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July Meditation, 2015

Judy, the pastor at our local church here in Hancock, posted this message during a stem cell transplant she underwent as part of her treatment for multiple myeloma. She was glad to share these thoughts with all of you as inspiration for this month’s Sunday of Silence.

Our love flows back to her ~~

Peri and Barbara

On Being Very Still By Judy Copeland Jun 6, 2015 7:25pm

This week has been hard. I have been sick and laid low in all the ways the good people on my medical team forecast, but ways you can’t really get your head around until you pass through this valley yourself. All of the nasty GI chemo-related symptoms have been having their way with me. Even though my friend Michele shaved my head before I came in, that last shimmer of a buzz cut finally let go and those tiny, falling hairs are as itchy as poison ivy. But I’ve been lucky—one of my physicians came in this morning and said that mine has been one of the easiest stem cell transplants ever. As of today my numbers started to come up. It’s by infinitesimal degree--white blood count up from .026 to .37. You wouldn’t expect that to make any real difference, but I am feeling MUCH better.

If I had to choose one word to describe this week, it would be stillness. Sometimes my blood pressure has been alarmingly low and I’ve had neither the will nor the strength to move much. It almost feels like being encased in plaster wraps or weighted covers or even a layer of concrete. At times, the effort to lift my arms or raise my head or open my eyes has seemed like a superhuman act. Once, when my blood pressure dropped precipitously, I came back into focus with a circle of concerned faces gathered around me, urging me to take deep breaths. It’s a stillness so deep that you almost forget the rhythm of inhale, exhale.

I know it may sound scary, but it isn't. Not at all. In fact, almost the opposite. There is something true in that deep stillness. There’s a TED talk by the travel writer Pico Iyer in which he says that we should all sit still long enough to find out what means the most to us and to recall where our truest happiness lies. Perhaps that’s just the secular way of describing what Elijah learns in I Kings. Coming through intense meteorological and geological onslaughts, Elijah discovers that God is not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, but rather in the “still, small voice” that follows all these catastrophes. The experience of this kind of profound stillness is, I believe, a luxury. Maybe one of the luxuries of serious illness or other life challenges that in the moment seem to take away more than they bestow. There is an exceptional clarity on the other side of that stillness. The euphoria of knowing what matters. If I were a psalmist, I’d try and say it this way: Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46). If I were a poet, I’d try and say it like Pablo Neruda:

Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth, let's not speak in any language; let's stop for one second, and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines; we would all be together in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea would not harm whales and the man gathering salt would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire, victories with no survivors, would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused with total inactivity. Life is what it is about; I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death. Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.

—Keeping Quiet from Extravagaria (translated by Alastair Reid, pp. 27-29, 1974)

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