Master Ou

March 8, 2008

I had a profound experience the other day that I think has changed my life.

I’ve been taking a tai-chi class for the past month or so.  One of my chiropractors (they are a husband/wife business) suggested doing tai-chi for my back, so I found and signed up for an adult ed class.  That was about a month ago, so we’ve had about 4 or 5 classes.

My tai-chi teacher talks about energies that move through your body.  I once asked her if the energies she talks about are real physical energies, or some sort of mumbo-jumbo touchy-feely new-age sort of spiritual energies.  She said that they were real, measurable energies.  I keep looking for these feelings of energy and think that I feel hints of it, but have never really felt anything truly distinct.

A couple of weeks ago, my tai-chi instructor sent out email that there was a special healer, Master Wen Wei Ou coming, and that anyone who was interested could sign up to meet with this healer for a 15-minute session.  I don’t have anything in particular to heal, so I wasn’t terribly interested, but still thought eh, what the heck, why not.  So I signed up.

My healing session was last Thursday in my teacher’s acupuncture office.  I waited in a room with about 4 other people who were sitting around chatting in very hushed voices.  The room was filled with the aroma of oranges.  There was a large bowl of about 30 orange on a side table, and a small refrigerator with some bottles of water on top.  It was a tiny room, about the size of a small bathroom.

I was nervous.  Which one of my many ailments should I talk to him about?  Nothing was significantly worth mentioning.  The cost of the treatment was $60 for a session.  What would I talk about that would optimize my 15 minutes?  I debated it all day with myself.  I asked my teacher before class and also in the waiting room, “What should I tell him?  should I talk about specific problems?  general stuff?  mental?  physical?  What should I say so I can focus him and not spread him too thin?”

“Don’t worry about it.  Tell him whatever you want,” she answered both times.

“What should I expect?”

“Don’t expect anything.  He’s nice.  Don’t worry.”

I waited in the waiting room with mild jitters.  A tall, thin Asian man stepped out of a room and out of the crowd of 4 people looked directly at me and gestured me over.  I pointed at myself and cocked my head, eyebrows raised in a “moi?” sort of gesture.  He nodded.  (Speaking of cocks, one of my dogs is masturbating in front of me as I write this. why do male dogs have to do such disgusting things?  Must he do this in my office?  Back to the story…)

I follow the tall thin Asian into a small room.  A middle-aged Asian man sits in a metal folding chair in the center of the room facing the door.  He is Master Ou. He holds his hand out towards an empty metal folding chair which faces him, about 2 feet away.  “Sit down” the tall thin one tells me.  I’ll call him Bert, for want of a better name.

Bert proceeds to sit in a chair to the side, facing the Master Ou and me.  It turns out Bert is the translator.  Master Ou speaks to Bert.  “He asks how your health is,” Bert says to me.

“Ok,” I say.  Bleh, after worrying about it all day, this is what ends up popping out of my mouth.

“Ok” doesn’t need translation.  The Master Ou chuckles.  “Ok” he says back to me, smiling.  He has a few wrinkles on his cheeks and short hair.  He wears a light blue short-sleeved button-down shirt and a pair of what look like tan Dockers pants.  He doesn’t look like a revered healer, he looks like some Hawaiian native, about to step out for 18 holes.  I expected an ancient Chinese man with a braided pony tail wearing a monk’s robe.

“Just sit back and relax” Bert tells me.  I sit back in my chair.  Master Ou moves to the front edge of his chair with each leg out to the side, leans towards me, and begins waving his hands.

“WHAM, KABOOM! KERBLOWEE!”  Each wave of his hands sends seismic tidal waves of electricity through my body that I’ve never ever ever in my entire life felt before.

“HOLY GODDAMN BEJEZUS-FUCKING-BATSHIT!!” I want to jump out of my chair and scream.  The energy is like zillions of infinitessimally tiny beings entering my body and rushing through my torso, filling it and circling, creating a humongous swirling ball of energy in one huge stream.  Every cell in my body is being hit with tiny lightning bolts.

