The Temple Guard
In the ancient world a person convicted of a capital crime would have his life spared if he could reach a certain temple. The priests would provide him with sanctuary, food and a bed, if he successfully reached the temple’s gates.
There was a catch, of course. Once the accused felon reached the gates he had to kill the temple guard, who was the last fugitive to escape to this sanctuary. If successful, the person would pick up the slain guard’s sword and become the temple’s new sentinel. A new job, and a new life.
But to maintain his existence, the new guard had to keep himself in a state of constant readiness, on watch to defend himself against the next desperate felon to escape.
What is that dark shape leaning against the temple walls? A crouching man or a shrub bending in the wind? Is the wind rustling the leaves or human feet? Is that a human being or a monster?
Managing his ever-present anxiety would become the key concern of his life, more than the very real threat of an opponent one day appearing to destroy him.
The plight of the temple guard is amazingly similar to that of a person in remission from cancer. The threat of a relapse, of another life-and-death struggle, is ever present. How can we live without fear poisoning our lives? How can we get through life without exhausting ourselves with worry, our fingers clutched desperately around the grip of a sword?
Meditation. Each day, several times a day, meditate. Weave qigong, tai chi chuan, breathing exercises, yoga, or periods of prayer into your existence. Gradually the calmness you experience during meditation sessions will extend into your day and ‘link up.’ Or so you believe.
You’ll never be completely free of the fear, of course. But meditation can help you achieve a state of balance, in which you are neither too high nor too low emotionally. Being too ‘high,’ believing that you are cured can be devastating if the disease returns. The great emotional fall can make it almost impossible to pick yourself up again.
If you are too low emotionally, feeling bitter and betrayed because of the cancer, life will be no fun for you and everyone around you. Even if the disease never relapses, and you live to be ninety. Between relapses, I have played it both ways, and can recommend neither.
This middle path of the here-and-now is the only way: Today, at this moment, I know that I am well. I know today that I will practice qigong, which will maintain my health and positive attitude. Today.
I am both the temple guard and the temple. My defense is daily practice of qigong. Qigong is not a magic wand. Practicing it will not guarantee good health, nor will it solve your personal problems. For example, I have been unable to contend with the depression caused by chemical changes in my body (or by the chemical changes caused by depression) without resorting to medication. I expect to be on some form of anti-depressant medication for the rest of my life.
But I would not be here to contend with my depression if it were not for the combination of Western treatment and daily qigong practice.
If I could do it again, I wouldn’t change anything.