belief

I was enjoying a talk by Bill Donohue. Just love the guy. His passion, his authenticity.

I was listening while driving, and something he said affected me, unexpectedly, kind of a Zen slap. (I’ll share the transcript below for context).

What happened was, I had an unexpected realization about how I’ve always believed something that is totally untrue. Just a man-made concept. Nothing to do with Reality as it actually is. And how this belief has affected my entire life (and continues to do so).

It was the simple realization that the 7 days of the week are entirely a made up idea based on an ancient understanding and a collectively consciously agreed upon “fact.” This blew my mind in the instant that I heard Bill talk about it.

Sounds stupid, I know. But as soon as the words came out of his mouth, it hit me as if I saw that moment in an entirely new light. Like a giant weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Like I could really be FREE and actually LIVE in each moment – because that’s the ONLY thing that really exists.

One never knows the time or the place when that little opening of enlightenment will allow you to see everything new again.

I’m grateful to have had many such openings in my lifetime, and each one brings me a little closer to joy, to grace, to realization, to truth, to love.

Thank you, Bill Donohue.

895 Ascension of Buddha, Bill Donahue: (excerpt)

(28:21): “The number 7 means divine intervention

It’s kind of the biblical lucky number because they only knew of 7 planets at that time

That’s why you have 7 days of the week

If they knew we had two other planets out there you’d have 9 days of the week.

All of your weekdays are named after the constellations.

That’s why you have 12 months of the year because of the 12 signs of the zodiac.

The whole thing’s astrology, how can you get away from it?

What are you going to have 13 months of the year?

The first page of the bible, it talks about the stars in the sky:

And let them be for signs and for seasons …..

Well then if it says the stars are for signs, Wouldn’t you think you should find out what the stars mean?”

ananda

Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism):

The Four Types of Bliss (ānanda) are part of the Sixteen Aspects (ṣoḍaśākārā) of Gnosis (jñāna) in terms of conventional reality.

  1. the bliss of the mind (cittānanda),
  2. the bliss of the body (kāyānanda),
  3. the bliss of speech (vāg-ānanda),
  4. the bliss of gnosis (jāñānanda).

Google Books: The Inner Kalacakratantra: A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual

Ananda is a Sanskrit word I learned about back in the day when studied with my teacher, Gail, for my initial yoga teacher training. I understood the word to mean Pure Joy or Bliss or Absolute Happiness.

The word, Ananda, was first introduced to me in the context of Sat Chit Ananda (Truth, Consciousness, Bliss), a Sanskrit expression of the Absolute state of Being – or even the word God could be fitting.

When my friend, Nancy, shared this photo with me this morning, it was this word, Ananda, that I decided was the perfect description for the expression the dogs were exuding in the moment.

How serendipitous to receive this photo today, a very trying day, a day that called upon all of my yogic awareness to recall Ananda’s absolute presence through all of life’s challenges.

I awoke to a new and unusual pain in my chest, upon each breath, a pressure behind my right chest wall. I thought, Oh, this is interesting. What could this be now?

Today being chemo treatment #5 day, I would ready myself for the long drive. Although the pain lessened with each hour, my husband reaffirmed the importance of telling my oncologist about this new pain development.

Unfortunately, the Oncologist said a CAT scan would be necessary to rule out a potential blood clot, only as a precautionary measure.

Off we went to the hospital, for a STAT scan reading, a CAT scan with Contrast.

Yikes, Contrast? Although I was warned by the technician exactly what I would “feel” with the contrast, I was not prepared for the actual experience.

“Okay, it’s going to go fast” she warned, “you’ll feel hot, taste metal in your mouth, and feel like you’re urinating, but you’re not. You may get nauseous or vomit.”

Oh, how delightful, I thought, as I tensed every muscle in my body awaiting the surge. (This was after she stabbed me several times before finding a vein).

Now comes the hot surge. My imagination went haywire. Hot lava is being pushed into my heart, I’m going to explode from the inside out, this is going to fucking kill me, I thought. I winced at the foul metallic taste in my mouth, and panicked as the imaginary hot piss poured down my legs.

Fuck, calm down, I’m going to be okay. I’m going to be okay, I’m going to be okay. I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay. I tried to convince myself.

