Move Any Mountain 

There are so many stumbling blocks along the path to peace. Some of them are pebbles, some boulders, some mountains. 

We always have choices, as we come upon each obstacle. We can choose to navigate around it, or over it, or through it. We can also choose to avoid it, to turn around, or change course entirely. No matter which choice we make, no matter which direction we choose, as long as we keep moving, we are still on the path to peace. 

But if we choose to stop dead in our tracks, and stand there bitching and complaining about the obstacles, thrashing about, kicking and screaming, no progress will be made. If we choose to stand still whining or crying about the pebbles and boulders, ‘woe is me’, then we are no longer on the path to peace. 

We are holding onto an idea of what we thought the path should be. We are holding onto our expectations of what might be. We are deluded by our images of what should’ve or could’ve been. We are sitting in suffering of our own creation. 

The only way out of that puddle of suffering is acceptance of what actually is.

It takes a lot of strength to accept things as they actually are.  It also takes strength to accept things as they are not.

Today, I began the conscious, deliberate practice of acceptance. I took off my shirt. I placed my left hand on the center of my chest. The palm of my hand was resting over my incision. I placed my right hand on top of my left and pushed down gently.  

Tears began to form in my eyes. Not for what I felt beneath my hands, but for what I did not feel. 

I sat for five minutes inhaling and exhaling. Feeling the rise and fall of my newly flat chest under my hands. 

Breathing in I accept what is now.
Breathing out I accept what has passed.
Breathing in I accept what is.
Breathing out I accept what is not.
Breathing in I accept what is here.
Breathing out I accept what is gone.
Breathing in I accept what is.
Breathing out I accept what isn’t. 

The process of acceptance has begun.

But don’t for a moment think that my acceptance of the situation means that the situation doesn’t suck!

Acceptance is not the same as approval. It’s not the same as support, or permission.  It does not necessarily imply consent or agreement. 

It is simply the process of recognizing what is. It is acknowledging that things are, in fact, as they are, then slowly coming to terms with them, and eventually making peace.

I have to accept what is, so that I can move forward, toward peace, from this very real place.  This very real, pretty shitty place, that I will soften to and learn to accept, more every day.

With practice. My breath can move mountains.  


———

Listen to my earworm.  Move Any Mountain by The Shamen. 

———

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Music, Laughter, Breath (not necessarily in that order)

It was the day of my double mastectomy, some time around 5:30am and John was driving me to the hospital. Coldplay was on the radio. Chris Martin was singing ‘Lights will guide you home/And ignite your bones/And I will try to fix you”. I cursed him and his sappy poetry, as I began to get a bit weepy. 

Within moments I was registered, and lying in a hospital bed wearing a paper robe with lots of oddly placed flaps in it. I had so many colored bands around my wrist, I looked like I had been at a music festival with multi-level admissions. 

I had just been wheeled into my pre-op spot, so the theme song from Scrubs was fresh in my mind. ‘I can’t do this all on my own. No, I know, I’m no Superman’.
As visions of Doctors Dorian and Turk filled my head, the anesthesiologist walked in and introduced himself. I quickly sized him up; an affable man, somewhere around my age, probably younger. The man of the hour. 

He said ‘I’m Dr Saffran. I’m your anesthesiologist.’ I said ‘Oh, you’re the guy! My life is in your hands.’ I asked him if he got a good night’s sleep, or if he had been out on a tear the night before. He laughed and assured us that he was ready, and well rested. 

He immediately won me over with his bright eyes and easy smile. He wasn’t at all flustered when my giant husband stood up to leave, and told him that he better bring his A game. This is a good man, I thought. He won’t let me die

We made some small talk. He introduced his associate. A resident? Or an intern? I’ll call him a resident. He was a twenty-something man with a look of compassion and concern on his face. He put his hand on my leg and asked me how I was. I told him I was great, considering I was about to go under the knife. 

Dr S looked over my chart, and then at the allergy bands around my wrist. ‘What medications are you allergic to?’ He asked. I answered. ‘And I see you’re allergic to latex?’

At this, the resident perked up and asked ‘How did you find out you were allergic to latex?’ 

He seemed so deeply interested, that I wanted to know why he was asking. I started wondering to myself… Is he allergic to latex? Is he working on a thesis? Are latex allergies his specialty? Does he think I’m lying? Does he dress up in a red latex suit and go out dancing on the weekends? I didn’t ask.  (Cue: Don’t dream it, be-e it!)

‘Well,’ I said… ‘actually… I found out from condoms.’ His curiosity turned to blush as the doctor began to explain that a lot of people find out that way. I joked about how it was so funny to get that diagnosis in the middle of a deadly STD epidemic. He may have been too young to appreciate the irony. 

