Mindfulness in Crisis

Crises reveal your values because you have to choose.

Ed Milliband

It’s the end of a long day. I’m behind on the doctor recommended exercises, both mental and physical. I tell myself the physical exercises are too stimulating to do this late in the day. They’ll make it hard to sleep. Who am I fooling? The mental exercises push me and I get anxious. My first thought is the cancer related cognitive dysfunction scares me, a lot. My second thought is without a healthy body, a healthy mind is impossible.

Let’s get some perspective. The heaviest weight is 8 pounds. That isn’t going to get me too pumped to sleep.

Mindfulness practices urge me to pause before reacting and notice what’s going on. Are my choices serving me well? No, not really. I need to do both.

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URL Change Complete

The URL for this blog is now http://blog.zaml.us/. The old URL, http://austinblues.dyndns.org/, now redirects to the new URL. The old domain name will not be renewed and some time next year will stop working. Please update your bookmarks and RSS feed addresses. Thanks for reading.

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URL changing

The URL for this blog is changing from austinblues.dyndns.org to blog.zaml.us.  If one URL doesn’t work, try the other.  It takes time, probably up to a day for DNS changes to ripple all the way out.  When the new URL seems stable, I will change austinblues.dyndns.org to do a permanent redirect to blog.zaml.us.  Your browser may automatically change the bookmark or you may have to change it manually.  Sorry for the disruption.

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Fear, Aggression, and Greed

In the last election, the winner in most races was fear, aggression, and greed.  Those who appealed to the hopes of the voters usually lost.  This dynamic is happening again this election cycle.  In the Republican primaries, hope was quickly eliminated.  Bernie Sanders tried but sometimes slid into fear et al.  Hillary tries both.  And I am losing hope sometimes in hope.  I know I will vote against fear, aggression, and greed in the fall.  I just wish I had more hope to vote for.

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Mercy

He has shown you what is good. … To act justly and to love mercy

Micah 6:8

Mercy is in many ways the opposite of greed. Greed is taking all we can get, by law, by force, by whatever means. Mercy is leaving something, maybe everything, for others.

A judge knows all the punishments (s)he can give to a convicted person. Conversely, (s)he knows all the rights (s)he can take away: life, liberty, money, possessions. A judge who shows mercy leaves some or all of that to the convicted.

A land owner may leave some of the harvest for birds, animals, human gleaners. (S)he does not take all (s)he can.

An ungreedy (merciful) person making a business deal can leave something on the table.

Mercy builds a more robust community. People don’t have to beggar their neighbor in their everyday dealings. That spreads the resources around for when there is a crisis. Bitter, impoverished people are unable to help each other.

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How Then Shall We Live?

The Bible tells the stories of Jesus’ miracle healings. We all love miracles. My cancer treatment was a miracle of sorts. It is now a year after the end of chemo. Not all cancer patients survive this long. The woman with the issue of blood had spent twelve years searching for a cure. The crippled beggars had spent their whole lives begging. Jesus said to them, “Your faith has made you whole.”  He empowered them for new life. The life they knew was dead. Granted new life, how shall we live after the miracle workers are gone?

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Shock & Awe

My medical team hit an aggressive cancer with all they had. Now I am cancer free. The treatment came with a lot of collateral damage. Reconstruction is necessary. Unlike the shock and awe of surgery (days) and chemotherapy (weeks), reconstruction takes months or years. Any proclamation of “Mission Accomplished” is hubris. And premature.

We (the Culture of Now) are not good at the slow, unglamorous task of listening for what is needed and doing it, however small and under-appreciated. There are few medals given for reconstruction. Maybe the sooner and better it’s done, the less need for combat and so fewer medals given. Without successful reconstruction, a door is opened for something nasty and invasive.

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The Colour Out of Space

I read H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Colour Out of Space” many years ago. It gave me nightmares for two weeks. I acknowledged that he is a master of horror stories and read no more.

A year ago I as diagnosed with advanced, aggressive cancer in my left kidney. It was removed and I underwent two months of aggressive chemotherapy. Tests in the summer found no cancer, “from eyes to thighs”.

Three weeks ago, a routine followup found a polyp in my bladder. Two weeks ago, it was surgically removed. My wife asked the surgeon if it was benign or cancerous. He replied, “Wrong question. Is it low, medium, or high grade?” Apparently, benign was an unlikely possibility. Because of the Christmas holidays, the pathology report is taking longer than the normal week or two. It is almost certainly the same kind of cancer, transitional cell carcinoma. Given how fast it showed up, probably high grade (i.e., fast growing).

I feel like the unnamed family in “The Colour Out of Space”. In the night, unseen, the color out of space descended into their well and poisoned them and their land. Nothing prospered.

The major risk factors are smoking, working in the chemical industry, and being male. The only risk factor I can find for me is being male. But something unseen continues to poison me.

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A Buddhist Cop’s Approach to Justice

It would be good if we had mindful, compassionate soldiers.  It is vital that we have compassionate, mindful public safety officers, AKA police officers.  Part of why our society is coming apart is that in too many places, the police act more as an occupying army enforcing the privilege of the rich.  Read A Buddhist cop’s approach to justice for one police officer’s experience on the beat and in social justice work.  It’s good.

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Job 1

When recovering from cancer and cancer treatment (surgery and chemotherapy in my case), my experience and those I know is that recovering is Job 1.  There is no Job 2, just distractions, non-essential entertainment, and essential chores.

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