Facing Cancer (or Whacked Upside the Head by Mainstream Medicine) Part II

For Dia de los Muertos, I extended the “crack” in my forehead and tried to show something hopeful coming from it.

Last time I told you about the existential crisis I had over a small skin cancer that led to a larger surgery than I was expecting and the threat of more slicing and dicing to come. What I thought would be, as my primary care doctor had suggested, a “cure” was no such thing. A real cure would have to involve much more than simply cutting out an individual piece of tissue.

The first order of business was to clean out the inside of my head. I needed to get past the pernicious suggestion that the surgeon had implanted, and believe with as much certainty as possible that I did not have to have any more cancer anywhere. I’ve made good progress on that, I think, but it may be a while before I completely stop hearing his words. As I write, it’s been about three and a half weeks, not really very long to heal either physically or psychologically.

The wound itself is improving steadily. The paresthesia from the damaged nerves has already diminished quite a bit.  The worst part now is the lumpy “dart” at each end of the incision. One is at the hairline so less obvious, but the other is very prominent on my forehead. It will most likely look better later on when I can massage the scar and soften it, as I was told to do by the surgeon’s assistant. The repair job does seem to have been well done in technical terms. At the moment I still feel disfigured, though.

I honestly didn’t realize that I cared that much about my face. I’ve never been particularly beautiful and I never relied on my looks to get me anything, so I wouldn’t have expected to react so strongly, but a facial wound feels like a scar on one’s very identity.

It’s interesting; I almost feel more willing to lose my entire body than to have individual parts chopped away. When I was threatened with a hysterectomy many years ago because of nascent cervical cancer, I fought that idea and insisted on keeping as much of my original equipment as I could, while being told I was crazy by the PCP I had at the time. And miraculously enough, even after two conizations (yet another example of not getting it all the first time) and stitches tearing out and needing an extra repair, my cervix eventually filled itself back in. All that’s left of the damage is a very thin, clean scar with healthy tissue around it. That is what the female body can do. I am holding on to the idea that every body has far more ability to regenerate than we give it credit for.

I was only in my first year of acupuncture school when that intimate surgery was done, and my understanding was more limited than it is now. Although the tissue that was removed was not yet invasive cancer and might never have become so, it was already making me ill. I had unusual, severe, long-lasting infections that year; it seemed that my immune system just couldn’t keep up with holding cancer at bay and fighting microbes as well. I knew something wasn’t right. When the carcinoma in situ was found, I just wanted it to be taken out as soon as possible and give my body a chance to catch up. I remember feeling icky about having that diseased mass inside me, unclean, which was probably not very helpful to the healing process in itself. That part I was willing to lose.

After the second conization, I landed in the ER with heavy bleeding, and lost over a liter of blood by the time the repair was done. I was the pale tongue model in my class for many months after that! The blood loss, combined with the stress and fatigue of school, led to some long-term problems that have not entirely resolved. If I could have known all that would happen, I would probably have tried to avoid the surgery. There might have been another way to reverse the condition. However, at that point it seemed that my body was unable to manage the job on its own. And indeed, I did stop getting sick.

As you most likely realize, cancer starts somewhere in your body over and over throughout your life, triggered by a host of possible factors, but your immune system destroys the errant cells before they can cause trouble. It stands to reason that anything that can increase the efficiency of the immune system is good for preventing cancer, while anything that decreases it— including emotional and psychological issues— can help cancerous cells get a foothold. Not that making use of the immune system is necessarily simple to accomplish. Mainstream medicine is doing a lot with immunotherapy for established cancers, but as people go along years after their treatment, autoimmune conditions like diabetes are showing up, because the immune system went over and above what was necessary to get rid of the cancer. So far we can’t control this treatment very precisely. However, I expect that eventually immunotherapy, using the body’s own methods but amping them up, is going to be the main way we deal with cancer. And that’s what I would consider a real cure, rather than just cutting out the lesion we can see without doing anything about the underlying process.

Let’s think for a minute about what that underlying process is. Most cells undergo apoptosis— after a predetermined number of divisions, they die and make room for new cells. You might think of immortality as a good thing, but cancer is immortality run amok. Cancer cells don’t die when they’re supposed to, but keep reproducing and invading healthy tissue, using up resources without performing necessary functions, and causing obstruction and pressure on other structures. So we need to either kill them or somehow cause them to revert to healthy cells that die as they’re supposed to after a full, productive life.

The thing that we often forget, with our violent rhetoric of “fighting” cancer, is that cancer is no more nor less than our own cells. It is not some horrific, alien invading force. It’s our own cells that for some reason are operating under incorrect instructions. Really, that’s all. All that suffering caused by parts of us.

Which brings me back to cleaning out the inside of one’s head. Ultimately, every disease is psychosomatic, because we are constructing the reality of our bodies from moment to moment. It’s crucial to examine whatever is going on psychologically and emotionally and deal with it as best we can. There is no substitute for that. However, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, a toxic exposure is just a toxic exposure, and solar radiation is just solar radiation. So many issues can be involved in cancer, and there is no sense indulging in victim-blaming, including blaming ourselves. Our bodies are subjected to the various insults and influences of the physical world, and sometimes, it seems to me, stuff just happens for reasons we can’t understand, and it may not be worth analyzing it to the nth degree, to the point where we start doing ourselves more harm by obsessing. We can go forward and figure out what to do next instead.

I haven’t heard anything from dermatologists about preventing skin cancer other than staying out of the sun and/or using sunscreen. The guy who took out my stitches went as far as to say something like, “Even if you’re only exposed for a short time, like getting into your car, the damage builds up with every drop of sun.”

OK. Let’s just stop right there. I don’t see where paranoia is going to help any aspect of our health. Believing we are being harmed every time light hits the surface of our bodies is incredibly counterproductive. We also have evidence that when everyone started religiously dousing themselves with sunscreen, the rate of colon cancer went up, likely because of depletion of vitamin D. We need sunlight. We just need to be careful with it.

It’s well established that low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with a range of health problems, including a greater risk of cancer and a worse outlook for more severe disease and for recurrence. What is not so clear is whether supplementing vitamin D in established cases of cancer will help cure them. I advise my patients to keep their vitamin D level up, since as far as we know that’s best, and I take it in supplement form myself. Even in sunny New Mexico, blood tests show that a lot of us are seriously deficient, and of course that’s more likely in the winter.

For years I have been referring patients to this website from the UK:
https://www.canceractive.com/
The originator, Chris Woollams, collects every piece of information he can find about cancer treatment and prevention. I don’t always find every bit credible or useful, but overall this is the most comprehensive source of cancer knowledge I’ve seen. It’s also a source of hope. A major recommendation given at this site is the “Rainbow Diet,” the concept of basing one’s diet on colorful vegetables and fruits. Although there are conflicting recommendations about diet for treating and preventing cancer (as for everything else), there is broad agreement about eating whole, unprocessed or minimally processed foods, including lots of vegetables. You can’t go too far wrong that way.

