Sunday, August 29, 2010

Friendship and Gratitude

The mystic poet Hafiz reminds me of my dear friend Elaine. Elaine was an artist, a poet and a woman who lived life fully and with so much love, light and spirit ... cancer took her from this earthly existence but her soul and her spirit continues to live on in the hearts of so many people whose hearts she forever touched. Elaine introduced me to the poet Hafiz, and through Hafiz I found my way to Rumi. I met Elaine at a Discovery writing workshop ... a workshop where we were asked to "listen deeply. Write your truths. See new possibilities, and Come Alive in your own way."

I can still remember vividly standing at the bottom of the steps of the building in St. Paul after our second Saturday class, and somehow something drew us together and we began a conversation, a connection ... and 2 hours later we were still standing at the bottom of the steps, talking. It's been hard for me to open my heart to true, authentic, deep friendship connections. I guess you can say it's old hurts, old fears ... a way to protect that little girl in me who has always felt like when she finally loves with all her heart, that she will lose what she loves, through death or abandonment. I know now that the loss of my father at the age of 4 is so deep-rooted. So Elaine challenged me to love again, to build a deep, authentic friendship. And so we had incredible times of sharing and connection but the truth is, I was scared and without realizing it I withdrew into the safety of my shell and threw myself into work and volunteerism. Yet somehow Elaine, always knew ... she could see right through me and she loved me regardless. Unconditional love. She was giving me the most precious gift and I wasn't even aware of it. Elaine died on Friday, April 17, 2009, 17 months after her initial diagnosis of cancer. She had a headache .. a headache that wouldn't go away and kept getting worse.... cancer had spread to the lining of her brain. I was in San Diego for business and wanted so desperately to make it back in time to say goodbye. As I was waiting to get on my plane early that Friday morning I learned my dear friend Elaine had passed away. She continues to appear in my dreams and to be in my heart. Even up in heaven she's reassuring me that I'm okay and that she knows I love her. And she's telling me I need to open up my heart and that there's no reason to be afraid.

And so I have ... and I believe God led me to the wild dolphins in Bimini. While there I could feel Elaine's presence. She appeared to me, along with my father, during one of our quantum light breath meditations which put me in a trance like state that I had never experienced in my life before. Her loving presence is always with me. And I believe the dolphins led me to my friend Michele, who in so many ways reminds me of Elaine - pure light and love. I've been given another chance to learn to love deeply in friendship and so we have begun a beautiful, soul-like friendship like the one I had with Elaine. This time, I feel Elaine by my side. She's holding my hand as she teaches me that loving deeply is the only way to live! I love you Elaine and I still miss you. And Michele, I love you too and I am grateful beyond words for the gift of your friendship ... thank you for seeing me and thank you especially for seeing the little girl in me and enticing her and creating a safe environment for her to come out and play!

With Elaine by my side, I commit to walking and venturing into territory that once terrified me ... true friendship! Thank you Elaine!

Where Dolphins Dance

The work starts
As soon as you open your eyes in the

Hopefully you got
Some good rest last night.

Why go into the city or the fields
Without first kissing
The Friend

Who always stands at your door?
It takes only a second.

Habits are human nature -
Why not create some that will mint

Your arms are violin bows
Always moving.

I have become very conscious upon
Whom we all play.

Thus my eyes have filled with warm
Soft oceans of divine music

Where jeweled dolphins dance
Then leap into this

~ Hafiz ~

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Coincidence? ... or Small Miracle?

The other day a book I had ordered arrived in the mail, "Small Miracles: Extraordinary Coincidences from Everyday Life." The introduction begins with:

"There are moments in life when we catch our breath and glimpse God's presence. Sometimes it is when we see the radiant face of a sleeping child, sometimes it is when we hear a fragment of melody that stirs awake an unfamiliar yearning. These moments - which flicker for a tantalizing instant and then vanish in a flash - convey to us a sense of the Divine.

Every leaf, every blade of grass bears God's imprint. But these days most of us are urban dwellers leading hectic lives, and have lost the connection to the earth that enriched our forefathers and helped them see God. Obscured by skyscrapers and the haze of polluted skies, we can barely see the stars, let alone sense a Divine Presence ..."

I don't believe in coincidences. As I have gone through life I have come to believe that everything happens for a reason, even experiences in my life that have been devastating and hurtful. I know I yearn for deeper connection with God, with the Divine. I try to practice being more aware, more present, more alive. Nature and photography have allowed me to feel God's presence and to notice more ... I captured the photo above of a frog camouflaged  ... blending in with the blades of dew-filled grass on an early morning by our lakehome at Wilderness Resort. I am sure I have walked right by the many miracles of life because I am rushing through life. Meditation, prayer, photography teach me to slow down and notice. And so I noticed this frog. I think he noticed me too but somehow he let me come closer and closer. As an teenager and even as an adult I have been terrified of frogs and toads. I remember my mom telling me a story as a kid that if a frog jumps on you it will stick to you and you won't be able to get it off so you'll have to cut your hand or arm off! I was traumatized. I'm sure my mom told me that story to stop me from playing with frogs, not that I remember even playing with frogs as a child in Thailand. Somehow, the morning I connected with this frog I was scared for a instant, then the fear left as quickly as it arrived. I was caught up in the moment - it was a miracle for me to be this close to a frog, and to not be filled with terror. It was a miracle for us to be within a feet of each other and both of us choosing to stay ... and so we stayed connected for at least 10 minutes.

While in Bimini last month, it was a miracle to be physically touched by a bottlenose and a spotted dolphin. My doctors tell me i'm 'lucky' that my body forms lumps and masses around the atypical cells in my breast because they are not showing up in any imaging procedures, and this has enabled them to remove the lumps and to identify that there are cells in my body starting to go awry. I don't think it's luck. Is it a coincidence that I had a dream that I had cancer in my left breast which then led me down the path of noticing a lump? Is it a coincidence that my father appeared in my dreams at the beginning of the year telling me that I had pancreatic issues, then a month later my GI doctor diagnosing me with pancreatic insufficiency after months and months of tests and procedures? I guess I could choose to believe they are coincidences or i'm just 'lucky', but I guess I choose to believe that there are messengers, Divine messengers, all around us, trying hard to speak to us, and waiting for us to slow down enough and open our hearts enough to listen, truly listen.

