might want to check the blog link regularly. You will hopefully see at least a brief update every three or four days. Always, always feel free to email Boswell at any time. You may not receive a long reply, but the more detailed your question is, the more likely you'll get a detailed answer. If you don't hear back within a day, it's totally ok to send another message. Your caring and concern are appreciated!

What spiritual practice is Mimi relying on?
Right now Mimi is especially drawn to Avalokiteshvara and Vajrayogini. Tech-savvy friends have created recorded loops of mantra recitations (OM MANI PÄME HUM and the three-OM mantra) to be played when Mimi's physical and mental activity decline further. From Boswell's perspective, Mimi also seems to be relying on the minds of patient acceptance and cherishing others that she has developed over her years of Buddhist practice and her cancer journey. You can read all about her experience with this on other blog posts. As mentioned in the post prior to this one, Offering to the Spiritual Guide was a particularly energizing practice for Mimi at the beginning of this week. Perhaps another puja will happen here again on August 10th.

Can I come visit Mimi?
Of course! As reported in the last blog post, Mimi's energy is up and down. A few times over the last couple of weeks a visit has had to be rescheduled because she was too worn out to receive visitors. But even though they might not have a chance to see Mimi, visitors are nonetheless most welcome! (The best way to set that up is to send an email to rebecca.lafond@gmail.com.) Kind local friends have been stopping by to help with chores and provide respite care so that Richard can have breaks. Family members are here from out of town this weekend and next week to visit and help. Even if you're not able to be here in person, there is nonetheless a very important way for you to help! Here's what Mimi asked for in a group email she sent a few weeks ago after receiving her prognosis: "Please pray that I continue to have a peaceful mind throughout this dying process, deeply connected to Geshe-la at my heart."

What is Mimi's prognosis?
In the same email quoted above, Mimi says, "Apparently I've come to the last lap of this current 'race' (but not at all at a fast pace for me)." One could read that last part in parentheses in a couple of different ways. It's true that Mimi is spending quite a bit of time in physical inactivity as the cancer and side effects of medications drain her energy, and when she does get up she definitely doesn't move very fast. But she also doesn't seem to be heading very quickly toward the deadline (pardon the gallows humor) she received from her doctor. Five-and-a-half years ago, Mimi was first diagnosed with and treated for leptomeningeal disease, or cancer of the brain lining, which is commonly considered to be a marker of end stage cancer. Mimi's doctors have been astounded by the amazing good health she's experienced over the last 5+ years. (In fact, they call her a medical miracle, to which Mimi's response in a 2013 blog post is, "That probably isn't technically correct: I don't think I've ever heard any Buddhist use the word 'miracle,' but maybe I can get away with 'miraculous' as in extraordinary, as in emanated by the Buddhas.") It seems that her latest prognosis is not at all a departure from the miraculous story of Mimi's cancer adventure. Today is close to the approximate day Mimi was given for when she could expect her life to end, and she's still full of vitality and love! Ordinary prognoses don't appear to apply here - prayers and Mimi's mind of faith have truly worked to sustain her.

What happens next?
As mentioned above, Mimi's health will probably continue on the gradual (very gradual) decline it's been on over the last few weeks. Now that pain and other physical symptoms are under control, there probably won't be any further medical emergencies to contend with. If symptom control becomes an issue, there's a very responsive hospice team only a phone call away, and the hospice nurse provided an arsenal of medications to help with common end-of-life symptoms. The hospice social worker provided a booklet called Gone from My Sight: the Dying Experience, written by award-winning hospice nurse Barbara Karnes. The booklet describes the physical changes that can be expected during the dying process. If you're interested, the booklet can be downloaded in Kindle or purchased on Amazon, and you can also find helpful information at Barbara Karnes' website. Boswell has also been reading a book called Final Journeys by long-time hospice nurse Maggie Callanan, which uses real-life (real-death?) examples of hospice patients to highlight important end-of-life considerations and issues. This book is also available on Kindle/Amazon, or you can link to it here.


Hope this is helpful and that you enjoy this quote from a humorous post by Mimi from a few years ago: "It's kinda fun, and interesting, to write about yourself in the 3rd person. I've never thought of this before in terms of writing, but it seems useful as another way of looking at the emptiness of our self. We commonly, instinctively, think of ourself in the 1st person, as me or I. So what happens when we put ourself into a character of she or he? It's a bit like becoming That Mountain, looking back at This Mountain. You see yourself from the outside, as others might view you, but of course everyone's view is different."

Monday, July 25, 2016

Saying "Enough"

Hi all, it's another Mimi update from her Boswell. Some of you have been inquiring by email about Mimi's status - many apologies for the delay in responding and in updating this blog. It's been a busy week around here with family visiting from Florida and a friend visiting from New York. Next week will bring more family from New Jersey. How wonderful that loved ones are making the pilgrimage from near and far!

