Thank you, dear friends, for your practice and your presence. Thank you for your patience as well. As I am going through my healing journey through cancer, the tumor in my back of my nose/throat area many times irritates my nasal passages, and so I have a lot of nosebleeds, and what is funny is sometimes it only bleeds when I do something that is not good for me. It is like a sign. I remember one time I got angry at someone and I started to use some strong tones, and then I started to bleed. I thought okay. No. No. Let's come back to the present moment.
So I think one of the things I did this morning that maybe I should not have done is it is hard for me to be in a room with a lot of incense, so I appreciate you for understanding that. We're just lighting the incense of our hearts for this talk rather than literal incense. And I apologize also for not being able to do full prostrations, but I was afraid that might also—my nose was just leaving a few minutes ago. I did not want to start that. And I'm not wearing my robes because I got some blood on my robes when I was in the restroom. I am just here naked in front of you, just as I am, nothing hiding, hiding nothing.
So, this is a dharma collage this morning, and if someone can put a little clock near me, that will help me to time myself. Because those who know me, I can go on and on and on. Well, thank you so much for being here with each other and for allowing me to come down from Dallas to share the dharma with you. I think what I would like to share with you is actually a little bit about my healing journey because that is really what is most relevant for me right now. It is what is most on my heart.
So when I first found out around Thanksgiving that I possibly may have cancer in the nose/throat area, I was in shock. I was somewhat in denial, so I waited a whole month before I told anyone because I wanted to get through the Christmas holidays without upsetting anyone. But in the scans in January, it was confirmed that it was cancer, and for the first month, it was very difficult emotionally because of what the doctors were saying. If I did not get any kind of treatment, I could die within a year of the most excruciating painful death known to humans. And if I did get treatment with radiation and chemotherapy—surgery is not an option for this type of cancer—that there was a possibility of losing my eyesight or my hearing or my tasting and smelling and maybe losing part of my jaw and having to get plastic surgery. My life would not be the same for sure.
So it was a lot to take in for the first month, and I was very scared. I had normal human emotions like anyone else, and I cried a lot. I remember one time coming after seeing the doctor, and I was just crying and crying and crying, and I went to Whole Foods to just find some healthy supplements, and I didn't really know to look for, but I knew I wanted to boost my immune system and help myself go through whatever treatment plan I decided on. And I was getting depressed.
But then there was an angel at Whole Foods. Someone was seeing how I was looking at certain items, and then she asked me what I was looking for and maybe she could help me. She was just a customer, so I told her what I was looking for, and she gave me some suggestions. And I was so grateful. And then I asked her what she did for a living, and she is actually a health nutritional consultant, and she has even helped people through cancer, either to heal alternatively or also to go through chemo and radiation in the best possible healthy way.
And when I realized that this synchronicity or coincidence happened on the same day that I was crying my eyes out, I remembered to smile and to realize that the universe loves me. The universe takes care of me. The universe loves all of us and takes care of all of us. Now of course, sometimes the way the universe takes care of us does not always look like the way we think we wanted to look like, but that is only because we live in these human personalities that are on the earth where our perception of reality is very limited and somewhat deluded, somewhat delusional.
It is similar to a little bug crawling on the floor. I may be wanting to help that bug to come out of the room and go outside, and helping it, and it is frantic thinking some monster is trying to kill it, you know? But in actuality what I am trying to do is to take care of it and give it safety outside. But it does not know that, and so in the same way I think in my life, in our lives, many times we do not understand what is going on karmically with everything in our lives, and it looks like we are being punished or the universe is out to get us or some such notions. But these are just thoughts. They're not necessarily reality.
In fact, recently, I had a change of heart concerning the teaching of karma. Of course intellectually I knew that karma, cause and effect, action and consequence—I knew that theoretically that this was just the way things are, and it is not a bad thing. It is just what is. But on an emotional level, I had a resistance to karma. I had a resistance and an aversion because on an emotional level, what I felt subconsciously was that boy, I must've done some really bad stuff in my past lives to experience this right now. I must have just done some crazy things to have a human life such as this.
