Sunday, July 10, 2011

Life & Death Introspection

So this past week was an interesting one for me. A dear friend of mine, Jan, underwent major surgery for a large growth in her abdomen. She had emergency surgery last April for a hernia that was life threatening. During that surgery, they found a grapefruit sized growth in her lower abdomen. Incessant harassment to pay the bills from said surgery followed by depletion of her savings, she was left with a great deal of fear. Being sixty-odd years old, relying upon meager social security, and knowing there is a tumor inside her, she was paralyzed with fear. However, as the tumor continued to grow, her ability to function normally diminished, and she realized she had to act. So she went back to the doctor early this year for CT Scans and blood work. The tumor had grown to the size of a basketball. After being shuffled here and there between doctors and specialists, she finally had a surgery date set for this past week.

I was able to be with her during some of her appointments and, once again, got to see the love and compassion of this wonderful woman. Even while waiting to hear if the tests for cancer had come back positive or negative, she ministered to other women in the doctor's office, offering her name and number for prayer. Jan has been ministering to the elderly, incarcerated and friends and family for years. Offering letters of support, love and compassion. She was an inspiration to me that even during a time she should be seeking to be ministered to, she was ministering to others. In doing so I believe she found much solace and comfort. Truly a glimpse of Kannon Bodhisattva in action.

The cancer test (CA125) came back 4 times higher than normal. While this test is only an 'indicator' to possible cancer, when it's the only indicator you have, it becomes very powerful.

So I spent most of this week in deep practice. Much chanting, sitting and just analyzing my thoughts and feelings while trying to find the right words to say to help her. I had great doubt that the day of surgery would be a happy one. Boy was I wrong. Her daughter (my ex-wife) SMS'd me after surgery with "It was BENIGN!". I was overwhelmed with emotion.

This brings me to my introspection. During my meditations I tried to see the joy in a life well lived and not focus on the threat of cancer. I tried to realize that this life is a privilege and even 5 minutes on this merry-go-round should be cherished and handled with deep gratitude. I tried to think about the lives Jan touched. How many received her love and compassion. I talked with her about being in the present moment. How we cannot change our past, nor predict the future. How our lives are so intertwined that the concepts of not-existing are just that. I used examples of how my mom, who passed away 16 years ago is still alive today and will continue to be in the reverberations and ripples to the infinite futures.

However I honestly struggled to accept this in my own heart. I saw the risk of losing her as a painful and negative implication on my life and the life of my children, her grandchildren.

Flash forward to the SMS...the sense of relief, the sense of joy were overwhelming. I realize that I still struggle with separation. With the duality of good and bad. Of seeing the impermanence in things and that this 'skin bag', as Daido Roshi calls it, is just that. I have the concepts, I have the mental comprehension, but I still lack the application in much of my practice.

My hope is that through exercises such as this I will continue to come to a deeper realization of life and death, of good and bad being simply concepts, of the suffering that this needlessly creates. That these introspective narratives will provide opportunities for clarity. That Great Faith, Great Doubt and Great Perseverance will help me to evolve into a deeper awareness of my practice.

I am truly thankful to be here. To have these opportunities of practice. To have friends like Jan who continue to teach me about love and compassion.

Many deep bows.

May we all be free of suffering, may we feel safe and still.
May we all be free from enmity, may we be loving grateful and kind.
May we all be healthy, at ease in all our ills.
May we all be at peace, embracing all conditions of life.