“God proves the devotee by means of severe ordeals. A washerman beats the cloth on a slab, not to tear it but only to remove the dirt.” -the regular saying of an obscure saint of the early 1900’s.
I have a vision of that saint. In said mystic inspiration, this truly-humbled, majestic being is walking about the countryside, wearing only a simple loin cloth, harming no one, yet radiating a profound peace. His gentle, yet powerful voice is piercing and distinct; he speaks only of God, though a good portion of the time he remains in silence.
Most of the village folk think he is crazy.
A few courageous and lucky ones, those with an intuitive receptivity, approach him. They sit close and the nearly-ceaseless, inner banter of their minds subsides, this redundant drivel is replaced by an enthralling presence which lifts them out of themselves. These fortunate few are catapulted into true wealth, a transcendent wisdom and fathomless love. The saint’s lunacy, his socially-bizarre behavior is now seen as the real sanity, a divine madness, like an eternal elixir that soothes the discontent of the heart.
If you read enough anthologies or biographical sketches of authentic spiritual Masters, there are many common attributes related to the sacred journey or what is sometimes referred to as the: pathless path. For they tell us, that truly, all we have to do is remember our divine heritage.There is nothing to do. We must simply be.
One of the common aspects in these recollections of the lives of Masters, relates to the trials and afflictions pressed forth on the human frame, aka-the body. For almost all of us on the planet have human body-related issues at one time or another.
How we view these manifestations, our angle of vision, is most essential.
For the sages and saints point the way to freedom, to truth, love and compassion, no matter what kind of havoc is being wreaked upon our transitory bodily vessels.
On a recent night and early morning, the Almighty Washerman put this frame straight to spin cycle. I awoke on said morning, 2 am or so, peering at the clock with a bedside flashlight, not wanting to step from the covers quite yet. The nausea alarm clock had sounded, like a ear-piercing train whistle. It was the time of the liver and that right epigrastric darling was moaning or was that the sound of his overworked side kick, Mr. Gall-Bladder? The brain fog rolled in with a droning tinnitus. My eyes, filled with fluid, steam and debris, the remnants of microscopic storm troopers that had turned the blood cells into a sluggish cesspool. So I laid there a little longer, like a mortally wounded soldier on the battle field.
Activated charcoal through the night had reduced the enemies numbers but the blood cells were still acting like geriatrics.
I got up in stages. First turning to my side. Rest, pause. Then pressing myself to sitting, I take a breath. Leaning forward I slowly rise to vertical and amble-drag two short steps to the nearby activated charcoal bottle. I take a couple more tabs, as if a drunk popping aspirin, then push the tea kettle switch and get the ginger root, peppermint leaf and fennel seed ready for a super strong steep. Moments later I push a few dropper’s full of gastro calm tincture onto the tongue, toss down some Triphala –a famous peristalsis enhancer, while eyeing my acupuncture needles.
Soon, the famous Stomach-36 is pierced, a point for gastric concerns: nausea, vomiting, stress and fatigue. I should be like an ancient Chinese warrior and wear a leather sash with stones that press into these two points, whenever kneeling down to rest. These points, one on each leg, are located 3 inches below the knee near the tibia bone.
I lie down on the padded floor mat to further inventory the damage.
Then a wave of pure presence dawns, it overtakes everything else. All the sensory apparatus, and thought streams, dim into insignificance. Suddenly I not interested at all in what is happening with my human frame. Consciousness expands and mind identification with the body-idea and its assorted maladies flicker and then begin to recede, becoming less and less urgent, less and less real and no longer personal.
Meditation, the natural state appears at the forefront, not some obscure backdrop.
Just watching. Witnessing the last of body identification and stray thoughts. Inquiry happens: Is it real? Does it last? Is anything really happening?
Breath. More space….the previous body symptoms now appear like the distant sound of a dove.
Then a two bowel movements arrive, the intestines are overworked garbage men. And then a 3rd urge to defecate approaches or was the body about to vomit?
More toxic debris is eliminated from the organism. Relief arrives for the human frame but it doesn’t really matter anymore.
My practice routine for end of life caregiving is now complete. It’s time for work.
The body is following the ordained wishes of the Divine; and more and more I see this clearly. So why bother with over-managing body-symptoms, requirements and the like?
I drive the 12 miles of country road, the Empire Grade short cut, straight to my client’s house.
Lloyd, my 88 year old retired, physicist-astronomer is just eating breakfast, his usual oatmeal. It’s 10 am. Recently arisen, Lloyd does not look up or recognize that I have arrived. I leave him undisturbed to eat for now, as distraction during meals often results in spillage.
His wife, Sue, informs me of the latest with Lloyd…up four times in the night, urinary incontinence, her agitation and feelings come out sideways through story and words. Though severely sleep deprived, she forges on with her plans for the day: errands, and taking a 94 year old woman to lunch for her birthday.
Minutes later, Lloyd and I are together, just the two of us. The high intensity energy that Sue carries drives away.
It is quiet, almost serene.
Lloyd is fading more and more. He begins to fall asleep for a few minutes, then wakes up, attempts to focus and be active. His ability to drive his body organism is not working. His willfulness was never running the show. This truth is setting in, though Lloyd has to exhaust the willfulness conditioning and accept the bodily decline. If God’s grace bestows more, he might realize that his true being, the soul is untouched by that decline.
He’s not quite there.
This little disorientation cycle continues unabated for some 30 minutes. The brain and bodily organs are shutting down; perhaps this is an early indicator that Lloyd may soon fall into a phase, a realm wherein normal human communication is no longer possible.
Was there a change in medications, is it lack of adequate sleep or a progression of Parkinson’s symptoms? These are practical considerations that get addressed later after Sue returns home.
Deep down, I realize it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is caring for Lloyd with compassion and love. So I touch him often, with a gentle hand here or there, coax him silently towards a deeper surrender.
He is a grandfather. All of my clients are soul grandmothers and grandfathers. I love them all, no matter the personality quirks or the ease of our relating or depth of connection. Each one of these sweet beings, that I’ve had the great privilege to care for, are in truth divine relatives.
Later in the afternoon, after his nap, I hear Lloyd awaken and try, disoriented as he is, to get up from his chair. I walk from my nearby perch, squat low by the side of his chair and talk to him, one hand as if attached to his upper arm, like a needle transmitting an injection of calm.
“Hi Lloyd, did you have a good rest?” I soothe, pausing and letting silence reign. “You seem to be a little confused or disoriented. What are you experiencing?” I continue.
Lloyd struggles to come up with words. His eyes are rolling around like shifting pebbles; his tongue darts about in grotesque distortions. He is a man adrift in some misbegotten and foreign world. Finally he manages to speak; it comes out as a complete non-sequitur:
“I just wish I could live 100 years more…” I do not hear him correctly.
“You wish you could live a couple years more?” I repeat back to him.
“No, 100 more years!” He smiles, fixing his gaze now firmly on me, in somewhat lucid eye contact. I chuckle softly.
“Yes, wouldn’t that be great!?”