East Meets West
East Meets West
By Justin Porter
Illness Without Answers
I had my first panic attack in May of 2011 during a trip to Mexico. To make matters worse, I also woke up with numbness in my leg and a bizarre tingling sensation down my left side. By the time I hit the autumn, I was also suffering from repeated spikes in blood pressure and blood sugar, and extreme sensitivity to various foods. Rice, for example, would send my blood pressure skyrocketing and make me feel terrible. In fact, I felt terrible much of the time, which caused major stress for both me and my wife, Jade. We had only recently begun our married life together, and my health challenges put a lot of pressure on us at a time when we should have been celebrating.
When I talked to my doctor about the problem I was having with anxiety, he essentially told me it was “psychological,” meaning that it was all in my head and there was no real cause. I went to many doctors but I wasn’t getting the help I needed from the Western approach, and my issues expanded to include numbness in my face and hands, severe skin dryness and psoriasis-type symptoms, and a heart that was only beating about forty times a minute. With Jade’s support, I decided to begin taking matters into my own hands. I connected with an acupuncturist who helped me tremendously. I took a lot of vitamins. And then I encountered Bodhi Meditation, which turned out to be an invaluable part of my journey to wellness.
Last summer I became friends with an architect named Cary Tsai – I’m a contractor and we met while constructing a house in West Vancouver. When I eventually told him about the health challenges I was having, he said, “What you have to do, Justin, is meditate.” He gave me Greater Illumination and The Meditation of Purity and told me that I would notice an improvement if I practiced them once a day.
I didn’t get started on my practice immediately. I eventually tried the meditations, and I attended a couple of drop-in classes at the Center in November. In December I committed to meditating for an hour every day for a week, and at the end of that period I felt great. But during the hectic Christmas season I neglected my practice and the unpleasant symptoms returned. I had heard that a Meditation Retreat for English speakers was being offered in January, and made it my New Year’s resolution to attend.
Letting My Body Guide Me
During the Retreat, I began spontaneous fasting. On my first night without food, I had vivid nightmares which I believe were symptomatic of the detoxification process I was going through. The following night I woke up about an hour after falling asleep with an intense sensation of heat in my arm. After several minutes it went cold, and the next morning I awoke to discover that the numbness I had been experiencing in my hand was gone. Before I finished fasting the feeling of burning heat returned again, this time concentrated in my stomach and head. It was as though my body was fixing itself – energy was flowing properly. Fasting was easy and happened naturally. I never felt hungry, though I did drink a green juice one night because Jade was concerned about me. In fact, several of my family and friends thought I was crazy, but I figured, why fill a gas tank that’s already full? The nice thing about being at the Center is that you feel safe. I felt supported throughout my process.
From West to East
According to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, I had been suffering from blocked qi in my liver, a damp spleen, poor circulation and a lack of oxygen in the blood. When there is an issue with the liver, the thyroid is also affected and the thyroid has a significant influence on the heart. Bodhi Meditation has been essential to unblocking my qi and opening the door to an unprecedented state of relaxation, thereby restoring my health. Since attending the Retreat and making Bodhi a regular part of my life, my blood pressure and blood sugar have normalized, my heart rate has increased to sixty beats a minute, my skin problems have substantially improved, and the numbness has subsided along with the anxiety and indigestion. I can now eat anything without suffering adverse effects. However, even though I have the freedom to eat what I choose, Jade and I have made a commitment to eat organic, local food whenever possible. We’ve transitioned to brown rice, which has been a bit of a hurdle for Jade – she is from Korea, where white rice is integral to cuisine and culture. Although she didn’t believe in meditation at first, she has tried a class and experienced the resulting tranquility, and has been delighted by my positive transformation. I’ve learned more about Oriental culture through this practice – there is no doubt that Bodhi has given our relationship a tremendous boost. Jade no longer has to worry about my health, so we are free to move happily forward.
Transforming the Heart and Mind
The emotional benefits of Bodhi practice have been profound. Not only have the panic attacks disappeared, but the angry outbursts that used to cause me and people around me grief have vanished as well. Jade has noticed a big difference, going so far as to say that I no longer have a bad temper and describing me as “really calm.” During the Retreat, Grandmaster JinBodhi said something that made a major impact on me, something that has helped transform the way that I approach life. He talked about a dam in China that was constructed after a valley had flooded and everything was destroyed. The Master used the story as a metaphor to illustrate the point that you can never block water – or energy – you can only direct it to where you want it to be. So now, instead of hanging onto the energy of problems, I try to redirect it – in other words, go with the flow.
The Giant Mudra in The Meditation of Greater Illumination was also particularly impactful. Initially, I could only picture myself being as big as a house, but the instructors kept urging us to go bigger and pretty soon I was bumping my head on the moon. The idea that we are limitless was a breakthrough for me.
I wouldn’t say I’m a Buddhist but I’m definitely interested in learning more. It’s a philosophy that makes sense to me. I’ve always believed in cause and effect, in karma. I read a few books about Buddhism years ago and the presence of Bodhi in my life has really reinvigorated my interest. I’ve been involved in helping to build an addition to a Buddhist monastery in Vancouver, so I’ve been able to ask questions of the nuns there on a daily basis.
Bodhi Meditation has helped me come to understand joy, which to me is a feeling of lightness and freedom. Entering into joy through meditation has been fundamental to healing my heart problems. I used to have a lot of anger and I now realize its impact on the liver. I wasn’t giving my heart joy and I was feeding my liver anger and bitterness. Practicing Bodhi allows me to peel back the layers of the self and gain new awareness. I’ve learned to appreciate and enjoy life.
Taking It to the Next Level
I am planning to attend the Second Level Retreat. After my friend Cary – the one who introduced me to Bodhi – alleviated my back pain using energy healing skills he learned in the Second Level, my interest in cultivating my own healing ability was stoked. It would be wonderful to be able to help others restore their health and equilibrium.
There is no doubt that Eastern wisdom has helped to transform my Western lifestyle. I’m so grateful to Bodhi for being a gateway to a joy I never knew possible – I will continue to combine East and West as I move through my life.