SITTING WITH DEATH
I used to pride myself for being Multitasker Extraordinaire- a Go Get Er Done Er kinda gal thriving on achievements. Like a Pac Man, I swallowed adversities whole with my eyes on the prize always. Digesting it properly was not an option because it was not efficient. I sidestepped my vulnerabilities and presented the good side with an exclamation mark. The question marks were left unattended.
Vipassana was the gateway- an invitation to get intimate with the unattended.
On the third day, I sat with death. It started with sharp, stabbing pains between my ribs near my lump. Someone told me that cancer is like having PTSD, with every new symptom of “abnormal” the mind goes to the worst-case scenario. Like a confirmation reminding you that there is an end and it might come sooner than later.
The pain I felt was significant. I tried to lasso my breath but couldn’t catch it. The sharp dagger in my chest dove deeper pressing against where I didn’t want to go. My body constricted, my heart raced. What if this is really serious? What if it metastasized into my lungs? Is this it? Maybe I came here to learn how to die?
Fear penetrated my very essence and froze me in place. My mind wrote, edited and recited my own eulogy. A full blown panic attack exploded beneath the shell of my quiet seat. What would happen to my only child? How would my life partner of 20 years survive without me being his constant? How will I be remembered?…
I really don’t know how I managed to sit through that 90 min of hell. Perhaps it was a primal instinct of survival…to just hang on. I left the meditation Hall debilitated and collapsed into a shaking heap in my room. 15 minutes later I was back in the hall where Beast was waiting.
When babies are left to cry it out they eventually give up and stop crying. That’s what happened for the remainder of the afternoon meditations. I just gave in and let my mind shake, rattle and roll. I discovered a sliver of space between the escalating pain and my reaction to it. I struggled to come up for air there. I faced my greatest fear which was that my faith was misplaced….that the very making of me was a farce. Was I wrong and ignorant? Had I let cancer spread everywhere because I chose to believe in myself?
What sprung from the dark side was the urgency to face the truth. I needed certainly which meant I had to have a look inside. It became clear to me that the “not knowing” was the seed that fragmented the very structure of me. Was I riddled with cancer or had my healing practices helped at all? I hadn’t seen my doctor, oncologist or had any kind of scan for 5 months. I held fast to my conviction that everything that I was doing so diligently was healing me. The underbelly of my certainty was the epicenter of my fear. The trepidation of being wrong diverted me from facing facts. That was the real reason I hadn’t checked myself.
Ding! Gut check! This scary realization was the gift I received in those excruciating hours I sat with death. I committed to booking a diagnostic scan upon my return but first I had to survive the rest of Vipassana.
THE FRIENDS AND ENEMIES OF MEDITATION
There was a new notice on the bulletin board that described the friends and foes of meditation. As I read through the enemies list “Obsessive Scepticism” jumped out. Simultaneously, I heard a defensive voice in my head say “Oh no, you’re very open. You’re not skeptical at all!”. As I clung to scenarios where my optimism shined, I saw with blatant clarity that in regards to healing my optimist held hands with a rigid skeptic .
After my first and only appointment with the Oncologist then the Surgeon, I completely shut the door on conventional medicine. I poured every ounce of energy into researching alternative and holistic approaches to healing. I was very quick to be skeptical of any ideas or beliefs that challenged my own. Heck, I was skeptical of pretty much anything and anyone that didn’t align with how I wanted to shape my reality.
My initial feeling was one of dread but then it quickly shifted as I realized that the very awareness of the skeptic in me was a step in the right direction. Perhaps it was the effect of Vipassana that I was able to see the program that I was running. Being stuck in any which way of thinking shielded me from being receptive to potentially very important information. Being fixed on any kind of program may have inhibited not only my healing but my evolution. Wow, what a breakthrough….
Looking at the list again I was utterly humbled. I’d been in bed with the enemy without even knowing it. I realized what a trickster mind can be. It veils the scary stuff, the ugly stuff and disguises them as noble qualities. I was amazed that I didn’t immediately go into self-sabotage mode with this new awareness. Awareness… it’s on the list as my friend! Thank Christ! I stood there and burned both lists into my brain.
5 FRIENDS OF MEDITATION:
5 ENEMIES OF MEDITATION:
OBSESSIVE SCEPTICISM/ DOUBT
LESSON: “WE DON’T LIVE LONGER WHEN WE TRY NOT TO DIE. WE LIVE LONGER WHEN WE’RE TOO BUSY LIVING”