Then he was off, and the doctor proceeded to poke me for the IV with no further ado, no fanfare. Everything was going smoothly. Me and the nice doctor. Until his phone began to play a song… 

It played the opening notes of a very familiar tune. It was Stairway to Heaven. And I immediately said, ‘Stairway to Heaven?! Come on, Doc! That is NOT the song I want to hear right before you put me under!’ 
And he laughed. ‘Seriously, dude! Bad choice! I mean, it’s better than Highway to Hell, but still… ‘.  

He explained that it was a reminder tone, and that he wasn’t usually in surgery this early in the morning. ‘So patients don’t usually hear it.’ ‘Oh, wow. I guess I’m the lucky one, then.’ We laughed. ‘You really have to change that. It cannot be the last song I hear.’ 

And then my surgeon appeared. Dr Pappas, all business, and ready to get to work. She had a young man with her. She told me that he was doing a research project, and asked if I would be a part of it. They had plenty of people for the control group but they needed breast cancer positive people. So I said of course I would. 

He explained to me that he was doing research on breath. I told him that breath was my favorite thing! ‘I breathe all the time!’ He explained that there are cancer markers in people’s breath. Some day, a simple breath test will be used to detect cancer. Crazy, isn’t it? Amazing stuff. So he wanted to take some of my breath.  

As I began singing Berlin in my head ‘You take my breath away’ he handed me a straw, attached to a small Mylar bag. He asked me to blow it up. So I took it and I blew it up. And then he gave me another, as Dr S and company returned, to see me filling the bag. I stopped for a second. ‘Balloons.’ I said. ‘We’re gonna have a party after surgery. Can you believe they asked me to blow up my own balloons?’

Very soon the theme from Scrubs was back in my head, and I told the resident this as he wheeled me through the halls. He told me that he never really got into Scrubs. (I resisted the urge to say ‘You’re in them right now’) but that he liked Nip/Tuck and his mom always watches Grey’s Anatomy. I told him I prefer funny medical shows.

Then I was in a brightly lit room, and a masked nurse introduced herself to me and helped me on to a very narrow table. Dr. S told me he was going to put the medicine into my IV. I immediately replied- ‘Is it in there? I think I’m starting to feel a little bit woozy already.’

The next thing I know, I’m awake for one second and I hear Chrissy Hynde singing in my head, ‘Show me the meaning of the word. Cause I’ve heard so much about it’ 

Then sleep.  

Then Dr. S talking. 

Then sleep. 

Then a female voice saying, ‘We should get her husband and let him in for a minute. He’s been worried sick.’

Sleep.

Then John was standing at the foot of my bed with giant wings on his back. 

‘You’re an angel.’ I said. ‘You have wings right now.’ 

More sleep.

Then apple juice. The coldest, sweetest, most amazingly delicious apple juice I ever tasted in my life.

Sleep.

I slowly came back over the next few hours. At some point, a nurse came in and dropped a business card on my table. She said, ‘Dr S wanted me to give this to you, and to remind you, something about a ring tone.’

And then I remembered him talking to me. At some point after surgery, he said ‘I just want you to know I changed that ring tone. Now it’s These Dreams by Heart.’ 

‘Better’ I said. ‘Not great, but better.’

Soon I was in the passenger seat of the car. Vomiting apple juice into a plastic wash bucket. Free of cancer, breastless, and on my way back home. 

‘Every moment I’m awake, the further I’m away’.






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Grieving 

Grief never really ever goes away.
It simply changes shape from day to day.

It lives there in the center of your chest 
And waits to be expelled with every breath
A cloud of mist that hangs over your head
A heavy log that pins you to your bed
A friend who holds your hand all through the town
A Mac truck with no brakes that runs you down
A drone that finds you wherever you try to hide
A .38 that’s holstered to your side
A slice of pie, a piece of cake, a treat
A pack of wild dogs running down the street 
A wave of loss that drowns you in despair 
The sweet, sweet smell of lilacs in the air 
A song, a lyric, a chord, a melody 
The face of each sad stranger that you see
A nagging itch at the center of your back
The first tingle of your next panic attack
A sunset, a storm cloud, a butterfly, a tree
Every awesome, horrible, beautiful thing you see
The thing that lives in the center of your chest
Floating up and down on every single breath. 

It shifts its shape each moment of every day.
It never really ever goes away. 

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Annihilate Me

Just before my double mastectomy, a friend and I were texting, and she said ‘This is the yoga you’ve been preparing for all these years.’ To which I replied, ‘Well, that’s frickin’ bullshit.’

But we both knew she was right. All I really had to do, was let go. My practice has always been about letting go of unnecessary things. I focused on the simple process of breathing in and breathing out, taking on and letting go. 
For years now I’ve been working on exhaling longer than I inhale, letting go of more than I take on. 

If you’ve followed my journey at all, then you already know… a lot of things have fallen away. Bad habits, old ideas, judgment, over-indulgence, impulsivity; all slowly falling away.

As each next thing starts to fall away, I hold tightly for a while. (Like I held onto my beer!) Grasping and clinging. But eventually I loosen my grip. And soon, it slips away.

