I have not taken dukkha (suffering, distress, dis-ease) seriously enough. I’ve suspected this off and on for some time; my illness has made it clear. Not because the illness is necessarily suffering, but the circumstances and the places where it is playing out, force ample scope and depth for reflection on the Buddha’s first ennobling truth.
Here, I’m not as concerned with pain, but the stresses that knock us out of our core groundedness in and connection with life. For me, in this illness, the pain has been real and at times intense. But I’m rather strong and in good shape, plus privileged with a wise nurse as wife and best friend, excellent health care, and a magnificent community of support. Rather, I’m more concerned with the kilesa (defilement) of heart, mind, and view than the pollutions of body. While the body’s own powers aided by good care heal that side of things, my focus is on healing the confusions and corruptions of heart, mind, and view (understanding).
In these words I make no attempt to laying out some fundamental truth. I simply explore and inquire with the tools and experiences I have at hand to find meaning in this life full of suffering and love. Blessed with both, where does it take me? Perhaps at least, towards dwelling with both more spaciously and graciously, which is to approximate sunyata (emptiness).
The blessing of this physical disease is that it slaps awake the slothfulness and procrastination that try to take it easy with practice and facing realities. Time could very well be short. The tumor, unchecked, might have killed me in a matter of weeks. With that imminent threat averted, there is still the real business of awakening to egolessness and true freedom, that is, nibbana.
Thanks so much for the metta and compassion sent to Jo Marie and myself. We are deeply comforted and inspired.
Please expand it to the many beings who are suffering in the world. As I walk off the stiffness of lying in bed a lot, I cannot help but think that there are people in this building who have it worse than I. It’s a large building, only one of the Mayo campus. There are children who don’t understand why they hurt and adults who face more dire odds. There are people outside anxious and beleaguered over lost jobs and houses. There are the many assaulted and threatened by political, gender, and ecological violence. There are those who struggle with mental illness; others who cannot find meaning in their lives. Addictions, demons, misunderstandings, fears, and more trouble us all, one way or another.
My optimism and idealism, as well as a habit of being judgmental, has kept the deeper awareness of suffering from filling my heart. Seemed easier to keep it at some distance, a tad too intellectual. Now I see that keeping my heart open to suffering as well as love is crucial to my own healing, both physical and Dhammic.
May all beings be free of dukkha; may all beings be calm, cool, and free.