Sunday, February 27, 2011

Final Stage of Recovery?

Not to be gross, but there's a lot of old and dried blood that you drain after the sinus operation. I think the bulk of it is gone now, and I'm much more clear headed than before. I have still have some congestion due to whatever is left in my head just sitting up there, and that can make me a little off on my balance.  In any case, I will try to go to work tomorrow, though I need to take it easy and not push myself too hard.

Tuesday, I go to the doctor so he can 'flush out' my sinuses with fluid.  I'll also get more solid timelines for when I can work out, fly, swim, etc.

Breathing is a little bit better than before the surgery, but I do not anticipate the real improvement to occur until at least the flushing. Not sure what the steps are after that, but we'll see.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mini-Rant: Bradley Manning

Call Bradley Manning a whistleblower, a federal leak, or a traitor depending on your political stripes. We can all disagree about what we think he is, especially since he has not been tried.  What no true American can disagree about is that Bradley Manning is being held in conditions that are not acceptable for any US citizen under any circumstances. People in the US who support government-sponsored torture are not real Americans. They may live here, but they hate what their country stands for. The Constitution guarantees every US citizen freedom from torture (check out that Eighth Amendment). It doesn't matter what the guy's done or how many people he's put in danger or how mad you are about it. It's wrong. Period. The end.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Haiku Thursday

i ran
forgot my aim

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

...and just when I thought it couldn't get worse

I get a cold! Imagine yourself draining and tired and miserable, and then you get a temperature and a fever. This just gets better and better! Of course, I had to call the doctor to make sure there wasn't any potential issue (there isn't), and blowing my nose is still off limits. I got the fever down with Tylenol, but I spent most of the day in a narcoleptic daze watching Jerry Springer and that hillbilly fraud Dr. Phil. Bad, bad day.

This morning I feel much improved. Still kind of stuffed in the head, but the draining seems to be a lot easier. Having learned my lesson, I'm not going to push it. More bed rest and quiet for me until I see definite signs of improvement. Still, I wasn't exhausted from eating breakfast this morning; that's got to be a good thing.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

In Which Peter Learns He's Not Invincible

I had trouble sleeping last night in the upright position, so I got up early (as I usually do) and surfed the web a bit. Bouncy as can be, I was thinking how in another day or so I should be ready for my doctor visit and why did the doctor suggest that I rest up so long? I told Jim I was much better and even suggested I could carry the overloaded laundry basket down the stairs to do laundry. Note: Jim is doing the laundry, and I didn't carry anything downstairs but my tired ass when I needed to eat.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. Tired. Dead tired. Napped all morning. Still tired.   

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Recovery Going Surprisingly Well

Lots of sleeping, but I have to say my recovery is going very well. The anesthesiologist said that docs have moved away from Demerol for out-patient procedures. That means no (or very little) post-op nausea; I've had none. While I'm not hungry, I've had no trouble eating a little something (though that toast disagreed with my throat post-breathing tube). I think I was also lucky in that I did not end up needing a stint as part of the corrective surgery on my septum, and I've needed minimal packing inside my nose.

I wear gauze taped under my nose to soak up all the post-op drip (how's that for delicately wording it), I have a saline spray that I use in my nostrils to keep the 'flow' from drying up and clogging, and I had to sleep last night propped up. But otherwise, I can't say I'm all that inconvenienced or uncomfortable. I slept well all night. Guess I'd have to say that the worst part is dry throat from the breathing tube. My only real pain was during the first few hours after the surgery, and I'm not taking any pain killers. Just antibiotics.

Mentally, I'm perfectly coherent though pretty fragile. Just kind of quiet and meek and emotional (clearly not myself, in other words). I can't focus on anything that requires deep thought without being tired out, and after 24 hours in bed and being wheeled around I'm unsteady on my feet. There will be some post-op doc visits, and I can feel a little clogging in my airways as things heal (all as expected).

Net-net, I'm happy I did this! I think it's going to do wonders for my overall quality of life.

Mmmmm! I'm getting my appetite back!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sinus Surgery

Back from surgery, and things are going very well. Lots of things about my first surgery/general anesthesia were jarring experiences, but I had great doctors and nurses who made everything very comfortable for me. Will be dozing and recovering a lot today.

