The World According to My Actions
On Wednesday, December 28th I found myself in Cooper Hospital’s emergency room. I woke up that morning feeling wonderful, much better than I had felt in several weeks. By noon I was in a car speeding through the streets of Camden until I was ushered to a chair where I would sit for the next hour. I was in convulsions shaking so badly I could barely speak. But I would find no mercy, at least for the next 40 minutes, even though it felt like an eternity. No one enjoys being sick let alone having to go to an emergency room these days, especially over a holiday. The room was packed. I was shaking and waiting for someone to come help. This is where I always say, “Here is where training pays off.”
There is a saying in Zen, “When you can’t change what’s happening, change your attitude.” I finally stopped convulsing but was too weak to even sit up in my chair. My “champion” was going back and forth to the desk in a futile effort to speed things up. She even told them I was a monk. They didn’t care. I eventually was able to sit up and look around at my surroundings. Everywhere I looked, every space was occupied with people in pain. I saw grown men holding their arms, people in bandages, a poor broken woman who had obviously survived what appeared to be a beating. There were police and EMT’s coming and going and yes, the hospital staff and nurses doing whatever they could given the deluge of people. I thought to myself, all this suffering and all these people trying to relieve the suffering of strangers. I was not going to add to anyone else’s. I made a conscious decision at that time to be patient, kind, grateful and to express my gratitude and appreciation to everyone I met, despite how terrible I felt and the fact that I was in an already desperate environment. I did. And that made all the difference for me, and I hope for those I encountered.
I ended up being a guest for the next two days and carried my “intention” the entire time. If you’ve ever had a reason to be in the hospital you know that there’s no rest, relief, and relaxation. Every couple of hours just when you found the right position on the hospital bed to get some kind of relief, someone walks into the room and it’s gone. But I was determined not to find any excuse for not being gracious toward everyone who entered my room no matter the hour of the night or their disposition.
Each of us are conditioned through our personal circumstances and experiences to be creatures of reaction. Something triggers us and we react. Our reaction, until we get down to the business of “training the mind,” is “conditional or mechanical”. We are like machines programmed by our life’s lessons or at least how we learned those lessons. When you begin to enter a serious training of the mind like Zen, you confront your “conditioning” or as some teachers refer to it, “Your demons”. Like an athlete in training, training involves running, and running, and running, until you make the mark that in the beginning seemed impossible.
Most of us live our lives from the point-of-view that the world outside is either the cause of our suffering or the solution to our discontent. While people and circumstances outside us, like in my case that day a “virus” can certainly cause us pain, Buddhism teaches that, “suffering” is our own creation. Likewise any relief from our discontent must originate within us. Until you have trained toward realizing that for yourself, you have no idea of the possibility, that often seems impossible to the reader.
We live in a chaotic and ever growing troubling world. Like so many others I feel sometimes that I want to do something to change the world. I have come to understand that I am not ever going to change the world, the world must change itself. You and I are the world, and when we change ourselves the world will change. I also believe after 40 years of training and teaching that, like Jesus once pointed to in his words, “The poor you will always have with you.”, his words were about the fact that their will always be “greed, resentment, and indifference” to confront, and people, who will never want to change. But my world is “what I make it”. In my world people are just trying to get through the night; they want to be loved and they want to love someone; they are kind; generous; thoughtful; compassionate; and caring, except sometimes. Then they are forgiving. Everyday of my life I wake up and the first thing I do is “choose”. I choose “my world,” and to just keep on “carrying my intention without excuses” no matter the circumstances, no matter the situation.
I met some saints, and angels, and demons that day. They all looked familiar to me.
I Love you,