The book goes on "Coincidences have been variously defined as 'luck,' 'chance,' 'a fluke,' 'something out of the ordinary,' or a 'random conjoining of inexplicable events that defies our sense of reasonableness.' We firmly believe that coincidences are much more than simple accidents or quirks of fate. To us, coincidences are blessings, the spiritual manna that hosts of angels send down to illuminate our Path. They are vivid, striking, awe-inspiring examples of Divine Providence. They are acts of God.... For when a coincidence does take place, it is nothing more and nothing less than God tapping us on the shoulder, whispering, or at times even shouting: "I'm here! I'm with you!"

"Beyond nature, there are teachers - other experiences that can help us along our journey. These guides, beacons of light and signposts in the labyrinthine wilderness in which we wander, offer us gentle instruction and compassionate encouragement as they firmly propel us back to the path from which we may have strayed."

I continue to be in awe of the many miracles that show up in my life. The other night as I was driving home from a meeting I saw the full moon rise above the horizon. It was both magnificent in size and color -- a passionate burning orange. It felt so close and I longed to just reach out an touch what to me is a piece of God, a piece of the Divine.

Then I realized, God is always me. I have had a longing in my heart for some time now. I am starting to see that the longing I have is to feel and experience love at a Divine level. So it is that one morning while up north, a simple morning walk with my camera, blessed me with the gift of a connection with a frog -- a frog that previously would've sent me running and clenching up in fear, now brought me a surprising sense of calm and peace. Now ... don't get me wrong .. I think if the frog jumped on me I probably would've jumped too and run the other way! :) But that's okay, baby steps ... yes, baby steps for me as I continue to open up my heart to the Divine and Mystery and Beauty of the this awe-inspiring universe.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I see my beauty in you

Early morning fog at Wilderness Resort
in Nisswa, MN
This morning I read a guest blog post on Speaking of Faith, The Happy Paradox of Photography and Meditation. The photographer shares the following:

"Creating a photograph is like meditation, full of paradoxes that coexist happily. The perfect shot cannot be captured by chasing it into a corner, and yet you must have the persistent drive to do it. You must be open to seeing something unique and special in the current moment, but having a vision for what the perfect shot is will help you to record it ... "

Recently, I have reconnected with a friend who loves photography. Just yesterday he asked me if I have been feeding my hobby of photography ... and the other night, in a conversation with my dear friend Michele, I learn that we have yet another love and passion in common: photography. And then this morning I see this blog post on the happy paradox of photography and meditation. I think the universe is trying to tell me something. Time to return to photography and its meditative and healing qualities for me. The photo on the left was taken in 2009 when my partner Mary and I were up at our lake home in Nisswa, Minnesota. I woke up early one morning and looked outside to the see this hypnotic fog glazing over the still lake. I saw the reflection of the tree on the lake and went to grab my camera. Why did I feel the need to capture that moment? What was it about the fog, the reflection of the tree, the stillness, the sun rising over the horizon behind the clouds and fog, screaming to be noticed ... that tugged at me? What I know is that early mornings are precious times for me. I wake up early every morning (often times i'm up at 4 or 4:30) ... I make myself a cup of green tea with pomegranate and I begin my morning ritual of writing, meditation and when and if i'm so moved, I write a blog post. I love the quiet, the stillness, the darkness that precedes the sunrise, and the chance to reflect.

My life is a reflection of all that is around me. I have been immersing myself in learning more about the mystic and poet Rumi. When I run I listen to interviews about his life and I listen to his poems ... he talks about "The Glance" -- a mystical experience that occurs when the eyes of the lover and the beloved, the parent and child, and friend and friend meet; many of his poems emerged from a deep spiritual connection he had with Shams of Tabris, his mentor and friend.

What is love? Love is all encompassing and love is the most powerful force and energy within us. To love unconditionally, without fear, without judgment, without expectation, without labeling it as this kind of love or that kind of love .... he writes about a love that defies a physical and earthly kind of love. Love is a light, a beacon of light that is deep within each and every one of us. To connect at such a deep level, at a spiritual, pure level ... that is love. And when the fog lifts around one's heart, the light shines through.

What is the heart?
It is not human, and it is not imaginary.
I call it you.

~ Rumi

I see my beauty in you. I become
a mirror that cannot close its eyes

to your longing. My eyes wet with
yours in the early light. My mind

every moment giving birth, always
conceiving, always in the ninth

month, always the come-point. How
do I stand this? We become these

words we say, a wailing sound moving
out into the air. These thousands of

worlds that rise from nowhere, how
does your face contain them? I'm

a fly in your honey, then closer, a
moth caught in flame's allure, then

empty sky stretched out in homage.

~ Rumi

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Running as a spiritual practice: Mind, body, spirit, and heart

 At a young age I learned how to disassociate my mind from my body … a coping mechanism that fortunately ended up serving me well in some aspects of my life. I found swimming as a way to escape the emotional pain. I threw everything I had into competitive swimming and had the focus and determination many of my friends envied. I set my eye and my focus on a goal, and nothing, absolutely nothing would get in the way. At a young age I also learned from my coach that a real winner is the one who when she doesn’t win the gold, she gets back up and tries again, and again, and again.  I also learned to use my mind, to visualize diving off the starting block, hearing the sound of the gun, and rehearsing over and over in my head my strokes, my breathing, the flip turn and accepting that a split second could make the difference between a gold or a silver medal, and the difference between qualifying or not qualifying for the Olympics.

As a an adult I have completed the Twin Cities marathon twice. Both times I sustained injuries – the first marathon, in mile 14, I started to feel a shooting pain down my spine radiating to my right leg.  I refused to quit and my mind took over, as it has done for most of my life, and I ran and walked the remaining 12.2 miles, often times in excruciating pain and to collapse after I crossed the finish line. The second time I ran the marathon, it wasn’t till mile 18 when pain shot through my body. And I swore up and down I would never ever run a marathon again.

