Health

The Healing Power of Silence

From the time I was 11 years old, I needed to know one thing above and before all else: Who am I? I traveled for a long time and throughout the world in search of answers.

One day, as if I had lived alone for many years in the deep desert, I was taken by a stunning stillness, and without resistance I disappeared into Silence. It was more than an epiphany, more than grace, more than mystical union: It was my soul’s homecoming, my heart’s overflowing love, and my mind’s eternal peace.

In Silence, I felt my core identity, my essential nature, as a unity-in-love with all creation. I experienced freedom clarity, and joy as my true Self. I realized I was of time and eternity in equal measure. I was composed of physical matter and spiritual energy in equal measure. I was born in New York City at the same instant I appeared 20 billion years ago, unfathomably and impossibly far away. as a sibling to trillions of suns.

This Self, this Silence, belongs to all of us — it is who we are; it is what we are. If we are to experience and embody authentic peace and love, if we are going to bring true healing to our wildly violent and endangered world, we are going to have to learn to live within this essence which joins us together as brothers and sisters.

Where Do I Put My Mouth?

One of the benefits of chemo brain fog (not to mention post-stroke motor skills weirdness — as in “what the hell are my hands doing now and who told them to type that!) is the opportunity those beauties have given me to really get down with this mindfulness thing. Mindfulness, a very popular term and a growing practice throughout the land, is what I’ll use as a placeholder for the first two of The 5 Principles of Authentic Living: Be Present and Pay Attention.

typewriter_adler1_keyboard

Mindfulness. Be Present. Pay Attention. I have got to be very focused and mindful of where I place my fingers on the keyboard, which is something I learned in high school typing class. If my fingers are not place correctly on the keyboard, I  fyppe fiburgis . . . damn, I mean I type gibberish. Oy vey.

These days, I have to not only be extra careful about where I place my fingers, I have to remain extra, even super, careful about how my fingers move from one key to the next. My muscle memory seems to be compromised by the twin beauties I mentioned above. If I have any hope of being accurate, clear, legible and sensible in my typing, I have to be super careful all the way through. It was enough, before, to just start out correctly and I could trust my muscle memory to take it from there. Not now. Mindful. Be Present. Pay Attention. To start, and all the way through. No let up.

Yes, I am a bit of a writer. But I fancy myself as more of a speaker. My writing is really my mouth on paper. So, as a speaker, what does it mean to place my speaking fingers, or mouth, in the correct place so as to speak in an intelligent, coherent, enchanting, and inspiring manner?

Silence.

I know, this sounds like Zen on steroids. Silence? How can silence help me be a more effective speaker?

I’ll tell you! I’ve been a speaker for my entire adult professional life. I created Speaking Truthfully a dozen years ago to teach people what I’ve learned about being an effective speaker, to be a speaker who tells the truth, who reveals the truth of who they are and what they stand for. This is the essence of effective speaking: revealing the truth about who you are. That’s why the tagline of Speaking Truthfully is “YOU are the message.”

Sharing information and telling people about what you know is a part of speaking. It is not the most important part. Telling the truth about who you are — if not in words than in vulnerability, transparency, intimacy, honesty —is.

Silence. That’s the word I use to point in the direction of the mama bear hug that surrounds the first four of The 5 Principles of Authentic Living: Be Present, Pay Attention, Listen Deeply, Speak Truthfully. These principles, as is true with mindfulness, requires that we learn how to access, and live from, a place in our being that is deeper, wider, truer than the thoughtstream, our constant and chronic thoughts and emotions, the ones that are often like fingers gone all spring break, getting drunk and not working the way they’re supposed to work!

When I speak, to one person or 1,000, for five minutes or all day in a class, I keep a big part of my attention on my breath. I follow it as it comes in, as it disappears in my vast inner depth, and emerges. It is the vast inner depth that I call silence. That is where we find the truth of who we are. If we speak from that place, we will be telling the truth of who we are.

It is essential that we learn how to do this, how to speak less from our knowledge base and more from the vast inner depth of silence that lives within us. Let silence use our knowledge base. We need both. But most speakers are terrified of a simple pause, let alone the silence of their vast inner being. Silence is good. It can show up in our words. Speaking from silence is not not speaking. It is speaking to be sure. I never shut up. I’m always speaking. But, if I don’t speak with my attention on my breath and the place where it disappears in me, the vast depth, then I am speaking gibberish, pure shit.