My intellect tells me, Relax.  Don’t tense up or you’ll stop the waves.  As I sit there, the outside of me is in meditation position — sitting relaxed, eyes slightly open, keeping my mind clear of chatter.  The inside of me is smashed against a wall — pinned, suspended, being held up with just this constant, rushing tidal wave of energy.  He’s not even touching me.

I resist the intense urge to collapse onto the floor in one weeping heap.

After fifteen minutes of this, where I’m thinking don’t stop, oh please don’t stop, not yet… he stops.  He says something in Chinese.   “He says your left brain and your left bladder are tired,” Bert tells me.

I’ve been overworked, stressed out, freaking out at John…  that diagnosis was right on the mark.  “Should I seek treatment for my tired bladder?”

He speaks to Master Ou and turns back to me, “he says no need to do anything about the bladder.  If something significant happens, then you can seek treatment, but for now, it’s mild.  No need to do anything.”

“Will my making my left brain less tired help my bladder?”

“He says yes, that may help.”

“How can I make my left brain less tired?”

“He asks if you are going to his workshop next Sunday.  He’s teaching something that may help you.”

“Yes, I will go to his workshop then.”  I stand up and bow to Master Ou and then to Bert.  I’m overwhelmed with a sense of deference towards Master Ou.  He nods to me.

“I will see you next Sunday then,” I tell him.

“Yes,” he says to me, directly this time.

I leave, and my teacher is in the waiting room.

“How was it?” she asks me.

“It was….  wow.”  No words can do justice to the experience.

We chat for a bit, and she tells me, “If you keep practicing your tai-chi, you will begin to feel what you felt today.  He didn’t transfer that energy to you, he just enabled you to activate what was already inside of you.  Do your tai-chi slowly — much slower than we do in class.  We only do it quickly because of the time constraints.  When you practice at home, do it much more slowly, and see if you can begin to feel this energy.”

That was two days ago.  Since then, I’ve done my tai-chi practice much more slowly.  I’m beginning to feel the “energy” that she speaks of.  Even in my meditating I feel a difference.  I’m more often reaching meditation states where I don’t want to move, I don’t want to end the meditation practice because I find myself in such a state of harmony.  Maybe these lingering effects are temporary.  Maybe tomorrow they’ll be gone, who knows.

I always disliked the phrase “cancer makes you a better person” because cancer just simply sucks beans, no ifs-ands-or-buts.  When you’re going through treatments it’s damned hard to associate anything positive with the experience, and to hear someone else saying that phrase is demoralizing.  It feels like it’s devaluing your suffering.  Still, today, seven years after my cancer treatments, I can’t deny that my cancer has made me a better person.  Cancer made me suspend my beliefs towards everything in the world that I knew to be true; made me more open to any possibility; made me much less sure of the existence of one absolute truth, one absolute RIGHT explanation to the meaning of life and how it works.  If it weren’t for my cancer, I never would have started meditating;  I never would have become interested in holistic things; I never would have gone to these chiropractors; and I never would have considered doing tai-chi.  I never would have met Master Ou.

Master Ou took a virtual sledgehammer to my head and bashed my skull in.  “Feel that?  THAT is what the energy feels like.”  The word “healer” is a misnomer.  He’s not a healer, he’s a demonstrator.  He has the ability to SHOW people the energy that’s within them.  Today the world seems to have more vivid colors, more texture and more softness than I can ever remember.  I have my cancer, Master Ou, and everyone in between to thank.

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Sticking With It

February 20, 2008

I worked the entire day last Sunday on a 250-word description of a basketball game I went to on Saturday night for my grammar homework.  It amazes me at how good writers can come up with such incredibly skillful phrasing.  Even after spending the entire day on those 250 words, after I submitted the homework I re-read it and couldn’t believe how juvenile it sounded.