Best part is that I can already tell that my airways are much more open! And Jim is being so wonderful! I feel very safe and protected and cared for right now. And Fermi is sleeping at the foot of the bed to keep me company. I feel very fortunate right now.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sinus Issues

Tomorrow is my surgery. My first surgery ever. General anesthesia and everything. Glad I'll be knocked out for it. I'll wake up to find my nose and sinuses stuffed with cotton or whatever it is they cram up there to help it heal, will likely be out of it most of tomorrow, and then I'm sure there will be loads of pain.

I wasn't really too concerned about it, but I have to admit I am a little nervous. It's not like it's a risky procedure. In fact, I've been amazed how many people I know or meet or have either had it done or known someone close to them who has. Still, I'll be happy when it's over.

I treated myself to pizza and now I'll have some cookies. Have to stop eating and drinking (even water) as of midnight).

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mumonkan, Koan 12 (continued): Loose Marble

I've had a few zazen sessions away from the koans, but the most recent one (see last post) has been rattling around in my head. It feels like that game where you try to get the loose marble into holes. Each time you make a move to get the solution, you knock some part of it loose. However, I was sure there was something about my thinking that wasn't quite complete. Over the past couple of days, little thoughts would pop in my head about koan 12, and I think I've come to a realization of sorts. Or at least the beginning of one.

The realization is that some of my difficulty in expressing my 'solution' has to do with definitions. Things like 'finding truth'. Whether it's 'inside' or 'outside'. Whether one learns from a teacher or is masterless or learns from oneself. I got a glimpse of an idea that all of this thinking is wrong-minded. It's all delusion.

This delusion centers on creating compartments or egos or describing what I'm finding. I suppose it's okay to attempt to express things, but words are really tricky. They're never quite precisely correct in covering what I'm trying to say, and this imprecision can lead to me adopting ideas that are a) not at all what I learned in zazen, and b) wrong and deluding. This is probably part of why transmission of zen has traditionally been a wordless process from master to master over the centuries.

'Finding truth' is not the point. 'Inside' and 'outside' are meaningless distinctions. Learning comes when I'm in samadhi, and all this teacher/no teacher stuff that I'm on about is irrelevant. Piercing delusion is ultimately about throwing away the trappings of how my mind talks about existence. Existence is, and I experience it. Period. There are no words, or thought, or analysis necessary (or desirable), because the words, thinking, and analysis insert delusion into the experience.

I may not be expressing this clearly (probably not), but I think this is the tip of a really big iceberg that will come clearer the more I let it rattle around loose in my head. I don't want to necessarily 'figure it out'. I'd like to let the marbles keep rolling around and see what happens.

PS: This whole thing feels much like what I was trying to say in my last Haiku Thursday entry. In that haiku, the experience of seeing a beautiful fall scene is destroyed by consciously thinking about it. No longer is the speaker in the haiku experiencing the scene with immediacy; he is now experiencing it through the perceptual and analytic lens of his mind and hence it is distorted.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mumonkan, Koan 12: Zuigan Calls His Master

Zuigan Gen Osho called to himself every day, "Master!" and answered "Yes sir!" Then he would say, "Be wide awake!" and answer "Yes sir!" "Henceforward, never be deceived by others!" "No, I won't!"

Zuigan - and all of us - are our own teachers in that we can experience Zen through being in zazen and samadhi and that is something we do on our own. Truth doesn't come from outside of us. So in a sense, we are our own Masters. The last statement in particular made me chuckle, because who except ourselves can really give this advice without there being a certain irony in it? We must enter samadhi in zazen and trust what we experience there.

However, there is an aspect to this koan that I missed completely. I didn't pick it up until I read Mumon's notes. Zuigan makes a critical error in that he is identifying himself as his Master. In my thinking, the 'self-Master' concept is just that - a concept. But Mumon suggests that it can be a slippery slope to think of things this way because you can literally start to believe that you are teaching yourself.

