Eating Soup with a Fork

Today was probably the worst day that I’ve had since I received my diagnosis. I was full of emotion and frequently broke down crying. The morning was especially trying, as I was desperately trying to get in to see Leslie Davenport, having told my boss that I wouldn’t make it in today. The best she could offer was 6:00 tomorrow evening, so I jumped on it.

The doubt factor was the strongest. I doubted myself. I doubted my recovery. I was consumed by the idea that if things didn’t change in my life, I would have more trouble as a person who had had cancer than a person that has cancer and knows it. I was extremely afraid to be hurt and abandoned. Now that I am well, are my friends still going to care about me? Will I be able to continue to create my dream? Will my heart remain open? Or, is it already out to lunch? What about the divine love I was feeling last week? What about the love my daughter expressed for me last Friday? How can all of this be simultaneously true in my experience.

Well, here I am, eating soup with a fork! You’ll have to read It’s Easier Than You Think by Sylvia Boorstein to get the full impact of what I’m doing! The book is about the Buddhist way to happiness, and I spent the afternoon reading the whole thing, in between fits of tears and meditation. One of the main ideas that struck me from the book was that, “Traditional Buddhist texts teach that the ability to sustain attention in the truth of the moment is the antidote for doubt.” Many of her stories also moved me to tears. One of the bells of mindfulness that happened during my meditation was as call from a member of Anna Halprin’s group who offered to give me a massage tomorrow after talk at Voices of Healing.

I guess I’m doing a little better now that I’m eating my soup with a fork and writing in Yellow Stream!


It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness

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

The 10 Bulls of Zen

After the ordeal I had this week, I finally feel that the disease in under control, even though I don’t have all of my energy back. The situation reminded me of the Ten Bulls of Zen, by Kakuan, transcribed by Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Reps, illustrated by Tomikichiro Tokuriki, HTML version by Jamie Andrews.

In these pictures, the bulls represent the eternal principle of life, that is, truth in action. Each bull represents a step in the direct experience and realization of one’s true nature. Riding the bull home, or “coming home on the Ox’s back” was traditionally the sixth bull of Zen. This is what Hakuan had to say in D. T. Suzuki’s, Manual of Zen Buddhism (Grove Press, New York, 1960, page 132):

The struggle is over; the man is no more concerned with gain and loss. He hums a rustic tune of the woodman, he sings simple songs of the village boy. Saddling himself on the ox’s back, his eyes are fixed on things not of the earth, earthy. Even if he is called, he will not turn his head; however enticed he will no more be kept back.

and the poem:

Riding on the animal, he leisurely wends his way home;
Enveloped in the evening mist, how tunefully the flute vanishes away!
Singing a ditty, beating time, his heart is filled with a joy indescribable!
That he is now one of those who know, need it be told?

I’m writing this detail to express a feeling of having tamed my disease. Not that it won’t have to be monitored from time to time, but the major danger is over, and I feel joyous!

Although the web site will continue to grow, this will be the second to last chapter in the book, Healthy Cells Grow All By Themselves, as I will submit Yellow Stream for publication as of Father’s Day, June 15. I feel that this is an important time for me to release the book because my children should be quite secure that the worst part of my disease has been conquered by then, and it is a good day to celebrate! The book will conclude with a chapter that summarizes and prioritizes my healing process, and should be very interesting.


Manual of Zen Buddhism

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?”


Tea and Pumpkin Cake

This was the first day I felt almost normal! Lucky for that, too, because I had to go to Menlo Park to complete my performance evaluation with my boss. The day in Menlo Park was quite wonderful. The results of my review were acceptable except for one slight disagreement, which we are in the process of working out. Once the review was complete, we went to lunch, as we had done so many times before. Over all, we spent about two and one-half hours of quality time together, talking about business, raising girls, martial arts, and a variety of interesting topics.

In the evening, I went to the final class of Moving Towards Health with Anna Halprin at her studio in Kentfield. I had been to her studio once before about twenty-three years ago with Gabrielle Roth, and it was even more beautiful than I remembered. The night air was cool and comfortable and the setting in the woods was quite inspiring.

After a check in, in which I shared my progress report, we did some movements on the deck. We each walked around the deck for a while to find our “spot.” Mine was at the East end of the deck facing West with a view of the very top of Mt. Tamalpias. It was gorgeous in the early evening sunlight. We made the movement into a ritual by performing the movement in each direction. Then each member was asked to dance their favorite movement and we did each person’s movement in each of the four cardinal directions.