I have to keep reminding myself over and over and over that I’m a 50-year-older  doing this for the first time and comparing myself to someone who (probably) has been  writing their entire lives.  As far as I can tell, I only have one of three options:

1.  I can say “what’s the point” and give up.  Then what would I do with the rest of my life?  For a number of years I’ve been living on the assumption I wouldn’t live much longer than another couple of years, and then a couple of years passes, and I find myself still alive and kicking.  In some ways I need to go back to my pre-cancer mindframe and allow myself the luxury of feeling that I’ll live a good long life.  Maybe there is life after cancer after all?

2.  I can keep going with it and fail.  But what would fail mean exactly?  There’s no  distinct endpoint when it comes to learning how to create, so the endpoint is self-defined (i.e. you quit trying).

3.  I keep sticking with it and keep giving myself pep talks and hanging out with people who feed me even the tiniest compliments to keep me driving myself (Like my grammar teacher who is nothing sort of a remarkably patient, attentive, and encouraging teacher who makes me feel like I can do it, and makes me want to do better.)

This morning I found myself in my Morning Pages describing the place that I go when I meditate.   Later in the morning I tried to describe it to John, and discovered that it’s such a personal thing that you cannot hope for anyone to understand it unless they’ve been there themselves.  We humans communicate to each other in inaccuracies.  We can only express coarse approximations of ideas, thoughts and feelings.  So I would never expect anyone who reads this to understand unless they themselves have experienced it.  And yet it’s profound enough that it deserves mention as a fundamental part of my journey to strip the roadblocks away and find the creative part of myself.

I’ve been meditating off and on for 7 years now.  Mostly off.  When I was going through cancer treatments in 2001, I attended meditation classes through a group called Rigpa, taught by a Tibetan Buddhist teacher named Sogyal Rinpoche.  I was introduced to the group through his book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying which I found amazingly comforting during a period where I was forced to confront the very real possibility of dying for the first time in my life.

I attended the classes for about 6 months even though I only meditated on days when I felt a desperate need for comfort and release from all of the various stresses that cancer and its treatments bring.

It seems that, regardless of how casual you have been about meditating, every time you sit, it generates some sort of tiny piece of memory that stays in your brain.  I’ve been sitting daily for the past 4 months or so now.  I started off with once a day, and then increased to twice a day when I began doing my Morning Pages about 3 or 4 weeks ago, usually 10-15 minutes in the morning, and about 20 minutes in the evening, nothing seriously hardcore.  Now, after 7 years of off-and-on meditating where it has been mostly off, I’ve finally reached a point where I’m beginning to understand some things.

Nobody can actually teach you how to meditate since each of us is a unique individual.  The classes give you tools and guidance, but then it’s up to you to sit every single day and study your mind and figure out how to use the tools to clear your mind of the thoughts and emotional manipulations that seem to consume our very beings day in and day out.  The tools include things such as sacred spaces, candles, verbal guided meditations, mantras, a group of people to meditate with, etc. etc.  The real learning is that which you do on your own.  You take the tools in the toolkit and take yourself into the real learning space where you are both teacher and student.

Rinpoche used to say a phrase over and over and over:  “Form is Emptiness; Emptiness is Form”.  It’s something that in his classes you hear so much you have it etched into your brain, even though you may be otherwise clueless as to what it means.

This place of meditation is a place of nothingness.  It’s a place that has no beginning and no end, no up nor down, no past nor present.  I have no body and no mind there.  There are no other things or beings or thoughts in this place, because there’s a sort of a filter that keeps all that out.  It’s almost like it’s a separate dimension that is completely devoid of anything perceptible of this world.  It’s not a high, it’s not a scrunch-the-eyes and imagine sort of place.  It’s a place of infinite space and yet nothingness.

If you strip away all, and you’re left with this infinity of nothingness, what you have left is complete and utter peace.

Form is Emptiness; Emptiness is Form.