Monday, January 31, 2011

egypt. goat leg soup. bagels

on one hand it seems like i went through one tornado after another in just moments. on another hand it feels like i'v been in a long and tumultuous dream. in the reality of time and space it's been three weeks. i received a call, flew across the country, spent a week in a trauma ward, sat in the back of an air ambulance which took me back to california, then two weeks back and forth between oakland and vallejo. finally i take a glance around me. a heartbreaking tragedy in arizona. a youth revolt in tunisia toppled the regime. now egypt is going through fire and brimstones on a scale not seen in decades. what am i doing in the meantime? cooking goat leg soup for hwubby. he's lying upstairs in a hospital bed. a wheelchair is in the hallway which is piled with medical supplies, walker, cane, chux and so on. a few bags of bagels on the kitchen counter. why are there so many bagels? because every time someone asks hwubby, what can i bring you? nine times out of ten he says, lox and bagel. and ten times out of ten visitors bring a few extra bagels. so now i have to figure out how to use them. this morning in meditation it comes to me. toast it really good and jam it. so i do. i put it under the broiler. it's so browned that it's actually black and i have to scrape and scrape. but, i have to say, it tastes really good with a nice marmalade spread.

i haven't even mentioned that i am back to meditating in my meditation closet. i've been meditating in a garden level apartment in chelsea, facing a magical snow scene; in a deluxe room with a beautiful puja in vallejo. they are all fantastic. yet it's so nice to be home.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

sweet lemon. kaiser

this is a big shout out to kaiser. two weeks hwubby ago hwubby was gurneyed into the vallejo rehab center straight from an air ambulance that flew him in from bellevue hospital, new york city. poor guy is all messed up, severely injured. the taxi slammed into his right side. so the clavicle is broken. a bunch of broken ribs, lung bruises, liver lacerations, pelvic fractures, and a dislocated left pinkie. fast forward. one week in bellebue, mostly in trauma ward. intense pains and spasms. ten on a scale of one to ten. then two weeks in acute inpatient rehab. as of yesterday he can walk on a cane. he says, today i can yawn. really. when he was in bellevue a tiny burp triggers excruciating pains. they can put him in casts because those bones need to move. indeed. how can you breathe if your ribs can't move. anyway, he says, i am learning to do everything all over again, turn over to the left side, sitting up in bed, move my legs across the bed, get myself in and out of bed, tie shoelaces, go to the bathroom. really, it's a major miracle that he can wipe his lovely butt all by himself. he says, i am living in such gratitude, with every little move i make i feel like i am opening a book that has been closed for a long time.

such is the power of the force of healing and transformation.

on fridays there's a splendid farmers market in front of kaiser. a pakistan farmer insists i try a slice of what looks like lemon. i do a double take, make a face, shake my head. he really insists with a wise smile and assures me, it's sweet. i take a leap of faith. and my o my. it's a sweet lemon. a sweetness is is delicate, exquisite, some taste i have never had or imagined before.

against the background of this vibrant bounty i see an army of red-jacketed youths working hard to valet-park visitors to kaiser. all of a sudden i realize this complimentary service is not just to show off how de-luxe this facility this. this is an act of compassion. i see a woman driving an elderly man to the facility. now she can focus on her family. she doesn't not have to worry about parking the car or navigate the distance between the parking lot and the hospital.

i am not saying kaiser is perfect. i have my issues with them. how about the premiums escalating at least twenty percent every year? but this rehab facility and my own experience shine a whole new, bright light on my perception of this institution.

Friday, January 28, 2011

ready to go home

so far hwubby's roomates in rehab have been quiet people. no tv, that sort of thing. yesterday afternoon a new person shows up. a tv person. he talks, eats (nurse feeds him) and tv loud at the same time. is he watching it? i don't know. i do know this. this is a sign that it's time for hwubby to come home. he's ready. i am ready.

i take home bags of freshly cut produce from karun's garden. celery leaves - vital for chicken soup flavor - , carrots, new potatoes, rainbow chard, dinosaur kale, and loads of thyme and parsley - just the right stuff to flavor up my hummus.

now i feel really, really ready.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

i have registered my concerns. now acceptance.