Many of our Seattle friends, along with thousands of Kadampas from around the world, are making another kind of pilgrimage: they're on a spiritual holiday at Manjushri Centre in England, attending the International Summer Festival that occurs every year at about this time. Local friends who aren't at Summer Festival this year are putting in extra hours to help out with cleaning and other chores, or just to be present while Mimi rests so that Richard can take a break. A friend who has experience with caring for a loved one on hospice calls these "respite visits." It's been so helpful for Richard to have this assistance - thank you, amazing friends! Your gift of cherishing is so precious.

As of the last report about ten days ago, Mimi's energy was good and she had been receiving up to five visitors a day. More recently, her energy levels have waned a bit and, outside of the respite visits, we've reduced her schedule to about two visitors per day. The remainder of the time she's been spending in bed to rest up and charge her batteries for the next visit. She's been spending more time sleeping and her appetite has decreased. Then Kadam Heather came up yesterday from Portland to spend the night here, and it was such an energizing visit for Mimi! Today Heather presided over Offering to Spiritual Guide right by Mimi's bedside so that Mimi could rest when she needed to during the two-hour puja. We coordinated with some friends at Manjushri Centre and timed the puja so that we were all making prayers at the same time. It was magical! Email me at rebecca-dot-lafond-at-gmail.com if you'd like to see pictures.

Mimi's physical state is going through ups and downs, but her mind, as usual, stays peaceful and positive. As you might remember from her previous blogs, Mimi considers her experience with cancer as an opportunity to receive daily teachings on samsara's true nature. She views suffering and difficulty as gifts that help us to become deeply familiar with our real situation. Mimi has written that her approach to adversity is "not just to welcome it, but to thank it for being there, showing honestly the face of samsara, rather than the mask, which fools me into thinking there's some real pleasure here. I don't want to hang out in this impure world. I don't want temporary pleasures to hook me into believing they're what's going to make my life happy." If you want to read more of her thoughts about how deceptive samsara can be, and about renunciation, samsara's antidote, see this blog post (especially the last paragraph). It will blow your mind.

Send emails, post comments - it's wonderful to hear from you!

Friday, July 15, 2016

To Contentment and Beyond

Hello Friends of Mimi,

Boswell here.  All of your love and wishes are coming through and are deeply appreciated.  Mimi is still looking over her email occasionally so she has seen your kind messages.  In Mimi's own words from a post last April: "I deeply appreciate your prayers for me. You can see that they work. Makes it so easy to have faith."  As always, please feel free to add a comment to this blog post, send a reply message to Mimi, or email me at rebecca-dot-lafond-at-gmail.com.

Just wanted to give you an update on Mimi's current state of health.  As a background, here's a wrap-up of the last 7 years of Mimi's cancer adventure in one sentence: she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and underwent treatment; has had chemo on and off to address recurring abdominal tumors; had a metastasis to the brain a few years ago and was treated with surgery, radiation and chemo; and was most recently advised by her doctor that curative care is no longer an option.  And so she is now on hospice and preparing for a peaceful death.  The tumors in Mimi's abdomen are growing noticeably, and a recent brain scan indicates that she has cancerous lesions on the meninges of the brain, also known as leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, carcinomatous meningitis, and a host of other long-syllabled medical terms.  The brain cancer causes inflammation, so Mimi is once again taking a steroid called dexamethasone to keep the swelling down.  She's written about taking this medication in previous blog posts - it's the one that makes her really talkative, energetic and HUNGRY!  We can maybe consider these side effects to be a blessing as she has been receiving many visitors from near and far, and she has sufficient energy to engage in conversation.  She's also eating really well which is helping her to keep up her strength.  Many friends are bringing food to share during their visits - in fact, we're expecting Sally with dinner any minute now.  It's a gift for Mimi (and for us all) for her to be able to share these moments with friends and family.  The last few days have brought a poetry reading (Lynn Ann), an industrious cleaning of the master bedroom (Linda L), a tidying up of the garden (Linda S), and many kind and friendly ears to listen to Mimi's thoughts about the end of her life (Heather, Brian, Laurie, Eve, Kit, Noreen).  As the weekend approaches, her social calendar continues to be full and family arrives on Monday morning.

Anyway, to continue the "state of the union" regarding Mimi's current health situation, she's on a transdermal patch to control pain, two medications for nausea, and a variety of other meds to deal with the side effects of the main medications.  As we all know from our interactions with Mimi, she's an amazing example of practicing contentment in the face of adversity.  In a post from January of this year she wrote, "Thankfully I know my body is *not* "me," so I am still happy … and hope you are too."  It's an inspiration to witness how her positive habits of mind continue to sustain her happiness, even as she encounters these challenges.  May we all have such courage and strength!

The brain cancer, the many years of chemotherapy drugs, and the current medications are causing unavoidable cognitive decline.  About this phenomenon, she said in a post from June 2015 that, "my mind is good, my brain not so much."  She seems to lose a little bit of energy each day and yet she's a gracious hostess, always looking after the comfort of her guests.  I'll end this post with her expression of gratitude from a couple of years ago:
"Thank you, Buddha.
Thank you, Sangha.
Thank you to everyone who's been making prayers and offering good thoughts."