31 August, 2009

Seeing Beyond - A Coming Out Story

I have always said that real life stories are better than any fiction and this one is no exception. Coming out stories help many more beyond the storyteller, and The Last Laugh I heard on theMoth.org while resting this morning touched me.

Even now in 2009 it is a very brave thing to do, and Terrence did not run away.  Hearing this story I could not help remembering my own coming out so many years ago.
It really is a positive movement to accepting who you are. By the telling of Terrence Buckner's story it will signal much growth in the face of all the heartache and physical harassment he and others face.

Showing the importance of his mother’s love and acceptance. He is one of thousands that are facing a hostile world that sometimes cracks with compassion by touching others. Hopefully it provides a link between all of us. The seas are now calmer for his next greatest voyage.

26 August, 2009

Pritchard's Lifesaver Water Filter

I often spoke of many nations not having safe drinking water. In the US, people don't really know the source of bottled water and it is less regulated than our tap water. In Thailand, people seem to be happy letting Coke filter their polluted water and sell it back to them as Namtip. Can they really afford this? I say you can just forget gold, if you have no drinking water. Put money in what keeps you alive, first and foremost. Not to mention the harmful refuse that would be eliminated by Lifesaver Filter. Need I say more.

25 August, 2009

The Passing Doctor

Many years ago, I called a friend for a primary care physician’s name who is gay friendly. He gave me his Dr’s name and number and I signed up with him. He was curt and efficient, with some pretend friendly… sprinkled on top. On his card it said his specialty was gastrointestinal, which I hoped never to need.  He was always passing both physically and in comments to others around. I remained with him for many years only because he was on my plan and knew me. I quickly moved to the doctor’s assistants because they would listen and spend 1 1/2 minutes more each visit. So, in effect, he was my doctor only because his name was on the door. We would speak, if I saw him, but as time passed I saw less of him. It was common to hear him rant at one of his employees or speak too loudly of a patient he was seeing in other rooms.

I saw this Dr. out once at a bar with his partner who just happened to be the billing person at his office. His partner was not even friendly in the bar, and I began to put two and two together that this was caused by the Dr.’s caustic and abusive manners. Later, when I had my bi-lateral strokes the first time I saw him afterward, he chewed me out for not coming to him for a referral instead of having any compassion for a man that could not speak or swallow…limping in. While going to outpatient treatment to learn to swallow and physical training, his office was kept up to date with my progress. At any time, he was only a phone call away from my status.  As time passed, I could tell he was amazed at my progress but never really said it besides saying I was fine. I was busy doing acupuncture to speed my healing process outside of his care.

One visit, he told me about a new stomach tube that instead of hanging down which I had to tie up to a necklace, there was a new kind which screwed in when you fed yourself, and unscrewed to a flat tab on my belly. He said it would free you up from that dangling one. I did not know at that time that I had made such progress swallowing that I would quickly be off the tube altogether. I pretty much was too busy working on getting better and sleeping a lot.

We went ahead because I so desperately wanted to trust someone after my brain injury. Meeting him there in a hospital across from his office, I laid down. Without finding out first which kind I had, which incidentally, was the balloon kind. With no anesthetic he proceeded to pull out by force my old tube, almost putting his foot on my belly. I was in so much pain, I said stop by drawing my hand across my neck, and give me some pain drugs…gestering, for I could not speak at this time. He was never good at listening anyway, so this was fun.  A supposed quick change was turning out to be a nightmare over the course of a couple hours. After getting it out, and putting the new one in, without an x-ray to make sure it was placed correctly, I went home.

I was hungry, and I was still 25 lbs under what I am now, living only on meal supplement drinks poured in. Alone again at home, I opened a can, and poured some in the tube immediately feeling discomfort while still having hunger pains. Stopped and tried later, thinking it was the trauma of the new tube. It just felt weird, like it was going into my body, but not in my stomach. I called my partner, who came later that day after work, and we both decided with my increasing pain to drive me to ER. The Dr would not meet us there even though we called his service. Our treatment was so bad that my partner started to make notes of everything going on. When I got x-rayed at ER, the tube was delivering food into my body cavity and not my stomach. They said I would run the risk of infection with all this food in my body, and they had to suction it out. It was a long day and night, needless to say. I was already 2 days without a meal by the time it all got settled. Less than 10 days later my tube was taken out, as I had developed enough swallow to survive without it. It was the second time a nurse said to me what did this guy do to you? My guess, his suggestion for the new tube was done solely to bill more money, and the person in charge at my outpatient was so pissed he never called to check before doing it.