indeed hwubby has made phenomenal progress in a short amount of time. under the watchful eye of therapists he can pretty much do things on his own. with a walker or wheelchair, and a simple move takes a lot. but he is what the rehab experts call 'modified independence.' by the way we both have such profound appreciation and gratitude for what the human body can do. we realize we really have been taking ennumerable miracles for granted. for instance, getting up in bed, and getting in and out of bed. wow. amazing. awesome. hwubby says, i'm learning to walk all over again. being able to cross a leg to tie shoelaces is a huge breakthrough. this is truly a miracle factory.

having said all this i still have to register my concerns with these medical professionals. without a doubt they have the most sophisticated and state-of-the-art machines and metrics to measure the observable behavior. but i know my husband. for a starter, he doesn't like hospital. days after the hit, while still in trauma ward he asked the attending trauma doc, when can i go back to california? i'm not diminishing any of the hard work he has been putting into this rehab boot camp. all i am saying is this. someone who has a corporate job being discharged into his home where he mainly relaxes is different from a self-employed person being discharged into a hospital bed placed in the center of his home office. besides the hospital doesn't have internet access except in a computer room that is pretty far away given he has to go there on a wheelchair. whereas at home is surrounded by his computer, ipad and 24/7 internet access. i say to my go-to person in the hospital, all i want from you is your word that you'll do everything human possible, within reason, of course, to make sure he is on an irreversible path to full recovery. she says, yes, of course. then, the physical therapist assures me, yes, he's ready to go home, to transition into real life. to top it off, the doctor tracks me down and spends time to hear out my concerns. he says, before coming to kaiser, i worked in the texan rehab facility where the congresswoman is. well, that says a lot.

anyway i have registered my concerns. now it's time to accept what is and take care of what is necessary in a meticulous manner.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

her husband is coming home faster than she thought

kaiser rehab says hwubby can be released this saturday. hwubby believes he is ready to come home. so, why am i feeling i am about to crash? am i shrinking from what it is? true that he has been making phenomenal progress. he's now able to get in and out of bed with minimal help and someone watching over him. he can climb up six to seven steps with hand rail. he can go into and out of bathroom with minimal assistance. having said that he is in the shelter of an army of competent medical professionals who work in shifts. once home, i am the primary caregiver. we don't have grown kids who can help. i am half his size. physical strength is not my strong suit. true that many people have offered to help. so why am i still feeling overwhelmed? feeling he is coming out too soon? am i resisting? is an expectation of mine being unmet? as the medical equipment person says, her husband is coming home faster than she thought. my guru says, you are equal to the challenge, no bigger, no smaller, but equal. and she also says, trust and verify. so here's what i'm gonna do. today i go in for a full day of family training. i'll go in with an open mind. i'll make efforts to not push or over-exert and strive to be honest with what i see and how i feel. and see what happens.

i have a hunch to check email before meditation. only i new one. lois says she can help with some shopping, cooking and some shifts to give me time off. maybe this is the sign.

to be continued...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

what is your secret, suk wah?

this past sabbath i was at the annual members' dinner of our shul. as always i sing and dance to the hymns welcoming and praising sabbath. i see this twenty-five hours as a temple of time, a sacred space where i can immerse in the sweetness of torah, the joy of praying, singing songs. my top fave is this two-line number that says, the entire world is a narrow bridge, and the main thing is not to fear, not to fear at all. the name of the person who wrote the song doesn't come to mind right now but i am sure it's a highly revered rabbi from several centuries ago. so every sabbath i would ask rabbi, can i have a special  request? he would unfailingly indulge me. i would feel so connected to the ancient sage whose wisdom is timeless and timely.

anyhow, i digress. at some point during the members' dinner someone comes up to me and says, what is your secret? how can you sing and dance so happily? i gaze into her. this is a very compassionate, kind and sweet person who has some very difficult situations in her life for a long time. my heart goes out to her, feels for her. i say, well, i am a meditator. she says, i am a meditator too, what's your secret? i don't know what else to say but give her a big hug. i just don't know if it's appropriate to tell her in that moment, because happiness is my true nature, i can't help it, i just take care of whatever is necessary.

