Navigating the Sacred and Mundane

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Down the Track

When I was a kid no one ever put sunscreen on me. They brought out the aloe when blisters bubbled across shoulders. Layer after layer, year after year, milky white turned to Indian red, then to translucent pink, filled with dew. Heat upon heat, until summer peels three layers down. That's how I knew I was athletic. Sun scars.

I don't know why I'm thinking this when the doctor in the white coat holds up form after form like retail displays: you can choose this or that, depending on this or that. "Your age is the single most important factor. Your eggs may be viable or not. If there are eggs."

Charts and prescriptions and calendars, statistical risk percentages, this test and that, and I wonder, suddenly, how old I feel to this man, wonder what he sees behind his white coat and thirty years. "They're going to retire me this summer but I should be able to see you through this process. " I want to say that then the door will close for both of us, but I know instead that the door stands open for everyone, no matter what the odds.

An hour home and I've left two messages, side by side, for the adoption coordinator. I want to know if we're eligible for the Waiting Child Program, if accepting a child with a moderate special need will suddenly make us young enough to parent.

The world is turning, egg-shaped, inside my lids, and across oceans. Spinning, I'm on that wave, at the front of the boat.

I've decided that I am staying. I am alive. That's taken forty years, but as my best friend says, "Well, Prem, we all get here when we get here."

We can't go before it's done, can't leave before it's over. Better to embrace the fullness of a dream, the wildness of an idea, the edge-factor of a statistic, than fade out, forlorn.

Growing up with an alcoholic, it was easy to adopt an exit strategy -- I'll fail before you take me down. I'll surpass all expectation of failure by fantastically failing to thrive.

That's a useful stop-gap measure, not so useful in mid-life. Old train tracks, I'd like to plant seeds and flowers between the rungs and put that route to rest. Up ahead and above, new and better technology for travel.

Consciousness the new transit, intention the new map, manifestation the new destiny.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cell Phones and Brain Cancer

Mobile phones 'more dangerous than smoking'

Brain expert warns of huge rise in tumours and calls on industry to take immediate steps to reduce radiation

By Geoffrey Lean
Sunday, 30 March 2008

Mobile phones could kill far more people than smoking or asbestos, a study by an award-winning cancer expert has concluded. He says people should avoid using them wherever possible and that governments and the mobile phone industry must take "immediate steps" to reduce exposure to their radiation.

The study, by Dr Vini Khurana, is the most devastating indictment yet published of the health risks.

It draws on growing evidence – exclusively reported in the IoS in October – that using handsets for 10 years or more can double the risk of brain cancer. Cancers take at least a decade to develop, invalidating official safety assurances based on earlier studies which included few, if any, people who had used the phones for that long.

Earlier this year, the French government warned against the use of mobile phones, especially by children. Germany also advises its people to minimise handset use, and the European Environment Agency has called for exposures to be reduced.

Professor Khurana – a top neurosurgeon who has received 14 awards over the past 16 years, has published more than three dozen scientific papers – reviewed more than 100 studies on the effects of mobile phones. He has put the results on a brain surgery website, and a paper based on the research is currently being peer-reviewed for publication in a scientific journal.

He admits that mobiles can save lives in emergencies, but concludes that "there is a significant and increasing body of evidence for a link between mobile phone usage and certain brain tumours". He believes this will be "definitively proven" in the next decade.

Noting that malignant brain tumours represent "a life-ending diagnosis", he adds: "We are currently experiencing a reactively unchecked and dangerous situation." He fears that "unless the industry and governments take immediate and decisive steps", the incidence of malignant brain tumours and associated death rate will be observed to rise globally within a decade from now, by which time it may be far too late to intervene medically.

"It is anticipated that this danger has far broader public health ramifications than asbestos and smoking," says Professor Khurana, who told the IoS his assessment is partly based on the fact that three billion people now use the phones worldwide, three times as many as smoke. Smoking kills some five million worldwide each year, and exposure to asbestos is responsible for as many deaths in Britain as road accidents.

Late last week, the Mobile Operators Association dismissed Khurana's study as "a selective discussion of scientific literature by one individual". It believes he "does not present a balanced analysis" of the published science, and "reaches opposite conclusions to the WHO and more than 30 other independent expert scientific reviews".

