Jan 03 2017

New Year’s Tantric Dance

Hot and cold. Tired and Awake. Weak and Strong.
Past, present, future and the Eternal Moment.
This is the reconciliation of opposites.

I am a rainbow of infinite awareness
stretching out in and as all the worlds.
I am the mind focusing on and experiencing
God and soul.
I am you. I am me.
I am everyone. I am no one.

I hear the screams of carrots ripped from
their cozy earthen beds.
I hear the belly of the body
rumble with hunger.
Everything eats.
Yet no one is eating.

The pain of being finite
Leads to the ecstasy of infinity
If we let go of Me
Then the dance
Guides the dancer
Now Free.

waterdancing

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THANK YOU!

Jenna

 

Dec 09 2016

20 Second Meditation Technique

When I visited my family over Thanksgiving, my 12-year old niece wanted to learn how to meditate. The morning before our little class, she was having a rough day. Although she was feeling grumpy, she still was excited to learn. I shared with her this very simple 3 breath meditation technique. Her face lit up with a big smile and her mind was completely blown by the concept that she could shift so rapidly and with such ease. My wish is this technique do the same for you.

Enjoy the video!

Nov 09 2016

Peace Within

Abandon ill-will and hate
Abandon envy and greed
Abandon anger and sorrow
Abandon ignorance and delusion
Abandon all these like a sinking ship
For that’s what they are
Bloated with self-importance
They will drag you down to
the depths of suffering.

Cultivate Gratitude and Loving-Kindness
Be neither attracted nor repulsed
And rest in equanimity
Develop altruistic joy and compassion
Move beyond pleasure and pain
And discover Peace within

buddhas-670573_1920

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My work is entirely funded by my readers – by you. If you like what you have read, if you find insight or inspiration in these words, please visit my Support page to learn how you can help keep the work going with a one-time gift, or as an ongoing Patron.

THANK YOU!

Jenna

 

Oct 28 2016

Drug Holiday and Opioid Awareness

Recently I went on a drug holiday. Because of the wonders of smart phones, it gave me time to read more articles, posts, and comments on Facebook than usual. In that odd close-knit virtual world, I discovered countless people with legitimate pain issues being treated with suspicion and asked to perform unreasonable steps in order to obtain pain medication from their doctors. There’s always been a stigma attached to using pain killers; however it’s become much worse than I realized. So I’ve decided to share this story of my past month to help raise awareness.

If you’ve read Peace with Pain, then you know I live with constant chronic pain from a currently incurable illness. Part of my treatment program involves taking pain medication, and includes an opioid by the name of Norco. This past year, the pills stopped working as well as it used to, despite all of my efforts to rest, practice pacing, and utilize herbal remedies. Doctors call this Tolerance. My doctor offered to increase my dose, or if I wanted to try a stronger medication, she could send me to a pain management specialist. (Because of new regulations and restrictions promoted by the DEA, she is no longer allowed to prescribe Percocet or anything stronger than Norco.) Starting over with a new doctor can be a nightmare when you have a cluster of chronic conditions, and taking stronger medications has a whole list of problematic issues, so I declined. Instead I told her I would try a drug holiday again before considering her offer.

With 18 years of chronic pain, I’ve faced this problem before. The solution to drug tolerance is not easy, but for me, it’s effective and has allowed me to stay at the same dose for over 12 years. (It took several years to find what medications offer me to most functionality.) The answer is what I call a Drug Holiday.

I have no medical training, so nothing here is medical advice. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR FIRST if you want to go down this road yourself.

Without any scientific backing, it’s my theory that the body adapts to whatever conditions exist. In my case, there is an illness causing pain. The Norco blocks the pain receptors in the brain, and tricks the body into thinking the pain has decreased. (Nothing gets rid of all the pain – sorry to burst your bubble.) The body can then function at a higher level because it is not using all its energy to deal with the pain. However, the body is smart, and it adapts to the medication. It eventually figures out the pain is still there, and it increases the pain signals so they register in the brain despite the blocked receptors. This increased pain level forces the body to take steps to protect itself, including slowing down the cognitive processing and impairing memory (hello BrainFog), decreasing muscle strength (sorry, cannot lift that glass of water right now), and increasing fatigue levels (too tired to sleep or walk or eat). It feels like the illness is progressing as the body functions less and less. The cycle continues until something changes.

The easiest thing to do is increase the dosage or change to a stronger opioid. The first issues we face with that option are increased constipation and greater stress on the liver. The second problem is the adaption of the body and the likelihood of having to increase the dose again in several years. Each time we move up the ladder to a stronger medication to take on a regular basis, it leaves us with fewer pain killer options if we ever need them in an emergency. This is a long-term view, but an important one to consider if you’re facing a life of chronic pain. You may think the pain is as bad as it can be, but if you’re not passed out from pain, it can always get worse. (Again, sorry about that bubble bursting.)