Monday, January 24, 2011

i need to keep the schedule

so much going on. so much unexpected twists and turns. all the more necessary for me to keep up with the schedule of spiritual practices. i need to keep the schedule. morning meditation and guru gita are must. only then i can stabilize and strengthen the mind in the understanding and awareness of who and what i am and not getting swept into the seesaw of emotions, thoughts and feelings, within me and in others. not the least is the pressures from all directions saying, you must do this, you ought to do that, no, you are wrong, you shouldn't ask this or do that. blah blah blah. this is the opportunity to cultivate standing up and speaking up for myself in hwubby and my highest and best interests while working through the system of rules and counting our fortunes. on that note, how about this one? i come out of meditation, prepare breakfast. ginger tea and a slice of toast. this is no ordinary toast. my gracious and generous host karun makes this phenomenal bread from sprouted organic grains, incl wheat berries, rye, millet, and mung beans. the loaf is covered with flax seeds. every slice is a meal in itself. a bite into it and i feel the body say, i love it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

this pain will go away.

i like it when people are direct and don't mince words. hwubby's trauma attending physician walks into the room, says, i'm dr simon, broken ribs and kidney stones are the worst pains in the world. just like that hwubby and i are grounded into the reality as it is. he can't laugh because it is painful. a little burp triggers a spasm that is 10 on a pain scale of one to ten. i am not the one who has to go through this. yet, i have to say, this keeps coming to my mind. this will go away. this will go away. really. easy for me to say.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

i want a sign and here it is.

i need a lawyer who is licensed in new york. a trusted source refers somebody to me. here's a teaching from my guru. trust and verify. i take it seriously. so i pray. please, i need a sign. and then i just keep my ears and eyes and mind open because the sign that i want may come in unexpected forms.

next day, sabbath morning, i study torah in my rabbi's house. in this particular week's torah portion yhvh lays down the first law for the israelites. observe sabbath. this is way before the tablets from mount sinai. several hours later i am home and notice there are messages on the cell. listen to this one from the new york lawyer. suk wah, i'm afraid i won't be able to return your call when you get this message, it's about fifteen minutes from sundown, and i observe sabbath. bingo. that's the sign i've been praying for. i call the guy and say, arnie, you are my lawyer and here's why.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

grateful for what we don't have

hwubby and i are grateful for what we have and what we don't have. he doesn't have spinal or brain injury. he doesn't need surgery on the pelvis or anywhere. that makes him a good candidate for inpatient rehab. he doesn't have bruises on his gorgeous goose-egg face. one of the broken ribs could have pierced his lungs if it were just a couple of millimeters off. his liver is not irreversibly damaged. he doesn't lose consciousness throughout the whole hit-and-slam. he says, the moment i realize the taxi is going to slam into me i just let go, i surrender. the lawyer says, when the limbs are soft it results in less damages. that totally makes sense. when the hardness of two thousand tons of speeding steel slams into open softness it's much different from whamming and bammming into rigid, frozen fear.

we are grateful that he is alive, able to experience all this compassion and wonders and marvels showering upon him.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

hwubby wrapped like a burrito for an airlift

here's one for cultivating acceptance. i spend mon, tue, wed to prepare for hwubby to have acute inpatient rehab in bellevue in new york city. my rabbi arranges an apartment that is nearby. my sister-in-law gets me snow boots, provisions. i discipline the mind for the radical shift. just when i think i am all ready to go and, boom, i'm told on thursday afternoon that they will put hwubby on an air ambulance on friday early morning and fly him back to california. why? because our hmo insurance does not cover out-of-state rehab but it covers an airlift. they can tag me along. between the two of us we can have one carry-on.

it turns out to be a sleepless night to get ready. and so it is at 7 in the morning on friday a team of medical professionals show up with a gurney. they are so competent and confidence-inspiring. they wrap up hwubby like a burrito and off we go into the freezing cold. an ambulance takes us to teeterborough in new jersey. a learjet with two co-pilots are there waiting for us with comforting smiles. it's small plane. think galley kitchen. i am all cooped up in a back corner next to piles of medical equipment. with a fuel stop in north platte, nebraska, we land in napa, california several hours later. there he is transferred into another ambulance and taken to kaiser rehab center which is just twenty minutes away.