(courtesy of: http://www.independent.co.uk/)

*Thanks to Pam for sending this my way

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fertility Tree

Adoption: Part 2

Merging onto the highway and I dial the head of the India adoption program. Before I hit the first mile marker he's already told me that we don't stand a chance. The older parent cannot be more than 45 years older than the child at the time of custody. And the wait time is three years. I do the math. Steve will be 50 by then so the child will be five.

The counselor explains that the US has outsourced so much to India that the middle class has 'exploded', and now domestic adoption is more accepted. Plus, and naturally, parents of Indian decent in the US and abroad get first priority.

By evening, Jess, Holly, and I sit in the living room, putting together a bathroom cabinet in as many incorrect ways possible, talking about adoption programs in other countries. Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Zambia. It's a great sentiment to think than any country will do, any child will be the destined child - of course, any child that needs a home is perfect. And yet....

India has been in my consciousness for as long as I can remember thinking anything. When I walk the streets there, fair-skinned, blue-eyed, seemingly out of place, I feel at home. From train windows, buses down the road, I catch glimpses of faces, eyes lock with mine for a second, and I know we share something essential. I can't name what that is, except it's strong in the eyes.

I'm discovering that motherhood has many, many branches. Our biological children come from the roots, from the dirt of ancestral stories. Our other children come from different sources, rivers deep underground, traveling across histories that we don't know in our body, yet they come through us nonetheless, over time.

In sadness over not birthing my own child, I've watered and prayed over roots, and talked to the earth these last two years. Now I find myself looking to the sky, watching prayer flags fade in the wind, and the image of eyes that live in my soul -- wondering if I need to let it go.

Fertility: Part I

I walk in the bedroom late last night, carefully step up and lay my body down. "How's your back?" he asks. "Better," I say. Just home from a chanting Kirtan with Dave Stringer, I tell him how I stood in the back of the room, slowing swaying my hips, and that helped.

"We need to talk, you know. Our appointment at the fertility clinic is in two days and we need to be on the same page." He's reading, doesn't look up. I pause, it's tricky. "So I don't know when it's the right time. You seem to be busy with one thing or another. Maybe you can let me know when you're ready to discuss it." I say a few things about IVF , that I want to go ahead with it.

"Are you going to be able to handle another pregnancy? You seem to have a lot of problems with your back. Have you thought about that?" I settle into the pillow a little further and try to remain steady. "Well, no, I can't handle it this minute. And, yeah, I think about it every day." I reflect a moment. "Women do all sorts of things to bring their children to the world. I would have to prepare, that's all."

I fill the bath. In the dark I imagine having another c-section, the fourth time my abdomen would be cut open. How many times can that happen, I wonder? Maternal death rates roll across the film. The US does a wonderful job of hiding the shockingly high rate, and I wonder about my own fate. Is that the way I would go? And then I check out the fear, the way I could so easily bag the whole idea of another child.

Thirty minutes later he's in the kitchen pouring milk over cereal. "You really want to do this, don't you?" he says. "Yes," I repeat for the hundredth time, "I'm willing to go through whatever it takes." I say good night and walk down the dark hall, the presence of another being just over my left shoulder, patting me on the back.

P.S. I just read this article and feel, again, that we must pursue this path.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

India Adoption

River and I are at the table eating, small photos of babies spread between us. I search for the words to explain how some babies have light skin, some dark. Some eyes are this shape, others that. All beautiful, all without a family.

"You don't have a family, Mama?" I grab her hands, "You are my family, silly." We kid each other until I wonder, "River, do you think we could be family for a baby that doesn't have one?" She nods her head yes. "I want one of those."

We are pursuing adoption.

In the last few weeks I have realized that a strong part of my path is motherhood. Strange if you know me. I'm not really so 'maternal', and everyone knows it's not an easy journey for me at all. Every time I try to let go of not having another child, I grieve. I grieve deeply and sink into a subtle, though pervading, depression.

It never occurred to me that I couldn't conceive after having River. We tried for two years. I took clomid and progesterone. Nothing. Granted, there was due stress, but still, I just knew another being was with me, part of a destined plan.

