Meditation & Health #4 – An End, a Beginning
An End, a Beginning
By Lisa Dikeman, Toronto
I didn’t set out to waste my life. But I did.
I came into this world remembering a long-ago life where, as a spiritual leader, my misguided sense of self-importance and lack of enlightenment had harmed many people. I have made it my business to remember this past life ever since, so as to never repeat such harm again. Consequently, from the beginning of this life I felt that I did not want to be here, that “here” was a place of pain and suffering, and that I did not deserve much in this life.
Not surprisingly, my early years were lonely and filled with rejection. I was sickly, having constant lung and immune system problems and extremely painful legs. There were many brushes with death – violent encounters with family members and strangers, medical emergencies and freak accidents. But I always escaped death. As the decades went on, some of these escapes from death began to seem almost surreal. I stopped relating my escapes from death to others, as even I thought they sounded fabricated. It looked like I was meant to stick around, but I did not know why, and cared even less.
Even though I was upset that I had to be on this Earth, I contrarily had always had a strong yearning for enlightenment.
After many years of unsuccessfully searching for spiritual guidance, I met a wonderful man who was also seeking enlightenment. Jimmy and I have now been married 28 years, and he is made of goodness. Our relationship has been an anomalous wonder in my life.
My husband and I practiced and taught tai chi for many years and we invested time and energy in various spiritual disciplines. We both loved volunteer work and helping others. My health – always fragile – improved for a time while we were immersed in tai chi. However, during this time I was a commercial artist working in a large printing plant. The toxins at my workplace eventually shut down my immune system and I had to live in a controlled environment for a few months and choose a less toxic career. My faith in tai chi crashed and never completely returned. Thus began a downward spiral that I seemed powerless to control.
As I reached middle age, the downward spiral worsened. Life by that time was really just about survival. All I did was work hard at my career and sleep. This went on for years, and despite the fact that I never allowed my work to suffer, I became weaker and sicker each year.
At age 60, I lost my job as an editor to corporate restructuring. Even though continued employment in that high-pressured job would likely one day have cost me my life, all I could do was wallow in the loss of my professional and personal identity. I took early retirement, thinking “no one will hire me, anyway.” I did not take advantage of all the new free time I had: I did not try to improve myself, did not exercise, did not help others and did not create new goals for my life. Two years later, I had nothing to show for myself except worsened health problems and a feeling that I was at the beginning of the end.
Then my husband was diagnosed with cancer and a role reversal was called for. I needed to get strong enough to care for him, but this was easier said than done. For one thing, I was 62 years old and morbidly obese; for another, every one of my health problems had worsened to the point where doing the simplest of tasks took everything I had.
Medical tests revealed that I had early congestive heart failure, moderate chronic failure of the left kidney, severe weeping edema of the legs, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis, severe allergies (some life-threatening), asthma, chronic fatigue, severe fibromyalgia, gout, hypertension, hypothyroidism, lordosis of the spine, discolouration and ulcers of the ankles, pre-diabetic sugar levels, high cholesterol, early rheumatoid arthritis and benign (hopefully) tumours throughout my body. I had usually refused my husband’s efforts to help me in the past – he is a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner – as I had given up hope.
Our friend, Dr. Bonny, had told us about Bodhi Meditation, and my husband and I visited the Toronto Bodhi Meditation Center together on March 31, 2012. We parked nearby, and I felt I could walk to the Center without my cane at that time. As it turns out, I have not needed my cane since that day.
We met several instructors and volunteers on that first visit, and I felt affection for them all immediately. How unusual, I thought. We watched a recording of Grandmaster JinBodhi, and I had to sit in a chair most of the time, unlike everyone else. Eventually, I began to move around in a spontaneous fashion, feeling lighter and happier as time went on. Anna “diagnosed” my body and asked me health questions. She then performed several healing techniques and I felt as if she had removed cold energy from my body.
It is difficult to explain just how wonderful it felt to be there, in the presence of Grandmaster JinBodhi, the Medicine Buddha, and the kind and evolving souls of everyone at the Center.
Within the space of a few hours, I regained hope: I wanted to self-cultivate again and I wanted to help others.
I was amazed – Bodhi Meditation had become part of my life as easily as breathing. One would think that I mainly wanted to regain my health, but actually I mainly wanted my life to have a purpose. I wanted to help my husband and others and furthermore, I knew that I would be able to help them in future.
