Healing Script part 1: Candle


This story took place in Syria, May 2007. It is a true story that, looking back, still amazes me. I expect this kind of healing to happen to others rather than myself.

Many people may find it difficult to accept my accounts of what happened, label them as unscientific and thus impossible. It definitely does not fit in the healing modality of western medicine. For others it will make sense.

I did see a western trained doctor for the fever I was experiencing before this story unfolded. His solution was to suppress the fever with medication, without investigating what the cause may be. I did not like that option and chose an alternative way, of being with the fevers and see what happens...

This story is about what happened when I checked in at an ancient monastery in the mountains of the Syrian desert, a place where I sought refuge from the heat, noise and pollution of Syrian cities.

What happened in this orthodox Syrian monastery was quite unorthodox. As a woman staying there said: "You never know what will happen here, people do not seem to be in control".
The story has been spread out over six individual posts, to aid a speedy uploading and downloading. Please read the six posts as one. Marcel.

Healing Script part 1: Candle

I sat down in a dark corner at the back.
No one could see me, or my crappy mood.
Yet I, could see everybody.

It was supposed to be a silent meditation,
But people walked out, walked back in,
Rustled pages and talked,
Not whispered but talked!

It fueled my growing agitation,
Triggered earlier,
By someone questioning my reluctance to see a doctor,
And heal the persistent fevers with rest instead.
All I wanted was space and time,
As if I was home.

I’d hoped to gain inner peace,
But when the meditation was over I was so resentful,
So critical of everything and everyone around me…
…I became aware,
Sank deeper into the shadow,
To observe the battle in my mind.

Candles were lit for the mass that followed.
A monk disturbed those sitting in the aisles,
Herding them back to the central nave.
Thank God he let me be.
I was not in the mood to be an obedient sheep.

A well-meaning Soul placed a candle right in front of me.
"No!", I wanted to scream.
“I don’t want any light.
I want to bathe in shadow,
hide in darkness,
Feel sorry for myself,
Just be,
Be with my inner battle and raging fever".

But I remained mute.
I need not panic.
One candle was not bright enough to interfere with my darkness.

Healing Script part 2: Home

Mar Musa Monastery, Syria

Singing announced the start of mass.
It dislodged within me intense emotions from unknown times.
I felt sad, so sad,
So alone.With eyes closed,
I felt violent sobs hiccuping from the depth of my being.
As they rose their pain evaporated,
Before reaching my vocal cords.

With eyes closed,
I felt noxious scripts regurgitating from the past.
As they rose their poison neutralised,
Before reaching my mind.

This nomad was feeling sick,
Very sick.
Agh... homesick!

Every stone of this ancient monastery echoes Spiritual essence.
Its monks demonstrate inspiring commitment,
Mirroring the kind of ‘home-within’ I was seeking.

Healing Script part 3: Shadow

The tiny entrance to the fortress-like monastery of Mar Musa, Syria.

I wanted to belong,
To be part of it,
But could not find a way in.
I could not sing their exotic hymns.
Even if I did speak Arabic
I could not surrender.

My mind spewed critique instead:

Loathing the daily rituals and prayers,
Denying their soothing qualities;

Loathing the priest every time he said Allah, Dio or God,
Denying his noble intentions to engage visitors in their native tongues;

Loathing the sudden desert storm that burst open my cave room door,
Denying the awe it demanded from me;

Calling my internal sobs pathetic,
Denying their healing nature.

Mind was triumphant.
I believed it all and shriveled further into the shadow of myself.

From my dark corner I stared at the bright candle in front of me and agreed:
“Yes, you are right,
I am just a depressed bundle of self-pity.”
Mind took a break, celebrating victory.

Another voice seized the moment and took centre stage,
Reminding me that indeed I was wallowing in self-pity,
A useless emotion that would only keep me stuck,
In my script of self-righteousness;
That indeed I was losing the battle with my fierce inner critic.
“Do not drown”, it said.
“HELP ! ! !”

A prayer I learned as a kid came to mind.
I could only say it in Dutch.
In all earnest I recited:
“Heer ik ben niet waardig dat Gij tot mij komt,
Maar spreek slechts een woord en ik zal gezond worden”

(Lord, I am not worthy to receive you,
but only say the word and I shall be healed).

Out of desperation I repeated it two more times.
Funny how the religion that I abandoned a long time ago
Was now my only hope for salvation.

Healing Script part 4: Sweat Wine

Wine like everything has a shadow and light side, parish church, Syria

Bread and wine were coming round.
One is supposed to take a small sip.
Despite my dislike for wine I was ready to knock back the entire goblet .
For maybe it could make me see things in a different light,
Maybe it could change shadow.

I managed to get a good mouth full.
Enjoying every drop,
Swallowing little by little.
Then I choked and was forced to gulp down the rest.
Oh Damn!

