I have not provided an update since before the Stepping Down Ceremony on December 15th, and I am having a surprisingly difficult time calling Steve not Abbot Steve but Senior Dharma Teacher Steve. Although this is the title normally given to abbots who step down, it just does not have the same ring. In the ceremony the moment of change happens when the person who is holding the whisk transfers that to the other hand, takes up the fan and puts down the whisk. It takes but a moment, ceremonially. It seems a much more complex process outside of that defining ceremony. So I’m working with the new title as I continue to struggle with this disease.
Cancer is a hard bedfellow to love. It breathes with rotten breath, steals all the covers, pushes one into the lumpy part of the bed, and then right out to the edge. It may not always have final or clear cut results, but then again it often does. Any degree of equanimity in this situation seems so difficult. And yet I watch as Steve continues to put his effort in studying this body/mind and working with staying with his particular experience of pancreatic cancer. I am witness to his commitment to finding that unlikely and changeable place where mental clarity and pain control meet. I see his effort to show up and appreciate it. And in all of this Steve is getting weaker, losing weight, not able to stand unsupported or eat much, and not sleeping for long stretches. It is hard—cancer is hard, this is hard.
May all beings find a place of ease and comfort during this (often emotionally complicated) time of year.