This human life is incredibly precious, though we often take it for granted. From a Buddhist perspective, our experience in life – happiness or suffering, success or problems, sickness or health, begins with our own mind – the seeds of karma we’ve planted in this and previous lives on an infinite journey across time and space that has no beginning or end. Recently, I had a probable case of COVID. It began with chills and fever, body aches, low energy. It was unpleasant to say the least, but through years of mindfulness practice, I have learned not to suffer too much. In life, pain and difficulty are a given, suffering is optional. If there is something I can do to change a situation for the better – rest, drink lots of warm herbal teas, steam baths to moisten and soothe the lungs, acupuncture – then I do these things. If there is nothing I can do to change a situation (or if I’ve done everything I can right now), then it’s time to let go and stop wasting energy on fighting the truth of this moment.
For anyone reading this, our situation can always be worse. There is unimaginable suffering happening right now – in animals and humans – in so many places on this planet. May my experience of discomfort lessen the suffering of others in this moment. My awareness of the challenges of birth, sickness, old age, death, poverty, oppression, climate disasters, and war – may these soften my heart and generate compassion for all living beings.
Don’t get me wrong here, as a health care practitioner, my goal is to help people come into greater balance and overcome illness. This essay isn’t meant to glorify disease. I pray with all my heart that every disease be immediately eliminated from this world. But until we create a world based on kindness, tolerance, and truth instead of greed, hatred, and ignorance, disease will always be with us as the karmic fruit of our actions. Healing disease at the deepest level always asks much more of us than taking a pill, drinking some herbs, or having some acupuncture needles opening up our channels. By purifying my own heart-mind in the fires of illness, may I eliminate from my consciousness all false notions of happiness based upon external conditions. Take your medicine – whatever your doctor or trusted practitioner prescribes, but also use the experience of illness to go within, to look at your life and be open to messages from the universe. Change your life story if needed. What is your life story? Do you even know? It’s your story, and only you get to live it. May it lead you to infinite peace and happiness.