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Archive for March, 2017

Underneath the Secret Sorrow…

Alice, my employer, left a check for me. I unsealed the envelope and began to cry her tears. Mine too.  The extra $65.00 dollars she added to my check came with a wave of pain, jumping into my energy field. The pain was riding on top of LOVE. Her heart-gratitude, the 65.00, an acknowledgement for the care I give to her brother Don, two years her junior.

“Please visit him as much as you can.” Her note said.

Don, nearly 57 years old, has been battling mental illness. A full blown war has been going on inside his mind and over-chemicalized brain.

Alice loves her brother Don yet she cannot tell him or show him directly, nor spend more than a few minutes a month in Don’s physical presence. Alice’s heart, so protected and armored, is breaking. Afraid to show emotion at all, Alice fears loss of her own sanity – through a waterfall of unending tears.

The caregiver, like any profession, has a particular expertise. What others find difficult to do, is simple for the true care-provider. Like Bikers and bicyclists when they spot a fellow rider, there’s a smiling recognition and inner kinship felt when one care-provider spots another amidst their work.

When I see those like Alice, who cannot show they care, it is easy to dismiss them with internal judgments, like:

“They don’t care” or “they don’t want their lives disrupted” – but the truth is much deeper than that. No matter what I tell myself or what story Alice believes, LOVE is why we care and also why we cannot show we care. For LOVE is all there is. LOVE spoken of in that phrase is not a cliche but a living truth, the eternal reality – all else arises and passes away. Even while absorbed in fleeting thoughts, stories and beliefs, LOVE remains, waiting- always waiting for us. We must realize this truth about LOVE for ourselves. All our greatest sorrows, pains and traumas – flickering wind gusts across the great ocean of LOVE.

People are afraid of physical illness for the same reason they fear death: the idea of loss of existence. With mental illness, another stigma is also added: shame.

“Billy just got cancer.” -but “Tony went nuts” – like somehow those with mental illness earned it or brought it about themselves. And Don was also diagnosed with skin cancer two years ago. A surgeon removed, what he later told Don was the second largest tumor-lesion of the year.

It’s been my secret sorrow, watching Don’s descent into the deeper depths of disconnect. For over 8 years, I’ve been a friend and caregiver for this most sensitive, beautiful man. No one really knows Don, has befriended him like I have. For Don does not see many people except the young lady, 20-something at the convenience store he walks to for a diet pepsi or the two women that share bits of kindness who work for his family business. When we take walks along the coastal shore, Don says a hearty ‘Hello’ to a good portion of the people who pass. He feels safe with me and reaches out to connect with others.

Most of those who Don greets, ignore him, make no gesture or other sign of acknowledgement. For they see Don and sense a deeply- conflicted soul.  Don’s inner conflict comes out in his gait, mannerisms and facial features. This disassociation energy pattern which Don embodies, we all carry.  Don, however, carries it overtly. This is a very threatening unmasking for a culture taught to avoid the inner life of feelings. They see in Don their own rejected self, their own demons. He triggers the covert aspect inside us and this hidden dimension of pain differs only in degrees of dysfunction. Even Don’s family members can barely muster the energy to be with him- except for his brother Kyle and cousin Richard–who see him a few times a month for about 30 minutes. Don’s sister Lucy sees him once a year on Christmas eve.

I have been the fortunate one, allowed to feel Don’s secret sorrow, to bare witness and befriend all the elements that manifest, from: wall punching to torturous displays of depression.

Don’s father took his own life, a violent form of suicide – a revolver bullet to the head, just one week before Thanksgiving. He had prostate cancer for years, a slow reduction in life quality, along with heart issues. Add to that- the loss of a 100 year old flower bulb business and a no longer manageable lifelong depression. This left Don’s father feeling out of control, thus the quick exit. Don has made 4 trips to 4 different Psych wards in the bay area since then.

Now my  beloved friend has entered a new stage. It’s like the anger and depression are gone. The Don I knew is gone, dropped into an abyss, fallen through to the bottom of a crevasse I do not recognize. Our playful camaraderie has lost its luster. Like a flat stone skimming off the ocean my jokes do not even touch Don. We still talk the latest sport’s news and Don always asks about my family only all of this conversation is coming from some robotic muscle memory.

This new San Jose Behavioral Health (Psyche Ward) Don has entered, has only two ratings, both one star:

“A relative was incarcerated here for over a week. Absolutely chaotic. Only one doctor for all the adolescents and some of the adults.”

“Scary, scary place. It’s like they try and get you inside and not let you out.”

Later I called and the phone rang 20 times. No answer. I called back and told the receptionist. She advised me to leave a message before transferring me again. I listened to music for a bit, the phone never rang. And in the last hours it has been discovered that the staff has not been giving Don his medication at all for 36 hours. And he is on a vast array of meds not meant to be instantly dropped.

This facility was the only one with a bed available. It requires a special code to get in; only three of us are allowed to see Don.

I trust it will not be like his last place, El Camino, a lockdown unit with a roving guard, maybe a padded cell with no windows, no chance to go outside and feel the sun, breathe fresh air or see a tree. No nature at all. No soul. Don will most likely be sedated, medicated to the hilt. For the psychiatric profession is about modulating symptoms and side effects, a sort of russian roulette for the mind.

I don’t know a thing really and perhaps this is the perfect place for Don right now. Since he is there per God’s will.

Yet I wonder: How in God’s earth can these type of environments be conducive to healing a man’s heart and soul? This heart yearns for Don to have a startling reversal, to come to the end of suffering. I feel somehow that I’ve failed him. But LOVE cannot fail. The manifestation and appearances matter little. LOVE pierces through as unseen magic, the formless yet Mighty Touch.

