Why do some people feel compelled to search for the meaning of life while others are perfectly content to accept life as it is?  Is it all connected with happy childhoods?

I’ve been asking myself this all morning.  I’m continually poking and prodding myself and the world around me, I can never leave things alone, just like my hives which are spreading across my body and face, now that I’m off of the prednisone.  Before last week, they got to the point where I spent the entire day agonizing over the itch, imagining worms crawling all over my body, tiny maggots squirming in every bump.  I poked and rubbed my bumps to see which ones were getting larger and which ones, if any, were getting smaller.

On Friday I decided that this has to come to an end.  I decided not to call the doctor and get more, probably different, more powerful, and just as useless, drugs for the problem.  I cranked up the meditating, stopped the ambien that I’ve been using for months for sleep, and went to Whole Foods for healthy foods and vitamins.

Now, I see that the bumps are spreading, but I’m no longer viewing them as worms crawling all over my body.  I need to move past this and get on with my life.  Now I’m viewing every poison-ivy-like-itchy bump as a harmless annoyance that I’m not going to let get the best of me.  Thus the intense meditating, tai chi, chanting of my buddhist mantra, etc.

But back to the topic of my post.  Just like the hives, why do I poke and prod at my life and why am I continually trying to find myself?

How I ended up with John for a husband I have no idea.  He’s not like me at all in this regard.  He never asks “what is life really all about?” he just lives it from day to day, happily.  He’s like my dogs.  He has an innate dharma.  I can never seem to find the one true meaning of life, it’s a daily quesion that continually accompanies me wherever I go.  I need an explanation for everything, I need context, I need understanding.  I need to write about everything, work it out, psychoanalyze it.

What’s with me?

 I must have gone over 100 different plot possibilities in my head over the last week for this fourth composition homework assignment.  A couple of times I was so consumed with my own brilliance I screamed for John to “Put down ‘that cooking’/’your exercising’/’your work’ and come here right away and read this!”  and murmured to myself, “I’m soooo clever, heehee.”  I’d giggle, tickled pink with myself….  only to have John come over, read it and scrunch up his nose in a “huh?” fashion.  “…..  okkkeeeyyy….  and this has to do with the homework how….?”

So…..  for inquiring minds, here’s the final result — my assignment in two parts, 250 words each.  For anyone who makes it all the way through, I hope you enjoy.  I’ll call it…. oh, how about…  Exerpts from The First Thanksgiving — The Real Story

Assignment Part One:   The first 250 words needs to be a scene just after Thanksgiving dinner, complete with the dirty dishes.

The cacophony and hustle and bustle of the feast is over.  Through the dusk, at the far end of a large field, a group of about fifty adults and children can be seen at play.

In the center of the field three long pine tables with benches on each side surround a fire in a U shape.  The opening of the U faces a house which is out of sight about 50 yards into the woods on the left.  Hot mulled wine in a kettle over the fire infuses a group of about fifteen Pilgrim and Indian men with warmth and hilarity as they lounge on pine benches facing the fire. 

An Indian woman stands by the nearest table with a colorful woven shawl wrapped around her stooped shoulders.  The few strands of thin white hair on her head stick out behind her as though being energized with static electricity.  Her wrinkled, leathery face wears a smile of satisfaction. At her feet is a medium-sized black and white dog that is devouring something, his tail high in the air.  A thin strand of drool hangs from the open mouth of a snoring comatose figure whose face lies on the tabletop facing the old woman.  Balanced on the side of the head is a black and brown pilgrim’s hat.

A small group of Pilgrim women, some carrying dirty dishes, stands at the forest edge on the left.  They stare wide-eyed at the old woman and dog, pointing.

Part Two: The first 250 words of a story involving the scene in part One — an excerpt which will pull the reader in and guide the reader into the body of the piece

“You want us to spend the next three days traveling just for a lousy dinner with a bunch of pale faces?” The tone in Abequa’s voice tells Inetus that his request is not going to go smoothly. “What about your mother? Who’s going to take care of her for the week that we’re gone? You know that no one in the tribe will agree to watch her after the last fiasco when we went away.”

“She’s coming with us…”

“You’ve got to be kidding! Oh great,” Abequa throws her hands out, “I can just see it now.” She draws up her leather jacket and hunches her shoulders. “How do you Pilgrim women keep your hair up like that?” she says in a shaky false soprano voice, peering at Inetus’ head in mock fascination and poking at it with her finger.

Inetus grunts, frowning, and swats her off, taking a small jump away.

She shuffles after him and continues. “…and your dresses. Why do they have that weird upside-down bowl shape?” She inspects an invisible skirt on him and pretends to lift it and look under. “We’re never going to hear the end of this one,” she says, shaking her head as she straightens up and adjusts her jacket back on her shoulders. She picks up a bag and heads towards the teepee entrance.

“What are you doing with Fido’s doggy boots?” he asks.

“I’m taking my dog.”

“They said no dogs.”

“I’m not going anywhere without my dog.”

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.