At our house we’ve been breakfasting on green smoothies to get our intake of phytonutrients up, and they are yum. I bet my husband, not a big vegetable fan, would never have expected that he’d enjoy snarfing down blenderized kale and spinach, even with fruit added, but he’s loving it. I’ve noticed a small improvement in my vision, which I think is remarkable after just a week or two of extra carotenoids and such.

There are so many substances that have shown activity against a particular cancer or against cancer in general, and many of them are found in those colorful plant foods. Others are herbs or components of animal-based foods. Each one could be a post or series in itself. Here is a partial list of substances that as far as I know are well-researched:
turmeric
medicinal mushrooms (reishi etc.)
DIM, indole-3 carbinol, and sulphoraphanes, all found in cruciferous vegetables
green tea catechins
fish oil
modified citrus pectin
vitamin C (including topically as a sunscreen ingredient)
vitamin A
astaxanthin (from algae, the pigment that makes flamingoes pink)

A simple and surprisingly effective measure is to take aspirin daily. Even a low dose has been shown to reduce the risk of getting cancer in the first place and of having tumors spread if they have already occurred.

Melatonin seems to have a number of useful effects for cancer patients, including reducing damage from chemotherapy and radiation and helping tamoxifen to work better for breast cancer survivors. It has been shown to lower excess levels of estrogen and IGF-1. Here is a worthwhile discussion of it:
https://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-page-link.aspx?n=1242


Cannabis is often touted as a cancer cure, but from what I’ve read, the situation is muddled and complex. For some types of cancer, it seems to help, but for others it may make things worse. More research is needed, and if the US government would stop making it so hard to do research with marijuana, we’d likely get it faster! I am using a CBD salve around my incision at the moment because it seems that it may help, and at any rate keeping the scar tissue moist and softened is a good thing.
http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2012/07/25/cannabis-cannabinoids-and-cancer-the-evidence-so-far/#.Wfe1EK293b0.facebook

Dairy is another controversial subject. Some authorities state that it encourages the growth of cancer and forbid it. Yet, in the form of cottage cheese, milk protein is a major part of the Budwig diet for cancer patients, which apparently has been of help to some. If I had to give advice on this issue, I would say to use only organic dairy with no hormones given to the cows, grass-fed if possible, and as with any food to pay attention to how you feel when you eat it. Don’t eat anything that you don’t tolerate well. I don’t have any clearer information than that at this moment.

While I was in my first week or so of recovery, the film Cancer Can Be Killed showed up online. It tells the story of the filmmaker’s wife, who had bladder cancer and was given no hope except to have her bladder entirely removed. A relative of hers had gone to Germany and been treated with hyperthermia, and had recovered completely, so she did the same, with an excellent outcome. Hyperthermia is not available in the US except in combination with chemo and radiation, they said. It seems like it ought to be.

The hyperthermia was combined with nutrition and other naturopathic treatment. I don’t think we can argue with the concept of helping the body to be as healthy as possible while trying to get rid of the cancer, no matter how we go about the cancer treatment itself. Mainstream oncology hasn’t tended to do that, to say the least. There were a number of statements made in the film that made my BS meter go off, though. One issue was the insistence that eating sugar feeds cancer. I’d heard that many times, and hadn’t really questioned it, but it’s become clear to me that it’s misleading.

Cancer cells do take up more glucose than others, because they are dividing rapidly, and that fact can be used in PET scanning. However, it does not follow that sugar in the diet increases the growth of cancer. In fact, check this out:
https://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/cancer-cells-are-what-they-eat-and-it-s-not-glucose/81252451

This does not mean that a cancer patient or anyone else should be eating a lot of concentrated sugar. Insulin resistance and diabetes contribute to cancer as well as other health problems, and excess weight is associated with cancer too. Sensibly reducing or eliminating processed sugar from your diet is healthy. Living in fear that eating a molecule of sugar is going to make your cancer grow, though, not so much. Here’s a good overview:
https://www.oncologynutrition.org/erfc/healthy-nutrition-now/sugar-and-cancer/

I don’t want to do anything, or avoid anything, out of fear. That cannot possibly be the way to health. This afternoon I spent a few minutes standing in the yard with the sun on my face. It felt sooo good— just comfortably warm at this time of year, not overwhelming. I let it sink in and told myself that the sun’s energy was healing my body and soul.

On the website of the clinic that treats with the Budwig diet, I saw a lot of questionable ideas and products, but I also saw this, which seems like the perfect thought to leave you with: “As I emphasize to my patients that come to the Budwig Cancer Center, forgiveness and ‘counting your blessings’ are two of the most important emotional states you need to stay strong. Forgive absolutely everyone that has disappointed you at some time in your life because holding a grudge is too heavy for you to carry and especially at this moment in your life.”

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Facing Cancer (or Whacked Upside the Head by Mainstream Medicine) Part I

I’m going to whine for a little while, and then, I promise, I will have some solid, useful information for you.

I thought I knew better.

I thought I was an educated patient who would make sure to get every available piece of information before I let anything be done to my body. I thought that since the effects of the surgery for my cervical carcinoma in situ had been worse than the disease in some ways, I’d never again go for surgery without learning about every conceivable alternative. So much for that.

I also thought that I was well aware of what typical skin cancers look like and what the warning signs are. Nope. Some don’t fit that set of rules.

So I feel pretty stupid at this point.

I did know that skin cancer is extremely common and that we have particular risks in New Mexico because of our clear sky and high-altitude strong sun. I didn’t worry all that much about it for myself because of my vampire-like lifestyle— I don’t enjoy being in direct sun and largely avoid it, in the same way that my mother did. I did know, too, that moles and skin tags and bumps show up more with age. The smooth, pink bump on my forehead, with its even color and its round shape with no irregularities, didn’t set off my radar. It was new in the past year or so, but it didn’t seem all that different from some other objects on my skin. Now I know that the shiny pink appearance is not unusual for basal cell carcinomas.

I did know that something was wrong. Near the mole there was a tiny triangular spot, barely visible but easy to feel, that would crust and slough off over and over and never heal. It wasn’t getting bigger, at least not by more than a few microns, but it didn’t seem right at all. Last spring I asked my gynecologist to look at it, and he suppressed a laugh as he told me confidently that it was nothing. (He is never one to belittle patients’ concerns, so he very definitely thought it was inconsequential.)

The tiny triangle kept doing the same thing, and it seemed to me that the pink mole changed color ever so slightly. They were both right in front of me every time I washed my face or brushed my teeth, so I never stopped noticing them. Eventually I made an appointment with my primary care doctor. When I got there, I told him, apologetically, “This will probably be the tiniest problem you see today.” He judged the triangle to be an actinic keratosis, a possibly precancerous lesion thought to be caused by sun, and said it would be worthwhile to freeze it off. The mole struck him just as it had me— it didn’t seem obviously malignant, but it didn’t look quite OK either. He had me make an appointment to remove it and send it to be checked out.