And maybe this overworked, singular doctor in charge of the entire adult ward, will not try to keep Don in a meditative stupor, instead working a miracle. Don has endured mega-extended lockups 30 plus years ago. A year at one place, 18 months at the prestigious Menninger’s Institute another time. These two week stays are nothing—so far. Back in those days, his 20’s he went through shock therapy (“it wasn’t that bad Mike”- he once told me), has had numerous experimental drug therapies yet these treatments could not touch his deepest pain and shame. (Amazingly, though the facility was quite spooky, the outpatient program was great for Don. They used felt pen art as a creative outlet and distraction mechanism and did ‘talk therapy’ which helped him return to a place of a bit more stability).

I’ve felt these places that Don journeys to–been dropped to my knees, praying for mercy, humbled to the core and burned at the stake with him. I didn’t back away. I stayed in the furnace and was cooked too; scalded alive, then thrown in the emotional freezer called hell and felt Don’s insanity directly. I found out that as the spiritual teacher Yogananda once said:

“We are all a little bit crazy but we don’t know it.”

Once we see this craziness, reveal it, a miracle happens. We step out of the craziness and watch the burning fire from the depths of soul. The holy presence of God plays out as crazy and enlightened, angry and ecstatic, depressed and joyful- all the diverse aspects of the ONE. We touch God Almighty in all that; for all of that is God.

The latest crisis came when Don did not sleep for 2 nights in a row. His mind went haywire and his liver and kidneys were most likely not metabolizing the medication properly. His live-in caregiver Manuel (yes a hispanic man from Mexico on another of the tough job assignments) has lived with Don for 15 years. Manuel is in emotional crisis himself, though he refuses to see it. He gives Don his meds twice a day and disappears into his room on most days, in a desperate attempt to retain his own sanity.

Don has been my charge, my brother, my friend. During the last 8 years of my physical illness, his mental illness has been there at my side. I see Don every week for 4 hours. Every time we get together, I show him the light-infused exit door from the penitentiary of his mind. He steps through and lets the light touch for brief respites – but then again the rushing onslaught of mind drags him back into perpetual thought realm we call hell.

I see our connection as a karmic payback of some sort- there’s really no other way to explain this journey. Sometimes it feels like a few sprinkles of pixie dust, a heel click and I can astral project back in time to meet a Renaissance detective to solve the case.

Don was Father Thomas back then, incarcerated in the cell next to me – and the detective will tell me, “…a mystic priest, no doubt about it.” The renaissance sleuth will go on:

“You were alone in some horrific dungeon, your mind absorbed in the repetitive madness of thought. No key, no clue- frantically trying to find a glimmer of truth, of light. But you stopped trying, stepped the wrong way off that fine precipice, cornices on both sides – one leading to the great unknown space of pure Consciousness and loss of personal identity called ego death. The other side a rocky, distorted fall into a incredibly loud city of sound, where voices appear real yet they are all in one’s own head. Listen to what Father Thomas told you back then…

“I was once like you are now, my dear brother. The thoughts are not real. Breathe into the open space. Find your true home there, where it has always been. Then those fugitive thoughts will give way to the enduring background free from thoughts.”

As the famous Jungian-oriented therapist John Weir Perry said:

“…the process that millions of schizophrenics go through in a way that is usually so very hazardous, isolated, and uncreative is nonetheless made up of the same stuff that seers, visionaries, cultural reformers and prophets go through.”

In the 1970’s Perry had many full recoveries (of schizophrenia) at his Diabasis House, an experimental residential facility in the San Francisco area. It was for those undergoing psychotic episodes, spiritual emergencies and other renewal processes. Unlike traditional Psychiatric Hospitals, Perry’s place was a true haven with no locked doors, no electroshock or medications. Instead patients were offered a safe space, creative arts like: painting and dance, along with massage, meditation and conversation. As Perry said:

“This helped those undergoing a profound shift go through their ego-death and emerge weller than well.”

Don has stopped trying now, a delicious place if you realize its the natural state. Total and complete hell if you don’t.

It’s one of those days where the simplest sound, reflection or sight brings tears. Yes, LOVE pours today. Thank God. Tis God. Always God. The spring winds are strong, the surf is alive. I stand overlooking the Capitola beach. I look left, then right. Surfers are in the lineup everywhere. Don is not visible but he’s here.

“Hey bro,” I say. “Capitola is breaking fine today. I wonder what Steamer’s is like? Must be big.” I interrupt Don’s silence. “Can you imagine Mavericks.” I wait for his reply, that wholly unique, heart-oozing wisdom and charm that comes through his words. And Don’s former surfer will sound:

“Well Mike, Capitola’s okay. Just wait though, at low tide it will be even better.” He’ll pause, casting a deep gaze to the distant northern shoreline. “Look at the Hook…”

The waves keep breaking, then a certain stillness remains between each crash. Love-filled tears fall. They are always here for Don.

The End of Life beckons…

The Conscious Transitions End of Life Retreat vision is still floating in the ether- coming to fruition on Divinity Time or not-either way is okay. During this lapse, I received a call to help a dying man.

I did not sleep but an hour or two, in broken bursts, the night before I was to start my new job. Tooth-related pain, jaw, neck, head along with the chronic issues – kept the body-organism called Michael wide awake.  I was suppose to begin with my client the following morning at 10 am. By 8 am, complete zombie mode was in full effect. Every iota of the mind/body energetics were demanding cancellation.

“Lie down. Go to sleep. Call them later and apologize.” All impotent mantras. I could do no such thing; providence would not allow it. The nausea was at a high level and the 2nd brain, the one in the stomach, joined the powerless-moaning chatter. “I can’t make it.”

