28 January, 2011

Turning Over Frustration

It has been a full week for the brain-injured person, that I am. Watching my friend while waiting for surgery and then the following day after it, still in extreme pain was not fun. Now he's at home, and I tired to make easy for him as I could. I told him that I was proud of how he handled it all. I was running between school, gym, and work at home and my injured friend.So, I was happy to go for prayers and a sit with a nun on Tuesday night. I tried my best with the singing the prayers being exhausted, later settling down to sit for an hour. Silently, tears just flowed down my cheeks, while I started to label my feelings as sadness and frustration at not being able to help my friend, combined with trying to keep it together with my injury. By the time the meditation ended, the tears did, too and I felt much better. I would not say happier, but all the things I was holding inside ...vaporized. I came home read a nice "Sun" magazine story and slept.

I managed to stick it out in my JC class, and finally got a computer this week, as it thinned out. It is interesting and challenging being in a very diverse class of people. There at least three other languages spoken all at the same time between students. All this feedback and noise for me makes doing simple things twice as difficult. Plus the teacher his notes, her computer screen and ours, makes a multi-tasking free for all. I can actually see how my daily meditation in stressful situations like this one kept me from lashing out. I watched others that seem to have a hard time, and opened up the compassionate mind to put the “me” mind on the back burner. I found myself making sure whenever anyone helped me I said, “Thank you.” I tried hard to smile even when it took all my concentration just to keep up. One woman next on one side was very helpful, and on the other side matter of fact and very demanding. Normally I would make a scene, when she one who would chirp out demands right when I was middle of doing something. But when I finished one thing I said calmly to her, “I have severe brain injury, and it takes all I got to keep up! Please wait to ask me something, after I look towards you.” Saying it in jokingly manner, so she did not blink or register as agitation. Knowing that we really can't change anyone, and my irritation becomes really my problem rather than hers. That made the whole class seamless,leaving me up to date. When a nice speech therapist in class who fully understands my difficulties asked, "How did it go?" Smiling, I said, "I am

Working towards my idea that one's reincarnation is really about how other's remember you. And that as soon as you remove yourself( the me factor), and help others and engage politely, the day, even while being very difficult and exhausting…does not become stressful. I talked with several people before class, and one guy asked me about my injury in great detail. I usually express the experience with humor ending on wisdom, so most walk away not feeling pity and are mildly surprised. I want people to see the miracles that can happen dealing with change, that it is not always bad or dreadful. During class there friendly and humorous exchanges while we helped one another. Even our teacher relaxed and told a story about going “blank” in her evening class. In two weeks, from strangers.... we became “family.”

26 January, 2011

Reflecting on Removal

Last Sunday, a friend wanted to enjoy the un-seasonably warm and sunny weather, went running. Jumping across a small creek during his run, my friend landed on a slippery place and his right leg slipped over to the left while his body tumbled forward over it breaking his leg. He was lucky there was someone nearby who also heard it break in two places. Five to ten minutes later an ambulance was there, and before he could get any pain drugs, they asked a ton of questions while doing vitals and blood work to see if his heart could take it. He arrived at the hospital in good time, but the O.R. had no surgeons. He had to wait 36 hours before they could squeeze him in the following evening. All the morphine in world would not have made him pain free, so it was pretty difficult to watch someone close to you, unable to make it better. But I know from my hospital and ICU stay, that people or family around can keep you on the radar screen and sleepy nurse stations alert. There was at least two times when his day nurse forgot pain drugs on the schedule, and he could only page numerous times with no avail before one of us would raise a stink.

Now, it's Wednesday and he is moderately better and almost a bionic man with a huge rod down the Fibula. Now weeding him off morphine so he can do PT and go home to face the first two frustrating weeks of healing….nearly immobile. A fit man, who in one split second needs the help of many people. A good lesson in one’s so called "independence."

He was doing great even with the extreme pain by being mindful, and I hope I can learn from this. For me, watching a close friend in pain, made me think of the cute kids I saw in Cambodia with limbs missing. And of the pain they had to endure now referencing my friend, it became all too real. It brought home the realization of the magnitude of pain the land mine victims endure and most without any drugs or immediate help. Please help continue to help the campaign for removal of those devices and the ceasing of them being used ever again.

22 January, 2011

Walk and Chew the Fat

Signing up for a photoshop class at my local JC was not the brightest idea I ever had. Not only was it overbooked, and I have no computer only because someone changed the schedule to a different set of days. I walked into chaos with a multitude of tests and handouts to a really mixed group of folks….on the second day. It was not my fault, I was given and signed for the class with wrong information. I am very thankful that I meditate because the shear confusion in the huge class was almost too much with my brain injury. I managed to keep calm but after two hours we took a break before the next class where I could drop in to get up to speed, I called my sister. She could immediately tell the toll in took on me by my speech on the phone, we ended quickly and she texted, “it’s is not worth it if it effects your health.” But in the second class it had calmed down enough to talk to a self-taught whiz kid who impressed both me and the teacher. I thought I will give it one more day, next week and determine if this is right for me. It was clearly a sign of how bad the brain injury is, and how I work around it. Any place where there is too much feedback or crowds I am almost unable to speak….you talk about walking and chewing gum. Well, I cannot walk and talk in most cases, I have to stop and engage. Although, I can do Pali chants while walking, because it is not an exchange with another person. Spontaneous speech is probably the hardest for me, it takes twice the mind power, which is twice as much I have!

