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."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Update on R's Dad

Wednesday we flew to Baltimore to see Richard's Dad, Roger, and his wife, Nancy. Fortunately, his situation is much better than we expected. It was a bit of a false alarm. But it is good to be here, partly on behalf of Richard's four siblings, because it is the best way to see what is really going on. Roger was admitted to the ER, and it turned out he had an infection. For the last week he had been spending almost all his time in bed, but Richard has been able to help him. Tomorrow his Dad is going to an inpatient rehab center nearby for a few weeks to get stronger, especially in his legs. They will be able to monitor him better, as he was not taking his medications correctly.
The situation is a bit complicated, the way it often is with elderly parents, but he is on the mend, and I think there are more good changes on the way.
Thank you so much for your prayers.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Prayers for Richard's Dad and His Wife

We just got a panicked call from Richard's Dad's wife, Nancy, that he is not doing well. His Dad is 91 and has Alzheimer's. She said that it was a "very difficult situation," but I don't have any details yet. Please make prayers for them, especially for Nancy to have a peaceful mind.
Because today is a tsog day, your prayers will have extra strength.
Thank you very much.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kathi Passed Away

Kathi Brezeale died last night, at the very nice hospice facility where she spent her last few days.

I am glad that I got to see her yesterday, even though she had her eyes closed the whole time. She was comfortable and peaceful, and her family was very happy with the care they all got at Evergreen.

They say that hearing is the last sense power to go, which is good because her friends and family were exchanging lovely stories about Kathi, and there was even a lot of laughter. I am so glad I got to meet her family. I am sad about Kathi, but could feel all the love coming her way.

Please make prayers especially for her family: her partner, Jon, her brother and sisters, and her parents.

Here is one more photo of her - the one she used on the website of the university where she was a professor of religion and women's studies:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Saw Kathi Yesterday

She was peaceful and comfortable. Resting with her eyes mostly closed when I was there, but she would open her eyes and smile every few minutes, as she did when I showed her the Buddha Shakyamuni statue Dachog sent for her. She's in a very nice hospice facility.
Thank you for all your prayers.

Wisdom and Obstacle-Dispelling Prayers Please

I am shameless about asking for prayers for myself, and really need them now. Deciding on which chemo route to go has never been so complex, so I really need wisdom blessings - as do we always, especially if we are leaders of countries; pray for them too. (Of course, what I really need is the realization of wisdom realizing emptiness, which would mean I wouldn't need anything else.) There is a choice between a promising clinical trial and more proven treatments, and if the latter between a dizzying range of options.
I also need any obstacles dispelled that might prevent my insurance from paying for my current top 2 choices.
Thank you so much.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kathi on Hospice

I was shocked and saddened to hear this evening that my good friend Kathi just went on hospice. I knew that her last scan results were disappointing, in that the tumors in her abdomen were larger and that there were lesions on her liver, but I didn't expect this outcome so very quickly.

Please make prayers for her, her partner, John, and her whole family. Her parents arrived from Louisiana to be with her, and her brother and sister are there too.

She was a regular at lunchtime meditations on Mondays with Gen Khedrub and often stayed for lunch afterward to socialize with Sangha. When she was first diagnosed, she took the book How to Solve Our Human Problems with her to the hospital, reading and re-reading the section about patient acceptance. Kathi found so much solace and wisdom in that teaching.
Speaking of teaching, she's a professor and dept chair of Religion and Women's Studies at a university in Tacoma, south of Seattle. She bought a "Peace Is Possible" water bottle from the Center's bookshop and displayed it prominently on her desk, especially for a course she was teaching that asked how much peace is possible, where she surveyed students' beliefs at the beginning and end of the term.

"Hug Your Kids a Little Tighter"

I've been moved and inspired by the personal stories of Mary, who I recently crossed paths with, even though she's been coming to Prayers for World Peace with her kids for her while. (I didn't meet her sooner because I don't usually go to that Sunday class.)
Her young son, who's 5 now, is in remission from leukemia. She kept a blog about his health condition, and friends and family were always offering to help, with cooked meals or money, for example. Mary said that she didn't need food, because her son couldn't eat, so she couldn't eat; and she didn't need money, because she spent all her time at the hospital and didn't have any time or interest in going shopping. She would request them instead to "Hug Your Kids a Little Tighter" and to give love to whoever they were with. I found that so beautiful - it makes me tear up thinking about it.
I have more stories from her I'd like to share, but don't want to add them here, because I don't want anything to distract from her very simple but deeply heartfelt request.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Photo of Val at the NY Temple

