Sunday, April 09, 2006

Eyes of wisdom

It's been a very strange week. I've been propped up in my bed, distorting my mind with cold remedies and codeine cough syrup, the sound of my own wheezing morphing into the sound of children crying for help in my dreams. My subconscious. Best to leave it alone.

I take care of patients who have life threatening hematologic malignancies. The treatment is lethal if not for the rescue, the infusion of immune-system-growing stem cells. Usually the transplant itself is a success. It's the complications, infections and damage to other organ systems, that can cause the big problems. Still I love this work. I've left it many times to work in other hospitals, other specialties, but I always have stayed connected to this particular unit and currently work there full-time. I love the fight. I love being able to feel that I make a difference for people who are having some of the worst moments of their lives. I love it when people get better and go home to their parents and children. Even when it doesn't work out that way, I love it that we really really tried. All that love aside, I've brought enough bodies to the morgue over my twenty year career to sink a small ship and it's always sobering, never fun. The benefit is truly understanding that bodies are not what we are though sometimes it's hard to remember, and not always comforting.

This week, a young physician from our hospital was involved in a freak accident. A piece of scaffolding blew off the side of a building onto the roof of his car. When all was said and done, he and two constuctions workers were no longer alive. Then the nursing supervisor came by with sad news of a young man unable to be resuscitated in the emergency room, a stones throw away from away the new building under construction across the street: a state-of-the-art cardiac center.

I think that's when I started to catch my cold. Some symbolic contracture of my 4th chakra, encompassing my heart and lungs hollering, "Enough!" The cruel twist is that my most effective means of being with and transforming difficult feelings is unavailable to me when I can't meditate in my usual way! I mean liberation cannot be dependent on being able to breath through your nose, I tell my pitiful self. So it's been a matter of observe, observe, name, name....just be here, just be with.

Lying with my head on three pillows, I review what my teacher says about no birth, no death, continuation, sufficient conditions. I recall my teacher Thay's dharma talk from the last day of retreat last summer. Actually he's given a similar talk the last day of the three retreats I've been lucky enough to attend. I think he has said that it is the most important of the Buddha's teachings. In it he lights a match asking the children before him, "Where did the little flame come from?" and blowing it out, "Where did our friend flame go?" and in a short time, kids who are years away from having a drivers license are considering interdependent origination: no birth, no death, no fear. And all of us are being reminded to look deeply into the nature of our fear of non-being, so that we can transform suffering and increase our capacity to be solid, calm, and peaceful, bringing happiness to ourselves and others.

The most touching part of the talk is when he says, and I paraphrase, "If you should hear in the future that Thay has died, don't you believe it. Don't believe email, fax, telephone. My nature is the nature of no birth, no death. I will be here in you and all around you, if you have the eyes of wisdom to see." You can see it in his eyes. They are shining. He really means it. He believes it.

I decide to try to believe too. Staying, staying with my feelings, fears, with my inability to breathe at the present moment, I am grateful for my body's wisdom. I am grateful for the unplanned break from my usual tasks, time to lie in my bed and ponder. And I pray for the eyes of wisdom.

Zenmom
Authentic Kindness of the Heart

7 Comments:

Blogger Norman said...

Came across your site via your comment to Rev Mugo's blog, Moving Mountains. I am a retired nurse (orthopaedic trama) and can share the buzz you get with working In extremis. and when we're ill we make the wosrt patients, do we not?
It was nice to see another nurse who was trying to do it through the heart of Kwan-Yin (Avelokiteswara).

12:27 PM  
Blogger Zenmom, aspiring said...

Oh funny Norman, I've been to your blog before too and like the prose as much as the beautiful photos. Just peeked there and see that the beach at St. Ives looks just like our shore, here on Cape Cod, Massachusetts,USA. It IS nice to meet other nurses here...who else could believe the stories!

12:38 PM  
Blogger The Zero Boss said...

Beautifully written. Thanks for that lovely lesson in the middle of the workday.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

zenmom: i really admire your compassion and the way you help people to fight for their lives. it is really beautiful to read about.

i hope your cold gets better.

i know what you mean about thay. when he says he is of no birth, no death, there is just something about it...i believe he is really the clouds and the sun. we all are. it is just that thay exudes it and embodies this truth.

7:01 AM  
Blogger Zenmom, aspiring said...

Kim, Good to hear from you! sometimes it's so strange to be witness to the extraordinary time, money and effort we put into saving or prolonging one life and then...something like falling scaffolding instantly ends the life of a perfectly healthy person...or worse thousands of children around the world die from lack of food and basic medical care.
We had one patient who would have been working on the 90-something floor of the WTC if he hadn't been out being treated for leukemia. All his co-workers died. We get a card from him once in a while and he's doing very well!
Sometimes it just all seems so random...unfathomable.
Well, the sun's out today...got to go enjoy it. Hope you are well, Kim!

11:31 AM  
Blogger hotboy said...

Arrived here from Samsaramom's. Enjoyed reading this. So sincere! Hotboy

3:56 PM  
Blogger Zenmom, aspiring said...

Dropping in on the moms, are you! Well, I must admit that your name alone inspires me to visit your blog!! Thanks for the kind comment.

10:31 PM  

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