The next morning I already felt the benefits of my first day at the Center. I felt lighter, more flexible, more balanced and more at ease. I did not tire as quickly. The skin of my arms and legs, usually very firm with water retention, had softened. My ankles were less swollen. Although I was happy that my health had improved so spectacularly, I was actually happier that I had a chance to become “a real person” again. I remembered that we are all here for a reason, and I remembered that my idol since early childhood had been Avalokitesvara.
We went to the Center again that day. I tried to sit on the floor for meditation and ended up “falling” onto a meditation cushion. When I eventually tried to get up from the floor, I became humiliated and frustrated by the fact that I could not. I did not want anyone to help me up, fearing that pulling on my excessive dead weight would hurt them. After repeated unsuccessful attempts to get up by myself, I started crying – really crying for the first time in years – and it was a strange sighing type of crying. I wondered how my life-long breathing problems might be related to my inability to “breathe out” my troubles in the past. I eventually levered myself up in a slow and embarrassingly ungainly way – to the mortifying applause of everyone there. So many lessons in one day…
We visited the Center most days in April after that, and learned various meditation forms, listened to dharma and healing from the Master, chanted and cultivated. I could not achieve the physical form of any of the meditation postures, due to my health problems and exhaustion, but I tried and I asked the Medicine Buddha and Grandmaster JinBodhi to help me. Each day I improved a bit, but still needed to sit in a chair most of the time. On April 8th, while sitting on five cushions on the floor in the presence of Master’s healing chanting, I began to spontaneously rock back and forth. When I rocked backward, I “re-stacked” my vertebrae in the lower spine, somehow jamming and settling them together in a new way. At the end of the chanting, the curve of my lower spine was much more normal and the big indentation that had previously been in my lower back region had become quite shallow. I had to relearn to balance with my newly straightened spine, and I fell a few times but quickly got used to it. I had a straighter spine! This was BIG…
We attended the First Level and Second Level Retreats, our health improving a little each day. It seemed that whenever we improved our health, we would be exhausted for a time afterward as our bodies recuperated and became accustomed to a new reality. Various members of the Center also helped Yuan Pin and me by using healing techniques they had learned there. By mid-April, my legs looked quite normal, as the swelling had drastically reduced. My heart stopped palpitating, and lying down was no longer uncomfortable for my heart and lungs. We appreciated the wonderful feeling of serenity and love we experienced at the Center and in our hearts.
I didn’t understand at first, but from that initial day at the Bodhi Meditation Center, I felt that I should not be eating. A month later, after discussing spontaneous fasting with senior members, I knew that I would not be eating for a while. All my health problems improved more quickly when I was not eating. I resumed eating 15 days later because I seemed to need nutrition, but I missed the accelerated healing that spontaneous fasting brought me. I feel sure that I will practice it again soon.
We had a flood in our home in May, and much of May and June was spent dealing with it. Although I was too tired to physically practice, my mind remained in cultivation mode and I still advanced health-wise, but at a slower pace. It was wonderful to return to the Center – like coming home – and what warm welcomes we got from everyone! For someone who had always been socially challenged, this was something I cherished.
We marveled at the astounding healing powers and beautiful presences of all of the instructors and volunteers. How extremely fortunate we are to have come upon such enlightened beings. In July, some three months after we joined the Center, I spoke with my doctor regarding my latest battery of medical tests. She told me that all of my numbers, except those pertaining to thyroid, now fall within normal ranges, and she was surprised and happy for me. I still take thyroid supplementation (this must be slowly eliminated by a doctor) and I take a diuretic as needed, but every one of my health problems mentioned above has improved significantly. Most importantly, my kidneys tested within normal range. It is not at all common for someone diagnosed with moderate chronic kidney failure to improve to that extent. Also, my two leg ulcers disappeared. This is just as uncommon.
Our friend, Dr. Bonny, mentioned that I walk normally now – no more panting or limping. Many people have said similar things to me. They also tell me that I look better and younger. I enjoy feeling stable when I walk and I enjoy having the energy to do everyday things again. But mostly, I enjoy being able to stand up for an entire Meditation of Greater Illumination among friends!
While I know that to date I could have practiced much, much more than I have, I also know that a new energy of spiritual awareness permeates my life.
This is a priceless gift from the Medicine Buddha and Grandmaster JinBodhi and I will gratefully spend the days remaining to me as I know they would wish me to, cultivating myself so that I can help others….not wasting my life.