In my ongoing quest for understanding of, reasons for, and therefore relief about (and maybe even from), my cancer, I do my best to ask myself, and occasionally other good thinkers around me, “interesting questions.” In fine Liberal Arts fashion, my college, Lewis and Clark in Portland, Oregon, required all incoming freshman to take a class called Basic Inquiry (BI). I don’t remember much about BI except that the entire freshman class read Beloved by Toni Morrison, which was definitely a book unlike others I had read. Did it teach me the basics of questioning? I don’t know for sure, but I think college ultimately did—at least, for the physical, human world. Cancer, on the other hand, is increasingly teaching me how to imagine the right questions to ask to gain information and understanding about the much more nebulous energetic and spiritual worlds. Starting with: is there such a thing? Yes.
A couple nights ago my friend Chiara (visiting from Wellington, where she now lives) and I were sitting up late, discussing relationships of all kinds, and I said “what if I think about my cancer as a bad boyfriend? My relationship with it has certainly been long—over twelve years—and has definitely had its ups and downs.”
“Girl,” said Chiara, or something like it, “this is one dysfunctional relationship, but yeah, I can totally see that.”
So, okay, Bad Boyfriend, but I stick with the relationship because 1) there is some benefit to me and 2) it’s known, the cancer, and there’s comfort even in that--the unknown is scary--and 3) maybe, also, there's even a little bit of inertia?
I have recently been led toward various forms, or maybe just shown directions, for spiritual healing as well as physical healing, and I’ve been experiencing an untenable amount of distress, angst, yearning, desire, frustration, sorrow, and almost debilitating indecision about what I am supposed to do with these options.
The one which has triggered the most frantic cogitation is an energetic/spiritual healer who is also a medium, and who can, I am led to understand, talk with Guides and Guardian Angels, clear “predatory” energy from people, and explain to them the whys and wherefores of their diseases/ailments/purposes here on earth (once he’s cleared the energy and given you some information, it’s up to you to make the necessary changes in your life for the clearances to stick). He wrote a book, primarily dictated by his Guides, that I’ve read since hearing about him, and much of what he shares in the book are ideas that I’ve either heard elsewhere over the last few years, or that I’ve discovered for myself in my own personal soul searches via the I Ching and Tarot.
This sounds crazy to some of you.
Anyway, one of the things that came up in my conversation with Chiara was the idea of a cheat code. She used it in reference to several men she’s spoken to through the years who have found it difficult to partner with women, and who would really like to skip all the Levels 1-7 challenges and get right into a stable relationship. What, Chiara asks them, does this mean for the value of the relationship, though? Will it be so meaningful if you don’t have to go through all the steps? Can you gain a true Nirvana without the discomfort, unknowing, and (perhaps, at least in my case here) self-flagellation?
“Exactly!” I said. “I am wondering if this spiritual healer is the next step on my path, or a cheat code offered to tempt me OFF my path! Maybe I need to learn healing energy myself for it to be effective! Maybe if I call this guy, I won’t be able to achieve that! But then again, maybe he’s supposed to be my teacher!”
“Your problem, Calin, from what I can see,” said Chiara, “is that you really don’t think enough. Maybe you should do some work on some big questions.”
I mean, the promise—even the suggestion of a promise—that I could, truly, be done with this relationship/job/stretch of Life’s Journey, and move on to something else, is mouthwateringly tantalizing. And yet, something has been holding me back, cautioning me to wait, to think, to feel, to take my time. I have—more than once—consulted the I Ching and the Tarot about contacting this healer and they have been unignorably clear: your ego is in the way of you making the right decision.
There’s a lot about Ego—capital E—in the literature about Enlightenment (capital E). Or rather, there is one repeating theme: Ego is necessary for the survival of the finite, fragile, flesh-and-blood human body; but it can easily grow out of control. An out-of-control Ego cuts off access from the Universal/Divine/Absolute energy that is needed to feed, foster and facilitate the education of the Infinite Soul. I.e., if I allow myself to grasp madly after any fluttering wisp of potential cure, or wallow in sorrow for myself and my troubles, then all I am doing is feeding the ravening beast of my Ego, and I’m unable to hear or see or accept the true healing available to me all the time.
I have, consciously, for several years now, been doing work to recognize when Ego has wrested too much control from the Whole Self. I try to be aware of and disarm judgment against others and, much more difficult, against myself. I try to remember to be grateful for the truly glorious gifts of my life, rather than feel that I deserve them, or have somehow earned them by having the challenges that I have had. We all have challenges and we all have gifts and to a large extent, how happy and fulfilled we feel is not at all based on the specifics of those things, but merely how we interpret them.
Something more subtle from the Ego, though, than judgment or entitlement, appeared sharply in my consciousness when I recently reconsidered my cancer relationship and what it has done for me lately.
Cancer has given me a crutch to lean on and bandy about in people’s faces. It has given me an excuse—easy to legitimize, but nevertheless an excuse—for not following through with any of the more lengthy or complicated side roads that I really might like to travel but am somewhat afraid of (note: my recent admission into the editing program at the UW is a first step along one of those roads). In other words, believe it or not, it has allowed me to be lazy. Or, if you don’t buy lazy per se, it has allowed me to be distractible. This same excuse keeps me from having to step out into the unknown—for all its frustrations and difficulties, cancer is, for the most part by now, also mind-dullingly familiar.
Cancer has also given my Ego pretty much endless rich, plummy, treacly shovels full of flattering sustenance:
“You’re so strong,” people will say to me. Or “you’re my miracle patient!” Or “how do you do this? Since WHEN? REALLY???” or “You,” from my mother, “are an ANGEL.”
I’m not an angel, I’m not a miracle, I may be strong but so are most people, and I’ve been doing this because it’s been in front of me, demanding my attention.
And along the way, I may have gotten into a bit of a relationship rut.
I did a visualization of my Ego yesterday afternoon, after a horrendous morning where all my worst fears about Lapatinib came true, barring the actual need (it had only been one dose so I wasn’t entirely desiccated) to go to the clinic for IV fluids. I went to an already-scheduled appointment with Witch Doctor Dan, who was able to desensitize my body to the drug somewhat (today has been much more comfortable). Back at home, after lunch and an electrolyte drink, I did a Tarot reading (Outcome: Confusion) and an I Ching reading (Acceptance of trouble, laying aside of Ego) and then, exhausted from my day, my week, my month(s), lay back on the couch to have a nap. Before I let myself drift into sleep, though, I pictured my Ego, so that I could get an idea of how to clear it out a bit.
The immediate image: a small, coal-black demon-like cat in the middle of my brain, claws and sharp, pointy fangs clinging to the top of my Kundalini (the energetic cord that, when uncoiled from the base of the spine, connects all the chakras to Universal energy through the Crown chakra at the top of the head), blocking most of the sacred energy that was attempting to filter down through my body. Okay, well, I’ve done lots of nail trimmings around here with these two dogs, and so in my mind I got out my clippers and I snipped each of the toenails on all four of the feet until the demon-cat was swinging in the increased flow of golden light, still clinging, but more desperately, by the teeth. I then procured a really rough emery board of sorts and proceeded to sand off the teeth, one by one, until the little black thing had nothing left with which to cling and was flushed in the roar of light down through my body and out into the ground to be cleansed. I slept, and when I awoke, curled in my brain, napping in a gentle glow, was a little, gray stripy kitten, and I felt refreshed, rested, and calm.
I called the healer.