Sickness

As Buddhists, how do we work with illness and what do we learn from it?
  • Tricycle Community 5 comments

    Seventeen Syllable Medicine Paid Member

    Waking up in the long indigo shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, my heart is granite. A beloved dharma sister and deep writing friend of 30 years has been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and has just entered an intensive treatment program at the Christus St. Vincent Regional Cancer Center of Northern New Mexico. I have come to keep her company for a week. Outside her home, the first honey blonde columbine of summer push into bloom, a glory I am too numb to celebrate. More »
  • Tricycle Community 31 comments

    A Life Too Long Paid Member

    On an autumn day in 2007, while I was visiting from northern California, my mother made a request I dreaded and longed to fulfill. She’d just poured me a cup of tea from her Japanese teapot; beyond the kitchen window, two cardinals splashed in her birdbath in the weak Connecticut sunlight. Her white hair was gathered at the nape of her neck, and her voice was low. She put a hand on my arm. “Please help me get your father’s pacemaker turned off,” she said. I met her eyes, and my heart knocked.  More »
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    So the Darkness Shall Be the Light Paid Member

    The thing that most made my internship at a preeminent Harvard community hospital seem like a descent into what Buddhists call the hungry ghost realm was coming face to face with the limits in our modern medical approach to the natural process of aging and dying. A disturbing experience with a dying patient one night when I was on call left an indelible impression that will forever remind me of those limits. More »
  • Tricycle Community 19 comments

    Just Shut Up Paid Member

    Robert Campbell Chodo began using amphetamines and alcohol at age 16. He continued using amphetamines until age 24, before moving on to cocaine for the next 10 years. In 1988, Campbell got sober after seeing a psychotherapist and joining Alcoholics Anonymous, where he attended meetings 3 times a week. While Campbell says that “AA unquestionably gave me the tools to make the life changes,” it wasn’t until he began his Zen practice in 1993 that he began to get “really, really sober.” Today Campbell is one of the Executive Directors for New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, an organization that provides direct care to the sick, dying, and suffering. More »
  • Tricycle Community 0 comments

    On Lending Our Bodies Paid Member

    When we are caring for someone who is sick, we lend them our body. We use the strength of our arms to move them from the bed to the commode, and we can also lend them the strength of our mind. We can help to create a calm and accepting environment. We can be a reminder of stability and concentration. We can expand our heart in such a way that it can inspire the individual who is dying to do likewise. More »
  • Tricycle Community 0 comments

    On Beginning at the Beginning Paid Member

    In working with someone who is dying, there is a tremendous temptation to ignore our own relationship to death and immediately assume the role of the helper. But when we do so, we are losing our common ground with that person. Entering a dying person's world takes courage and empathy. Only by accepting our own vulnerability to death do we overcome the divided perspective of "I (over here) am helping you (over there)." Only then are we in the same boat. So in a sense, we need to be willing to die with that person. Usually we do not want to be in the same boat at all. Although it is embarrassing to admit, we are secretly glad that it is someone else who has cancer and we are the one looking after him rather than the other way around. We find security in the fact that we are not the one who is sick right now. It is hard not to feel that way, even when we are sincerely and earnestly trying to help. More »