Note: the blue italics indicate the teacher, in black others participants.

The survivor

I think the moment has come to analyze/review what happened to you since you got to know the diagnostics that your liver is severely damaged. In chronological order, emphasizing your way of welcoming and living all this as well as the different decisions you had to take (at first not agreeing to transplantation, your travel to India, then agreeing to transplantation etc.). At the end, describe how you live your present life as a “survivor”.

It all started with edema on the feet and legs during a business trip. When I went home, I looked at it with a careless eye, thinking that it was due to poor blood circulation and that I would take care of it one of these days. I don’t see it as a procrastination, because during my life I’ve gotten used to letting the body heal itself, and it’s always worked, nothing serious has ever happened to me before.

At the beginning of the following year, a high fever that appeared for no obvious reason left me knocked out, to assuage my wife’s anxiety, I finally went to see a doctor. He asks me questions, I tell him about hepatitis C, which was diagnosed about 20 years ago with a blood test, and then he makes the right diagnosis. He prescribed a series of tests and invited me to contact the practitioner who had treated me fifteen years ago. Indeed, I had taken a treatment with him that had not worked, and after a few years of monitoring, I had given up. I gave up because nothing serious had broken out at the time and no new treatment had come out. This doctor immediately saw the current seriousness of the case, and he forbade me to drive, because I was in danger of going into a hepatic coma while driving, causing a possible accident, and he put me on sick leave. The other danger that threatened was internal bleeding of the hepatic artery, due to decompensated level 4 cirrhosis (the terminal stage of cirrhosis). I already had blocked vessels and varicose veins and vessels, so they quickly scheduled me for an intervention for an esophageal varicose vein ligation, and in the meantime put me on diuretics and beta-blockers which made me very soft and very slow.

At that time, I was confronted with the possibility of the imminent end of life and it shook me deeply, I accepted and welcomed it, and I lived with the awareness that death could literally strike at any moment. I took stock of my life, what I still had to do and planned to leave as little trouble as possible for my wife and to cover the costs economically. I made my will, found a company for a cheap cremation, made a list of the contact details of all the people my wife should contact for administrative procedures and recover the money to which she was entitled after my death. I also threw away everything that was useless, put my affairs in order, papers, etc. A lot of superfluity fell victim to the confrontation with the end of life and there was a reassessment of what was really important or not for me. After this period (1 to 2 months), I relaxed and continued to live as usual. At that moment, I was really serene, welcoming what was coming day after day and doing what had to be done without any pollution of the emotional center. I considered myself potentially already dead, so I had nothing more to lose or fear, my only concern being to remain conscious when it happened (if it were to happen because I stayed in the “I don’t know”). I accepted the physical sufferings when there were, without ever turning it into useless suffering, it happened on its own, simply by remaining vigilant, in body consciousness and the welcome as it went along. My way of taking things philosophically probably helped to cushion the shock suffered by those around me, because they knew I was on probation and felt emotionally shaken.

More than a year of examinations followed for the pretransplant check-up, with several surgical procedures (several short general anaesthesias in a year and a half), in particular to remove a carcinomatous nodule that had appeared in the liver. It was just a routine. I was doing what had to be done without any hope or despair, without any unnecessary suffering or projection on the future, free of any long or medium-term projection. My life had shrunk in the present, and for functional reasons in the short term (family responsibilities, agenda, also level 1, 2 and 3 of work). I was really impressed to realize that the life free of expectations and limited to the body consciousness (+ shared attention + I am) was self-sufficient and was of a serene and perceptive self-sufficient richness, really needing nothing else. Through the work we do, we are all led to experience this, but with the “thumbnail” of the continuous consciousness of death, it takes on a new dimension. And this permanent consciousness of death leads to staying centered, no identity mechanism keeps its hold, it is immediately recognized as soon as it appears on stage, and after a brief lap of the track seeing that it makes a flop, it returns to hide behind the scenes. In short, a period of “stripping” and intense vigilance.