I got in the car, on a empty stomach, a hot cup of digestive tea blend mixed with dragon well green and made the 30-minute drive to the westside of Santa Cruz. The incredibly tall and spindly palm tree marked the destination.

The bark of 18-month old Mac, a beautiful red standard poodle, announced my arrival. I pushed the front door open and there just to the left, was Terry, aged 84. Sound asleep on a hospital bed, his mouth wide open, face cocked upward. It was the pre-morgue snapshot, which causes most people to recoil, when it’s time to visit their dying granny. The faintest sound, a raspy breath, was heard; that of a man slowly dying from congestive heart failure. Once a robust 190 pounder with potent math skills, his wife Peggy soon informs me, Terry has withered down to 112 at last weigh in.

Hospice has been called, arriving last week, thus signaling the often dreaded  – 6 months or less to live – marker. In Terry’s case it may be only one week, the hospice nurse told Peggy. As I have learned, each ‘death’ journey is a unique and amazing final dance that is not decided by man (nor is any other element of life).

I entered the caregiving team via a call from a friend. I’ve never once looked for an end of life client (except when I initially joined hospice, for 2 years, in 2001).  The clients just come to me. I am here by some magic to watch a man die. Terry is dying well, so far; and kindness oozes from him as he lets go into the great unknown.

During one of Terry’s rare moment of lucid consciousness, his wife Peggy introduces us. I hold out a protein shake minutes later (the solid food days are over). Lightly pressing the plastic container against his upper chest to allow ease, gravity and straw access, I place the plastic suction device in his mouth. Terry looks at me with wide, bright eyes full of love; even as the life force dwindles he sees this new arrival as a welcome guest.

Unable to get up from bed- a permanent catheter has been installed. There’s no better word here; the body an engine with a large radiator leak gushing yellowish water all over. A labor intensive, huge mess for his already overworked mechanic wife, Peggy. Terry’s not a fan of the metallic needle up his urethra, no man in his right mind would be. Peggy, though, is ecstatic with the tech contraption, repeating more than once:

“A life saver!” Peggy, herself over 80 and the alpha-queen, is use to handling everything herself. We all have our limits, though, that’s why hospice is here and two new caregivers – my friend Sandra (saint in training) and myself included – have come to allow Peggy to do: errands, simple projects, nap, go to church or see a friend for lunch. She can rest at ease knowing her husband of 53 years is truly cared for.

In 16 years of end of life caregiving, Terry is one of the easiest.

There’s only one picture of my paternal grandfather Ray in our entire extended family archive. In that picture my grandfather looks much like Terry does now. My grandfather also died of congestive heart failure, doing so when my father was only 6 years old. This was about 1945 near the end of World War 2.

In truth, most people that cross our path in life, we will meet only once. Some will get a glance, look, or eye contact, a simple ‘hello’ or ‘excuse me’ – others a middle finger or a ‘fuck you jerk’; perhaps if we realize that this encounter will be the only time in our whole life that we might see this person, there would be more: ‘god bless’, ‘you are the best’ or ‘have a great day’.

When death approaches, this Western culture has been conditioned to run, deflect, escape, fight or defend. The best is acceptance. For the passing of the form is natural and ordinary, just like everything else in life. We need not push death away, get weird about the physical appearance or manifestation of symptoms, the inevitable decline. Nor does one need to fall into gloom and doom. As an end of life caregiver and one with a fair share of experience with chronic illness, I have done deep inquiry into ‘death”. I say:

“Take your best shot death and let’s see if you really are the bogie man everyone fears.” Death cannot touch our essential Self, dying is only part of a play, a happening, within God.

Terry took a few more sips and looked at me with the innocent and receptive eyes of an infant:

“Thank you so much.” Each word is enunciated with a slight pause allowing the bliss of gratitude to fully enter my heart. His words carry a genuine transmission. Each syllable, every single vowel, resonates – like a tibetan singing bowl.

“Is that enough?” I query softly.

“A little more. He sips some fresh pressed Tangerine juice this time.

“So good!” He looks at me like a puppy dog this time. “Do you want some?” This is the my lathery tongue to the face.

Mac, the flying red poodle, goes airborne and lands, nestling against Terry’s legs (he know not to go above waist level to avoid catheter disruption or pain). Terry smiles, then a few short gentle coughs are emitted. Within seconds Terry’s eyes close. He’s out cold; so is Mac. A Beethoven piano sonata continues. It’s been a beautiful backdrop for the simple yet profound unfolding of the last few minutes. Pandora switches to Mozart, soon Bach will play, as we head back to the place before clocks: the timeless dimension.

All of these distinctly different elements held together and sustained by that formless web of Pure Consciousness (God) – whichs eternally emits the essential oil of love. And in THAT, I’ve lost myself, in the SELF, in God, that brilliant presence dancing all creation. I’ve lost the nausea, the pain, my entire sense of self, too. Disappeared. Gone – until I think again.

Soledad, a 25-year hospice veteran Certified Nurse Assistant, has come for the first time. She’s a real business professional and true to her hispanic roots, brings an incredible work ethic and grace. She does the dirty work no one else wants to do: (like fieldworkers, landscape maintenance, dishwashers, maids and garbage men). Hispanics are the true native peoples of California. I am in awe of this culture of people that has been threatened, displaced, condemned and ridiculed since the outset of caucasian ‘civilization‘ — I use the word loosely. The White race, the caucasian peoples, have treated hispanic and latinos so poorly. Yet, these people retain their dignity despite all manner of hardship.

I say with utmost respect, the Hispanic and Latino people are the backbone and pulse beat of California. It’s as if all their children were given a mantra while in the womb: “Serve, work hard, give everything, expect nothing”. And no matter the job title (in hospice it is no different) they do the dirty work, in this case: Diaper change and sponge bath for Terry.