i didn't know what to expect and it turns out better than i could have imagined. this kaiser facility is brand new, state of the art. it is beautiful and well-staffed. a friend from the ashram researches into it and, apparently, this is among the best in the world for rehab.

o, and let me not forget that while i am in nebraska i receive a call from ellie, my dear jewish sister. listen to this. she says, suk wah, i have found you a place to stay in vallejo, it is near the facility, and you can stay there for free. wow. how cared for i am.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

breaks my heart to see him in such pain

i thought i have a good handle on 'attachment.' until i see hwubby in such pains. a burp sets off a screaming spasm. or it can come on just like that, involuntarily. the doctor asks him, on the scale of one to ten, what is this pain? hwubby says, nine at least. so he's been put on morphine. and that creates another kind of pain. constipation. before this happened hwubby has at least one bowel movement a day. so it breaks my heart to see him suddenly screaming in pain and i can do nothing about it.

so it is i count my great good fortune to be able to stay in a lovely, serene apartment near bellevue. i have the two bedroom apartment all to myself. now i even have a meditation room. i go into meditation today with a burning question. how am i going to walk through the eight inch of snow in l l bean shoes? but i am not worried. somehow i know the answer is within. and sure it is. soon into meditation i receive it. wrap plastic bags around feet. and so i do. i secure it midway below knee with rubber band. it works beautifully. thank you, inner self. now off i go into the famous new york snow.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

hwubby in bellevue hospital

it could have been so much worse. hwubby was hit by a taxi in new york city. he was thrown into the air, dented the hood, cracked the windshield before hitting ground. pretty beat up. his attending physician in bellevue hospital says, broken ribs are the worst pain. and hwubby has a bunch of them, besides a broken clavicle, cracked pelvis, lung bruises and liver lacerations. o, yes, a broken pinkie too. but he is very, very lucky. no surgery is necessary. yes, there are bruises but none on his face. he's going through phenomenal physical pains but his mind is clear. in fact he was conscious the whole time these two thousand tons of accelerating steel hit him.

this happened last friday night. now, four days later i find myself gazing into a magical world created by a night of snow as i stand in the living room of this garden level apartment in chelsea. i just come out of a sweet meditation. it's warm quiet all around me and within me. how can i not feel safe, supported and cared for when there have been abundant loving help streaming in everywhere through everyone that i cross path with. as my guru says again, all this is grace, all this is grace, all this is grace.

i couldn't have created a better set up to cultivate what i want to cultivate. patience. and so i feel grateful and tranquil, deeply tranquil.

Friday, January 7, 2011

by what light do we see in dream?

there's a recurring meditation experience that i have been trying to put it into words. actually it's also something about dreams as well. since i have to start somewhere, and, by the way, isn't it true of anything we have to take care of and we don't quite know where to begin, just start somewhere, do something, right now. anyhow. let me try. i meditate in darkness. i even blindfold the eyes. so how comes in the world of closed eyes, i sense, or, more accurately, see, with the closed eyes, this darkness with such luminosity? take this morning, for instance, the moment i close the eyes, there's this incredible expanse of greenish-white brilliance shining over the physical darkness. it's like i am looking at the darkness through a spotlight that is larger than the inner being. meanwhile i am aware of the contours and confines of the physical body. yet the inner being and this field of light don't seem to have any limits. so is this light in the body? or is the body immersed in this light? at this point, the mind can't take it. it says, too much. so i let the thought thread pause at this one. i go to sleep in darkness. so by what lights do i see those vibrant colors, vivid shapes and forms in dreams? where do all those lights in the dream world come from?

for the remainder of the meditation i just revel in the deliciousness of the easy breath which, by the way, is naturally deepening and lengthening. as i sense i am emerging like a diver coming up gradually from the ocean depths i hear this. the light of pure awareness. bingo. that's it. in those moments i am in touch with the light of pure consciousness by which physical darkness is illumined and dreams are lit up. and i own all of that. wow. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

luminosity of darkness. 1099-misc

i am stepping up my daily spiritual practices with a couple of things. double the time of singing aum to about thirty minutes. for the last couple of years i've been doing thirty-six rounds according to the number of pearls on the necklace i use as a counter. that's about fifteen minutes. now i double the effort. secondly i meditate before going to bed.

