27 February 2009

living with gratitude 14

Today has not been easy.

I took the big step to have lunch with my aunt and uncle Jacques who are in their 80s. Took a taxi as I knew the metro would be too tiring.
They were so appreciative to see me. It was an effort to be there but also so lovely to see them. Lunches in Paris are slow, so after 2 hours I was ready to head home and fall into bed, which I did. On one level I so wanted to see them but I felt it required so much energy. It seems that each time I expend too much energy, I get emotionally upset (which is what I am now...).

I want to keep thanking everyone for their love and prayers and support. It is making a world of difference. I am full of gratitude. And I really believe that this has contributed to the fact that I do not have fear of this process. I know I have to go through this (I really feel like I am going through some hard yards right now...but I do see that it is necessary + I will be all the richer/ lighter/ more knowledgeable/ stronger/ more helpful to others for having gone through this experience.... but wow, right now it feels tough).

Would love mail to be sent via the post of images or drawings or cards. Email me if you need my address. Am particularly into images of DURGA, the Goddess of strength and protection (learning to incorporate her attributes into my being.)

Photo : Sakthi 7 years old, part of the Arogya programme where 300 children each year receive live saving heart operations. Sakthi had his operation in December 08.

26 February 2009

living 13

Didn't update this blog yesterday because I hit a wall and felt miserable. I was looking for my health card (which I coulnd't find) in my office + after 30 minutes I was exhausted (looking back I think it was the emotional strain/stress of thinking I couldn't find it that did me...)... I crumpled into bed and sobbed, realising that how little I can actually do at the moment...

Good news is that friends came over and found the card in twenty seconds (ok, maybe that is an exaggeration... but it was literally within a minute... or it felt like that - the relief was enormous... no more stress in looking... yippee..). They also gave me a number of an acupuncturist who mainly treats people going through chemo/ radio therapy... and does amazing work in terms of preparing the body + helping with recovery of chemo... so I see him next week. I'm getting myself (body and soul) VERY WELL PREPARED.

Joy also visited with her two beautiful children and made vegetarian lasagne + made small portions to put into the freezer. I lay on the bed with the children while Joy cooked and we cuddled and chatted. The visits made my day and got me out of my glum state (although I was apprehensive about their visit before they arrived and thought -"how am I going to cope with having the children over?? I'm not the fun aunty I usually am..." but they were a delight as they seemed to just fit in: they made me giggle as we hung out on the bed together and ended up being such lovely company ).
Joy (originally from Zimbabwe) is heading to Africa in April as her brother is dying of AIDS. Her story unfolds in an incredible way (and she is a beautiful story teller) : the juxtaposition of her life here in Paris today, childhood memories of Zimbabwe and the reality of her family living in Africa today (some living in exile in S.Africa).

so that was yesterday...

Today was a day made lovely by another visit, dahl made especially for me by Kumar (from la rue du Suez fab indian restaurant). Sylvia delivered the dahl (last year she painted the Goddess Lakshmi outside his restaurant, which is on the ground floor of her building - so apart from the good food, I feel very connected to that place). We even managed a walk around the park (quite a feat as it is a big park). Got home and had a good sleep as I was pooped by the effort.

Today I also received a really delicious moment. I enjoyed the most beautiful conversation with my friend Traleg Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher. It was the first time we had spoken to eachother since I was diagnosed. He was very shocked by the news (although he has known for 2 weeks). The amazing experience was that I felt how present he was to the conversation : he was a space of compassion. Really very very present. It was a very beautiful gift to receive.

Later in the day, I received another phone call which was much less pleasant. I have found that people will react in the most unexpected ways. Most have been absolute gems and more. A handful (and thank goodness, there is only a handful) have had a real difficulty in coping with my diagnosis.
When the tsunami hits - you really cannot tell who is going to be there to hold your hand to help pull you out.
I have certainly shed my tears about this discovery (these are people I love, after all). Rather than take their reaction personally, I am really seeing that their reaction is about their own fears (of illness) or their incapacity of being present to their own emotions.