A couple of weeks later, we did that. I was left with a 1/4” scooped-out divot in my forehead. When a letter showed up the next week, I was delighted to see it, because they don’t give bad news by letter. I opened the letter to find that the lesion was a basal cell carcinoma and that the biopsy hadn’t gotten all of it. My PCP had figured that since we’d already discussed this as a possibility, I wouldn’t be too upset by getting the message in the mail. His assumption was incorrect.

Now, as I said, this condition is extremely common. People go through it every day and don’t make a big deal of it. I had the least problematic form of skin cancer, and only one lesion, not terribly large. As my PCP told me, it’s considered very curable. I was instructed to get scheduled for the state of the art treatment, Mohs surgery. Patients of mine had had it, and it hadn’t looked all that bad. Yet I was completely flipped out. I’d already been at the limits of what I could deal with before the diagnosis— the death of my mother, other devastating hits on the personal and professional levels, our democracy moribund if not already dead, the threat of nuclear war, and in the background the certainty of further destruction from extreme weather. This pushed me over the edge.

Part of that was because of what our cat, Rico, went through at the end of his life: He started with what looked like a tiny scratch on his nose, and it turned into a cancer that literally ate away a great deal of his face. I also had a past-life connection to cancer that was near the surface of my mind.

My PCP attempted to reassure me by email. I read whatever I could find about Mohs surgery, including some pretty technical stuff. Enough that I thought I understood what was going on and got much less anxious about it. Unfortunately, my earlier apprehension turned out to be well founded.

The practice where the surgery was done has about the best information about what to expect with Mohs that I’ve seen, on their website— but I didn’t know about it till after the procedure. No one at their office told me anything before the day it happened, nor suggested anything for me to read. I asked the pleasant young woman who assisted the surgeon to explain what would be done, when it became clear that no one was going to explain anything on their own. She only told me what I already knew, but I insisted that she go through it anyway. It’s astonishing that it wasn’t all made totally explicit, in writing, when I was asked to give consent.

As it turned out, even after all that, I had very little understanding of what was going to be done, no clue about how extensive it would be, and really not much basis to give informed consent. In fact, I don’t feel that I ever had a chance to give truly informed consent.

My husband had had a much larger cancerous lump removed from his arm some weeks earlier. It was a simple excision (that’s what they call it, “simple”), and as with me, they didn’t get all of it on the first try. He had to go back and get a bit more of a crater scooped out. The wound was about a centimeter across and fairly deep, but he had no significant pain, and it healed fairly uneventfully. I was expecting something along those lines. Since Mohs surgery is supposed to take as little tissue out as possible, and I had already had what seemed like most of the problem removed, I was not at all prepared for a dime-sized disc to be cut out, ending up with a 1 1/4” incision, with 9 stitches (not including the ones on the inside) having lumpy darts folded into my skin in order to bring the edges together, and having a chunk of my hair shaved right in front. I’d seen patients of mine who had had Mohs, and seriously, their incisions were not all as big as this.

Yes, I’m whining. Yes, I understand that until the surgeon gets in there, it’s impossible to know how much cancer is underneath the surface. Yes, I know I was lucky that he only had to take one layer off in order to get all of it. It could have been worse. But would it be so hard to TELL the patient that all this is going to happen?

I expressed some surprise and dismay at the time, and the surgeon totally minimized my concern. I had already noticed what I thought was an odd sense of humor, and he applied it again. He said that what I’d had was the smallest surgery they ever do, and that they don’t consider it big until it’s the size of a dinner plate. That is literally what he said. Then he told me that I was almost certain to get more lesions and need more surgeries.

But it got even better. Poking his finger at my nose and cheeks, touching one spot after another, he said, “You’ll get one here, and here, and here. And they’ll be bigger and more cosmetically significant.” It was as if he had put a curse on my skin, or injected poison directly into it. I was in such a vulnerable state that his words sank deeply and immediately into my system, without any filtering. I put up a feeble argument, but he repeated that a recurrence was nearly inevitable. The only excuse I can come up with for his incredibly inappropriate “curse” is that he was trying to scare me into making an appointment with a dermatologist ASAP. (Which I did.) Whatever he was thinking, his words and his attitude were the opposite of anything related to healing.

When I pointed out that seeing a dermatologist and being vigilant otherwise meant that any cancers that might start would be caught early and be small, the assistant replied, in a kind tone as if speaking to a small child, that there’s always more beneath the surface. They didn’t give me the slightest hope that there might be something I could do for prevention, just left me looking at a future of having my face sliced to pieces, with absolutely nothing I could do about it.

I wrote a strongly-worded letter to the surgeon, speaking as an experienced clinician as well as a patient, and delivered it the day I got the stitches out. Which was not done by the surgeon himself, by the way. He never even took a peek at me to see how his work was turning out. That apparently wouldn’t suit the flow of the assembly line in their practice. A different assistant did the work, and he actually supplied me with more information and advice than anyone else had. Then he turned me loose— nothing in writing about what had been done or what to do next, and no followup appointment.

Again, nothing at all was said about how to increase my chances of keeping my skin healthy. I started researching right away to see if there might be something I hadn’t seen before. The statistics I saw were dismaying— not only was the chance of a recurrence in my skin (and my husband’s) quite high, it had been found that people who had had skin cancer were at much greater risk for internal cancers as well. This was already my second brush with cancer, so that shook me up. On top of that, one of the healers who does energy work for me said that he was seeing cancers getting started in at least two other areas. By this time I was pushed well over the edge and hanging on to a very thin twig.  I felt like a ticking time bomb.

But I already knew that cancer is a systemic disease, and was prepared to treat it that way.

Next: Responding to the challenge, and what you can do if you find yourself in this sort of situation

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STTNG “Sub Rosa”: Predatory Love

I wrote the following in May of 2010, as part of a letter to a friend, and today I ran across it while looking for something else. It seems like an appropriate story for Halloween and Día de los Muertos, almost a ghost story but not quite. 

There has been so much news of sexual abuse and coercion lately, and our group mind is busy chewing over what constitutes abuse and what possibly is just a matter of being a jerk instead. For my own rather different reasons I have been considering this question as well. The situation in the STTNG episode I describe here is pathognomonic of abuse: one being takes control of another and prevents her from living her own life. Yet, as in real relationships, things aren’t absolutely cut and dried.
**************************************************************************

The other night I had the opportunity to record a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode that I’d been wanting to get my hands on for years, “Sub Rosa.” I hadn’t seen it in probably a decade or more. This time around, I found myself thinking, “Was Gates McFadden’s acting really that bad?” [sorry] and “I can’t believe they piled that much makeup on those poor women,” and “Why did they give Deanna Troi SO much hair?” and “Geez, none of their uniforms really fit.” Somehow the show, which honestly was high-quality overall, seemed even more dated than Classic Trek from the ‘60s!

