enveloped, or: the buddha beyond the closed gate


Interesting photo theme this week: “Enveloped”. it made me go and look for that buddha park photo i once took. the walkway is closed, but i peeked through the closed gate, and then took the photo, longing to be able to walk there.  (Interesting, too, how passages that are closed immediately feel more attractive.)

And a quote:

“Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”
Virginia Woolf


Here’s the stream of “Enveloped” photos + the call: photo challenge “Enveloped”

3 more weeks of chemo, emotions vs. ratio, and painting it.


For me, it’s counting down chemo treatments: 3 more to come. So I am in the final rounds, the horizon is coming closer, but at the same time, I am tired of it.

The current chemo is easier to take, but it takes its toll, too – with every week, I feel that a bit more of the taste of food is fading again. And the numb/tingling feeling in my toes and fingers is coming up more often. Each time I hope that it will fade again, and hasn’t come to stay.

3 more weeks. Then I can start to make the first steps towards bodily recovery. There still is radiation waiting, but it doesn’t have such an overall impact on the whole body.

What I really miss is jogging. “I think of trying to go jogging this week,” I said when the weather turned warmer. To which my partner replied: “Are you sure? I don’t think it would be a good idea if you went alone”. And of course he is right. I agreed on that. “But I want my jogging time back,” I said, and felt tears come up, together with the core of this wish:

I want my freedom back. I want my life back. Especially now, as it gets warmer and now that I can start to think in wider perspectives again. I want to be able to walk along the ocean again (which I shouldn’t do right now anyway, as too much sun isn’t good, as my skin is more sensitive, and will stay so for a longer while even after treatments ended. And at least I didn’t get a sun allergy as it happened to one of the others who enjoyed the spring sun and now is a red skin…)

And that is about the state of my mind that I walk into every other day. It is like a circle: emotion vs. ratio. A mix of wanting to test the boundaries and being careful and patient, and creative: we now bought a cross-trainer, which gives me the opportunity to be a bit more active while at home.

Another thing I started to do: go through the photos of the last months. The time of chemo, it also brought many good moments. I now began to put a collage together, to remind me of that. I was surprised about the number of good moments. That it altogether is an intensive time with ups and downs, but also with a lot of deeper talks on life… Like a journey. Maybe that’s where this journey feeling is coming from: the intensity of it. And also, the dimension of it, in time, and on a bodily level.


What really gets to me, though: hearing the things that went wrong in the current groups of chemo patients.  Like the one who had to stay in hospital because her immune system was down, to the point that she needed a blood transfusion. And the troubling news of a fellow patient who completed all treatments, and now is back with a new breast tumor. The thing we all are afraid of. But then, its the negative news that you hear more – the fellow patients who are cured, they are never heard of again, and don’t come back to the oncology centre. Still, right now it feels like it’s troubled news on a weekly basis.

I am so glad for the art therapy. which helps to process it all, work with the fears, and try to understand what is going on emotionally.   Here’s the painting I did this week: it’s an idea I had in April already, to paint the therapy time as a road. Back then, I had tried a first pencil sketch, but didn’t really know how to put it into a painting. Now it worked – each color square is a week. The start is in the lower right corner, the two towers are the book fair. That was the day before I found the lump:


From there, the road moves towards the left: to the hospital stay, the operation, the big question mark of the therapy: chemo yes or no? Which then turned to: sorry, it’s yes. And then the time on the island, this bubble of time, of preparing mentally.

Altogether, the painting turned out more colorful than I first expected. Apart from that thing on the right side. “What is that?” ny therapist asked, curious for it. “I am not sure,” I said. But looking at it, I realized: that’s the other direction things might have taken. When i hadn’t noticed the lump. When it have kept growing, week by week, going from stage 2 to 3 and onwards, rising in size and danger and instability.

Interesting that I picked that height for it, and that the therapy will need all its time to reach high enough to cross over that dark alternative.

And interesting how those paintings work, that you start the session with a look at the current situation / emotional state, which is then mirrored in the painting that evolves – and like magic, the subconscious seems just too willing to paint the situation in symbolis that can be rather easily be read and understood.

The idea is to get to know the source of the troubles , and then identify the things you need right now by working them into the painting. “What would the painting need?” – which helps to find the answer to the question “What can support me now, in this situation?”

