Mindfulness and ART in Healing

Today was one of the best days of my life! Gail Teehan and I led a two hour workshop in Leslie Davenport‘s wellness group at Marin General Hospital. The group was so pleasant and open to experiencing what we were there to give that the two hours just flew by as if they were only minutes. I took much pleasure in telling my story and leading the mindfulness meditation, and I was very impressed with Gail’s handling of the check in and Feldenkrais lesson. The feedback was phenomenal! We are ready to take this concept around to healing centers everywhere!

This is our idea: We will set up a non-profit organization so that people who want to take our workshop can do so without financial burden. We will apply for grants and accept donations from wealthy people who have been helped by our cause. We will use this money to offer scholarships to those people who can’t afford to pay for our services, and we will still draw our salaries from the corporation. The concept is still under development, and we are open to suggestions and contributions. Naturally, sales of Healthy Cells Grow All By Themselves will help promote our workshop, and our workshop will help promote sales of the book. Eventually, we will publish a book together based on the workshop. All it takes is time and money!

After the workshop we had lunch at an authentic Mexican restaurant and Gail gave me another one of her magnificent healing massages. Her work on my abdomen and bladder continue to inspire my complete recovery. I am very grateful for our relationship!


Stop Cancer In Its Tracks: Healthy Cells Grow All By Themselves
Buy This Book
to learn about
Mindfulness in Healing

“Let My Heart Fly Open, Let Me Come To You”

I was speaking with Joe, one of the facilitators of the Life Threatened group at the Center for Attitudinal Healing the day before yesterday to find out what went on in the group. There was one person who wasn’t given much of a chance of returning, and yet she did. I had been thinking about her the whole time I’ve been recovering from the treatment, and couldn’t wait to talk to Joe about the person. As we were speaking, Joe told me the story of his illness and work with the Center, which I can’t repeat here, except to say that he had had an experience of moving out of himself to the other.

Helen Palmer speaks about a similar experience. Our first line of work in the enneagram is to know ourselves. This we do through self-observation practice which corresponds quite closely with mindfulness meditation that I often write about. In fact, the self-observation practice that Helen teaches is to pay full attention to the breath in the belly, following the inhalation, the pause, the exhalation, and the return. This is the full cycle of the breath in the belly. As bodily sensations, feelings, thoughts, plans, memories, and fantasies enter into the mind, the are swiftly moved away, like a fallen leaf drifts slowly down by the effect of the wind. She teaches that when one becomes still in this way, one begins to get feelings that come before you know what you will feel, and that these feelings can be of the other. This process leads to the second line of work, which is to know the other as they know themselves.

When I spoke about similar matters with Leslie Davenport at our last session on May 29, I asked her what she thought was going on with me. She said, that in Sufi terms, she felt the I was changing “macoms,” which she described as “place.” I had heard about macoms at the First International Enneagram Conference three years ago, but I still don’t know much about them. She had said that one man’s macom is another man’s ecstasy. Apparently, as one moves from macom to macom, one becomes closer to the divine. My interpretation is that I am experiencing a great opening of  my heart, which probably began in the spring and was furthered by my experience at Anna Halprin’s studio on May 28.

The quote in the title is from a Sufi song that cries out for the presence of the divine. From this sparse information, I gathered that Leslie thought that I was moving into a new state. In this state, I personally feel a transformation from thinking mostly about myself to thinking about others. I’ve always thought a lot about my children and my spouse, but now I am thinking about other people a lot, especially the ones in my support groups.

So, today, when I had a massage, followed by a Feldenkrais session with Gail Teehan, I could only think of this song. Her loving hands seemed to strip the chemotherapy of its grip on my healthy cells and, as she massaged my feet, I felt the unwanted cells leaving my body through my shoulders. Her work on my lower back, shoulders and abdomen was the best massage I’ve ever had in those particular areas. I felt so cleansed by the whole massage that I began to cry when I sat up to change over to the Feldenkrais lesson. My heart was singing, “Let my heart fly open, let me come to you!” I had never cried before after a massage, and I had never felt so touched by the divine. I’ll never forget those feelings. It was like yearning for the divine and receiving grace. Throughout out my whole emotional experience, Gail was there with me with her loving presence and guided me to a safe space for us to continue with the Feldenkrais work.

The Feldenkrais lesson was shortened, due to the length of the massage, but it was excellent. She worked on my shoulders and my spine, and I really felt great! Then I gave Gail a shortened version of a Zero Balancing treatment, which I think she enjoyed. Nonetheless, it’s up to her to write about it!


Another Step

Today was a little better than yesterday and the day before, but I didn’t feel well enough to go to the Center for Attitudinal Healing, as my wife did. I worked part of the day, and sent a manuscript of Healthy Cells Grow All By Themselves. I think this effort was a little too much for me, so I spent the rest of the day in bed, mostly following my breathing, but I did listen to the tape of my session with Leslie Davenport from May 29 again. I still don’t know who I am or where I am going! I know that I want to spread the word about self-healing and remembered wellness as far as possible. If that’s what I’m supposed to do, so be it!

I continue my mindfulness meditation as often as possible, coupled with frequent imagery sessions about healing my bladder. I’ve stated to re-read The Heart of Buddhist Meditation by Nyanaponika Thera to support my mindfulness practice. I highly recommend it!


he Heart of Buddhist Meditation: Satipatthna: A Handbook of Mental Training Based on the Buddha's Way of Mindfulness

Finally Feeling Better

I woke up twice this morning. The first time was the to sprinkler system in the back yard beginning to water the plants. The second time was when the phone rang. Now I am up and feeling better than I have for days.