But here I am at 46 years of age, and I have signed up for the San Francisco half marathon in November, and I am planning to train for Grandma’s marathon in June, 2011. So why would I do such a crazy thing again?  Why challenge myself again to push my body so such an extreme? The answer is simple: to integrate mind, body, spirit and heart.  I want to train differently this time around and I want to run the actual marathon differently. This time I want to listen to each and every part of my being: my heart, my body, my spirit and my mind. I don’t want to disassociate. I want to integrate. I want to push and stretch myself.

This past year and a half has been filled with health challenges for me. With weight loss and fatigue that was debilitating there were times I felt like I couldn’t go on. I was frustrated that my body was failing me. I couldn’t run; I couldn’t workout like I used to; I couldn’t go to yoga. Since returning from Bimini at the end of July where I had the magical experience of swimming with wild dolphins, I have felt alive again and energized. I continue having health challenges with my pancreas. With all my medical procedures last week and the worry and stress, my pancreas probably worked overtime, getting pushed over the edge and I had a minor setback over the weekend. I kept telling myself “I have to stay strong and to take care of myself so that I can keep running.”  A lot of times I run listening to Speaking of Faith podcasts, or Gregg Braden audio books, or interviews and readings of the poet and mystic Rumi. They inspire me and they remind me of how the act of running and steady rhythm of my pace, is healing for my spirit.  I love my long run days … an easy pace and a chance to feel myself enter into a groove, a rhythm. I love noticing how my body, my legs, my heart gets stronger. Running is not about winning for me. For me, it is a form of active meditation.

I feel alive when I run now … this time around it will be different.  

When I put my running shoes on I tell myself that this is about living ... this is about integrating all aspects of my life and being. This is about training my mind and my body, and listening and creating room and space for my spirit and heart to soar. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Risking and Living

As a young child I learned pretty quickly how to survive, how to protect myself. Yet as a young child I hung on dearly to hope that maybe, maybe this time when I stick my hand over a burning stove, maybe this time it won't hurt and burn me. Maybe this time if I love, I won't be hurt or I won't be left ... how is it possible that on the outside life can appear so perfect, yet on the inside, the fire of hell is scorching my heart? I have come to believe that there is nothing more powerful than love. From the moment I entered this miraculous world I wanted to be loved and nurtured.

Old hurts and old patterns are hard to break. Oftentimes, for me, I don't even know that I'm reliving these old ways. I have learned to protect my heart. I have learned to let people reach me, but only up to a certain point, and then I run as fast as I can. And only now, at the age of 46, and after decades of pain, reflection, loss, searching, longing, avoidance ... am I recognizing the need to integrate the adult heart in me with the heart of the little girl inside of me, who continues to long for deep love and connection. It's as if I can hear her say, "Step Aside. I want to love again, I want to play. I want to live!"

And so, I am going to step aside and I am going to venture down a new path .... a path of integrating, embracing and loving all parts of myself. I am going to risk loving - loving with all my heart, knowing in the end that my heart may shatter into pieces. For decades my heart has been intact as I have worked hard to protect it ... but the longing and aching for true, deep love and connection, have seeped into other parts of my body, manifesting in disease. This time though, I believe that when my heart shatters into a million pieces after loving with all my heart, that each piece of my heart will have an even greater capacity of not only loving and living, but receiving love and light from the incredible beings around me.

Mind, body, heart, spirit.

I love this Wendell Berry poem, "A Journey" ... there are doors all around me. Every door I touch will lead me on ...

The Journey
~ Wendell Berry

Through many doors it's been - through
the first into light, afraid, crying
for fear, for air, no going back.
Then other doors: the one where shadows
waited like night, the one nobody
opened when I knocked, and the one where somebody
did. (It was over a cliff and I fell.)

One time there wasn't any door; I turned to look
where I had been - only that? Only
the meaningless windows leading down one
by one to the faint small beginning? 
Past the middle of life, and nothing
done - but a voice came on: "I am
the door," someone said. I closed my eyes;
whatever I touched led on.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Choosing to Walk, to swim ... to live

So yesterday Mary and I met with my doctor at Mayo clinic and the surgeon. I wondered why my doctor still wanted me to meet with the surgeon since the pathology report from the MRI biopsy was benign, but she explained that I have two separate lesions: one that was seen on the MRI and the other that is palpable and was not seen from any of their imaging tests. It feels like the lesions/lumps I had back in 2009 where I ended up having two surgeries to remove them. The findings: atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH) both in May of 2009 and then again in December of 2009. This week's biopsy confirmed that the new lesion that was visible on the MRI was benign. "We still need to monitor the palpable mass". Unfortunately due to a hematoma that had formed during the biopsy the surgeon wasn't able to feel the mass. I told her I would continue to monitor it and if it changes or continues to grow I will let her know. Apparently I was "lucky" in 2009 when a lump was formed around atypical cells (the stage where cells start going awry and showing abnormal behavior; the stage before they turn to what doctors call "cancer"). "Atypical cells normally don't cluster or form lumps", my doctor tells me. So twice in 2009 I was "lucky". I choose to view it as my body communicating loudly and clearly with me to stop, slow down, listen. "The problem", she goes on, "is that because atypia normally doesn't form clusters, there's no way to tell if there were more atypical cells in the area outside of what was excised. And the fact that on two separate surgeries, both found atypical cells, it means that the cells in your breast are changing and something is going on. We really need to be diligent and pay close attention."

So the plan and recommendation is a 6 month breast MRI followup to monitor changes and if the palpable mass grows, to come in sooner with the possibility of another surgical biopsy to remove it if it does not show up on imaging tests again. For now ... I have a 6 month 'break' from tests and procedures surround my breast "issues" :) unless the palpable mass changes ...  for now, I'm continuing with my choice of 'close surveillance'. Next month I have my 6 month followup with my GI doctor to check the status of my pancreas. He'll be happy to know the enzymes are working and that I'm no longer losing weight and I'm not feeling fatigued anymore.

I'm grateful for the break from medical tests and procedures ... I will continue to be proactive with my health in others ways ... working with my energy healer, my therapist, nutrition, exercise (bikram yoga, strength training, running), writing/journaling/blogging, meditation, massage ... and next week I also made an appointment to go back and see my naturopath. Mary and I have also said that we are going to return to WildQuest next year to swim with the wild dolphins! I personally still believe that that IS the best medicine!