As I am committed to staying in a state of mind which doesn't create stress for myself, after the difficult conversation, I had a good cry with my friend Liz (release the upset), a hot bath with beautiful oils (given by valerie + cecile) then listened to some really beautiful music on the sound therapy relaxation machine (BODYSONIC).

I am enjoying the sound therapy relaxation machine (Stan from NY lent me one) - Mitch highly recommends it for keeping R E A L L Y relaxed,which is important while the immune system is down.
The machine creates vibrations directly from the music you play on your ipod : so as you listen to music on the headphones, the same sound is played through vibrationally through a cushion which you place on the stomach, solar plexus or heart + it makes one very relaxed very quickly. I think every household should have one!
Everyone who comes to visit gets a go!
So I have been enjoying that.

Sophie and Olivier came over in the evening. They cooked themselves dinner and we chatted and laughed while I sat in bed and they ate (I wasnt the littles bit hungry as I had had giant raw vegie juice in the afternoon). After dessert (delicious hand made nougat), they both got to try out the sound machine...zzzzzz relaxed.....

It's interesting living within the limits of my physical fatigue right now, it definately brings me so much closer and present to the present moment. Everything, every moment feels so so precious. Further more I am so in touch with my internal world and the presence of the invisible world / the Divine. I am getting why people have profound shifts in their life when they are going through a physical illness.

More from the Arogya Heart Programme where children are given life giving operations.
KOWSALYA (in the arms of her mother) received her heart operation 5 May 2008.
If Kowsalya hadn't received this operation, she wouldn't be alive today. And her parents wouldn't have a daughter, her brother wouldn't have a sister. The grief would be immense. However, as she received the operation she is alive. Every child I photograph or meet whom has had an operation astonishes me and I see how such a simple program like the AROGYA so profoundly shapes the lives of these people. This is why I love this series of photos so much.

24 February 2009

living 12

Bit by bit settling into my appartment, it's so good to be in my own space... and my own bed...

A lot of my stuff is in Australia (practical things like papers, keys, cards, plugs + hard drives+ all my cameras) as I had packed my bag for a 5 day visit to NY... so sort of funny not to be with my usual essentials.

Today I tested myself and took a 10 minute walk with a friend to the organic store to get vegies + fruit for my daily juice blending. As I was half way through the store, I thought "this feels like enough". I had reached saturation point physically and knew I still had to pay and walk all the way home. My body started to ache so I knew I just had to sit in the café opposite the store and wait, which is what we did. Got back to the appartment (5 floor walk up) and really enjoyed lying on my bed! So now I know that I really need to be careful in what I do. AND REST.

The wonderful phone call came in from New York this afternoon with the references of the doctor whom will be taking care of me. The appointment is next Monday. I have been told he's the best Doctor in the world, and in my world, he is the best. I see him next Monday.

It is rather amusing. Last Wednesday morning the specialist told me that I had to have chemeo. I cried in the lift with Clare (whom had accompanied me) saying that I SO didn't want to have to go through chemo... The office was opposite central park, and I remember feeling so miserable as I looked at the trees in the park, (that park usually makes me feel so happy).

And today, I am surprised with myself, I now really want the treatment to go ahead, I want to go through the chemeo, post chemeo and continue those steps to getting better. The psycho-oncologist explained that cancer is a toxin, and as that leaves my body, the toxic attitudes and relationships I have adopted in life, will also leave. I like that.

On a practical level, am organising dates for friends/ family to come to stay for short periods (cook meals, take care, tell me silly stories). Yesterday, Annie last night delivered soup + other yummy goodies. Carolyn dropped off her blender so I can blend juices...I'm starting to ask for exactly what I need.

om namo narayani

photo : Kandiabbam, 2 years old - I photographed her at the AROGYA Heart Foundation programme last November.