Then came the $5000 in bills from the Dr’s office. I called and said I would not pay and was treated to tirades from his partner in billing. The Dr knew that I told him I would not pay for this unneeded procedure, and I think he was happy I did not sue him. My outpatient Dr was so angry that my primary care Dr never contacted them before doing this procedure. I let it go. I just had no energy left.

Things got back to normalish, and the Dr. was a bit friendlier. I continued to see other Dr’s in his office just to avoid his rants and short attention span. I built up a good report with another P.A. and stayed with him. I would occasionally talk to my primary care Dr, still joking and trying to put the past behind us. I did not bring up the tube mistake with him. Just about the time, I finally finished fighting with my Dr’s partner over the bill, that they never took off my account…I heard through friends that the partner killed himself drinking. A few years later passed uneventful as far as medicine goes, but I was trying everything alternative to help me. Then came the news that my Dr had a brain tumor, and would have an operation. I saw him a few times as his office back at work. I thought to myself maybe he will soften some, but I did not see much change in his personality. We talked about getting together to have a glass of wine but it never happened. Then his gradual withdrawal from practice signaling a worsening of his condition, I asked of him at his office.

Thinking that time is precious, I decided to go by his house to, in effect, say good bye. His house was an old church converted into a nice loft and not very far from my house. I ran his bell and he came to the door dressed up in a suit, and I said I came by to see how he is doing. I asked him for some time to talk, hoping to share some of my wisdom about life changing events or at the least give him a hug. He was not really happy to see me, and started in on another rant. But that was his way in almost every circumstance since I had known him. I said, “If this is not a good time…then I’ll leave,” walking back to my car. His tone changed a wee bit enough to say thanks in his awkward and roundabout way.That was the last time I ever saw him.

22 August, 2009

My Shoes

I have thought about this off and on lately. Last week, when I got to my yoga class “my” usual spot was taken by someone else’s mat. I actually felt a slight bit bothered. I immediately let it go, found a new place and a mental note of this feeling. I say “my” spot because I can found there mediating 1/2 hour before class and it is conveniently located away from traffic, and moving people and things. But I don’t own the spot, so what is this all about? We often label things as mine, like “My shoes,” and when we can’t find them or someone took them we immediately have mental discomfort. We do it to a lot of things, putting ownership on material objects because we should... we paid for them, right? But just saying those are my shoes starts to create a firmer sense of I or me. This is only a road to more pain, extending your sense of self beyond your body, falling into traps like I did with my spot. It was really never mine before my usual arrival time, nor after the class ends, anyway. I think I might suggest to my teacher in my class that just before starting people are asked to move their mats two to the right or left, just to make people aware of their attachment to space. Explain to them, why after they move and to watch their thoughts. The more we are conscious of the pain we create for ourselves, the less we will blame others. It's becoming much clearer now that we create our own hell, and let's start running in the other direction.

20 August, 2009

Not An Island

This came to me after a dinner conversation when someone said something that seemed like a wrong term. It started a heated argument with three of us. I found myself feeling insulted and agitated. By accepting these words as valid, then I am, in effect, playing dumb. I am not as stupid as they are, I must be thinking in my head. What an ego! I wondered later why, while in meditation, did I take offense, as it was not directed as an insult to me. Later, I asked a Dr. friend for the correct answer, and I was correct. But at what price to be right and be myself? I began to think about the individual or the self, the hard line that seems to separate us from others. We are not them! Especially in the US, we so proud of our individualism. We tattoo our skin, dye our hair, and pierce our skin to define us as a unique individual. Getting offended if someone is like us, and on the other hand wanting people to agree with us. But, in fact, we do not or cannot exist without others. We share the same needs, desires for happiness, and fears.
Looking all around, every time we go anywhere for somebody to recognize us. Seeking others that we need. We want to loved by the same people we are trying to define ourselves as being different from. Now, how silly does it sound now? I’m certainly guilty of this, and am still not wise now as I write this. Ship this island some wisdom, please.

19 August, 2009

A Favorite Old Wenders Film

In a great setting and with haunting music, It's about faith.
It stuck with me all these years, even with the brain injury.

17 August, 2009

Just Be Good

The temple I lived at in June had some free dhamma books and one of two I found interesting is Just be Good! from Sri Lanka. It is modern and approachable and states in the introduction, Buddha’s teaching: Has no room for blind faith or unthinking worship. Teaches us to take full responsibility for all our actions, provides a clear path for spiritual and personal development, and encourages questions and investigations into its own teachings. It goes on later to say the Buddha never said anything like 'worship me and you shall be rewarded.' He also said never threatened to punish anyone should they not believe in Him or follow His Teachings. He said that there is nothing wrong in doubting or even questioning Him, as most people will take some time to understand His Teachings. He stressed that everyone should seek, understand and experience the Truth for themselves, and not have blind faith in anyone or anything.
This is some of the core of the intellect of Buddhism, as it allows you the answer your own questions about life as you experience it. And take what rings to true to your own soul. The free small book, tells a lot in the few pages it has, in an effort to take any complication out of Buddhism. How refreshing and smart. It also has been taught to me, that of his 84,000 teachings he gave, some were designed for the different audiences depending on class and experiences. In an effort to teach more people on their level.

