“Pain, Love, and Happiness”

On Labor Day, I drove down to the University of California at Santa Barbara with Nancy Aberle, Gail Teehan’s friend from the Feldenkrais for a six day retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh.  We made the trip in about six and one-half hours, and enjoyed getting to know one another.  I imagine that she is a wonderful Feldenkrais teacher.

I was truly amazed at the turn out for the retreat, and how well organized it was for so many people.  I was placed in a dorm with an 85 year old gentleman, J. G. from Laguna Beach.  He was truly marvelous the whole six days.  It was wonderful to see a wealthy old Jew be so taken by Thay (a nickname for Thich Nhat Hanh).

Our meals were taken in silence in large tents set up by the dorm.  The food was strict vegetarian for the entire six days, and it was remarkably good.  I think I might have even gained three or four pounds!

The days began with walking meditation with Thay to and along the beach that runs at the edge of the campus.  With each step, there is one inhalation and one exhalation.  Naturally, I used “healthy…, free…” the whole time.  After about thirty minutes of walking, Thay would sit on a dune practicing sitting meditation for about twenty minutes, and we would all join him.  Then we would walk back to the central part of the retreat in the same manner as we walked to the beach.  On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I walked and sat with three feet of Thay during the period of walking meditation.

After breakfast, there was always a dharma talk – a talk about the teaching of Buddha and the practical application of them in a life of engaged Buddhism.  I was familiar with about ninety per cent of what he spoke about, but the look on his face, the excitement in his voice, and the presence of his being are well worth the time spent.

Following Thay’s talk, one of the monks or nuns led us in mindful movements, which I later learned are related to qi gong.  I was especially interested in them because of my workshop plans with Gail Teehan on “Mindfulness and ART in Healing.”

The schedule called for sitting meditation after the dharma talk, but it usually changed because of an extra long talk or other events.  When I sat, I noticed that I was not obsessing about next week’s diagnostic tests – a biopsy of a mass in my thigh, and a cystoscopy.  I found myself able to maintain a degree of mindfulness that kept me pretty much in tune with the present moment.

The afternoons were filled with special interest groups, dharma discussions, and supposedly a period of sitting meditation.  I attended a special interest group on death and dying led by Joan Halifax, Ph. D.  Joan is an ordained Zen teacher in the line of Thich Nhat Hanh, Seung Sahn, and Bernie Glassman Roshi.  She is the founder of Upaya and resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The first time we met, she spoke about being with the dying person without trying to fix them.  If they were open to teachings about mindfulness, we should speak with them, otherwise, we should just be there with our mindfulness engaged in “loving speech and deep listening.”  The next morning, I had a private interview with Joan.  I wanted to discuss my practice as it related to healing the cancer that was in my body.  I could tell that she was deeply moved by my story, and she had me tell it again to a small group of her special interest group in the afternoon.

Following the special interest groups, there were dharma discussions.  The first day, we had a tea ceremony, which was lovely.  The other days, we spoke about Thay’s dharma talk, the “Five Mindfulness Trainings“, and other topics which people brought up.  I found myself speaking a lot and sharing my story with this group also.  We seemed to get very close in a matter of hours.  I expect to continue my friendship with several of the people I met in my dharma discussion group.

The schedule called for sitting meditation after the dharma discussion groups.  One afternoon, the thirty-four monks and nuns that were traveling with Thay from Plum Village were invited to demonstrate some of the chanting they do in their practice.  The chanting was so wonderful.  It seemed as if they all had wonderful voices.  Thay, himself, introduced us to many of the monks and nuns.

On that same afternoon, Nancy came to visit me.  After the chanting, we took a walk on the beach and I talked her into staying for dinner.  She did not stay for the evening program.

The evening programs were varied and wonderful.  Monday night, Thay gave an introductory dharma talk.  Tuesday night, Sister Chan Khong offered “Five Earth Touchings”.  The five earth touchings consisted of acknowledging our physical ancestry, and our spiritual ancestry, along with honoring the ancestors who made freedom possible in our corner of the world.  The final two touchings were to people we love the most and people we love the least.  I was moved to tears by most of this experience.

I spoke with Sister Chan Khong the next day before lunch about the “Five Earth Touchings”.  I also told her about my illness and how I used mindfulness as a healing tool.  She shared with me two stories about people who also used mindfulness with their illnesses.  I then told her about “healthy cells grow all by themselves,” and she said, “With your wisdom and Thay’s teachings, you are going to be fine.”

On Wednesday evening, there was a presentation of the Five Mindfulness Trainings offered by several people in the Order of Interbeing.  I found this quite helpful, as I planed to take them along with the three refuges of the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings), and the Sangha (group of people in the practice of the dharma).  In other Buddhist traditions, the Five Mindfulness Trainings are known as the Five Precepts for lay people practicing Buddhist meditation.  I am going to try to get permission to put the text of Thay’s Five Mindfulness Trainings on this site, but for now, I’ll simply summarize the intent of each one.

