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Lions Roar : July 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2006 73 EARLY LAST NOVEMBER an ancient Chinese koan came to me as if written on a billboard, and it has been with me ever since. Here it is: The teacher calls out, “Master!” And answers, “Yes!” “Are you awake?” “Yes!” “Don’t be fooled by others!” “No! No!” I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the beginning of November and here is what I’ve noticed. 1 The kindness of mortals. If I don’t expect them to be rushed or distracted or impatient or narrowly self-interested, in other words, if I am not rushed, etc., myself, almost every interaction emerges slowly and is deeply felt—the way athletes describe a big game, when time slows down and vision widens. WHEN THE KOAN APPEARED I took it as a response to the biopsy results. The diagnosis seemed all right at the time I got it, but I observed that the small consulting room became large, time slowed down, and everyone’s eyes grew big. That room be- came a ship hanging in space, a ship I can still visit if I wish, and sometimes do. That moment was the last moment when I Zen teacher JOHN TARRANT was given a koan—“You have cancer”—and like any good koan, it turned his world upside down and his mind inside out. Here’s what he’s learned. Reasons to Get Cancer 5 ©ARNULFRAINER/TATEGALLERY,LONDON/ARTRESOURCE,NY Untitled (Body Language), by Arnulf Rainer, 1973.