The Thirteen-Handed Man

Man, you got me writing in this journal like an adolescent girl

My heart gushing forth while my mind’s in a twirl

I haven’t crushed this hard since I can’t remember, and probably longer still

You’re half comedian, half musician, and 100% enlightened genius skill

You must have a lot of girls climbing up your hill

There’s so much I wanted to say to you, but I hold myself back still

I wanted to dance to your music wildly, sit next to you in the circle

Be the first to hug you, jump into all of your arms

My inner alarms played their broken-record tune, ‘you’re shy, you aren’t worthy, it isn’t safe to follow your heart’.

Your voice sang smooth as the moon, and I swooned

There is so much I wanted to ask you, about where you’re going and where you’ve been

So much I wanted to applaud about you, to share and offer you

Helping you is the least I could do

Even the man with thirteen hands could use an extra hand sometimes

Should you need them, my hands are here for you

Stay

When asked to do a favor

I interpret it as an order that my life depends on- I must complete the task, no matter how wretched or mammoth an imposition, in order to remain loved/liked/accepted/not rejected/safe/appreciated/valued

I bend over backwards to let others walk all over me

I ache to shake off these shackles

I stay without putting up a fight out of habit

Baby elephants get bigger everyday

Grow stronger than their chain, yet they stay

Energy-vultures rip out my exposed flesh

We are all living beings trying to survive- the difference between us is our intention

How to escape my newfound obligations

Thoughts of getting intimate with my kitchen knife

Seeking out a minor accident or mild poisoning

Aiming for that delicate balance between being injured or sick enough to get out of workhell, yet benign enough to survive without serious complications

I aborted my pregnancy in residency so that my colleagues wouldn’t have to pick up the slack for me

Now I shoulder their burdens while they are on maternity leave

I thought I was doing the thoughtful, responsible thing

Giving up my baby and my freedom especially stings

I draw on my zen training

Tell myself to let go of thoughts, breathe through it, this too shall pass

Lean into sacred lessons, stay calm and strong

Peace is every step- keep moving

What a beautiful challenge to remain enlightened as the shitstorm rages

I do it to myself; pile on crushing pressure without limit

I’m a pushover pushed over the edge

I’m a doormat covering a minefield

My eyes on the heavy boots dripping with desire to smear mud on me

I’m a danger to myself

Nobody is coming to intervene, especially since they are the beneficiaries of my sacrifice and service

Lord, take the wheel

I’m not even supposed to be here today

Yet I stay

I’m beginning to see the blurred lines between effort and non-effort

I’m beginning to trust that hurt can be healed

No pain lasts forever- lean in and breathe in to the sting

Just because I can be there doesn’t mean I have to be there to save the day everyday

The day will pass with or without me anyway

They call me an essential worker, but I am not any more essential than my colleagues, yet more is demanded of me

Ego, why don’t you take the week off? There will be less pain and tears if you do- I’ll book you a flight to someplace nice. If you decide to stay far away for awhile, that’d be ok too.

May my cortex override the stress reaction of my brain stem

May I shine love and forgiveness instead of loathing and fear

May I meet my persecutor with compassion and understanding

Despite all that I deny myself in staying, may I stay anyway, just for today

To strengthen my spirituality, like a pilgrimage to the present moment

May I hang on to the integrity of my soul like my life depends on it

Maybe it does

I settle in to discomfort

Trust my breath to get me through the day

Connection to spirit is just a breath away

Meditation Bell

I’ve never known the sound of silence

I’ve had tinnitus- ringing in the ears- for as long as I can remember

It is constant, bilateral, high-pitched, and deafeningly loud

I noticed it as a child while playing in the snow and thought it was the sound of a million snowflakes landing

When I was a bit older I thought it was the sound of a million fairies screaming.

Was it the meningitis (inflammation of the lining of my central nervous system) during childhood that set my brain aflame, or the heavy drugs used to treat it?

Did I dislodge the canaliths- crystals in my inner ear- when I spun around to the point of inducing vertigo?

I finally paid a doc for her professional opinion, to do my due diligence in my search for silence

At great expense, she quickly sent me away without hope of a cure

I will likely live my whole life without knowing silence

Maybe this is the sound of my brain vibrating with life

Maybe this is the sound of the spirit world

Maybe this is the music of the Earth in space, the resonance of our aqueous sound-conducting planet

Maybe I am tuned in to intergalactic radio

I spend most of my life spaced out, thinking of the past and future as I clench my jaw and bite my tongue

I have come to view the ringing in my ears as my meditation bell

Welcoming me home to the present moment

Intuition

You proudly announce that you have PTSD 

Like you are unique

You speak of your trauma

Like you don’t know that everybody has trauma

How could anyone get through life and avoid it?

