Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Speaking for the Silent Ones

The man was sitting all by himself in a waiting room in a hospital. I happened to walk by and noticed he did not look well. I went to fetch the doctor in the next room. The doctor quickly checked on the man, who asked for a bedpan. The doctor left, and I assumed he had gone to get what the man asked. Minutes passed, and no sign of the doctor. I sat by the man who was now looking worse and worse, and no longer spoke. I reached out for his hand, and was surprised when he squeezed my hand. I wondered how to get him the help he so badly needed.

This was my dream last night. I awoke with pain in my heart, and even greater determination to carry out the elder care and dementia project I have been working on with Dr. Allen Power. Foremost in my mind have been all the men and women living with dementia and who can no longer care for themselves or be cared for by their loved ones. My mother is one of them. I feel their immense distress, and also the craziness of a system that compounds their original plight with unnecessary added suffering. There is a better way, I know, and it demands a complete overhaul of the current biomedical approach. Out the drugs, out the institutional buildings, out the task oriented approach to care, out the erroneous beliefs, out the legitimized abuse, out this cruelty of epic proportions . . . 

Mindfulness is a radical act. It leads one to unplanned territories, as in becoming aware of the suffering right under one's eyes, and then taking action towards some mass remedy. I have been thinking a lot lately about engaged Buddhism, and what it means for me personally. Once hesitant to join the bandwagon of activism, I am now right in the thick of it. I have found my cause, and will not rest until my mother and her cohort of silent sufferers get their needs met, at last. 

What is your cause? How did you open your eyes to it? How does it tie in with your mindfulness practice?


  1. I often feel lately that I am at the crossroads, trying to find a cause to support-there is certainly no lack of them and really don't know where to start.

  2. Marguerite, "mindfulness is a radical act," is the most brilliant thing I've heard in a long time. It takes a lot of courage to really SEE and then ACT. Good dharma, girl! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Kitty, I got that phrase from somewhere else, and wish I could quote the source but can't remember it . . . If anybody does, please mention it here.

    In my case, the radical act stems from feeling much suffering and intuiting the possibility of a better way. So far, I have not been disappointed by the dharma. I cannot count the many blessings that have been showered upon me as a result!

  4. BD, if I may, I would like to suggest that the right cause will find its way in your heart . . . no need to look for it :) It seems that you are ready!