So, thank you to my high school typing class, to stage 4 lung cancer, to chemo brain fog, to acute embolic strokes, to my fetish to speak and write, to silence, to the creator of the universe. Fuck. Thank you to everyone and everything. Love to all. I mean it.

Cancer Taught me Dick

The other day, someone asked me to summarize what cancer has taught me. I thought carefully before answering. My one word answer was, “Dick.”

“Cancer taught you dick?! I don’t understand.”

“Since my January 2012 diagnosis of terminal stage 4 lung cancer, I have learned more than I can say and I have experienced things I cannot yet put into words. However, the way I see things, I taught myself. Cancer didn’t do squat except to run around all crazy-like in my body like out of control kids at spring break. Cancer didn’t teach me dick. My response to cancer taught me everything.”

Nice one, Robert. You are just such a sweet and soft person sometimes!

Whatever. Here is a bit more of what I taught myself to such a degree that now its all embodied. I became this. I am this. Cancer is still just a dick. I, however, have become who I’ve been all along: a mighty dude!

Chemo, Darkening One's Beauty, and Dating Advice

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Meanwhile . . . I signed in for the first of my new round of chemo sessions and was greeted by Nurse Casey, who had attended to me four years ago for my first round of chemo treatments. We had hit it off back then, talking up a storm. I had given her some coaching advice and signed a couple books for her. (Actually, my sister Sandra had to remind me of all this, as I couldn’t recall any of it.)

Nonetheless, with the IV drip in place and Sandra sitting quietly in the corner, Casey and I picked up right where we left off years ago. I asked her how things were going, and her face darkened as she shrunk a few inches in height. “A guy?” I asked.

She replied, “Guys, plural.”

I closed my eyes for a moment. Sometimes I see better with my eyes closed. I asked Casey if I could say something to her about that. She eagerly said yes. (I have to be invited or given permission by someone before I will offer any “coaching advice.”

My eyes were still closed. I said, “You have a beautiful face. It always threatens to explode in light and energy. But you darken your light and your beauty from within. And you shrink, you become small. But you are big and you are beautiful and radiant and full of joy and many enthusiasms.

“Casey, do you hike?”

“Yes.”

“So, you will understand how important it is to start hiking from the right trailhead. If you start down the wrong path, you may end up lost and alone. If you start down the right path, you will eventually reach your goal, the place you want to get to. Right? So, based on your own experience, would you agree that how you start out largely determines where you end up?”

“Sure.”

“When you meet a new guy, you are not starting at the right trailhead, the one of your truth, of your energy, of your power, of your wildness. You start out on the trailhead of being nice and pleasant, of projecting a very modest account of yourself, of hiding your broiling enthusiasm for life. You take his hand and you begin walking down this path. Within minutes, or days, or a few weeks at most, you have darkened yourself from the inside. You have shrunk and shriveled yourself. You are a walking, talking lie.

“Stop it! Start strong. Instantly, from the first second. Every word must be true. Your listening must be true, so as not to be deceived. What you say and agree to must come unfiltered from your soul and through your heart. It is so important that you begin at the trailhead of honesty about who you are and what you want. It is so important that the first steps you take are down this path!”

The hour of my treatment flew by. Sandra and I left, saying, “See you in three weeks!”

My Final "Health" Update

Final episodeThe cliffhanger episode from last week had me heading into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, head glowing with stroke explosions or alien invasion craft landing lights, and an uncertain medical future. The writers and producers of this popular mini-drama, though themselves thoroughly bored brainless of the whole thing, have nonetheless decided to produce one final episode. Here is their script, written in first person narrative style, to accentuate the main character’s POV.

“I entered Cedars-Sinai Medical Center at 3:30 PM on Saturday, July 23rd. For the next three days, I was treated to a grand tour of modern medical science and technology by a large, rotating staff of technicians, nurses, doctors and a few characters of questionable origin and purpose. All were kind and seemingly well-trained. I was informed that they needed to do many tests to determine the root cause of my stroke, in order to then determine a treatment plan to minimize future strokes, which could kill me. Everyone seemed more bothered by that outcome than me.

“In any event, I was then wired up to an EKG machine and IV drip, with blood drawn every six hours, and tests of one kind or another administered according to a schedule I never saw. Amazing stuff. I listened in to the actual sound of my blood rushing through my arteries. I saw blood vessels that looked like dark seas. A camera was inserted down my esophagus that took pictures of my heart. I had sonic this and CT Scan that. All for the purpose of finding out the root cause of my stroke.