I ask if Soledad needs any help. She declines. Proud, prompt and straight to work she goes, effortlessly maneuvering Terry about- the true nurse that she is.  Soledad calls me at the end of her cleaning routine.

“Can you take one side of the towel…” It is draped under Terry so we can pull-slide him up a couple of feet towards the head side of the bed.

As she leaves, Soledad gushes towards Peggy:

“The lilies; how beautiful!”

“Why don’t you take some. Whatever you need. You know lilies, they always come back!” Peggy replies.

The next day a hospice nurse arrives. With several visits to the house already, Reanda is family.  She displays a palpable love for Terry, tenderly leaning over and touching his arm, folding over his bed for a hug. Mac, held close on leash, is let free. He greets her with a slathering smooch.

After Reanda leaves a growing stillness descends. Terry’s eyes open when I touch his arm lightly to check on him.

“Are you a doctor?” He asks curiously- as if speaking from an ethereal realm, eyes varnished with a celestial dew that cannot understand the concepts: present, past and future.

“Not really but I am an acupuncturist; kind of like a doctor of the East.” I lean close to him so we both can hear. Terry smiles and before drifting  into an angelic staging area, Peggy asks him if he would like some Jazz. He nods in the affirmative.

A few seconds later Pandora begins playing the Preservation Jazz Band tune: COME TO ME – and at that moment I notice a framed, matted print  of a magnificent Sycamore tree above Terry’s head. Under the tree at the bottom of the print it reads: The Holy Tree of Existence. And like the Holy Family of Jesus, this tree now shelters Terry, offering comfort for the coming Great Transition. 

Celebrating Friendship…

I don’t have many true friends; what I call ‘heart people’. These friends are beings that stand for compassion, truth, and have been at my energetic-side- no matter how it goes. This next blog is about one such friend.

Last spring marked the 20th anniversary of a friendship. It began when I set foot on India’s sacred soil. India is an ancient land that carries a potent undercurrent of spirituality. America, by contrast, is a young country mired in a rebellious adolescence. Across the sea from the United States, India sits silent and still (though she has been indoctrinated by enticing  Westernization in recent times) – She, India, is like a distant, great-great, grandmother whose most soulful whisper is heard only in quiet moments of deep contemplation.

On my trip there nearly 21 years ago, I met a young man who has become a lifelong friend. Shobhit G. was 19, myself 34, when we first crossed paths.

Just prior to our meeting, I had been on a 2nd class train for more than 40 hours, moving from the south to north: Bangalore to Delhi. I then took a donkey-carriage, at the suggestion of a Tibetan acquaintance I met on the train (the Tibetans are rugged people who have been filmed meditating in 10-15 degree temps for over an hour and not getting hypothermia). In this case, he was heat-testing me, I suppose.

We shared an open air journey from the train station to the bus station, easily more than 5 kilometers across Delhi mid day. It read 49 Celsius at the train station thermometer when I arrived. That is 120 F., up to the task of frying eggs on the pavement. Having had no shower in 3 days, the dirt, mixed with sweat-soaked sludge, then more dirt, sweat and god knows what else –all arranged on me like an exotic experiment for a cob-house building material. I was an extra for Frankenstein, the movie.

Then it began to rain; so I envisioned. Pure liquid delight. My eyes were closed and I turned upward to the sky, letting the heaven-sent drops fall over my face. I licked my lips in relish. Rapt grace. Then my eyes opened and I scanned the sky; not a cloud anywhere. The ‘rain’ still came, only now it was moving horizontal, floating in streaming droplets. I traced them to their origin, the underbelly of one of the donkeys.

God does have a sense of humor.

After the donkey-urinal baptism (an India trademark), I boarded a bus for what was to be an easy 5 hour bus ride to Rishikesh. The foothills of the Himalayas awaited, the bastion of yoga and cooler temps. Then about halfway to our destination the bus broke down. Years later I learned that this area was one of the most dangerous places for tourists in all of India. These ‘breakdowns’ were planned events with: theft, injury and death likely.

It was here at dusk, in some barren landscape near the outskirts of a tiny village, that I met Shobhit G. for the first time.

I got off the bus in disbelief, pure destitution with a backpack. Distraught, exhausted and without a clue. A 19-year old young man approached me with a friendly smile and solid english chops.

“Where are you going? He asked.

“Rishikesh.” I muttered.

“You will not get there tonight. The next bus to Rishikesh will not come until morning, maybe not at all. There is nowhere to stay here. Come with me back to my house. You can stay with my family.” I instantly acquiesced.

Three and a half hours after the bus breaks down, we get on another bus, standing in the aisle of this packed bus for a forty-minute ride to Roorkee, India. This is where Shobhit’s parent’s live. Our conversation was easy and heart-centered.

In this quiet, small village, I deboard the bus with him. We get a bicycle rickshaw to his house and I go in, covered in grunge to the point of extreme embarrassment, to meet his family

I would meet his parents, 2 younger sisters, a lower-middle class brahmin family that opened their heart and home to me. Shob’s sisters plied me with all kinds of questions about life in America. His parents just listened and smiled. I was home, an adopted son with his instant family. They had no running water but Shobhit got 2 buckets full daily, each containing about 3 gallons of water for use in the shower. He offered me one of his buckets. Never had I prized water so greatly.

In that shower  I felt each and every water molecule as it danced down my head, across my face and down. Vast accumulated debris washed away. Thus began a relationship, a true friendship that has defied any idea of what friendship is. For Shobhit and I have never seen each other face to face again.

