Tuesday, March 20, 2012

When You Are Sick Like This

Body ridden with various aches and pain, fatigue, fever . . . the last thing I feel like doing is to sit and practice mindfulness! And yet, I know having the flu is no excuse. Being enveloped by lots of physical unpleasantness does not mean one cannot practice. Quite to the contrary, not feeling good represents the perfect opportunity for investigating mind's reactivity and aversive tendencies. And so, this morning, I willed myself into sitting first thing, heeding Ajahn Chah's teaching - from Our Real Home:
The more tired you feel, the more refined you have to keep focusing on in every time. Why? So that you can contend with pain. When you feel tired, stop all your thoughts. Don't think of anything at all. Focus the mind in at the mind, and then keep the mind with the breath: buddho, buddho. Let go of everything outside. Don't get fastened on your children. Don't get fastened on your grandchildren. Don't get fastened on anything at all. Let go. Let the mind be one. Gather the mind in to one. Watch the breath. Focus on the breath. Gather the mind at the breath. Just be aware at the breath. You don't have to be aware of anything else. Keep making your awareness more and more refined until it feels very small, but extremely awake. The pains that have arisen will gradually grow calm. Ultimately, we watch the breath in the same way that, when relatives have come to visit us, we see them off to the boat dock or the bus station. Once the motor starts, the boat goes whizzing right off. We watch them until they're gone, and then we return to our home.We watch the breath in the same way. We get acquainted with coarse breathing. We get acquainted with refined breathing. As the breathing gets more and more refined, we watch it off. It gets smaller and smaller, but we make our mind more and more awake. We keep watching the breath get more and more refined until there's no more breath. There's just awareness, wide awake. [...] When you're sick like this, gather the mind into oneness. This is your duty. Let everything else go its own way. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, whatever: Let them go their own way. Just stay focused on your duty. If any preoccupation comes in to bother the mind, just say in your heart: "Leave me alone. Don't bother me. You're no affair of mine." If any critical thoughts come up — fear for your life, fear that you'll die, thinking of this person, thinking of that person — just say in your heart, "Don't bother me. You're no affair of mine."
Being grateful for the opportunity to practice . . . and hopefully becoming more wise.


  1. I'm due to go into hospital tomorrow for hip surgery. I shall try to carry Ajahn Chah's teaching with me, thankyou

  2. Oh! sending much loving kindness your way. May you be well, may mindfulness hold you as you go through this surgery and post-op experience . . .

  3. A wise counselor helped me to see the "advantage" of sickness and confinement when I was first in the hospital as a patient at 65 years of age. Chaplains should have there street clothes taken away and be confined for a few days to get the perspective from that side of the door :-). When I had to go back later, I almost looked forward to the time. None the less, healing thoughts and comfort in your sickness Marguerite.

  4. hope you are feeling better today, Marguerite! lying down meditation, that's what I do when I'm sick! and read the Dharma!

    gradually without noticing really, I think we do become more wise. it's that chipping away. and always there is the refining of it. my Zen teacher used to say "how do we know we still have more work to do? Because we're still here."

    I do like Ajahn Chah, very wise and sometimes funny!

  5. Yes, JDB, nothing like stepping in the other person's body and experience the world from that 'skin', that bed, that vantage point. Same thing with doing work serving persons with dementia.

  6. Thank you, Carole. Yes, the ego is tough skinned . . .

  7. Thanks for posting, Marguerite. Had been a little ill last week myself and had leg pains from my meditation posture which is unusual. I also have to face the possibility of serious long term illness in the future so Ajhan Chah`s words hit the spot.
    With metta

  8. Oh! may you be well, and free from physical suffering . . . and if not, may you have the mental strength to experience it with relative ease.