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."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Drafting My Obituary

We know we're going to die but believe it will be in the distant future. In truth, it may happen much sooner. It may seem harsh to bring up that reality - I'm not trying to ruin your day - but it's one of the main way Buddhists make their lives meaningful right now, and overcome our procrastination, waiting for retirement to do the things that are important to us. In meditation, after repeatedly considering "I may die today," we focus on the feeling that arises. As with all our Lamrim (Stages of the Path to Enlightenment) meditations, we carry our sitting meditation into our daily life.

Some of you have heard me suggest one meditation-break activity for this meditation is to write a will and an advance directive. It's a kindness for those you leave behind, whether you have a lot of resources or not. You can spell out all your wishes about what kind of medical care you want or don't want when you're "actively dying," as well as what you want done with your body after you're done with it. More importantly, that activity shows you have more than an intellectual understanding that something could kill you today, even if you're young and healthy. Think of a car accident or a natural disaster, for example.

I wasn't going to have an obituary, but now I'm thinking that composing one would be another meditation-break practice, whether it's published or not. I often read the obituaries in our local paper, particularly for younger people, as another way of remembering death. Writing my own forces me to think about what I've done with my life.

I don't want the usual format. You know the one I mean. For fun, I made it into a kind of MadLibs (MadObits?):

_________ [full name of person] who was born in _____ [4-digit number] was _________ [3 superlative adjectives]. She attended _________ [President's name, of any country] High School, then _________ [name of state, in any country] University. _________ [first name of person from line 1] went on to become a _________ [adverb] _________ [job] and raised _________ [number] of kids, some of whom were named _________ [noun] and _________ [noun]. She was _________ [past-tense verb] by all who crossed her path, unless she was in a _________ [adjective] mood.
In lieu of flowers, buy yourself something _________ [adjective].

I do want people to hear how much Kadampa Buddhist teachings and meditations helped me in my adventures with cancer. I'd like to add the URL for our local Temple.

R and I recently saw a exhibit called "Terminal" where some of the photos of dying or deceased people were washed out or blurry. I wasn't planning to have a photo with my obit, but I would consider having one like that, or a blurry  black and white drawing of me.
I'm also tempted to say I'm "survived by friends and family ... and you."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My Cancerversay

Today I'm celebrating living 6 years with advanced cancer, and even a brain metastasis. I like to think of it as an adventure.
As this blog documents, practicing Kadampa Buddhism has made an enormous difference. (I was supposed to be gone a while ago.)
I deeply appreciate your prayers for me. You can see that they work. Makes it so easy to have faith.

You may recall that I was on the targeted drug, a non-chemo delivered like chemo, called "Avastin," for about 9 months. Since it stopped working this Feb, I've been on a gem of a chemo called "Gemzar." (It is actually pronounced like the word "gem.") It's working: My tumor marker has plummeted!
Its main side effect has been fatigue that often causes me to sleep 12 hours a night and to lie on the couch for my waking hours. My "commute" these days is mostly from the bed to the couch. The fatigue is mental as well as physical, so even talking takes a lot of my energy. It's like having just a few drops of gas in the car: Most days I have to be very careful how I spend my limited energy.

A huge Thank You also to Richard, who does all kinds of things to make my life easier - too many to list here. He has great patience for me when my brain damage manifests as stupid thinking or memory lapses.

I have plans to be at US Festival later this month and hope to see you there.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

View in a Frame

I'm sitting in a chair in my living room gazing at the view through 3 windows. Often I offer the beauty of that scene to the Buddhas, but today I am focusing on how things exist, contemplating how "the things I normally see or perceive do not exist." They do exist, but not the way they seem to (as solid entities that have nothing to do with me) but ultimately as appearances, like dreams. Having trim around each window makes a kind of frame to the picture of blue skies, treetops, birds, roofs and chimneys.

When I walk my dog, I sometimes try to feel as though I'm walking in my mind - that it extends beyond my head or my body, so that I can consider how my mind is related to what I see. In some ways, walking outside in the neighborhood has the same appearances - I see a lot of the same stuff - as what I see sitting in my living room. But when I'm inside, looking through the "picture frame" view, it reminds me that it's like art, created by someone - that is, me.