Then, the picture. I imagined the picture. I conjured the image of those dog expressions in my mind. I remembered the idea, Ananda. Quite remarkably, my awareness shifted. I knew I would be okay. I said the words, “I AM OKAY“.

And, of course, I was okay. But it could have gone so much worse had I let my imagination take me down the path of doom.

Later, the technician gave me the news, “It’s negative.”

Thank you, Nancy and Gary. You and your beloved dogs carried me through the day.

Photo Credit: Nancy and Gary Mahon

Prayer

Saturday was my great-nephew’s 5-year-old birthday party. It was one of those days when the weather is so magnificent you almost can’t believe how beautiful the earth actually is.

So I took the long drive, to be with family who I haven’t seen in a while. To celebrate and enjoy watching the children play outside together.

It was a glorious day for an outdoor party. Great food, conversation, laughter, stories, kids on the trampoline and the clown makeup and balloons.

However, there was something very strange about the day for me. A lingering feeling. An indescribable sense of lightness, a mistiness – kind of how you feel in the steam room when the solid objects are sort of blurred. It was not only the haziness that lingered throughout the day, but there was also the intense presence of my deceased mother. No, I did not think she was there, I knew – yes, I KNOW – my mother was there with us the entire time.

One of the grandmas at the party mentioned to me that my smile reminded her of my mom, and she said, “how she loved to talk and to be with the children.”

I said, “Yes, I know. And she’s here with us today.”

Except, my comment was not made as a casual figure of speech.

On the drive home, the setting sun left the sky so picturesque that I was in awe for the entire ride. Not that that’s so unusual for me. However, it was more intensely felt because I did not feel separate from what I was admiring. I was the sky.

I cannot even explain it any better than that. And it wasn’t until my friend, Annette, shared this video with me this morning that I found a way for it to be expressed with a little more clarity.

Carolyn Myss, 2019 live in Canada is a talk about faith, miracles, prayer, and mysticism. These little blurbs really resonate with me, especially after yesterday’s experience. (these are paraphrased excerpts)

On Miracles:

What’s required for a miracle is that you have such regard for yourself – the more you trust heaven the closer it gets.

Self-esteem at the soul level is the ability to be able to be given an experience that nobody else has, and you can withstand the doubt of a tsunami of people coming at you. If you require the enforcement of other people you cannot be given an experience that only you can substantiate. You’re too fragile, everyone’s doubt will turn into your rage. That’s because other peoples’ doubt for you is personal. It’s not until their doubt means nothing to you that you can handle an experience that only you know is real. So their doubt means nothing. Nobody’s’ fear scares you, nobody’s illness scares you; What’s there to be afraid of? There’s nothing on earth to be afraid of because your soul knows better.

On Prayer:

You pray like you’re crazy.

Okay God, I don’t know how to pray with you yet, but I’ll listen, I’m coming for you, come get me.

Start there. There’s no need for petition prayer. That’s irrelevant. Don’t pray for stuff. 

Take me down deep, show me the reason you gave me life and keep me on that route.

Turn the light on, show me the reason

Let me face what I do not want to see.

That’s how you pray.

Let me do no harm with my dark side while I encounter it.

That’s how you pray.

Pray like you mean it.


what is truth?

This memory I’m about to share probably occurred about 51-53 years ago.

As a 6 to 8-year-old girl I would often watch the black and white TV set with Mom.

There was a movie, a Nazi story. I have no recall what movie it was.

I’ll set the scene as I remember it:

Nazi soldiers are looking for escaped prisoners in a convent. The nuns had hidden a bunch of folks somewhere within the convent property. A soldier is interrogating one of the nuns.

He begins to yell at her, and he slaps her really hard across the face with his hand.

I BURST INTO TEARS.

Now, as a child of this age I had a very cozy, middle income kind of cultural upbringing. There was no trauma, abuse, or anything that I could have identified with at that time that would have reactivated such a harsh emotional reaction to this (subtle, by today’s standards) act of violence.  I was sobbing. Holding back the uncontrollable emotion and tears as much as I could, but I was unable to continue watching the movie. I remember that Mom consoled me.

If Mom were still here, I’d ask her if she had any recollection of the incident. But mom passed last year and she had dementia. So her memory wouldn’t have been very helpful.

Why did that particular incident bring up so much agony and despair for me at that age?

