Invisible Scar Tissue

Scar tissue is not always visible.  A couple of years ago, I had laparoscopic gallbladder removal. I came home with a couple of tiny incision wounds on my abdomen. As I recovered, I felt a tight cordlike substance passing vertically underneath my abdominal muscles. It was so hard that I suspected they left some kind of instrument or shunt there. At a follow-up visit, the surgeon was happy to see the quick healing of the wounds. “I can barely see the incisions,” he said. I asked if he had placed something in my abdominal cavity. He assured me that nothing was left there and I was healing very well. Still the tight cord in my abdomen remained. In Yoga classes, I couldn’t do wheel pose anymore.

From the viewpoint of body worker, the surgeon was wrong. He left a long scar inside of my abdomem when he pulled out my gallbladder.  The scar tissue was not visible from outside, and it still restricted the movement of fascia on the right side of body. It took me almost a year to break down the scar tissue somewhat so that I could be in a wheel pose again without restriction.  I still feel it, though.

Scar tissue, if not addressed, will affect the whole body, and the invisible ones are more difficult to treat.  Your entire body has to accomodate the restriction imposed by the scar tissue.

Psychological scars are like invisible scar tissue.

I will never see you again

1-IMG_0036Some occupations require us to remain on the bank and see the current of river flow. Teachers are the obvious one.  Kids come and go, come and go, never the same kid, but the life flows in front of their eyes continuously.  And the teacher him/herself never stays the same. Therapist might be another such occupation.

Whenever you are the one who remains on the bank, you will see the flow of the current.  One leaves, another comes, and leaves.  Seeing off people helps me to be aware that it was once a life time encounter with that particular person.  And it was once a life time encounter with that particular person I was.

The current of the flowing river does not cease, and yet the water is not the same water as before. The foam that floats on stagnant pools, now vanishing, now forming, never stays the same for long. So, too, it is with the people and dwellings of the world.   (Hojoki, Circa 1212)

I’ve been going to the same gym everyday for the last 2 and half years.  Trainers know me well.  It’s like a family.  I realized younger trainers were nomads. They come and they go.  I am the one who remains on the bank seeing them come and go.  It makes me feel sad when one of my favorite coaches leaves.  And I realize that I also was the one who came and went.

For the Boys

I am sad because I know I will never see you again.  I already miss you because I know I have missed the opportunity to know who you are and who you will be.

You say you might drop by when in the city.  I might happen to be there to see you coming down the stairs.

But I will never see you again in the way I see you today.

I see you moving out of the country as I did long time ago, with emotional devastation leaving behind, with anxiety and excitement in front of you.   Then, Young Man, you will be who you will be there in the land you have chosen even before I saw you for the first time.

Thinking about your youth and the path you are about to take fills my heart with a painfully raw love of life,  cruelty and grace of time, and preciousness of the moment: any single moment of my transient presence in your life.

You are not my child or my love.   You are one of the beautiful young men I happened to know.  (All young men are beautiful as all young women are.)  And I love you all as I love my child.

And I love who I was and who I could be at your age, leaving everything behind and flying out to the country to be my home.  I didn’t know I would never see her again.

Crazy Making

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When your memory and somebody else’s memory don’t match, it’s crazy making. When my mom says we were an ordinary family, that her husband was a smart and sensitive man with a good heart, it makes me feel I am the crazy one, especially when my dad doesn’t recognize me anymore and he is much easier to deal with when I am not his child but a nice stranger who visits him.

We rewrite memories to survive.  That’s fine.  I do, too.  I’m glad you had a happy marriage, Mom.  And you guys did your best.  But it’s not my story.  You may not rewrite mine.  It’s mine, not yours.  I am not responsible for yours, neither do you.

Impermanence

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The current of the flowing river does not cease, and yet the water is not the same water as before. The foam that floats on stagnant pools, now vanishing, now forming, never stays the same for long. So, too, it is with the people and dwellings of the world.

Excerpt from Hojoki: The Ten Foot Square Hut by Kamo No Chomei.  Translated by Anthony Chambers 2007

I learned this old prose in high school in my old country.  It’s like a Shakespeare monologue.  You need to know by heart.  It’s all about Impermanence.  Impermanence was embedded in my old country’s collective unconscious.  It was a norm.   It is how it is.

Recently I was watching a kid’s educational TV program of my country.  It’s like Sesame Street, to teach children how to read, count, and have fun in the language.  And I heard kids reciting this prose.   My jaw dropped.  They teach preschool kids Impermanence?   Wow…

As born and brought up in a Buddhist culture, I’ve never questioned Impermanence.   It is how it is.  And still I often wander away, falsely believing otherwise, believing it is the same water as before.  And again the universe reminds me that I am the foam that floats on backwaters.

The truth will set us free.

Therapy Session with Dr. Lecter

It cracks me up every time Dr. Hannibal Lecter (the psychiatrist) asks Will Graham (the client), “How does it make you feel like?” and without fail Will answers, “It makes me feel like… ” Then Will’s focus moves inward, searching for the felt sense just as a well-trained body oriented therapy client does.

