Sorry I’ve not been here much. I have too many writing priorities. The main thing is that I now have a ‘Kamalashila Legacy Group’ who will curate my teaching materials after my death, and as part of the process of growing that I have been digging up stuff (sorry) that could be published with some the editing help that has become available through the legacy group. We will probably self publish for now. I don’t have a lot of time so I prioritise getting the basic materials ready. I’m working on my retreat diaries, especially those of the 18 month solitary retreat I was privileged to do in Talley Valley 2001-3. There is also a book on the Six Elements that I worked on with Windhorse on first moving to London in 2010 but which lost its way. Both these projects need considerable work to make the prose sing, but I’m really enjoying the activity, I seem to be well in touch with my best writing energies.

Or maybe it’s the steroids talking. The community palliative care team here in Lambeth have been so helpful. Since giving up on cancer treatments three (?) weeks ago, we have been trying this and that combination of the following drugs. The issues I need to balance are anaemia, the hypercalcaemia that is normal I think with advanced cancer and which has been at a dangerous level, the constipation that blocks the colon, already obstructed by cancer, and dehydration that along with those conditions causes extreme nausea, with a result that I have found it really hard to eat or drink anything. For these conditions I am taking an infrequent and very expensive injection of something with a name like Omtuzumab for the hypercalcaemia generally, then Domperidone (nausea), Iron (anaemia), Docusate and Senna (constipation), Paracetamol (general pain), and Atorvastatin (cholesterol). Over a period of experimenting with different combinations of different drugs, some with very strange side effects, we now have the constipation a lot better controlled and the nausea reduced a bit. Until three days ago I was still only eating porridge and drinking Pellegrino water, but then the the team suggested adding a low steroid dose to stimulate the appetite, and this is really working nicely. I have progressed to Tony’s Chocolonely, Ice Cream and Mr. Kipling’s mini Battenbergs. Also chai and coffee. Porridge is still my favourite.

I may be leaving an impression that the steroids are making me superficial, well I really need to eat and for that, from where I’ve been, I seem to need to obsess about what foods I can eat. I dropped under 60 kilos (from nearly 80 a year ago) am currently all skin and bone, as they say.

Looking in terms of practice I have been finding (the late) Rigdzin Shikpo’s booklet Formless Practice and the Dying Process really helpful. I doubt if it’s available now. I think parts were written into his book Never Turn Away, but the old stained booklet I picked up in the 90s seems far more direct. Simply put, he writes about how the beginnings of the Bardo states are already arising, unrecognised, all the time, and that mindfulness of this (essentially the Citta) is an all-important key as we enter the dying process. I found this encouraging and has got me observing what happens much more. He rather poo-poos the notion that people often have that Near Death experiences of being welcomed etc have much real relevance, since actually dying, he says, rather than coming back at an early stage, is a far more involved and usually difficult process. I think it is not so easy to let go for most of us, despite our great faith and accumulated stores of wisdom and merit, even though those will carry us well.

It’s Friday evening and I’m looking forward to tomorrow morning’s probably final Mahakarunika session with the Order members, we go on to Manjughosa the following week. The Anapanasati and Brahmaviharas sessions this week have been inspiring.

Yes, what with the drugs balancing out and the writing going so well, I am in a period of remission which I hope will extend as long as I need.