Like penpals of the spirit, Shob and I began to exchange long letters the first two years after my return from India. About three years later, Shobhit noted that he would not be able to afford tuition for his last year of college. He needed some 60,000 rupees (India dollars). Shob did not ask for money, almost hiding this notation amongst some stories of life in India. I did not have much money at the time. Instead a vision came. I was to organize a benefit run, a fundraiser for him. It was a semi-cross country 5-mile run/walk starting in the small town of Scotts Valley and winding up through the northern hillside, ending at the top of Mount Roberta, at 1410 feet, with a great view of the Monterey Bay.

I gathered family, friends, and acquaintances. They loved the idea and invested their energy, enthusiasm and time. My partner at the time, Evelyn, donated an exquisite piece of original artwork as a grand prize for a raffle we had planned. Others followed with additional offerings: my parents avid supporters and amazing givers opened their home –(as they always considered it a hotel for all to enjoy) as a post-run celebration and festivity gathering point. My sister-in-law Amy and brother-in-law Paul were both integral components in the event coming together. Mom even made a bunch of food, as did my sister Cheri who recruited several friends as well. My brother, Jeff, blind early in life, power-walked the course with his guide dog–the magnificent long-haired, german shepherd, Hale. The event was a huge success.

After the event was over we counted the money together as a group. It came to almost  $1500.00-nearly the exact amount Shobhit needed for his tuition. As the currency exchange rate was about 40 rupees to the dollar, $1500.00 US dollars was about 60,000 rupees.

I sent the cash to Shobhit inside a spiritual book (for protection), with a letter telling him about the event.

A couple of weeks later a touching letter arrived from him. His whole family was grateful beyond words.

One day some 9 years later, after Shobhit had finished his advanced degree work, passed the Pharmacist-licensing exam and gotten his first job in the United States, a letter arrived. On that particular day I had been quite sick, delirious with fever, shaking, and deep, deep fatigue. Not known at the time, this was the early days of chronic lyme disease. The letter started with:

“Dear Mike,

With God’s grace I send you $1,500.00 dollars from my first check…” Tears just poured from my eyes. Again, even now, they trickle down.

Shobhit’s parents always ask about me; my parents about him. For 21 years we’ve shared our deep joy and moments of sorrow, remaining in attunement with each other. Shobhit now lives in Florida and has two daughters with his beautiful wife Gitanjala (I have seen pictures). Anika is 4 and Riya is 6. I am envisioning our reunion some time very soon–and getting to meet his whole family.

Shob has sent money to me a couple of other times and finally I told him that he must focus on his children’s college education–this has stopped him for now!

Today I intuited him ‘feeling down’ and sent him a message of love and gratitude- because that’s what friends do.

He responded, saying “I’ve been so stressed lately…and finished with ‘I love you Mike.’

Later I phoned him, Shob’s been working hard to start his own pharmacy, away from the mainstream soul-killing conglomerate chains. His vision is to have a personal relationship with his patients (as he calls them), to treat them with the utmost care, not another prescription-fill.  His primary stress-related episode involved a close friend/pharmacy Tech who worked for his business. He found out that she had been stealing money and drugs from his pharmacy for two years. The incident hit him very hard. Shob said to me:

“She cried on my shoulder nearly every day. It was all a lie. She could be a hollywood actress.”

I finished the phone call by telling him that Doc Mike’s prescription was a 3-day sabbatical in the mountain wilderness, to let good tidings wash over him and refresh his spirit. I noted that I ‘expected that he would be a compliant patient’ and we made a tentative plan to meet later in the year in the mountains of California.

A bumper sticker, I just read, captures this encouragement well:

“May the FOREST be with you”- my beloved friend.

 

Special Alert Blog…

I have a friend who has been wracked with visions from a past life (I think they are relieved after seeing 2 Hawaiian healers). For decades he has believed he was a Nazi dentist in a past life. I’m putting my money on the LSD therapy he tried in 1976 to resolve this Holocaust memories. You know the one, where he attempted to strangle his therapist mid-session.

“That went well.”

He’s nearly 70 now and we met at a spiritual gathering in 2009. The lead teacher, it seemed, was helping many people with past life issues and Jesus problems. This is not why I went. Does anyone know why I went?! Anyway, the misfit Christian’s flocked to this teacher like Santa’s toys trying to get into the Elf workshop.

Most of the Christians who come to these spiritually-centered events no longer believe in the mainline religious doctrine and dogma. They still love Jesus the Christ just fine.

Only these various christian sects: evangelists, catholics and others have left out the mystical aspect of their faith tradition-that is: living the awakened life just as Jesus did.

This has left the congregational castaways distraught and confused. They come to spiritual teachers (with no religious affiliation) so they can taste the direct experience of divinity within themselves. They are no longer able to deal with original sin, guilt and the ‘have to’s’ and ‘shoulds’ that one day will lead to heaven.

I am speaking primarily of the mainstream religious, fundamentalist, conservative-based churches. For the church hierarchy seems to simultaneously canonize their Saints (most of them mystics) while at the same time denying and condemning the mystical. Instead the Church creates the Easter Bunny myth – which in some bizarre way promotes membership before the resurrection. It’s all quite astonishing.

The liberal christian churches are more open and slowly beginning to bring small particles of mysticism back. One day we might even here the mystics being quoted:

“My Beloved is the mountains – And lonely wooded valleys – strange islands – And resounding rivers – The whistling of love-stirring breezes – The tranquil night at the time of the rising dawn – Silent Music – Sounding solitude – The Supper that refreshes and deepens love.

-Saint John of the Cross

Or, Meister Eckhart, pure mystic and a Dominican Priest:

“The most important hour is always the present. The most significant person is always the one sitting across from you right now. The most necessary work is always: LOVE…for the person that has learned to let go and let be, nothing can ever get in the way again.”