  1. Respect for life – non-killing
  2. Respect for property – non-stealing
  3. Avoidance of sexual misconduct
  4. Respect for others – loving speech and deep listening – telling the truth
  5. Avoidance of intoxicants – drugs, alcohol, certain TV programs, etc.

I have been practicing most of these precepts already, and the formal presentation was quite interesting.  I took all five mindfulness trainings on Saturday morning when they were offered by Thay.

On Thursday evening, Sister Chan Khong presented the “Three Prostrations”.  These involved our relationship to time, space, and the whole stream of life.  Once again, I was deeply moved.

The last night consisted of questions from the sangha and answers from Thay.  He responded spontaneously to many wonderful questions.

The whole retreat reminded me of Thay’s description of the life of the Buddha in Old Path White Clouds. The walking meditations suggested Buddha’s travels in what is now India and Nepal.  He walked everywhere with a sangha of about 1500 bhikkhus and lay people.  The silent meals reminded me of how the bhikkhus would beg for food in the villages and towns and return to the forest to eat their meals together.


Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha
My Favorite Book

Anat Meets Anna

I brought Anat Baniel, Gail Teehan, and Nancy Aberle, a Feldenkrais practitioner in Santa Barbara to Anna Halprin‘s class this evening.  The interaction among these wonderful teachers was wonderful.  One of the members arrived at the class and was actually too sick to do anything.  She wanted to be taken to the emergency room to see if there was anything they could do for her.  She left with the lady that brought her and another member of our group.

This put the group in a rather somber mood, so Anna had us do a remarkable ceremony with Native American overtones.  The movement brought us quite close together and we all felt better for ourselves and for the sick lady.  It turned out that she was able to go home that evening.


Feldenkrais with Harold

On Wednesday, I had another session with Leslie Davenport, and today, I met with her with my wife for the second time.  Things went much better this time, and we seemed to get along better after the session.  I was careful to express what I thought would work for me and I felt that Mala really got it.

Earlier, I had a Feldenkrais lesson with Harold at the Feldenkrais training led by Anat Baniel.  Although the session was not as good as I am used to, it worked well for me.  Harold runs several old folks homes and his daughter runs physical therapy studios in the Chicago area. Gail and I took Harold out for lunch to tell him about our workshops.  His reaction was favorable and he said that he would talk things over with his daughter and get back to us.  His story about his illness and how he came to the Feldenkrais training was fascinating, but I won’t go into it here.


Ten Days Later

It’s been over a week since I’ve had an opportunity to write in these pages. Two weekends have gone by, and a week of hectic activity. I’ve finally become a “regular” for tennis with D. F. and E. M. on Mondays and Fridays. I’ve been a substitute for years and now I’m finally playing all the time. This changes a couple of things around for me. It means that I will have to miss Gail Teehan’s Feldenkrais lessons at D. B.’s house. It also ties up two mornings a week, but it’s what I want to do.

Last week I went to Anna Halprin‘s class on Monday, which was led by Julie. We performed a “hands” ritual, and my drawing was of hands in various positions. They were all variations of “loving hands”, even though none of the drawings had that name. They were called, “praying hands”, “begging hands”, “healing hands”, and “just hands”. The “begging hands” came from an insight I had while doing the ritual: we are all beggars, asking for just one more day on the earth, but there is no one to beg, and no one to answer. Therefore praying and begging amount to the same thing. We need to take responsibility for our own lives and allow other people to live around us.

I had a great Feldenkrais lesson with Gail on Tuesday, and a wonderful session with Leslie Davenport on Thursday.

Wednesday was quite exciting! I received calls from two publishers and met with a third. The first one wanted a copy of the complete manuscript for Healthy Cells Grow All By Themselves! I have been very busy converting the web pages to a document in the format required by this publisher. This has taken all of the time I usually spend writing the web pages.

The second publisher wanted to see a business plan for the book, which contains a synopsis and Table of Contents.

The third was Burton Goldberg, publisher of Alternative Medicine Digest and co-author of  An Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide to Cancer. I told him my story and listened to his. Apparently, there is a lot more to the cancer cure than I or anyone one that I know is currently aware of and Goldberg’s book has many new answers. I don’t quite know where this relationship is going, but it could be very interesting. He especially likes my ideas of teaching people about cancer alternatives, through Mindfulness and ART in Healing. He thought that my idea to form a non-profit corporation to raise money to offer the workshop for free to financially handicapped patients was quite viable.


Stop Cancer In Its Tracks: Healthy Cells Grow All By Themselves
Buy This Book
to learn about
Mindfulness in Healing

Nobody Wants to Go to Pleasanton!

Gail Teehan and I had lunch with Leslie Davenport today to discuss her thoughts about our workshop last Wednesday. Her reaction was excitingly positive! She thought that the guided mindfulness meditation was wonderful, and she even wanted to use some of what I said in her guided imagery practice! As far as the Feldenkrais lesson was concerned, her only criticism was that Gail taught the lesson from a script, and it would have gone over better if she had memorized the movements. Gail accepted this comment with grace and charm, and the willingness to do so.

