Archive for April 19th, 2012

Attaining happiness

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Life is but a dream!

“I cannot tell if what the world considers ‘happiness’ is happiness or not. All I know is that when I consider the way they go about attaining it, I see them carried away headlong, grim and obsessed, in the general onrush of the human herd, unable to stop themselves or to change their direction. All the while they claim to be just on the point of attaining happiness.”

— Chang-tzu

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“You may tend to assume that you will always feel depressed, and that the causes of your distress are unchanging; you feel powerless.

If you have been depressed before, you may find that you tell yourself, “I knew I’d wind up back here.”

In short, when you are depressed, you assume permanence.”

~~ Sameet Kumar, Grieving Mindfully:  A Compassionate and Spiritual Guide to Coping with Loss.

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Here is a link to an incredible photo of Roshi Joan Halifax gracefully bowing:

Roshi bowing before painting: Upaya Zen Center, calligraphy retreat, Kaz Tanahashi

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed bowing while being with sangha.

It’s been several years since I was able to practice with my closest sangha or go on retreat.  I was too sick.

There is so much reverence — not just for life but for everything. . .

When was the last time you bowed to your recliner for holding you comfortably while you read or your car for running and keeping you safe from harm at mind-numbing speeds?  Have you ever bowed to your food with gratitude for it helping to sustain you?

Could you imagine bowing to your water bottle… not praying to it, but taking the time to be mindful of how you are interconnected.

I think about my daily work — can you imagine what it would be like for a technician to bow before tying a clothing protector on prior to a meal or checking someone’s adult diaper?


Would you need a plan to give attention as a reinforcer when a person had that kind of attention?

I’m not advocating for us to bow to our residents… the staff was trained in some humanizing ways of approaching residents and de-escalating situations and it became a big joke… people couldn’t imagine taking postures of non-threatening behavior in the midst of their terribly demanding jobs.  There was no context and no in the moment, on the floor modeling. . . why would anyone take it seriously?

The other morning as I finished my breakfast of yogurt and rice on retreat, a flash came to mind. . .

It was when I was a bereavement coordinator for a hospice and it was a quiet afternoon with most of the staff nurses making home calls.

Someone popped into my office and asked if I would go with my RN friend to the home.  I was happy to do it because I was probably working on the monthly newsletter and loved having face to face time with families.

By the time we arrived at the house, the gentleman had already died.

My friend lovingly asked the family if it would be okay if we bathed his body.  And she lovingly asked if I wanted to help.

What great reverence!

My brother had asked my dad and his home health nurse to wash his body and that was done before I got to the hospital after he died.  Mike had not wanted his “little sister” to be witness to the request.

But here I was, helping a nurse pay such loving attention to this man I had never met.  It was life-altering.

We took gentle care with him, taking our time, and being mindful (though not practicing mindfulness) with our last gift to him.

I think why this came up for me was because in our own hospice-way, we were bowing to this man, to his life, and to his family that loved him so.

I can’t think of a way to honor someone more than to just be present to them and shower them with loving attention.

And at the same time, wow… we do this for the dying or someone who has died…

Do we have to wait for a death to occur before we bath someone in the light of our attention, our focus, our mindful intent?

Can we practice “bowing” to the patient with dementia that we are working with, or the autistic resident that cannot speak, or the aging family member that we may have unresolved issues with. . .

Can you imagine if THIS was what health care reform was. . . the mindful intention and attention to those who are present before us, in loving service and deep respect for them allowing us to help them when they are so vulnerable.

Can you imagine bowing to the Buddha within?

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