Issue 692
This week's practice

 

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Dear Friends,

After 14 months of treatment for acute myeloid leukaemia I had a most unexpected phone call a few days ago.  'I've got the best Christmas present you're likely to get.   The results of the last bone marrow biopsy have come through and they indicate that the cancer has gone into complete remission.  We've cancelled the transplant.'  

I've got to have a couple more courses of chemo to make absolutely certain, but for all intents and purposes the 14 months of treatment has worked.

People keep asking me how I reacted to this wonderful news.  I can’t really remember because immediately after the phone call the front door bell rang, and I had to go out and speak to the tree surgeons who were taking down a tree in the garden.  Life constantly moves on.  

At one stage I was told by the chief consultant that a transplant was the final attempt at a cure and then there was no guarantee. I rather unwisely told her that my consultant had said, 'I'm your doctor and I'm here to cure you.'  She looked rather askance and said 'There are eight consultants on the team, and they will all have a different opinion.’  I suggested lightly that we had better have them all in, and I would choose the one with the best prognosis.  

The truth is I had complete trust in my own consultant who had stayed with me since he first met me staggering round the intensive care ward propped up by my wife.  It was him that trialled new treatments on me, that held out when others said that the only possibility was a transplant.  I count myself incredibly fortunate to have had such dedicated care from him and indeed from all the doctors and nurses under him.
 


 

It was also sensible to have taken a stoic approach to the situation.  It's sometimes claimed that stoicism is a fatalistic philosophy, and to some extent that may be true, but what I have learnt from my experience is that by remaining entirely positive in approach and by living for the moment and not in fear of the future I have not only avoided unnecessary obstacles but in so many ways gained greatly from all those people I’ve met.

One of the sayings of Marcus Aurelius is: If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.  I was helped in revoking concerns for the condition I was in by my experience at the beginning when I was so dangerously ill.  At that time I felt so content it was as if I was in touch with something, a constant that lay beneath the changing events of life.  Some knowledge of that state has remained with me throughout.  I saw it reflected in the extraordinary care I’ve received during the last 14 months.

With my best regards, William

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This week's reflection

 Our life is what our thoughts make it.  Marcus Aurelius


In the Dhammapada the Buddha says the same:

Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draw it.

Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.
    
Whatever we dwell on must have its effects on our understanding and impression of life.  These thoughts shape us just as much as our genetic set up.  In an age when determinism has met materialism it is easy to become locked into a frame of mind which makes the possibility of change a slim one, but the Buddha had no doubt that we become what possesses the mind, and if we constantly dwell on our fears, then by necessity we become fearful, so full of fear that nothing else can force an entry.

Although we may have little control over the events that occur in our our life, the way we look at them is shaped by our mind, and our mind is shaped by what it feeds on.  Fear brings its own suffering, but where there is love everything is transformed.

If we believe that we are nothing but our bodies then we may very well believe that all we amount to is forged by our genetic make-up, but we are not what our genes are; the body is.  We are what we think.  And certainly what we think may cause this beautiful physical set up we all possess to malfunction.  Why else is all this money lost in stress related illness?  Disease means simply lack of ease.  Fear in the form of stress is one of the major diseases of our times.  

There is a physical illness for sure, but that illness cab be affected by our state of heart and mind.  And even in the midst of illness there is no reason we can’t meet life open heartedly.

Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.

When we do think about our life, we tend to think about something that stretches back into the past and on into the future.  Shaping it may appear a difficult undertaking when thought of in this way.  The opportunity to shape our lives is only presented at one time: now.  The way we meet this present moment governs everything.  Everything is transformed by meeting it with love rather than fear.

PRACTICE:  
Stop to consider how you are shaping your life.  What is it that is making a difference now?

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