River has a companion, that's clear, and I have been stuck on thinking that I have to birth that being. Recently I have discovered liberation in the understanding that it is simply my place to open my heart and my home.

Several years ago, when I first allowed myself to affirm that I wanted a baby, when nothing in my life was in alignment with that vision, everything shifted once I named what was true for me. The outcome is not so important, it's the act of fully embracing our truest vocation that keeps us on our right path.

I went to India and prayed. I meditated. I went to temples and did fertility rituals. I called out to River and to another being, there have always been two.

The other night I was laying in bed and realized that that child may be from India. Like most true things, once perceived, it seemed like the clearest reality ever. Of course, I will adopt a child from India. That's the other puzzle piece. I've been waiting in the wrong place.

Truth collides with form.

Now, turning pages in the adoption packet, I see the limitations for US parents. We cannot be more than 45 years older than the child. We cannot have more than one divorce. That rules us out. Even if we did qualify, most families are waiting up to three years at this point.

An article that I just read lists these statistics:
Number of destitute children in India : 44 million
Number of Orphans in India : 12.44 million
Number of NGOs working on the issue of Adoption : around 300

A response to that article:
The number of orphans in India as 12.4 million is grossly understated. I, too, used this figure for a long time. However, the official UNICEF figure from a 2007 report gives the official estimate at 25.7 million - more than twice that amount.

If you've ever been to India you know this to be true. The streets are filled with homeless toddlers. Why should it be so difficult for a loving family to give a home to a beautiful child?

My heart and soul move together now, eyes in focus, vision wide. I am looking into the depths, across maps and oceans, for this little one.

If anyone has any information or advice about adoption in India, please let me know. Thanks.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hybrid Tumor

Thanks to all of you who have asked about my sister. She went to see the doctor last month to have a second MRI, to determine if the brain 'mass' had grown or changed. She was told that they couldn't say for sure if there is, indeed, a tumor. And they didn't think her fully dilated pupil is related at all to the 'unknown' mass. They said to come back in a year.


Having thoroughly explored the traditional medical route, and after a few weeks of contemplation, she decided to consult a medical intuitive. Upon speaking, the woman told Lisa that all of her organ systems looked healthy, that she didn't see the root cause in her body. She felt that the problem was environmental, saying that many of her present patients were suffering illnesses related to electromagnetic waves. More people are now dying from cancers related to cell phones than tobacco. She said, "And Prius' are the worst." Shocked, Lisa said, "What did you say?"

"The car is electric. EMF waves." The medical intuitive explained that many Prius drivers were experiencing ill effects from large amounts of EMF waves. A few articles and research papers on the topic are already published.

Lisa bought a brand new Prius for her birthday on November, 18. Her pupil 'blew' a few weeks later, on the afternoon of her longest road trip in that car, three hours each way. She lives in the country and drove 1.5 hours to town every few days. She also bought a bluetooth (earpiece phone) the same day she purchased her car and wore it on the side of her head near the 'lesion.'

The intuitive asked her to unplug appliances in her home while not in use. Unplug her clock radio. Unplug TVs not in use. Unplug from the electromagnetic sea.

Upon more research, Lisa discovered a company that actually makes a device for the Prius battery that redirects the EMF waves. They obviously were aware of the problem. She has ordered a magnetic pendant, a cell phone gadget, and another for her laptop - all to redirect the waves away from her body.

It's sobering and gives pause. Who knew that by making a responsible choice for the environment, she was placing her health at great risk? Such an irony.

Soon she's going to begin another process to find more practitioners to help regain balance health. For now, rest and prayers.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Motherhood of Sleep

Head to head, we synchronize our breathing, his hand reaches to pat my back. He's learning to do that. I swim in the dark of sound and body, it's all I can do to regulate quiet convulses, emotion deep enough to give her the space she needs. Down the hall, night lights every ten feet, screams ride a palette of tone, and I am a symphony of tears with hers.

There's nothing easy about letting my girl sit with fear.