As time goes by, the doctors have “patched me up” and the danger of imminent death is fading. While talking with my wife, I mentioned the project of a trip to India that we had at the beginning of our life together, without ever having had the opportunity to go there since. I would have liked to make this trip, but on my part, it was a vague wish, a little confusing, without any desire to do it at any cost. She takes me at my word, convinced by the way I talk about it that it is really important to me, the following week everyone around me knows about it and participates financially, and the tickets are bought.

At that time, since the liver was in the terminal phase, it no longer played its role as a filter and purifier, and the accumulated toxins and toxicity of the drugs had attacked my brain. I was in a state of painful confusion to endure for those around me, sometimes in a few minutes I went from “maybe” to “it’s” or “it would be great! “I never said that! ” or “you didn’t understand anything! “, always with aggressiveness or even malice if I was upset, very difficult for my wife to live with. As my brain went off the rails, I became horrible to her, constantly repeating her actions, gestures and words. In fact, she had spoken to one of the instructors of the teaching she was following, telling him: “I can’t take it anymore, I feel like I’m living with Nisargadatta.” It seemed to her that I was forcing her to take a step she wasn’t yet ready to take, living it almost like a rape of conscience. And since she was in the resistance, it sharpened my anger (neurotoxic). Her instructor explained to her that he felt I had a sense of urgency and that I didn’t want to die without giving her the essence of something, but that everything was distorted and perverted by the poison that was poisoning my brain.

Two months later, I have an interview with the doctor who followed me in pretransplant, and I inform him of my wish to wait a few more months for a transplant, if my condition allows it (I am on the list and it can fall from one day to the next). But I’m not telling him that I’ve decided 90% of the time not to do the transplant (I’ll come back later on to the missing 10%). He tells me that I have six months left to decide, since I will probably have a graft at the beginning of the following year, but if my condition is too bad, the graft will no longer be possible. I don’t have any more appointments until the end of the year. A week before the trip, the phone rings: “There is a transplant for you, get ready to be in the hospital as soon as possible”. After a moment of silence on my part, the answer comes: “No, I’m not coming, it wasn’t planned so early, I was told it would be around spring and I haven’t made my decision yet.” I go over the details of managing my decision with the healthcare teams to impose my point of view without burning bridges (graft refusals are extremely rare).

Then, we leave for Benares as planned for six weeks. Our guest house, overlooking the Ghats and the Ganges, is located just above the location of the crematorium fires that burn the dead day and night on the Ghats. I am ill one week after my arrival and will remain so until the departure, because I am not curing myself (I tried Ayurvedic medicine but without much success). In an almost second state, I have very pleasant moments and encounters, no longer worrying about anything. I am thinking about the transplant issue that awaits me when I return to France and I am interested in the 10% that is missing to validate my decision not to do a transplant. Deep down, I feel that it is not really congruent, and it is in line with the theme launched by our teacher and recently addressed: “how do you know that you agree with yourself? ” (and the opposite). I review everything that influences or has influenced this quasi-decision, then I review what influences or can influence the opposite decision, then I let it happen. And without remembering exactly the process, it seemed obvious to me that it is the decision to do the transplant that is right, I feel 100% in congruence with this decision (and all the responsibilities it entails). I omit the details, but I validate it for myself, before informing my wife after a week or two, confident.

Back in France, I go to the emergency room for a puncture, because I have a big push of ascites (liquid generated by the sick liver). Then I go to spend Christmas with my in-laws, my wife and my daughter. A week later, I go back to the emergency room because I have another big ascites attack with a lung infection, the doctors do a puncture and give me a treatment. At that time, they really worried. On my side, it was always fine, I just put myself back into imminent death watch mode, without feeling anything but a certain urgency. The medical team assessed that I had to be transplanted within two weeks, otherwise it was over. Antibiotics and other treatments finally get me back on my feet. After a series of tests and another puncture (my body produces five to six liters of ascites every 15 days that must be removed because my belly is extremely swollen and painful), they send me home and tell me to be ready, because the transplant will take place as soon as a compatible graft is available. I go back once again for another puncture, and finally one morning the phone rings: “Go to the hospital as soon as possible”.

