Monday, April 28, 2014

white tara...

we have rotating day and night nurses in 12 hour shifts. its unusual to have a nurse over a succession of days, they prefer to move them around. a few days ago my night nurse was a gentle soul named lara. maybe its my bohemian pjs and mala beads but i find quite a few nurses start up convo with me about natural medicines and alternative therapies. this is how jirina and i got to talking about yoga and reiki.

after lara introduced herself she went straight for 'mistress of the baby deer,' one of my art pieces hanging out in my cubicle. we got to talking about my spirit portrait project and how it lead to me taking up more elaborate portraits of shamanic archetypes, and my growing interest in putting a personal spin on icons like the tibetan tara series.

she asked if i had ever heard of lasha mutual, and indeed i had. i was taking a look at other artists' depictions of the taras and greatly enjoyed coming across her illustrative work. turns out lasha is lara's sister! we then had quite a long talk about the struggle artists face... trying to live the 24/7 devotion required to really get the best of their instrument; the evident impossibility of pulling off such a level of pure mind focus in our brave new mediaphyllic world and finally the effects this kind of radical tension and conflict of interest has on a person's financial solvency and health.

in the end it wasn't the most upbeat discovering of kinship in experience, but it did have an effect on me... hearing i was not alone in finding that old rules applied to new circumstances led only to frustration and loss. i've recently concluded that the only way to go is to focus on vision and to forget about playing the game of social media and promotion... they take your focus away from becoming the purest vehicle possible for the deva within you and put you too adroitly in the world of commerce and materiality. i don' have the energy to elaborate on this right now, maybe next time.

anyway we had a lovely late night talk and i was really moved by the human backstory to lasha's enchanting illustrations. the next time i saw lara she said she had a surprise for me...

she talked to her sister about the concordances in our experience, trying to make it work as artists in such an unhipster arena as spiritual iconography... her sister checked out my work in turn wanted me to have a print for my room. i was sorry not to have anything to give in return but i'm overjoyed like a kid on christmas to have my first lasha mutual white tara. first a note on tara...

Tara, Goddess of Peace and Protection

Goddess Tara is probably the oldest goddess who is still worshipped extensively in modern times. Tara originated as a Hindu goddess, a Great Goddess -- the Mother Creator, representing the eternal life force that fuels all life.

There are many embodiments of Tara, but the best known are the White Tara and the Green Tara.
The peaceful, compassionate White Tara gently protects and brings long life and peace. The more dynamic goddess, Green Tara is the "Mother Earth", and a fierce goddess who overcomes obstacles, and saves us from physical and spiritual danger.

In Sanskrit, the name Tara means Star, but she was also called She Who Brings Forth Life, The Great Compassionate Mother, and The Embodiment of Wisdom, and the Great Protectress.

Adopted by Buddhism, she become the most widely revered deity in the Tibetan pantheon.   In Buddhist tradition, Tara is actually much greater than a goddess -- she is a female Buddha, an enlightened one was has attained the highest wisdom, capability and compassion. . . one who can take human form and who remains in oneness with the every living thing. 


The oldest reference to the goddess Tara, perhaps, is found in an ancient saga of Finland thought to be 5 thousand years old. The saga speaks of a group known as Tar, the Women of Wisdom.
A version of the Goddess Tara exists in virtually every culture. Indeed, it is said that the Goddess Tara will assume as many forms on earth as there are needs for by the people.

The Celts called their Great Goddess Tara. Her name is thought to be the root of the word Tor, which is a mound of earth or hillock imbued with spiritual energy or connection to the other worlds.
We also hear the echo of her name in the Latin word for earth, Terra, a connection between Tara and the concept of "Mother Earth".

The Goddess Tara is also associated with Kuan Yin, the great Chinese goddess of compassion. In South America she was known as the ancient mother goddess Tarahumara.

The Cheyenne people revere the Star Woman who fell  from the heavens and whose body became the earth that provided them with food.

