Lessons from Cancer

Posted in Zen Buddhism with tags , , on May 9, 2014 by Jăbō

I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason – unless that reason is Karma. I also don’t believe that situations are put in our path in order to teach us something. I do believe, however, that we can learn from the situations that arise in our lives if we choose to.

It’s coming up on two years since my breast cancer diagnosis. I’m currently disease-free and almost done with my reconstruction. I’ve shifted gears from identifying as a cancer patient to a cancer survivor.

And yet, I’ve noticed that I still use cancer as an excuse whenever it suits me. True, I still have some residual fatigue. True, I still have some memory loss from chemo. But these issues don’t have to keep me from living my life to the fullest, unless I let them.

So, in an effort to turn the page on that chapter of my life, here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way:

  1. I learned how to meditate during cancer treatment. No matter how awful I felt, I found time to get it done. Now that I’m well, I have a much more robust meditation practice that I did before.
  2. I learned who my true friends are, or at least who was emotionally mature enough to stand by me in the face of fear. And I made new friends.
  3. I learned that I needed to take better care of my body, and I started learning how to do that. It remains an ongoing process.
  4. I learned how to ask for help without embarrassment and how to accept it without guilt.
  5. I learned, on the deepest possible level, that life is fleeting.
  6. I learned how not to over-commit myself.
  7. I learned how to say “no” to things I really don’t want to do, and to say it graciously and without remorse.
  8. I learned how to politely avoid people who drain me or give off negative energy.
  9. I learned that it’s not enough to have priorities unless I also live them.
  10. I learned what being grateful really means.

May all beings benefit.

~ Jabo

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Impermanence

Posted in Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism with tags , on April 28, 2014 by Jăbō

The Radiant Buddha said:

Regard this fleeting world like this:
Like stars fading and vanishing at dawn,
like bubbles on a fast moving stream,
like morning dewdrops evaporating on blades of grass,
like a candle flickering in a strong wind,
echoes, mirages and phantoms, hallucinations,
and like a dream.

– the Eight Similes of Illusion,
from The Prajna Paramita Sutras

I copied this passage into a journal entry dated 12-2-02. It gives me a soft, gentle ache in my heart to read. Because I understand impermanence. 

No, really. I do.

You see, I’m a breast cancer survivor. I had Stage III B on a scale where the next step up is nearly always fatal. So I’ve had an up-close-and-personal view of death. Of impermanence. Of life. And gratitude.

I’m so grateful to the Buddha for reminding us that it is all just an illusion. It helps keep me from getting too attached to this form. May it help you, too.

~Jabo

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Holiday Haiku

Posted in Zen Buddhism on December 22, 2013 by Jăbō

Happy Holidays

to all beings, everywhere.

May they be at peace.

 

Jabo Prajna Chop Small

Posted in Zen Buddhism on February 6, 2013 by Jăbō

Never say anything that doesn’t improve on silence.

― Richard Yates, A Good School

What is Right Speech?  Refraining from…frivolous speech.

― The Buddha

I have nothing to add.

The Stream of Power and Wisdom

Posted in Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism with tags , on February 2, 2013 by Jăbō

Place yourself into the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into your life.  Then, without effort, you are impelled to truth and to perfect contentment.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love Emerson’s suggestion.  There are many ways to place oneself into the stream.  Yesterday, I did so while painting the inside of a house.  Most days, I do so through meditation.  And I am deeply content.  Even while waiting for insurance authorization of my radiation treatments.  Even while bone weary from painting.  When I remember that I’m in the stream, as a Zen Buddhist monk once said to me, “I don’t get disturbed.”

Gateway

Posted in Tibetan Buddhism with tags on January 29, 2013 by Jăbō

I’ve been accepted into a 7-year study and practice program entitled “Gateway: Journey into the Heart of Machig’s Lineage.”  This is a reference to Machig Labdron, an 11th Century Tibetan Yogini.  I’ve studied some of Machig’s practices before, but what I know is really just the bare beginning.

The teachers are Lama Tsultrim Allione (with whom I’ve been on retreat 3 times so far), Tulku Sang-Ngag Rinpoche, and Khenpo Ugyen Wangchuk.  The program includes approximately 2 hours of practice daily and various week-long retreats throughout the years at Tara Mandala in Pagosa Springs, CO.  The teachings and practices incorporate what historically would be covered in a 3-year retreat.  For us householders who can’t get away for 3 years straight, it’s going to take 7 years.  :)

Topics of study include the following:

  • Contemplations on the Six Thoughts That Turn the Mind toward the Dharma
  • Training in the two kinds of Bodhicitta: Absolute and Relative
  • The Four Immeasurables: Love, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity
  • Progressive Stages of Emptiness and other topics
  • Barlung Breathing
  • Refuge & Prostrations
  • Vajrasattva Mantra recitation
  • Mandala Offering
  • Guru Yoga
  • Dream Yoga
  • Parchangma Chöd (a Shamanic practice used for physical and spiritual healing)

The program begins in late June with a retreat at Tara Mandala.  I’m already preparing by memorizing the various chants I’ll need to know in Tibetan.

May all beings benefit!

My Current Daily Practice

Posted in Tibetan Buddhism with tags , , , , on January 26, 2013 by Jăbō

My spiritual practice has taken many forms over the years.  One thing I’ve learned is that the line between “spiritual” practice and other practices is purely imaginary.  Here are the things I’m doing now which I consider parts of my spiritual journey:

  • Sitting and enjoying a cup of green tea while reading inspiring works.  My tea is part of my new cancer-prevention regimen, so is also part of my physical practice or self-care.
  • Reading inspirational literature (while enjoying my green tea.)  I spend about 20-30 minutes reading from a variety of daily readers in several different traditions.  Five of them are Buddhist.  Seven of them are not.  This practice also helps to keep me mentally sharp.
  • Giving myself an all-over Reiki treatment.  Reiki is a Japanese energy technique used for relaxation and healing.  I spend about 15 minutes on this.  Reiki, like my tea, also falls under the category of physical health.
  • Meditating.  Yes, I do a traditional sit-and-still-the-mind practice.  I’m currently doing 40-45 minutes per day.  I’m participating in the Winter Feast for the Soul, which I highly recommend, even starting “late.”  Of all the meditations offered, I’m doing the Tibetan one, which includes some chanting.

It all adds up to 90 minutes per day.  I could never do it if I saw these things as tasks or chores.  Luckily, I enjoy each part of my routine, even mindfully brewing my tea.  And it sure beats watching television.  At the end of my life, I may wish that I had meditated more, but I doubt I’ll wish that I had watched more television.

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