Thinking about this today, it leads me to contemplate:

  • Is our consciousness REALLY inside our brain?
  • Is our consciousness more accurately outside of our brain which would allow access to more than this dimension, this realm, this lifetime, this world?
  • When we’re children, just prior to the unavoidable fact of cultural indoctrination, aren’t we more deeply connected to the reality of our True Conscious Being?

Here’s another childhood memory. About 49-50 years ago, I had an experience while walking home from the school bus up. I’d walk up the hill on Johanna Lane every day, but on this day I had a very sudden moment’s awareness. It was a cognitive sense of being AWARE of more than my little persona, a KNOWING that I WAS ACTUALLY AWARE of MY OWN AWARENESS. How could a 10-year-old process that? I didn’t. I simply remember a feeling as if I had something inside that was more than I could understand. And I liked the feeling. I had something special inside. I became aware of awareness itself just by being quiet, watching my feet take each single step by step along the road’s dark, wet, leafy pavement (it was Fall), and like a Zen meditation, IT appeared, it showed ITSELF, unexpectedly. I received a GIFT.

I would love to hear of any childhood experiences that any readers may have had which reveals a moments’ access to a more open truth of conscious awareness. Please do share ……

I’ll end with a beautiful piece about Truth from one of my favorite Zen masters:  

Most people think that they are basically truthful

But when you look at it for a given day,

How do I embody the truth of being?

Well, you start by telling the truth all the time,

Okay great,

What is the truth then?

What seems to be true for you?

You could look at it as being totally honest all the time

Never deceptive

Never deceiving

Not twisting the sentence where you’re not being completely honest

When you really look at this, even for a single day, you will probably be surprised, maybe even shocked by how often you find yourself shading truths, whether out of fear or out of subtle or overt deception (because you have a fear of being real, being exposed)

There’s hundreds of reason why you might not tell the truth

What is truth then?

It’s not just mere opinion.

It is not unloading your judgements on somebody.

That’s not telling the truth.

It’s more about being deeply and precisely honest, and being very open to having your truth change.

Someone else may inform you. It might alter what’s true for you.

As human beings we clutch on to what we think is true, and when we do state it we state it with a fair amount of defensiveness. So we’re often in a kind of competition, even in the most seemingly casual conversation. You will often notice a quiet, well cultured competition of ideas going on, or just a complete lack of listening. In the average conversation, usually each person is waiting for a gap to jump in and say what they want. This is common in conversation. In a truth sense, conversation is listening to what might be true in any situation. Unless you listen, you’re not going to get anywhere.

No this is not very esoteric, but it’s demanding, it’s real, kind of where the rubber hits the road.

We never like to admit to ourselves when we’re lying. We think we’re doing it for their sake.

If you have a little sensitivity, you can say something truthful or honest without being so overt.

If you want to really start to embody some of your deepest realizations of being, start by telling the truth all the time.

Will there be consequences?  Yes.

How am I delivering the truth? Am I saying what’s really true? Or am I insisting on the truth?

If you get lots of negative feedback on your truth telling, examine how am I delivering this truth, how insistent am I, or am I very simply being honest and real?

One of the ways human beings manipulate each other is by shading the truth.

It’s hard to manipulate somebody when you’re totally honest.

This practice of truth will transform your life. You can’t say how, until you do it.

You can’t control how it will work out.

How could you possibly embody the enlightened condition and be anything less than truthful?

Your experience of being tends to become richer, deeper, more profound, more connected with your human relative life. That inner private space of being and outer human existence are no longer felt as two things, that illusion that there are two things. It’s actually ONE thing.

The more truthful you are, the deeper your sense of connection becomes. That exquisite feeling of spontaneous balanced flow feeling, all of you together, your internal division has come together. If you want to be divided, tell lies. You will feel conflicted inside. Sometimes overtly and sometimes very subtle.

Truth is a unifier. It brings the force of your psychology, your emotions together.

When it’s just truth, there’s something inside of you that comes deeply together.

This is not a direct translation of the YouTube recording. It is my paraphrased excerpts from Adyashanti’s talk titled, ‘What is Truth?

Alone I know nothing

Yes, I admit, I know absolutely nothing when it comes to the Truth of this Reality.

I have to recognize that each time I forget.

Otherwise, I am just deluded.

The persona, Janet, which I embody, seems to be a mind/body/spirit complex Being who believes she is separate from What Always Is.