The final problem is the delicate balance of finding the right dose of the right medications that provide the body with the highest level of functionality. Muscle relaxers work great at numbing my pain, but they leave me stranded on the couch unable to participate in life. I save those for when I’m in a flare and cannot do anything but watch television and rest, and even then I use them sparingly because their effects sometimes linger for a day afterwards. When we increase our dose, we have to watch carefully for the tipping point. At the correct dosage, Norco allows me to live an alert well-adjusted relatively normal, albeit modified, life. (For example, my days are much shorter than the average person, but if I meet a stranger they have no idea I live with chronic pain.) If I take something stronger or more pills then I need, I feel drugged and slow like when I take muscle relaxers – basically I lose functionality instead of improving it.

This is what doctors and government officials hate about long-term opioid use…they cannot standardize dosage and one pill does not work the same for everyone. They must rely on patients to honestly assess the effect of the medication and trust the patient to tell them what the correct dosage is for them. They also may need to try a variety of medications to find the right one. Add to this the risk of addiction in some individuals and we have doctors who are terrified to treat their patients. So keeping my medication and dose the same benefits not only me, but it also helps calm the doctors I encounter. (Yes, I’ll talk more about the addiction issue soon, as that is an important hot button topic.)

The other way to overcome the tolerance issue is to reset the body’s pain receptors. Again, this is just my theory and experience without any scientific backing. This resetting is what I call a Drug Holiday. Just like it sounds, I take a holiday from all the pain medications I take. This was my third time embarking on a drug holiday.

But wait…ALL of them, not just the Norco?

Yes. In order to reset the pain receptors, we have to let the body feel the levels of pain it experiences without the modifications provided by drugs. The really hard part is it can take a couple of weeks for the body to clear out the residual left by long term us of medications. Hence the importance of the Holiday part – when we do this, we need to take a break from our daily life. I am very fortunate to have the freedom to do this. I realize not everyone can settle into the couch for a month without losing everything they have.

I began with a rapid reduction in the amount of Norco I take, which is a tricky step. Because the body adapts to the medication, if we go off of opioids too quickly the body experiences withdrawal effects such as vomiting, sweating, and in extreme cases seizure. (Again this why you need to talk to your doctor!) During this phase, we have to pay close attention to the body to see how fast we can reduce the medication. For me, I was able to drop down to a half pill every other day after 10 days, and by day 14 I was off of the Norco completely. In order to deal with the pain, I took Tylenol during these two weeks, as well as relying on my non-drug remedies. (Keep in mind not all medications can be cut in half safely – talk to your pharmacist first.)

At this point, it was time to stop the Tylenol and my anti-inflammatory medications and herbs. I continued with my nutritional supplements (Juice Plus and vitamins) and added an herbal blend designed to detoxify the liver.

During the month, I limited my activities and embraced Netflix. I also got a new full back heating pad, took lots of baths, stretched as often as possible, spent extra hours in meditation (laying down at times) and saw my Acupuncturist and my massage therapist. The entire process was physically and mentally exhausting, and I was thankful I did not have to teach a meditation class. Most days I did not go outside even to get the mail.

By the second week, I began to adapt to my new normal. When I had to go to the store, I observed how impaired my driving was from pain and resolved to be extra cautious. The one other day I had to drive I planned lunch with a friend at the half way point so I would have a rest break before heading home.

I accepted that I could not always stand up on the first try. I gave myself a break from the inner complaints of pain by watching comedies and HGTV because I could not follow complicated story lines. I felt a sense of great accomplishment on the nights I cooked dinner for my husband – putting pizza in the oven counts, right? Basically, I let myself veg-out and fully accepted in that moment, this was my life. In the back of my mind, I remembered how this was my life for a very long time, before I found my doctor and she experimented with me to find the right dosages of the right medications. I felt the fear of that reality before meeting my doctor and accepted that too. I tried to sit at my computer, but lost all concentration after only a few minutes. I relied on my smart phone to distract myself with Facebook. I ignored most of my emails. It began to sink in that this could be my life permanently if I’m ever denied medication because it’s a potentially addictive opioid. I thought about how radically my life would change and all I would have to give up. I had to sit with that idea quite a while before I could finally accept it.

Today I’m taking Norco again, and my body is more alert, stronger, and functioning at a higher level than before the Drug Holiday. I am grateful my month of self-imposed torture worked! There is still pain and limits to my functionality; however I’m able to do more than lie on the couch. I’ve been increasing both the dose and my activity levels slowly over the past two weeks, seeking that hard to describe level of balance. Finding the balance between medicating pain and pacing activity is my responsibility as a patient who uses opioids, and I fully acknowledge and respect the importance of doing it. I wish more doctors were trained to educated patients on this point.

Teaching patients to be responsible, not through fear, but through an understanding of what medications can and cannot do, is the best way to reduce the risk of addiction. Opioids reduce physical pain, but they do not eliminate it entirely. Used correctly, they improve functionality. When used improperly, they impair functionality.

Every body is different, so there is no standard dose, and not all medications work for everyone. We as patients have to take on the responsibility of closely and honestly examining what medications (not just opioids, but all medications) do to us in terms of functionality and quality of life, and doctors have to trust what we tell them.