So I must be clear in my thinking: I am not my own Master, nor am I teaching myself. I am learning alone. There is a huge difference in mindset between these two ways of looking at it. The former suggests a kind of egotism, and the idea of Zuigan actually conversing with himself reflects the absurd of this view. I may be learning while in samadhi, but I cannot confuse that with the idea that I am actively teaching myself. I am not my teacher, I am learning while masterless. This is so important because to slip into the former way of thinking would be delusion on a grand scale. I would be no better off than if I were taking instruction from an incompetent teacher (which is exactly what I would be). The fact is, Zuigan or I or anyone may well avoid being deceived by others, only to end up being deceived by ourselves. This is probably the far more common and dangerous pitfall to begin with.

After thinking about this, I decided that I want to make sure I have zazen sessions divorced entirely from koan study. I'm worried that this 'working through the Mumonkan' project may be placing my zazen time into a place of ego-driven progress ("I've solved another koan, so someone give me a gold star!"). I must have this mentality in my head to some level because, if I did not, I wouldn't have been so determined to solve Koan 11. I would likely have recognized that I just didn't get it and have moved on.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Haiku Thursday

Okay, so it's not Thursday. But I've been lax lately so I'm trying to get back into the saddle with postings and such. I wrote the initial seed for this haiku back in November, and I've come back to it every so often since then to sharpen the edges and polish the facets.

sun on amber leaves
just one conscious thought
destroys the beauty

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I got the promotion I had been fishing for over the last 5-6 months. This makes a big difference as now I know I'll be sticking around the company I work at. That means I can join the gym in the building and start working out again with real equipment, as opposed to my home work outs which had become somewhat limited due to how much weight I can safely work with using dumbbells.

Two weeks until my sinus surgery, so that'll be done soon. And then it'll be back to hapkido. Things are turning!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mumonkan, Koan 11: Joshu Sees The Hermits

Joshu went to a hermit's cottage and asked, "Is the master in? Is the master in?" The hermit raised his fist. Joshu said, "The water is too shallow to anchor here," and he went away. Coming to another hermit's cottage, he asked again, "Is the master in? Is the master in?" This hermit, too, raised his fist. Joshu said, "Free to give, free to take, free to kill, free to save," and he made a deep bow.

I'm stuck. I've been considering this koan for a while now, and I just cannot make any headway! I just don't get it.

At one point, I was so frustrated that I was about to read Mumon's comments. But I immediately realized this would be the worst possible thing I could do. First, making a federal case about not being able to figure out one koan is ridiculous. Second, anything I might learn from reading the solution would be useless to me because I would have learned without experiencing. Although I might gain some insight in the short term, I would just end up forgetting it all before long. If practicing Zen has taught me anything, it's that the only things that truly stick with us in meaningful ways are the things we learn through our own experience.

As a result, I've decided to just move on to the next koan. There is one bit of consolation. As I wrote in my posting about Daitsu Chisho Buddha (see post on koan 9), I've found that even returning to a koan I have solved can yield additional or deeper understanding. If that's the case, someday when I come back to Joshu Sees The Hermits, maybe I will have learned what I need to answer it.

For now, it's on to the next one!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Blizzard 2011

In Illinois, we get alot of hysterical warnings about 'dangerous storms' and 'big snows' that turn out to be overreactions. So when I heard the claims that we would get 1.5 feet in a blizzard with 60 mile per hour gusting winds, I just laughed it off. "I'll believe it when I see it!"

Well, this is one prediction that came true! The drifts were something like 2-3 feet deep, with the biggest ones going way above that. Jim and I joined forces to dig ourselves out, and the court wasn't plowed until late that night so we were really snowed in. Jim took the snowblower and I used a shovel. Best work-out I've had in weeks.

Here's a pic of me standing in the snow (and my feet aren't even on the ground!). I'm standing on the front walk, so yes we had to clear all that snow away. Definitely a lot of work.

It reminded me of the winter of 1977 when we had tons and tons of snow and poor Mayor Bilandic in Chicago later lost reelection because people were pissed about the snow. We'd walk to school on the 4-5 foot high snow drifts along the sides of the streets, like mountain goats in the Himalayas. It was so much fun!