“My oncologist stopped by. I also met with a cardiologist, neurologist, medical oncologist, physical therapist — I asked for a witchdoctor but no one took me seriously. The final bill for all these doctors, nurses, tests, etc. (plus the luxurious sea-view suite and custom-prepared gourmet meals featuring the got-to-be-good-for-you Jell-O.) would no doubt be enough to modernize our entire military. (Which we need, according to Mr. Trump.) Thank you, Medicare and Med-Cal.

By Tuesday morning, I had had enough. I told the coordinating doctor that I was going to leave that evening, no matter what. She said she couldn’t release me because they hadn’t found the root cause of the stroke. I expressed my understanding of her point of view and appreciated her concern for my well being. Nonetheless, I said I was leaving at 5 PM. Why? Though I respected and appreciated everything being done for me in the hospital, I became aware that I needed to get “back to my reality.” I felt my shakti slowly draining from me and the longer I stayed in the hospital, the weaker I felt. I can’t say more about this; you may or may not understand. I just needed to breathe my own air and touch the magic stone of silence, which I could not do in the hospital, what with all the tests and invasions of my body and mind. I HAD TO LEAVE AT 5 PM, OR I WOULD DIE.

“Let’s cut to the chase. Throughout the day, there were more tests, more consults, more discussions: What the fuck (my non-technical interpretation of things) is the cause of this stroke? Somewhere around 3 PM, my cardiologist appeared with a Bible-sized printout of my tests and results. I told him I was leaving at 5 PM, so I hoped the report he had included the mystery origin of my stroke along with a proposed treatment plan. He smiled in a friendly and understanding manner. Yes, he said, I think we’ve got it sorted. You have blood clots in your lungs and elsewhere. We believe all this is caused by your cancer (some 20% of all stroke patients are cancer patients). Cancer has caused your blood to thicken. We are going to put you on two blood thinning medications which you can take at home: Lipitor (pill) and Lovenox (syringe). (Yes, twice-a-day self-administered injections into my stomach.) Still, we may not be able to release you today.

“That morning, I had told my sister Sandra to get me at 5 PM. At 4:00 PM, as I was getting ready to take out my IV drip and disconnect all my other wiring and what not (very Steve McQueen in The Great Escape), I got a call from my coordinating doctor saying she and the other doctors agreed I could safely be discharged. She discussed the medications I would take and my rehab options. (I have to learn to type all over again and walk without falling over — as my left hand and leg seem to have developed their own GPS system, independent of my brain.) She advised patience in this process, which, for those who know me, is not one of my highly-developed characteristics.

My sister arrived (with boxes of donuts for the nursing staff) and I walked out of the hospital at exactly 5 PM on Tuesday, July 26th.

Postscript:

Since my cancer diagnosis in January 2012, I have maintained that it is less important what happens to you than how you respond, what you learn, and what you do with what you learn. I see no reason to change this now, in light of my recent stroke and the opinion of some that I am a likely candidate to have more. I want to just say a few things about what I have learned and what I’m going to do about it. This is a very personal sharing: I do not pretend it has any universal application nor do I intend it as any kind of “teaching.”

The bulk of what I’ve “learned” in the past couple of days came to me, as usual, preverbally, as energetic impulses that become meaningful in their own way and time. Tuesday, I was very agitated. I felt imprisoned. I became acutely aware of the “secret” I have consciously harbored since I was 11 years old. I don’t think I’ve ever said this publically before. I have always felt I was “meant” to do something significant. Now, that is certainly a vague enough idea, and open to vast numbers of interpretations — especially if you’re a nondualist who would ask, “Who is the doer?” (I am a nondualist in good standing, and I say to them: Go fuck yourself.)

However, I know what I mean. And, on Tuesday, I realized that, to date, I have not yet even come close. This pissed me off, since I can feel that my time is somewhat limited. Without thinking about this, but simply by opening, feeling, acknowledging, and accepting, I felt a monstrous, fierce, fire-breathing focus take over my entire body and being. This is why I had to leave the hospital: to begin immediately to do what was taking shape in this sudden, almost desperate fierceness of focus and purpose. This would keep me alive and going. I cannot prove this, but I know it. The focus took shape. I saw myself on stage. OK, check. The place I love more than any other place. Re-ignite your speaking career. You have things to say and people to say them to. You now have the experience, insight, maturity, and confidence to deliver these messages. OK. Got it. I’m on it.