Next, we took a silent walk in the wood around her three acre estate. At a certain point, she asked us to fan out and find our “tree.” We then spent about one-half hour with the tree, asking it questions, feeling it’s growth, and merging with “treeness.” I picked a rather tall redwood, which I was willing to share with one of the other participants, but she marched off to find another tree. I embraced the tree, listened to it’s growth, and tried to encircle it with my arms, but it was too big. So instead, I walked around the tree, which was no easy task, since the tree was situated at the top of a two or three foot embankment. Towards the end of the time with the tree, I leaned on the tree with my back supported by the tree. It was a comfortable position to observe the connection, and it also allowed me see other elements in the environment. When the bell rang, and everyone headed back to the deck, I waited to the end and urinated on the tree. I had asked the tree if it minded the last vestiges of my disease being sprayed on it’s trunk, and the tree said that for decades all kinds of deer, rabbits, skunks, and other animals had done so and the tree felt nourished by each one. My act was a symbolic representation of cleansing the cancer and drugs from my system, as well as a way of claiming my territory in that little woods.

Back at the studio, we drew pictures of our excursion, and then danced what we drew before sharing our drawings. In the dance, Anna Halprin became my tree and supported my back while we moved together. Eventually, we encompassed the whole troop and focused our healing energies around a woman who was not fine when she arrived. It was a group hug embracing a lot of love, and it felt delightful.

My picture is shown on the left. It is called Yellow Stream, of all things! Note that all of the trees grow clearly past the top of the hillside, and all of the little leaves, branches, and other natural elements that are part of the drawing. The tree is in separate from the other non-tree elements. In fact, the tree depends on the non-tree elements for it’s existence. It derives nourishment from the environment, and my contribution was minimal, if not symbolic. When I shared the meaning of my picture, everyone go hysterical. We had a good laugh for a long time.

At the conclusion of the group, Anna invited us into her house for tea and pumpkin cake. This brought the spirit of the group together and we hung out for about another hour. I found myself swinging on a hammock with two women, two of my favorites. We talked about a lot of things and when I told them that I had an alternative title for the book, Healthy Cells Grow All By Themselves, one of them said rather enthusiastically, that she would by a book with that name. Then I shared my image of “healthy cells grow all by themselves,” and they felt even more comfortable with the title. So here we have it! The bound version of Yellow Stream will be hereafter called, Healthy Cells Grow All By Themselves! It’s the official title now!


stop cancer

Fog in the Bay

I took a break from my normal working day to walk by the water in Sausalito, meditate, and do some of the strengthening exercises for my immune system. I noticed that I could not see San Francisco, Berkeley or Oakland because of the fog, but Sausalito was clear. The meditation period was quite nice, and I felt rather good to be doing the stretches again.

My surgery has been changed to 7:30 A. M. on Friday, May 9 and Julie Motz will attend!

In my session, today, with Leslie Davenport, I dealt with the anxiety I feel about the question of whether or not there is still cancer in my body that represents a threat to my life. She felt confident that this was a good session for more EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), and I thought it wise to allow her intuition to guide our work together. Several issues came up with regard to various stances about my current physical condition. The issues that were most prominent in my mind were the unattractiveness of radical cystectomy on the one hand, and the powerful healing session I had with Leslie on March 21 on the other. I needed to break through my resistance to allow the radical cystectomy to be part of my healing, and not seeing it as an invalidation of “healthy cells grow all by themselves.” In the end, I realized that I was doing my best to help my recovery, and that as long as I kept looking deeply into alternatives as they come to me, I don’t have to feel bad about anything I’ve done. It is this attitude that brought Julie Motz into my surgery, and gave me the opportunity to see Don Alejandro.

In the evening, I attended the “Life Threatened” group at the Center for Attitudinal Healing and my wife attended the “Care Givers” group. Our group was quite smaller than last week, and all but one person was there last week. It dawned on me how much worse off each of the other members were than me, and I was struck with a feeling of compassion for their suffering. When it was my turn to share, I offered a copy of Yellow Stream to the Center, and talked about Julie Motz. One of the people there had met her at the home where she is staying and said that she was pretty incredible. I believe her! I also spoke about Don Alejandro and my nervousness over next week’s biopsy.


The Mother Ship

Last night, I had a dream. In the dream I was running away from an impending nuclear disaster to a space ship that was to take a number of people to safety. The “mother ship” had a lift that would allow one person at a time to be speedily transported into the ship. I noticed that the entry mechanism was rather weak and decided to redesign it. As I did so, the space ship seemed to grow in diameter and I was able to try out my new designs rather easily. Naturally, I woke before the disaster. I wonder what it all means.

At Cancerport today, I offered a copy of Yellow Stream to the group. I explained how each day had it’s own title and that some of them were quite funny. I shared how the book became known as Yellow Stream and everyone laughed. Earlier, someone mentioned that laughter was really good for healing, so we had plenty of it!

