Sickness

As Buddhists, how do we work with illness and what do we learn from it?
  • The Path of Writing Paid Member

    I was nearly sixty when I decided to write this. In February 1998, we flew to Los Angeles to visit C's son for a few days. We slept on a mattress on the floor of his study and that first morning, still on East Coast time, I woke early to the sound of birdsong coming through the open window. The scent of lemon blossoms filled the air. It was as though we had flown from winter into spring. I was reading a book I'd begun on the plane when all at once, in the midst of reading, I suddenly decided to become a writer. It wasn't a whim. I decided, irrevocably, to write a book. The decision was absurd since I'd never written anything. I'd spent most of my life as a visual artist; even writing letters was difficult for me. More »
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    Alleviating Suffering Paid Member

    It’s three a.m. when the on-call pager goes off, rousing me out of a fitful sleep. By the time I arrive on the geriatric wing to answer the “obstreperous patient” page, the floor is quiet. “We’re fine,” a nurse tells me. “She’s calmed down. We just have to watch for the flying tray.” One busy week later, I still haven’t visited this patient. Often, when I pass her room, I hear her calling out, “Help, help!” Her charts speak of dementia and pain; she’s triggered other “obstreperous patient” calls, and she’s been giving some of the nurses a really hard time. Now one of the palliative-geriatric physicians has asked me to check on her, so I cautiously step into her room, wary of the tray. More »
  • I Survived Ebola. But the Fight Doesn’t End There. Paid Member

    When Ashoka Mukpo speaks about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, his words carry a compassion and humanity that can only come from firsthand experience. That’s because Mukpo, 33, is one of only a handful of Americans to contract Ebola in West Africa, where he was working as a cameraman with NBC News.  More »
  • Not Two Paid Member

    At 6 a.m., my teacher strikes the singing bowl. The tone spirals out, becomes hollow. At the center of a room emptied of sound, we sit cross-legged, facing a brick wall. Slowly the mind quiets, the breath deepens; the sounds from outside seep through the bricks—a jogger, two kids laughing and arguing their way to the bus stop, an ambulance, a helicopter. Right now there is no text, no prayer, no millennia of continuity, no God inspecting my deeds. There is my teacher and there is me, sinking below the turbulence in which I had swum for four decades. When my teacher strikes the bowl again, it jars me back to the surface. As the sound once again spools out—my lungs are open, my head is clear, and my knees ache. With silence and stillness, another day begins. More »
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    Bedside Bodhisattva Paid Member

    "Let’s have a prayer,” Faye said. I’d been visiting Faye and her husband, Harry, since Harry’s heart transplant a few weeks back. His recovery had been lengthier and rockier than expected, but he was finally getting ready to go home. Faye was Catholic; Harry had promised her that he’d convert if he recovered. We joined hands and offered prayers of thanks to God the Father, Christ his Son, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. We vowed to do our best to benefit those less fortunate than ourselves. “You’re my rock, Chaplain Pamela,” Faye said. “Your faith has carried us through. I’ll miss you.” More »
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    Simple Paid Member

    God's joy, wrote Rumi,
moves from unmarked box to unmarked box. I remember my sister’s husband,
 after her stroke, complaining
 "Liz is a box. It says
 on the outside Liz, but she’s not there, not the Liz I married." "Is she simple," our daughter wondered, noting how the sheer
weight of loss
 had rendered my sister speechless. But I have to confess, as I watch your memory fade—
grief and the rest of it aside—
I’m also curious: What is the self? What of the self, or the no-self, outstays loss after loss? 
I watch the wind 
fill with leaves, red and gold,
 as the tree that was once
 a summery billow
thins to an outline. A friend
 told of a woman he knew 
with dementia. "And who are you," someone asked her pointedly,
 and she replied, I watch.
 How is it for you?" our son 
got up his courage and asked you, More »