But the story was still of interest to me. It was about almost exactly what an ex-friend and colleague insisted was happening to me: a disembodied being was making inappropriate and harmful use of humans, while claiming to love them and take care of them. The story began with Dr. Beverly Crusher, the Enterprise’s chief medical officer, beaming down for her grandmother’s funeral. The planet where her grandmother lived had been terraformed into a replica of the Scottish Highlands– which I guess was someone’s idea of the perfect environment– and the clothes and houses looked like they came from around 1800.

When Dr. Crusher read her grandmother’s journals, she discovered that this century-old lady had had a handsome lover, a guy in his 30s! Very soon the lover made an appearance and offered his services to the granddaughter. He represented himself as a ghost, a regular human spirit, nothing too untoward. She quickly fell under his spell. For short periods he would appear as a corporeal man, but then he would dissolve into a green mist and sink into her body, merging with her in a way that looked eerily familiar to me. They didn’t make it clear whether this was an overtly sexual act, but it sure looked like Beverly, squirming around most sensuously, was having a wonderful time.

The green mist guy, whose name was Ronin, asked Dr. Crusher to stay with him on the planet so that they could be completely joined forever. She was so messed up by that time that she instantly resigned from Starfleet and did as he asked, having no problem with leaving all her friends and everything she’d ever worked for. But by that time the captain and others were on to Ronin and trying to get Dr. Crusher out from under his influence. They had figured out that he was not a ghost at all, but an alien being made of “anaphasic energy,” a (made-up of course) kind of energy that was unstable and couldn’t exist without some kind of physical host. (Making one wonder how such a creature could ever evolve in the first place.) He’d been preying on the women in Beverly’s family generation after generation. They had a sort of candle, a family heirloom, that was where he lived when he wasn’t invading their own bodies.

And that’s when Ronin started attacking people, even killing one, to save himself. Finally Dr. Crusher had to kill him herself– of course, what else– blowing him away most dramatically with her phaser.

But at the very end, looking at her grandmother’s journals again, Dr. Crusher commented wistfully that whatever else he’d done, he had made her grandmother very happy.

Star Trek at its best has often managed to find stories that resonate for a great many people, at some deep subconscious or even mythological level. In this case, the plot concerned something that does appear to happen, a disembodied being interfering in the life of a human, but it also can be taken as being about physical-world relationships that are obsessive and controlling. It’s kind of the ultimate in codependent relationships.

And it’s very close to the kind of relationship my ex-friend accused me of having with Fryderyk.

I don’t have the slightest worry that I am being preyed upon or abused, but this story did make me take stock yet again. What would I be doing these days if Fryderyk had not happened to me? Would I have followed my “plan A” and studied jazz bass? Would I be a really hot lutenist? Would I somehow have become more myself if I hadn’t been concentrating on him? It seems like I might have saved many thousands of dollars by not buying a grand piano and not taking so many lessons, but then, I was already taking lessons and teaching, and I might have done all that anyway.

I do think that I’ve been significantly happier than I would have been otherwise. Maybe the happiness of romance is nothing more than a bunch of oxytocin circulating through the system, but it’s happiness nonetheless.

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It Couldn’t Have Happened

When I was a kid I had what appeared to be a persistent memory of something that happened when I was very small. A meteorite fell in my Aunt Betty’s back yard and met its fiery doom one evening while we were having a cookout or something. I can still see the image of a large sphere, at least a foot or so across, burning in patches and dark elsewhere, with a crater around it, not too much bigger than the sphere itself. The image is vivid.

But that could never have happened. A fraction of a second’s thought will tell you that meteorites just don’t work that way. And if a substantial one had fallen anywhere in Girard, Ohio in the early 1960’s, and pieces had reached the ground still being 12” or more in diameter, the destruction would have been epic and everyone would have known about it.

At some point while I was still a kid, I happened to mention to my mother, “that time the meteorite fell in Aunt Betty’s back yard.” Of course she told me that no meteorite had ever fallen there during my lifetime. I was shocked to realize that my memory wasn’t real. I’ve never been able to explain what the image means or what could have happened to leave a memory trace like that.

So many impossible things have been happening lately, and I’ve wondered about this one again. What can it mean? I wonder if perhaps there was a typical, far smaller stone that did fall from the sky in front of my eyes, and my little brain turned the memory into something more dramatic. But surely my mother would have remembered even that. Did I see it in a movie? Did I dream it? Being so young, was I unable to distinguish dream from reality? Something happened, even if only in my mind, something significant enough that it is still with me. What did it mean?

A week ago something else happened to me that seemed like it couldn’t have happened, something that was even more improbable than the burning rock in the grass and that strangely feels less real in my memory. The only person who can corroborate it is the one who caused it, and perhaps that person experienced something completely different from what I did. A couple of friends who were also in the building could tell you that I described it to them right afterward and that I was visibly shaken, but they didn’t see the actual event. Did I misinterpret it? Did my mind turn it into a more devastating missile from the heavens than it really was? All week I have asked, What does it mean?

And meanwhile, and before, other unthinkable occurrences took place. Entire cities burned to the ground, houses disintegrating in literally seconds. Far away, we destroyed another city “to save it.” People there who were just going about their business were obliterated by explosions from the sky, and their homes turned to dust as fine as the typical meteor. Others, here, were going about their business when an unprecedented rain of death poured down on them from high in a hotel window. Many are still struggling to find even the most basic necessities for survival after having their homes drowned or pummeled flat by the storms weeks ago.

More and more, every morning I turn to some source of news with dread in my heart, bracing for whatever new horror has taken place while I slept. Maybe you are this way too, waiting for the next shockwave, the next stone to fall. I know that whatever I complain of personally has no comparison to the immensity of tragedy that has befallen myriad human beings during this incredibly difficult year. I know, just as surely, that I am affected by all of it and so is each one of us, and the whole of us.

And I know that my perspective right now is skewed, especially since I’m recovering from a procedure during which the doctor did his best to terrify me about my future health— another unexpected blast from above. I haven’t yet been able to dig out from under the rubble. Yet, what feels like such dark, heavy boulders may be no more substantial than the meteorite of my childhood.

 

This is what it wasn’t:
http://www.grindtv.com/random/man-claims-found-burning-meteorite-yard-real-video/

I searched for the origin of the photo used at the top of this post, but could not find anything clear, so cannot give credit for the image.

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Medicine Buddha

My patient and friend Dawn studied Buddhism in Nepal many years ago and has practiced diligently ever since. One of her teachers from there, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, does a great deal of traveling and was recently in Santa Fe, where she was able to see him. At her next appointment, she brought me a card depicting the Medicine Buddha, which he had blessed. She said that she knew it was supposed to be for me.