I'm excited about how my life is unfolding. I'm excited about life. I'm excited about new adventures, new friendships, deeper love and connections ...

While walking on the beach last December  in Marco Island with my partner we saw this older couple walking out in the ocean. There was something so beautiful about it and I had to capture that moment with my camera. What a gift to have a life long partner .... today, I am grateful for Mary and for how she continues to show me that she is here for me, and she will walk by my side no matter what. And when we were in Bimini swimming with the dolphins we were often surrounded my moon jellies ... beautiful, hypnotic and mesmerizing. They would also sting. It didn't hurt too much, at least most of the time, but to me they are like the lumps that cluster around atypical cells in my breast, the digestive challenges i've had with my pancreas ... they are reminding me to pay attention and to listen to my body.

The truth is ... we all don't know how much time we have here on earth. What we do have a choice about is how we choose to live our life and every moment. And I am choosing to dive head first into the deep blue ocean because who knows ..... I bet there are a million miracles lying below the surface!! :) And I don't want to miss out on being a witness to the wonders around us, every second, every moment. I also need to remind myself to simply stop and slow down and to look around me. There's beauty and life right next to me. And the little girl in me has this fantasy ... if it's it not so good, maybe if I touch it, it will turn to gold. The little girl in me wants to be loved and she wants to play ... well, I think it's time I let her out to play!

For all you following my blog and walking with me on my journey ... thank you.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Believe and Trust ... and the power of prayer

Yesterday at around 3 pm as I was sitting in my office on the 28th floor of my office in downtown Minneapolis, I got a call from my doctor. I had left her a message the day before to confirm that she would have the pathology reports in time for our visit on Friday morning. All I remember her saying was "I have great news for you! The pathology report came back and it's benign ..." She went on to say more but to be honest I stopped listening. My body felt this surge of emotions and tears started to fall. I just remember hearing the words "high risk" and her asking me that we should still meet with the surgeon after our visit with her. I said 'ok'.

I immediately picked up the phone to call my partner Mary who had just texted me to ask if I had heard from my doctor. "Dr. Ghosh called. Benign. It's benign!!" We cried. I don't think either of us realized the weight of worry we had been carrying. I then texted my friend Michele with the words 'BENIGN!' who then responded with how she was crying with tears of joy. Michele and I met for the first time in Bimini on our swimming with the wild dolphins (WildQuest) trip, yet we feel like we've known each other a life time ... who knows, maybe in a past life! A connection formed on that trip and a new friendship is blossoming. Amlas (one of the founders of WildQuest) told us that deep, life long friendships often develop as a result of the shared experience of connecting with wild dolphins. As I went through this week, Michele kept telling me to Believe and Trust. I believe there is no such thing as a coincidence. People come into our lives for a reason. Maybe Michele has come into my life so that she can mirror for me all she has known about me which is pure joy, life, and the bliss she witnessed while I was in Bimini with the dolphins. During this tough week she was a reminder for me to return to the calm and the joy of the experience of swimming with the dolphins. She would tell me how alive I looked when I was in Bimini, and that all she could feel energetically from me thousands of miles away was that I was alive!

Both Michele and Mary kept reminding me over and over again to remember how I felt when I was in the warm waters swimming with the dolphins. And I would ... and my body would feel so alive. I remember being touched by the dolphins. I remember the feel of their rubbery skin against my left shoulder and arm in what is a rare physical connection with wild dolphins. I remember our eyes connecting. I remember them swimming towards me. I remember how one dolphin intentionally turned around and swam back towards me. I remember being touched by their sonar, their energy and their vibration. I remember their healing, playful energy.
The last photo of me with Papa
and my favorite photo!

And this entire week I have felt the love and support of my partner and so many friends and family. I have even had kind strangers post comments on my blog to let me know they are thinking of me. I have received emails from friends I haven't heard from in a long time. This week I have felt lifted and supported by an energy and force I can't explain ... I have always loved the poem "Footprints in the Sand". I believe that God has carried me at times when I felt like I couldn't carry on. Sometimes I feel it's God holding me up; sometimes it's my father; and sometimes it's the angels they've sent down for me ... if I could change the incredible photo above (which was taken by Atmo of WildQuest) it would be that alongside the set of footprints there would be dog paw prints ...

My dog Ahnung is one of the angels I believe God and my father have sent down from heaven to help me in my healing. The first doggie angel was my beloved black cocker spaniel Splat. They have helped me reach the little girl who has been so wounded and who is now screaming to be heard. In a writing class I was taking at The Loft Literary Center I received feedback from my classmates on a piece I wrote and shared ... it was a piece about the healing from the sexual abuse and how Ahnung and Splat have helped me in my healing. She said something that I now finally get ... "I loved your piece. But I wanted to see more of you, of the little girl, and I wanted the little girl to step out in front and to not hide behind her dogs."
With my dog Ahnung, my north star

It's time for me to let that little girl out. It's time for me to reassure that little girl that I will be there with her no matter what and that it's okay to have whatever feelings and emotions. It's time for me step out in front. It's time to stop hiding her and to give her a voice.

I am just beginning to truly grasp the power and impact of old emotional hurts and how they can manifest in our body as disease. Healing ... there is no separation of you and me; there is no separation of mind, body, spirit and emotion;

If there's one thing the dolphins taught me so well ... is that I need to keep on playing! My astrologer told me "You have to learn to play to save your life." I told her how it has always been my dream to go swim with wild dolphins. "Then you must go swim with wild dolphins," and Pat looked directly into my eyes and said once more "You'd better play to save your life!"

I defy you Leo for what you took from me when I was a young girl. From this point forward I am going to reclaim what is rightfully mine and in the process restore my vibrant health.

