November 17th, 2008: Lovely weather enclosing a relaxing day and a few hours at work. I came home to an email from my friend Cris Maranze who wrote about attending a somatic healing workshop over the weekend. Many of the women in the seminar talked about the deep shame they experienced from their diseases (cancer, fatigue, etc.). “Hummmm,” I wondered, “have I felt any shame about having cancer?” I couldn’t remember those feelings which seemed odd. After all, a major attitude about illness in this culture blames the victim. People with HIV? Shameless wantons. Heart disease? Out of touch with feelings and no restraint with fat and sugar. Cancer? Well, what are my assumptions about cancer? Unexpressed anger and rage, I suppose. So if I have shame about my cancer, where do I put it? At that point, I realized that I have issues about being bald from chemo, as if my baldness would brand me as a cancer patient for all to see. Yes…and…so? I asked myself, what would it be like for others to see me and know on sight that I have cancer? Next step, I remembered those loathsome stories of lepers during the Middle Ages who were condemned in some principalities to walk forth clanging a bell while muttering, “Unclean, unclean,” to ward others away from contagion. Yes, I thought, that’s a deep taking on of shame. Imagine telling others: “Stay away from me. I can infect you. You can die from contact with me.” Whew! Imagine that level of outcast-ness. As I mused on all this weirdness, my next door neighbor knocked on my door. “I found a package for you downstairs,” he said, handing over a shipping envelope. The present was from my friend Marjie Anderson in Colorado, and she had sent me a beautiful knit winter cap with cashmere-soft lining. Don’t want to be bald? Wear a cap! And not just any cap; wear a stunning cap. This is not to dismiss the issues I’ve started to feel about my cancer as a public and private event. More on that forthcoming. Still, it’s always good to have options, especially options to being oppressed by shame.
Later this evening, I went into my healing garden and listened to the Dalai Lama recite Tibetan Buddhist sutras. Seems that the Dalai Lama had recorded this chanting and sent it to his friend Vaclav Havel during his bout with cancer. My friend Ulrike who lives in Stuttgart obtained a copy of the CD and sent me a version. First impression: the Dalai Lama has a very powerful set of lungs. Second impression: the Dalai Lama can reach into lower registers that would leave most basses gasping. The sound was surprisingly tuneful and sweet, not as staccato and abrupt as most sutra recitals I’ve heard. Third impression: OHM is a very, very powerful sound. The Dalai Lama sat on a cushion atop a open lotus pedestal (a new and timely addition to the garden). He was located a distance away from my feet so he actually sang up my body from toes to head. It was like long surges of sound sweeping through the length of my self, wave after wave of toning. Thank you, thank you.