I was planning to write a post today about holiday gift-giving and how we're all under so much pressure to buy presents that we forget what it's like to be generous. Except on Saturday I started to feel pain around my right eye. I thought it was probably from grinding my teeth (I have TMJ) but by Sunday afternoon the pain had increased and redness appeared underneath my bottom eyelid.
Excerpted from Toni Bernhard'sHow to Be Sick. In this book, Bernhard shares ways to make “being sick” the heart of a spiritual practice — and through truly learning how to be sick, learn how to live a life of equanimity, compassion, and joy. In the selection below, she contemplates the Buddha’s teaching that life is suffering.
One of the reasons for meditating -- sitting still and focusing on an object, such as the breath -- is to train in tapping into the calm space in your awareness so that you can find that space in the midst of chaos.
I’m not against correcting our posture or body on principle. I wish all it took to rid ourselves of chronic pain and tension was figuring the right angle or position, and tapping our body into place. It’s such a seductive offer, that we need only arrange our body and then get on with the rest of our day.
I object to correcting our posture on practical grounds; it doesn’t work.
As a child I was often told that starving children in China would be happy to have the mushy peas I carefully picked out from the Campbell's vegetable soup and left in the bowl. I felt bad for the starving children, but that wasn't going to make me like the mushy peas -- or the occasional lima beans that kept them company after everything else was gone.
Insurance companies aren't known for taking risks on unproven methods. So when Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini -- who had personal experience with the healing benefits of yoga and meditation -- wanted to spread the practices to Aetna's employees, he looked for data. As David Gelles describes in the New York Times' article, "At Aetna, A CEO's Management by Mantra," Aetna did its own research.
More than 13,000 Aetna employees -- just over a quarter of the company's 50,000 employees -- have taken the free yoga and meditation classes, and Aetna offers those programs to businesses that contract with it for health insurance.
I've been reading about Ruth Denison, a Buddhist teacher who died Feb. 26. I'd picked up a book about her, Dancing in the Dharma, because I liked the title. I had not heard of her. That's a shame, because Denison's work deeply influenced how Buddhism is taught in the west.
Living with pain can sometimes feel like half living. A part of you is always tied up with the pain, strategizing how to beat it or bracing against it. Imagine not having to micromanage your pain, or have it be surrounded by stiffness. Imagine being able to rest in your body as it is now.