P.S. I am not qualified to teach on this profound subject, the true nature of things, or emptiness. In fact, this whole blog is largely about my experiences of trying to understand various Buddhist teachings, not to be taken as teachings.
If you want an excellent, correct explanation of emptiness, there's a FREE ebook called Modern Buddhism that you can download from
to your computer, as a PDF, or in a format for Apple iOS, iPod, Kindle, Nook, etc. (scroll down to see all the options and instructions on how to use them).
The book covers all of Buddha's teachings, presented for us living in contemporary society; for emptiness read the section called "Training in Ultimate Bodhichitta."

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Updated Master Index of Geshe-la's Books

I am continuing to update the "master index" of all Geshe-la's books, which includes the index entries for his printed books, as well as additional entries I've added. Indexes from his newest books are included.
Those continuing updates to the index will be on Dropbox
In that Index folder are 2 files:
* main index
* index of analogies, stories and favorite quotes
Please let me know if there are problems.
I'm always interested to hear feedback.

Feel free to give the link to others.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A New Chapter

I apologize for neglecting this blog. To be honest, it will have very occasional updates, but on this occasion I am writing about my health.

If life were a book, this would be a new chapter, but a continuation of the main plot of my "biography" of cancer and the many ways Dharma has helped me. As I said a long time ago, cancer has really helped my spiritual practice. That doesn't mean I'd wish it on anyone else. One purpose of writing it is not just to give scientific evidence - my personal experience - of the power of faith and prayer. But also to document one person's adventure, to dispel the fear of cancer. Even my advanced cancer hasn't been a "bad trip." I can list many, many conditions that are much worse - which I often list for myself to generate compassion and to use as material for taking practice.

When last you heard, I was in remission - my oncologist's term (most women with this chronic cancer call it "no evidence of disease" or NED - because it's very, very rare to have a cure). I have been getting what I call a "non-chemo chemo," a targeted, maintenance therapy that can distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells.

I turned the page as a result of recent scan results: I was very happy with them, because my brain MRI was even better than my last one, and, for the first time in 17 years, I had a bone scan from top to toe and there were no tumors. Bones are one of the most common places for the original tumor to spread to. There are remedies, but my understanding is that it is hard to treat and can be very painful.
But the CT scan of my torso showed a tumor in my iliac lymph node going from "infinitesimally small" size - barely visible on the CT - to 1.4cm round, which is still very small. The ramification of that, however, is that I am back on traditional chemo, one that starts with "Gem." I had my second dose today, and am off next week.

The most important upshot is that I'm cleared for takeoff: I got onsite accommodations for US Festival, which will be followed by one night visiting my Dad and Stepmom, and spending several days visiting my brother's family and going into NY City with them.

It's Vajrapani! I've had a connection with him for a long time, even before Geshe-la started granting that empowerment. I have heard there's a healing practice relying on Vajrapani, and requested the transmission be given if it would be beneficial.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Summer Festival Registration Open

Who knew?
(I subscribe to NKT emails about Festivals and other things but don't think I go t any notice about it until this morning. Maybe my chemo brain is even worse than I thought.)
The NKT email:
"Booking is now live for the 2014 NKT Summer Festival at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre, England. Please visit to book. During week 1 of the Festival, Gen-la Kelsang Kunsang will give teachings on the power of Kadam Lamrim. During week 2 of the Festival, Gen-la Kelsang Dekyong will grant the blessing empowerment of Buddha Avalokiteshvara, Buddha of Compassion, and give teachings on the practice of Powa or transference of consciousness. Everyone is welcome to come to the Festival to enjoy a summer holiday with a difference. Spend some inspiring time in the English Lake District with people from all over the world developing inner peace through the practices of modern Buddhism. Come away refreshed, invigorated and inspired – equipped with the essential tools to transform your everyday life into a meaningful spiritual path that brings immense benefit to both yourself and those with whom you live and work. You can attend either week of the Festival or both together – or come for just a few days."

May everyone with the wish to attend have obstructions removed.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

In Remission!

Was hoping the couple of tumors would at least be stable, but this is even better: According to the CT scan I had on Tues, they're completely gone!

Having been on chemo for a year and a few months, I'm exhausted. Looking forward to getting some energy back.

Thank you, Buddha.
Thank you, Sangha.
Thank you to everyone who's been making prayers and offering good thoughts.