Dear Dhamma Friends
The news below are for those who do not get the CaringBridge notification or who are not part of it.
The funny leg has changed into a power leg as one of my friends now calls it. And indeed, it has taken me a long way – quite literally. At the beginning of August I did a pilgrimage with a friend and her dog. For two weeks we walked on the ‘El Camino’, the path that goes to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. We started in Rorschach (on the Lake of Constance, Switzerland) where a statue of St. Jacob stands on a fountain in the middle of town. Every day we walked for several hours, step by step. As I have to make sure where I put my (prosthesis) foot on the often uneven paths the awareness of each step is naturally present. We sat down and rested under trees or on hill tops - we had our pick-nick on open meadows, on the shore of lakes, or one time in the chapel of Saint Meinrad (to escape the pouring rain) – we passed and visited many chapels and shrines. After a few days we got into a nice and natural rhythm which I found very relaxing and nourishing. Being out in nature every day and experiencing the terrain and landscapes so directly with each step is a good way of being connected with life.
On the last day of our pilgrimage we walked along the Lake of Lungern (near the Brünig Pass, leading to Interlaken), an emerald jewel nestled between the high mountains.
In early September, I was in Ireland and participated in the Dhamma Yatra on the beautiful Dingle Peninsula. For five days we walked, in a single file and in silence, on the Dingle Way and in the evenings, we returned to the Kalyana Centre for Mindfulness in Dingle. The schedule of this special meditation retreat also included meditation sessions in the morning and evening as well as periods for exchange. I greatly enjoyed this retreat and found it refreshing to practise in a somewhat different setting.
A completely different and new adventure
During the past year and a half I was very fortunate that I could stay with my parents in Winterthur while going through my medical adventures: scans, talking to doctors, radiation, more scans, collecting information, second opinions, amputation, physiotherapy, or alternative therapies. It has been a great challenge - and it has also been greatly transformative.
Deep and ongoing reflections regarding the state of my health, the inner condition of my heart&mind, my spiritual path, the imminent possibility of death, and the situation of my parents (my father has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and my mother is greatly challenged by my father’s state of health as well as with running the whole household) – all these reflections have led to a decision that will surprise many of you. The amputation one year ago was a radical step and this next step is a radical one, too.
I have ‘shed my skin’ which means that I have put down the robes.
The whole process started in February 2012 when I was diagnosed with a big tumor in the bone of my leg. This tumor was a metastasis of a skin cancer (melanoma) that I had seven years ago. For the doctors this was/is a very serious condition, and even after the amputation of the lower leg I am still regarded as a palliative case. Well, Western medicine is limited to linear thinking and to take statistics too seriously.
Anyway, with this real threat to my life, I have seriously and deeply looked inside. What do I want to do with the rest of my life?
These and many more questions came up, time and again. I tried to be as open and honest to myself as I possibly could be. I tried to think ‘out of the box,’ stepping out of my own limited views and conditioning. A number of people helped me in this fascinating and at times scary process. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, confronting myself with thoughts and views and ideas that I initially did not like to see or to admit. Many dark corners of my heart/mind were lit up and became more clearly exposed.
As time went on I had to admit that I needed to adjust my life to the present unfolding of my practice, to the ongoing medical check-ups & challenges (I still do not yet have the final prosthesis), and to the new situation of my parents. It became clear that the robes no longer served as a useful and precious frame to continue my life’s journey.
My spiritual practice took a new dimension regarding the fact that death is not only inevitable (how many times have we contemplated this fact during our practice?!) but that death is actually standing right in front of me with his outstretched hand.
There was no other way than to look at my life in general and at my views and assumptions in particular with a much deeper sense of urgency.
When I went to Burma twenty-one years ago, I took up temporary ordination (very common in Burma for men and women alike!) with the intention to make use of this wonderful opportunity for three months to fully emerge myself into the meditation practice. Now twenty-one years later I give back the robes being incredibly grateful for what it has given me, for what I have learned and come to understand.
I know that you deeply care for my well-being. I am grateful beyond words for all your kind support and help that I have received as a nun. It has been so heartening to know that there are people with a good heart who value the monastic life. I thank each of you for this incredible support!
And now life goes on, of course. Although I have changed my outer appearance, the Dhamma is still at the heart of my life. I will continue to share and teach the Dhamma as much as circumstances will allow.
May our lives go on – blameless, at ease and in peace!