Having this break from chemo is wonderful in many ways. I'm writing this as I wait to be called for my CT scan. I am so out of the habit of coming to Dana Farber that this morning, on my way here, I took a wrong turn and found myself headed to Cape Cod instead! It took a bit before I realized what I was doing and that I was headed to the wrong place. But so fun!
The biggest event recently: I returned from a two-week trip to a small town in Brazil to see John of God. There is alot of hype around him, and miraculous healings do occur in his presence and where he is.
I went mostly because I was called to go. My usual trips involve well-traveled paths, nice hotels, and lots of family and friends. To see John of God, I would be going to a small town with unknown but certainly not lavish accommodations, all by myself. Still, life events moved me in that direction, and I'm starting to learn that it is best to pay attention to those kinds of signs.
So, I signed up with a guide named Josie and a group of 17 strangers, flew into Brasilia Airport, met three others from our group and shared the 1.5 hour taxi ride to our pousada in Abadiania.
The pousada was clean and accommodations basic. My room had a tile floor, two twin beds with a nightstand between them, a wardrobe, one painting on the wall, a patio, and a small bathroom.
The sink had one faucet - cold water only - and we were not to flush anything, including toilet paper, down the toilet. The shower water was heated by a coil in the shower head. If the water came through too quickly, it didn't heat enough. Too slowly, it was hot but you got barely a trickle. If the shower head smoked, I was told, turn it off and get help. Okay.
Next, I wanted to check out the food. I follow a vegan diet and love to juice green vegetables every day. I figured that I would need to be flexible on this trip, but the pousada food more than fit the bill. Every single day, for both lunch and dinner, they created eight amazing vegan salads, eight warm vegan dishes (including a bean dish), plus one chicken dish, and one warm dish that might include cheese. They even had olive oil!
The desserts were an array of fresh tropical fruits plus one dessert that had sugar. As far as solid food, I was more than covered!
I soon learned that everyone in our group followed a non-standard diet, as I recognized the "no carbs, no sugar" talk, or noticed the Himalayan sea salt that someone would pull out of their bag. These might be strangers, but we were definitely kindred spirits.
Stepping outside the pousada, if you turn left and walk maybe a hundred steps, you reach the Casa. The Casa is a collection of small buildings and a garden, and it is where John of God does his work. There is the main hall, which functions as a place for quiet prayer, group rosaries, and waiting to sit in Current or to see John of God (more on those later). There is a garden with wooden benches where you can sit and contemplate, meditate, pray, sleep, etc. There is a kitchen and stone picnic tables for serving and eating bowls of soup, a shop where they sell crystals, rosaries, etc., a little cafe, bathrooms....you get the idea. Lots of little buildings spread over the grounds.
Entrance to the Casa
Benches for reading, meditating, etc.
And my favorite hangout: Frutti's, the juice bar. Score! Frutti's served smoothies made in a VitaMix, as well as fruit juices and green juice, made in a juicer like the one I have at home. I LOVE IT!!! I was there almost every night. This was my kind of place.
Each of us, presumably, took this trip for a reason, though we introduced ourselves with our names and not our challenges or what we hoped to gain from the trip. It felt wonderful to be just Marie and not someone dealing with cancer. Our personal challenges just weren't part of the conversation unless we ourselves decided to bring them up, and we simply didn't focus on that.
Before I took this trip, I did a little bit of reading about this place, and people described all the love they felt. I kept an eye out for that, but everyone seemed to be kind, not loving in the way it sounded. No worries - it was a good trip and definitely exactly where I was supposed to be. So I settled in for the ride.
From our first group meeting, I realized that Josie was a FABULOUS guide, and "fabulous" even feels inadequate. I really liked her as a person, but also, she provided all the information, in all the detail we needed, as we needed it and not before. For example, the night before we were to see John of God, and not earlier, she gave us the information we needed to be prepared for that and for anything he might direct us to do. Trusting that I would get the information I needed, when I needed it, helped me to let go of worrying about logistics and really just be in the moment. It also helped me to, overall, feel like I didn't need to worry about anything and it would all be alright.
And then there was our group. We were a mix of men and women from the U.S. and Canada, born in a variety of countries, including China, India, Philippines, Italy and the Dominican Republic. Our ages spanned at least 30 years. We were couples, singles, friends and relatives. Some of us clicked instantly, some of us were more reserved, some more open.
Tiron and I have taken group trips before, and I study group dynamics, so many elements of group trips were consistent here. There is the potential for an "in" group, the ones for whom this trip just comes easily to them. They were meant to be here, and are the "teacher's pets" of the group leader. In my experience, there is always one scapegoat - the person that everyone avoids, who no one wants as a dinner companion, who just feels high maintenance and out of step with the rest of the group. At best, people ignore this person. At worst, others make snide comments behind their backs or even to their face. There are smaller groups that form within themselves, who do the group activities at a faster or slower pace. As I looked around, I started to see the seeds of all this.