Addiction is a terrible disease, for both those who are addicts and for those who love them. We must provide easy access to treatment for those affected, and support for their loved ones. Addiction is a complicated issue, and the substance an addict uses to feed their addiction is rarely, if ever, the real root cause. To manage and eventually end the disease of addiction, we must be willing to look deeper into the reasons people feel the uncontrollable need to escape from their lives.

Death caused by the misuse of opioids is a real problem, and it is one we must take a holistic view of in order to prevent. We must be willing to talk about opioids openly, without stigma. We must accept there are kids who are seeking ways to alter their mind through drugs and offer them education. We must accept there are people who like the dissociated feeling of being over-medicated and drugged that allows them to escape from feeling their emotions, and offer treatment programs designed to help them find their way back to participating fully in life. And we must accept there are over 100 million people like me living with chronic pain, many of whom use opioids responsibly in order to function.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact your health insurance about covered treatment options. Virtual and in person support groups can also be found by searching online.

 

To help prevent medications from getting into the wrong hands, bring your unwanted medications to any police station in San Diego County for proper disposal. (Check with your local county for similar programs in your area.)

 

Please help protect our right to pain medication by contacting your government representatives in the House and Senate, as well as your local government officials. Let them know there are better ways to fight addiction than making life even more difficult for chronic pain patients.

 

In the past several years, a quiet war against opioids has been raging. I don’t know who is behind it or why. The media seems to be focused on addiction issues, but it appears that chronic pain patients are bearing the brunt of the attacks spearheaded by the DEA and CDC. Here’s a list of some changes you may not be aware of:

Norco and other medications like the codeine cough syrup you may have been prescribed the last time you saw the doctor for a severe cough were changed from a Schedule 3 drug to a Schedule 2, which is the highest level of restriction. (Schedule 1 is for drugs with no medical use.)

  • Schedule 2 means only paper prescriptions are accepted by the pharmacy, whereas before a doctor could call the pharmacy or send the prescription electronically.
  • Refills are no longer allowed, which requires a trip to the doctor’s office each month for a new paper prescription.
  • Pharmacies must wait a full 30 days in between filling prescriptions, even if the doctor writes a new prescription before that time frame.
  • Some doctors have opted to simply not write these types of prescriptions because of the extra recorded keeping and reporting involved.

The DEA has also put pressure on health insurers to increase the tier of opioids; instead of being a tier 1 generic drug at the lowest cost, Norco is now a tier 2 (brand name level) drug, even though it is a generic medication that has been used since 1943. Some plans have made it an even higher tier. The higher the tier means a higher cost and financial burden for the patient, many of whom live on a fixed income from disability.

The DEA has also succeeded in pressuring health insurers to implement quantity limits, taking away a doctor’s right to determine the appropriate dosage for their patients.

Some lawmakers are now pushing to implement a prior authorization requirement for some opioids. If you’ve ever had to wait for prior authorization to get your medication, you know this is a bad idea. Take a moment to imagine being in agonizing severe pain. You’ve made it to the doctor and they prescribed pain medication. You get to the pharmacy and they tell you they need prior authorization. This means the pharmacy must call your doctor, who then must call your insurance company. Once the insurance company has processed the request, they inform the pharmacy. How long do think all of this will take? How much unnecessary pain will patients have to endure while they wait for this process to play out? With a new prescription required every month and no early refills, now imagine having to deal with this every single month.

 

Thank you for reading this very long blog entry. You may not be directly impacted by chronic pain or this absurd war on opioids; however it does affect you and your right to pain medication should you ever require it. Please take action now by contacting your government representatives to ask them to protect our access to pain medication. Please also share this blog to help raise #OpioidAwareness.

 

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My work is entirely funded by my readers – by you. If you like what you have read, if you find insight or inspiration in these words, please visit my Support page to learn how you can help keep the work going with a one-time gift, or as an ongoing Patron.

THANK YOU!

Jenna

 

 

Sep 19 2016

Meeting the Master – An Excerpt from Worlds of Power, Worlds of Light

On Friday night, I discovered the Mark Hopkins is one of San Francisco’s most glorious hotels. It sits on top of Nob Hill, rising above the city lights like a castle. The 19th century architecture, with the intricate carvings on the archways, appeared like an entrance to a fairy tale land. The grand doorway towered above me; never before had I been invited to a place so magnificent.

As Katey and I turned the corner into the banquet hall, my self-confidence dropped at the sight of hundreds of elegantly dressed people. None of the weddings or other dinner parties I had attended had ever been this fancy. My long flowered skirt and cheap blazer stood out in the crowd, but I was too confused to feel embarrassed. I couldn’t understand why a bunch of rich business people were attending a lecture on meditation. The overwhelming wealth of the hotel made me suspicious. I kept asking myself weren’t spiritual people supposed to use their money to help the poor, not on fancy dinners? Tara’s black ball gown seemed like a bit much even for this banquet room, but she was paying for my dinner, so what could I say?