I can’t get through one day without heaps of rapid-fire trauma

My heart in a blender, I watch in horror as you amp up the power

I tiptoe around your invisible trigger wires

Dodging bullets from your shotgun mouth

You blame it on your trauma

I don’t blame your trauma for your unaccountability- I blame your unaccountability

I find gratitude for the trauma you load on me cruelly 

As I once again act out the part of the one who loves more completely

I weep in private, praying for boundaries

I paid tuition instead of listening to my intuition

I turned away from dedicating my life to the Earth

To help human beings that treat me passive-aggressively and aggressively

Time after time, I respond with patience, calm, understanding, forgiveness

Day after day, I deny myself sunshine, fresh air, nourishment, rest, freedom

Imprisoned in a hospital, chained to my pager

It is easy for me to be the adult in the room because I never had a childhood

I wonder if you see me as somehow trauma-free when you melt down in a tantrum before my unflinching eyes, shouting and swearing at me, citing your mental illness as the reason why

I have no more reactions to give, my nervous system long ago burnt to a crisp

Perhaps you don’t suspect that I am so traumatized that I’ve come full circle, with painstaking sacred transformation and knowledge of the dark side of the moon

Everyone is fighting a battle, however some boast of their struggles loudly 

Maybe I’m just like you, thinking that my suffering is unique- and that is why I feel irritated by you

Or maybe I am not like you because I don’t speak of my suffering and am envious of your ability to let others know that you are wounded and hurting

Or maybe it is simply difficult to stay sane in an insane environment

When will our society stop neglecting women and children instead of turning a blind eye and then pouring limitless expenses on them after the damage is done

When will we prioritize giving over taking

For the moment, you and I are held within the painfully flawed system

I bid you good day, namaste

Workaholic

I went into medicine partly due to heartbreak

The exhaustive training of medical school and residency was a welcome albeit ineffective distraction from my sorrow and loneliness
24-hour shifts are a convenient justification for not keeping in touch with loved ones
Even though the real excuse is my social anxiety and sense of inadequacy
Living within hospital walls, I suspect that I am not the only physician who became a medical doctor to try to forget unrequited love, to escape the world of human relationships
My older colleagues work far more than they need to to make ends meet, far more than any reasonable person would work in a week
Who needs friends or feelings when you have patients and science?
Our skin grows pale under fluorescent lights
Our vision becomes shortsighted as the screens stare unblinkingly
Our hearts forget how to feel carefree
Our muscles atrophy as our brains hypertrophy
Our minds become boxed in with facts, our mental filing cabinets overflow
I am a recovering workaholic working alongside workaholics who do not appear to be in recovery
Perhaps they suspect the same of me
Heads down in the trenches, none of us can know another’s heart
We can only know our own heart, if we listen
We carefully administer medications, surgeries and therapies
We measure progress in numerical metrics of lab values, calculated scores and vital signs
We arrive early and stay late
We work day and night without a break
We always have too much on our plates
We deprive ourselves of sleep, fresh air and food
We know why we have irritable moods
Practicing medicine is an unhealthy, imbalanced lifestyle and we know it
We can only ever heal ourselves
I’m ready to show it
I am finally healing my broken heart
I found that I had to begin at the start
Childhood wounds tangle and bloom
Trauma begets trauma until we change our thoughts, words and actions
Breaking old patterns even as we hold traction
I am love itself, I am the source of what I sought
My cup overflows, it was not all for naught

In Case I Die Early

In case I die early

From the virus which I will be in close contact with for the foreseeable future
Rest assured that I lived a full life
I was intermittently enlightened, and there is no higher bliss than that
It took nearly my whole life, but I finally found love
I enjoyed exquisite physical pleasures and the connection of sacred partnership
My mind was often filled with colorful visions and my heart overflowed with music
I wrote wild poetry which I shared only with you, and a great many other things too
If you want to remember my life, take a deep breath and know that you are loved by the universe, that you are love itself
If you want to see me, look up at the sky and trees
If you want to hear my voice, listen to the river and the birds singing
If you want to feel me, place your hand over your heart, and know that we are not far apart
If I don’t die early, I’ll keep creating my visions to promote vibrant healing
But in case I die soon, I wanted you to know that I go peacefully, though I long to see my family and turn my dreams into reality to share them with you
Take care of yourselves, and each other
Take care of Mother Earth
You are supported by spirit with every breath

My Yoga Teacher

My yoga teacher said

May you live in the heart
May you light up the dark
May you live in the now
May you flow with the Tao
May you bless up
And never come down

My yoga teacher said,
‘Our generation is the smartest one yet, we have all the information we could ever need at our fingertips, yet we still aren’t enlightened- we can’t take 3 steps without melting down’.

True, however:

What I wanted to say to my yoga teacher after class, but didn’t due to my lingering shyness was that we are in the process of becoming enlightened, and yoga teachers are an important part of the sacred process of enlightening others, whether they realize it or not:

One by one, enlightened people share their light with others
As if passing a flame from candle to candle
The glow grows without end, multiplying infinitely.

Sharing our inner light with our fellow beings does not diminish our own glow, but builds a safety net in case our own flame is temporarily blown out- we have a friendly neighbor with a bright source to rekindle us again.

Because we have paid it forward, we have propagated a culture of generosity and abundance.

Let your light shine.

Yoga is a key part of my healing journey. It has changed my relationship with myself and with the world.

To my yoga teacher, I bow in deep gratitude for how they share their light with the world.

To all teachers everywhere across time and space; thank you, and namaste.