Sunday, January 22, 2012

Travels in a Stone Canoe

This new journey, if it was to be anything beyond mere spiritual windmill tilting, was to be a journey of respect, a journey honoring sacred metaphors, of others and ourselves…Steve and I had invested meaning in the feather and the claw, and they returned that meaning to us a thousand fold.  We chose to see them as sacred, and they became sacred… by accepting them as metaphors of our own we found ourselves infused with their metaphorical power.  They gave us a kind of directional fix in that seemingly directionless world we were entering.
Harvey Arden, Travels in a Stone Canoe

Metaphors and the Seemingly Directionless – in other words, how do we understand the spiritual and physical?  How to we even speak of it, let alone understand and act? 
What Really exists and how do we change?

On January 4th, 2012 we expected that the oncologist wouldn’t call for at least a few days.  Instead, he phoned Evie within hours.  Her PET scan was lighting up.  All the ominous nodes that were seen three months ago were still there, plus a new one:  10/10 as a hot spot, 3 cm in diameter.

First, there had been the diagnosis over 2 years ago: Hodgkin’s lymphoma, “the good cancer that is easy to cure.”
Then, there was the early relapse after the chemo. … not so easy after all, they called it “aggressive.”
Now, there is the apparent relapse after high dose chemo and a stem cell transplant.  The doctors want to do a biopsy, re-state the diagnosis, and prepare for a second transplant.
In essence, they suggest we confirm that cancer has returned and they offer the very slim chance that a second transplant, more dangerous than the first, and reducing an asymptomatic Eve into a someone resembling a concentration camp survivor, will actually provide a cure.

Eve has politely declined the offer.
Within a day she had quit her job, she and Michael had decided to sell their house and move up to the mountains where they can build a healing center.
She told me, “Something physical inside broke,” and I knew exactly what she meant.
These turning points feel physical.  It can be a breaking, a letting go, a wrenching loose, or simply a dissolving – but you feel it. 
It’s the end of clutching onto beliefs that simply do not serve – not if you want to live.  And mostly, it occurs so deeply that just exactly what is going can be hard to say.
None the less, something physical inside brakes as you finally throw yourself into the unknown, out beyond the rules you knew.

To the nonbeliever, which we all are when it comes to systems we don’t “believe” in, the belief systems of others tend to be quaint, bizarre, even silly.  The more we’re stuck on the truth of our own metaphors, the more the metaphors of others seem false… and yet…If this was quackery, it was apparently successful quackery.  Does it matter how we’re healed as long as we are healed?
Harvey Arden, Travels in a Stone Canoe

At each critical junction of Eve’s journey with cancer, we have tried to read all the science.  Curiously, we are suited to this task.  Eve, her dad (my brother), and I all have PHDs in biology.  We have followed the traditional Hodgkin’s treatments, and we have supplemented with the best complementary therapies we could find including nutrition, qigong, and meditation. And again, curiously, we are well suited to this as her dad is founder of a lab to do this.
At each turn we’ve felt we’ve taken the best path and followed that.
And still – there is that PET scan lighting up.

So, we’ve had to fashion yet another best plan. And it now looks like this:
1)       Therapeutic Nutrition:  The Gerson Diet – with modifications Evie feels make sense to her.  My dad became fixated with this during the 1970s – not that he had cancer or even knew anyone.  He just got interested and really studied it, eventually meeting Charlotte Gerson herself.  Jaquie Davison’s book Cancer Winner describing the power of the diet to heal and has stayed in with me for over thirty years.  I tried the diet myself back then and became convinced that while it supplies nutrition and physical substance, its actual power lay in the prana or Qi that it supplies.

2)      Medical Qigong: Early on we found the story of a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor relapsing three times and finally curing himself with Qigong. We also found the work of Guo Lin, a Chinese woman who used her family's Qigong to cure herself and many others.  So, what the diet stirs in Qi – here we add trained professional support.  Our practice of Taoist guided movements also works upon this level.

3)      Archetypal or Shamanic healing:  I made up this term.  It stems from what’s growing within my own practice of Taoist meditation.  Working with Eve the past 18 months, spontaneously I started channeling .  I’m sorry now I never wrote up our experience with a rather Samurai-like character who helped release the stems cells Evie need for her transplant.  I’m not sure whether one would categorize this energy as subtler than the level of Qi – it is certainly more personified and thus seems to suggest a different yet complementary approach.

4)      Meditation:  We have been practicing a Taoist breath meditation for some time.  Eve also learned TM over Christmas.  We also decided to try the Holosyn binaural beat assuming that a physical way of entraining coherence into the brain may help at times when too many others things in mind and body seem to swamp the system. 

So, there’s the plan.  It still feels like we’ve assembled a lot of band instruments and they are strewn around the floor, yet to be picked up and played in anything resembling a concert or even a simple tune.
But, I feel compelled to understand healing – physical, practical, healing of the tissues.
Curiously, this seems to require understanding metaphysical: the nature of reality and what is true.
“Something physically broke inside” and with that thought, that metaphor, Evie jumped into a new way of being.  It feels like something breaks, but actually what breaks is merely a construct of consciousness, something that we’ve held inside and can only express in words and metaphors. 
And while such beliefs or metaphors can hurt us, they can also heal.

I was beginning to see the value of such notions... It’s a real power, a palpable power, such notions, such metaphors, aren’t soft headed mysticism.  They’re entirely practical even essential…all conceptual worlds- yes, even America… are in the final analysis metaphors.
Travels in a Stone Canoe.


Eve Bralley said...

Thanks so much Patty for putting these words down. I've struggled so to type this, and you say it so beautifully and meaningfully. I appreciate you so and I love you.

Pincushion said...

Dearest Pat..and..Eva..
even though I don't know you directly..please know that i will be directing my prayers towards you..

So poignant..sigh..

All my love

Pat Bralley said...

Hi Anjali,
Thanks for your kind words and thoughts. We are doing well here. And we'll just see how this unfolds. Love, Pat

Augustin said...

I love this, "Curiously, we are suited to this task." These curiosities seems to be growing in number and intensity. That, or I'm paying more attention.

This family is on the fast track for spiritual growth. We're listening, universe.

Take me, take me, take me...

I love you, Patty.