I’ve been a mess this week, my face puffed up from steroids and a new, lopsided tooth gap. The mess was even more in my mind. I’ve been greedy, agitated, driven and ungrounded. It’s been unpleasant to be me, and I’ve been unpleasant to be around.

Yet the steroids have saved me from the cycle of nausea and inaction I have been in, and now I am eating and living a much more normal life. And I’ve taken the dose down, and I’m starting to feel a bit more grounded.

But the process has left me feeling lost. Writing no longer comes spontaneously and I don’t know what to do with myself. There is new energy but it doesn’t know where to go. But maybe I am getting something today amidst the disturbedness: a new kind of nag, something unexpectedly existential – about where all this is going. I must say, it’s helpful to have to try to write.

I know what it is. It is that I need to take some responsibility for the spiritual vows I’ve taken in this life. Life is still going to come to an end. I might be in some kind of extended bardo of remission, but sooner or later the cancer is going to claim its due. I am living on borrowed time and I need to pay attention to the big picture, not fritter it away so much. This period of drivenness and superficial agitation, brought on by the steroids, mustn’t be allowed to colour everything.

Or I need to channel it into the vow to awaken. Here are some verses I know well from my memory of practising the five Mula Yogas again and again: Going for Refuge with prostrations, the Generation of the Bodhicitta, the Vajrasattva Yoga, the Mandala Offering, and the Guru Yoga. All of these Root Practices arise from the need to practise because of the suffering in the world. Since all of the suffering comes, fundamentally, from the same ignorance all Buddhist practice is meant to undermine and destroy: the view of a real, abiding, harm-able, separate and findable self. So may the views of all beings around this melt and expand to the ten directions!

OM AH HUM to the best of all refuges I go!
To the Lama the Buddha, the Lama the Dharma, the Lama the Sangha
To the Lama the Shri Maha Heruka
To the Lama the All Performing King
To the Three Jewels and Three Roots in One, Guru Rinpoche
For Refuge I go!

Beings who are [like] ones own mothers and fathers wander in the samsara
And with an unbearable longing
We [must] all produce the unbearable longing
To awaken from this!

Vajrasattva, All knowing Vajra
Vajra, the Primeval Samantabhadra
To you, best of beings, I bow.
O Protector Vajrasattva
Ignorant and stupid am I
From your Samaya I have fallen away
Guru, Protector, Refuge
The essence of Great Compassion
To you I bow, and we unite as one single ever inseparable nature.

The Ground is Purified with scented water and adorned with flowers
It is adorned with Mount Meru, the Four Continents, the Sun and the Moon
Thinking of it as the Buddha Realm, I offer it to the Buddha
By this virtue may all living beings be filled with bliss

May the Vajra Assembly, all our teachers and influences be received as blessings at our crown, to penetrate and transform the entirety of our being, so that all action becomes auspicious and effects the awakening of all.

Victory, Victory, Total Victory!