It’s a practice of softening and releasing. Softening my heart, my grasp, my stubborn head. Releasing my ego, my expectations, my judgment. Inhaling and exhaling, taking on and releasing. A practice of creation and destruction, preservation and annihilation.    

Pema Chodron says: 
‘Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.’

I have been annihilated. And I have found that which is indestructible in me.

I can see it. Hear its whisper. And even summon it up on occasion. As long as I keep myself vulnerable and open to annihilation, I will continue to visit this indestructible place.

I am there right now. Breathing deeply. Inhale, count to 4. Exhale, count to 8.

Indestructible. 

……………….

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Healing Dream

Last night I dreamed I was moving freely,
Inhaling my arms up over head,
Diving over and folding forward, 
Straight-legged with my hands on the earth.
Sun breaths, outdoors, in an open field. 
Then I began to create my own poses.
I got myself into an awesome bind. 
Fingers clasped. Chest wide open. 
Face to the sky.

I awoke, 
In my own bed,
propped up on pillows, 
wrapped tightly in gauze. 
The sun rising behind the rain clouds.
Another chance to live, to heal.
I am breathing. 
And I am bound. 

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Keep Feeling Vacillation

People keep asking me how I am? I keep saying ‘I’m good, right now’.
Someone recently asked me if I was just putting on a brave face?

No. This is not a brave face. This is my face. This is my right-now face. Does it look brave? You should’ve seen it an hour ago. 

The truth is, I vacillate. It’s not all sunshine and light. It’s not all inspirational quotes and half-full glasses of magic yoga potions. 

I’m always vacillating. Every breath is a pendulum, swinging between absolute acceptance and absolute anxiety. The acceptance comes from past experience and analysis. The anxiety comes from concern for the future. At the center of the pendulum, there is the present moment, and the present moment is good-right-now. As long as I stay in the present moment, I’m good.

I’m good right now. 

I have come to terms with the situation just as it is.
————I’m good, right now.
I’m feeling intense anxiety about the outcome.
——————I’m good, right now.
I am still and strong, breathing and typing.
—————————I’m good, right now.
I’m feeling terrified and I might vomit.
————————————-I’m good, right now.
I am amazed and amazing.
————-I’m good, right now.
I’m feeling helpless and clueless.
———————-I’m good, right now.
I move through this ever changing world gracefully, joyously.
———-I’m good, right now.
I have no idea how I’m going to get through this in one piece.
———————–I’m good, right now.
I am safe from harm.
——————————-I’m good, right now.
I am scared shitless.
   —————–I’m good, right now.
I trust in the universe completely
——–I’m good, right now.
I’m drowning in a violent whirlpool of random chaos.
————————–I’m good, right now.
I am filled with gratitude.
————————————-I’m good right now.
This whole situation is absolute bullshit.
—–I’m good right now.
I am peaceful and calm.
—————————-I’m good, right now.
I want to run down the middle of the street screaming Fuuuuuck!
——–I’m good right now.
I accept what is, just as it is.
—————————I’m good right now.

And so I breathe. My breath brings me back to the center of the pendulum. It brings me back to this moment. Back to right now. And right now, I’m good. 

I’m good, right now. 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Keep feeling fascination…  here’s my earworm

————————

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Meditation is Bullshit 

I don’t want to be still. Stillness is bullshit.  Clearing my head? Emptying my mind? Being present in the moment? 

Total bullshit.

To be present in this moment, in the nowness of this very moment, I would have to be present in the first place. Present and aware.

I don’t want to be present and aware right now. It’s uncomfortable. It’s hard work being mindful. I don’t want to be mindful. 

Mindfulness is bullshit.

Sure, if I am truly mindful, present, and aware I can take myself to that amazing open space where there is absolutely nothing. It’s a beautiful place to be. 

But as soon as I get there I also find myself face to face with absolutely everything. Absolutely everything. That, is absolute enlightenment. 

Enlightenment is absolute bullshit.

Who needs it anyway? It’s so much easier to dim that light. Crawl back into the dark places. It’s so much easier to tune in to something else. To deflect. To avoid. To deny. Who wants to risk coming face to face with everything in order to get to that beautiful open space? 

Not me. 

It’s so much easier to read a book. Listen to music. Take a walk. Scroll and swipe through endless screens. 

It’s so much easier to fill my time with sights and sounds, scents and sensations. Give me some sugar. A cigarette. A painkiller. A pregnant giraffe. Anything. 

Gimme a political debate. Gimme a philosophical discussion. Gimme internet porn. Gimme a fuckin beer already, for chrissake! It would be so very easy for me to go back to drinking beer and eating junk food. I want to go back to easy. 

This isn’t easy. No. This is bullshit.

Potato chips! Gimme some potato chips. Gimme Netflix. That’ll do it. 

I will sit still. But I won’t be still.

Stillness is bullshit.

———–

Bull. Shit.
————
Total, complete, bullshit.

…….

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