Katey started off to meet the others, so I followed, listening to snatches of the conversations. I had expected to hear a roomful of miserable people looking for the answers to all of life’s problems. Instead, the business people in this room were discussing one exciting project or another, smiling as if they had touched ecstasy.

Katey and I met the other students from Tara’s class, and we sat down together at a table in the back of the room. I was disappointed that we were so far from the stage. I wanted to get a good look at Rama, since everyone was so excited to see him but refused to tell me anything about him when I asked. While eating dinner, we chatted about the weather and the classes some of us were taking at college. I couldn’t help noticing the tension in the room; it was like waiting for a bomb to go off.

The waiters were clearing the dessert dishes when Rama strolled in, with a briefcase in one hand and a long leather coat draped over the other. Although Tara had not mentioned what he looked like, I had expected an elderly Japanese man wearing an ocher robe. Instead Rama turned out to be a middle-aged Caucasian man, just over six feet tall, with blond curly hair and dressed in an Armani suit. As he stepped onto the platform stage set up at the far end of the banquet hall, everyone turned their chairs to face him. When I turned towards him, there was a clear aisle from my chair straight to center stage.

I watched Rama closely as he crossed his legs into the lotus position. A grace and ease accompanied his motions, as if he had performed this ritual thousands of times. My gaze kept returning to his eyes. I was positive I had never seen him before, but there was something about him that was strangely familiar.

“Tonight I’d like to talk with you about reincarnation,” said Rama, as a mischievous grin crossed his face, reminding me of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. “The good news is we live forever. And the bad news is, we live forever.” Rama looked around at the smiles in the audience, and began again with a more serious tone.

“Life is the joining of the infinite and the finite. The eternal part of us appears in the physical world, has experiences, and then the physical part falls away when we die. While in the body, the spirit plays out its karma. That is, it continues to follow the patterns of its previous lives, changing and growing until the body dies.

“At death, the material world falls away and the spirit takes a break. The spirit takes with it the awareness it has gained during the life experience. Whatever we become conscious of becomes embedded into our nature, and those skills carry from life to life.”

I relaxed in my chair, forgetting about my appearance for the first time that evening. I took a sip of my coffee as I concentrated on his words.

“For example, if you studied karate in a past life, you would probably be drawn to study it in this life. In the beginning, you would have to relearn the basics. Once you had the basics down, you would tap into your past life knowledge and you would progress much faster than someone who was new to the study of karate.

“The same is true in the study of self-discovery,” he continued, closing his eyes as his melodious voice spread through the room. “When you increase your awareness through meditation, or expand your consciousness through self-discovery, that knowledge travels with you from life to life. Karma propels us to continue with the actions we began in the previous moments. So most of you here have studied meditation in previous lives. By picking up the study again in this life, you can very quickly get back to where you left off and start exploring new areas.

“The process of reincarnation is very similar to going to school,” explained Rama, glancing around the banquet hall. “Someone in eighth grade is not any better than someone in third grade. It just means the student in eighth grade has had more experiences and hopefully knows more. In time, the third-grader will be in eighth grade. And also like school, there is a summer vacation, when the body dies and the spirit takes a break until it is born again.

“When you meditate, you may begin to remember your past lives. This generally happens to people in their twenties, but sometimes people are younger or older. It really depends on how open and aware you are. However, remembering the particulars of who you were or what you did in a previous life really isn’t very important.

“Buddhists use these recollections as a way to learn how to live better today. You can’t change the past; it doesn’t exist anymore. So it’s important not to get hung up on remembering your past lives. If you see stuff when you meditate, it’s best just to ignore it. Don’t let anything distract you from silencing your mind and seeking light.”

Rama pulled out a pair of sunglasses from his jacket and asked us to sit up straight so we could meditate. He put on a CD by Zazen, a band he had created with some of his students, and asked everyone to focus on him.

I gazed at him with half-closed eyes, letting the music fill my ears. The people in the room disappeared, and I could feel Rama’s energy inside my mind as if he was behind my forehead, in my third eye. At first, I tried to shut him out because I was afraid. I didn’t really like the idea of someone in my head, even if he was a respected spiritual teacher. Rama was persistent but not intrusive; instead he became like a vapor and slipped in through the cracks. I could feel him communicating with me telepathically. There were no words, only a soothing feeling, letting me know I was not in any danger. His energy, soft and delicate like a rose petal, shone before me like a rainbow. I knew this feeling of meditation with him, and felt a deeper love for this being, this essence, than I had ever felt for anything else in life.

We bowed after the meditation, and when I looked up, directly at Rama, he smiled back at me. From across the room his eyes sparkled like diamonds as they met mine, and I knew I would see him again as my teacher.

 

If you enjoyed this excerpt, you can read more about my adventures with Rama and the study of meditation in my book, Worlds of Power, Worlds of Light.

