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."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gen-la Deyong / Medicine Buddha in Vancouver Jan 13-15


I just heard about this:

Maybe it's a good thing that I'm not doing a counting retreat this year. I've pretty much given up trying to judge what's "good."

Hope to see you there,

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Prayers for Kees

Please send strong prayers for Kees, Suzanne Downs' son who is very sick. Many of you are connected to Suzanne through her Kadampa art: She has done portraits of Geshe-la and images of Dorje Shugden, the Vajrayogini body mandala and other holy beings. Kees is a quadriplegic who was going to have surgery on his leg December 8th, but his health has taken a bad turn.
May Kees and his family have peaceful minds, and may our Guru always keep them in his loving care.

One Reason I Like My Naturopath

He "prescribes" volunteer work! He actually writes it down on the letter-size prescription, in addition to the supplements, types of exercise, books and other suggestions he makes. What he told me yesterday when I met with him is that it helps prevent patients  from becoming too focused on themselves, which as we know is one of the main causes of our misery.

Leaving now for chemo.

Happy Protector Day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


As I've mentioned before, I feel protected by my faith. It is true refuge.

Saturday we had an emptiness retreat in Seattle taught by Gen Khedrub, who said we tend to go for refuge to samsaric distractions and busyness. So true. That's one reason it's helpful to have something like cancer to remind you of what's important.

Here's something to contemplate: Gen Khedrub also said your mind won't tolerate the ramifications of emptiness if you're very attached to worldly pleasures.

He also quoted another Teacher as saying meditating on emptiness is like getting a suntan - you can't do it all at once : ) I like that.

This one-day retreat had a wide range of practitioners. For people who'd been meditating for a while, Gen Khedrub advised learning how to remain with what we already know. It's true that we find new ideas exciting, and can get bored with what we think we already know. The way he was describing our impatience rang true to me: Why can't I remain with my insights on emptiness? Why does my mind prefer to go off and organizing something instead? How can I allow more time to go by, keeping my mind on emptiness?

Sometimes I like to think of my meditation sessions as like airplane flights, logging the miles. We're taught that realizations come drop by drop; one day we'll find that our bucket is full ... like frequent-flier miles, that at some point are redeemable for a special trip. (With Gold status, you reach liberation; Platium for enlightenment?) And your baggage is taken care of ... because you don't have any anymore ; )
You can also see that you can acrue miles much faster if you stick with one airline.

When I was emerging from the first meditation, I got this image that I was surrounded by bulletproof glass - it wasn't that the bullets were missing me, it was that they couldn't hit me. I was safe inside.

I was talking with Jeff R about my experience, and he said it was like that scene at the end of the Matrix where Neo puts up his hand and all the bullets stop, as though they've hit a clear wall they can't penetrate. He even picks out one of the bullets with curiosity, and then the wall of bullets drops.

Jeff says he thinks of his body as like a candy wrapper. It's a much nicer image than the idea of a meat jacket, but I still like how graphic the meat is. By the way, Longku says he got that image from Rob L.

All right, I need to get a move on. I'm inclined to say I need to get OFF my butt, but actually I need to get ON my butt, on my meditation cushion.
Then later to the gym!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chemo Went Well

Just to let you know my first chemo went smoothly today.
I brought my small Medicine Buddha statue with me. He was looking over me, from the side table attached to my Lazy-Z-Girl chair - even when I feel asleep. I was asleep for hours - the Benedryl that helps prevent reactions to the chemo drug puts me out.
I'd packed sadhanas, my laptop, and Meaningful to Behold - along with good intentions - but mostly I slept.
Later the Dex may keep me up.
Thank you for your prayers - they really work.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Results Are in

There's nothing in my brain but a few cancerous "nodules" in my abdomen. My trusted oncologist recommended I get chemo again, so Tuesday morning I am going to get the same regimen I did before: 3 weeks on, 1 week off, for probably 4 months. The first week is the double whammy, where I'll get 2 chemo drugs and spend the whole day in the clinic (the one drug can be hard on your kidneys, so they like to spend much of the day giving fluids via IV). The other 2 chemo weeks will be just the Taxol chemo, and the infusion will go much faster.
I thought my doc might go for different chemo drugs, but his reasoning was that they worked before, and I tolerate them pretty well. He's optimistic it will put me in remission again. I'm optimistic too, especially when I consider the other factors (prayers, purification, diet, etc.)