But I had a change of heart one day after meditation. My heart opened a little bit, and I had this flower of insight that actually, you know what? Karma is a manifestation of love of the universe. Karma is a manifestation of love and compassion and kindness from the universe. How is that? It is because I am not left to my own devices. I'm not left to just go downward and spiraling downward eternally into more and more negativity and delusion. Every time I do something that is not in harmony with the Way, something happens to show that to me, to show and mirror back to me, you might want to make a different choice.
And because this is the way of karma in the universe, it is actually beneficial, loving thing. And I'm so grateful that I can have consequences for my actions, because the consequences show me that perhaps I might want to make a different choice, and therefore I can make new choices and be in harmony with the path. So I am never left alone. I'm always being taken care of. There is always a mirror for me to show me the way.
Also, when I went to MD Anderson here in Houston—you are so blessed to be in this wonderful city with so many wonderful resources—I went with my family to see the doctors, and it was a pretty hard day. Every time I go into the hospital to see the doctors, it's a very hard day for me emotionally, but while I was in the waiting room, one of the nurses—I think she is from an Indian background. She was in there, and I don't know why, but I don't think she was following protocol. She closed the door, and she said, "Honey, I just want to talk with you for a minute," and she just told me, "I know you're scared. I know that cancer is not fun. I want to tell you I've seen a lot of things here at this hospital that the doctors may not tell you. There've been so many people who have survived through their chemo radiation and also those who have chosen not to do radiation who have miraculously healed as well." I could not believe the nurse at a hospital told me this. She said, "It's true."
She even told me that Joel Olsteen's mother came to MD Anderson. She had cancer, and because of her age, she decided not to do chemo/radiation. It is kind of harsh to go through that at such an old age. And she just went home and through spiritual prayer and whatever else she does, she is cancer free. So to hear this from a nurse at the hospital was so encouraging. Again, another angel, and I'm grateful for her. Actually, when she told me all that, I just broke down and cried. It was a cry, more of a thank you for this little bit of hope in this process.
A few weeks ago, I had an image come to me after meditation, and I knew in my heart of hearts that it was an image that was a message from the universe to me, a very deep message. It's a simple image, but it is an image of a caterpillar crawling into making a cocoon around itself and then emerging as a butterfly. And I realized with a smile that this message from the universe to me was a message of hope, that I am leaving behind an old life for sure. I have already felt it. I'm already feeling the effects of being in this cocoon of this healing journey and all the education I think going through and all the processing of emotions I have been going through and all of the facing of life and death and coming into more integrity with what is it that I really live for. What am I really fully enjoying this day to day? Because I don't know how many days I really have. None of us do. So it is coming out of the more theoretical realm, and it is now coming into a more gut realm, the nitty-gritty rubber meets the road realm.
And so I realized that I am leaving my old caterpillar life behind, in this healing process of the cocoon, and I may die. But if I die, I will emerge as a butterfly. I will be able to release so much and be free in one level of reality. And that is a beautiful thing. I realize that even though my human personality is very afraid of death—and not so much death as I am afraid of pain associated usually with death. I'm sort of a pain wimp. You know, I don't mind dying, but I don't want to go through pain to get there. But actually, there is nothing to fear. And you know what? Billions of people have already done it. It's not anything new, right? Billions of people have already done it just fine, and it is nothing new. And billions more will be going through it in the future as well.
So knowing that helps me to let go of the fear of death. But you see, if I do not die, and I actually live for a few more years or even decades, I am still going to be that butterfly. There is no way that I'm going to be the same person. This is a very powerful cocoon experience. Going through any crisis or disease or life change situation where you really meet the issues of life and death right in your face, it is a cocoon. It is definitely a cocoon, and it will change you. So I am already feeling slowly the effects of the change of the cocoon, and I know either way, whether I live or die, what awaits is a new life, a new manifestation, a new expression of the universe in whatever form this particular conglomeration aggregates will take.