Worlds_of_Power,_Wor_Cover_for_Kindle

Sep 07 2016

White Crane

A few nights ago, I woke from a dream, which played out before me like a movie:

A white crane fluttered around a city street. Nearby, deeply concerned people were looking for the crane. The bird had once been human, and the people desperately wanted to break the spell before the crane forgot about life as a human.

The crane flew around a building and landed in a tree at the edge of a park. The tree was filled with thirty other white cranes. The cranes all sat still, silently. Suddenly all the cranes flapped their wings and turned to face the opposite direction, except the one crane who had been a human. The people searching for the crane came around the corner and saw the flock of birds.crane-60865_640

The scene zoomed into the single crane. The crane thought, “I wonder what the birds are looking at? Should I turn around too?” The crane looked down at the people and thought, “These humans are here looking for me.”

As the crane in the tree sat suspended between life as a crane and life as a human, the crane knew they were both a dream.

 

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My work is entirely funded by my readers – by you. If you like what you have read, if you find insight or inspiration in these words, please visit my Support page to learn how you can help keep the work going with a one-time gift, or as an ongoing Patron.

THANK YOU!

Jenna

 

Sep 02 2016

Four Buddhist Truths Learned from Chronic Pain

1. Everything is Transient

During my last pain flare, for over a week I lived with the feeling of two nails shoved in my eyes, causing an intense headache. It would be easy to say the pain was constant since it bothered me enough to interrupt my activity several times a day. However, if I remain fully present with my body during these times, I notice how the pain waxes and wanes, even during a full body pain flare.

I’ve found this to be true of all the types of pain and fatigue I experience. As I expand my awareness out from the body, I see the truth of impermanence in all aspects of life.

 

2. Suffering is caused by Attachment

When the pain forces my body to shut down and all I can do is lie on the couch, I watch my mind as it grapples with the situation. If I remain attached to getting up and being active, there is great suffering when the body refuses to cooperate. If I let go of the attachment and instead observe what is, there is pain and discomfort but no suffering. It is as if a large weight is removed and I can simply be with the pain as it changes form with every breath.

I watch how at times we all cling to ideas of how we think it should be – whatever the situation – and how this attachment blinds and separates us from what really is here now.

 

3. There is Always a Way Out

Intractable pain feels like being a tiny cage with no escape. It can overwhelm the attention to the point where there’s no other point of focus. At level 10 on the pain scale, the body collapses and the mind shuts down – the way out is the autonomic response beyond our conscious control. At any level below 10, we can find the way out by focusing our mind.

Once we realize this, we have many choices:
– increase our suffering by focusing on our attachment,
– escape through the power of imagination,
– distraction either physically by introducing different sensations or mentally through visual or auditory stimulation,
– or conscious observation of the qualities of pain through the lens of detachment.

Sensorial distraction may include a tens unit, massage, petting an animal, listening to music, or watching a movie. Conscious observation with detachment may include reminding ourselves I am not this fragile body and all of this is merely sensations passing through my awareness field. Throughout the years, I have applied all of these methods to find my way out of the tiny cage.

In my dealings with others, and in my own pre-pain personal experience, I’ve seen how we find ourselves feeling trapped by a situation over which we have no direct control, yet there is always a way out of that feeling of helplessness by taking control the one place we always can: the focus of the mind.

 

4. Meditation Makes Finding the Way Out Easier

Practicing meditation makes the mind stronger, and thus allows us to gain control of our focus in the most trying of circumstances. I could write paragraph after paragraph with examples of how myself and others have benefited from meditation and share many studies revealing the power of meditation, but this is the one Truth you’ll have to prove for yourself.

JennaDesertViewTower

 

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To be notified of new blog posts, please join my Happy News Mailing List.

My work is entirely funded by my readers – by you. If you like what you have read, if you find insight or inspiration in these words, please visit my Support page to learn how you can help keep the work going with a one-time gift, or as an ongoing Patron.

THANK YOU!

Jenna

 

Aug 18 2016

Magic on Maui & Kauai

Between adventuring and resting, there was not much time to write while on retreat in Hawaii. On the plane ride home, I wrote until my hand could write no more as I tried to capture all the magical moments of this retreat. Traveling with a chronic illness is never easy. However by respecting the body’s limits, pacing, and with the silent power of meditation, not only is travel possible, it’s fun!

I thought about sharing excerpts from my journal, but instead I decided to share the posts and pictures that landed on my Facebook page during the trip. I’ve incorporated those posts into this blog, and added a few more photos and videos that didn’t make it on social media. On this most recent retreat, I’ve learned some important lessons that I plan to take with me into all aspects of life. I hope you can use them too. Enjoy Hawaii!

Like stars, we shine
for anyone who wants to look.

Progress – our own or that of others –
is none of our business

Our job is simply to shine.

July 18, 2016

Live above the clouds…

AboveTheClouds

July 19, 2016

Cloudy on the mountain, but loving Hawaii!!

SmilingOnCloudyMtnCloudyRoad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We left the summit clouds of Haleakala for the Lavender farm, where we found sunshine and Buddhas! If we are flexible, then life gives us wonderful surprises when things don’t work out as planned.