But she’s Not separate in Actuality.

And that’s where the Knowing comes in. And this is how Knowing showed up for me:

In February 2019 after my breast reconstruction surgery (post 2 years of “successful” breast cancer treatment), I began to have signals – feelings, big surges of desire for change, deep disappointment with my current state of affairs in every aspect.

It felt like an alien took over my body/mind complex and was informing me to make major life changes. At times, I felt like I was having an emotional breakdown.

It really did feel alien, because I’m typically very tolerant, an empathetic sort who deals with anger/judgmental emotions in a way that sets the feelings aside through deep contemplation of how to engage forgiveness and acceptance.

But this “alien” showed up and said in my head’s voice, “Fuck this. I’m done. I can’t live like this anymore.”

I felt possessed. I couldn’t stop the feelings, and the voice in my head was insistent.

This alien visitor (coincidentally?) appeared exactly at the time I began experiencing pain in the breast reconstruction area…..

This pain presented as sharp, burning, electric jolts of pain. This was in March directly after the February 25 surgery.

The alien informed me, “Get out of this marriage relationship and run far away, free yourself from the family drama and incessant codependent relationships you are witnessing.  Leave it all behind.  Get a van, live in it, and travel across county. Find out who you are.”

The alien voice further insisted, “It’s time to quit all these yoga jobs. You’re running around like a chicken without a head, wasting gas and time for piddling compensation, not to mention you’re exhausted. You no longer feel inspired to teach yoga, but required. And that’s not how you used to feel.”

I listened.

In April, the most grueling words I’ve ever felt forced to voice somehow came out of my mouth, and I informed my husband of 30 years, “I think we should separate from each other.”

Next, I gave my notice to 3 out 4 of my yoga employers. I would be taking a long term sabbatical from teaching yoga for personal/health reasons.

It was now May, and my pain turned into a visible rash on the skin of my right breast. The doctors guessed, Shingles?

In June my radiation Oncologist saw my growing, worsening rash, looked at me with a face of horror, and said, “I don’t think this is shingles. You need a biopsy.”

During all of this, my husband and I talked, yelled, cried, shared, but ultimately came to agreement that our relationship was worth working at….. together.. .We agreed to hold on to the foundation of love beneath all the dysfunctional and difficult stuff that has arisen.

Still experiencing burning pain, I couldn’t even keep the one yoga job I had held onto, and I asked for time off due to the painful rash. 

On June 18, my husband’s birthday, I had a skin biopsy. The result: Recurrent breast cancer in the skin.

In July, my PET scan result was: Inflammatory breast cancer metastasized to skin.

In August, it was confirmed that my disease is stage 4, incurable, and chemotherapy along with any eligibility for trials would be my best option and hope for remission.

And so I contemplate ……..

  • Did the “Alien” KNOW I had cancer before I did?
  • Did the “Alien” inform my actions based on the KNOWLEDGE that I needed healing through self love?
  • Did the “Alien” show up as actual cancer cells to bring me to my knees in surrender so that I could focus first on service to self, which automatically will then develop into service to others?

I feel inclined to believe that this thing I refer to as the Alien is Life Itself (God).

Does that mean God is the cancer too? I think so.

And although in this realm we perceive what happens as good or bad, this Alien Voice, Life Itself, God is NEUTRAL, but in Unseen Reality the inevitable result is always for the highest good…… something we cannot perceive or know.

And although Janet Alone cannot KNOW the highest good, when Connected to Source she can allow what Life Itself intends to live through her.

 Today’s prayer:

 Allow me to fulfill my purpose, whatever that may be.

the unknown and true healing

Having had so much time for contemplation, under different circumstances than usual (now that I’ve been diagnosed with an “incurable” illness), I am given opportunity realize the power of the unknown.

Now more than ever.

I wonder, do we all get that moment? To realize life’s infinite potential for the unexpected? I suppose I should feel immense gratitude for being given the opportunity to recognize, to revisit, to place all my attention, to value the absolute power of Life (God, Chi, Prana, Source, Brahman, Tao, etc.) and its ability to infinitely Create limitless potentiality.

