Nursing Myself with Loving-Kindness
After reading a passing reference to my use of loving-kindness as a healthcare instrument, my brother wanted to know what other elements are included in this practice. Fair enough, I thought. I meant to provide such a rundown some time ago, but it keeps slipping down my list of priorities. Sometimes it is not even in view. Well, THIS must be the time.
I think the mention my brother picked up on was this: May the plasticity of my brain be maximized and may the formation of new white matter in my brain be minimized. This is one of the more compelling planks on my loving-kindness platform for better health. It provides a contrast. Plasticity—the capacity to adapt in the face of the new situations—is one of the most celebrated qualities of the human brain. White matter? This issue is far less celebrated. It is a mark of aging—and a sign of a life partially misspent. It contributes to memory loss.
I was shocked when my acupuncturist talked about my gall bladder meridian, even though the central attraction had been removed. Wouldn’t the meridian have taken the cue that it ought to retire and go into seclusion?
Do I have any proof that these inner components will either hear me talking to them or that it will benefit me? Do they even speak English? May I know an entity within equipped with a universal translator!
But arresting as these opposing images are, they occupy a small part of my bodily Loving-kindness meditation. Sharing it with you here, I strive for brevity. Though I regard all these subjects as important, some may be obscure. Please be forewarned: this may be tedious! If you nod off while reading, do not sue me. Fair warning! A double warning is in order. I am not “teaching” this form of meditation. I am telling a story about my practice.
Okay, here is my partially annotated script for May I Be Well:
∆ May I view myself as a unitary being. This was not even part of the original packet! I came across this term while reading A Leg to Stand on, a book by one of my heroes, Oliver Sacks. Injured in a grotesque mountain fall, Sacks found himself in a hospital. When he looked at his ravaged left leg, he could not even see it as a part of himself. Healing could not begin until he resolved to view himself as a unitary being. So, looking at myself from a different perspective, I must make a similar declaration. I am not simply the sum of the 14 or 15 comorbidities I ascribe to myself. I am one entity, and must attend to that.
∆ May my heart, lungs, and circulatory system be a robust network, free of blockages and disease. This is the main player. If it is in order, mustn’t the others join the queue?
∆ May the blood vessels leading to and through my brain be relaxed and pliable—and in a recuperative mode. Tests have revealed some blockage in my carotid arteries, but so far not enough to require surgical intervention. May pure attention help it get better.
∆ May the plasticity of my brain be maximized, and the formation of new white matter be minimized. Ah, wouldn’t this be cool? Maybe this meditation is working!
∆ May I be free of tinnitus, and from the roots of tinnitus. Sometimes this seems pointless. But I do my best. I sense that tinnitus is always present, but I do not always hear it.
∆ With my Lord Ganesha, may I promenade the Circle of Willis daily, where we will hobnob with the beings we meet, express our gratitude for the day, and celebrate the virtues of redundancy. The circle, a small network of arteries deep in the brain, fascinates me. It may be en route to becoming vestigial. This task seems unrealized. Maybe I would be happy just having a miniature dacha on the circle.
∆ May my sinuses be free of congestion and disease. Well, duh. What allergy sufferer doesn’t wish for that?
∆ May the cells at the top of my esophagus be normal, free of disease. It has been a year since I was diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus. I guess the first step is to go beyond feeling betrayed and resentful. Have I passed that point?
∆ May my skin be a robust organ, free of blemishes and disease—and equal to the twin tasks of protecting and containing me. Yes, I want to be contained!
May all my organs collaborate in compensating for the absence of my gall bladder.
∆ In particular, may my gall bladder meridian and my liver meridian cooperate in fulfilling their joint duties. I was shocked when my acupuncturist talked about my gall bladder meridian, even though the central attraction had been removed. Wouldn’t the meridian have taken the cue that it ought to retire and go into seclusion? No, the two organs are close neighbors, and the duties of their meridians overlap.
∆ May my gut be efficient, free of blockage and disease.
∆ May my kidneys and bladder be at peace, efficiently discharging their duties.
∆ May my bones, joints, and connective tissues be free of pain, arthritis, and other disease.
∆ May my sciatica, stenosis, scoliosis, and lordosis be cajoled into relative tranquility. Sometimes I am astonished to observe my own mobility—and to sense that it might yet be somewhat resuscitated.
∆ May my mind be lively, and may any cognitive impairment be minimized. Really, this is the main objective of this blog. Do you think it is working?
So there you have it. Oh, meant to, mention the sleep apnea and blood pressure mandates, but enough is enough! Some days it troubles me to think of all the organs and bodily interstices that go unmentioned here, that indeed lie entirely outside my awareness. This is where I fall back on the idea of viewing myself as a unitary being. If these parts need attention, may they petition that UB.
And finally, please remember, this is just a laundry list of a story. It is neither a prescription nor a lesson. Anyone seeking help from loving-kindness must start with a close self-examination and pay attention to such authorities as Sharon Salzberg or Pema Chodron. And, of course, you can choose among many other worthy paths.