 It looks a lot like this:

When Dawn put the card into my hands, it seemed to be vibrating, as if it were alive. Lama Zopa’s blessing and intentions seemed to be totally, intensely present still. I had been having an extremely hard time that day, and nearly burst into tears at the generosity and kindness of this gift, which came to me precisely when I needed it most.

But strangely, despite having heard of him many times, and despite the obvious connection to my line of work, I knew nothing of the Medicine Buddha. Those of you who are familiar with my business name or have been to my office know of my love for the image of Kuan Yin and my aspiration to bring some particle of her vast compassion to my work with my patients. I had been content with her, and perhaps it hadn’t yet been time for me to confront this colleague of hers in the cosmic healing arts. Yet it feels now as if he may have always been there in the background.

As soon as I got home, I began reading about this Buddha, Bhaisajya in Sanskrit. I learned that he is the original doctor, the archetype of doctors I would say, though Buddhism does not use that term. I saw that in his left hand he holds a bowl like those used to mix medicines since ancient times, containing the healing he offers to all those who need it.

The article that made the most connection for me was this, though it unfortunately contains a tangle of confused symbols where diacritical marks didn’t make it onto the website properly:
https://www.wildmind.org/mantras/figures/bhaishajyaguru-medicine-buddha-mantra
An essay included in this article touched me profoundly. The author, Srivandana, has struggled all her life with poor health, but she perseveres in her practice and her faith that she can transcend the ills of her body. “I have raged against the certain knowledge that there is no physical healing for me in this lifetime,” she wrote, bringing me again to tears.

Srivandana wrote about the myrobalan fruit that Medicine Buddha holds in his right hand. Used commonly in Ayurvedic and Tibetan medicine, it is called He Zi in the Chinese pharmacopeia, where I learned it as a relatively minor herb. Bitter and sour, it can stop dysentery and cough and restore the voice. What Srivandana described was a terrible tasting medicine, so bitter that one recoils from swallowing it. Yet once one faces the need for it and gulps it down, it brings ease, joy and understanding.

This is the medicine, as Srivandana experiences it:
  “The law of impermanence is the most beautiful thing I can possibly imagine. I have made a practice of contemplating impermanence and recognizing that everything is insubstantial and therefore painful and unsatisfactory. Reflecting on impermanence, allowing it to permeate every pore, every particle of my consciousness, rocks me to the core of my being. I feel as though I have been turned inside-out. Yet the law of impermanence is full of potential and is permeated by the beauty of change. The knowledge that this change lies in my hands, and that I can take responsibility for its coming into being, is hugely empowering.

“The medicine of the Dharma has to be drunk by the gallon, bathed in, fully absorbed. The vast sea of Dharma stretches into the distance, but a single drop can go a long way. Bhaisajyaguru also points out the danger of finding oneself in a void of impermanence, without beauty and without sustenance. I need the beauty that I touch through making art and listening to music, through communicating with spiritual friends; as well as the sustenance gained from meditation, in particular meditation on the sublime abodes of positive emotion, or brahmaviharas.”

Soon I had my own experience of this medicine and the challenge of drinking it. It was the morning after I had a lengthy late-night counseling session with my mentor Mendy Lou Blackburn, the day after a day of unusual depression and anxiety. As I came to consciousness, still half-dreaming, I was contemplating a mental image of Bhaisajyaguru, thinking about what I had read and heard. The image seemed to come alive, and the kindly being held out the bowl toward me, asking me to drink. I took the bowl into my own hands and put it to my lips, but could not make myself take the liquid. After some struggle and some encouragement from him, at last I drank.

I felt a rush through my body and wondered if it was the transformation I was asking for. Something did feel different and better. I asked exactly what the medicine was, what it was meant to do, and I received an answer that was broad and deep. I was planning to write about it right away, as it seemed clear at the time, but I can’t remember what I was told. I know something got into my head that made perfect sense, but then it sank out of my conscious sight. I’ve been told that Medicine Buddha’s teaching is like that, that it acts at a deeper level than the objective mind and can be hard to describe. As far as I can recall it was along the lines of what Srivandana wrote, about change lying in my hands and taking responsibility for my reality coming into being, and the wondrous knowledge that this is possible.

Mendy Lou said that the illness is resistance and the cure is letting go, knowing that all is provided. Or something like that. Part of the little I recall had to do with acceptance of what is, at the same time that one realizes the power to create and transform.

And on so many levels I have been needing a medicine to restore my voice, so greatly needing that.  At the time I didn’t realize that this is a major function of the herb Bhaisajya carries.

I didn’t “believe in” the Medicine Buddha any more than before. I didn’t feel that I had been in contact with a “real” entity in real time, but rather that I was in a dream sort of state and my own mind entirely constructed the encounter with Bhaisajya. But a couple of weeks later I was treating another patient who keeps up her Buddhist practice, and I put on the recording of the Medicine Buddha mantra in Tibetan that I’ve linked below. Mendy Lou came in near the end of the treatment and was sitting in the waiting room, also listening to the chanting. When she and I are in the same space, it seems, it’s easy for all sorts of things to manifest, and I suspect her influence had something to do with what I saw. As I sat with my hands near my patient’s head, lapis blue arms appeared just outside mine, cradling me and adding their own nurturing energy. I felt Bhaisajya’s strength and gentleness, and he seemed at least as real as I.

As usual, I don’t know what this means, but I accept it gratefully.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUJucA-mrgE
Medicine Buddha Mantra:
 I came across this accidentally, but at just the right time, and I have drunk it in as if it were critically needed nourishment, listening over and over, singing and playing it. I don’t know why it has such a deep effect. When I’ve played it during treatments my patients have reported a profound experience.

Here is a rather technical article about Medicine Buddha and his relationship to other celestial beings: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhaisajyaguru


Myrobalan/He Zi: http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/terminalia-chebula/

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The Authoritarian Personality and the National Divide

‘In talking to right-wing authoritarians (RWAs) — in any situation — the first and greatest challenge is to reduce the level of fear and increase the level of trust. They cannot hear or see you at all until this happens.’ — Sara Robinson

I think it’s fair to say that a majority of Americans are completely boggled that so many of our fellow citizens are willing to believe so much crazy crap that is so utterly disconnected from reality. Just saying that they’re nuts is not helpful. Strangely enough, there is actual research to help explain why and how they are able to continue living in their alternative reality and steadfastly fend off any facts that might attempt to intrude. And it’s been around since before the last period of far-right fantasy hegemony.

I came across a very useful set of posts by Sara Robinson, who was raised fundamentalist and closed-minded but was able to transcend her upbringing, and who has a lot of understanding about how to communicate with those who are still inside the “Wall” of insulated post-factual unreality. So much became clearer for me. (Scroll down for links.)

