by Stillman Brown
I wasn’t able to make it to last night’s Heartcore Dharma class on “Aspiring and Entering Bodhicitta,” so I thought I’d blog about something more personal. Several weeks ago, the partner of a good friend of mine was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. It was a shock. She is 26, has no family history, eats well, manages her stress, and gets to the gym more than most people. As my buddy, who is from rural Pennsylvania, put it, “I was raised to do the right thing, save my money, not drink too much, follow the rules. Go to school, go to college, get mediocre grades and get a job. If you followed the rules, you’d be safe from this kind of thing. But it’s simply not true.”
There was nothing I could do but listen, ask questions, and try feebly to send my sorrow and hopefulness through the phone. I offered to come out and wash the dishes and walk the dog – be helpful, instead of just another concerned friend who’s own emotions had to be managed. It still felt inadequate.
By lost, I mean that we momentarily lose touch with ourselves and with the full extent of our possibilities. Instead, we fall into a robotlike way of seeing and thinking and doing. In those moments, we break contact with what is deepest in ourselves and affords us perhaps our greatest opportunities for creativity, learning, and growing. If we are not careful, those clouded moments can stretch out and become most of our lives.
Wherever You Go There You Are was my introduction to mindfulness and meditation, and set me on the path I follow today. Meditation gave me a toe-hold of awareness, a fighting chance to understand and weather the crisis in my life.
Sitting at my desk, worrying about my friend and his partner and feeling ineffectual, I decided to get on Amazon.com and send him a copy of Wherever You Go. Maybe he wouldn’t connect with it, but it’s quiet wisdom helped me in crisis. Maybe it can do the same for him.
For the community: Do you have any suggestions for a book on mindfulness and illness? It’s for folks who’ve been to a yoga class, but never meditated before, so not too esoteric.