whoa. wow. on the first night i dream. it's like i watch the dream with a different prescription. it's so much brighter. the colors are more vibrant. the contours of shapes and forms are incredibly sharper. at one point someone shows me the details of an elaborate wreath that is made of fresh lush green leaves. i can feel the life pulsing in the leaf veins. in another scene, an adorable, chubbo-chubbo toddler comes to my embrace. the amazing life throbbing beneath her translucent, egg-white smooth, peachy complexion is irresistible. since then it's been like that every night. what about the morning meditation with the thirty minutes of aum singing? how about this? the mind plunges into this bright, quiet, open space with the lingering resonance of the last round. sweet warmth oozes from deep within into the limbs, all the way to the fingertips. the sensation of fullness is exquisite. i'm absorbed in awe and wonder at the luminosity of darkness. there's truly nowhere else i'd rather be than in my own being.

then, check this out. as i emerge from the depths of this vast world of black light i hear this crystal clear. 1099. my inner self really never ceases to amaze me. this is the time of the year to start looking into who to send 1099-misc to. after initial moments of lurking anxiety, which i am aware that it is residual tendency, the inner self instructs step by step what to do about it. there you have it. lofty, mystical experience together with the most practical stuff all rolled into one sitting. can't get better than this. so thrilling.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

a lot of hwubby to keep up with

no lacking opportunity to cultivate more patience. check this one out. hwubby is to catch a plane that depart at seven twenty in the morning. days prior he says, i'll pack light. when i go to bed the night before after nine the hallway is still littered with stuff and an empty suitcase. what i can do i have already done. his day's travel food, essential food items and vitamins. what about his wardrobe? well, let me put it this way. he is a spontaneous guy and he has specific tastes in style.

anyhow i awake when he drops into bed. it's a quarter to one. i say, as i see the suitcase still empty in the hallway when i am on my way to pee, what time do you have to leave the house? i am holding back the impulse to say, why are you still not packed? the inner self is signaling me, drop it, leave it, let him be responsible for his own actions. so i follow the prompting. i just say, i'll get up at five. he says, i'll be up by then, i'll wake you up. fine. what happens then? i dream a vivid, bright, fantastic dream. when i emerge from it it is about the same moment he sits up on his side of the bed. i ask, what time is it? after a moment i hear him say, o, no, it's eight after five. boom. we are instantly awake. i hold the burning question until he is about to step out of the house a couple of minutes after six. you didn't hear the alarm go off? he says, yeah, i must have slept through it.

he leaves the house with these. a suitcase to check in, a super heavy tumi briefcase all expanded, a tote bag of food and his l. l. beans shoes stuffed right on top of his lunch and snacks. he says, i just checked, it's snowing in new york. well, really, surprise. all this while i am hovering quietly downstairs, preparing his morning drinks, repacking certain items according to his instructions, and only sparingly asking, as calmly as i can, where are you at? and i make sure i don't announce the time. why? firstly he would say, i am aware of the time, you don't need to remind me. secondly the inner self says, just focus on the task at hand, get him out of the house, and he'll be out at whatever time he'll be out.

aaah. the subtle effect of the tendency to control. bingo. once i recognize it's my tendency to control all that would have irritated and annoyed and agitated me don't irritate, annoy nor agitate me anymore. i just stay firmly in the space of attentive watchfulness.

anyhow, to finish off counting his luggage, there is a fourth bag filled with magazines, newspapers, clippings, envelopes, greeting cards, etc. why? what? how come? all these questions jump around in my mind. the inner self says, forget it, just keep quiet, suk wah.

then he spends a few more moments sorting through a separate pile of cards, clippings. i wait patiently. yes. patiently. i experience this simple quiet as i stand there watching his head lowered in a pondering mode. and i remember this. he came home yesterday from lunch all excited. he handed me a package and said, i got this for you. it's a pink, silk, hand-painted scarf. the woman he had lunch was wearing a similar one in a different color. so he went to the store, and got this one, and before i could say anything, he says something that he knows it's close and dear to my heart, i got the guy at the store to give me a big discount. i stare into his head of beautiful curls and know this. this is a man who loves me, cares about me, thinks about me all the time, asks himself, does wify like this? does this look good on wify? just like that my whole being is infused with a gently sweetness while finally he he raises his head. i gaze into his goose-egged face and big eyes, feel this sweet relief as he hands a card and envelope to me and says, put this one into the plastic folder. and so i do.