You know, there's a movie that I used to love to watch when I was younger, and it is an interesting because the metaphors from this movie keep coming to me in different ways. So whenever something happens at least three times in a row, I usually try to pay attention. The universe is trying to get my attention. And so I want to just welcome my good friend Yoda here. When I saw his poster at the store, I just had to buy it. So I bought this poster, "The force is with you." And then just a couple of months ago, someone bought this as a gift for me. I think it was a Chinese New Year's gift, and it even came with a little book of Yoda quotes. So, I love it. "Try not. Do or do not. There is no try." Do you remember that? Yeah. It is a very wise and then saying, isn't it? So I think Yoda was my first Zen teacher that I encountered when I was younger.
So, what was interesting, the third time I encountered Yoda recently was at this 10-day retreat that I went to California. It was a 10-day healing qi gong retreat, and the qi gong master had a little statue of Yoda by the altar that would be kind of looking at us every day as we are practicing qi gong. So as I meditated on it why is Yoda appearing to me so much right now, I realized it was because I am in Jedi Knight training. A Jedi Knight is just simply another word for bodhisattva, and I am in bodhisattva training. And I have many, many Jedi Knight Masters that help me with my training.
And going through this healing journey is also part of training. It is not necessary to training, but you have to make a conscious intentional choice to allow it to be an opportunity for training. In fact, that is true of any moment in time. Any and every moment is potentially an opportunity for training, but it requires conscious, intentional openness to allow it to fully flower as training. So, we are always being trained, but for the training to be conscious and accelerated, it does require our choice.
And you know, just as Luke Skywalker found it to be very difficult training, I've been finding this kind of healing journey to be a very difficult form of training, but I know that it is what is, and it is part of my life journey, and I can either choose to resist it, or I can choose to flow with it. Right now I'm doing my best to choose to flow with it. And some of the things I am learning through this is that I am not alone in this journey, both the healing journey and the life journey. That is why the practice of taking refuge in the sangha is so important, and I've gone to a few different healing retreats to help me with this process of healing.
And even if the retreats themselves are not actually going to cure me of cancer, they are actually helping me heal on other levels besides physical. There's a lot of emotional and spiritual healing that is taking place, which can only support me physically. The most important part of the healing on an emotional level for me is realizing that I'm not alone, and not just as a theoretical idea, but really experientially tangibly knowing that by actually being with people who are going through similar healing journeys. It is so amazing when you can do that.
I highly recommend that you do that because, for example, in January, I went to the Optimum Health Institute near Austin, and I met several people there who are now very good friends, including Jennifer, who is sitting here visiting. She was here in Houston, and she has been such a good heart sister in our healing journey together. But being with many people who are also going through their various healing journeys, it is really good for someone who might become a little self absorbed in their own woe is me. What it does is it opens you to realize you're not the only one, mister, ma'am. You know? It's not all about you, and there doesn't have to be this black hole all around you.
What it does is it opens you up to realize that you're not alone, but there are others who are suffering maybe even more than you are, and it opens your heart in solidarity and compassion, and you realize that disease and death and dying is nothing new. It is what we all will eventually go through and have gone through and will go through. And maybe some of us are going through that. And so I realized that, once again, when I went to the healing qi gong retreat for 10 days, you know, there was a young woman there who was very hyper and constantly wanted to talk and engage people, including me.
My first reaction was, oh boy. Do I have to go through this for 10 days with her? Maybe I should've gone to a Zen monastery instead. I had a little aversion, and as my body is very tired and fatigued from the cancer, I am a lot more sensitive. So I felt irritated. I felt irritable and judgmental. And lo and behold, on the third day of the retreats, when we broke up in the small discussion groups, guess who is in my small group? Yeah. It was that young woman. Boy, the universe has such a sense of humor, doesn't it? Well, it was actually perfect that she was in my group. I almost talked to the assistant teachers and said, "Can I be in a different group?" I did not want to tell them why. I actually was about to do that. But you know what? I stop myself, and I said, "Well, maybe there is a reason why she is in my group. Maybe I need to just face whatever aversions and judgments I have around her."
So I went to the group with my arms folded across my chest like this. I was not necessarily very open at first, but as each person shared about their story of their suffering and their healing journey, when it came time for her to share, I was amazed by all the difficulties that she had gone through in her life with her health and with her weight issues and with her emotional depression issues. And I started to tear up, and my heart began to melt open as I listened to her story.