Robinson was summarizing the work of John Dean— yes, that John Dean, from Watergate— who wrote Conservatives Without Conscience, which is based on the work of social psychologist Robert Altemeyer.  Although Robinson’s posts pertain to right-wing Americans, certain evangelical Christians in particular, the dynamics of authoritarianism are the same across cultures and religions.

“Research into ‘authoritarian personalities’ began in the aftermath of WWII, as scientists tried to figure out how otherwise civilized people succumbed to the charisma of Hitler and Mussolini and allowed themselves to be willingly led into committing notorious atrocities. The inquiry continued through Milgram’s famous experiments at Stanford in the early 60s; later, some of it became subsumed in the work of The Fundamentalism Project convened by Martin Marty at the University of Chicago in the 1980s and early 90s. Long story short: there is now over 50 years of good data on these people coming from every corner of the social sciences; but since almost none of this has been common knowledge outside the academy, nobody on the progressive side has really been putting it to use.”

The bully leads

The description of authoritarians who are on the leader side of the equation sounds eerily familiar in our present environment:
“High-SDO [social dominance orientation] people are characterized by four core traits: they are dominating, opposed to equality, committed to expanding their own personal power, and amoral. These are usually accompanied by other unsavory traits, many of which render them patently unsuitable for leadership roles in a democracy:
“Typically men
Intimidating and bullying
Faintly hedonistic
Vengeful
Pitiless
Exploitative
Manipulative
Dishonest
Cheat to win
Highly prejudiced (racist, sexist, homophobic)
Mean-spirited
Militant
Nationalistic
Tells others what they want to hear
Takes advantage of ‘suckers’
Specializes in creating false images to sell self
May or may not be religious
Usually politically and economically conservative/Republican”

“Dean notes: ‘Although these collations of characteristics…are not attractive portraits, they are nonetheless traits that authoritarians themselves acknowledge.’ In other words, these guys know what they are, and are often quite unabashedly proud of it.”

But these leaders wouldn’t get very far unless there were legions of authoritarian personalities on the follower side, and unfortunately there are. It seems that there are all too many people who want to be told what to think and what to do.  Robinson postulates that while the bullying leader types may be beyond the possibility of redemption, a lot of followers may have some openness to communicating across the divide.

I can easily sympathize with the desire to be given simple answers and clear directions. The world is so overwhelmingly complex nowadays, and our path forward seems so uncertain. Sadly, I expect that fundamentalism and authoritarianism will continue their ascent in the near future as climate change and population growth create even more conflict and pressures for water and other resources. They may even provide some sort of genuine protection against chaos, at least temporarily and in limited areas. However, this kind of mindset works against the innovative drive and mental agility that is needed most under fast-changing and stressful conditions.

Dedicated to the cause


“RWAs are sadly accustomed to subordinating their own needs to those of their superiors; in fact, one of the struggles we often see in recovering fundies is a complete inability to even acknowledge that they have needs of their own, let alone identify them, let alone act to meet them. They simply don’t know where to begin. Also, because their own authorities use guilt and shame to control them, they’ve seldom been allowed to see themselves as truly good and moral people.
“Giving an RWA permission to recognize, give voice to, and take action to satisfy his or her own needs is a powerful act. In affirming that they are not just allowed, but entitled (in the name of fairness) to feel their own emotions, own their own goodness, indulge a few harmless appetites, enjoy themselves, assert their boundaries, or stand up and say ‘no’ to overweening authority, you are being an enlightened witness to their true self — something many of them have seldom if ever had. In the process, you are also giving them a direct view over the wall. Often, it’s a view that they never forget, and will keep coming back to until they’re persuaded to go over it for good.”

Red Family, Blue Family

“The best writing on this I’ve seen comes from Unitarian writer Doug Muder, who has taken George Lakoff’s model of ‘strict father’ versus ‘nurturant parent’ politics one step further, and uses it to explain precisely how the right wing came to believe this preposterous notion…. Muder asserts that, while Lakoff’s right that family models are the right frame, the real dialectic is between families of ‘inherited obligation’ versus those based on ‘negotiated commitment.’ Go read the article, then come on back. We’ll be here.”

Here’s the article: “Red Family, Blue Family” https://www.gurus.org/dougdeb/politics/209.html
I strongly recommend that you read this. In fact, I implore you to read it. Lights will go on for you. For example:
 “The Inherited Obligation model, on the other hand, is ambivalent about the social safety net. On the one hand, it is good that people don’t just die when they have no one to take care of them. But on the other hand, the safety net weakens the network of familial obligations. A young adult who moves to the big city to seek his fortune doesn’t come home when he fails, he draws unemployment. Social Security and Medicare may provide an excuse not to take care of aging parents.
“…The Inherited Obligation model is likewise ambivalent about freedom. Freedom to fulfill your obligations according to your best judgment is a good thing. But the kind of freedom that releases people from their obligations is not. In the Negotiated Commitment model, a life without commitments is empty, and there can be no commitment without freedom.”
“Their demonic liberal is a person with no moral depth or seriousness. Convenience is his only true value. Words that we revere, such as freedom and choice, rebound against us: We like these words because we want to be free of our obligations and choose the easy way out.
“Just as married people sometimes imagine the single life as far more licentious and libidinous than it ever actually is, so people born into life-defining obligations imagine a life free from such obligations. The truth about liberals – that we more often than not choose to commit ourselves to marriage, children, church, and most of the other things conservatives feel obligated to, and that we stick by those commitments every bit as faithfully, if not more so – easily gets lost.”

Sometimes those on the left are accused of attempting to control and tyrannize others in the same way that the right does. That isn’t really characteristic of liberals, with their tendency toward fluidity and emphasis on choice:
  “As a final point: Dean’s book puts to rest once and for all the right-wing shibboleth of ‘liberal fundamentalists’ and ‘liberal authoritarians.’ Altemeyer and his colleagues have found, through decades of research, that authoritarians almost universally skew toward the far reactionary right on the political scale. This very much includes Stalinists and other ‘left-wing’ totalitarians: though these men used socialist rhetoric to create ‘Communist’ political orders, they’re classic examples of high-SDO leaders taking control by whatever means they had at hand, and using them to create archetypal far-right authoritarian states. Dean and Altemeyer make it clear that authoritarianism is, by long-accepted definition, overwhelmingly a right-wing personality trait.
“Dean is also emphatic that authoritarianism, in all its forms, is completely antithetical to both classical conservatism (he still considers himself a Goldwater conservative), and to the founding ideals of America. We must be clear: when right-wingers threaten liberals, they are directly threatening the seminal political impulse that created our nation. An operative democracy depends on having a populace that is open to new ideas, able to think for itself, confident in its abilities, willing to take risks, and capable of mutual trust. America was founded as the world’s first radically liberal state. History has shown us that the nation’s best moments, past and future, are created by people with a strong liberal orientation.”

(Note that standing up strongly for principles, such as equality of opportunity in jobs and housing, does not constitute tyranny.)