Every year, the programme involves than 300 children whom receive heart surgery from the major hospitals in the Tamil Nadu area.

Kandiabbam would have received her heart surgery around the end of last December (this operation saves the child's life + is far too expensive for the families to afford - approx US$3000).
These children had a profound effect on me and the impact the operation has on the children and families is remarkable.

23 February 2009

living 11

I wasn't looking at all forward to the flight from NY to Paris (I spent most of my last day in NY in resting in bed)...

However, each corner there seems to be another surprise : Gabriella a New York friend had somehow seen on facebook that I was in the city. She called and I explained how I wasn't seeing anyone as I was feeling far too tired and that I was leaving that night. Immediately she offered to take me to JFK.

So there we were a few hours later, catching up with eachother's stories on the drive... at JFK I hugged her + thanked her so much for driving me and she replied that it was really important for her to be able to do that. It warmed me because several people have mentioned how important it has been for them when I reach out. I have not been particularly good at receiving or asking for things from others in my past life (much better at giving). Now, in my present life, I am in a situation where I need to be really clear on what I need and ask the right person for it.

As I waited for the plane, I recognised that there has been a much greater sense of the support from the invisible world. I have felt it and witnessed it in so many moments during this last week in New York. There is no fear as I feel so supported by love and people's thoughts as well as friends+family messages, and how people are being there for me. Sure, the process is very much my own experience and it helps to talk to Debra and those whom have been through the journey of cancer. The psycho-oncologist, Alicia + oncologist Mitch Gaynor have also opened amazing windows in how I relate to this process. I feel now that this is the transformation of my being taking place right now, it's no longer just an idea.

I arrived back in Paris this afternoon. It was an extremely surreal experience to be opening the door, climbing up the five flights of my appartment... I was supposed to be arriving in Australia today, and instead, there was the low clouds of Europe outside and my lovely familiar bed (which I haven't slept in in months).

Waiting on news for first meetings with the oncologists.

Photo : taken by my brother David, when we travelled to Denmark together for my exhibition at Gallerimage in 06.
David liked the girl snoozing next to him on the flight. I like the light beaming through on her and she being unaware of it.

22 February 2009

living 10

Things took quite a turn on Friday, in terms of decision of where I would get my treatment done - and since then I have been sleeping (a lot) and doing the necessary shifts of canceling flights, getting new ones, organising general stuff...

News is that I am going for treatment at Institut Marie Curie in Paris and that I will be needing chemo (to reduce the tumor).  After chemo I will then  go through with surgery.  

I now feel I am in really good hands with Mitch Gaynor's knowledge and network. Furthermore the psycho-oncologist I have been seeing this week in NYC (who is remarkable) has been practicing in Paris for a long while and also knows the crew well there. 

I leave NYC tonight and arrive in Paris tomorrow.

And although feeling rather crap physically, I do profoundly knowand feel that this journey is a very precious step in my life.

Photo : 
a lotus at dawn from the sacred pond at the Sripuram temple in south India

21 February 2009

living 9

These two images resonate in me the journey of this week : taking each day at a time.  Each day has presented me with a new twist, extra information to absorb, more understanding to be revealed.

In India, every morning, a Kolam is drawn in front of a home - a way to welcome the Divine/ guests in.  And during the day, the Kolam is walked upon and by the evening has disappeared.  And again, the next day, is drawn up with loving intent.  

And as I am feeling really tired each day, and that I feel I can only absorb so much, I see that drawing up the intent of each day with beauty and living each moment with care and appreciation is all I can do (because each day changes so dramatically).  Talk about bringing life to the essence.

The first photo is at the entrance of Sakthi Amma's home and the second photo was a Kolam nobody saw, as it was drawn behind the stage on the AROGYA Heart Donation day (where nobody, apart from me with my camera visited).  It seemed that the existence of the intent of this thought / act was what seemed to be important. 