In the non-dual spiritual circles, the mystical is alive and shining but the communal heart is missing in most of them. Instead of instantly helping one of their satsang-congregation, they will often dismiss them with statements like “It’s just part of the path; or “good luck with that”, with no help forthcoming unless their beloved teacher is sick, when the entire satsang congregation jumps to earn special merit and enlightenment-brownie points.

The religious castaways want to experience heaven directly now, while living, to see the truth in the two most essential Biblical scriptures of all: ‘The Kingdom of God is Within’ and ‘Be still and know that I am God’. They are unable to do this within the strict religious orthodoxy – without leaving.

And in one area the Christian Churches, most all of them, far excel over non-dualistic spirituality; that of community. The church members help each other in crisis and true need, no matter the cause, why or how.

And in leaving the church one must let go of this great benefit of orthodox religion–that of community. This loss of community is felt deeply and the cause of much pain. For many of those leaving mainstream religion have been blown open by a mystical experience, life intensity or soul-altering encounter and they come to these spiritual teachers to help find an anchoring-point in the vastness of Consciousness- the unknown, mystical land.

Like my friend, these seekers came by the dozens to this spiritualist to recover their faith. And the spiritual advisors of today must be part priest, witch doctor, exorcist, past life regressionist and shrink – to deal with modern man’s vast array of delusional impulses, emotional deep-freeze and psychotic episodes. This is why, with the loads of: money, fame and spiritual hero worship at stake, a new profession is exploding: Spiritual Teacher (with no religious affiliation). One must be deeply earnest to find a true teacher here; authentic spiritual teachers are out there but many imposter, half-baked, spiritual guru-wannabe’s are as well.

The Nazi dentist, past life thing truly was ‘real’ to my friend, torturing at times based on our conversations. Besides the inner demons (thoughts)-which made up his whole phenomena, my friend’s outer waking life showed no negative correlative karma—in the dental arena at least.

I’m starting to wonder, however, if I wasn’t his dental assistant back then. Though not rocked by torturous thoughts and visions of unnecessary dental procedures and experiments inflicted on people, the actual fact is: this mouth has been pounded, beaten and yanked upon, and bled. UNCLE! Time to call the oral surgeon. He’ll fit me in and add some torque to an already, as he said – “difficult extraction process” and “you may have to ride this out for a couple of weeks.”

Thanks doc.

Number 3, you might have forgotten or never gave him a second thought, but he did not go quietly. Drilled into 3 pieces to match his 3 roots, chiseled, hammered, drilled again and again. Did I mention tugged? At one point the oral surgeon, a sweetheart of a guy by the way, I’m sure was going to put his feet on my chest for more leverage. Even with all the modern equipment, extracting an FN tooth is still a battle. When Number 3 finally left, not so much as a whimper was heard.

But did Tooth Number 3 leave any depth charges in his wake? You know, babies: necrotic bone potholes, bits of residual periodontal ligament or other pissed off brethren. Next time it’s definitely half a fifth of JD and a pair of pliers-I’ll pull it myself.

So instead of a quick recovery, I am into what is called: Dry Socket. They say it happens somewhat rarely, normally with wisdom teeth extractions, and takes place when an improper blood clot forms exposing the bone underneath. Holy shit batman! Misty Migraine marries Stanley Steroid. This was further exacerbated by an allergic-type reaction to the anesthesia mixture ( Most dentists and oral surgeons no longer use novocaine, and haven’t in over 30 years, instead using septocaine hydrochloride and epinephrine and perhaps other added agents. So many updates come down the pike and most dentists just accept them as an improvement) Allergic reactions include:

  • tongue pain or swelling,
  • facial swelling,
  • headache,
  • mouth sores,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • constipation,
  • diarrhea,
  • upset stomach,
  • increased thirst,
  • drooling,
  • nervousness,
  • dizziness,
  • drowsiness,
  • ear pain/earache,
  • neck pain,
  • joint or muscle pain,
  • unusual or unpleasant taste in your mouth,
  • numbness or tingly feeling,
  • mild skin rash or itching,
  • runny nose, or
  • sore throat.

Dry Socket is a Native American name for the pet feral cat you never see and never want to see again. Dry Socket, my feline friend laughed at Advil; thought Tylenol was catnip. Time for some upper level help from the Grandfathers on this one: that be the Opiate Clan and Mr. Vicodeine. Find the bloodstream pronto! I’m definitely astral-projecting to the dead Shaman (they never die) – the one I badmouthed 20 years ago for trying to sleep with my partner.

“Take the arrows out of Mikey Doll’s face, jaw, neck and head–Oh pretty please. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll add. “You can sleep with her now.”

One moment at a time. No mind story, just sensation. No labels: ‘pain’, ‘nausea’ – just breath. Otherwise a dramatic mess starts with “I” am in pain. “I” this and that. But if there’s no “I” thought story, then what?!

“But I could vomit any minute.” “I” again. Who or what is “I”? Tracing it back with inquiry, no “I” is found. No “I” was ever there. Migraine, nausea are only associative labels added on to continue the false narrative. Tracing back, tracing back to the source of “I”- “I” is gone, never there, ending in SOURCE, what always is our true nature.

 

*Disclaimer: The following blog was written while the author was under the influence of Dry Socket and edited/translated while high on Vicodeine (blissful apathy) and therefore he cannot be held accountable for content:)

The Private Sea…

In November 2016 my friend and I were having breakfast when the word floatation,  written on a sign, caught my eye across the street. After we had finished eating, on the way to our nearby beach walk (Santa Cruz), my friend and I entered the quantum age Floatation Center called: Equilibrium. We received a warm greeting from Dominique, one of the owners of the new business. He smiled brightly at us and appeared to be immersed in some Oceanic bubbly: extra-curricular floatation. Dominique’s inner delight was on display during our entire visit to this shortcut to Atlantis. He wowed my friend and I with an enthusiastic overview of floatation, technology meets tranquility at their cutting edge Center.