They are good.  Their therapy session is exquisite.  Both the therapist and the client know how it works and dance very well together.   I’m sure some of the writers have had a very good therapist.

How do I know?   I know because my therapy sessions went exactly like that and it worked.  Fortunately, my therapist was not a cannibalistic serial killer nor a narcissistic intelligent psychopath.

So when your therapist asks you how it (whatever the issue of the day is)  makes you feel like, you might want to look inward and start your answer with  “It makes me feel like …”  In the end, it is what matters, not what you think but how you feel.

Hands of Kuan Yin

“I just might be able to walk again,” she said in a barely audible voice. “I know,” I said under my breath, feeling every details of her tarsal bones. She knew she would never and I knew she knew.

Her feet permanently dropped at the ankle like a long stem rose brought home the night before sadly drooping in the morning light, making me feel slightly guilty of something which I didn’t know I did or I didn’t.

She wanted to have them dorsiflexed. “My toes stayed curled up in my boots today. They want to be stretched,” she said. I held her foot and slowly reproduced walking motion.

“When I move your foot, just imagine that you are moving it by yourself,” I said.
“My brain is not sending correct signals, isn’t it?”
“Your brain is sending signals all right. It is your nerves that are not delivering messages to your muscles,” I explained. “It’s like a highway with the southbound lanes closed. You can take a cab to JFK airport, but there are no cabs to take back to Manhattan…” I caught myself walking into the dangerous territory of reality. Your motor neurons are dying. You can’t rehabilitate dead neurons. That was what I didn’t say.

“When you want your feet on the wheelchair footrest, your friends place them on it for you, don’t they? Your mind sends a message to the feet to move and your feet are placed on the footrest, even in the exact way you want them to be placed, with the heels of the boots on, not off, the footrest. It’s just the same as your doing by yourself. Your mind moved your friends’ hands.”

“I’ve never thought that way,” she said and started to cry in silence. I’ve never thought that way either till now.

Her feet, which didn’t have to carry her weight any more, were impeccably soft and ice-cold at the same time. “Nirvana,” she sighed when I jostled her foot in my hands. Her leg muscles held no tension. There were no muscular defenses to disarm. I remembered her once athletic legs. With her nerves failing to fire, her muscles were wasting away. “Floppy, aren’t they?” she kept reiterating. Flaccid they were. Her immobile legs and feet were still cold as if she had been standing on the winter edge of the water, letting the surf sweep cross her legs, every wave slightly higher, taking away her body heat, higher and colder until it touched her knees. The frigidity had been steeped deep in the bones, refusing to thaw.

I am palpating a skeleton, I thought. Through the thin layers of flaccid tissue my fingers could clearly see bones and tendons. When I touched a tiny muscle behind the knee, she said, “I didn’t know it would feel so good to be touched there. I would never have known.”  You would never have had to be aware if your legs didn’t fail to move, I thought.

She moaned. “Is the pressure too much?” I asked. “No. It just feels so good,” she said and then asked, “Why does it feel so good?”

“Your body is ready to receive. It is difficult for most of us to surrender to receive. I feel Ki is flowing into your body effortlessly,” I said. “Most people resist and block the flow, you know.” I was making up as I went, searching for words she wished to hear. Or was I verbalizing what I always knew?

“Yes, I can feel Ki flowing in,” she said, and after a pose, continued, “Don’t you think I just might be able to…”

She wasn’t talking to me and I didn’t say anything.

Her feet and legs were finally reclaiming warmth, like the frozen ground moistened by the gentle rain. She hadn’t talked for a while. She was drowsing off.

“I fell asleep,” she said.
“It’s O.K. to fall asleep.”
“I don’t want to. I’ve been fighting hard not to.”

I didn’t understand. It’s the whole point of getting a massage, isn’t it? To relax and drift into sleep away from the tension of waking life, to yield to somebody else’s hands, allowing somebody else to take care of you.

“I want to remember how good I’m feeling now. If I fall asleep, I won’t remember. I don’t want to miss even a moment of it.”

The muscles had transformed themselves into a purely sensory organ, responsive to external stimuli, while unable to react. Like a legendary musical instrument, she responds to my touch and she is listening to the music that she only can hear. Her intact sensory nerves respond to the touch with the ever-changing combination of pressure, temperature, rhythm, direction, slow, fast, light, deep, circle, straight, faster, lighter, nerves firing and resonating.

What a state of being. She had a pure awareness of the body and I was resonating together with her.

The hands of Kuan Yin (観音)touched me through her.

The Japanese word for “treatment” literally means laying on of hands.

RIP my friend,  July 29, 2011.  You were a warrior.

Kuan Yin

At the time of crisis, we need Hands of Kuan Yin (観音).  Just open your heart and listen.

In the Surangama sutra we hear of Kuan Yin, the bodhisattva who through the power of her practice of listening, and turning the mind around through that accurate, powerful, listening, is able to deeply hear the cries of the world.

She hears these cries with a still and perfect serenity, and she understands that they are all manifestations of the perfect light of enlightenment. Because of this she remains peaceful, and is able to offer exactly the right kind of help to beings, each one a different help, according to the situation.