LavendarGardenBuddha

OM MANI PADME HUM

StupaInPaia

In Paia, we walked inside this little stupa, turning the prayer wheel. At first, my traveling companions started walking faster and faster until I felt I was about to break into a jog! (Apparently one of them was trying to get the bell to ring more often!) I had to ask them to slow way down, and remind them this was an opportunity for walking meditation. Once we slowed our pace, we began chanting OM AH HUNG, which was painted on the inside wall along with a majestic mural of various Buddhas. A little girl watched us with curiosity, so I invited her in when I reach the doorway. She walked with us as we turned the big prayer wheel. There’s always room for another friend on the Path. The acoustics in the tiny building were amazing. We all left there feeling the beauty and Light of all the Buddhas!

 

After dinner, a magical moon came out to play…
What do you see in this picture?MagicalMoon

(I see a pyramid!)

July 20, 2016

MoonBright

There was a dog howling at the moon in the middle of the night near our room at the Kula Lodge. The wild roosters have begun to crow. And I know it’s going to be a wonder-filled day!

 

 

 

Amazing gift today…

SmilingAt10000Feet

The weather cleared this morning on the volcano so we could see all the beauty of the alien looking landscape of Haleakala. The sun warmed the air to an unusual high of 62 degrees at 10,000 feet!

OceanAndObservatory10000Feet

Yesterday we had to put on rain ponchos and heavy coats and we couldn’t see 5 feet in front of us! Now we can see the Observatory and the ocean 10,000 feet below!

HaleakalaCrater

 

When we went walking and it became too warm, a light misty rain cooled us. When we became chilled, the sun would come back out to warm us up again. So magical to have the weather respond to our every thought! More proof that Eternity always gives us exactly what we need, when we need it.

 

We sat in silence on a grassy patch at the side of a trail at 8,000 feet while the insects buzzed and danced. The mist and sun continued to keep us comfortable.  While in that little grassy field, we made a short video to share a wonderful story of the Aloha Spirit in action that we had witnessed in the parking lot.  You can watch it below:

As we headed back, important decisions of whether the need to pee outweighed the need to rest were made. For one of us –not me, but I’m not saying who – the need to pee won forcing this person to make a dash to the bathroom in the parking lot, while two of us remained resting on the trail. When we got back to the car, the rain clouds had rolled in, completely obscuring the view.

SmilingAtTheSummit

So blessed to have the opportunity to see this and be here!

I am thankful I didn’t have to wait for a healthy body to enjoy the transient nature of it all! If you are out there waiting, know you don’t have to either. Get out and enjoy this amazing world in whatever way you can.

NeneBirdsGazing

Nene birds gazing out at Haleakala

July 21, 2016

We left the Maui mountains and are now enjoying the Garden Island of Kauai. We are thankful for the pre-retreat clearing on Maui, and are ready to meet the others for the full “Touching Aloha” retreat!

LeavingMaui

Goodbye Maui

I want to mention a note of gratitude for the kindness from the TSA workers at the Maui airport. My travel companions were TSA pre-check, but I wasn’t, so they left me at the security check point. I didn’t think the security line was very long, but when I got to what I thought was the end, I discovered it went farther than I could see, and snaked back and forth three times. The heat and humidity washed over me, and my muscles complained from the previous day’s walk on the volcano. I started heading for the back of the line and realized my body was not going to make it without severe consequences. The previous week I had read an article on the Mighty, which gave me the information that there is help at the airport for those of us with physical challenges (even if we don’t look the part) and the courage to show the TSA agent my disabled parking card. Without making a big deal of it, she pointed me towards the unmarked handicapped entrance, explained the procedure of showing the next agent my card, and saved me from what would have become a grueling increased pain flare that could have ruined the rest of the trip. We need to be willing to ask for and receive a reasonable accommodation when we need it. (The old me would have waited until the pain had become too intense to handle before talking to the TSA agent.)

HelloKauai

Hello Kauai

 

 

 

 

 

The birds are chirping and the wind is dancing with the palms as the sun begins to rise.

KauaiCondoView

May your day be as beautiful as the ocean kissing the sand!

 

July 22, 2016

We hiked up this trail, very slowly. A big Thank You to Lakshmi for helping me keep the correct pace! She used walking sticks, and her deliberate placing of each pole and each foot allowed me time to rest in between each step I took. My walk up the mountain was step step rest. This proves once again that going slow allows me to go far.

NapaliCoastOverlook

When we sat in meditation on the side of this sacred trail, I felt the energy of the land growing within me like an ivy vine, slow, strong and vibrant. Later when we talked, Lakshmi, our guide for this retreat, said the island of Kauai plants the seed of truth within us.

At this view point the wind was so strong it pushed me back on my butt right after this picture was taken!

The beach you see below is where we snorkeled with the fish and floated in the healing water.

“Can I push your feet?” asked my friend when we were in the water. The current was too strong for me to keep swimming against to keep my place next to the fish and coral reef and I was about to head out of the water. She pushed my feet while I steered, and we had a hard time not laughing with our masks on as we followed the fish around and attempted to avoid collisions with others enjoying the water. Accepting help from others allows us to explore much more than we can reach on our own.