“Alt” authoritarians

Then there are those who reject established authority but believe in “alt” authorities without question. It’s easy and seductive to see oneself as part of a persecuted minority, a group that’s in the know and smarter than all those “sheeple.” Robinson’s “A Short Detour” section is about them:
“I’ve known way more than my share of these guys, since Silicon Valley is one of their primary native habitats. And my take is that they’re at least as driven by their burning desire to fit in as any other RWA. In fact, their feelings of victimization may be rooted in the belief that they were promised an acceptance in liberal intellectual circles that they intensely wanted but never really found. The most extreme ones were frighteningly bright and well-read, and usually also from very religious family backgrounds. Those two qualities alone guaranteed that it was going to be hard to find a niche among the better-rounded, more secular big city liberals. So they decided that, if they were going to be outcasts anyway, they could at least claim moral superiority. I may be a nerd, but I am RIGHT — the possessor of Ultimate Truth! — and that’s what really matters in the end.”

Why so many of them?

I’ve wondered why the authoritarian-follower trait has been so persistent in the human population, being that it involves so much unwillingness to face facts and thus to deal with real and immediate threats. There must be some advantage, or it wouldn’t exist. Authoritarians do know how to organize and come to agreement, for good or ill, and perhaps that confers an ability to respond more quickly to danger than a dithering, contentious group could, despite their propensity to live inside their imaginary constructions. (Even more than the rest of us, I mean.) Black and white thinking is faster and easier than taking all the grey into account. Perhaps group cohesion has been historically favored over innovation under adverse circumstances?

(Since to be a Christian is to see everyone as your neighbor, and to love your neighbor as yourself, it’s particularly perplexing to me to see that right-wing fundamentalists are so invested in being part of an in-group and demonizing everyone else.)

The most depressing thing about all of this is that Robinson wrote it back in 2006, so hopefully, but nothing seems to have changed, except to get worse. At least, that’s how it looks. I would love to see evidence to the contrary. Please tell me if you’ve got some.

 

Sara Robinson’s posts:

Cracks In The Wall, Part I: Defining the Authoritarian Personality
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/cracks-in-wall-part-i-defining.html

Cracks In The Wall, Part II: Listening to the Leavers
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/cracks-in-wall-part-ii-listening-to.html

Cracks in the Wall, Part III: Escape Ladders
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/cracks-in-wall-part-iii-escape-ladders.html

Tunnels and Bridges, Part I: Divide and Conquer
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/tunnels-and-bridges-part-i-divide-and.html

Tunnels and Bridges, Part II: Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/tunnels-and-bridges-part-ii-nothing-to.html

Tunnels and Bridges, Part III: A Bigger World
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/tunnels-and-bridges-part-iii-bigger.html

Tunnels and Bridges, Part IV: Landing Zones
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/09/tunnels-and-bridges-part-iv-landing.html

Tunnels and Bridges: A Short Detour
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/09/tunnels-and-bridges-short-detour.html

 

 

 

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“You know my heart.”

About a week ago I heard that the pastor of one of our local megachurches, Steve Smothermon, had referred to my city councilor as a “militant homosexual.” The exact quote was: “Pat Davis, I think that’s his name, City Councilor Davis on the city council, he come out and said it’s the greatest thing, ‘cause he’s a militant homosexual.”

It kept popping back up in my mind, especially since I have friends who go to that church, and they wouldn’t say such a thing. The issue, if I understand it, was that Councilor Davis was trying to defend LGBTQ kids against some school board members who were trying to remove protections that had previously been put in place.

I must be more sheltered than I think, because I didn’t realize that the term “militant homosexual” is used all the time by a faction of religious extremists who believe that gay people are trying to destroy Christianity, indoctrinate their children, and take over the whole country and perhaps the world. As I write this, the image that is running in my mind is that of my kind, gentle lesbian colleagues and their wives, doing their gardening and puttering around the house. It’s pretty hard to square with the fire-breathing monsters these folks are warning everyone against.

This same pastor has gotten notoriously entangled in politics a number of times. He spoke out against Gov. Susana Martinez a few years ago when she appointed an openly gay man to the PRC. ‘Smothermon told NMPolitics.net last month that Martinez “looked me in the eye personally and said she’s socially conservative… she wouldn’t espouse the homosexual agenda.” He said Howe’s appointment “goes against that.”’ http://nmpolitics.net/index/2012/02/pastors-comments-spark-protest-online-debate/

Ah, now we are on familiar ground— “the homosexual agenda.” Hiring the most qualified candidate, who happens to be gay, is “espousing the homosexual agenda.” Because apparently gay people shouldn’t be allowed to work and therefore have food and a place to live. Or maybe they just shouldn’t be paid with tax dollars? The pastor continued: ‘”These aren’t the people we voted for you to appoint. We voted for you to appoint people who think like we do,” he said, adding that he is “not against the human being, but the lifestyle and the political power that the homosexual agenda has today, as a lobbying agenda, that’s what I begin to come against.”’

“We voted for you to appoint people who think like we do.” Separation of church and state does not seem to mean much to such pastors (and indeed, I have heard a few voices on the right say that it should not exist).

If wanting to avoid being killed or beaten in the street, wanting to be able to work and survive economically, and expecting the fundamental respect accorded to any other member of society— just wanting to live— makes us “militant,” I will be happy to count myself as militant and stand up for that “agenda.” In fact, this crap is making me feel more militant by the day. I fly under my bisexual cloak of invisibility most of the time, for good or ill, so these guys don’t see me. If they did take notice of me, though, they would probably be just as happy to attack me as they would my gay friends. I am taking all this extremely personally.

I could go on with a lot more obvious points, such as the propensity of so many religious folk to harp on their favorite few lines taken out of context, and in translation, from the huge literary tradition that constitutes the Bible. But you know all that. I do want to add a word from someone who comments at liberal pastor John Pavlovitz’ blog, a religious person herself, who stated this at least as well as I could: “If we believe God doesn’t make mistakes and that God it is love and that God made humanity in God’s image, then it stands to reason that if God created someone to be homosexual, then it must have been because it delighted God to do so.”

I will not even engage with the contention that people “choose” to be gay. Everyone should know better by now.

And I should know better than to give all this garbage any space in my brain, but it’s amazing what can worm in there and take up residence. I’m going to tell you about an experience I had nearly three years ago and wrote about then but never dared to share with you because it seems an order of magnitude farther out than anything else I’ve posted. It isn’t, really— that’s probably just my inner insecurity talking. As intense spiritual experiences go, it may even be fairly mainstream. Anyway, it changed everything for me. Here goes:

 

*************************************************************************
Events of 9/30/14

A friend told me with great excitement about a channeler she had discovered, who was giving messages from Jesus, as many do. She felt that his work was what she had been trying to find for a very long time, and said that she had at last discovered real peace. The messages she described sounded very much like what I had heard from Hania Stromberg’s channeling [see my old post “An Appointment with Jesus”] and what I had picked up myself, a real antidote to the controlling, limiting, shaming version of Christianity my friend and so many of us had grown up with.