of course this whole mishegas - o how i love this yiddish word. it sounds so much sweeter and more adorable than insanity, craziness, madness - won't end without his favorite activity. returning to knock feverishly on the door because, in his words, i forget one thing. usually this would happen two times at least. ultimately, finally, we kiss and i rub blessings over his head and then he's gone. no second return. what an improvement on his part. incremental is good.

six fifteen. a few moments earlier i hear my inner self say, i know what you want to ask, don't even think about it. i swallow the question. now i turn it into a prayer. may you catch the plane and if you don't it's just the way it is, not the end of the world. anyway, at six fifty, i call him. just to wish him a safe flight. he says, i'm on the bus to the airport. i couldn't help it anymore. i hear the words flow out. are you going to make it? he says, o, yeah. all right. we'll see.

seven twenty two. i think to myself, i'll call him. if he doesn't pick up the phone he's on the plane. o, no. he picks up. my heart skips a beat and sinks into the brief pause on the other end until he says, i'm on the plane and i met this multi-millionaire on the bus. what else can i say but, great, it's so great. indeed, in the end it's all great. i just have to keep remembering that in the roller coaster ride of the moment. having said that, whoa, it's a lot of hwubby to keep up with.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

new year resolve. patience

i knew exactly what i really want to cultivate in this year when year end was approaching. patience. my guru says again and again, with patience you attain everything. yet, i dare say, this is the one thing that's been really dragging my feet in so many ways and i don't even recognize i am acting, thinking or speaking out of impatience until way after. i heard about patience of course. but when i was in twenties, patience sounded so...boring, dull, so...not exciting. well, equipped with spiritual awakening and eighteen years of spiritual practices i have come to have a whole new reverence and affection for patience. therefore i resolve this year to cultivate patience. i say to my inner self and the universal self, here i am, i am ready.

be careful of what i wish for. i might just get it. check this out. on the first day of new year my prayer is answered big time. i am presented with one opportunity after another just for that. here it's how the day goes. we are staying in sebastopol. i say, i want to go to torah study. hwubby says, sure, do you want to daven - praying in hebrew - with the rabbi? i say, of course. he says, sure. a little while later, he says, o, we'll leave at seven fifteen, we'll go to burlingame to pick up robin, she's in a retreat in the mercy center, we'll drop her off at the airport, the mercy center is just ten minutes from the airport. robin is a dear, dear friend and hwubby always wants to give a ride because he says, you know, you don't drive, many people give you ride, and that's a big help and comfort to me, so why don't i help someone when i can. it all sounds so sweet and wonderful that i think, suk wah, hold down your stingy, selfish self and keep your big, fat mouth shut.

the way it turns out, the morning goes like this. according to his plan we are supposed to leave by seven fifteen. by eight we start to load up the car and i don't want to count the amount of bags the bernsteins have when we go away for two nights. suffices to say he has brought a arts and crafts store along. once we are on the road we have to stop because we spot a bagel shop that is open on new year day morning. he says, i have to have my lox and bagel. fast forward. it's nine thirty. he is supposed to be at the mercy center at nine fifteen. we are, according to him, will be late, probably about half an hour. half an hour later. he calls the mercy center again and leaves a message for robin, saying that we'll be yet another ten to fifteen minutes late and if robin thinks she doesn't want to wait she should get a cab. in the end, that's what robin chooses to do. in hwubby's words, this is better because i don't want robin to get into a panic coming out of a silence retreat. all this while i focus attention and awareness on the sound and movement of the easy breath as much as i can.

a few hours later, at our house's front door. he can't find the house key. he says, i think i must have left it at the rabbi's house when i was repacking. i really want to ask him, why did you have to repack in the rabbi's house? i take a deep breath and zip the lips.

om namaah shivaaya. i have a full plate of spiritual work all set up.