Since my wife was returning this evening, I wanted to make it somewhat special! I cleaned the house with the help of my daughter and bought her some roses. I even offered to make dinner for her, but she had had enough food over the past three days! It was nice to have her home again, and after apologizing profusely for all the mistakes I made, she seemed to settle into being home again.


Mindfulness and ART in Healing

Today was one of the best days of my life! Gail Teehan and I led a two hour workshop in Leslie Davenport‘s wellness group at Marin General Hospital. The group was so pleasant and open to experiencing what we were there to give that the two hours just flew by as if they were only minutes. I took much pleasure in telling my story and leading the mindfulness meditation, and I was very impressed with Gail’s handling of the check in and Feldenkrais lesson. The feedback was phenomenal! We are ready to take this concept around to healing centers everywhere!

This is our idea: We will set up a non-profit organization so that people who want to take our workshop can do so without financial burden. We will apply for grants and accept donations from wealthy people who have been helped by our cause. We will use this money to offer scholarships to those people who can’t afford to pay for our services, and we will still draw our salaries from the corporation. The concept is still under development, and we are open to suggestions and contributions. Naturally, sales of Healthy Cells Grow All By Themselves will help promote our workshop, and our workshop will help promote sales of the book. Eventually, we will publish a book together based on the workshop. All it takes is time and money!

After the workshop we had lunch at an authentic Mexican restaurant and Gail gave me another one of her magnificent healing massages. Her work on my abdomen and bladder continue to inspire my complete recovery. I am very grateful for our relationship!


Stop Cancer In Its Tracks: Healthy Cells Grow All By Themselves
Buy This Book
to learn about
Mindfulness in Healing


I spent most of the day with Gail Teehan, as we had to rehearse our presentation of Mindfulness and ART in Healing for Wednesday. Our meeting was full of joy and excitement, because we felt so good about what we were planning to do. Our long range plans include forming a non-profit corporation to apply for grants to present our workshop so that cancer patients aren’t burdened with the additional expense of the workshop. We also spoke about how Gail’s experience with various artistic media would fit naturally into the creative aspects of the workshop.

The workshop combines mindfulness as a healing practice with guided imagery, movement, and various forms of creative activity to encourage a powerful healing energy to evolve from within. More information about this workshop will be posted to our web site shortly. The agenda we decided on for the presentation on Wednesday includes the following:

  1. Invocation to bind the group together
  2. Check-in of all the participants
  3. Guided mindfulness meditation
  4. Opening to the breath exercises, maintaining mindfulness
  5. A Feldenkrais awareness through movement segment done on chairs
  6. If we have time, we’ll have them produce some art work based on their experience of the day
  7. Sharing
  8. Closing

I’m getting really excited about this!


The Healer’s Healer

I had four remarkable experiences today! The first was sending off my wife and my younger daughter for a day by themselves, and they didn’t know where they were going or when they would be back. It turns out that they spent the night in Gualala, on the Pacific Coast.

The second thing that happened gave me the most pleasure! I went to see Gail Teehan for a Feldenkrais lesson. She began working on me and paused a few times without explanation. I asked her what was wrong, and found out that her right shoulder was hurting her and she had difficulty working. I asked her to trade places and proceeded to do a “zero balancing” treatment on her. I spent quit a bit of time with the treatment, and she was healed to the extent that she could continue working the rest of the day without a problem.

The third thing occurred during my visit to Dr. Gullion. I think he felt a little hurt that I didn’t include him in my list of healers in the article, but I explained that I was just writing about “alternative” healers. So maybe I ought to write a letter to the editor to explain my lack of mention of the physicians that supported me during the Shipley protocol. He also mentioned that I was doing very well and didn’t need to come back for three months!

Finally, I felt very sad at the Center for Attitudinal Healing because we lost another member. It was someone I liked a lot, and was just getting to know. Several other people were experiencing great difficulties. It was such a heavy night that the good news that I had to share lacked the spark that I wanted to offer to help healing. However, many people were very pleased with the article.


Marin Feels Healing Energy

Today was full of excitement! I began the day with two sets of doubles, which I managed to play with a remarkable degree of competence. There followed an hour bath and a brief nap. When I awoke, I had some lunch. Then I began writing and called Gerald Freedman to ask his permission to publish his poems and haiku on the web. To my surprise, he told me that I was famous! The article I had sent to the Marin Independent Journal on Monday appeared almost entirely in an article entitled, “Marin feels healing energy” on the front page of the “Lifestyles” section. I was extremely delighted to hear this news. A copy of the original paper that I submitted is on this web site as healers.htm. The editor left out some information about Feldenkrais with Gail Teehan and all that I said about Nicholi Levashov, but quoted most of the rest of the article. I imagine they left out Nicholi because he is from San Francisco.

In my excitement, I phoned Anna Halprin, Gail Teehan, Barbara Rose Billings,  and Michael Broffman. Marty Rossman is on his way to Oregon with my daughter, so I’ll tell him about it when I next speak with my daughter.