People often look askance when I say, more than any other factor, cancer was a result of chronic worrying and overthinking. As I made clear in my initial entry, decades of obsessive mental chatter about food choices (albeit, healthy and natural choices) contributed significantly to receiving a visit by a malignant tumor in my colon.
Since I received some push back from readers as to why I didn’t include the impacts of environmental toxins as a driver of cancer, I’ll expand to say, of course, it’s quite likely that they contributed. Jeez, they’re making us all sick. I figured that was a given. I’ll also expand to say that my cranial cacophony was not limited to issues of food and health, but to include the universal stressors of money and relationships.
The reason for confusion may lie in the distinction between small “t” personal truths and big “T” universal Truths. It’s the bipolar tension between intuition and scientifically discerned facts. I never assume my personal truths to be in anyway universal. But through a brief encounter with a practitioner of Buddhist sacred art, I would learn more about truths and Truths.
Romio Shrestha, a reincarnated, modern master of the Indo-Nepali-Tibetan Buddhist traditions of enlightenment art, was a guest of a neighbor for the past few weeks. Initially I noticed him chanting from the neighbor’s balcony. I was curious about who he was, and what he was singing or chanting about. My curiosity was satiated when I noticed him sitting on the front stoop of my block, chanting in Tibetan as he observed passers by on the sidewalk. Om Mani Padme Hum.
“I need to meet you,” I offered to my still anonymous chanting neighbor. He invited me to sit and chant with him. Om Mani Padme Hum.
After a few minutes of chanting, we exchanged pleasantries, and I shared that I’d recently been treated for colon cancer. I don’t know why. It just felt appropriate. After a few more intensive minutes of chanting, Shrestha paused, turned to me, placed a hand on my shoulder and said, free your mind of worry and your body will heal itself. The energy that the mind requires to process worry, he said, takes from energy necessary for overall well-being, and especially for healing. Plus, there’s the stress hormones worry produces. Perhaps there is something universal in this truth?
Again, I’m hard-wired against assuming my truth applies to anyone else, let alone to everyone else. There’s something egotistically disingenuous about such grandiosity. Still, it pays off handsomely for today’s merchants of such truth twisting, finding a receptive audience of magical thinkers. A timely case in point is found in the writings and proclamations of current presidential candidate, Marianne Williamson, who, in her book, The Law of Divine Compensation, states,
To whatever extent your mind is aligned with love, you will receive divine compensation for any lack in your material existence. From spiritual substance will come material manifestation. This is not just a theory; it is a fact.
That’s certainly a bold claim and magnification of what Shrestha offered. And it’s where I break with modern-day prophet for profit types, like Williamson, Oprah and Tony Robbins, whereby small truths are commodified to justify a new age libertarianism, of sorts, while deflecting responsibility for society’s ills onto the individual. Self-seeking is relabeled “self-actualization.” Tell many Americans of my generation that they can have and be anything they want, and you’ll find a compliant audience.
The insistence that such notions are universal Truths is reflective of similar demands in America about science: anyone questioning dictates from the scientific community is shunned as “anti-science,” despite inherent limitations, and well known corruption of scientific research by profit-hungry industries.
Case in point is how the food processing industry underwrote (purchased) research decades back to demonstrate that saturated fats are the cause of cardiovascular disease, and worse. For its investment, the food processing industry gained mass consumer adherence to fat free foods, and a boom in carb-based foods, only to spark an epidemic in obesity, diabetes and heart disease. But, like bailed-out banks, there was no penalty or contrition for such institutionalized corruption.
Today, with federal regulatory agencies essentially working as rubber stamps for industries they’re supposed to regulate, we have no way to hold manufacturers to their claims. This includes the drug and chemical industries, who have long records of malfeasance when it comes to polishing up research to meet their marketing ends. So please don’t ask me if I believe in science. It’s not a religion, for God’s sake. Science is a very necessary tool that is being effectively exploited by industry. Where I agree with Williamson ironically, is where she finds herself on defense, as she has a history of skepticism towards scientific big T Truths. Just try questioning dictates about vaccines and quickly find yourself ostracized simply for your curiosity.
Without a keen sense of intuition, it’s difficult to discern fact from fiction. And without sufficient life experience, discernment is difficult. In modern times, however, attentive experience to life has been replaced for many with experience outsourced to media, particularly to television. The result has been decades of devolution in individualism and critical thought, allowing for blind acceptance of someone else’s truths as absolute.
The quest for my own truth in the midst of prosthelytized Truths is not a new journey. “I’ve had enough of watching scenes from schizophrenic egocentric paranoiac primadonnas. All I want is the truth, just give me some truth,” declared John Lennon nearly fifty years ago, and clearly rang true to my eleven year-old curiosity.
I’m fortunate to have creative outlets to lose my mind in, so to speak. In fact, during the most debilitating moments of my cancer treatment, I was still able to immerse into my photography work. In fact, my eye grew more perceptive as a result of my suffering. I can’t explain it.
Still, maintaining peace of mind in the midst of today’s barrage of drama, from personal to global, requires all-hands-on-deck vigilance. We’re post-mindfulness. While I reject big T Truths of self help gurus who all but guarantee material compensation in exchange for spiritual devotion, I appreciate Williamson’s language of love in her campaign, which speaks to a heartfulness we desperately need individually and collectively. Where the mind divides, the heart connects.
The reason insight from my Buddhist friend felt so true is because it aligned with my intuition. There was no promise of anything material for making peace with worry, only an opening to receive whatever it is I need, not what I want. That’s a truth I can believe in.
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