So I begin to look back at my daily routine, only about 6-8 weeks ago, which would consist of morning breakfast, (after feeding the cats, of course), a lemon squeezed in my water, fresh blueberries and Kefir laced with Chia and flax seeds, along with my toasted slice of Ezekiel bread and a schmear of chunky almond butter. Coffee, of course. AHHH, pure heaven! Breakfast was always my favorite meal of the day. Then my home yoga practice, meditation, daily contemplative reading, stretching, and always a handstand to get the adrenaline flowing. And finally off to teach my yoga classes for the day ……..

I took that simple routine for granted. Not that I didn’t practice gratitude. I certainly did, as this was part of my work as a teacher to live and impart this knowledge. But truthfully, it’s not until one is faced with the reality of losing something that the actuality is available to knowing how valuable that something was. Now its REAL.

Loss, unexpected change, trauma, illness, is always a wake up call. Some may call it fierce grace. Whatever one chooses to call it, it kind of feels like losing your house to a tornado, and some of the neighbors houses are still standing. You wonder, Was there purpose in this for me?

Now, I have been given the opportunity to learn a new routine. I am awakened in the morning by pain, and I reach for the pills at my bedside. Then I hobble to the toilet, cringing at the stabbing, burning pain enveloping my entire right chest and armpit.

I have found that once I get the pain managed with pills, I’m able to conjure up the strength, slowly, to continue that morning routine of cat feeding and my breakfast. Now, I REALLY value this even more because it’s so difficult to achieve.

Then I spend time in contemplative reading, meditation, dream journaling, and admiring the scene of summer’s nature out the window. I know I won’t lose the ability to engage in these practices unless I should lose consciousness, and for that I am so grateful. The pain is less at this point after eating breakfast, although I’m very weak – the chemo has begun to do its job of killing my blood cells. There is no longer any ability to perform a physical yoga practice, unless walking very slowly can be considered my new asana.

There is no more driving. The painful rash and swelling enveloping my chest has created a limited arm movement that makes it unsafe to drive. It’s a loss of independence.

There is no more teaching yoga, floor or aerial, or home practice. It’s like losing a dear friend.

There is no more physical intimacy with my beloved the way it used to be. A reminder, the physical sensation of youth is temporary.

There is no more cleaning and vacuuming, cooking and grocery shopping on my own. Time to let go of control.

I have learned a few things from all of the unexpected loss and change:

I need to take strong pain medicine to have any decent quality of life. I will never harshly judge another who may have abused narcotics. We don’t know the reason for one’s sense of need to manage their pain.

I can only move my body in very slow motion to avoid any sharp pain. This has provided me with a deeper sense of gratitude for practices I’ve learned, such as Tai Chi, that enable slow graceful movements that feel energetically powerful.

I cannot hug anyone or lie on my side or lie prone. It is actually uncomfortable to lie down at all without strong pain medicine. But I do enjoy holding my husband’s hand, squeezing it during my chemo treatments, and looking into his loving eyes.

Of all the seeming loss this inflammatory breast cancer has caused, there is just as much gain in many aspects of new awareness.

As I took a slow walk outside today,

I listened more closely than I have in a long time.

I smelled the summer blossoms and country air.

I felt my emotional body and God’s presence more deeply.

I cherished nature’s beauty more sincerely.

I loved each moment’s opportunity to be a witness to my own awareness.

I forgave myself for all of my mistakes, misunderstandings, and wrong judgements.

I recognized that the potential for true healing has little to do with a physical body and that true healing is a mystery which is unsolvable by a human mind.

I sensed that true healing has infinite possibility to be experienced through the human heart.

mission

I have a mission to fulfill.

Don’t we all?

I recognize for an instant the connection of consciousness as One.

It’s only an instant. Pouf, it’s gone. I forget again.

Instead, I focus on the sharp stings in my chest, my armpit. I cringe. Fucking pain. Fucking cancer. The skin on my chest is so hideous I look like a freak show. And it hurts like a mother F-er.

Take another pill. Ha, me who never took an aspirin. Now I need a narcotic to get through the night.

Oh, she loves to pity herself doesn’t she?

Then I snap back.

I have a mission to fulfill.

Seriously. This mission is so important that it’s the ONLY thing that really matters.

And I’ll never get to KNOW what the mission is.

Maybe the mission will be revealed after this body is gone.

Or maybe it won’t.

It doesn’t matter.

It’s an INFINITE mission.

And we are ALL fulfilling it.