Now on a personal level, I have some questions of myself that I want to answer myself. That can only come with time to reflect deeply in meditation. My feeling is that my time on this planet is limited, and the desire for wisdom far outweighs the desire for ordinary pleasures. So I am leaning towards a more spiritual life, not out of some fantasy escapism. I guess I will have to continually ask myself the hard questions and not give up. The tendency is to get lazy when the answers don’t pop out and grab you. And we always want a quick fix. With gratitude here is a funny finding happiness teaching from Just Be Good site.

14 August, 2009

Punting Distractions

Running around my house, avoiding this post, by nibbling on walnuts(good for heart), and drinking a quarter size(10B) splash of Sharbat Rooh Afza in sparkling water. Which is like drinking grandma's underwear drawer sachet, my best description. If I satisfy myself with good things, then I avoid the unpleasant things that reside inside myself. I procrastinate writing this post, because it is a difficult topic, and at the same time I don’t want to come across as beating myself up. With a lot of contemplation, hopefully, I can access the little bit of wisdom that floats to the surface above the quagmire of life. It came me yesterday as a flash, while not in a depressive mood, that my ability to have fine skills of discernment came out of the dissatisfaction I had in myself. From early on, I did not have a love of myself, based on #1-being gay and #2-having a generally unloving father in the formative years. So, I ended up with a fragile ego, until I came out at 18. This lead to some understanding of who I am. But in the process of growing up, my dislike of certain aspects of myself made me turn to try to find pleasant things in life. I began collecting things that were beautiful, and later trying food that pleased my senses. Honing my skills in visual arts, and developing my good taste in just about everything. I could not stop my pursuit of finer things, trying to put out the fire of discontent. So, you say, you transformed!… stop and think. Sure, it worked and it helped with my career choices, health choices, partner choices etc. I am still alive and healthy, really. I made a few bad choices but who hasn’t? I am not on any drugs, or drink to excess. I have great friends, a great partner and a loving family(dad passed). So, why am I thinking about this? It really seems foolish. I will tell you why. A life built around trying to make the world more beautiful to oneself is fraught with constant misery. The potential of never being satisfied.

Now, how can I become wiser? And what legacy do I leave? The nice things I have created are temporary, and in ten years they will be gone and forgotten. I will exist only in the heads of people that know and respect me. That truly is rebirth to me. What tasted good me now, will never translate to a positive thought of me in the mind of a close friend later. I am putting too much into things that will cease to be a true cause of happiness for me. Looking at all the art I have collected, and now…even though I like it and still marvel at the artist’s devotion, it only becomes a force to tie me down to indecision. Let’s just say, if I die tomorrow, my things will become a symbol of me, that my loved ones have to dispose of.(don’t worry, this is not a cry for help). How wise is giving pain to those you love? Even indirectly. So, what I am getting down to is that if I want an even better rebirth, I had better work on creating the good karma of helping others. To really help others you have to be truly happy in your heart and being. Whenever you see a wise monk or even the Dali Lama, you see their core being is a wisdom being. They know that attachment to anything is a cause of suffering. That everything changes.

The Abbott of the temple I was at in June, had wisdom that he did not have to speak about for me. His pure intention and action I observed were dhamma. Sure, I can go to temple here and make some progress, meditate on my own and in a group. But living the good life and the spiritual life will not be a fast path to enlightenment. We never know when our death will happen, and I am not getting younger even with all the creams and vitamins. Big Surprise. So, I can keep safely living my life like I do now. Or, I can try the monk’s life again in a slightly longer time frame like 3 months leading to a year’s trial. It is only talk at this point, and I am not irrational or running from anything. What I am running towards is wisdom and a wish to make valuable contribution to those around me. That will be my legacy.
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10 August, 2009

Show 'n Tell

I wanted to write for days and have been editing photos, doing a few rounds and found these. Lately, I have been out of sync and would just end up seeing friends and getting other stuff done. Here are photos from Wat Rajsingkorn, where the young novice wanted to show me his tiger teeth and rolled prayer when he found out I had been a novice, too. This came about when I was talking to the mom of these two kids. I thanked him for showing me, and they are probably given to him by his parents and are heirlooms of luck.