So here we are, a friend takes us by car, serious but relaxed atmosphere with moments of laughter. Then they leave me, I take a shower with a disinfectant soap and wait for the doctors to come and get me. The possibility that it will go wrong and I won’t wake up comes to mind but doesn’t worry me, it’s already been anticipated for a while and the imminence of reality doesn’t change anything, I’m relaxed physically, no particular thoughts. Just in case, I say a mental farewell to the people I have known in my life and I remain in my body consciousness. There is only a slightly tense, alert energy, probably coming from the instinctive center. The only thing on my mind is to stay in my body consciousness and self-awareness to the end.

Waking up is difficult in the intensive care unit, I have the feeling that I was “hit by a truck,” tied up everywhere without being able to move except my fingertips. Noise from the machines that take care of my survival, pain, completely deranged brain, continuous leg massage by a device to avoid phlebitis and thrombosis, an insulin injection in my finger every hour, continuous passages of the staff, I can’t sleep for two and a half days, and I feel in a state of total impotence like I’ve never experienced before. Fatigue and toxicity in my brain are well advanced, paranoid outbursts with impossibility of controlling my brain, it “screws up” and I can only suffer, desires to cry come to me that I barely control but through a fierce will not to succumb to all this toxicity. Finally, I give up everything and accept all this necessary suffering. The doctors who come to see me are happy, because for them everything went well, the results are good and there are no apparent complications.

After four days, I was transferred to the liver transplant department, where I stayed for ten days. Each gesture is very painful and the overworked staff does not have time to take care of me. The brain still full of toxins, I react with “polite” aggressiveness, finally they are happy to see me leave. Then I am transferred to a nursing home, where I recover a little, and I return to my home after a month and a half.

Finally, today everything is fine, my state of health has changed very quickly in the right direction, two more months and it is possible that I can work again. The toxicity has left my brain, and my mind is functioning normally again, I have regained my lucidity, I have almost no more pain. My conclusions about my current life are that it seems to me that I made the right decision, not because everything is going well (although it reinforces this feeling a little), but especially because I feel that this is what had to be done. I perceive this extra time granted by life as time to be used in conscience to continue the work on oneself, not with a goal to achieve but rather to remain in a certain continuity of what has been undertaken. What I notice most of all are the changes that have taken place in recent years: several of the concepts we work on in this teaching are much better integrated, identity and identity mechanisms have loosened their grip. I am much more open to stepping in the mocassins of others, and external consideration is much more expressed. Although I have lost all appetite for social events, when I am in contact with other people I no longer feel a certain tension that I could feel and make them feel before, people also notice it and appreciate my contact. Generally speaking, I live in a relaxed way and I adapt to what is happening, welcoming the necessary suffering when it happens.

Two months later…

A revelation has just “fallen upon” me without warning, I am always in a state of astonishment with what I am experiencing now or to be more precise with the way I am experiencing myself now. Something happened, that’s for sure, but without my realizing it and without any intention on my part.

The awareness itself is that at some point (which I do not identify or vaguely), there must have been a total surrender of 100% that caused a collapse of a mental image “me”, because I see nothing else to explain this. And at the same time an absolute certainty not conceptual that it cannot be otherwise, even 0.1% of resistance and the mental structure cannot collapse.

I feel an infinite gratitude, because I am aware that it has nothing to do with any merit on my part, it is pure grace if I have been put in a situation of letting go (you can always argue intellectually, but intuitively I feel it as pure grace). I feel like a horse that was grazing in the meadow and that, in the evening, is guided to its stable by the corridor that prevents it from going elsewhere, pushed by the farmer’s hand, and has no choice but to go where it is guided.

I don’t feel any urge to explain this, the contact with that “thing” is more than enough and the “I don’t know” is the most wonderful state, free of any pretensions to want to explain other than sudden intuitions coming from nothingness!

A lot is happening right now and actions and decisions are being taken, based on absolute certainties. I can no longer even recognize myself (I don’t mean the image in the mirror when I brush my teeth), feeling like I’ve become a stranger to myself and at the same time so intimately being myself…