The primary highlight for me was getting to see the two floatation tanks. Both tanks were the largest I had ever seen, utilizing 1200 pounds of epsom salt. Each had a built in air filter, water heater (that keeps the water temperature at a constant of 93.5 F – what is known as the sacred temp. This being skin temperature, so there is no sensation of hot or cold-enabling the body-mind to let go even deeper). Besides the natural purification from the high density epsom salts, the tanks had built in UV light and hydrogen peroxide sterilization and a high capacity filter. After each float the tank water is cycled through this natural and powerful purification system 7 times between each float. (NO chemicals are used.) I was impressed and booked on as a monthly floater – with options to buy additional floats whenever needed.

When I first encountered floating, I was working for a high-tech transportation company. A stress-related itching syndrome was literally, as they say for a reason, ‘driving me crazy’. In truth suppressed frustration, anger and rage were igniting and crying for release. A horrific feeling experience;yet pure grace incognito. This itching was not like a mosquito sting or surface sensation relieved by a few appropriately aimed scratches. I would dig at spots, particularly on my forearms, often until they bled, with little or no relief. These buried feeling states and inclinations are what they call in India vasanas, a term which covers a wide variety of conditioning patterns, including: unconscious propensities, perpetual thought patterns, childhood psychic injuries and karmic residues. My initial intuition, that the tank was a gateway to consciousness and a new life, would take years to be realized. As John Lilly, the tank’s inventor once discovered through his own direct experience, referring to isolation therapy in the tank:

“…the mind does not pass into unconsciousness, the brain does not shut down. Instead, it constructs experience out of stored impressions and memories.” These latent impressions and ancient memories come vividly to the fore while floating thus accelerating the release of vasanas. And according to the sages of India, the vasanas must be scorched or purged from the system in order to sustain the natural state (true meditation), that is: pure awareness and bliss.

John Lilly was a neurophysicist who worked for NASA and also did human dolphin research and was involved with the cutting edge liberals of his era: Ram Dass, Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg. In the last two decades of his life, Lilly used the Self-inquiry meditation of the famous sage Ramana Maharshi.

The floatation tank is truly one of the great aids for true spiritual practitioners of all walks of life and religious affiliation. An equally valuable tool to enhance devotional depth while also heightening intuitive wisdom – since floatation minimizes external interaction and distraction while greatly enhancing exploration of the internal domain.

In 1987, 30 years ago, I initially discovered the floatation tank. The only place offering floatation in the bay area at that time was in Los Gatos, California. Soon I was  getting a walk through introduction, told to shower before and after-along with all the rest. The Samadhi tank I used at that time (Samadhi-one of the original pioneering companies), was a soundproof and lightless isolation vessel filled partway with 800 pounds of epsom salt. This quantity of epsom salt allows one to float on top of the water in zero-gravity environment. The epsom salt makes the tank waters naturally sterile, helping to create an atmosphere of buoyancy unknown to our human organism since gestation in the womb.

It took some time to get use to but almost instantly I fell in love with the dynamic stillness and my sense of physicality, the body-mind began to slowly unwind the holding patterns. The floatation tank opened a doorway to the light inside myself. As an early floatation explorer and author once wrote:

“…A new tool has been developed that has the potential to fundamentally change our way of life as a society…the tank provides a method of attaining the deepest rest that we have ever experienced.”

I floated a lot for the first few months, with a year or two break, then some more  floating periods. During the first years there was a more surface quality to the floatation sessions-with the subsequent psychological and physical unwinding aspect. Floatation, however, can spontaneously adjust the spine, release muscle holding pattern and emotional blockages, making it an ideal adjunct for stress reduction; the epsom salts are magnesium based and help with relaxation, blood pressure regulation and other disorders; floatation also increases creativity, improves athletic performance, recovery and pain management.

The primary use of floatation in my opinion:

A tool for true meditation.

I received a foretaste of this on one particularly early float. I reached a profound meditative state, what I later learned must has been the alpha-theta brainwave state on the border at about 7-8 Hz. At this point, only breath, heartbeat and stillness and then I disappeared: Awareness remained without identity. I was on the knife-edge ridge of existence- the natural state of being. A vision came in and suddenly I was outside the tank looking through the wall of the tank with seeing-eye vision, watching the Michael-body floating nude inside the tank. I sprang up to a sitting position in shock, full body consciousness  returned, self-identity. This experience has never left and has been a guidepost to the pristine purity of the Self.

In the last few months I have been floating regularly again and the stillness and meditation during these sessions have reached a point that I enter the tank and immediately assume the horizontal position and do not move the entire time. Everything disappears except the breath and the heartbeat, nearly imperceptible during regular waking life, takes on an immense presence inside the tank, filling the entire space with her majesty. I let the water medicine reconfigure and dissolve what in truth is not really there. Joy floods  awareness or awareness floods with joy; the two are one. Form becomes obsolete and indistinguishable.

Emerging from the tank everything is lighter, like stepping off the plane into Aloha. Bodiless, spaceless, timeless, you begin to get a glimpse of what the spiritual masters point to when they say things like:

“The design of the body does not signify your identity, nor does your name. The indwelling presence, that beingness without words, That Itself you are. Stabilize yourself there and all doubts will clear and everything will be opened up in you.”

 

 

 

 

Saying ‘no’ to Entertaining the mind…

The other day I read the artful expression of a blogger-acquaintance, a touching piece about her father. I wrote a sincere reply and she responded in the same way. Innocence, with a felt sense of shared heart energy.

Yet it is quite easy to romanticize (fantasize) about ‘our new connection’:

“Oh! That went well!” The mind says, which is like offering up a blind date while wearing blinders.

