I was sick last week. Flu or cold, I don’t know. But it was nasty. It was so bad I did not even go to our Mt. Baldy retreat.
When you’re sick, it’s not pleasant, but, for me, it’s usually just a stuffy nose, some sneezing, and lots of sleeping on the couch. This one was really painful. I couldn’t sleep for a few of the nights. I felt like crap.
It was so bad that a couple of times I wondered if it might be something much worse, like something from which I might never recover. Thankfully, those incidents passed pretty quickly. But when you feel like that, it can induce panic.
I think the panic comes from somewhere much deeper than mere thought. It seems to come from a much more pure chemical and physiological place.
What I wanted most at those moments was someone to reassure me. It’s not that I wanted somebody to lie to me. But hearing the words “It will be OK” from someone who I loved and trusted really meant a lot. It wasn’t so much the specific words as the sentiment they expressed. Sometimes the words don’t matter. They’re just forms that the sounds you make take so that it doesn’t seem like you’re just making noises with your mouth.
Right after I recovered from this, I got an email from a guy whose friend is dying of breast cancer. He asked about what he could do to help her. Reflecting on my own recent and much less serious illness, I said he ought to try to just be there for his friend. Tell her it will be OK, even if, from our usual point of view, it won’t.
All of us have to die some time. What I want when the time comes for me to die is for someone to offer me whatever comfort they can. If my time of dying is anything like I felt when I was sick last week, those little acts of kindness might help quell some of the effects of the overload of hormones and whatnot that my bodily condition is forcing upon me.
That’s why I think it’s really important to be strong for people who are unable to be strong for themselves. It’s really important not to get caught up in the panic that they might be feeling. Anything you can do in that regard helps even if it doesn’t prevent the person’s demise.
Saying “Everything will be all right” is not a lie. It’s an act of kindness. A person who is dying usually knows what’s happening, I think. They also know that you don’t know what to say. They wouldn’t know what to say either if the situation was reversed.
I suspect that dying is not the worst thing that can happen. I suspect that it’s a transition. I suspect that what moves and animates us isn’t limited to the biochemical processes our body goes through. I think that there may be an undercurrent to all of us that is always calm, always even, always present.
I can’t prove this. I just feel it might be true. I’ve sensed it many times — this undercurrent of total equanimity. If you can bring forth a little of that for a sick friend, it really helps. It doesn’t matter so much the form it takes.
As I said, sometimes the words we say are just forms that the sounds we want to make take. We don’t purr like cats or whinny like horses. Our culture forces us to make words out of our sounds. Otherwise it seems weird. So just make the appropriate sounds and don’t be too concerned what words form out of them.
The Angel City Zen Center is running a fundraiser right now to keep the center going.
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IT CAME FROM BEYOND ZEN and SEX SIN AND ZEN are now available as audiobooks from Audible.com! You can also get Don’t Be a Jerk, Hardcore Zen, Sit Down and Shut Up and There is No God and He is Always With You in audio form — all read by me, Brad Warner!
May 23, 2018 TURKU, FINLAND TALK
May 24-27, 2018 HÄMEENLINNA FINLAND RETREAT
May 28, 2018 VIENNA, AUSTRIA TALK: The Art of Sitting Down and Shutting up
May 29, 2018 VIENNA, AUSTRIA TALK: Don’t Be A Jerk -Applied Dogen’s Teaching
May 30, 2018 VIENNA, AUSTRIA: Hardcore Zen Dharmatalk
June 1, 2018 MUNICH, GERMANY TALK
June 2, 2018 MUNICH, GERMANY DAY-LONG RETREAT
June 3-8, 2018 BENEDIKTUSHOF RETREAT near WURZBURG, GERMANY
June 10-13, 2018 DOMICILIUM RETREAT near MUNICH, GERMANY
June 17-20, 2018 HEBDEN BRIDGE, ENGLAND RETREAT
June 21, 2018 LONDON, ENGLAND TALK
June 23, 2018 LONDON, ENGLAND DAY-LONG RETREAT
Every Monday at 7:30pm there’s zazen at Angel City Zen Center (NEW TIME, NEW PLACE!) 1407 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90026 Beginners only!
Every Saturday at 10:00 am there’s zazen at the Angel City Zen Center (NEW PLACE!) 1407 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90026 Beginners only!
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