I know there is so much more for me to learn ... but what I know right now is that I am alive, I am more than healthy, I am beyond grateful and happy, I am feeling better than I have felt in a year and a half, I am training for the San Francisco half marathon, and I am feeling my heart opening up more and more ...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Finding peace in the words of Rumi

This has been a challenging week for me healthwise. Yesterday at Mayo I had an MRI biopsy done. The enhanced area that was found in an MRI at the end of June was still there (I guess part of me hoped that it would have disappeared). The doctor removed 12 samples from the biopsy site. The nurse gently laid her hand on my back, stroked me, and said "you will hear a loud sound from the biopsy machine." She was right -- it sounded like a dentist drill and moments later I felt a deep, strong pressure against my left breast and could feel a foreign object penetrating my body. It felt like it was going to come through my chest wall. I took deep breaths and took myself back to the dolphins in Bimini as the nurse continued to stroke my back and whisper reassuring comforting words in my ear. The entire procedure was supposed to take 2 hours. In the end I was there close to 4 hours. A small metal clip was inserted to mark the biopsy site. Hematomas (blood clots) are rare occurrences with these procedures but unfortunately I fell into that small percentage and a large blood clot formed pushing the clip from its original site which led to more procedures. Finally, I was told I could go.

Now the waiting begins for the pathology report to come back ....  we are scheduled to meet my doctor and surgeon tomorrow morning at Mayo to go over the findings ... 3 possibilities keep playing over in my head: benign, atypia, cancer. I am trying not to worry. I admit it's hard. Can I be okay with whatever the outcome is? What am I afraid of? Why am I so afraid of hearing the words "cancer"? is it death itself or is it what I will have to go through along with my friends and family as a result of cancer?

Every time I go to Mayo I think of my dear friend Elaine. I think of the many trips she made to Mayo with her beloved partner Susan. 17 months after her initial diagnosis of breast cancer we lost her in April, 2009. Yet with her I never felt like she considered it a "battle with cancer." She was never "fighting" anything -- she was always embracing life, love, art, friendships, good food (yes, she was an amazing cook!) and in many ways even the cancer. She was an amazing woman and spirit who embraced all that life threw her way and relished each moment.

While I was in Bimini I had the chance to experience a deep quantum light meditation with others in our human pod. I found myself entering a trance like state ... I had never in my life experienced anything like that. And there was a moment where I felt so strongly the presence of my father and Elaine, and I found myself on the verge of tears. What a gift to feel their presence. What a gift to feel so alive and to recognize that we are always, even after death, still connected.

I still miss you so much Elaine. She was a poet and an artist ... so when I read poems I think of Elaine and as I read this Rumi poem this morning I could feel Elaine in my heart and in my soul ... I miss you Elaine and I know that you are with me telling me that I will be okay no matter what comes my way.

A Garden Beyond Paradise

Everything you see has its roots
    in the unseen world.
The forms may change,
    yet the essence remains the same.

Every wondrous sight will vanish,
every sweet word will fade.
    But do not be disheartened,
The Source they come from is eternal—
growing, branching out,
    giving new life and new joy.

Why do you weep?—
That Source is within you,
and this whole world
    is springing up from it.

The Source is full,
its waters are ever-flowing;
    Do not grieve,
    drink your fill!
Don't think it will ever run dry—
This is the endless Ocean!

From the moment you came into this world,
a ladder was placed in front of you
    that you might transcend it.

From earth, you became plant,
from plant you became animal.
Afterwards you became a human being,
endowed with knowledge, intellect and faith.

Behold the body, born of dust—
    how perfect it has become!

Why should you fear its end?
When were you ever made less by dying?

When you pass beyond this human form,
no doubt you will become an angel
and soar through the heavens!

But don't stop there.
Even heavenly bodies grow old.

Pass again from the heavenly realm
    and plunge into the ocean of Consciousness.
Let the drop of water that is you
    become a hundred mighty seas.

But do not think that the drop alone
becomes the Ocean—
    the Ocean, too, becomes the drop!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vortex of emotions

My visit to Mayo clinic yesterday for my diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound  kicked off a series of emotions for me. As I sat in the waiting room I felt a wave of emotions come over me.  All day yesterday I found myself on the verge of tears, trying desperately to fight back the tears. Voices saying: I need to be strong. I need to be brave ... and for the most part the adult in me has been strong, brave, accepting of all the health curves that have been tossed my way these past 18 months. Yesterday I think the scared little girl in me was calling out. 
I don't why I've been thrown into this vortex of emotions .... yes, fear is one of the emotions but along with fear is joy and love. I leave early this morning to head back to Mayo for my MRI guided biopsy. My doctor called yesterday to confirm that they weren't able to find the lesions with the mammogram and ultrasound, which is what we both suspected would happen and that we needed to move forward with the MRI biopsy. I've had a couple breast MRIs done but never an MRI guided biopsy. I asked her what to expect. She said it's similar to an MRI except to plan for it to be around 2 hours, and that I will be in and out of a closed tube as they biopsy the site where the lesion is. The adult in me is okay about all of this. The little girl in me is scared to death. I realized this morning that I think she's screaming out to me now because she wants to have a voice ..... i've pushed her aside all of my adult life, after my dad died, the sexual abuse, trying desperately to be the "perfect" daughter to ease the pain and suffering of my mother who could no longer be there for her kids emotionally after my father died ... the secrets, the silence, the holding everything in has manifested into my health problems .... in my breast and in my pancreas. I think she's throwing tantrum now .... 

I remember vividly swimming with the dolphins in Bimini a month ago. That whole week I felt so alive and so playful. I can still see them in my mind's eye and I can feel them in my heart.

I am grateful for the love and support I have received ... I came downstairs this morning to a beautiful dolphin card from my partner Mary ... " ... let the dolphins and me, and the dogs and the cat, be in the tube with you" .... and my dear friend Michele (whom I met on my dolphin trip in Bimini) wrote ... "you have my big heart full of energy, light and love ... visualize the dolphins there with you. Breathe life and feel their grace and unconditional love surround you .... close your eyes and remember the special moments you shared with them in the warm waters of Bimini ... be there again and bask in the presence of safety .." and then some kind stranger posted the following comment to my blog last night:

"Hi- My name is Joe, and I found your blog while surfing blogspot. I was very compelled by your writing, and just wanted to leave a short comment.

I'm so sorry to read about your situation, but know that at least this stranger is thinking good thoughts for you =) Strength is a funny thing, and even when we think we are broken or even irreparable, we somehow find a way. I have no doubt that will be the case for you.

And I just had to say that Ahnung is adorable! She looks a lot like my sister's Australian Shepherd/mix."

If you're reading my blog Joe ... thank you. Your comment means more to me than you can imagine. It validates for me my belief that we are all connected. 