During the night, I got some answers to the questions I raised yesterday about the foreground thoughts and feelings. I started thinking about what exactly was going on and I remembered two schools of thought about it.

The first school of thought comes from the teachings of the enneagram. In this school of thought, the we function from three centers of intelligence: the physical or body center, the emotional center, and the intellectual center. These are also referred to as the belly, heart, and head center, respectively. Because we function from these three centers, we have bodily based experience impinging on our consciousness whenever we feel a slight pain or discomfort. We have an emotional experience whenever our feelings are triggered. Finally, and probably most of the time, we are bombarded through our mental center with thoughts, memories, plans, images, dreams (really another type of image), and so forth. In addition, we must note that energy follows attention. That is, wherever we place our attention, our energy will follow. If we are focused on a goal we want to accomplish, we may be able to place all of our attention on that goal.

We can actually create pretty much at will each of these experiences. For example, don’t think of an elephant! What happened? You probably thought about an elephant and had an image of one in your mind. So basically, this is the contents of the mind, according to the enneagram.

The Buddhist philosophy about these matters is surprisingly similar, although it doesn’t deal with three centers of intelligence. In The Art of Happiness, Myrko Fryba talks about the four levels of experience on page 88:

  1. Immediate experiencing of real events, processes, and states (and the feelings and sensations associated with them) bodily taking place in the present moment.
  2. The bodily experienced meaning of represented (remembered) events, relations, constellations, situations, and scenes (and the feelings and sensations associated with them) that have led to current states of feeling and alterations of consciousness.
  3. Conceptual thinking related to the flow of immediate experiencing or to the felt meaning of entire situations, which are presently happening. From this thinking are derived matrices and programs for apprehension and action (to the extent that they are consciously accessible and thus also “thinkable”).
  4. Conceptual thinking whose content has no relationship to the current state of the thinker and thus which has no conscious relationship to experiential reality. This could be a kind of non-reality-related babbling that is unconsciously motivated and directed, or mechanical data processing (for example, calculation), or it could also be wise reflection on rules and programs with the help of the meta-language of Abhidhammic algebra-in other words, planning and coordinating of liberational strategies. The key point here is that this level of experience has no present bodily anchoring in reality.

Later, when describing Satipatthana-Vipassana exercises, he refers to these as the four foundations of mindfulness:

  1. Contemplation of the body (kayanupassana)
  2. Contemplation of the feelings (vedananupassana)
  3. Contemplation of consciousness (cittanupassana)
  4. Contemplation of mental contents (dhammanupassana)

When practicing mindfulness meditation, one becomes aware of the different categories of experience and systematically assigns what I have called “foreground” material to one of the categories and returns to concentration on the object of mindfulness. If the experience is related to light, color, sound, noise, warmth, movement, trembling, itching, stinging, pressure, lightness, etc., it is assigned to the body. If the experience is pleasant, enjoyable, pleased, amused, bored, sadness, pain, indifference, etc., it is assigned to the feelings. If the experience is concentrated, scattered, tense, greedy, hate-filled, freed, etc., it is assigned to consciousness. Finally, if the experience is thinking, wishing, planning, intending, trust, doubt, knowledge, etc., it is assigned to mental contents. One tries to make the assignments as quickly as possible and return to the object of mindfulness.

My wife and I went to the Center for Attitudinal Healing together tonight. I went primarily because she wanted to go and I am not sleeping well, so I thought I’d go. I was deeply moved by the experiences shared by the members of the group! I felt compassion and understanding come to the foreground of my consciousness, and I realized that my side effects from chemotherapy and radiation are pretty slight compared to what some of the people are facing. I did a short sharing of my treatment plan, Dr. Halberg’s surprise statement, and a few other things, but I got more out of listening deeply to other people.


Art of Happiness: Teachings of Buddhist Psychology

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

My wife and I went to see a production of the ballet, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Our friend’s daughter danced the leading role and she looked like a professional. I was very moved by the performance as a whole.

Today, however, has been as sad day for me. I woke up feeling very vulnerable and emotional. I am a little afraid of the next round of chemotherapy and radiation, but besides that, I’m sad that my energy has not returned to its normal level. I feel physically and emotionally exhausted most of the time, even though everyone tells me how good I look. Having cancer is such a drag. I really need to pull myself together. Writing helps. Mindfulness helps, but I feel some underlying sadness now that is hard to deal with. It could be that I am just doing too much since the last surgery, but I keep thinking about my disappointments in life. I know that these feelings are impermanent and that I’ll feel better soon. Maybe after dinner!

All day I had been thinking about Thich Nhat Hanh and how I’ve used mindfulness to keep calm. At one point, I was feeling that mindfulness had kept me alive, and I started to cry. I’m planning to attend a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh in September in Santa Barbara. I explained all this to Dr. Rossman as we drove to a restaurant in Mill Valley. As we walked in, I looked over to the wall on my left and saw Reb Anderson, former abbot of Zen Center! I spoke with him briefly about my illness and about my mindfulness meditation. I had placed his name and that of the current abbot in my Wizard at the beginning of my illness, but I have never got around to calling either one! Now the word is out.


Copyright © 2004-2018, Jerome Freedman, Ph. D.