The ancient Egyptian Goddess Ishtar who, in her myths, came to earth from the heavens and instructed her people to co-mingle and intermarry with the earthlings to give them the benefits of their learning and wisdom was yet another incarnation of the Goddess Tara.


In the legends of Tibet where the worship of the Goddess Tara is still practiced  in the Buddhist tradition, it is told that the goddess Tara is the feminine counterpart of the Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva who is reincarnated as the Dalai Lama.

Bodhisattvas are beings who have reached enlightenment and are 'eligible' for Budda-hood but have postponed their own nirvana, choosing instead to be remain in the cycle of birth and rebirth in order to serve humanity and assist every being on Earth in achieving nirvana themselves.

It is told that Tara first appeared rising from a lotus blossom in the lake that had formed from Avalokitesvara's tears of compassion, tears that fell when he first beheld the scope of suffering in the world.

Because of her essential goodness, she was granted the right to assume her human form as a man.  But Tara elected instead to remain in her womanly form.

The Goddess Tara vowed:

"There are many who wish to gain enlightenment
in a man's form,
And there are few who wish to work
for the welfare of living beings
in a female form.

Therefore may I, in a female body,
work for the welfare of all beings,
until such time as all humanity has found its fullness."


One of the myths of the goddess Tara demonstrates her compassionate and loving nature and tells how she got the name "Tara of the Turned Face".

An elderly woman who was a sculptor worked in a city where there was a large Buddhist temple called the Mahabodhi (Great Wisdom). She sculpted a statue of the goddess Tara and built a shrine to house it. Upon completing the project she was filled with regret when she realized that she had not considered the placement of the shrine. "Oh no," she thought, "Tara has her back to the Mahabodhi and that isn't right!"

Then she heard the sculpture speak to her, saying "If you are unhappy, I will look toward the Mahabodhi." As the woman watched in amazement, the door of the shrine and the image of the goddess Tara both turned to face the Temple.

Such is the love and compassion of the goddess Tara.


The ancient goddess Tara in her many incarnations has many gifts to share with contemporary women. Tara embodies the feminine strengths of great caring and compassion, the ability to endure stressful and even terrifying moments, the acts of creation, and the source of sustenance and protection.

Demonstrating the psychological flexibility that is granted to the female spirit,  the goddess Tara,  in some of her human forms, could be quite fierce and wild. 

Refugees fleeing the horrors of the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese armies recounted numerous stories of the Green Tara that protected them during their torture and guided their flight to freedom.  

In other of her forms, such as the White Tara, she embodied inner peace and spiritual acceptance. She symbolizes purity and is thought to be part of every good and virtuous woman.


Tara is an archetype of our own inner wisdom. She guides and protects us as we navigate the depths of our unconscious minds, helping us to transform consciousness, our own personal journeys of freedom.

It is the goddess Tara who helps us to remain "centered". The myths of the Goddess Tara remind us of our "oneness" with all of creation and the importance of nurturing the spirit within.

for my print i chose this one... this white tara stood out to me because she was the only one in the collection who looked out in a straightforward openness towards the viewer. simple. honest. not encumbered by any kind of self-image or personal narrative, perhaps because she has arrived at a plateau where it's not necessary to have a story anymore. one would assume as much since this is a tara after all. her uncomplicated openness is the state i seek so i spotted it instantly and am overjoyed to have her company in my room as i move forward.

each nurse has anywhere from 4-6 patients to care for on shift. very often they need to work as teams of two or more since patients in this ward are here for the acute care required at end of life. lungs get backed up, brains stops functioning, bedridden patients need to be refreshed and washed, constipation and other forms of organ failure require constant old-fashioned nursing, and of course, as this ward is designed for, patients die with a certain regularity. a few do it quietly, some in great confusion and anxiety, many more in anger. very rarely are people discharged, though it does happen.

patients more often find themselves in beds here when their chemo or radiation treatments and the relapses they produce take them into territory where they can no longer self care. a few rebound from these palliative treatments sufficient to go home to do the rest of healing or dying there.