As I head off for my two hour procedure/biopsy I will know that I am not alone. I will imagine myself swimming with the dolphins for as long as they need to keep me in that tube. And as my friend and neighbor Jennifer says: "All of life is a closed tube. In our minds we can be free from all constraint. Bodhichitta coming your way."

Thank you all ... Namaste.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Health Update: Mayo clinic visits next week

It seems like i'm riding waves with my health journey. As I ride the waves of this journey what gives me comfort so often is my dog Ahnung ... she went through so much before she was rescued and the delight and joy she finds in new experiences always brings a smile to my face. In the photo on the left, this was the first time she had seen a swimming pool and I think she was telling me she wants one too! :)

Before we left for our incredible swim with the dolphin trip in Bimini I was aware that there were still questions and followup tests/procedures that needed to be done on one, possibly two, new lesions that have developed in my left breast. I saw a new doctor at Mayo Clinic Breast Center in Rochester, Minnesota and absolutely love her and the experience I've had there. What a blessing to be only 90 miles away from one of the best hospitals in the country. One doctor told me before I left for Bimini that it would probably be okay to wait 6 months and have a another MRI done to check to see if the lesion has grown. My doctor at Mayo did not think that was a good option especially since she could feel what could possibly be a second lesion. I decided to trust her judgment. Her recommendation: a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound for the lesion that is palpable and then an MRI-guided biopsy if they are unable to detect the lesion with the mammogram or ultrasound. I have the diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound scheduled for Tuesday of next week, the MRI guided biopsy for Wednesday and a meeting with my doctor and the surgeon on Friday to go over all the results. We couldn't scheduled the MRI-guided biopsy any sooner because I was leaving for Bimini to swim with the dolphins and I told her she couldn't stop me!! :) And next week was when it needed to be scheduled due to that wonderful female cycle time and when breast MRIs should be done :)

So by the end of next week I will hopefully know more about the lesion(s) in my breast. Maybe the dolphins in Bimini, when they blessed me with the gift of their touch, took away the lesions .... I don't know what I will find out next week. I admit I am a little anxious and worried. I try to not to be because I know there's nothing I can do, and worry certainly doesn't help! :) What I do pray for every morning is the strength and courage to be okay with whatever comes my way.

As I go through this coming week I will work to stay positive in my mind and in my heart. And if you feel so inclined, I would appreciate any positive energy and thoughts you'd like to send my way :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hospice volunteer work: Saying Goodbye

My therapy dog, Ahnung, and I volunteer at hospice. The picture on the left was taken earlier this morning as we arrived for a care conference scheduled for our hospice 'friend' (as Ahnung likes to call our assigned patient). We walked in after the hospice nurse who was also there for the care conference. I sign us in at the front desk and the receptionist calls a staff member who comes out to talk to us. Unfortunately our friend has a 'significant change' and the care conference has been cancelled. Our friend "S" has begun the active dying process. We've been volunteering now for several months with Allina hospice ... we've had 3 friends so far. The first was actually released from hospice because she was doing so well! The second passed on but it was actually before Ahnung and I actually had a chance to visit with her and we were notified by email by the Allina volunteer coordinator. This is the first time we are actually there when one of our friends has begun the active dying process.

Ahnung and I decide we want to see our friend and we head downstairs to the first floor. She knows this facility well now and walks around like she owns the place! She has friends there now who are on staff and they always give her lots of hugs. She walks into the elevator with confidence and stands perfectly still, calm, as the elevator shaft drops down just one level. As we exit we walk to the right and it takes us 5 minutes to get to the S's room as everyone wants to say "hi". We walk into S's room and the Allina hospice nurse is already there. "It won't be long" she tells me. She leaves the room to talk to the facility nurse and Ahnung and I are able to spend some alone time with our friend. She will stop breathing (apnea) for about 45 seconds or so, then when she starts breathing again, it's labored. As I reach to touch "S" Ahnung walks over to the bed and places her head on S's leg. I pull a chair over to the side of her bed and sit next to her. Silently, I pray and I talk to her while Ahnung lays quietly next to both of us. She is having a hard time breathing, almost gasping for air. I place my hand on her arm and stroke her arm. Quietly I tell her "it's okay. You're not alone." As my hand touches her body her breathing calms down. I continue to lay my hand on her so she knows that we are there. Ahnung comes up to the side of the bed so that she can see her friend. She then plops down on the floor again and takes a deep breath.

I had planned for a care conference this morning and emotionally wasn't really prepared to hear that our friend was actively dying. Somehow Ahnung seems to be much more okay with all of it. There's so much to learn from my sweet therapy dog ... she loves and lives with all she has, and when it's time to go, I think she will go with no regrets, no attachments, and with a big smile on her face ... I don't know exactly when "S" will cross over to the other side. It could be later today ... it could be tomorrow or the day after. If by chance, she's still around on Saturday, Ahnung and I will be there to visit with her again, to hold her hand and to let her know that we are there with her. I feel blessed and honored that we have been able to be there for "S" .... sweet friend, know that you are loved and know that you have touched the hearts of one human being and one canine.


8/13/2010 Update:
Our friend "S" passed away late this afternoon. Rest in peace sweet friend ... till we meet again. Thank you for allowing us to share in your journey as you walked your final steps. Let your spirit soar!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Last night was the final class of an 8 week Writing about Transformation class I have been taken at The Loft Literary Center.  This is probably the fourth class I have taken with Elizabeth Andrew Jarrett, a writing instructor at The Loft, and someone I highly, highly recommend if your genre is creative non-fiction and if you are exploring spiritual memoir, or any memoir or essay writing for that matter!

For our last class we were asked to bring two pages to share with the class. A chance for us to hear all the voices of the class. She asked us to revisit and revise an existing piece we had shared with the class and consider incorporating feedback and comments. I wrote a new piece titled 'The North Star' for my class. For the first time ever, I play around with a new structure ... a somewhat risky one, yet one I felt was important to explore ... I began with a dream (actually, more of a nightmare) that I had in July of 2008 that marked the beginning of a new level of healing around my sexual abuse from when I was 9 years old ... and my piece ends with a powerful dream I just had in July of 2010 right before I leave for Bimini to swim with the dolphins ... in this dream I am holding onto the leash of my dog Ahnung, and we are in heaven, and we are flying ... Two years ago I woke up in cold sweats as that marked the beginning of many more months of nightmares. A month ago I woke up with a smile to the rhythmic, snoring, comforting sounds of Ahnung.