20 February 2009

living 8

Tonight, I was having dinner at Fanelli, one of the oldest restaurant-bars in NYC (dates back to 1847), which is the heart of SOHO and owned by Miriam's (with whom I am staying with this week-end) brother in law.  

At one moment I looked up and saw Daphne (she is the one in this photo on the right with flowers + Lara May is on the left
Daphne is Ione Skye's best friend !!! I met Daphne at Ione's wedding (to hubby Ben Lee) in December in India...

She gave the loveliest speech filled with emotion, the type only a best friend could give, telling Ben : "Ben, I cannot emphasise, how you have sooo scored!!"

I met Daphne on Friday night... and it cheered me to meet her in this city of millions - like an extra gift to mark an end to a  very intense week: a real roller-coaster, and a journey of complete surrender...

18 February 2009

living 7

I must admit, it is a bit odd being in a metropolis like NY and spending all day in bed. In the past I would have been racing to art museums, music shows and hooking up with friends...

Amongst the hours I laid in bed, I did have another great conversation with Debra, a person from the world-wide Sakthi Amma Sanga I am connected to (in Buddhism, the word 'sanga' is used to describe a spiritual community) who has come through the other side with cancer. She has been incredible support and a great person to talk to as she-has-been-there. The notion of the conversation was that getting rid of the cancer, extracting it is one level... the deeper level is its purpose... + the cancer has no purpose in the world unless it is about transformation. What is in your heart that is trying to be heard?

suggested reading :

Today's photo?
2 favourite people : Mama (uncle in Tamil) and Pranav, his grandson. Mama was the head priest during the Navaratri fire rituals last October. On the 10th and last day Pranav, came to the join his grandfather on the last part of the fire ritual. T

At the age of 2, this child isn't interested in normal kids toys (he'll play with a toy for no longer than two minutes), but give him any item to do with puja (hindu sacred ritual) and he'll play with them for hours...doing all the gestures of puja. I witnessed it... he had my draw drop + in giggles. He was born on Ganesh's birthday.

17 February 2009

living 6

Well, I have had better days.

It's an absolute joy to be back in NY - I had forgotten how much I love is metropolis, the interaction with the people and its visuals.

Today I spent the morning sleeping and had a PET scan in the afternoon on the upper East side, where everything medical seems to be happening for me. I'm staying with Stan + Claire (Stan calls himself someone who is "living with cancer" rather than someone "dying of cancer") with their daughter in Chelsea. (Stan + Claire have given me their bedroom as they sleep in their living room... If I was feeling better I would have refused such generosity. But at the moment, I am being very good at receiving all the generosity coming my way and being full of gratitude...) Stan came with me for the scan and thank goodness he was there...

The technician had a beautiful accent from Brooklyn and was gentle as can be.
He looked at my form and said "I don't think you are 108 years old..." in his sweet accent.
That made me laugh as 108 is a sacred number in india... a sweet little sign and a humorous one sent out to remind me that I am being taken care all along this process.

Basically I was given an injection of radiation and then a giant milkshake sized drink of white liquid to drink. As this entered my body, I asked Stan loads of questions about his life, how he met Claire etc etc...He's a good story teller and this helped me focus on something other than what was happening to me. I felt so sick and weirded out as if metal was entering my head. I thought of each person I photographed in Ozyorsk, Russia (the #65 series) whom had been radiated. (Is this what it feels like?... and this was a small dose...). I fell asleep during the scan chanting "om namo narayani" with nora jones singing on a cd in the background... surreal to say the least.

We came home through the city + it was sunset. Today being a president's holiday, there was no traffic - so we glided through to the other side of this tiny island.

Got to bed early + really felt unwell : heated and metal - like throughout my body (sort of freaked out so kept chanting om namo narayani which I have done throughout the day) . It is now 1:40am and I have woken up again, feeling better (still i sense I am glowing... less)

While I was going through the PET scan, Tobias was doing a puja for me in Berlin, Edo in India sent a message that I was being showered with prayer and puja : myself and everyone in need of good health (as I believe all this prayer has a world-wide purpose)... so maybe, with me going through this, the world is getting more prayer for healing than before : an idea that puts a smile on my face.