 

July 23, 2016

We were able to visit the local Buddhist Temple, even though it was closed, thanks to our BuddhistTemple-Smallexcellent retreat leader Lakshmi. She was able to find the caretaker and asked permission for us to sit in the Temple. It was such a blessing to be allowed to sit inside to meditate. After exchanging business cards with the Buddhist priest, we went outside to put our shoes back on. The temple priest came outside and gave us all books describing their particular path of Soto Buddhism.

In the parking lot, one our retreat members flipped open the book to a page with the Japanese character for Sangha. No matter the particulars of our personal Path, we are all connected in the community of Light.

 

After shopping, ice cream, and a great meal, we found ourselves somewhere over the rainbow…

OverTheRainbow

There’s nothing quite like floating in warm ocean water as the waves rock you beneath a full spectrum, half-circle rainbow. Not that we needed it, but it was yet another wonderful reminder: Magic is real. The rainbow lasted for over an hour, giving us a chance to take pictures!

There’s also nothing quite like aggressive chickens on the beach!chicken-small

 

 

 

July 24, 2016

Today I felt like I was in India. My first time at a Hindu temple for puja filled my being with endless bliss. The rain washed us clean before and after the ceremony. While listening to beautiful chanting by the monk, I easily slipped into meditation and Ganesh appeared before me as I sat in front of a huge statue of Lord Kartikeya!

At the temple entrance, Ganesh stood watch over a pavilion with a bowl designed to let you burn a piece a paper on which you write an obstacle you’re facing. Thank you Ganesh for removing the obstacles in my Path!

HinduTempleGanesh

Photos inside the temple were not allowed, but I found this friend waiting at the end of the Banyan Tree meditation path. (see video below) The exact moment I rang the bell in offering a prayer, a small branch from the tree tapped my third eye. Very playful!

On our last night on this magical island, She cleared the clouds and showed us the stars! This retreat has connected me to the Fire element like never before. I feel the flames of love, and the joyful activity that is to come upon my return. So thankful for all the blessings on this journey!

July 25, 2016

Mahalo Kauai for all the magic!

KauaiFromAirSmall

And Mahalo to my dear friend Lakshmi of Integrated Meditation Studies for organizing the Touching Aloha Retreat to Kauai for Dharma Center Members and sharing this beautiful treasure with us.

 

 

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THANK YOU!

Jenna

Jul 08 2016

Mammograms, Ropes, and Snakes

When your entire body hurts all the time, and the breast soreness becomes intense with each hormonal cycle, it’s natural to avoid things that increase pain. So I put off my mammogram for what I thought was 2 years, but turned out to be 3. The day after the test, I happened to have a follow up with my doctor, so she gave me a print out of the report and said the radiology department would be calling me back for more boob squishing. I didn’t think anything of it and focused on the more pressing issues of discussing options to treat the Endometriosis that has been getting progressively worse. We decided on another trial of Femara, this time taking the estrogen blocker for part of the month instead of every day and unleashing the dreaded hot flashes. (Ironically, Femara was originally sold as a breast cancer drug.)

As promised, the radiology department called in the morning to schedule the additional mammogram and breast ultrasound. I had looked up “new asymmetry on the right axillary tail” so I know there’s a good chance the abnormality is simply a shadow. I made the appointment for next week and told the woman on the phone, “it’s probably just a shadow.” She didn’t comment.

I finished getting dressed and thoughts about the upcoming test unleashed a wave of wistful sadness as I considered the potential changes to this body. Just then the wind howled and was answered by the baying of all the neighborhood dogs. They howled and yelped as if to say: “Don’t worry, you are not alone.” The sadness dissolved into gratitude for this body and the life it has lived.

Through my spiritual practice, I’ve become accustom to watching my mind. I notice the random thoughts that pass through, the moods and feelings, basically all the good, bad, ugly, and beautiful things that arise and fall away. Staying centered in the present moment, this practice of mindfulness has allowed me to both witness and fully experience the entire range of options available to humans.

rope-948677_640As I went on with my day, I watched my thoughts return to the abnormal mammogram. The classic example of Ignorance offered by Shankara played out in my head. In a dark corner, there is a coiled shape. We don’t know if it’s a rope or a snake. And if it is a snake, we don’t know if it’s a dangerous snake. If we pretend it’s a rope, then we could invite great danger through our mistake. If we pretend it’s a snake, then we could freak out in fear and waste energy over nothing. All we can do is remain calm and open while we seek more information.basilisk-rattlesnake-7303_640

I noticed over and over I kept telling myself, “it’s probably just a shadow.” Then it hit me: I was facing denial. I laughed and reminded myself I had no way of knowing until the next test. And at that time, I would deal with whatever needed to be done.