The priest was his boisterous chatty self that night.
He tends to ask people personal questions during mass
Expecting answers for all to hear.
My sulky behaviour made me a potential target,
But the end of mass came to the rescue.
People left for the terrace where supper was being served.

I remained in the sacred space,
To be with myself, my raging fever,
Undisturbed, comforted by darkness.
Secretly I was hoping for an intervention by
A force more powerful than I,
That could pry open the slightest jar in my heart,
Unlocking compassion.
Compassion for self.

Healing Script part 5: Surrender

Religious statue, parish church, Syrian Desert.

The priest walked passed on his way out.
“How's your belly?” he asked loudly.
There was nothing wrong with my belly, but that didn't matter,
He knew I was unwell and he was looking for an opening line.
I accepted.
I gestured 'so-so' with my hands,
Accompanied by a 'so-so' facial expression.

He sat down for a chat.
I began to listen to someone else instead of my inner critic.
He had broken through my endless cycle of ego defenses.

“Do you have a family, the priest asked?”
Inner critic decided to put the priest to the test.
An ultimate test of acceptance,
To see if I could just be me
Here in this religious bastion,
Which I wanted to be ‘home’

“I don’t have a family, I am gay”, I said.
A sentence not said out loud in a Syrian orthodox monastery.
Anxiously I waited for a reply.
Could he accept,
Then inner critic would be defeated instantly
And forced to withdraw everything it said.
Could he not,
Then I would be forced to wander further
Searching for another home.
He did not blink an eye
And skillfully came up with an empathetic question,
Demonstrating his genuine acceptance.

I no longer had an excuse to cling to my script of lonely disconnection.
I no longer needed to criticise the celibate, religious them
To justify the queer spiritual me.
I could now let go,
Appreciate them,
This sacred space,
Feel at home for as long as needed,
Come out of my dark corner,
Totally surrender.

Healing Script part 6: Empty Seat

Terrace at Mar Musa Monastery, Syria

It was time to join the others for supper.
Unaware that soul had won this round of the battle
I sat down on the parameter wall by myself.
But I did not remain ignorant for long.

When stool became free I sat next to a new arrival.
“Where are you from?”, I asked.
“India”, the girl replied.
“Where in India?” I continued.
“Varanasi.” She said.
“That’s were I am going”, I said surprised.
“What for?” she asked.
"To film and to spend a lot of time on the ghats of the Ganges."
“Well”, she said. “We have a house set up for long term guests just like you”.
I nearly fell off my little stool.
“No, you are kidding me. But...
I want to be right next to the river though,
As close to the action as I can get”, I stressed.
“Well, let me see...” she said with a little chuckle in her voice,
It's about 30 meters from the Ganges,
Has a rooftop terrace with majestic views, will that do?”
-Will that do…!

This astonishing coincidence signaled that
I was no longer living my script of lonely disconnection,
That I could once again trust,
That everything will be OK,
That I was OK now,
That the battle was over.

The next morning
The fevers that had been plaguing me for weeks on end
Were gone,
Setting me free to continue my journey,
In search of a ‘home-within’.

Smoothing the Way

The apartment building where I live at the moment.

The road to the stupa from my residence is a rocky one. 4-wheel drive territory really. Probably washed out by monsoon rains. The holes so big that sandbags now smooth the way. I walk that road daily, lifting my trousers at times keep them dry, leaping over pools trying not to slip in the mud, closing my nose as I pass the open air butchers, saying hello to the man who always smiles at me, event hough I never bought something in his shop, buying apple pie and brown bread at the non-for-profit bakery that supports a rural school, looking worried at the building site where bricks are used to support a concrete building that will not have a chance of surviving an earthquake, listening to chanting as I pass the Tibetan monasteries, feasting my eyes on the stunning Tibetan brocades in the shops, stopping at the hairdresser for a shave, and having lunch at gthe Double Dorjee restaurant where they serve the best momo's. Around the last corner the mighty stupa rises in front of you as you enter the circular square.

Phulbari Road, Boudhanath.

It's not a perfect road at all, but it's full of life almost a complete micro cosmos. So much to see, smell and hear all in a mere 10 minute walk. I never get bored walking here, I never walk on 'automatic pilot', you can't as you would sprain your ankle or fall with your face in a mud pool. This road forces you to be aware and remain aware. Not a bad way to go through life.

Early morning offerings at the Stupa.

Meeting Old Friend

A photo of Teo Baba still hangs in the restaurant where he lived even though the restaurant changed owners and name.

A stranger
Never met
Never will meet
For he died
In 2000
Teo has been present
In my life
In the form of a script
Since 2001

His former home
Above a café
His portrait
Still having a presence
His paintings
Of a life
Of transformation

My refection
In his portrait
As I filmed
As if
I bumped
Into an old friend
As you do
When you come home

Boudhanath, Nepal

The privilege
To walk
Among Tibetans
The mighty stupa
Going round in circles
Getting nowhere
To just be