I went to the channeler’s website to find out more. There were a number of messages that seemed worthwhile and helpful. I was a little put off by the fact that the channeler had been associated with the I AM Movement, which has a number of problematic aspects and was founded by questionable and deceptive leaders. He still uses much of their terminology. But I don’t care about the channeler’s background so much as the content of the messages themselves.

I scanned the sidebar of the home page for subjects. One entry was “Teachings on Homosexuality.” My heart sank. “Oh, crap,” I thought. “Here it comes.” I had a pretty good idea what I was going to find— and what I found was even worse than I expected. Not only was it judgmental in the most insidious and damaging manner I had ever seen, it was couched in language that insisted the speaker wasn’t being judgmental at all. The effect was, “I would never judge anyone, but you’re horrible beyond redemption.” It also came off as “I’m only telling you this for your own good.” I will not repeat what I saw there, because it doesn’t need to be given any validation, and my readers don’t need the trauma. The sanctimoniousness was thick and sticky, and so very familiar.

If this had been written by any typical yahoo wingnut preacher, I would have shaken my head sadly, closed the page, and moved on. But my friend’s reaction to the channeler, and her typical level of depth and thoughtfulness, gave it far more impact in my mind. I felt deeply ill, sick to my stomach. The idea that people, especially young people, would read this and let it get into their systems was horrifying. I knew this wasn’t the Jesus I had met, not remotely, but I couldn’t just leave it alone.

This was one of my piano lesson/lunch and writing/walk on the ditchbank days, and as I strolled under the cottonwoods that afternoon, I quizzed myself very rigorously, just in case, on whether I might be rejecting an actual truth because it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. (That sounds silly now, that I could consider accepting anything so insane even for a nanosecond.) No. Every molecule of my being told me it was utterly, evilly wrong. I sent out distress calls. Normally I don’t have conversations with Him, and don’t have a clear “phone connection,” but I hoped to get a reply. After all, he had told me years earlier that I could always come to him for comfort if I needed to.

A little later, when I got home, I felt his presence. As soon as the contact began, I knew there was really nothing I needed to ask. The answers were in the presence itself. A fountain of love and acceptance rushed down through the top of my head and filled me everywhere. Being me, though, I had to ask for clarification in words.

He did not say that he had nothing to do with this man or that the messages were wrong; he said that the channeler was getting only the surface of what he was trying to say. He showed me a view of an ocean full of creatures, and explained that while there were a great many fish living in the water, this man saw only the few fish that swam toward him and presented themselves to his vision. This image formed clearly in my mind, one fish after another swimming forward, turning, and moving away into the darkness beyond. It was an odd metaphor, it seemed to me, but the meaning was easy to understand.

At the end of that sequence, I heard, “I am the ocean.”

I realized that the reason I had been so upset by the channeler’s presentations was that some part of me believed he might be right. “I need reassurance,” I went on, chattering nervously, along these lines: “I, and people I know, do feel in a way that we are broken or unbalanced or wrong. I don’t really think it’s true, but I feel it. You know that I feel something’s wrong with me because I fall in love too much. I guess you probably think that’s silly, and it is, but I feel it. Anyway, I need a hug!” I was getting seriously teary by this time.

I’d been getting a lovely cosmic hug the whole time already. He said something that surprised me: “You know my heart.” Yes, I did. “And I know yours,” he continued. I was both feeling much better about everything and dissolving further into weepy, overwhelmed jelly.

And then he said something even less expected, something so large that it doesn’t fit in these words: “My heart is yours.”

I felt the meaning, far beyond the words. He had told me Tat tvam asi, Thou art that. We are one. I already partake of Christ Consciousness and I am in my rightful place in the universe of humanity. I am not unacceptable, not wrong, not broken. I am loved, and I always will be. (You are too.)

 

In the weeks that followed this experience, my friend kept sending me more material from that website. None of it was particularly problematic or offensive. I wondered if she had even seen the part that had upset me so, and was afraid to ask. She wanted to know my reaction to what she sent, and I couldn’t figure out how to talk about any of it without bringing up what I saw as a central issue that invalidated the whole body of work. At last I couldn’t avoid it any longer, and I found a way to discuss it with her. She didn’t like that section any better than I did, but she wasn’t worried about the validity of the channeling overall. She reminded me that even the channeler himself had written about the difficulties of getting messages through without having them colored by our own biases and expectations. That was good enough for her. It wasn’t for me.

I was left feeling that I would rather listen to Source Itself than to what anyone else says. To whatever small extent my antennae can receive it, that is. All I can tell you, as usual, is, “This is what I heard. Make of it what you will.”

So what’s the difference between me and others, like the wingnut preachers or this channeler, who claim they know what Jesus is saying? Maybe not much. But I can truthfully state that I am not trying to get any power over others.
****************************************************************

Perhaps the people I am complaining about have tapped into a pervasive field of fear and judgment, just as I connected with a field of love and acceptance. I would suppose that it is absolutely real to them. I know where I would rather live, and I know which is more likely to generate a world that is better for all of us.

More recently, I found myself in a lengthy and eye-opening discussion with a Catholic priest who reminded me that a traditionally religious viewpoint does not necessarily require a narrow, judgmental attitude. I think I’ll save that story for another day.

 

While looking for background about Pastor Smothermon’s comments, I found a couple of other articles of interest:

http://www.paulholtministries.com/2012/02/10/homosexuality-steve-smotherman-and-the-torah-observant-jesus/
This is an argument against those who point out that Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality one way or another. Holt writes that Jesus didn’t need to say anything about matters that were already covered in the Torah because he was an observant Jew and so must have agreed with everything in it. Pastor Holt apparently believes that not only does he understand everything Jesus said, he understands everything Jesus did not say as well.


http://nmpolitics.net/index/2012/02/forgiving-smothermon-praying-for-those-his-words-affect/

“Pastor Smothermon does not need to apologize. I have already forgiven him. I pray for him, but more importantly I pray for those his words affect.
“The kids that are bullied on the playground because Pastor Smothermon says being gay is wrong. The individual that continues to seek God’s love but can’t find it because Pastor Smothermon says there is no love, and in essence gays should not hold any job.”

For some perspective on the centrality of the fight against “militant homosexuals” among members of the religious right, check this out:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Gf4jN1xoSo
“True Origins of the Religious Right”
  The emphasis on homosexuality and abortion, issues not brought up in the gospels, turns out to be surprisingly recent. In contrast, although the gospels say that Jesus did speak against divorce, repeatedly, most evangelicals seem happy to let divorce go on. They would like to keep it available for themselves, so it’s perfectly fine. It’s those other people who are doing all the evil.

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