Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Accepting the reality, or Another good reason to sit Zen

I say "sit Zen" rather than meditate, because of the current vogue for meditation as a sort of spa treatment. In Buddhist practice we sit in order to know the nature of our own mind - that's one way to put it.  You sit quite still, alert and relaxed, and watch the thoughts that you get involved in, the impulses and cravings, the emotions - the world of your mind.  This is mindfulness.  When you realize you have strayed into one of your fictions, you return to concentrating on your breath.  And this combines with the wisdom of Buddhism to wear down your stories, or illusions, and bring you in touch with reality. 

I am making 13 years of practice with two teachers and many books and tapes sound simple, and boy, it isn't.

What inspires me to write today is a long talk I had with Karen, my nurse coordinator, yesterday.  To give you an idea of how complex recovery from a transplant is, I have to record my weight every morning first thing and my vitals (blood pressure and temp) four times a day.  If any of this goes haywire, it could indicate that rejection is beginning.  I get labs twice a week.  My creatinine is stable around 1, which is perfect, and means that however dragged out I feel, the kidney is working well to keep my blood clean. 

It's good to remind myself of that, because I am realizing that this will be slower than I think. I questioned Karen about the abdominal pain, and she says it will be about three months until it is gone.  Surprise. As for activity, yesterday I slowly walked about two city blocks, using my walker so I could sit down if I needed to, took a few pictures, and was exhausted the rest of the day.  I don't get to have a real sharp mind with that exhausted body - my brain seems to be another organ that is affected by all this.  Not "seems to be" - is.

I had read the story of a transplant patient who woke up delighted with how great she felt.  Wisdom says I am healthier than before, every organ in my body benefiting from that clean blood.  Now and then in all this I do have a certain clarity of mind that I just love, but overall it's been, let's see, huge side effects from the initial huge doses of steroids, then from the other immunosuppressants, then pain rising once the steroids wore off, then confusion and low moods and insomnia.  Okay.

Okay.  I carry the Zen koan "Every day is a good day."  I keep revising it mentally.  I think of my hospital roommate who lay flat for two months with a colostomy and feeding tube in her, and said to herself, "I'm still alive."  How can you call that a good day?  As I said, I carry that, and have written about it before.  Today I see from my north-facing window shades of yellow, gold, brown against a blue sky - another day of sun, and long shadows on the neighbor's house - I love the long shadows this time of year, both morning and late afternoon, when they are very distinct.  Maybe the question is, What can I do to make today a good day?
[image:  a neighbor's asters, taken yesterday]

1 comment:

  1. Melanie, Austin (TX) Zen Center practionerNovember 2, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    You certainly inspire this young-in-practice old practitioner who has a lot of physical pain. Being thankful for slow progress, for feeling a little better on a particular day, is something worth noticing. Thank you.