06 August, 2009

A Morning View on Expectations

I was thinking about writing about people’s expectations when I first heard of the shooter, George Sodini’s complaints from the news. Researching it further, he seemed to be very disturbed. It may have built up for years, combined with the family background and life experience. Whether he was expecting too much out of life or not we’ll never know. If I could guess, I bet you he has never traveled outside the U.S. Regardless, I do feel that we, especially in the U.S., don’t really feel we are lucky and privileged. Instead we want more and more and are perfectly happy demanding more. We want all the trimmings we see on TV. There are never any guarantee in life besides our upcoming death. When I was a novice in June, the simplicity of my existence was actually refreshing and liberating, so I can see how I could focus more on mindfulness and cultivating wisdom.

Reflecting upon this, I can still learn a lot about how I deal with my own life. It wasn’t but 24 hours later that I found myself, a bit agitated by the fact that people still don’t fully understand how my injury affects nearly everything I do. I write this, in fact, so I won’t have to speak it in conversation, hoping that someone will take this as a jumping off place to comment on. I will speak to family and they will say you sound good today, if I am standing and walking around because that affects the quality of my voice. If I relax and sit down especially on a couch it leads to a restricted diaphragm and does not help. I will meet new friends will say you just need to speak more, etc. Uggh!

I have a collapsed palate, which causes my air during speech to come out my nose. Combined with being totally numb from the nose to the chin inside and out, it makes for a hard time to physically remember how to say a word. I can scream, and lift it partially, but if I speak quietly it is coming out my nose and totally exhausts me. Kind of like being winded, but all times using a new area of the brain for speech, so “girlfriend” it ain’t pretty. For some words it sounds pretty good out of the blue, maybe because I just heard it, or it accesses some untapped memory of speech. Then quickly it deteriorates; so just let me say learning a new language would be a miracle. But with all this said, it or should I, is not all that bad. I just be more quiet when things are difficult or when others don’t understand. My silence is not because I don’t have anything to say. It may mean that it may be too complex and wordy that I can’t figure out how to whittle it down to simple speech that I can say with ease.

I should not expect people to understand the complexity of speech and what for me now is the miracle that make speech possible. I have seen specialists for surgery who did not recommend a correction that would only introduce complex snoring problems. And I won't go into details about the other side effects of brain injury that also cause speech difficulties. So, don’t worry I will not pull a Sodini. Instead, I can perhaps gather some practical wisdom of not expecting understanding from others that even took me years to grasp. I have quickly realized, I am by no means unhealthy or unable deal whenever I see someone in a wheelchair or crippled. I am rich with love from my partner and family and friends. I am extremely lucky.

03 August, 2009

Decorating or Depression?

So they say 10% are homosexual supposedly and now 10% in the US are on anti-depressants! The huge shrinking sane population… does that mean if we are not decorating we are depressed? Do you think your Doctor really cares in the 6 minutes max when get when we visit? If they really cared they talk about other ways to help with depression. Like exercise, eating a balanced diet and sleep. Don’t forget about meditation to look deeply at your expectations in life as to what you think is supposed to make you happy. I would say turn off your TV. Don’t compare yourself to others that may have more than you do or appear happier. We are stuck with same problems as others, but usually manifesting when we don’t like them to. Do you want to live in peace? Just work on understanding your mind, and the impermanent nature of life. It doesn’t mean becoming anything but more acutely aware of how we think and deal in life. I have some first hand experience taking antidepressants not for depression, but to help with my aphasia and speaking with more ease. It actually helped my speech, but the side effect of lacking emotion, a kind of flatness about life and a chemical feel in my body made me want to quit it fast. I have seen other friends on antidepressants and their apparent lack of understanding or investment in how others feel. It seems like the same thing that lowers their perception of themselves is carried over in dealing with others. So we can’t fix everything with drugs and luckily they won’t try it with my life-threatening, good taste.
Thanks to Chusak Srikwan's ox hide artwork.

Find Buddha

Sometimes life presents problems where you can see a clear path to absolution. Yesterday, while trying to complete this temple rehab, I was working with the only other person were trying to put back everything in its proper place. We were both tired, and I was about at my last straw of energy I could find to get this done. While working together with my other sangha member, he got a little too demanding as how I should do things. I am about as conscious and careful, as you will find. I got a bit upset, and instead of getting angry, I just said I will leave it all to you and just go and home and rest. And got my things and walked out. Now, I knew he is just as tired or more so than I. By leaving him, I may be right in this instance but and what price? Leaving him to do it all alone when he has done so much? I walked around the block. Went straight to the best place I could find ice cream and bought us a pint to share and while they were packing it, saw his texted apology. I did not really deserve or want this. I wanted more for this job to be done for both of us. Enough to come back and say we need an award, "Let’s eat ice cream!" We worked until 10 pm with no dinner, but in this time I found a little more wsidom tucked away in me.
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