This morning was my third visit to my shrink.  What a cool person she is.  She’s very to-the-point, very professional.  As I talk, she looks at me and scribbles into her notepad.  It’s quite disconcerting, watching her watch me.  All the time her hand scrawls madly across the page, back and forth, as though it’s pet of some sort, lying on her lap and coloring in its coloring book while it waits for us to be done with our session.  I’ll say something and watch from the corner of my eye to see if she increases or decreases her scribble rate.  It’s unpredictable when she will find something of interest.  I’ll say something that I think is rather racy and will notice that she doesn’t write a thing.  And then I’ll say something rather innocuous and the beast will begin its coloring again.

Today we mainly talked about my itching, and whether life truly does exist after itching.  That question has been at the forefront of my thoughts lately.  Having slept on a sleeping bag and camping pad for the past few nights, I think I’m coming to the conclusion that the problem has not been bed bugs after all.  My mother claims to have had bed bugs when she was a little girl, living out in the boonies on the big island of Hawaii, no doubt in some shack with 10 other children and not much for parents.  I definitely don’t live in the boonies, and Mom says that bed bugs are visible creatures, not invisible.  So my current strategy is to stay in the sleeping bag even though I no longer believe it’s bed bugs, and cut out the 15 various vitamin and herbal things I take every day.  Maybe I’m allergic to something I’m ingesting.

It’s been quite an experience, watching the bumps appearing on my body, waking up in the middle of the night “GAAAK!!!  I’m scratching, DON’T SCRATCH!!”, and jerking my hand away from whatever insidious evil bump it’s been absent-mindedly scratching at while I’m dreaming away.

So….  my blog is consumed with my itching talk as well as my shrink sessions.

But back to my shrink.  The last time I talked with her, I mentioned how I start screaming at John when I get into these irrational fits of anger and how I make up a bunch of things to accuse him of just to make him feel belittled.  She said “well, just something to think about…  sometimes people do things like that because they know deep down that they’re wrong, but they NEED to win the argument, so they pull out non-issues or unrelated issues for the sole purpose of adding fuel to their side of the argument to guarantee that they will win. I’m not saying that you do that, I’m just saying, it’s something to think about.”

I went home and thought about it.  She was so right on the mark on that one.  That’s a revelation to me.  Maybe it’s not to everyone else in the world.  I’d never been able to figure out that one.  Why I pull out all manner of untrue accusations and resentments and throw them at John has been a behavior of mine that I’ve never really understood.   Like my shrink words it, it’s a “call to arms”.  The battle inside me has begun.  I’m mad, goddamned mad, fuckin’ pissed off to the max.  About what?  Well, usually about… well, stupid shit.  Like when I told John I wanted to have the weekend to work on my writing homework, and we ended up having an unavoidable social engagement.  I lost my precious writing time and I lost control over something that I had reserved for myself and planned on having for myself.  I was so inexplicably furious, that I was on the brink of exploding before I decided to come into my office and do my tai chi — which turned out to be amazingly successful at dissipating my anger.  Nevertheless, I couldn’t explain why my first and natural inclination was to stand in front of John and just let loose with the screaming about everything under the sun.

A couple of weekends ago something happened that put me in the exact same position.  I lost control over something where I discovered plans were getting made around me, without my knowledge.  I felt left out, pissed off, generally ready for a tantrum.  I told myself “ok, just focus on the thing that you’re pissed off about, don’t start bringing the entire universe into the picture.  If you want to be pissed off and furious, fine.  Just keep remembering to keep the subject of your anger confined to just this situation.”  I couldn’t believe how the very act of keeping my mind focused on just the thing I was angry about and not letting it go all over creation kept my anger under control.  I could have made the entire day really a nasty, unpleasant, hurtful, stressful one for both me and John.  But in the end, it turned out to be a stressful day for other reasons — reasons I’m happy to report that had nothing whatsoever to do with me.  I can look back on the whole experience and laugh at the ridiculousness of how I started off feeling like I was being left out, and it turns out a bunch of people were out of the loop that day.

Life is just one amazing perspective revelation after another.  We all think things revolve around us.  People are scheming just to piss us off.  We’re intentionally being left out of the loop.    I need to remember that probably 100% of the time that’s just not the case at all.

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This is my latest homework.  It restricted to 500-750 words, and the requirement was that every paragraph needed to stay on topic as defined by the topic sentence, and paragraphs needed to be connected through transitions.  Not sure if I accomplished this.  There’s a lot more to what I wanted to write, but I had to strip it so that I could remain within the guidelines.  If I continue with the story, I’ll rework it and try to formalize it as a publishable article. 

Two years ago a chronic back pain that has plagued me for most of my adult life pushed itself to the forefront of my existence. After a series of physical and emotional illnesses, the back pain heightened to the point where I was unable to do anything upright without crushing and stabbing pain. This left me unable to work and plummeting towards a life of certain debilitation.

By the time my back pain came to a head, I was taking ten pills a day — pills for various diseases, pills to fight side effects from those pills, and pills to treat the interactions between the two. In spite of these pills, new health problems seemed to appear every month.

I used to think that doctors and modern medicine were the be-all and end-all of medicine. In fact, no less than six different doctors that I saw could put all of my diseases and symptoms together to help me figure out why my health was sliding downhill, and what it all had to do with the flaring up of my back pain.

Out of desperation, I began to seek holistic treatments. I sought every treatment in the book, all at once: acupuncture, reiki, massage, Alexander technique lessons, and chiropractic treatments. Every day I studied the Internet, read books and met with therapists. I began a special diet that helped build the health of my body ecology through probiotics and foods that decreased the acid level in my body. Through this diet and the holistic treatments, I weaned myself off of every single medication that I was taking. I found a physical therapist that specialized in back rehabilitation. Eventually I was able to strengthen my back sufficiently and bring my health back to the level where I could go back to work. That was a year ago.

Over the next eight months I continued to seek solutions to the chronic back pain which had become tolerable, but still was undeniably present on a daily basis.

Out of the blue, within a month of each other, two friends gave me two paths to follow that would lead to a breakthrough in my chronic back pain. The first friend suggested that I do something I’d been talking about for a long time, pursue my writing. The second friend gave me a coupon for a special chiropractic practice that, instead of “cracking” your back, used gentle touch on certain points of your body.

I began my journeys down both of these paths. I began writing and exercising the creative side of myself. For the first time in my life, my right brain began to take a step forward and my left brain, which had dominated me for most of my life, a step back.

I used my chiropractic coupon, and began to get regular chiropractic treatments. My chiropractor suggested tai chi to help my spine, and so I signed up for tai chi classes. Through the tai chi classes, I learned a healing form called qigong.

This week I had a profound breakthrough in my chronic back pain. My back “released” itself, and for the first time, I’ve been able to feel pain-free freedom and euphoria through my lower back when I walk. I sometimes attribute this final breakthrough to the healing qigong, but every single step I’ve made along the way on this journey of recovery has contributed to bringing me to this place of life and well-being.

Life can be filled with peaks that seem impossible. I know. I’ve been there with this back problem. The key to climbing those peaks is to keep yourself focused on just the very next step that you need to get closer. Allow yourself to trust that the universe will support you in this endeavor. Leave yourself open to any and every possibility, no matter how crazy or improbable it seems. Don’t let despair, frustration and loneliness tell you to give up. Because, as I’ve learned so poignantly through this experience, yes, life truly is worth living.

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.