Eating Soup with a Fork

Today was probably the worst day that I’ve had since I received my diagnosis. I was full of emotion and frequently broke down crying. The morning was especially trying, as I was desperately trying to get in to see Leslie Davenport, having told my boss that I wouldn’t make it in today. The best she could offer was 6:00 tomorrow evening, so I jumped on it.

The doubt factor was the strongest. I doubted myself. I doubted my recovery. I was consumed by the idea that if things didn’t change in my life, I would have more trouble as a person who had had cancer than a person that has cancer and knows it. I was extremely afraid to be hurt and abandoned. Now that I am well, are my friends still going to care about me? Will I be able to continue to create my dream? Will my heart remain open? Or, is it already out to lunch? What about the divine love I was feeling last week? What about the love my daughter expressed for me last Friday? How can all of this be simultaneously true in my experience.

Well, here I am, eating soup with a fork! You’ll have to read It’s Easier Than You Think by Sylvia Boorstein to get the full impact of what I’m doing! The book is about the Buddhist way to happiness, and I spent the afternoon reading the whole thing, in between fits of tears and meditation. One of the main ideas that struck me from the book was that, “Traditional Buddhist texts teach that the ability to sustain attention in the truth of the moment is the antidote for doubt.” Many of her stories also moved me to tears. One of the bells of mindfulness that happened during my meditation was as call from a member of Anna Halprin’s group who offered to give me a massage tomorrow after talk at Voices of Healing.

I guess I’m doing a little better now that I’m eating my soup with a fork and writing in Yellow Stream!


It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness

Call from an Old Friend

This morning, I received a call from an old friend, Rabbi Zalman Schachter, who is now on the faculty at the Narpoa Institute. He called me because of an email that he received from Sylvia Boorstein. Zalman was quick to wish me well in my recovery, and his demeanor was full of loving kindness. I really appreciated hearing from him at this time.

Later in the day, I helped my daughter with her school project on “Zen Buddhism – It’s Beliefs and Effect on Society.” I really enjoyed reading the material with her and helping her understand the concepts of Buddhism, in general, and Zen Buddhism in particular. The quote which really got to me this time through was,

“This earth on which we stand, is the promised Lotus land,
And this very body is the body of the Buddha.”

Bhagwan spoke quite often on this subject, and I feel connected to the spirit of the quote.


Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

April 15, 1997 – Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

My wife and I met Sylvia Boorstein at the Good Earth at 9:00 in the morning. We had such a delightful time speaking with her about everything from dharma to family drama. She is obviously a wonderful and caring person who is enjoying a happy life between Buddhism and Judaism. We talked about our favorite prayers in the synagogue and it turns out that the service for replacing the torah is both of our favorites. It talks about the torah being, “a tree of life and everyone that upholds it is happy!”

I spoke to her about my practice and she thought that it was wonderful to have “healing… free” as a meta-program throughout my breathing. I wanted to speak more to her about my practice, but the time seemed to fly by. At one point, she said, “We must learn to cultivate boundless love rather than just adhere to a structure.” We were talking about the practices of the orthodox who seem to follow the structure more than their hearts. Later, she said, “It’s not in the liturgy, it’s in the heart!” She told me about Elat Chayyim in upstate New York, which is supposed to be like a Jewish Eselan. It’s funny, but I don’t have any desire to go there. I’m sure I’ll see her again quite soon.

My massage was cancelled, so I worked in Leslie Davenport’s office until our appointment at 1:00. We worked on the financial issues in my life, which was very appropriate for what had been happening over the week end. I had images of my grandfather on my mother’s side, who seemed to be the most generous person in the family. After all, he was in his eighties and well taken care of by my mother and my uncle, Sam Sandmel, the Reformed Rabbi and publisher of many books on Jews and Jesus. But my money problems seem to go deeper into my childhood and relate to matters about feeling unworthy and rejected. There is still a lot of work to do about this area, and I plan to continue until it is resolved. One thing that Leslie said at the end of the session was that I should really focus on things that I can change in my life and let go of things that I have no control over. I thought this was appropriate advice at the time, and I’ve heard it many times before.

The most significant thing that happened in the session was just before the end. I could feel the waves of sadness starting to overcome me, even though I was still focused on my breathing, doing, “healing… free”. The feelings came, got very intense, and then started to melt away, all under the eyes of mindfulness. I experienced the impermanence of the rise and fall of the sad feelings in a way that had never touched me so deeply before. This is, according to my understanding, the text book practice of vipassana meditation.

