Thursday, July 19, 2012

Searching for what it's all about

Ordinary days are dreamlike, filled with things that weren't planned and also with things that don't happen. I had an unexpected day and flipped open the Blue Cliff Record (which I'm translating) as if it were the I Ching thinking it might be fun to have a random koan for the occasion. Here's the koan by a teacher called Panshan:

In the universe, there is nothing.
Where will we search for the mind?

For me this saying refers to that effort in which we reach into the mind and a thought offers itself but it's clear that the thought is not what we're looking for, it's not the meaning of what's happening, and we keep reaching and there's nothing there. In some way nothing is going on, I'm not my thoughts and they aren't what's going on.

I had some unusual numbers in a test and my Kaiser doc with solemn demeanor sent me to be scanned for cancer on the bone. I could tell the docs thought it was a likely outcome, and while I didn't believe they were right, my mind did play the scenarios all by itself, without instruction from me: If I had say a couple of years to live, how would it change things? Would I actually do anything differently?

Nuclear medicine is in a beige underworld beneath the hospital. The corridors look alike, few people appear and they are silent and busy going somewhere, acolytes. The tech injects radioactive liquid into a vein and you wait a few hours for it to circulate and reach your bones at which point they scan you. In the bed of the scanner they tied my feet together and wrapped my torso, locking my arms in.
It felt like a high tech vampire coffin. 

Nice for meditating. The tech kept telling me I needed to close my eyes as the lid that holds the camera came down. 

The tech had little hooks in her personality and as I lay there a supervisor came in to confront her about needing to be on time, not taking off without saying where she is going and so on. The supervisor was mild and not very pointed for a supervisor. She wasn't really concerned or she wouldn't have done this on the fly. She kept trying to coach the tech to say the right thing so that she, the supervisor, could be beyond this, could have fulfilled her duty and go. The tech kept arguing and offering improbable and hard to follow explanations that might have even been true. I lay in my moderne vampire coffin enjoying them both. 

That was one thing different about the day—I sat in my truck in a parking lot—a non-place I would normally pass through, and it had become an actual place to be, like any other place, complete and satisfying, a temple. Finches flittered through, each person who drove by had a face with tender things written on it, a brush with love and hate, a hope, fatigue, a stance about how to live. Fog was clearing and sunlight splashed on little leaves. I had an impulse to call friends while I waited, but it was enough to feel close to them, without actually calling, it was good just to be here in a parking lot, and it seemed to require an effort to be somewhere else as well. The day just flowed along, without much thought, without much of a mind to hold it all.

In the morning I got an email from Kaiser message center. I had breakfast before I opened it. There was a little avocado at the top of the message, encouraging healthy eating and the news was that the scan was clear. I hadn't noticed that I was feeling heavy until I felt much lighter. The urologist said he was glad of the non evidence. I was too.