And I realized that she is just a suffering sister, just like me and just like everyone in that room and everyone in this room. We are all simply just humans who are suffering, and we all have these defense mechanisms, coping mechanisms. They may be different mechanisms, but they are all rooted in ways we tried to deal with our suffering. So she and others like her may try to deal with suffering by externalizing it in hyper engagement with others to hide the depression by externalizing. Others do the opposite, and they just like to just express their depression as depression. Others may express dealing with their suffering by isolating and being alone and not talking to others. Another person may do a different thing and try to socialize all the time to drown out their suffering. Some people may take refuge in violence and anger and aggression to deal with their suffering. Others may try to deal with it through low self-esteem and self-pity.
We deal with suffering in so many different ways, and we have different personalities. Yes?
Facilitator: ChiSing, I just wanted to remind you of the time, and I see your instrument there.
ChiSing: Oh, yes.
Facilitator: We can talk a while, and then have a break, and then question and answer.
Facilitator: We are getting close to the time when the talking ends, in about five minutes or so.
ChiSing: Sure. Okay.
Facilitator: I just want you to know.
ChiSing: Thank you. Thank you.
Facilitator: So you can include everything.
ChiSing: Yes. And I want to encourage everyone not to just jump out and leave right after the break in five minutes. Let the break the part of your practice, and let the coming back together be part of your practice if you can. I understand some people may have a different schedule, but if you can, many times the sharing time is even more powerful than the talk time. So I just want to encourage you, if you can, stay. And we will include some music with that.
One of the men in our group shared about how all his life he never felt at home. He did not know what home was, and he wanted to find home. And later that day, I heard a message in my heart well up from deep within, and I want to share that message with you. It is simply this: Home is who you are when you are no longer looking elsewhere. Home is who you are when you are no longer looking elsewhere.
Another woman in my group shared a story about how holding her arms up for 30 minutes for qi gong is so very, very painful, and I understood because it was painful. But during one of the practice sessions, her mind remembered a beautiful memory as a child learning how to swim and having a flotation device, a floatie, around her waist with her arms floating on top, and she remembered that experience of the joy she had as a child floating on the water. And then as she remembered that experience, all of a sudden she felt as if there was a floatie of light around her underneath her arms. And all of a sudden, all of the pain just vanished. It all went away instantly, and she felt as if her arms were floating and relaxing on a floatie of light and qi energy. And she had no pain for the rest of the day in her practice.
And I'm so grateful that she shared that with me because it encouraged me to keep trying through the pain, and I was so grateful for her sharing that with me. It's very supportive to me, and all of these things have been so supportive. See, these are all blessings or blessings in disguise. Try to remember that next time you go through something. Everything in your experience but this universe is actually only one of two things. It is either a blessing or a blessing in disguise, and the same is true with everyone you meet, no matter how great or crazy they may seem. They are either a Buddha or a Buddha in the making. Buddha, you should have a really weird disguise on today. Everyone is either a Buddha or a Buddha in disguise, a Buddha in the making.
So, other forms of help that were expressed to me were when I had a one-on-one healing session with the master, a young man who had brought his guitar to the retreat decided to serenade me with a song at the beginning of my treatment. It was so nice to be serenaded by a beautiful young man. It was so very wonderful. And another woman helps me to go to Whole Foods to get some nutritional supplements because they did not have some of the things I needed at that retreat center, and she also gave me her special floppy pillow so I could sleep better at night. And a young woman saw that I was getting cold, and she offered me a hot cup of tea.
So I want to conclude this part of my talk by saying one of the most important lessons I am learning through this healing journey is don't forget to smell the flowers. One key ingredient to the healing process is don't only think about the disease or the problem constantly. Look up for a change of scenery and realize that there is so much more in this universe than just cancer or disease or a problem or a crisis or trauma or whatever you're going through. Don't forget to smell the flowers.
So there is a man who went through the forest and started being chased by some tigers, it got to a cliff, was climbing down on a branch and hanging there, and below was a raging, flooding river. Above him, tigers. Below him, a raging flood, and in front of him, one single wild strawberry growing on the cliff. What does he do? He looks up. He looks down. He looks ahead in front of him, picks the strawberry. Mmm.