Amy, the Education Program Coordinator at KMC NY, sent this lovely photo of Val in front of the Temple shrine; click on it to get a larger view:

It felt good to make prayers to the Buddha of Compassion for her, but I'm sure she was already in a good place.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Small Recurrence

While R and I were at our Center's monthly powa prayers yesterday evening, my oncologist left a message with the results of the previous day's brain MRI, torso CT and blood tests. The good news is that there's nothing in my brain or liver or heart or bones. There are a few small nodules in my abdomen, so it's considered a return of the cancer, a diagnosis which was seconded by tumor marker, which went from 15 to 25 in a month. I won't know anything else until I meet with Dr K, but I expect there will be more chemo in my future. I have been enjoying being in remission but, thanks to Kadampa Buddhism, know how to deal with being out of remission too. Prayers appreciated, especially that I and all others with the wish will be able to attend Geshe-la's teachings in Portugal next Fall.

Friday, September 14, 2012

"The Myth of Fingerprints"

I've always loved this lyric by Paul Simon from the song "All Around The World" on his Graceland album:
It was the myth of fingerprints
I've seen them all and man
They're all the same
Gen Jampa taught the same concept, in very different words, in his public talk at the Olympic Sculpture Park last week. I'm loosely paraphrasing here, but he said that we tend to emphasize our differences with others, grouping people into all kinds of different categories, which often makes us feel separate from them. Sometimes we even think, "I don't understand them at all." If we examine very carefully, we can see fine differences in the loops, whorls and arches of someone's print, just we can distinguish different superficial characteristics of different beings, but in essence we are all the same, in that we all want to be happy and to be free from suffering.
When we cherish others, we consider them important. Gen Jampa told us that we can respectfully disagree with someone politically, but we can find agreement in thinking they are important. Because they agree with that, we have found some common ground, on the most important matter : )

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Val Passed Away

Val died peacefully yesterday afternoon.
I don't have any details, just my grief and compassion for her family, especially her daughter.

The Importance of a Good View

Yesterday I read a story in the local newspaper about a dispute between neighbors over a tree. One guy, a former professional baseball player, wanted his neighbor across the street to cut down an old tree so that he could have an even better view, even though the tree had been there for years before they built their house. The sufferings of samsara! Even if you live in an exclusive neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes, you can find things to be unhappy about.
Then I heard it in a different way: It is crucial to have the right view, essential to your happiness in fact - for example, cultivating the view that sees others as important.

Monday, September 10, 2012

News of Val

Prayers are working - please keep them coming.
I heard yesterday that Val is in an induced coma after heart surgery, but her husband and her doctors are optimistic. Although serious, that is much better than having a "foot out the door," as I had thought. She's a tough one and has come back before. May she do so again.

The Headless Man and Other Mistakes

Today driving back to my house from the Temple, I saw a headless man walking along the street!
He was like a visitor from a hell realm, missing his most crucial "limb."
Or that was how he looked from the back.
I was relieved when I saw him from the front that it was just that his hooded head was bowed down so far forward that his head disappeared. Most people who are bent over are C-shaped, with a curved back, but he was more F-shaped, with a straight back and a head almost parallel to the ground. He seemed to be walking just fine, not shuffling along the way many people with structural problems do.

At Summer Festival, Gen-la Dekyong encouraged us to collect these false sightings, these gross mistaken appearances, even to keep a notebook of them, because they help undermine our confidence that "seeing is believing," and thus help us overcome our subtle mistaken appearance, our belief in those solid things "out there," that have no relationship with our mind. My first reaction was that I rarely had gross mistaken appearance - but I was mistaken about that too. (A notebook? I'd only need a scrap of paper, I thought.)

Yesterday morning I had another false sighting: I was taking the dog for a short walk down the block. I looked up to see a beautiful quarter moon in a mostly blue sky. For a few moments, the moon seemed to be racing along, but it was the clouds blown by the wind in front of the moon that were actually moving. It was like when you're on a train in the station, sitting at the window and looking out, and it feels like you've started to leave the platform. But it's actually the train next to you that's in motion - you haven't moved at all.

Gen-la gave a personal example: She saw a brown shape scurrying across the path and started making prayers for this little mouse. When she realized it was only a dead leaf blown by the wind, she told herself, "You're so daft, saying prayers for a leaf!"

After hearing the teaching, I saw a bowl with a banana peel as a pile of sliced lemons and a thin stick, I think, as a slug, a cousin to one I'd seen earlier in the shower, but its shape was so stick-like that to this day I'm still not sure if it was a stick or a slug - I didn't want to investigate further.

It's good to be wrong sometimes. It's humbling. And that is a good state for learning.