Zen Koans and Bible Packages

Miss M Admires The Local Talent In Nashville

Riverboat Ridin’ at Opryland Resort

Back home today from trip # 2 on our Summer Tour of Gratitude and Giving Thanks.  We had an absolute blast in Nashville.

In the 4 short days I was there we squeezed in a bunch of Nashville attractions.  We went to the Adventure Science Center, Centennial Park, and the fabulous Opryland Hotel & Resort (which, If you haven’t been to already – you must go.  It is simply gorgeous…  an indoor oasis with rambling walkways, lush green vegetation, a river, boat rides, fountain shows, waterfalls, restaurants…  and of course the hotel.  Magical!)

And yes, we made it to church on Sunday – as requested.  And that too, was magical.  Within the first 5 minutes the tears were flowing…   With the soulful gospel music and all the love in the room I just couldn’t stop myself.  And then I thought, “Why even try to stop myself?  Just let it out!”  So I did.  I cried, I sang, I smiled at my neighbours, thought about my mom, and danced around with Miss M. in my arms.

The sermon itself was just what I needed.  A lesson in perseverance, never giving up hope, finding the answers within yourself, and recognizing your own power.  I am realizing that the passages in the Bible are just like Zen koans.  Big lessons stuffed in metaphorical and ambiguous little packages for us to figure out and incorporate.

Then the day after church, I learned about the death of Amy Rauch Neilson – a fellow blogger, terrific writer, mom, wife, and stage 4 breast cancer warrior.  She passed away on May 6, 2012 at the age of 43.  Way too young.

I thought of the sermon at church.  I questioned why another fabulous woman was taken away.  I wondered why some die and some live.  How does this get decided?  Do we have any control?  And again, I am forced to face the severity of my situation.  The average lifespan for people with my diagnosis isn’t all that long.  The percentage of folks who manage to stay alive for the long haul are few and far between.  I’m going to lose a lot of warriors in this journey.  This sucks.

It’s such a weird place to be – stuck in between two worlds.  Watching fellow soldiers go down while still clinging to the belief that I will be the miracle.  But why me?

Cancer is truly forcing me to live with a “beginner’s mind” as Suzuki Roshi would say.  No assumptions.  No judgements.  Just pure wonder and lots of questions.  No attachments to life being a certain way.  Just the here & now.  The present moment.  A challenge to live by my ideals and practice what I preach.

Cancer is a teacher.  Some twisted Zen koan that I have to figure out.   All I know is that in this moment I feel good.  Today was a good day.  And I am praying for many more.

Peace. – T

7 Responses

  1. It was lovely to spend time with you and Marisa. Unexpected, precious time.
    Much love,
    Aunt Kathy

  2. I thought of the sermon at church. I questioned why another fabulous woman was taken away. I wondered why some die and some live. How does this get decided? Do we have any control?

    There’s influence, for sure… but honestly? I think part of it is random. And while that’s a bit scary, it’s also… hm.

    I once pondered great religious questions, and the problem of pain coupled with a belief in a powerful deity bothered me. Then I asked myself, how much randomness does a universe need for there to be any meaningful will?

    Seriously – if the entire universe was like clockwork, well, maybe *we* would be like clockwork too – automatons with no real will. But if the universe has some wildly random elements, well, now there’s enough room for free will – and a whole mess of pain.

    I also remember the Babylon 5 quote[1] about how a person found comfort that life was unfair – because otherwise, every nasty, ugly thing happened was *deserved*. But it’s not – it’s unfair. And while that makes it awfully scary, it also means we can step back and stop bargaining or negotiating to have the unfairness go away. Unfairness won’t go away (even though a particular manifestation might). While we can exert our will and our abilities to try to change the outcome, we can also have the detachment to realize that it might not work.

    Be well, and happy – you are loved by many.

    [1] Full quote: I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be much worse if life *were* fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?’ So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.

  3. I’m glad to know you’ve been having fun and I’m very sorry to hear about Amy.

    It’s true that the longer you survive the more folks you’ll witness leaving the party early. This is true for everybody. (Think of Lazarus Long).

    I think the “why her and not me” thing is a logical fallacy, though. It’s not as if some god is looking down and going like “Hmmmm. Gotta pick 10 people with stage 4 breast cancer today. Which ones should it be?” You are not being chosen to live instead of somebody else, and you should try to never think that way.

    I say this as someone who walked away from an accident that killed my very best friend and soulmate. I paid for a registered copy of this particular teaching and I know whereof I speak. People kept saying it to me and I kept saying “I know, I know” for more than a year. And I really did know, because it’s obvious, but I didn’t KNOW it in my heart until I spent a few months helping out in Haiti where more than 300,000 people were killed in 35 seconds in the earthquake. I was staying with a 23 year old woman who was the only person who got out of her classroom of 26 people. When she told me it’s okay to be happy to be alive without comparing your worth and deservingness to others, it landed for some reason.

    Of course there is a positive version in which you get to feel chosen to persist because of your special value. Which is good great and fine. So long as you leave the less fortunate out of the equation entirely – since it doesnt work when you think of it as some sort of contest or comparison.



  4. If you haven’t read Benedict’s Dharma, give it a try. It’s a Buddhist reflection on the Rule of St. Benedict. The Rule of St. Benedict is a 6th century set of rules governing Christian monastic life, and stress balance in all areas of life.

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