I thought it would be good to start with my history, and how I’ve come to the practice I have so far:
I was diagnosed with colon cancer at the end of 2003. My surgery happened in December, a few days before my birthday. I started a meditation practice to aid both in the emotional aspects of that experience, and in my physical recovery. One of my big influences and inspirations was an Australian man named Ian Gawler, who, in the seventies, recovered from a very progressed cancer with a combination of meditation, diet, and other therapies, subsequently starting a support group in the Melbourne area, writing the book “You Can Conquer Cancer,” and eventually building a Living Centre in the Yarra Valley outside of Melbourne. I read his book, and two months after my surgery, traveled to the center for their 10-day Life and Living Program. This intense program, geared toward those affected by cancer, covered several topics related to dealing with illness, and one of the main focuses was a daily meditation instruction and practice.
Interestingly, the Yarra Valley was not the first place that I saw Ian. Because I had some medical tests to undergo in Melbourne the week before the retreat, I found myself with a free weekend in the city. I happened upon an advertisement for a Friday evening presentation by Sogyal Rinpoche, followed by a weekend teaching on Healing Transformation, and I decided to go. When I arrived, Ian was volunteering, working behind the information desk. I found out later that he and his wife Ruth had been students of the Rinpoche for several years, although Ian’s workshop never pointed to Buddhism or any specific religious faith.
Upon returning to Alice Springs, I kept up my practice, and found other people to meditate with from time to time. One group that met on Sunday afternoons was a small Sangha group. It was held in the artist’s workshop out back of the house of one of the members. Although I was not really studying Buddhism, they were always welcoming, and it was a pleasure to sit with them for a half hour in that quiet room, and feel their energy.
A few posts back, I mentioned that I was going to a meditation retreat at the local Shambala center. As I just finished a second weekend of training yesterday, today I had every intention of giving a report of the individual instance, but as I look at the screen, I am wanting to write more than that. As I’ve been exploring blog space lately, I’ve been noticing people who often use their sites to really explore topics that they are interested in from various perspectives, be it like my friends Sam’s blog that often refers to her ongoing exploration of things dance related…this girl who mostly writes about different kinds of games. These blogs make a really nice resource, and because their authors are out there learning and discovering things, it sometimes feels like you are walking alongside them in the process. So while I want to do a quick and funny post about, “how my weekend meditation retreat went,” I am also feeling like I want to attempt to talk about this subject of my interest a little more in depth. This is an idea that might lose momentum or completely backfire, but I can at least start it today anyway. It will probably happen in dribs and drabs, interspersed between random daily stuff, and if it starts to get too lengthy and boring for those who just checking in for the news, hopefully I will notice (or someone will tell me) and I can move it into a separate section of my blog (as if I technically know how to do that!)
So there’s something I have been thinking about a lot lately, (including the night I posted last, but I didn’t really want to juxtapose it with my ruminations on the death because thankfully these are quite different situations!) are my friends and family who have been battling day to day with various forms of illness. I know how this can change everything, how you have to be stronger and more perserverent just to do the normal things and how sometimes it just takes it out of you, physically and emotionally…Here’s my mental shout out to my friend Jeff, (Reiter’s syndrome), my sis, Moira (still recovering from a detached retina), brother-in-law Tom, (mystery malady…and those can be the worst!), my dad (recovering from his colon surgery) and my friend Rosie (breast cancer, started chemo last week). I’ve been thinking of you, praying for you.
The new school term started today…that was fast! I am taking one class this term, Victorian Lit, and it meets Monday and Wednesday nights, so that will start tomorrow. Today I started my summer “teaching” gig, which is fifteen hours a week tutoring in the reading/writing center. I was happy to get this assignment because, although it is more scheduled hours (teaching is only five in class hours a week), there are no papers to grade–woo hoo! Today was scheduling for the students who are taking set hours of tutoring each week (we also take walk-ins). It was a little worrisome as there seem to be more students than slots. Also, the published hours for the center did not change from the normal school year, 9-5 Monday through Friday, but right now we only have enough people to stay open 9-3 Monday through Thursday. Right at 3 o’ clock, as Nikki and I were preparing to leave, three people showed up, planning to sign up for slots after 3pm, or on Fridays. Hopefully they will hire on another person and sort it out somehow, or we are going to have a very busy six weeks!
I am looking forward to this weekend, when the local Shambala center is sponsoring a weekend meditation training retreat. Actually it’s just Friday night and Saturday, which is probably enough for my attention span, as I have been slack in my meditation practice as of late. I’ll let you know how it goes!
P.S. If you are observant, you might notice this post contains my first attempt at a link! Pictures are perhaps only weeks away!