Thursday, March 21, 2013


Shop window in the Mission.
Not sure what they were selling.
This morning I talked to Anna Dowling, the RN who works with Amy Nelson. From what I described of my symptoms and what helps them (clearing out dust, mold, and taking Benadryl) she agreed that it sounded like allergies are what have been plaguing me. While acknowledging that cancer and allergies can share some of the same symptoms (in my case, fatigue, chest congestion and coughing), she said the kind of symptoms associated with cancer are: perpetual difficulty catching breath, difficulty lying down because of coughing, and a lot of trouble with any kind of physical exertion. I do not have any of this. She said she'd send an email to Dr. Nelson and my GP.

I know that to most people, allergies don't sound like anything, especially compared to cancer. It really has been rather debilitating, though it's better since I cleaned things up a bit and got a mattress cover.

Something happened when I was walking to the MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) class last night. It was a big yet subtle change with mostly wordless content that isn't really possible for me to describe, but I will try to articulate...

During the walk I noticed that I was feeling the usual dread and resistance. And after every class I think, that was good, so glad I did that. Not just this time, but literally for years, this same feeling, and the same change of feeling. Suddenly I thought...what is this? It happens before pretty much everything I teach, almost a feeling of doom. What is it? And something unraveled. A deep and murky and unconscious thing. Something about being good, or good enough. Though it is subtle, an energy below the surface, I felt the locked in quality, how it is tight and dark and completely self absorbed.

Julie's brother's gorgeous dog, Mack
At the practice day last weekend, I almost completely dropped it. It's so simple (but I assure you the process of getting there isn't!), but I felt a little underprepared. In some way I felt quite baffled about what to do. How to help people let go? I have no fricking idea. It just happens, you can't make it happen. But there it was on the Center calendar, a description of sorts about a day of letting go. While leading it I knew there was nothing to worry about. I was simply offering what I can offer, since there is nothing more than that I can do. There were a few times during the day, when the thought arose, this is not good enough, but I let it go. It felt like stepping out of a cage. Several people have told me they really enjoyed the day and got a lot out of it. I'm happy that some people feel they benefitted from it; in a way, my attitude toward it stays the same.

Over the years I have often had some degree of fear or nervousness around teaching, at least in some situations. Coupled with a habit of ignoring fear and plowing ahead, there has been little opportunity to examine it. So walking to the MBSR class, there was a paradigm shift. I resolved to think of the class in terms of giving a gift, of offering something. There is nothing much I can do right now about whether the gift is accepted, or even the quality of the gift. The gift is something about practice, based in my own experience, that I am trying to communicate. The experience of teaching, or probably anything, is painful (some of you will know the term, dukkha) to the exact degree that it's about needing affirmation of any kind or on any level. Not that you don't care if people get something out of it; more that you care in a way that brings more freedom.

The murky I'm-not-good-enough attitude was fascinating to explore. It melted under scrutiny and left a much freer way of being. It occurred to me how much  anti-ego, which in Buddhism is the same as ego, I have brought to teaching, at least some of the time, all these years. It seems that this has changed a bit, at least for the time being.


  1. I like this: "The gift is something about practice, based in my own experience, that I am trying to communicate."

  2. The writer Jon Carroll once said something like, "You are your own excellent consequence..."