We’d never met, just a few kind words exchanged on a page (computer screen), a mysterious picture on her blog header and the next thing you know: The heart flutters, all my emotional needs are met, beach picnics, and all our numerous shared interests. We’re soulmates! Then, it’s wedding bells, our dream house being built and the sex -that will certainly be great…”.

HELLO!?

Not that any of these internal dialogues or scenarios were entertained here. The enchanting, seductive pseudo-voice was not given energy and like a fleeting thought, poof. Gone. An entire ridiculous little mind game avoided.

Sexuality, emotions, money–there are endless avenues where mind tries to creep in. In my case, 2 years of karmic-induced celibacy (not a bad thing really) was acting like a weak link in the chain.

Revelation and and earnest inquiry are alive inside now and operate without thought, beyond thought. Revelation is to reveal what lies hidden so that the transitory thought-forms whirling about can be seen as fictitious, without real substance.

Revelation works two ways; the first aspect uncovers all bullshit: the thoughts, emerging stories, fantasies, the world itself; the second facet reveals that underneath all of that phenomena (which comes and goes) is an immensity of Spirit, Soul, the true Self.

All fantasies, stories and beliefs start with a single thought. This is why Ramana Maharshi, one of India’s greatest sages said:

“…That which is called ‘mind’, which projects all thoughts, is an awesome power existing within the Self, one’s real nature. If we discard all thoughts and look [to see what remains when there are no thoughts, it will be found that] there is no such entity as mind remaining separate [from those thoughts]… If one goes on examining the nature of the mind, it will finally be discovered that [what was taken to be] the mind is really only one’s self. That which is called one’s (little ego self) is really the True Self, one’s real nature….”.

Ramana said the inquiry, ‘Who am I’ would lead one to the true Self through direct experience. This inquiry may start verbally but becomes internalized and like a mantra begins to work automatically without precognition. Anyone can practice this regardless of religious affiliation, creed or spiritual path. Inquiry requires nothing but true willingness to investigate the nature of the reality.

The true about my blogger-acquaintance, dare I say friend, is not what I think.

She is ‘only a dear soul inside and out’…whoops, there I go—- projecting again, birthing her into a -holy figure soon to be worshipped, a spiritual tantrika who can also make a mean gluten- free, green waffle, likes to walk around the house half nude and gives me massages every day…

You see the dream now? It ends the instant we drop all thoughts and just let things be as they are. That is peace, aliveness and holiness all rolled up into ONE.

 

 

Into the Dental Chair Again…

Climbing the stairs has become part of what I call my newly developed E.S.P. or Everest Simulation Program. The coyote trickster (a saving grace) revels in humor. Laughter, and smiles, help to keep things light. Reduction of once robust physical vitality can no longer lead to gloom and doom as I stay ever vigilant and earnestly inquire and investigate any trance states that appear.

Chronic health debilitation can be a godsend; truly all that transpires is a pointer back to our Essential Nature. Chronic body dysfunctions can actually be a grace, helping to remove the deepest belief of them all: the “I am the body” idea.

There’s nothing like adding an acute condition to a chronic one (or is the acute condition only an aspect of the chronic one which has gone acute?!). In the last week an abscessed tooth has flared up. A fine workman with as good a service record as any, tooth Number-3 (all teeth are numbered) deserves a special letter of commendation. His epithet will read:

“For well-over 40 years Number 3 served his Dental Squadron with a selfless sense of chew, always breaking up his fair share of fibrous detritus. Though his early affinity for sugar contributed to his demise, let it be noted that when 3 root canal grenades containing dangerous anaerobic bacteria gases exploded in said mouth, Number 3 stayed at his post thus saving the lives of most of his regiment.” (Yes, I give all my teeth eulogies. Not really.)

This am I spoke with my new oral surgeon’s secretary. Oral surgeon is much better than ‘barber-surgeon, the term used in the 18th century to denote the guy who extracted teeth during the day and cut hair at night.

The secretary-assistant found a spot. I exclaimed gleefully:

“I am so glad you could fit me in!” It is strange how ecstatic one get over an impending tooth extraction. This shows pain is not the natural state.

I am getting straws in order and my blender at the ready. The days of adult baby food loom ever close – 3 hours to be exact. This marks the 8th tooth soldier to leave the arena, counting the 4 impacted wisdom teeth that left all at once nearly 40 years ago.

I shall enjoy reverie of one of my favorite comedy scenes, that of Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom in the – “The Pink Panther Strikes Again”- where Seller pretends to be a dentist and pulls the wrong tooth.

I will finish this short blog with a couple of quotes from my book regarding the importance of the dental sphere.

“A hundred years ago dentistry was held in the same esteem as Western Medicine. It was generally understood that oral health was a significant factor in overall wellness. Current research confirmed this. The dentin tubules behind the teeth are like an entire universes of tiny blood vessels that can reverse flow (for example when sugar is added). These tubules, an important and misunderstood aspect of the immune system, can turn into toxin highways – allowing focal infection a route into the systemic circulation.”

I will end with a tear of profound gratitude and a quote from my pioneering former dentist, Andrew (Andy) Landerman-who passed away 2 years ago:

“You know in my experience 90 % of all chronic disease comes from the mouth. 100% of all breast cancer I have seen in my practice has been related to oral infections.” (mostly root canal, but also metal issues and cavitation infections).

This statement has been corroborated by Thomas Rau M.D., who runs the Parcelsus Clinic in Switzerland who found (in appx 2011) that of the last 150 breast cancer patients treated at his clinic, 147 of them (98%) had one or more root canal teeth on the same meridian as the original breast cancer tumor. (Teeth have a a proven, correlative-energy system as well).

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