Like a caterpillar, and prompted by a horrible nightmare I have in July of 2008 (and the spirit of my dog Splat who has been dead for 10 years and appears in my dream) I begin the painful journey of healing, and I break free of the silence and secrets that had been holding me prisoner. I look back at the two years and all that has transpired .... dreams and the healing power of dogs (in this piece I write about Splat and Ahnung) are the bookends for this piece on transformation. I wrote the original draft of my piece and turned it into my class right before we left on our trip for Bimini, Bahamas to swim with the dolphins. I realize there is more to my piece now as the layers of transformation and healing continue to evolve and I notice the connections and synchronicities. The WildQuest dolphin trip was transformative on multiple levels: for me personally on both an emotional and physical level; for my relationship with Mary as we had the opportunity to share an experience so beautiful I still struggle to find words for; and through the dolphins and the shared experience of the connections with them and our human pod, I learned to open up my heart a little more. And I have returned from Bimini, transformed in some new way.

What I know now is that I feel joy in my heart. And when I feel tension creeping into my body I have so many places to go to return to that place of joy and calm: the arms of my partner, a run with Mister, cuddling on the couch with Missy, absorbing Ahnung's healing energy ... and then there's always the incredible memories of our WildQuest Dolphin experience .... and these photos below, say it all ...

Mary and I ... pure bliss in the middle of the ocean ... with dolphins (and yes probably reef and nurse sharks and stingrays and moon jellies) swimming below us!

and my new friend Michele whose expression says it all!! Thanks Michele for the gift of your friendship ... we kicked off our friendship in the best possible way with a shared experience of swimming with dolphins, and now we are building on it with our shared love of writing and running, and I'm sure we'll soon discover so much more we have in common!

and then there were these absolutely awesome kids from London! 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Play! Play! Play!

Today is my 46th birthday ... I am grateful to be here to celebrate my birthday. First thing this morning I called my mother in the Philippines. She doesn't remember it's my birthday anymore ... that's okay. I just wanted to hear her voice and to let her know I loved her.

In the stars, tonight will be a special night .... where three planets (Saturn, Mars and Venus) will be grouped together in a circle that's only five degrees wide. This special occurrence in the skies is called a planetary trio.

Today, I am reposting my blog entry from March 15th where I write about my visit to see my astrologer and how I am told to "Play to save my life." I then book our trip to WildQuest .... it's been a week since we returned from our WildQuest trip to Bimini, Bahamas .... I repost my earlier entry from this year to remind myself to play ....

March 15th Blog Entry: A new theme has been appearing in my life -- Play. I have been doing everything I possibly can to take care of myself ... or so I thought, with nutrition, seeing doctors, acupuncturist, naturopaths, specialists, energy healers, therapists. In the summer of 2008 I saw an astrologer. I've never had my natal chart read. That summer I also had a "persistent cough" -doctors again couldn't figure out what was causing my persistent cough. After a couple months and a narcotic that gave me relief, the cough went away. It was winter of 2008 when my weight loss began. It was that winter that I also released myself from a deep, dark childhood secret. It was that winter when Ahnung came into my life.

Last week while at Chuck & Don's Petfood Outlet, Ahnung had an unusual outburst. It was almost like she was being a "bad girl" and wanted to get into trouble. She kept grabbing toys and treats at the store and while I was talking to someone even figured out how to get loose from her collar, and next thing I know she's running around the store! Playful, spirited! I had never seen her "act out" like that as she is a very calm girl with calculated spurts of spunkiness. I had to smile at her. I couldn't even get mad at her because it was a joyful, playful side of her I had never seen -- a side that said to me "I am not perfect. I can get in trouble too!" The next day I saw my energy healer, she also talked about the importance of playing. I then shared Ahnung's little outburst. She said, "I think Ahnung is modeling for you what you need to do."

Then on Friday I saw my astrologer. The first words out of her mouth (and without me sharing anything about what has transpired in the past two years) are "Pluto is opposite Mars ... Mars is in Cancer which rules the breast and the digestive system." My heart stops. "Pluto is opposite Mars which often can mean surgery. Last year Pluto opposed Venus." I share with her my current health challenges. She says "these issues began a couple years ago when Pluto opposed Venus. Right now Pluto is going through the 5th house (the natural house of Leo) which is about feeling innocent, playful, entitled." She pauses. "Pluto and Mars can be death planets." She looks me in the eyes and gently but firmly says, "you better learn to play to save your life." I felt something in my gut. For some reason I wanted to cry. She says, "Play, because your life depends on it." For a couple months something has been tugging at me to set up a session with Pat (astrologer). I didn't know why except it kept cropping up. Finally, I picked up the phone, called her and made an appointment. I said to her, "I have had this feeling that I just need to see you. I don't know why, so here I am calling you." She goes on to say that I have been giving, giving and giving. She said I understand the "great need" of the world and it shows in all the volunteer work I do with animals and now with youth. "You have reached the end of the rope. Your body has reached the end of the rope. You have to start putting yourself into the equation" and again she says "Play ... because your life depends on it."

I shared with her how scuba diving makes me feel so at peace. The conversation led to dolphins and the important role they have played in my life since I have come to the States. I've participated in 4 Earthwatch expeditions of which three of them have involved studying wild dolphins and simply being in their presence. I have dreamed about being in the water with a wild and free dolphin. I recently had a dream about swimming with a dolphin. The next morning I woke up with the first thought being "Play -- because your life depends on it." I didn't play as a kid. I didn't know how to.