"It's hard because I remember that place, " I whisper to him. Just the way he sighs, I know he's traveling back to childhood aloneness. The warmth emanates between torsos and time held in waiting. We wait and let her cry herself into the depths of being small and alone and afraid.

It's 3am, two hours into this trek we take each night. Two hours and four rounds of holding, assuring, protecting, loving. I see the marriage counselor repeating, "I'm concerned about what looks like a profound lack of self-care, Prema. You have to sleep."

Down the hall, wet trails on red cheeks, I kiss her forehead, "River, mama loves you. I know it's hard to feel afraid, but you are safe right now. You are safe and you are loved. Mama cannot be a good mama if I don't sleep. I have to go to bed."

Racking sobs, pleas, helpless gasps and chokes of despair. Down that road I feel into all the images of myself as a child, knowing just how it feels to cry into a pillow for hours. Thirty minutes later and I am wrapping my legs around hers, accept the clasp of tiny fingers in mine. We rock slowly into sleep just before the light of dawn hits the horizon.

I shape shift away from her, open mouth to the sky, and tip toe back to bed. Back to where I passed the exit to sleep hours ago. The tax form floats across my mind. Occupation: homemaker. Translation: slacker. Several people have asked me lately if I work outside the home. Gravity fills the silence, blankly, "No."

The sun moves across the curtains, dancing fish, spots of light, and I awaken to the chime of the repeating alarm.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Welcome to my dream, bubbles in the air of the sun, light fractals floating in feathery wind. I could do this all day, but creation calls at my back.

What does it take to make a home?

What do we do with all of the parts?

Easy enough to find the front door, but wise to take the time to do our work before entering.

"This is fun, Mama! Sc(r)ubbing and cweaning my house!"

Four walls complete the form, but the roof shelters us from above, god-like.

Satisfaction in putting it all together, together.

Then we can say, Welcome Home.

From here we can discuss the tenets of the universe.

Hey, it can get kinda lonely. Want to come for lunch?

Thanks for having me over, that was yummy.

Bye bye, now, come on back soon!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sun Salutation

The sun broke through this morning with our waking. One hand on River's back, the other peels back an aqua silk curtain to find a palette of green waves, reflected textures and buds. I look up to where the color of lime lays flat against a river of blue and let the light of clear sky and the silence of wonder wake my girl - it's so much easier. The essence of rose finds perfect cheeks; the opening of eyelids, global domes, a beautiful earth in the waking body.

It's more than a sunny morning for us. I open that curtain to the day because finally I am able. With enough air to breathe, enough vision, just, to look behind me and know: we are through the storm.

One note at a time today, piano trills slowly, key to key, precious movements guide the chanting of ancient syllables. Into open ears, through my swimming cells, I welcome the vibration. I want that entrance.

I have always embraced my life as a journey, a pilgrimage. First out of necessity, save that I wouldn't give into despair, to ideas and images of suffering as a disorder. When I learned that pilgrimage is a natural longing of the soul, I wanted to intentionally seek out the opportunity. I traveled and found teachers, visited sacred sites, dedicated myself to spiritual pursuits.

When I gave birth to River I understood that we don't go on pilgrimage. It goes on inside of us. It's a constant motion, revolutions of meaning from sunup to sundown, from birth to death. It's what we are doing here. All the time. Everything is the journey.

With this clarity, I bow down right here. Right here, right now. This is it.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Holding the Sun

Two nights of sleep, divided by one of none. That's enough to think straight for a few hours. That's enough to recognize seedlings and bulbs, cloud cover and downpours. Enough to know that I am here in the mirror, there I go down the hall.

I can't say where I am for weeks and weeks. Insomnia is like that. Forgetting, repeating, starts and stops everywhere until I catch myself in basic breakdown between thought to action, thought to thought, around any kind of memory.

I threw my back out. Then got the flu. Add Spring break, no school and childcare. That's where I went.

A third night of sleep and I am cognizant again. I sit to write but all I can do is listen to music, hours pass and I breathe myself back.

How do we awaken from a long sleep? How do we remember that we have a body of pleasure?

How do we open within an enclosure of leaves, wrapped in tight weave spiral, winter at our back? Spring is here, adjust to the shock of light, the fervent feeling of rest and the rudeness of joy.