Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A homeless guy called me "sir"

Dhammarati and I worked on this groovy book
cover at some point. The photo is from my tent,
on the three month retreat I did in '09.
Perhaps for many women, being female is rather more obvious. Maybe it's the delicate bones or facial structure. But for me it's all about my earrings, hair, or whether or not I'm wearing a dress. I am fairly tall, with broad shoulders. I'm not sure why it annoys me so much when someone calls me "sir"!

Taught the second class downtown today. I enjoyed teaching the class and think it's good, but takes an enormous amount of energy in my current state. I realized that saying "it's only an hour" is ridiculous, because a shorter class is actually more work than a longer one. Anyway, half way through! Makes me appreciate even more teaching that class with Bill who was holding the reigns.
Padmatara is coming now and will be backup if I can't do it, so that makes me feel much better.

Yesterday with the class and then seeing Misha I had to go downtown twice, which was extremely difficult. When I get really tired there is much more pain and coughing, but the good thing is that I do feel rejuvenated after sleeping, for a while.

I took some time writing to shabda, our monthly Order "reporting-in" journal. Here is what I wrote:

San Francisco, May 26, 2013

Dear friends, After receiving 10 days of radiation to my brain (yes, it is very sci-fi). I'm also taking Alzheimer's medication (in a very recent study it was shown to reduce cognitive decline from brain radiation.) So I'm probably at least a bit dumber than the last time you saw me, and the fatigue is intense. And lying in bed most of the day is a good time to catch up on reading shabda! Thank you to those who have wished me well.

My experience of the Order now is largely one of love and friendship. Having ended eight years of working for the Center, and, in a way without the distractions of the difficulties that come up working with people and getting tasks done, all that's left is this very strong sense of connection, and the feeling of love that arises for people, not just people here, everywhere. I'm finding it amazing, not so much that Bhante created this Order, but that he even had the idea in the first place.

Because in my experience the prospect of death brings out love. Much of the love is tinged with sadness, but even that makes me realize what a gift it is to be able to love so many people, and to be loved. I confess that I was not aware of this prior to knowing that I probably have a terminal illness.  Of course some of the usual barriers to expression have been removed, too, so much more gets said than it might have BC (before cancer.) I feel blessed to be part of this Order.

On a related note, I just spent a most delightful 10 days or so with Dhammagita. Not only was it fun  but she completely barraged me with gifts, which I sucked up like a hungry ghost  (albeit with a very large throat.) Sad to say goodbye yesterday.

Many people think of me as a dying person. This is mostly not how I think of myself. It's true that a year or two more of living is probably the most I can expect, that recent scans of my body (plus a routine brain scan) in the last month surprised everyone by showing cancer all over the place, even though I have no cancer symptoms. In terms of my daily experience, I am focused on life. The direction that my energy takes has completely changed to sort of interacting with my body, which is to say, mitigating the physical side effects of cancer treatment, and mental or spiritual effects as well. It is an all-encompassing task. In general, my orientation has almost completely changed from the future to now. I am still, at least sometimes, is very much full of life, which of course will be more apparent in person than it is on my blog. I remain cancer-symptomless, but after many different treatments in the last year and a half, all assaults in their own way, the side effects seem to be piling up. I include in the side effects all the different kinds of aging my body has done, mostly not visible, in a way that is beyond my 49 years.

Working with Vidyadevi to turn my blog Crap! I've got Cancer! into a book. Also, I will self-publish soon, also with her help, a collection of writings (from Bhante and other Order members') on brahmacarya called "Celibacy and Buddhism: Bits and Bobs on Sex and the Divine Life." I'm thinking it will be on the best seller list in no time...or else hopefully be a useful source of info for those looking for it. If anyone out there wants to do a second edition sometime - there is much more that could be usefully added - please do.

My anagarika ceremony will be on our Order day on June 15. Parami is flying out here to do the ceremony. (Fundraising for that initiated by Savanna in New York, bless her cotton socks!) My illness has pushed me a bit more into that way of life (simplicity...and a focus on my body in a way that is naturally not sexual) so it feels like something that's already been done in a way.

I've spent a lot of time writing the blog for the last...year and half, so have written into shabda maybe twice I think. I'm going to try to write in more.  As my paternal grandmother used to write, Armfuls of love, Suvarnaprabha


  1. When I brought Steve home from the hospital, after he had been in there for 5+ weeks, one of the airline attendants thought he was my mother. We didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Our outward appearance defines how others see us in very unexpected ways.

  2. Thank you for sharing this with the world. As I am not ordained (and it looks like there are quite some more years to go) I often feel sad to be excluded from taking part in the sharing of intimate spiritual experiences the order members share with each other. Thank you for generously sharing your experiences of this crucial time of your life with the world. Love, Claudia from Essen, Germany

  3. Thank you for sharing your Shabda letter with us. I look forward to reading your book on Celibacy & Buddhism. So happy for you that in two weeks from now, Parami will be there to anagarika-ize you & recognize your brahmacarya practice. If it is any consolation, I always get asked if I want the senior's discount, to which I reply "How old do I have to be?" "Oh, hahaha, 65? I'm ONLY 57!" but it still doesn't take the sting out of it.

  4. I too, Look forward to reading the book ....well both, but hopefully the one on celibacy and buddhism first ... three years or more in the making and it will no doubt be an inspirational collection ... Thank You.
    I will be thinking of you especially on 15th and sending (as always) love.....

  5. Walking on beach in my 2 piece bathing suit, I yell to a guy in a wheelchair who is throwing sticks into the water for his dog, "Hey Man, cutest dog ever!" He says, "Thanks Bro!...ah, Thank you, Mam!"