My current life is all about helping others ... I realized that if I don't figure out how to find balance I won't be around. The very next day my partner and I booked a trip ... we are going on a week long retreat with WildQuest and will have the opportunity to connect with wild and free dolphins in Bimini. A dream come true. From the dolphins I hope to learn how to play ... for many, play comes easily and naturally. For me, it's probably one of the hardest things. Pat is right though ... I am at the end of my rope. I must learn to play to save my life. Top photo from here. Bottom right photo from here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Quantum light breathing

While on my vacation last week in Bimini, Bahamas I was surrounded by magic ... and it wasn't even just swimming and being in the presence of wild dolphins. It was the community and being surrounded by the staff of WildQuest whose unconditional love and healing radiate out in a magical and mystical way. On the first night we met up with the group in Fort Lauderdale before heading on a charter plane to Bimini, I met Patti ... this was her 7th time back to Bimini and she was coming not just for the wild dolphins but for the entire experience ... the staff, the yoga, the meditation and the community and human pod that is formed as a result of the weeklong experience.

Patti ... I truly get what you mean now.

It's as if an entirely new language is spoken ... one without words. Amlas (one of the owners of WildQuest) says about the dolphins ... "the more I am around them the less I can say about them. For me the connection is magical and mystical, and is to be experienced not analyzed. In my experience they act as a bridge to this present moment where life, love, expansion and a sense of connection to all exists. It is this that I love to share, and also where, whenever I remember, I choose to live!"

Every morning before we head out on the catamaran to be with the dolphins we have the opportunity to experience some form of yoga or guided meditation. One morning, Amlas led us through something new for a me ... something called Quantum light breathing. Quantum light breathing was created by the late Jeru Kabbal who used this in his teachings and workshops around the world. It combines vipassana (an ancient form of meditation where one sits in silence for extended periods of time) with deep, rhythmic and consciously connected breathing. Amlas shared with us how dolphins are conscious breathers. When they sleep only half their brain sleeps while the other remains conscious ... dolphins must remain conscious to breathe. They are always in the present moment. Humans, on the other hand, our unconscious breathers. We can go through life, breathing, and not really living and being in the present moment. Amlas shared how quantum light breathing brings us back to the present moment, to our breathing and it's a form of meditation where we breathe from our belly and our core. It was an extremely powerful experience for me ... one that was as life changing as being touched by the dolphins.


I did not come to plant seeds of the body.
I did not come to do what has already been done millions of times, even by me.
I am here that others may peer into the stone and see light. I am here to sing a wordless song, confusing, entrancing, prickling - until each hears his own inner song.
Until each hears the magnificent roar of divinity in a single blade of grass.
Oh how wondrous is the mundane. Each of the trillions of leaves is a masterpiece.
The everyday is a tapestry of miracle evolving out of miracle evolving out of miracle.
I am here to delight in life, to allow my smile of satisfaction to tantalize others so that they too will want to try the bread I am eating.
I have preached all of my life and no one has heard. But now I myself begin to hear.
I am my only audience when I sing and dance. How wild and wonderful.
My fragrance tickles the nostrils when I am gone.

Jeru Kabbal

[Photos taken by Atmo of WildQuest]

Monday, August 2, 2010

Magic and mystery of dolphins

We returned yesterday from Bimini, Bahamas .... a week of magic and bliss with WildQuest -swimming, interacting and connecting with dolphins and our human pod. I don't even know how to begin to write about this week ... I continue to feel the energy and the vibrations of the dolphins. Our week was apparently a unique and magical week. The week prior there were no interactions or sightings of dolphins ... other weeks I've heard there were interactions on one day or even the last hour of the week long trip. The beauty of this experience is that it is up to the dolphins to decide if they want to interact with us .... there are pods of bottlenose and spotted dolphins in Bimini, Bahamas. We are there to observe the to interact and connect with the dolphins. We are not to touch the dolphins. We are told that they will 'touch' us with their sonar energy and vibrations if they choose to ... we are guests in their world ....

Every day we went out into the waters ... from 11:30 am till around 7 pm. On the very first day, within the first 45 minutes, we came across a pod of approximately 40 bottlenose dolphins feeding and before the WildQuest staff was even able to give a snorkel lesson or refresher to those that needed it, we were in the water interacting, observing and connecting with dolphins ... above us, around us and below us. Wow ....  every day we went out we saw dolphins and swam with dolphins. On Wednesday of last week I experienced something rare and magical ....

Four dolphins came swimming towards me. I could feel their vibrations and I could feel their energy, their sonar ... our eyes connected as they swam by me. Then one dolphin turned around and came back towards me. It was as if time came to a stand still. The dolphin looked me in the eye and kept swimming towards me. I was floating on the surface of the ocean with my hands behind my back. He came closer and as he passed me his body touched my upper left arm and his fluke gently lifted up in front of my face ... touched, literally touched by a dolphin. Was it an accident I wondered?

The next day we came across a large pod of spotted dolphins who wanted to play with us. They chose to stay with us and swam all around us. I was on the outer perimeter of our human pod of snorkelers as I saw 6 spotted dolphins come swimming towards me. I watched, mesmerized,  by their beauty and their magic. Again, I remain still with my hands behind my back. As the dolphin on the end came closer to me our eyes locked and I could feel my body vibrating -- every cell in my body coming to life --- and as he swam by me, again, he touched the left side of my body. Touched .. again ... could it have been an accident again?

I asked the staff at WildQuest and others on our trip ... being touched by a dolphin is a rare thing. It's also not an accident. Dolphins often touch humans with their sonar energy but rarely make contact physically. If they do, it is intentional. What an honor, what a blessing, what a gift ... to not only be touched with their sonar energy but with their physical body.

There was something magical with our week ... seeing dolphins multiple times every day of the week was unusual ... I know for me, something was calling me to the dolphins. On Thursday, the spotted dolphins were communicating loudly to me the importance of playing and of being in the present moment. To be touched by a dolphin, not just once, but twice was apparently not an accident. It still feels like a dream to me. Interestingly ... they also touched me on my left side where my health challenges are ... with the new growth in my left breast and my pancreas which is located on the lower left side of my body.

One of my healers earlier this year told me ... I must learn to play to save my life. Last week .... I was blessed with the presence of so many dolphins and touched both physically and energetically in a way I am still feeling, absorbing and processing ....

I close my eyes and and I can see them ... I can feel them. They have touched me. And I believe they have blessed me with their healing energy.

I am beyond grateful for the experience of last week and for the incredible staff of WildQuest ...

I have put together a short video .... a magical week with wild, free dolphins ...

[Note: these awesome underwater photos were taken by Atmo of WildQuest]