But this group didn't evolve in that way. We formed as a WHOLE GROUP. I don't know exactly why or how, but it totally blew my mind. Maybe it was because we were all there for our own growth and healing, and that negativity just takes away from our own goals. Maybe it was the makeup of our particular group. I don't know.
It was decidedly NOT COOL to treat someone in a way that was not loving. If you did, no one would give you the cold shoulder or make you aware that it wasn't cool, or tell you not to do that. It just felt like everyone started seeing the light in themselves and in each other, and when you do that, it is harder to be critical or demeaning to another in any way.
This is part of what I am still processing, or mostly, actually, just letting it be and periodically staring at it with wonder.
I will skip to the John of God part. You can research whatever you like on him; here is my take:
John of God is a medium. Entities inhabit his body with the intention to help us each heal. The entities don't necessarily work directly on the disease or the challenge on which you are focused, but instead on the root of it. Their intention and power lies in bringing us always closer to God through love and helping us to shed anything that blocks us from opening our hearts to God. Our healing begins there, with that love and connection. John of God always says that it is not him who heals, but God. The huge power of and belief in God permeates everything and everyone.
Quite possibly, that may be why we were all so loving toward one another, and why that love grew and continues to grow, even now that we are in our separate homes. You are pretty much your best self in the face of love like that.
On the days we saw John of God in entity, we dressed all in white. My first thought was that this isn't my best color, but once I sat with the crowd of people, I appreciated the calm and visual quiet of having white everywhere.
To meet with John of God, you first walk through the Current room, where people are meditating for hours on end, sending good energy to you and to John of God. The energy literally flows through them and through everyone in line. It is so tangible you can feel it. I saw John of God in entity briefly, where he directed me toward surgery. First I got a bowl of this incredible healing soup, then had lunch and returned for surgery.
My surgery was a spiritual surgery (as opposed to a physical surgery, where you are cut open). I sat, with a group of others also having spiritual surgery, with my eyes closed for about an hour. If you want to read more about that, the link is at the end of this message. It was indeed surreal.
After surgery, I spent 24 hours in my room, lying down. The pousada staff brought my meals, and I could get up to eat and to go to the bathroom. That is it. No reading, no music, no writing, no chatting. I tried to do more than lie down and could not because it was physically painful. Though I joke that it was like being in solitary confinement, it was more like a spiritual recovery room or ICU. Twenty-four hours of solitude and silence isn't easy, but I did get alot of out it.
Other days, I spent time in Current, sending energy to John of God and those in the line to see him. Sitting in Current means you sit with no body parts crossed (no crossing your arms, legs, hands, etc.) and eyes closed the entire time. Because John of God sees each person who wants to see him, the length of Current depends on the size of the crowd. You don't know how long you will be there, though it is typically between 3 and 4 hours. I was really worried that I couldn't do it, but I did, I think four times, and it was amazing. For the all people I met who had miraculous healings (including a brain tumor, Parkinsons, and others), they ALL say that sitting in Current is the most powerful tool for their healing.
Before I wrap up, I want to mention the sacred waterfall. When I was little, I watched lots of Bugs Bunny, and there was one cartoon where he would shower under a waterfall. Every since then, I thought that would be a really cool thing to do. But I'm not really that outdoorsy, so figured that would never happen. And then, HERE IT IS! We walked into the woods to this incredibly beautiful place. A piece of me kept thinking things like, "Okay, they call this a sacred waterfall. And it is nice. But sacred?" After I did it, though, I now also called it sacred.
That is my high-level view of the trip. There is much more to it; I have a gazillion little stories, as well as small stories that weave together into a larger story. I am still processing the ways in which it is changing me and my life, and I continue to feel its impacts. Many people who see me regularly have commented that I physically changed. I feel like I just discovered this whole new world and I don't want to lose it. Our group is keeping our connection going, so we can keep the feeling alive and allow it to grow.
As I sit here waiting for my CT scan, I don't know if I got my physical healing, but I do know that whatever I did get was what I truly needed. And while I would so love to be physically rid of any and all cancer cells in my body, I feel tangibly aware now that there is much much more in my life and in our world that I can tap into. Despite my initial impression of not feeling the love, I slowly, over the two weeks, felt love inside and around me that is more expansive and powerful than I ever imagined. I believe that that is a huge part of my healing, why our group evolved as it did, why we treasured each others' stories, why we could laugh at each other's and our own quirks, why what could be annoyances instead became endearing, and why we are bound together with an enormous love that vibrates.
I share that love with you, and know that you will grow it and pass it along.
If you are interested in the day-to-day observations, you can check them out here, starting on July 30.