At the center of the Chod practice are two 'feasts'. In the first (the White First) I visualize my heart melting in a cauldron made from my own skull. The second feast, the Red Feast, the flesh is cut from my bones and laid. The White Feast is a distillation, the Red Feast is dismemberment. My somatic body recognizes the experience - head cut open (twice), most recently, a grapefruit (benign) taken from the vagus nerve.
Chod practice, like all practice, prepares the practitioner for the path of enlightenment, but with particular attention to the immanence of our own death.
I've had a persistent and difficult to diagnose throat infection. Several courses of antibiotic treatment cleared up a some secondary symptoms, but couldn't budge the sore throat. I figured this was the arrival of another benign but poorly placed tumor. Then a few weeks ago, I woke up with a toothache. And I mean an ache, something Dickensian. I've never experienced anything like it without a self-administered morphine drip.
I blame a lot on the breathing tubes inserted during surgery and the drainage pumps sucking out my chest while I was in recovery. I think that tube cracked my tooth on the way out, and I've been suffering a buildup of consequences in my ear, nose and throat. I'm not a doctor, and no doctor would substantiate what I just said. But there you go, what do they know.
I recognize that I'm holding onto a seed of blame and anger passed through filters of aggreivance, injustice and general irascibility. I can look at my responses to the experience in one of three ways. I can renounce it; I can transform it; or I can self-liberate .
If I renounce anger, I can seek to avoid situations that generate anger. If I find anger arising, I can practice to settle the anger in my mind. If the anger arises, I can choose not to respond to the emtotion, which will plant a new seed for future action. This is sutra.
If I practice to transform anger, I will recognize the inherent emptiness of the emotion which in that moment could open up a profound realisation through the unification of emptiness and bliss. This is tantra.
If I self-liberate, I recognize the reality of non-dual perception where anger is not anger. This is dzogchen.
Physical pain has the same set of potentials, and Chod is a powerful practice to transform. What I did, I dosed myself with percocet and avoided not just the pain but also the practice. Oh well, maybe next time.
On Friday morning, I had a root canal which helped some but couldn't fix the crack they found down the middle of my tooth. On Monday at 4pm, my dentist pulled the damn thing out and everything got better. I'd lost 7 pounds in 3 days, stripped my knuckles to the bone when I fell over walking the dogs (blame the drugs), threw up the first food I ate after 72 hours (blame the drugs), and didn't shower for what felt like weeks (mea cupla). I had locked jaw, swollen glands and irritated bowels. It would have been better for everyone to just leave me out for sky burial on Penn Avenue.
I could have offered up my remains to be used for ritual instruments. Chod practice begins with 3 blasts on a trumpet traditionally made from the femur of a practitioner. Unexpectedly, my dentist let me keep the tooth, which I soaked in peroxide for a day and a night and now have on my altar. I don't have a bone kangling (yet) but I do have my own tooth/bone on the altar.