Bhutto - Benazir Bhutto documentary featured at Sundance festival

An Interesting historical documentary about Benazir Bhutto. It seems as though the US backed the wrong side. But you know corruption is everywhere....even here.

17 January, 2011

That Certain Pull

Every once in awhile, even among difficult days or meditations, I will have the profound realization that this path is really bringing peace to my life and the importance of it. It is not like I become more zealous, but I do let more and more things go that are not helping me continue on the path. The natural ones are part of the 5 precepts, but also silly TV that would keep me from meditating. So the TV is gone, last year….and I am less tempted to rent films to watch since with it went the DVD player. I am not finding it more boring, instead like an easy way to lead me to the cushion on regular basis. Sure, I still go see a few great films, and I am less likely to see an ok film just to pass time with friends. And with this 100 days of mindfulness, I am trying very hard to watch amy negative speech and with others that engage, I don’t join them ...instead be quiet or change to something more positive.

So yesterday, after a great day I went to my neighborhood sit with a “happy mind” yet found my body to be uncooperative, nagging at me…maybe since I walked there. Never-the-less, I found humor in my expectations to have a “happy sit.” I did not beat myself up over even going, nor keep adjusting my posture….I just watched how this ‘new mood” flowed into me without a formal invitation!

16 January, 2011

A Little Luang Prabang From My Partner

My partner, hates to travel without me, but still took a break last month in Laos. Some interesting shots from his eye.

Som Tum Salad, my partner's favorite.

11 January, 2011

A Challenge...

One of my three Sangha’s came up with a better idea than my silent thing. Starting tonight a 100 day retreat: Mindfulness in daily life. This is great because it coincides with the Nuns in silent retreat ending in March. Keeping the Five precepts at heart while trying to meditate daily or have at least 5 “quickies’ where you come into your body to examine how you are feeling, scanning your heart and mind. Trying as best as you can to use the Eight-fold path to end suffering almost as it surfaces in daily life. I will be curious to read on the Facebook page how different people write their experiences or suggestions. Just inaugurating this 100 day retreat tonight spurs me on to be a more mindful person in more ways than I am now. We are supposed to at collect ourselves at noon everyday sending loving kindness to all others involved, and use the power of this knowledge to continue on. Tonight the teacher said we should post the precepts on our Fridge. But, I have been taking them almost weekly for the past year with the Nuns. This has helped me to look carefully why I even have a glass of wine at dinner occasionally, nearly ending wine and beer consumption knowing that I am really happy without. Consequently, last year I can count the times I had wine or beer(I don’t drink hard alcohol) on two hands. More importantly I am actually happier than ever before and meditating almost daily now for three years. Is there room for improvement, you ask? Of course.

Meanwhile, I heard from a friend that Blood Foundation is inaugurating the first Muslim For a Month program in february with the success of Monk for a month. I wish I could go just for the experience.

02 January, 2011

Silence Falls Underwater

My silent idea fell apart when I got sick last week. My roommate was kind enough to give some OTC drugs to help that he had, and I felt very selfish not talking right then. I had to write it instead. Then I took the antibiotics that the Dr. gave me last Thursday night, and by Friday I had no appetite they were that strong. On Saturday, I was so delirious, made some food and took one pill and then had waves of nausea so strong I thought this is the end. I lay in bed yawning and feeling poisoned, and suddenly felt compassion for all the chemotherapy patients. If this is what they have to deal with, it is bold statement about the desire for life. By the evening, I figured out that most of my symptoms were caused by the drug rather than my winter lung infection, so I stopped the drug.

This morning a friend woke me, who just happened to be shopping to ask me if I need anything. Again my silence idea fell apart when he came by with food and some dark chocolate and saved the day. The soup he brought energized me, and we talked for two hours. It quickly became obvious that I need others and the importance of connection. I thought about my silent idea, and felt compassion for the deaf assistant at my gym. He can’t hear or speak much, and we often say hello by recognition and a thumbs up signal. I have brought him his favorite drink when he is busy working on the fitness machines, because I am observant enough. I try to interact with the staff that most ignore. Right now as I lay in bed trying to get better, know this human journey for me is probably not silent just more mindful. I do have the heart felt desire to cut down on my negative speech in whatever forms it takes.

Thanks to Jason DeCaires Taylor, who's brilliant work is shown here.
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