It seemed within minutes, my mind switched gears and hit anger. I realized there was still some deep resentment I held towards my body. It became sick and disabled when I was 28 years old, right at the age when I was prepared to make millions as a computer consultant. My illness cost me friends, money, and endless adventures and instead gave me tears, exhaustion, and pain – lots of pain. It also gave me the motivation to work my spiritual practice on deeper levels than I could have imagined. I spent time sitting with my body, apologizing for my anger and showering it with gentle gratitude for the immense strength it has despite all its challenges. I also scanned my attention for any external resentment. Within my mind, I asked all those people for forgiveness for any harm caused by my anger and let it all drop away.

As I chopped green onions for lunch, I caught myself bargaining. “I’ll eat better, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables,” I promised. Immediately my blatant honesty kicked in and said, “No you won’t. You’ll do what you do, and eat what you want. And that’s OK.” The bargaining stopped right there.

Later in the day, as if out of nowhere, the depression hit like an avalanche. Although I’m familiar with the stages of grief, I wasn’t expecting it. As first I was confused. I thought perhaps the sadness arose from all the horrific stories on Facebook I had been reading. But my practice demands that I look, and look deeply.

I watched the mind cycle through its thoughts. It wasn’t death that brought me to sorrow; to me death is a natural part of life and although I miss those who have gone, I feel no fear or sadness at the thought of the death of my own body. The sorrow that arose came about at the thought of the decisions to be made and all that my husband and I would have to go through if it does turn out to be cancer.

I thought of the unknown form coiled in the corner and smiled from the calm of the present moment. The appointment has been made, so there is nothing more to be done right now. The report says “Incomplete” and that is all I know for sure. The sun will set tonight, and it will most likely rise tomorrow. There are piles of projects on my desk, and I’m excited to see what I can accomplish in this beautiful body. And when the tests are done next week, then I’ll know whether the form in the dark corner is a rope or a snake and I will deal with it accordingly.

I’m sharing this with you today because I know there are millions of us waiting for the results that will tell us if the coiled shape in our dark corner is a harmless rope or a deadly snake. Once we have done everything we can to discover the information, we can only wait for the Light. And in these moments of being with the Unknown, we can let the wind and the howling dogs remind us we are not alone.

dog-moon-howl-647533_640

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7/12/16 – UPDATE

First, the news: It was a rope! The radiologist told me the change they spotted was a simple lymph node that did not appear on my previous scans, probably because of its position close to my armpit. They want me to come back in 6 months to make sure it doesn’t grow or change in any way, so there will be more squishing sooner than I like, but it is worth it.

Next, I want to say a big THANK YOU! to my sweet husband, who took time off from work to go with me for my tests. Having him there was a huge comfort, especially when I watched the ultrasound technician taking many pictures of a round blob. And a big THANK YOU! to those of you who left comments, sent emails and texts and phone calls and who inwardly sent beautiful healing energy. I feel so completely supported, and I am humbled by your kindness and your love.

I know sitting with the Unknown is a challenge to which many of us relate. While I was sitting with my own unknown this week, I was reading Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid and came across this line: “…we poor humans are wired up to always think the worst is gonna happen because it so rarely does. Then what’s only lousy seems okay – almost good, in fact – and we can cope just fine.” The truth of this strikes me even deeper now; I had hoped what they saw was a shadow and that would be the end of it and I could go back to skipping mammograms. But it being a lymph node in need of watching actually is good in scheme of things.

Remembering Shankara’s example of the rope and the snake allowed me to let go of that tendency to think about the worst, and saved me from wasting hours of doing research on things I don’t need to know about right now. It let me avoid being sucked into fear and instead, I worked on the projects I wanted to focus on out of love.

My wish is for those of you who are reading this is that with whatever issue has taken on the form of a coiled shape in a dark corner, you also are able to remember that it is safe to let the Unknown be Unknown for however long it takes to get a light shining in that corner. You are not alone with the Unknown, and while you are waiting, you are allowed to go on with your life, having fun exploring this magical world.

Please continue to share this post with anyone who may benefit.

This beautiful butterfly enjoying the flowers greeted us as we came out of the hospital; a wonderful reminder of the endless transformations we all experience each day!

Butterfly_2016-07-12_small

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THANK YOU!

Jenna

Jun 29 2016

What Are You?

Wind, Earth, Water of the rivers and sea
Fire of the sun and stars
All contained within Me.

Spirit animating Life yearning to be free
The stillness of Death
All contained within Me.

Infinite space, Nothingness, Limitless Consciousness
Emptiness is key
The perfection beyond feeling and perception
All contained within Me.

Awareness reaching into darkest shadows
Stretching into realms of pure Light
Identity falls away …

No separation. No unity.
SatChitAnanda
Truth – Consciousness – Bliss
Only Love
Expressing Itself
All contained within Me.

JennaDesertViewTower

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To be notified of new blog posts, please join my Happy News Mailing List.

My work is entirely funded by my readers – by you. If you like what you have read, if you find insight or inspiration in these words, please visit my Support page to learn how you can help keep the work going with a one-time gift, or as an ongoing Patron.

THANK YOU!

Jenna

 

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