Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fear of Owls

Don’t let your throat tighten with fear.
Take sips of breath all day and night. 
Before death closes your mouth.

A few days ago my cousin posted a blurry but cool looking photo of an owl he had startled in his backyard one night. The posted responses, except mine, were all along the lines of "Scary!" which surprised and baffled me. Owls are beautiful! What does a human being have to fear from an owl? Nothing. What does an owl have to fear from a human being? Lots. Mike's explanation (of sorts) was that most city or suburban people fear animals, etc., in the country. And that country people fear cities...Anyway another friend told me about her son-in-law who had lung cancer. As he was dying, he would not speak of death, or allow anyone else to speak of it. Fear.

When Julie, Morgan, and I went to Tanzania, I noticed we all had different fears. Morgan was afraid of insects. Jules got very nervous flying. I dove underwater with my snorkel and panicked. Who can really understand someone else's fear? None of it, really, makes any sense.  Sure, some bugs can kill you, people die in plane crashes, and people certainly drown...but there is no activity you can do with a guarantee you'll live through it. It's all irrational and's real in the body, and must be paid attention to. I am grateful I've had to do this very little (until now.)

I am possibly more afraid than I have ever been in my life. I am afraid of the super toxic chemicals I am voluntarily taking intravenously on Friday. (Various people's anti-chemo sentiments add more confusion.) I'm afraid that this cancer situation won't end up being finite like I keep thinking it will be. 

Do I truly have anything to fear from chemo? Well. Maybe. Probably? I won't know how it is until I do it. As with cancer itself, there are a lot of totally different kinds of chemotherapy. The word is strongly evocative. An image perhaps of Meryl Streep, skeletal in a hospital bed. But overweight people have a cancer advantage, a little known fact. (Actually, not true at all except in the sense that we can lose weight without looking like a living skeleton...) So discomfort/pain and death are the possibilities. Death at this stage very unlikely. Worse things, things I can't even imagine now.  It's all just ideas right now. The reality is not known. It's the idea of an owl...or a rattlesnake.

A retreat is a great place to deal with fear, and everything else. The theme of this retreat was the Heart Sutra, a great love of mine whose subject is reality. What is. Fear. Mental projections. Perfect. Also terrible, because you feel more on retreat, when you pay attention. But that's also what allows it to change.

I led a ritual to Perfect Wisdom (Prajna-paramita) Wednesday night which I really enjoyed. Among many other things, people chose and read relevant teachings, including a flash mob style Rumi poem. Listening to the readings, the whole thing really, was healing for me. I felt my fear leave me...not really leave me, but relax the grip on my heart. Here is what I read (from Osho's commentary on the Heart Sutra) think stones are food and you eat them; then you suffer, then you have a great stomachache. But if it is real food then you don't suffer, then you are satisfied. Suffering is created by ideas that don't go with reality; bliss is created by ideas which go with reality. Bliss is a coherence between you and the truth; suffering is a dichotomy, a division between you and the truth. When you are not moving with truth, you are in hell; when you are moving with truth, you are in heaven - that's all.  
I want to think of chemotherapy as an adventure. An adventure in how things are.


  1. Yep, despite what anyone says about chemo, or any other fearsome thing, it's all down to how well we can stay with what is instead of what it might be. WTAF is a good step above WTF.....I might just venture the thought, though, that living creatures have evolved through the ages, in all sorts of extreme environments, including some amazingly toxic soups and bombarded by all sorts of high-energy rays before they became humanoids. Bodies have all sorts of repair and restore mechanisms to deal with toxicity. Somebody once pointed out that if you decided to gather all the machines that perform the same functions as a human liver, you'd have to rent a building!

    Anyway, your horoscope for today mentions that a lot of people are sending you love--and though I generally regard horoscopes and fortune-cookies more as entertainment, I totally believe this one. Adding my own love and energy.......

  2. Ahem, will you please post a photo of said insect the 9 year old Morgan was afraid of? Thank you.

    (Love ya doll!) (Really amazing blog, really touched me. One of my favorites, so far. Glad you had a good retreat.)

  3. Owls. They are a bit scary but also so beautiful. On a solitary retreat in Wales I was woken up one night - think 2am and pitch dark - by a very odd half-cough, half-howl coming from immediately outside my bedroom window. The word 'eldritch' came to mind. Scared me to bits. Next day I realised it was the white barn owl whom I sometimes saw gliding silently over the hillside in search of a meal.

    Can't say how much I appreciate your blogs, Suvarnaprabha. Have you often in mind from retreats we've been on together, and my visits to SF.

  4. Interesting Kulaprabha, yes, barn owls ARE kind of scary looking aren't they! glad you like the blog, like writing it too...x