My Friend has Cancer Part 2

As you may have heard our friend, colleague, teacher and one of the co-founders of Yoga on High, Martha Marcom, was diagnosed with cancer over the last two weeks. She has a site at in case you want to stay in touch with how she is doing and see the opportunities for help. Please at this time do not call them or send emails (in order to keep their inbox manageable with planning and medical info). If you would like to send a card please send it to Yoga on High at 1081 N High St, Columbus, OH 43201 and we will be sure she gets it. And of course send prayers, reiki, blessings and any dedications you like. She is already feeling the river of support and is floating along in it.

As I indicated in the first part of this blog, my main priorities are to support my friend, her family and our community and to stay authentic to myself in the process. This means if I am sad I will feel the sadness and know that the impetus for that sadness arises from my deep love for her. I have been angry and I think I have sworn more this past week than any other week since college when I had a real potty mouth. Confusion has been rampant. Feel that--check. Most of these feelings don’t feel good in the traditional sense of when we say we feel good. But what does feel good is to not push anything away. It feels good to have real authentic feelings even when I have little voices inside saying that if I was really spiritual I would somehow see beyond these feelings to something transcendent. These voices are not just in my head but are embedded in our spiritual culture and I have never found them to be even the slightest bit useful.

So years ago when I found some sutras from the Vijnana Bhairava (thank you Joan Ravinsky) I was amazed that I could practice right where I was in a new way. I saw that what I had perceived as my weaknesses could be portals to something bigger. That nothing had to be gotten rid of--I could be myself in each moment as someone who lives as fully in this world as possible with lots of meaningful work, family, friends, love and sorrow, and yes even sex. And good food. I didn’t have to move away from my life to be spiritual; I could dive deeper into it.

If you have been around me you know that the version of the Vijnana Bhairava that I love is The Radiance Sutras, translated by Lorin Roche, PhD. His poetic renderings and commentaries have been speaking directly to my heart for many years.

So finally the other day I sat down with the sutras and looked for the one that I knew would be meaningful to me that day.

Sutra 89

You are stunned, powerless.
You thought you knew
What was going on.
Now you realize you don’t have a clue.

You are stopped in your tracks.
Everything in your skin is shaking.
Enter the trembling.

Right here, in the midst of commotion--
Get curious, look around inside with wonder.
Unmind your mind.
All the walls have fallen down--
Go ahead and dissolve.

The One Who Has Always Been,
Who has seem much worse than this,
Is still here.

Ahhhh. Such relief.

In his commentary on this sutra Lorin highlights the word ashakti. You may be familiar with the word shakti--Divine Energy manifested as the feminine power of life and creativity. Ashakti is the opposite--it means powerlessness, not something we normally think of as an important spiritual quality. And yet, Lorin and this sutra very clearly say that ashakti can be a portal to Truth. What a relief to know that when I am totally discombobulated I can dive right into the middle of it with curiosity. And when I do unmind my mind right in the midst of it all--something else becomes clear. That there is vastness and freedom here too. I don’t need to change anything. Chaos and vastness are both here. I don’t need to be strong. And yet….there is something that feels powerful about being with all this as it is….I guess that is part of the total mystery of this whole wild life.

2 Responses to My Friend has Cancer Part 2
  1. Suzanne Schneiderman

    I am breathless and stunned. Let me know what and when I can do something to ease my sense of helplessness.

  2. Dale Ann

    Yes! 89 is one of my faves! Always speaks to me. Thank you for bringing it to mind. xoxo