For me, in the painting, the answer was: a larger horizon. Even though I don’t know how that road will look like in the next weeks – there are the 3 upcoming chemo dates, they are fixed. But everything beyond that is without date – the length of radiation is to defined yet, all I have is the first preparation date. But in the painting, I could give myself the sunny horizon – together with those open questions, which are also an opportunity: like on a journey, there is an open space, this element of uncertainty, which also allows spontanity. I can either sit and wait, or live the days as they come, with openness, welcoming the ups and accepting the downs. And keep adding colors to the days.

And a final photo, which is from the previous art session: Color touch.


(i also tried a selfie, which shows me with the first touches of new hair. but i guess i am too shy to post that yet).

forces of nature: earth, wind, fire & patience


This is the place that reminds me most of the basic forces of nature – a place of vulcanoes, and of fire and water: the Timanfaya National Park of Lanzarote island. The roads there lead through lava fields. And those hills: yes, they are vulcanoes.

Here’s another view, this is the shoreline: lava meeting water.


More moments and notes from Lanzarote: life as a journey/Lanzarote

And a quote, about the force of nature that maybe is the strongest:

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson


In response to the current photo theme “Forces of Nature”.
Here’s the stream of “Forces of Nature” photos + the call: photo challenge “Forces of Nature”


zen walk – a memory from may ’14


Land art of the different kind: walking through the “Walking Transformation” exhibition – with works by artist Hamish Fulton.

Thought of it again today, longed to be able to be out there, travelling. And visited the artist website, which features a digital, interactive installation of his works: hamish-fulton.com

Here’s the longer blog entry from last year, it leads from Germany to London: walking journeys + landart: Germany, London, and beyond

Intricate, or: the world in a grain of sand


Sand mandalas: I had seen pictures of them, but seeing one right in the process of its making was special – this realization that it is a lot about the process, that the work itself, the placing of one sand corn after the other is the real point of it.

It also took a bit to understand the process – first I thought, the golden cups on the shelf beyond the mandala table are candles. But they are sand pots:


Turns out, the sand is applied with the help of wooden tubes, which are vibrated to make the sand flow. They are “played” like tiny sand violins – you see that detail on the right side when you look closely:


And another detail: the monks wear respirators to prevent that sand might shift through their breath when they lean in close for detail structures.

& a mandala quote:

“Each person’s life is like a mandala- a vast, limitless circle. We stand in the center of our own circle, and everything we see, hear and think forms the mandala of our life. We enter a room, and the room is our mandala. We get on the subway, and the subway car is our mandala, down to the teenager checking messages on her iPhone and the homeless man slumped in the corner. We go for a hike in the mountains, and everything as far as we can see is our mandala: the clouds, the trees, the snow on the peeks, even the rattlesnake coiled in the corner. We’re lying in a hospital bed, and the hospital is our mandala. We don’t set it up, we don’t get to choose what or who shows up in it. It is, As Chogyam Trungpa said, “the mandala that is never arranged but is always complete.” And we embrace it just as it is…”
(Pema Chodron, via 100DaysforMandalas)


In response to the current photo theme “Intricate”.
Here’s the stream of “Intricate” photos + the call: photo challenge “Intricate”


Things that helped during chemotherapy: books about cancer

cancer books

I always loved to read books. Since my diagnosis, I started to read both books about cancer, and cancer memoirs, and both helped to understand the illness, and get an idea what to expect after the diagosis. Also, it really helped to read about about  the emotions and thoughts other patients faced, and how they dealt with them. Here are two books that stood out for me:

“The Emperor of Maladies” by Siddhartha Mukherjee

This is the story of cancer and the research about it, written in a fascinating and intriguing way. The book wraps up countless historical and medical happenings / discoveries / developmenents and details, and the personal stories of doctors, scientists and patients. Here’s a review about it:

“The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.

Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer. It was described, by the magazine Time, as one of the 100 most influential books of the last 100 years, and by the New York Times magazine as among the 100 best works of non-fiction.”
(more at Goodreads & Guardian review)

Reading it gave me a clearer understanding about how cancer works, and how the treatments are working. Since the 1950ies, scientists and doctors are confident that they can develop a cure soon. But so far, that didn’t happen – it’s a complicated task, as cancer is not a virus or bacteria that comes from “outside” and thus can be targeted by medicine directly. It’s own body cells that stop to function properly. They ignore the balance system of our body, and start to duplicate out of their normal cycle of cell growth. Here’s the short definition of this complex cellular drama, from wikipedia: “Cancers are a large family of diseases which involve abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body.”

The line also tells about the problem of curing cancer: you can’t really target those cells directly, as they are not that much different from normal body cells. And in the beginning, it is hard to identify cancer – the cell growth produces no symptoms. Signs and symptoms only appear as the mass continues to grow and spread, and even then, few symptoms are specific. (The advantage with breast cancer is that you can feel it at some point.) As for the cure: the concept of chemotherapy is to catch the cancer cells by stopping their cell growth, as this is a characteristic behaviour for them. But the medication affects the growth of other body cells, too, especially those that also have a higher growth rate: like hair, skin, mucous membranes: that’s why side effects include loss of hair, skin problems, stomach problems, etc.

This year, the book now turned into a tv series, with an accompanying website that includes a timeline, resources and personal stories:
Website: Cancer – The Emperor of all Maladies 


“Life Unexpected: A Trauma Psychologist Journeys through Breast Cancer” by Naomi Baum

This is new book, written by a therapist who had to go through cancer, and reflected on that time afterwards. In the book description, she writes: “it shares her journey and the practical wisdom gained through difficult personal experience, beginning with diagnosis books-cancer_naomi_baumand moving through surgery, chemo and radiation.”

The special thing about the book is that it includes pages with advice at the end of each chapter, and that is written in reflection, starting at the end of her treatment, and then going through it from the start.

There’s also a beautiful poem included which someone wrote for her, the core of it is about being at peace in the midst of the difficulties, and keeping ones dignity through it, and a joy for life despite of all. It spoke to me. It is based on a journey prayer:

Prayer Upon Embarking on the Journey of Healing

May it be Your will, merciful and healing higher power, to lead me on this journey in peace, to accompany me in peace, to stand by my side and to give me life, health, happiness and peace. Give me the strength to bear this cancer with dignity, and the power to endure it and be healed. Protect me from pain, sadness and despair, and from all the discomforts that are drawing near. Send skill, wisdom and understanding to my doctors and nurses, Your faithful messengers, to sow goodness and light in my body. Help the chemicals accurately do their work, rooting out disease and bringing compassion to the healthy parts of my body making room for the good to strengthen and take root…

Naomi Baum also has a website that includes a blog, an interview, and also the chemo prayer, here’s the link: Naomi Baum 



The Other “Things”, Blogging & Links:
This is the third “things that helped” post, the first is: Things that helped during chemotherapy: Walking and the second is Things that helped during chemotherapy: art therapy.  I will continue this series with the other “things” that help me get through chemotherapy step by step, and look for articles and links, too. One thing that helped to get through the cycles of chemotherapy definitely is: blogging. Here is a longer blog post on how things are currently, the post also leads back to the start of my diagnosis: “Intense, or: anger, hope, spring & the larger picture”

e/motion & peace


long week, filled with counterparting emotions: worries and joy, upset about little things, a moment of ephiphany, summer sun in April, chemo on Friday, rain on Saturday… in between all, the wish to be more at peace, especially in this year.

“I am at peace”, I wrote on a piece of paper (and nice twist: peace/piece, this piece of peace), even though I wasn’t sure how to get there.

Then Saturday, and a quote popped up in the Mindful Blog, as if in answer:

“How to be at peace now?
By making peace with the present moment. The present moment is the field on which the game of life happens. It cannot happen anywhere else. Once you have made peace with the present moment, see what happens, what you can do or choose to do, or rather what life does through you. There are three words that convey the secret of the art of living, the secret of all success and happiness: One With Life. Being one with life is being one with Now. You then realize that you don’t live your life, but life lives you. Life is the dancer, and you are the dance.”
– Eckhart Tolle, A new Earth: Awakening to your Life’s Purpose


In response to the current photo theme “Motion”.
Here’s the stream of “motion” photos + the call: photo challenge “Motion”