More than Nine Years Have Passed

Today, I begin revamping the web site by adding features that may improve the readability and access to information. I am also adding a section on books on cancer.

When I first started working on this web site, I only had done one site before The Enneagram in the Electronic Tradition. Now that I have developed Jewels By Mala, NewTerra, Jobs-Are-Us, Mountain Sangha, and MICAH Affiliates, as well as internal web sites for The Technical Committee, I have enough experience to do a better job on Yellow Stream.

In the meantime, I am experiencing excellent health. My last cystscopy was in June, 2005 and everything was good. I am experiencing no after effects of the radiation or chemotherapy, other than ease of exhaustion.

My son, Micah is living in New York and doing computer graphics and web site development. He has started a theatre company, QED Productions with a group of his friends. He produced and acted in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia last November at the Greenwich Theatre, which Mala and I attended. The group plans three productions for next season. Come if you can!

Rachael is entering her last year in architecture school at Woodbury University in San Diego, CA. She is a lovely and kind young woman with a bright future.

Jessica graduates with honors and a double major in Spanish and Journalism from the University of Oregon in three weeks. She will be teaching in Spain in the fall under the auspices of the Spanish Consulate. Mazel Tov – Jessica.

Mala is a wonderful and supporting spouse. She is doing great work with her jewelry designs.

For the past four years, I have been intimately involved with the Mountain Sangha in Mill Valley. Our sangha practices in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, whom I’ve written about in previous chapters. Please read My Breakfast with Thay to see what happened when I visited Plum Village for the second time in March, 2006. It was a wonderful visit!

My Buddhist practice now consists of morning meditation, tennis when possible, walking meditation, and reading of Buddhist scriptures. I am an aspirant in the Order of Interbeing. I am also working towards offering a class on Mindfulness in Healing through California Cancer Care and other institutions. The class is based on my experience, which is documented in these pages.

My tennis game continues to improve. I play for Harbor Point and our team went to the divisional playoffs last month as a wild card team. My partner and I won one match, but lost two others – one in a tie break. I try to play every day that I don’t have to go to Palo Alto (where my office of TheTC [see below] is located).

I now have perhaps the best work in the computer industry. I am working as a consultant to the Technical Committee (TheTC) of the Department of Justice. TheTC is chartered to monitor the compliance of Microsoft with the antitrust settlement agreement which just has been extended until 2009. Because of the work I did between September, 2004 and December, 2004, 30 engineers have jobs and we are making sure that Microsoft correctly documents their proprietary networking protocols for licensees.


Father’s Day

Today is the last installment of Yellow Stream for the book, Healthy Cells Grow All By Themselves. I think it is appropriate to end the paper version here for several reasons. First of all, I’m finally on my way to recovery from the last effects of the chemotherapy and the radiation. Secondly, the book is dedicated to my children and my spouse, and what better time to end than on Father’s Day? Thirdly, I want to share with you some of the secrets that I have learned in raising happy and independent children over the last twenty-eight years. While I still have young ones in the house (R. is fourteen and J. is twelve), my son is 28, and living a happy and independent life. And finally, I feel that my greatest accomplishment in life so far has been being a “dad” and raising such fine children. If other children were raised with the values and love that I have given to my children, things would be a lot better in the world.

So, what are my ideas about raising children? Well, one of the first things to think about is that

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows my go swift and far.Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

This quote is from Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1951. You have all probably read it before, but lost sight of the “arrow.” I have always tried to keep in mind that my children have come through me, but not from me. I have also tried to remember that they have their own thoughts and dreams, which I cannot even imagine. I have always tried to give them the space to grow into special individuals, and, as you can see from R.’s speech the other day, it seems to be working.

I also value instilling upon my children the importance of developing a love for learning, and, as a result, have invested my hard-earned money on private education for all three of them. My son went to Mt. Tam Primary School, and the Branson School, each fine independent schools in their own right, before graduating from Stanford University. R. and J. have been in Marin Horizon school since they were about two years old! This school is based on Montessori methods, and fosters individuality, along with a respect for all life forms and other people’s property. I love the education my daughters have received, and I feel that they are prepared for any eventuality.

Another area of parental concern is that of control, partly for the safety of the child, and partly for setting limits. In this area, I have always remembered what Shunryu Suzuki Roshi had to say about control in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (Waterhill, New York, 1970, p 32):

“…Even though you try to put some people under some control, it is impossible. You cannot do it. The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in its wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people; first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good; that is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them.”

I was deeply affected by this passage back in the seventies when I first read it. I remembered it and applied it to controlling my children. This way, they had a “spacious meadow” in which to explore life and learn the boundaries that were set for them in a happy and contented way.

Among the other values I try to instill in my children is the ability to make decisions for themselves. To do this, I taught them a reliable subjective basis for making moral and ethical decisions based on clear comprehension of the alternatives. Included in this reliable subjective basis was a love and respect for all life forms and respect for other people’s property, as mentioned before. As an example, when my son was eleven or twelve, he excelled in two activities that both made us proud. He was an excellent gymnast and a talented member of the San Francisco Boys Chorus. The gym was in San Rafael, and the Boys Chorus was in San Francisco, both more that ten miles in opposite directions. We sat down with him when we realized that these activities were not only stressing us out, but causing him some concern. After weighing all sides of the issues, he decided to stay with the Boys Chorus. This was a momentous decision for him, as it led him into a direction of the performing arts. For example, at the Branson school, he played Biff in West Side Story, El Gayo in The Fantastics, and was on of the founding members of the Barber Shop Quartet. At Stanford University, while he minored in music, he was a member of the Stanford Fleet Street Singers, and director for two of his four years there. Since his graduation he has played major parts in Iolanthe, La Boheme, and Naughty Marietta. He plans to move to New York in August to try to make it into the big time, all the while maintaining his skill as a computer graphic designer. You can see some of his work by browsing to his web site, and remember the he is a cancer survivor!

Well, enough of my ideas for raising children for now! What about the events and feelings of the day?

We were invited to lunch at Mikayla’s by our friend J. and R., who own the place. J.’s sister was also there with her family. She and R. both studied with Anna Halprin, so we had many interesting conversations about various topics. Besides that, the food was magnificent and we had a difficult time leaving.

My son came back to the house and we spoke for hours. It was during this time that he revealed to me his plan to give New York a try. I was totally supportive, for I believe that he is still young enough to give it his all, and he always has the fall-back position of doing computer graphics. What impact this will have on his almost seven year relationship with his girl friend, I don’t know and won’t even try to predict.


Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

One Bite at a Time, One Step at a Time

The last few days have been really rough on me. The chemotherapy and radiation are really taking their toll on me in a big way. I haven’t even been able to compute these last few days!

I’ve had bladder spasms, diarrhea, and gas pains on three successive days, accompanied with tremendous exhaustion. I spend most of my days lying in bed and practicing mindfulness of breathing. I have read a little, listened to a few tapes, and watched the French Open, but most of  I just lie in bed. Breathing in, “healthy cells grow all by themselves.” Breathing out, “I’m free of cancer!”

When it comes to eating and moving, I find that I can only eat one bite at a time! When I walk, I can only take one step at a time. Of course, this is normal behavior, but in my present physical state, there seems to be an awareness at a different level of each bite, of each step.


The Last Day of Treatment!

Today, I complete the Shipley bladder sparing protocol. Once again, I choose to spend the day resting in the examination room. It was uneventful, except for the lovely visit of A. M. Now it’s time to get in bed again until my final radiation treatment at 5:00 P.M. Then it’s time to celebrate, but I won’t do so until I recover from the chemotherapy and radiation. When I completed that last radiation treatment, I received a diploma for a job well done signed by all of the staff, but not the doctors.

I gave Dr. Gullion and Dr. Halberg copies of Yellow Stream and asked for their comments about the protocol and my response to it. If their writings are not too delayed and contain some valuable information, I’d like to include them as an appendix to Yellow Stream.


“There’s Always Things We Can Do”

I started chemotherapy and radiation again today and it was “no piece of cake” (tomorrow is my brother’s birthday!). I had to be stuck four times before the i. v. took. In addition, the oncology group seemed to ignore the request of the radiation group that I be downstairs for my first radiation treatment by 12:30. So, Dr. Gullion cleverly sped up the protocol to grant their request, and I don’t know if this is good or bad, so I won’t pass judgment on it right now.

I was fairly wiped out after the chemotherapy and listened to a tape of Helen Palmer. There was so much good material in the tape that I easily fell asleep two or three times! I guess I’ll try to use this tape rather than sleeping pills. Some day, I’ll write more about what’s on the tape.

L. C. took me to the second dose of radiation. During our trip in the rush hour traffic, I was telling him about my daughter’s paper, Zen Buddhism: Its Beliefs and Effects on Society, which she is presenting tomorrow night. In spite of my so-called weakness from the chemotherapy, I experienced that her opening statement,

A special transmission outside the Scriptures;
No dependence upon words and letters;
Direct pointing to the soul of man;
Seeing into one’s own nature.

was true and felt a wave of ecstasy move through my body and focus on my bladder.

My wife really needed to go to the “Care Givers'” group at the Center for Attitudinal Healing tonight, so I went to the “Life Threatened” group. It was the best experience I ever had at the Center! I was moved so much by many of the opening statements that I felt the desire to speak first. I shared the difficulties that I was experiencing with my wife, and then the beautiful experience I had at Anna Halprin’s studio last week. Then I told the group about the email I sent to the Dalai Lama, which I quote here:

Dear Your Holiness:

I have been a practicing Buddhist since 1985.  I have been invited to the Tibet House Reception at the home of Ingrid and Reuben Hills in San Francisco next week, but I am unable to attend because I am recovering from bladder cancer and the requested donation is a little too steep for me.  However, I have inspired many of my wealthier friends to donate to Tibet House.

If I were to attend, I would ask you the following question:  I know that Padmasambhava is known to have said, “When the iron bird flies and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the world and the Dharma will come to the land of the Red Man!” I want to know, first of all, how authentic is this quote?  Secondly, I want know how he could have foreseen ALL of these developments back in 828 A. D.?

Thank you so much for your response.  If you have time, you may want to visit my web site, “Yellow Stream” to see just how much mindfulness meant to me on my healing journey.

I love you and adore the Tibetans I’ve met.  In 1975, I visited Bodh Gaya and the Bo Tree of the Tathagata!

Thank you so much.

I raised the same questions with the group and everyone was touched! I also shared my experience in the car on the way to radiation therapy.

The other members shared so much valuable experience that I felt honored to be there. Because of the guiding principles of the Center, I feel bound not to reveal their stories except to say that one member’s significant other had made the above statement when news that was not so good was revealed. I offered that member and two other members who touched me deeply by their stories to do guided imagery with them if they wanted. In addition, since the Center is having financial difficulties, I felt moved to offer a workshop called, “Zen and the Art of Healing,” with all proceeds going to the Center. The two facilitators I spoke with about the workshop were wonderfully supportive! At the end of the group, I passed on the healing stone I received from Anna Halprin and passed around the group at the Center to one of the participants who I felt needed it more than I. The person was extremely grateful and said, “Do you mean I can keep it?”


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

More Down Time

I haven’t written much in the past few days because I am still recovering from the last round of chemotherapy and radiation. I spend most of the days lying in bed, reading, and trying to maintain mindfulness. I feel a bit nauseous all the time. Some time I have tremendous gas pain, but most of the time, I just lie in bed and recover. It’s not very exciting, but it sure beats the alternative of radical cystectomy!


The Second Day of Chemo

Since there is no radiation today, the second day of chemo went rather smoothly. by 11:45, I was re-hydrating and all of the chemotherapy was in me. Now I just have to wait until all the saline solution flows through.

I’m a little tired today and a little bored. The files I downloaded from NGC yesterday put me no further into testing my code, as it didn’t compile. I’ll have to try that again today.


Conversation with the Rabbi!

This morning, Rabbi Nathan Seigel came by. We took a walk by the bay in Sausalito and talked about many things. When we arrived back at my house, we had “Jewish Penicillin” together. Then I found out that I had to have an X-Ray simulation run at 3:15. This conflicted with my oncology appointment, so I had to juggle the appointments.

The oncologist reported that my blood work was excellent and the everything was a “go” for chemotherapy tomorrow. The simulation turned out to be a simple taking of a few pictures and confirmation of the new blocks for the treatments tomorrow. The are going to irradiate a smaller area this time, and they had to verify all of the setting. The actual radiation dosage is less than before.


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.