At night, we had another meeting of our Evolutionary Circle. The theme was once again based on healing through laying on of the hands. Before we actually did any healing work, we each had an opportunity to check in with the group. I could feel such love and support from everyone, as I shared what had happened in the last week. We are such an unlikely group of people that somehow we’ve managed to stay together for over a year now.


Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Work I Go

April 16, 1997 – Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Work I Go

R. T., my boss, and I are met to discuss my raise and bonus, so I went to Menlo Park for the day. Marty Rossman was traveling to some Alternative Medicine conference in Orlando, so I drove him to the airport, which is on my way. This gave me a chance to chat with Marty about my life and ask him about his. The main point of our discussion was the effectiveness of guided imagery in my cure. Of course, he’s the master! When I asked him about Yellow Stream, he said that he was very impressed with the resources section.

I met my son for lunch at the Uptime Cafe at NGC. I had lunch cards from when I taught a class at NGC, so we got to pig out on cafeteria food! He was fairly talkative about his life, but we didn’t discuss my illness at length. He is going to sing for Gail Teehan’s mother on Friday night.

So, the day turned out to be kind of a normal work day, as my life is becoming more and more normal and my symptoms are affecting my daily activities less and less. For example, I didn’t have time for a mind story today, but I compensated by going to bed by 8:30.


The Frog on the Leaf…

April 14, 1997 – The Frog on the Leaf…

Compared to yesterday, this was a fine day, but I was still haunted by the cost of cancer. I worked in the morning and then went to have a session with Alan Sheets. He worked on my knees, lower back, shoulders, cranium, and bladder. The session was very relaxing and I didn’t feel the need to nap for the rest of the day.

From Alan’s office, I met G. S. at the California Conservatory of Music to pick up twenty copies of Yellow Stream which my son had made for me. These copies go through the beginning of chapter eight, and are expressly for the purpose of finding a publisher for the web site as a book. I might change the title to “Healthy Cells Grow All By Themselves” before final publication.

From there, I went to Golden Gate Park for a walk and a time to be alone in nature. I just had a feeling that this would be better for me than rushing back home to get more work done on the Sniffer. On the way to the Redwood Grove, I passed a small pond with beautiful, broad leaves in it. Perhaps they were water lilies not yet in bloom. It was a beautiful pond, and then I noticed a frog sitting on one of the leaves. The frog was as big as the leaf, about three inches long, and two and one-half inches wide. I stood and watched the frog for several minutes. When I thought about it later, I thought about this poem:

The frog on a leaf
In the pond
In the Arboretum
Just sitting
Doing Zazen!

I wandered off to the Redwood Grove and found a place to sit on the stump of a redwood tree to meditate. I was surrounded by redwood trees and sat next to another pond (no frog) for about fifteen minutes. Then I searched out the incense cedar tree that my son and I often visited when he was young. In fact, it was after playing in that tree that he told me something was wrong with his stomach, and a few weeks later he was diagnosed with Wilm’s Tumor. I hugged the tree and offered prostrations to it for helping heal my son and now I was asking for its help to heal me. The prostration was humbling and healing at the same time. Hopefully, no one saw me doing such a strange thing.

Next I visited the moon viewing platform which juts out over another pond (no frogs here either) in hopes of running into Itzzy, who often does Tai Chi on that platform. Then it was time to go and I slowly left the Arboretum being mindful of each step and each breath.

At night, I went to Anna Halprin’s class and offered her the first printed copy of Yellow Stream. She seemed really grateful. The class got off to a slow start, with Anna’s boom box not working. We sat and did breathing exercises and I noticed that several people were having a tough time. I thought that this would have been a good evening for a long check-in, but we moved forward anyway. Anna spent much of her time with the woman that was having the most difficulty, and I enjoyed dancing to the rhythms of the drums that were playing when we finally had some music.

My drawing came right out of my gut. I looked at the box of crayons and noticed that there was a small piece of a thick, red crayon that appealed to me. I picked it up and started drawing bold, thick curved lines that eventually resembled a large hourglass, but in reality, it was my anger of the cost of cancer coming through. I wrote, “I want to see my anger red!” I wanted to have an intuitive feeling for why I was so pissed off about the cost of treatment, or at least have someone tell me what I was feeling. The expressing of anger in the drawing was quite strong, and I received a lot of good feedback about it during the ensuing discussion.

As people shared their drawings, I felt the group coming closer together. I stated, “I finally feel that the group is coming together. Even though we are still having a tough time, we are having a tough time together.” Many agreed with my statement.

I headed home feeling much better and with a strong desire to write. However, as I walked in the door the phone rang and the call was from New York. I was told about a healer named Winefred Wager, who I’m supposed to call tomorrow to see if she can help me “long distance!” I also had a message from Dean Ornish, but I haven’t spoken with him yet. He is starting a prostate cancer study with Dr. Carroll.


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