Next came the broad outline of The 10% Project: Radical Conversations about Social Action by the Global Consciousness Community. This project sounds to me like a cousin of Radical Sages, which I launched in 2004 and which lived for a few years. I am writing (slowly) a script for a 10-minute video which I will record soon. This video message will be the launch of this new project, intended for the leaders, teachers, organizers, and promoters of the “global consciousness community.” I see it. It’s already fully formed in me. I just have to transcribe it and record it (slow going but I am all over this). I’ve already staked out a Facebook group page for this project (hidden until I’m ready to launch).

So, with my good friends lung cancer and stroke and alien landings and thank you Mother Shakti I am off to see the wizard and do something significant. I am available to speak now: in person, virtual, visual, podcast — it don’t matter to me. Just invite me and then get the fuck out of the way because a tidal wave of shakti and embodied freedom will follow. Then, when I launch the video message for The 10% Project, I expect you to watch it and share it. If you don’t, I swear I will crawl to wherever you live and smack you upside your head — with my right hand, the good one.

Good. That’s it. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Any questions?

My Health Update: cancer, Dexter, and more pony rides to oblivion

If you know me, you know that I don’t care to, nor do I often, speak about my little friend. No, it’s not Tony Montana’s “little friend”: it’s my constellation of naughty cells gone all feral on their very own spring break madness; AKA stage 4 lung cancer, which has been with me since it was first diagnosed in January 2012.

Tony Montana

Tony Montana

No, I’m not in denial about this; I’ve written and spoken about it. It’s just that cancer is not my crusade. I never wanted to marinate in being a cancer patient, a cancer survivor, or a cancer anything. Certainly, I and millions of other people are grateful to those who have dedicated themselves to bringing new and important information, resources, examples, and stories to help heal and comfort those with cancer and other chronic conditions. I just wasn’t that interested in keeping my “chronic” condition front and center as a topic for me or you. I didn’t want to wake up every day with that condition in my mind, and I didn’t want the first thing out of your mouth to me being something like, “So, how are you?” Yes, I can be as narcissistic as anyone, but all me all the time is just too much! And, to be sure, there are only about 12 gazillion things more important than me and my “condition.”

My Response to Cancer

SparkOffRose

This is the text I read at the storytelling show produced by Spark Off Rose, In Los Angeles, on April 13, 2015. The audio recording of this can be heard here.


 

I don’t know what you were doing in November 2011, but I was in Bali, teaching a weeklong retreat based on my eighth book, The 5 Principles of Authentic Living. For six months prior to Bali, I had suffered from muscle spasms in my back that would buckle my knees, drop me to the floor, and blind me with pain. I could scarcely walk, but I had committed to teaching in Bali, so I loaded up on painkillers and flew from L. A. to the retreat site. When it was over, I was finished: exhausted, weak, sick, and in pain.

I knew I couldn’t make it back to L. A. Instead, I went to the much closer Australia, where I had recently lived for six years. I went downhill fast. Lying down, I couldn’t lift my legs; I could barely wiggle my toes. On December 24th, yes, Christmas eve, I was admitted to the ER of a local hospital. I didn’t know that I was entering a school that would soon transform everything I had ever known or been.

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Reframing Cancer & Chemotherapy

(written in March 2012)

The notion flooded into me just moments ago, with great clarity, urgency, and force. With my chemotherapy Shiva-Shaktisessions beginning tomorrow, I “heard” that I was to rename and reframe both the chemo and my cancer.

From this moment on, I will no longer use the word “cancer,” nor will I use the word “chemotherapy.” I have renamed them Shiva and Shakti, respectively.

Thus, “non-small cell lung cancer with EFGR mutation” becomes SHIVA, and Alimta Chemotherapy becomes SHAKTI.

Shiva, meaning “auspicious one” is the aspect of the Supreme Being  that continuously dissolves to recreate in the cyclic process of creation, preservation, dissolution and recreation of the universe. Shiva is the destroyer of evil or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Though he is one with great power, he lives a life of a sage at Mount Kailash. Shiva is seen as the Supreme God and has five important works: creator, preserver, destroyer, concealer, and revealer (to bless).

Shakti, meaning sacred force or empowerment, is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe in Hinduism. Shakti is the personification of divine feminine creative power, sometimes referred to as “The Great Divine Mother” in Hinduism. Not only is the Shakti responsible for creation, it is also the agent of all change. Shakti is cosmic existence as well as liberation, its most significant form being the Kundalini Shakti, a mysterious psychospiritual force. Shakti exists in a state of svatantrya, being interdependent with the entire universe.