My session with Gail Teehan was wonderful once again. We worked on my back and pelvis, and I could feel the energy shifting, as she would go through the various steps of the lesson. We are developing a wonderful connection of mutual love and support as we continue to work together. Since she’s so fond of dance and art, I invited her to Anna’s class on April 28 to come as one of my support persons.

I came home thoroughly and totally exhausted, so I headed straight for a “mind story.” This time I settled into my breathing and was able put my worries out of my mind to get a clear picture of my bladder’s “healthy cells growing all by themselves!” I felt rested and much, much better at the end of the “mind story!”

At night, we went to a dinner party at S. and C.’s just two houses away. Ten of our best neighbors were gathered together for a very nice time.


Following the “Yellow Stream!”

April 4, 1997 – Following the “Yellow Stream!”

Last night was quite difficult for me. I felt really exhausted and didn’t like what was going on in my body. I prepared a modest meal and got in bed to read more of That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist. I enjoy it thoroughly, but the chapter on the holocaust moved me to tears and longing. I felt rejected by god and Jews as a child, but something is still trying to make itself felt in the way of devotional practice. I can’t wait until my conversation with Sylvia Boorstein on April 15! One other thing about the book: If you take a combination of traits from my siblings, including myself, you get something that resembles the life of Sylvia and her family. David is orthodox and lives in St. Louis and is a grandpa. Joe is orthodox and lives in Israel with his family. Brenda is a drama therapist, and Manny is the owner of Art and Science of Computer Imaging – a very creative outlook!

My wife went with me to Leslie Davenport’s cancer group. Many of the people in attendance were also at Cancerport the day before. During the meditation, I was filled with images of Hebrew school and the Miriam Hebrew Academy, which I hated so much. But I did remember and continue to reflect on one moment one fine day in April or May of 1946 or 1947 when I was filled with and experience of awe and wonder that has been with me all my life. I believe that this might have been my first transcendental experience, in which I became fully aware of the sun, the sky, the back yard of the academy, all of the other boys and girls playing their little games, the grass, and the brick garage with its attached brick ash pit. This moment was special for me, and I knew then that I was different from all the other boys and girls. I had no friends and played alone. At that point in my life I didn’t know rejection, but I did feel left out. I used to sit in class and day dream about this and that, but never a clear image. I drew a picture of the garage and the ash pit and a boy playing ball.

In the afternoon, I went to a Feldenkrais session with Alan Sheets. Alan and I had worked together on an article which appeared in Enneagram Monthly on The Enneagram of the Body, which is Alan’s method of teaching the enneagram. We had a really nice connection while we were working on the article and he express his gratitude for how much he appreciated my work.

Before the session, Alan asked me what I wanted to work on. I explained to him the importance of reality anchoring in the body, especially when you are ill, and that this is what I wanted to continue to work on. I told him about the weakness of my knees, lower back, and shoulders, and that this is what I wanted him to work on. For this session, Alan chose to work on my knees and lower back. I could feel the subtle movements as he proceeded to heal my body. The session was magnificent, but I really felt exhausted afterwards. One of the nicest moments came near the end when I could feel the energy flow from the bottoms of my feet where Alan was working all the way up to my skull. I believe that this has the wonderful effect of aiding lymphatic return and circulation.

Reality anchoring in the body is one of the foundations of the Abhidhamma, or Buddhist psychology. The principle is that out of all of our experience, what goes on in our bodies is of prime importance and it is what we share in common. It is based on the idea that we share reality from this common ground of being. We don’t easily share thoughts, feeling, or emotions, but we all know what it is like to overeat, cut our fingers, burn our hands, or have a good night’s sleep. Reality anchoring in the body provides us with a reality check on our condition. When we have a strong sense of reality anchoring in the body, we can proceed to manage our health care in a realistic way, without denial or fear.


That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist: On Being A Faithful Jew and a Passionate
That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist:
On Being A Faithful Jew and a Passionate

More Chemotherapy, More Radiation

March 25, 1997 – More Chemotherapy, More Radiation

The second round of chemotherapy and radiation therapy began today. Aside from being a little late, it went quite smoothly. I especially enjoyed the visits of K. S. and Leslie Davenport. I spoke to Leslie about working with her doing guided imagery through the Humanities Program and Marin General Hospital. She suggested that I offer my services over the web. Watch for a new topic on services!

D. B. took me to my second radiotherapy of the day. We had a nice conversation about our common interests and she bought me a book by Sylvia Boorstein, That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist. I’m looking forward to reading it! As you probably know by now, I am a living example of a Jubu – a Jewish born Buddhist.

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That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist