This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. – Rumi
In the poem, The Guest House, Rumi uses the metaphor of a house guest to create an image that each day we have the opportunity to welcome something new into our lives, even if it is unexpected. And just like the house guests who can cause us to feel uncomfortable with their visit, unwelcome feelings that stop by our house, our life, can be just as exasperating.
We wait impatiently for these house guests to leave so we can put our house back just like it was before they arrived. However, underneath the irritation can live incredible value when we take the time to receive these guests with humility and courage. This is how I feel about my situation…I know this is part of a larger plan and that what I and hopefully others can learn from this experience will make the future more exciting and rich if we take the time to embrace it and welcome the insights into our lives.
Rumi’s poem is a good reminder to embrace change, face our fears and use our bodies as a guest house to welcome whatever, and whoever, drops-in on us from time-to-time:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
– Jelaluddin Rumi
Fear keeps us trapped. We shut doors and windows and refuse to let anything, or anyone, new inside. We hide in the familiar. We keep growth and personal change outside because our fear tells us that opening the door and inviting a new guest into our home is just too dangerous.
I had a very interesting conversation with my friend Jeff Clark two Monday’s ago in Half Moon Bay. Jeff is the first guy to surf Mavericks and is a legend in terms of big wave surfing. The waves were pumping, so on my way home from UCSF I stopped and watched the 40-50 foot face waves and the surfers riding those giants. He wanted me to go out in his boat to watch, but I am not supposed to go in the ocean yet. The odds of getting really wet and potentially in a bad situation were not worth the risk.
We met up a couple hours later and had a great discussion about fear and moving from the known to the unknown. He said that for him he thrives at the moment he moves from what he knows he can do to the moment when he is uncertain about his ability. “If at that moment you revert to fear you will most likely not be successful, but if you go forward with faith using the skills you have…you can enter into a new zone of growth and skill, and then the unknown becomes known and you have reached a new level.” This process of growth creates confidence and makes the next situation in your life that much easier as you go from uncertainty to certainty…until you try and give it 100% you will never know what is possible.
The extraordinary effort is where our lives can explode, if we are open and grateful to whatever is standing in the doorstep and waiting to receive the invitation to come inside.
Sometimes what we fear most is not that our lives will turn out poorly, but we will actually find peace and happiness. So, we do nothing. We don’t allow happiness to walk inside because what would we have to complain about next? Somewhere behind our walls we have learned there is a false comfort with the predictable.
Look for the strength in your house and the weaknesses too. Take the chance to answer the doorbell and allow every experience inside. Treat each experience humbly.
Wait on your guest, serve your guest and don’t rush your guest to leave. When the visit is over you may find your house is in better shape than it was before your guest came to visit.
After all, Life, our guest, won’t be staying long.
Lots of things to give updates on today after my visit with the doctor:
This last week since my infusion, I have at times been nauseated and a little bit dizzy and have experienced a little bit of chemo mouth (everything taste like metal) as well as being tired. My immune system is low and I will try and get thru this next week without picking up any illnesses.
It is interesting how each week there has been a different reaction and symptoms. Once again the lesson of expectations and surprises continues to teach me that we must be open to whatever appears at our door and to expect the best and be prepared to welcome whatever arrives with a smile and conviction to appreciate the journey whatever it may be.
My next chemotherapy will be January 4, 2016.
I failed to mention that yesterday when Emmett took me to UCSF he passed out while I was giving blood. The poor guy was just watching the nurse poke me and pull out 7 vials of blood and low and behold we turn around and just saw him fall like a tree to the tile floor. His head hit the floor with such a beautiful thud and he was as white as a ghost. The nurses left me and immediately focused on Emmett for the next 5-10 minutes. He was out for a few minutes and can’t remember much of the situation. One of the nurses was hysterical and it actually was funny watching them try and bring Emmett back to reality. We immediately went and ate breakfast and Emmett started to come back to his normal self. It was nice to be a caretaker for a few moments!
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season with family and friends!
I love all y’all!
Good News…I have been feeling pretty good since my Infusion on the 23rd of November, compared to the first round of chemo. The doctor warned me that the “cumulative effect” with chemotherapy would make me more tired and the side effects would be more pronounced, those things so far have not been true, so I am stoked!
In speaking with the doctor on the 30th of November he said that my body is reacting well to the drugs and that one of my tumor markers (Carcinoembryonic Antigen-CEA) moved in a positive direction and he was excited about that. For those who speak this language, my serum level was 286 on 11/2/15 and it was 165.7 on 11/23/15. Bottom line: this is good news and could be contributing to me feeling better. For a person without cancer the score would be 0, so moving in this southward direction is very good.
The first real marker about how I’m doing will be on December 14th when I go for my next CT Scan and my next infusion. It will probably take a day or two to get the results. Hopefully I won’t wet my pants during this infusion!
It is a funny feeling going thru this because I don’t want to jinx myself by telling you that I have been feeling good since my last infusion. The program (food, sleep, medicines, exercise, etc.) I have been on is working for me. It is a tenuous situation where I just have to listen to my body and do what seems appropriate to keep feeling good. I don’t want to get behind and have to play catch up, so I try and really listen to my body and respond accordingly. It’s kind of like being in a boat on the ocean - if you get too comfy and start trying to untie your fishing line…boom! The next thing you know your stomach gets a little upset and you have to look at the horizon to feel better.
I’ve been eating a super-healthy diet that is mainly plant based with the ability to splurge on occasion! We started juicing all kinds of vegetables and fruits and it is quite tasty! I have maintained body weight, I try to walk every day and ride my bike whenever possible. Hopefully after these first 4 rounds of chemo the doctor will allow me to do more activities!
I appreciate all the power, energy, and prayers on my behalf and know they’re making a difference!
I have been reading “You are the Placebo” and I like the book- basically it’s about the power of the mind and the impact on your body if the mind believes something. In one study at the University of Toledo, researchers divided a group of healthy volunteers into two categories---optimists and pessimists---according to how the volunteers answered questions on a diagnostic questionnaire.
In the first study, they gave the subjects a placebo but told them it was a drug that would make them feel bad. Their study results indicated the pessimists had a stronger negative reaction to the pill than the optimists. In the second study, the researchers gave the subjects a placebo as well, but told them it would help them sleep better. The optimists reported much better sleep than the pessimists.
The takeaway for me is that in exactly the same environment, those with a positive mind-set tended to create more positive situations, while those with a negative mind-set tended to create negative situations.
Given my experience over the last few weeks I imagine you can see why this is interesting to me. I actually expected to be worse and then it never happened physically. I’m not quite sure why, but I am an optimist for sure!
One of my colleagues said a funny thing once, “For Greg, hope is a strategy. It seems to always work out.” What he didn’t realize (and I didn’t tell him) was the scope of contingency-planning I have in my back pocket given the knowledge that things often don’t play out the way you hope or expect, so what you must be ready to do is respond quickly and decisively with lots of HOPE…so I guess Hope is a strategy!”
In exploring the question of how many medical healings are due to the placebo effect, modern day research shows it can range anywhere from 10-100%. Researchers, when pushed to be more specific, say they believe on average that 35% of healings are due to the placebo effect.
I also find myself wondering what percentage of illnesses are due to the effects of negative thoughts and whether the percentage is likely higher than we realize. This makes sense to me since it seems so many mental, physical, and emotional health conditions seem to come from nowhere and are hard to explain. It’s simplistic to suggest everything is ‘in our head’, yet I believe our attitude and way of thinking definitely has an impact. The research over the last several decades clearly points to some key truths:
Anyway, I find myself in a unique position right now to explore the topic and I find it interesting to think about. Thanks for all the Positive thoughts!
In one of my earlier entries I talked about the notion of Social Capital and have felt myself return to this concept this week. This topic is really interesting to me and something I believe is worth a much deeper exploration.
What is Social Capital: It is the collective value of your various social networks that trust you as a person and are willing to help you based upon the reciprocity that occurs because of how you made that person feel during past interactions. It is the unspoken currency that makes people feel valued, worthwhile, and important. The funny thing about it is that your intent is not to build any “net worth” in fact from the surface it could seem that you are decreasing your ability to create worth. What most people really desire is connection with other humans in a genuine and pure way, and you get that when you serve others in whatever way you are capable.
In my case, I continue to be amazed by the actions of my network these past few months:
I could go on, and I hope you can see why I am again reflecting on this concept of “Social Capital.” There is true tangible and intangible value in all of the above things that make my life more interesting, valuable, easy, fast, efficient, fun, exciting, safe, etc. The intangible part is that others who are removed sometimes benefit from the acts of people and they just happen to be in the right place at the right time.
I was pondering this the other day as I was driving home. We just had a major storm in Santa Cruz and the tide was high leaving debris all over the roads. I drove by the harbor and a huge log was in the middle of the street and was blocking traffic - no one was doing anything about the log but traffic was a mess - so I quickly thought “I think I could get that log out of the way.” I pulled over and tried to recruit 2 people to help me to move the log. Both of the men said no. One guy said, “someone will come along from Public Works at some point.” Confused by their lack of being willing to help, I safely stopped the traffic and pushed the log out of the way myself. I had one of those Hulk Hogan moments!
Everyone drove by and cheered, honked their horns, gave me a thumbs up, a big smile, yelled cool stuff at me, and within minutes’ traffic was flowing again. For a minute I had an infusion of positive vibes! Many people intangibly benefited from my actions because it allowed people to get to work/school on time, saved gas, maybe prevented an accident, kept someone in a good mood, created less stress, observed someone taking action for their benefit, etc.
If we looked at Social Capital from an organizational perspective, there are many companies today that are trying to give back to the communities where they exist---Xactly Corporation (a super cool start up in San Jose www.xactlycorp.com) follows the the 1-1-1 pledge, where they give 1% of their product away, 1% of their employee’s time away, and 1% of our resources to support the effectiveness of the social sector. Many companies have similar programs and it builds their social capital. The generations of today (for the most part) are very in tune with not just working to make money, they want to do cool work and make a difference, there is much to learn from the rising generation!
When we all leave this life, we will take our knowledge and relationships, that’s all. Our earthly existence is a short period of time and I worry that I sometimes I get focused on the wrong things that don’t really mean that much in the end.
I love all of you and hope you have a great holiday season! They say you are a combination of the people you hang out with, if this is true, I owe all of you a huge thank you for what you have given me past, present, and future!
150 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO BUILD SOCIAL CAPITAL? (Harvard’s Kennedy School)
Social capital is built through hundreds of little and big actions we take every day.
1. Organize a social gathering to welcome a new neighbor
2. Attend town meetings
3. Register to vote and vote
4. Support local merchants
5. Volunteer your special skills to an organization
6. Donate blood (with a friend!)
7. Start a front-yard/community garden
8. Mentor someone of a different ethnic or religious group
9. Surprise a new neighbor by making a favorite dinner–and include the recipe
10. Tape record your parents' earliest recollections and share them with your children
11. Plan a vacation with friends or family
12. Avoid gossip
13. Help fix someone's flat tire
14. Organize or participate in a sports league
15. Join a gardening club
16. Attend home parties when invited
17. Become an organ donor or blood marrow donor.
18. Attend your children's athletic contests, plays and recitals
19. Get to know your children's teachers
20. Join the local Elks, Kiwanis, or Knights of Columbus
21. Get involved with Brownies or Cub/Boy/Girl Scouts
22. Start a monthly tea group
23. Speak at or host a monthly brown bag lunch series at your local library
24. Sing in a choir
25. Get to know the clerks and salespeople at your local stores
26. Attend PTA meetings
27. Audition for community theater or volunteer to usher
28. Give your park a weatherproof chess/checkers board
29. Play cards with friends or neighbors
30. Give to your local food bank
31. Walk or bike to support a cause and meet others
32. Employers: encourage volunteer/community groups to hold meetings on your site
33. Volunteer in your child's classroom or chaperone a field trip
34. Join or start a babysitting cooperative
35. Attend school plays
36. Answer surveys when asked
37. Businesses: invite local government officials to speak at your workplace
38. Attend Memorial Day parades and express appreciation for others
39. Form a local outdoor activity group
40. Participate in political campaigns
41. Attend a local budget committee meeting
42. Form a computer group for local senior citizens
43. Help coach Little League or other youth sports – even if you don't have a kid playing
44. Help run the snack bar at the Little League field
45. Form a tool lending library with neighbors and share ladders, snow blowers, etc.
46. Start a lunch gathering or a discussion group with co-workers
47. Offer to rake a neighbor's yard or shovel his/her walk
48. Start or join a carpool
49. Employers: give employees time (e.g., 3 days per year to work on civic projects)
50. Plan a "Walking Tour" of a local historic area
51. Eat breakfast at a local gathering spot on Saturdays
52. Have family dinners and read to your children
53. Run for public office
54. Stop and make sure the person on the side of the highway is OK
55. Host a block party or a holiday open house
56. Start a fix-it group–friends willing to help each other clean, paint, garden, etc.
57. Offer to serve on a town committee
58. Join the volunteer fire department
59. Go to church...or temple...or walk outside with your children–talk to them about why its important
60. If you grow tomatoes, plant extra for an lonely elder neighbor – better yet, ask him/her to teach you and others how to can the extras
61. Ask a single diner to share your table for lunch
62. Stand at a major intersection holding a sign for your favorite candidate
63. Persuade a local restaurant to have a designated “meet people” table
64. Host a potluck supper before your Town Meeting
65. Take dance lessons with a friend
66. Say "thanks" to public servants – police, firefighters, town clerk…
67. Fight to keep essential local services in the downtown area–your post office, police station, school, etc.
68. Join a nonprofit board of directors
69. Gather a group to clean up a local park or cemetery
70. When somebody says "government stinks," suggest they help fix it
71. Turn off the TV and talk with friends or family
72. Hold a neighborhood barbecue
73. Bake cookies for new neighbors or work colleagues
74. Plant tree seedlings along your street with neighbors and rotate care for them
75. Volunteer at the library
76. Form or join a bowling team
77. Return a lost wallet or appointment book
78. Use public transportation and start talking with those you regularly see
79. Ask neighbors for help and reciprocate
80. Go to a local folk or crafts festival
81. Call an old friend
82. Sign up for a class and meet your classmates
83. Accept or extend an invitation
84. Talk to your kids or parents about their day
85. Say hello to strangers
86. Log off and go to the park
87. Ask a new person to join a group for a dinner or an evening
88. Host a pot luck meal or participate in them
89. Volunteer to drive someone
90. Say hello when you spot an acquaintance in a store
91. Host a movie night
92. Exercise together or take walks with friends or family
93. Assist with or create your town or neighborhood's newsletter
94. Organize a neighborhood pick-up – with lawn games afterwards
95. Collect oral histories from older town residents
96. Join a book club discussion or get the group to discuss local issues
97. Volunteer to deliver Meals-on-Wheels in your neighborhood
98. Start a children’s story hour at your local library
99. Be real. Be humble. Acknowledge others' self-worth
100. Tell friends and family about social capital and why it matters
101. Greet people
102. Cut back on television
103. Join in to help carry something heavy
104. Plan a reunion of family, friends, or those with whom you had a special connection
105. Take in the programs at your local library
106. Read the local news faithfully
107. Buy a grill and invite others over for a meal
108. Fix it even if you didn’t break it
109. Pick it up even if you didn’t drop it
110. Attend a public meeting
111. Go with friends or colleagues to a ball game (and root, root, root for the home team!)
112. Help scrape ice off a neighbor’s car, put chains on the tires or shovel it out
113. Hire young people for odd jobs
114. Start a tradition
115. Share your snow blower
116. Help jump-start someone’s car
117. Join a project that includes people from all walks of life
118. Sit on your stoop
119. Be nice when you drive
120. Make gifts of time
121. Buy a big hot tub
122. Volunteer at your local neighborhood school
123. Offer to help out at your local recycling center
124. Send a “thank you” letter to the Editor about a person or event that helped build community
125. Raise funds for a new town clock or new town library
126. When inspired, write personal notes to friends and neighbors
127. Attend gallery openings
128. Organize a town-wide yard sale
129. Invite friends or colleagues to help with a home renovation or home building project
130. Join or start a local mall-walking group and have coffee together afterwards
131. Build a neighborhood playground
132. Become a story-reader or baby-rocker at a local childcare center or neighborhood pre-school
133. Contra dance or two-step
134. Help kids on your street construct a lemonade stand
135. Open the door for someone who has his or her hands full
136. Say hi to those in elevators
137. Invite friends to go snowshoeing, hiking, or cross-country skiing
138. Offer to watch your neighbor’s home or apartment while they are away
139. Organize a fitness/health group with your friends or co-workers
140. Hang out at the town dump and chat with your neighbors as you sort your trash at the Recycling Center
141. Take pottery classes with your children or parent(s)
142. See if your neighbor needs anything when you run to the store
143. Ask to see a friend’s family photos
144. Join groups (e.g., arts, sports, religion) likely to lead to making new friends of different race or ethnicity, different social class or bridging across other dimensions