Excerpt form In Times of Trouble by Zoketsu Norman Fischer

http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3409&Itemid=0

RIP RW

Living in the Present Moment

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One’s Journey often starts before one knows it. My friend, Maria, became aware of weakness in her abdominal muscles in the summer of 2010. She didn’t know it was going to be her last summer. She was diagnosed with ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, in December 2010. Every summer, I think about how she lived the last year of her life and contemplate on the meaning of living in the present moment.

This could be my last summer.
This could be my last August.
This could be my last sunset.
This could be my last breath.
This could be the last time to see you.
I love you all.

Join me, if you would like, to be fully present in this moment of our life, in this summer, in this August, on this day, at this time of the day… It only takes a moment. And Breathe for my friend. Thank you… I love you all.

A Fridge in the Backyard

I don’t watch the reality show about hoarding because I have more than one person in my life who hoard, and I have more than one friend who have more than one person in their lives who hoard.  There is nothing entertaining about hoarding.

My father was more than frugal.  It made sense when we didn’t have much.  He saved things and stuff for a time of scarce.   He fixed things with the stuff he collected and saved.  He didn’t allow us to throw away things.  I didn’t understand the logic behind keeping broken fridges and TVs in our backyard, though.  “It’s good for a tool shed,” he said.  The rusty old fridge is still there.  It doesn’t look like a fridge anymore.  I don’t know if there are tools inside.

We were really lucky because he didn’t save newspaper and magazines.

I used to travel back and forth between the U.S. and my old country schlepping a large suitcase.  After years of airline check in baggage treatment, it cracked.  I got a new one and asked my mom to get rid of the beaten up one.  When I visited them a year later, I found the broken suitcase in my parent’s bedroom.

“What the hell is it doing in your bedroom?” I asked.  “Your dad didn’t let me throw it away,” my mother said.  My father doesn’t like to travel.  He doesn’t even like to go out of the county.  Where did he think he was going with the broken suitcase?  It was not about being frugal anymore.  They had to have storage sheds built in the backyard for the stuff… three of them.

Inside the house, my mom managed to contain his madness in one room.  It was filled with empty boxes, toilet paper rolls, tissue paper boxes, and bars of cheap soap.   “Why did you buy so many bars of soap?” I asked my mother.  “They were on sale,” she said. “Your father drove all the way to the shopping center to buy them.”   I stared at piles of soap bars probably enough to supply for three life time, and said to myself, “How long is he planning to live?”

When I stand and stare at the room full of toilet paper rolls, tissue paper boxes, and bars of cheap soap among other stuff, I see my father’s fear.  I feel trapped.  I lose the will to change.  The fear steeps out and penetrates into who I am.

I know it is not my fear, but I need to be aware of its presence.

Universe provides what one needs.  My father lived in the same house for the most of his life, creating fortress with stuff, a fortress for him, a prison to me.   I moved many times, one time across the Pacific with a single suitcase, several times out of broken relationships.  I was forced to shed stuff like a stray dog.  As soon as I settled in a new place, usually smaller than the one before, I started accumulating stuff.  Every time I moved, I had to choose what should be part of my life and what should not.  It served as a priceless mindfulness training.  I still accumulate stuff, while I know my fear.  Universe doesn’t have to force me to move anymore just to remind me to choose.  Once in a while I do it voluntarily, especially when I witness somebody else’s fear in their space full of stuff.

Karma and a Tiger

An Interpretation of Karma based on a supposedly Japanese story quoted by Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth.

A samurai was murdered by another samurai.  He was the head of family.  The heir had to avenge his father’s death and kill the murderer to restore the family honor.  The young son set off to search the murderer, who was on the lam.  It was a long and difficult journey.  Until he could right the wrong done to his father, his family would remain in limbo in samurai hierarchy.  He did not have any source of income.  So he degraded himself into a laborer, a hired help, and a peddler –these jobs were in lower caste in those days –to support himself while pursuing the enemy.  Years past and finally, the not-so-young-anymore man found the murderer of his father.  When he confronted the man face to face, he became aware of his own hatred toward the man.

Upon being aware of his feeling, he walked away without killing the man.

The father had some kind of karma that led to his murder.  The father passed on his karma to his son, while the other samurai now bore the karma of his own as a murderer.   The son paid for his father’s karma by suffering and humbling himself to pursue the murderer.  At this point, he is just an executor of the law of samurai social structure.  However, if he kills the murderer with his own anger and hatred in his mind, he generates his own karma, thus, the chain of hatred keeps on going.  The key word is Awareness.   That’s the way to avoid reincarnation with karma attached.

What would the young samurai do after that?  Since he didn’t follow the rule, he would remain outcast from his original caste.  There is an opening for a “shift”.  He could leave the samurai caste, so that the old “rule” would not apply.

A tiger kills prey to survive.  That’s what a tiger does and is.  Killing itself generates no additional karma for a tiger.  It just keeps him being a tiger.  That’s his karma in a larger context.  If he becomes aware and stops killing prey, he would die, because it means he rejects his being a tiger.  In his next life, he might find himself in a different realm.

I don’t know.  Just a thought.   And I don’t believe in reincarnation, anyway.