Love-filled messages from around the world were received. Thank you.

The images of today : from the day I spent with Dr Kannike at Sri Narayani's Mobile clinic for Maternal and Child Health visiting a village about 15 km from Peedam.

The children were clammering in front of the camera to have there photo taken and then squealed with delight as they saw themselves on the screen on the back of my camera.

16 February 2009

living 5

Have arrived in NYC and am being very well taken care of by Sakthi Amma + the NY crew... The journey has been remarkably E A S Y ... am being taken care of every step of the way... In Sydney we did a puja (fire ceremony) the day before I left which an empowering way to take this journey ... learning of the power to surrender.

Am in NYC to see my very amazing oncologist + friend, Mitch Gaynor to assist me with the healing.

Here are images of the children taken at the Sri Narayani Maternity Mobile clinic (a travelling van of nurses + a doctor which visits villages for health check-ups) during my time in South India last year... these photos give me a load of joy - so am sharing them each day amongst the other beautiful images I receive.

14 February 2009

living 4

Here is an image from Virgilio Ferreira from Portugal: I am a big fan of his work + had the delicious pleasure of dancing with him for hours at the Lodz Photo Festival last summer in Poland (we were both a part of the Made in China show, the lovely Krystof put on).

13 February 2009

living 3

This is a self-portrait from Francois Sculier, film director and editor based in Paris (Francois aka Baba edited two of my documentary films). He took this quirky image with his telephone on a recent visit to Geneva.

12 February 2009

living 2

“The terror and joy of realizing oneness with the Soul.”

The Radiance Sutras

112 Tantra Yoga Teachings
For Opening to the Divine in Everyday Life

A new version of the vijnana bhairava tantra
by Lorin Roche

Now in preparation to be published in March 2009



This little book is the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, one of the early teachings on yoga and meditation. The name, loosely translated, means “The terror and joy of realizing oneness with the Soul.” It is said to date back to the second millennium B.C. For most of that time, it was purely in the oral tradition, meaning that it was chanted and memorized. I say it is little because it is only about three thousand words in the original Sanskrit, perhaps half an hour of chanting. It is astonishing that in so few words it describes the essence of many of the world’s meditation techniques. I call it The Radiance Sutras because it is so luminous...


The Bhairava Tantra is a conversation between The Goddess Who is the Creative Power of the Universe, and the God who is the Consciousness That Permeates Everywhere. For short, they call each other Devi and Bhairava, or Shakti and Shiva. They are lovers and inseparable partners, and one of their favorite places of dwelling is in the human heart.

The teaching emerges from their love-play, reminding us that we are educated from within our own hearts in the spirit of love. The secrets of how to meditate are revealed as one friend or lover would to another. What Devi and Bhairava sing to each other in this conversation are called sutras, and every sutra is an invitation to freshly appreciate what it is to be alive, to breathe, to exist and express and feel.

The conversation begins with the Goddess asking, “Beloved, tell me, how do I enter more deeply into the reality of the universe?” In reply Bhairava describes one hundred and twelve techniques for awakening into reality through everyday life experience. Each of these is a way of attending to the rhythms, pulsations and sensuousness of the divine energy flowing through us always - and out of which we are made.

a beautiful link sent from the lovely Liza Lim (hyphenated Australian composer based in UK)


11 February 2009

living 1

Last week I was diagnosed with cancer, something I never ever thought I would have to deal with... 

I have refrained from working (a giant step for mankind...) and am focusing on the healing process.  My world network have been amazing support and, as I go through the deep experience of being faced with such a journey, I will share some things my loved ones send me. 

To giggle is an important part of my day.

This giggle was sent to me from the lovely Paul Gazzola, performance artist based in Berlin, with comment "attached is the best interpretation of a painting I have seen in years."