"healing requires taking action - it is not a passive event," said carolyn myss. myself, i'm working with a couple government programs designed to assist terminally ill people with subsidized housing and home nursing so that when i progress back to some measure of independence i will have a base camp perfectly suited to my wishes. being pragmatic, if i don't progress back, the palliative care team at this hospital has my confidence. like a wild animal, i want solitude and a certain anonymity now. institutional care gives you a version of this.

i ended up here purely for pain management, that's how i entered the stream of radiation patients. but i've become a perplexing-for-them anomaly because i don't have the broken down constitution of the other patients who took chemo and radiation on diagnosis. i'm still more or less ambulatory, i have good stats and blood panels. what's kept me here is the time its taken to keep apace of the pain flares and the lymphangitic carcinomatosis that's spread across the front of my body. the doctors acknowledged they've never seen anyone react to radiation this way, i joked i seem to have a thing about distinguishing myself that's clearly gone awry. they laughed along with me but its true.

today was the day they sent round the kindly grandmother to give me the bad news... while its hard to forecast when you're in such uncharted territory, the carcinomatosis that's invaded my lymphatics has run riot in my body to such an extent they say its a matter of weeks. although i'm a profound disassociator, the way i felt on the receiving end of this prognosis wasn't anything special. i certainly don't feel like death is imminent even after challenging days like today where the combo of physical weekness and drugs makes for a very strange headspace indeed.

yes. i can see their point. i'm in quite a lot of pain, so much so i'm taking 200-300mg hydromorphone on IV demand, plus 4mg twice daily of dexamethasone, and 50mg lyrica twice daily, with provisions for 2-4mg of versed when needed. my lungs are filling with fluid, my neck is getting encroached on both sides by wreaths of tumours, the chest wall is building an odd suit of armour which restricts range of motion in both arms... that, in conjunction with the painful tumours on breastplate make it impossible for me to hug without great care and deliberation. back to first position, yes?

maybe that's why when they were giving me the news something in me was calm and without worries as though all is as it should be. on three occasions as i was giving my case to yet another stranger these last two days, i would go to say, "these tumours have been getting bigger," motioning to the garden of my abdomen, but i would freudian-slip and say, "these tumours have been getting better." what does the unconscious mind know that the conscious doesn't?

finally, there's lots of poltergeist activity in this building. they brought in a priest for an exorcism last week to address the disembodied crying babies heard in the old birthing ward... stayed there one night, didn't bother me, but many staff refuse to work there on account of it. on the floor where i now stay there's a staff lounge room were some nurses refuse to tread. earlier this month a nurse was catching up on her collection of trash magazines when she felt something pressing down on the whole of her back. she fought against it for a few interminable seconds and then it finally relented. she won't go back. i experience the energy differently. with me its playful and whimsical. a couple times it's gently poked at me in bed as if its time to wake up. wake up silly silly girl. but then again i've also seen no break in the dealio that finds me reaching my head up off the pillow, mouth open, like a baby looking to be spoon-fed. grand recycling? which is it? does it even matter?

my body's playing tricks with me. when i got the prognosis today it felt like that. silly me being misled by a prankster body playing around with shadow puppets on the wall. as if its creating this theatre of experience so i can act out certain things that need be performed to break a spell and its the breaking of a spell that's been a long time coming. a spell i performed on myself that's got to go.

whether its accomplished in a grand recycling or a petit mort, i truly can't say. what i can say is that slowly slowly i'm getting a feel for not having a back story or agenda informing my moves. i'm even getting closer to having a real emotional response of considered finality and closure to that history instead of chasing its monkey mind forms around endlessly.

i'm ready for no mind all heart... and i'm ready for it however she chooses to come.

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