I received this letter from my dear friend John Primeau who is recovering with cancer. With his permission, I am reprinting here. That makes John my first guest writer.
I write “with” because the evolution of his shimmering soul has used all the wisdom that he can mine from his "roommate" Cancer.
This prose streams like a river -- through landscapes of mountain and desert, valley and forest. Except the landscapes are the things we see as we float through our daily lives -- our food, our environment, insomnia, cars and computers -- the seemingly random things that make up our every day. Bali John sees past the material and into the substantial -- the mirror and gifts that we can net from our lives from the messes and flotsam of our days. This is chop wood/carry water done in a way we can all learn from..
So in its center, this is a teaching from a beautiful spirit who chooses to turn sleepless nights into feasts, messes into meditation.
John’s life is an on-going teaching, a testament to life filled to its effervescent brim . I found this so touching and I learned a lot. I hope it offers you a new slant on your day. Very few edits here to enjoy the breezy style.
Bear hugs, Lora Jansson
Dear Family & Friends...
My last round with chemo treatments for the Multiple Myeloma was "effin' rugged." but today feels like i may have turned a corner. i will soon get a Chemo Holiday. additionally, for the first time in "eons," i slept all through the night (11 hours) without interruption. huge for me.
ON THE FOOD FRONT
i am eating well! and i spend more time cooking and baking on my own thanks to the Roommate (cancer) and the insomnia.
becuz of the insomnia, much of my time in the kitchen comes during the morning's wee hours. i'm pulling ingredients together; mixing this, folding in that, adding a dash or sprinkle or pinch of somthin' good--maybe not good -- Ha!. the beauty of all this is that i can start most days with welcoming my new day with incredible tastes, textures, colors, aromas and good eats. then later, after i made whatever it is i made, i have the option to take a short snooze or just listen to my Tibetan chants, and watch the sun come up -- or listen to the patter of the rain on the patio door.
for the first time in my life, i love and enjoy experimenting with different flavors, foods, herbs, etc. When i am cooking, i dedicate my time in the kitchen to all those amazing cooks/chefs/bakers on TV, and to all my friends and family who share recipes with me, own restaurants and warungs and who work aboard ships, airplanes, trains, etc. You have been an inspiration to me;
to those who give me cooking tips and have a genuine love for cooking -- you continue to inspire and motivate me in the most fun and adventurous manner;
in addition, i dedicate my cooking time to all those in each part of our world who prepare meal after meal after meal for their families, friends, relatives, customers -- even strangers -- on an ongoing basis -- just to make ends meet; you teach me steadfastness and faith;
i dedicate my kitchen time to those who collect and then heat up animal waste products such as dung to use as "fuel" to keep their meals hot for their fellow villagers and family; you teach me ingenuity and sharpen my creativity; you are the epitome of the saying: "where there is a will, there is a way."
and a special dedication to those on Bali and elsewhere who sit by the side of the road for hours, satay ingredients at the ready, waiting for customers on motorbikes to stop, order an amazing peanut or stir-fried vegetable dish with fried tofu and maybe a bowl of bakso soup. get a few dimes for their efforts and then watch their satisfied customers rush home. the street-side food vendors are my "cooking Buddhas; my kitchen guides." i pray, at some point in my continuum, i will have the honor to cook for them at a lavish banquet and watch them rush safely home on their motorbikes! ALL AT NO CHARGE! :-)
TRUE CONFESSION: FROM THE STOMACH TO THE SOUL TO MIND
one quirk i have discovered about myself in the last three months: i need to live in neat and tidy surroundings. have found that when my surroundings are disheveled and in disarray, my mind is often in the same state. (So intriguing how often the physical surroundings we create and / or co-create with someone or something else, is a mirror of our inner state, eh?)
i have a friend who is forever getting traffic tickets. not because he is driving under the influence, etc. he is a bright guy, doesn't drink or drug, and has a magnificent sense of humor full of warmth and goodwill! i love him dearly as he is a friend who is always "there" for everyone. his heart's as big, full and shiny as a Golden Moon hovering over a pantai (beach) on the Indian Ocean.
...his car, to my observation, is "berserking" in chaotic energy. there are all kinds of empty soda cans, wrappers, papers, used water bottles that have been tossed on the floor and back seat; CDs scattered everywhere; no room in the trunk; car's exterior is chipped, dented; car's interior fabric is faded, ripped; and the car's outer yellow color, which was brilliant when it was newer, is now as dull as a decaying tooth. many times when i hear from hear my friend, he is joking about his latest ticket or warning he received for driving too fast, or texting while driving, or driving erratically because he started to nod off at the wheel. hmmmmm?
