It is 11:17 AM in Los Angeles, one year exactly from the day and time I was taken by friends to the emergency room of a hospital in Australia. During the six months prior to that, I had endured acute to excruciating pain in my lower back. I had been virtually bed-ridden, gulping down enough pain medication to sink a boat. I had been repeatedly diagnosed with a variety of spinal disc issues and had received numerous treatments from chiropractors, physical therapists, osteopaths, and massage therapists. One year ago today, I realised that something was very wrong. I couldn’t stand or walk, I was losing lower body mobility. I entered the hospital.
A few days after admittance into the hospital, following on from X-rays, MRIs, and a biopsy, an entirely new diagnosis was offered: stage four lung cancer. Tumors riddling my lower spine and pelvis. Extreme spinal compression. Fast approaching lower-body paralysis. I was immediately given a series of radiation treatments to mitigate the metastasis, and relive pressure on my spinal nerves. This prevented paralysis, and restored some degree of strength to my legs.
In spite of the welcome relief from pain, the prognosis offered by one attending physician was six to nine months. For a brief time, I took that opinion as fact, as reality. I returned to the US, at peace with and prepared to say good-bye to this world. I had always lived the life I’d wanted; I had pursued my spiritual and creative path since I was 11 years old. I had no regrets or unfulfilled dreams. In a certain kind of quirky way, I was looking forward to this next travel adventure.
Upon my return to the US, I met with an oncologist who reviewed the reports I had brought with me, examined me, and offered another opinion. He said that the radiation treatments had “zapped” 90% of my metastasis, that I was in great overall health, that even if I did nothing else, I would still be alive in a year. He further offered that I was suffering from extreme “post traumatic stress disorder” — a result of months of acute pain, prolonged use of medication, long distance travel, and the shock of impending death.
Perhaps that kind doctor was a Zen master in disguise, who struck me with just enough force and love and at just the right time to release me from having accepted the first prognosis as inevitably real. Suddenly, years and years of self-inquiry self-activated and asserted itself. Very simply, I began to ask, “Is it true that I have six to nine months to live?” That question came from my being, in a loud and insistent voice. It did not come from my brain or voice box. It did not come from fear of death or clinging to life. It seemed to be impartial with respect to motive and outcome. It was just a simple question. Another way to frame that question is: Who determines reality?
Existence, of which we are a part, is so full of miracles, marvels, and wonders that I doubt anyone knows the whole truth of this thing called reality. Yes, we have spiritual teachers who claim to know the absolute truth, but mostly they are just passing along what they’ve heard from others or read or imagined. The truth is big business today, and many people are selling bits and pieces of it, or so they say.
Who determines reality?
Our human body is composed of approximately 100 trillion cells. One hundred trillion. Each cell is encoded with intelligence, skill, purpose, and function. Each one. Our brains, perhaps the most miraculous and marvelous of all wonders, is composed of 85 billion neurons, brain cells, with trillions of connective possibilities. It is greater and more powerful than all the computers in the world.
You may be reading this while sitting in a chair, or on a couch, or in a park. Do you know that you are actually hurtling through space at 1,665,000 miles per hour? Indeed.
Our planet Earth orbits the star we call our sun at a speed of 65,000 miles an hour. Our solar system orbits our galaxy, the Milky Way, at 600,000 miles per hour. The Milky Way is speeding along among other galaxies in excess of 1,000,000 miles per hour. This gives us a total in excess of 1,665,000 miles traveled every hour of our lives.
Who determines reality?
Reality is so vast, so mysterious, so full of kaleidoscopic miracles and marvels and wonders. That is fine by me. I’ll keep exploring an ever expanding reality within myself, and all around me.