Today my Lamrim meditation was on Exchanging Self with Other, and I kept it in mind most of the day. It really does protect me: When I'm thinking about others, I'm not pitying myself, worrying about myself, and so I'm not suffering. Some time I'll have to write more about how cherishing others helped cure me of my social anxiety.
The last couple of weeks I've been contemplating what Longku calls his "meat jacket." No, it's not the Lady Gaga outfit - it's your body. It reminds me that my body is not me. It is outside - outside my mind. I find that very comforting.
It's been a long day (waited more than an hour for my doctor; just got home from my exam). Ta-ta for now.
Thank you always for your support.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Creeping Upward

My CA-125 tumor marker has been inching upward the past few months. It's still  quite low (36) but now out of the normal range. When I was initially diagnosed, it was almost 1,000, and I've heard of numbers in the thousands. This blood test can be notoriously inaccurate for many people - which is why it isn't used for diagnosis - but for me it works well as a flag to follow up with better tests.

As my oncologist recommended, I'm having the usual scans: a brain MRI and a CT of my torso. Unless the cancer's gone to my toenails, it should show up in these pictures. Dr K considers those much more reliable tests. I'll meet with him next Thursday to go over the results.

I considered titling this post "my number's up," but that has another connotation, and in that sense my number is far from up. Most likely if something shows up on a scan, my oncologist will recommend chemo if it's in my torso and radiation if it's in my brain. There are lots of different chemo drugs that could be effective.

Because it's been a while since I posted here, here's a quick summary of what I've been up to.
I've been enjoying my holiday from chemo and investigating different approaches to try to keep the cancer at bay. For example, at the suggestion of my naturopath and acupuncturist, I started Qigong classes; I appreciate that they have a beginner series because it feels a bit foreign to me, even though the idea of techniques to move energy through subtle channels of the body is very appealing.

My naturopath had me get a blood test that identifies food sensitivities, based on the idea that if you're ingesting food that's harder for your body to manage, the body responds with inflammation, which often leads to chronic conditions and diseases like cancer. The test said I'm sensitive to beans! Green beans, pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, and others like them - but not to lima beans, fava beans, lentils, peas, or soy. Any one have a favorite lima bean recipe? Is there such a thing? Results also came back positive for tuna, which I never eat. I'm somewhat sensitive to dairy, and Holder (my naturopath) recommended avoiding it because it's been linked to hormone-sensitive cancers.
As most health conscious people are aware, it's better not to eat refined sugar (alternatives like Agave are fine). When you start reading labels, you see sugar everywhere.
That one's a lot easier for me than dairy, though: I've switched to almond milk for my cereal but still have some whole milk in my tea or coffee.
For iodine he recommended a pinch of wakame seaweed straight from the bag; for selenium 1 Brazil nut a day. I'm amused by those recommendations, which doesn't mean I ignore them.
In general, the idea is to eat a rainbow of foods.
More importantly I take Turkey Tail mushrooms in pill form; a lot of alternative practitioners have research showing their effectiveness against cancer; Maitake mushrooms also.
Dr. Holder gave me a recipe for an herbal tea I can make myself from the raw herbs that combines astragalus, licorice, geranium maculatum and a local plant called "cleavers."
The dog helps me with my exercise routine with her enthusiasm for walking around the neighborhood. R & I just recently started going to the gym, which for me is partly to take advantage of their sauna, alternating it with a cold shower - brrr! It's supposed to be good for your immune system, but I'll admit I don't put my whole body under the cold water yet.

This Summer I was fortunate enough to go to the 2nd week of Festival in England, then to Wales to wander around the land of some of R's ancestors (or "Aunt-Sisters" as one of his nephews pronounced it, when asked in school about his family - he was thinking of his mom's sister, who's an aunt to him : ).
In October we were able to attend Fall Festival in NY to learn more and practice purification. Who knows where my tumor marker would be without it. I'll write more about that another time.

Take care,