i have often wondered how he might drive if he set a spiritual focus to getting his car cleaned up? even though the car is just steel, plastic, fabric, atoms, molecules -- physicists, help me out here -- i think: "what if he sincerely thanked all the car's materials; the workers, designers, engineers; all who had even played a "minor" role in the making and upkeep of his car, including those who swept the unused car parts out of the way at the auto factory; and the gas-tank drivers who help to keep him on the go; the filling-station attendants who have air for tires, fuel, bathrooms, windshield cleaner; those who make dip sticks, spark plugs, cleaning fluids, floor mats, etc. -- would my friend's 'luck' change? would he see the real beauty of what he is driving and get a sense of how many fellow human beings it took to make just one part of his car? would it help develop a deeper sense of respect for both the car and his driving methods? would he see his car as merely an extension of something that makes us all One in some, special way--even those who do not own or drive a car?"
maybe, because i know so many people who were able to drive at one time and now need to rely on public transportation or the kind offerings of friends (me, par example), my eyes have been opened to realize that taking any part of my existence for granted has the potential to harden me, especially in the area of compassion towards other people, places, things and circumstances.
so where does all this take me next...? well, stop projecting myself on my friend and face a fact I need to deal with. it is NEVER about the other guy, is it? ...it is always about the self...
two days ago i looked at my Computer Corner, and Yi! Yi! Yi! -- What. A. Pit!!!!
those who know me truly well also know that while I love technology ... (ask my good friend what happens when he takes me to one of those Big Box Tech Stores!) ... the intricacies of tech bore me to unending tears. i don't care what system is the best and how many bytes or whatever bells and whistles the machine has. what i want to know is whether i can email, write word docs, and access Internet to watch flicks and visit iTunes ... what i found, while going thru this "practice" regarding my friend's car, is that i often do not want to face a messy area in my physical surroundings because it is too close to what I call, "Mind Truth."
up to now, my nemesis has been my Computer Corner.
Many times, the thought of turning on or going near my computer is like envisioning root canal without pain-killer -- especially when so many chords are entangled like sleeping king snakes... and there's dust all over the hardware ... and there is no "order" to how the computer and printer are placed against the wall. they are just "there," a hodge-podge of clunky machines and wires that are entangled all over kingdom come and overwhelm me to even think about "the corner.' Yuk.
in truth, though, what all this really means, (based on my experience and in my humble opinion) is that it's time to look at a specific area of my inner self. Double Yuk.
so, in this instance, i focused on the delusion of the chaos my mind was creating around the computer corner. i made a mindful decision to clean up my computer corner but to do so with deep respect and gratitude for all those who ever had a hand in building one of these things; then, i later focused, during a meditation, solely on the benefits of the computer and the printer (and the chords). it dawned on me, some of my "fear" really goes back to the times when typewriters were quickly becoming a thing of the past and i needed to enter this "new world" of technology; like the typewriter, i felt obsolete and wondered what my future had in store with me if i did not embrace and understand this tech stuff, as well as a penguin couple knows their own eggs.
however, the REAL TRUTH? it had nothing to do with early computers, word processors, technology. i was actually clinging to an old fear of how dumb i was for not “getting (anything) fast enough.” The physical aspects of the Computer Corner would sometimes bring back into consciousness every negative encounter i had with a teacher regarding my studies, fellow employees and bosses who criticized me, every put-down i got when i made a mistake; low test scores; not measuring up to what i thought was someone else's ideal of me. the Computer Corner was a tough task-master -- an ongoing reminder that would not let me forget my inadequacies--real or imagined. Seeing THAT "Truth" in the Mind, i figured i had one of two choices with the Real Insight that was unfolding:
1. continue to buy into the 35-year-old+ lie of feeling stupid, inadequate, embarrassed;
2. Finally, call Bull Shit on the lie ... and then, in pure mindfulness, clean up the friggin' computer corner.
I choose #2 with many dedications to all those -- past and present -- who made and continue to make the high-tech field such a blessing in helping to end much needless suffering around the world. thank heavens for computers/hi-tech when i gotta get lab work done or an MRI or CT Scan.
just as a single but steady drop of water on a rock can change the rock's form over time, so also, i believe, a subtle shift of thought can change the form of our rocky and unsteady minds into a quarry of smooth and beautiful jewels.
WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?
in spite of how i am feeling now, i will be away from texting on my mobile for a while. my hands sometimes ache for hours afterwards -- even when i text for a short time.
...my meditation and prayer life have taken a much more robust role and all of you are in my thoughts and prayers every single day. my time at Kadampa Meditation Temple has also been a godsend. one of the nuns at Kadampa, Kelsang Gamo, has been a tremendous help and teacher. please put her in your special thoughts if and when you think of her.
sometimes i want to be my doctor when i grow up. or an 80+-year-old Buddhist nun i saw on YouTube who lives in Nepal or Kathmandu and prays and gives cookies away to anyone who stops by her small, stone cabin (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ50fOmSBrU).
thank each one of you for keeping me feeling safe, loved, tended to and prayed for. you may have no idea how far your angels' wings spread--but trust me--they are limitless. and they are touching not just me but all living beings.
"Love is the [authentic] inner peace to suffering." -- Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Tibetan-born meditation master and internationally renowned teacher of Buddhism. Author of 20 highly acclaimed books including, Living Meaningfully. Dying Joyfully