Saturday, February 25, 2006

Treating Disease with Compassion

This post is in response to Elizabeth’s question about how to treat disease, addiction with compassion. My practice comes from two teachers. The first one is Steven Levine. He is one of the most balanced spiritual teachers I have every come across. You can get a feel for him on this website, Thinking Allowed. Then go have fun on or Amazon. One of the things I’ve learned from him is to send lovingkindness and compassion into wounds and illness. Notice that when you get a cold, you get mad at it. You stub your toe, you curse it. This is sending hate and anger into the wound. Instead, send lovingkindness into the wound. Send compassion, which means doing the concrete things it needs to relieve suffering. This helps you to relate to the pain, not from the pain.

The next teacher is Pema Chödrön. She teaches a Tibetan practice called tonglen. The basic principle is to breathe in what is hurtful, painful, in yourself or others. Breathe this into your heart, into the depth of your soul. Breathe with your whole body, your skin. Then breathe out into the pain what it needs for healing. I like this practice because it affirms the inner divinity of people. When you breathe a wound or evil into your heart, you are breathing it into God. There, in your heart and God’s heart it is transmuted, healed, transformed into good. Breathing out, into the pain breathes God and our own compassion into the pain, the evil. This helps me to open to my own pain and to not be afraid of another's pain. There are other principles around the practice of tonglen so do go to the website.

Now Pema teaches this practice without using the word God. In my humble opinion, Buddhists talk about God a lot without naming God. They teach us how to love and God is love. To me, the New Testament tells us what to do – love. The Buddhists tell us how to do it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Howdy, Sis!

I attempted to post a comment a few days ago, & it apparently didn't take. First, thanks for keeping us updated about your treatment. You give a detailed report; I'm not even sure I want to know some of the details.

In THIS particular blog posting, as well as in places earlier postings, you sound rather Zen-like. Actually I probably shouldn't make that comparison, since I haven't studied Zen in depth. Still, your wording reminds me of something I read earlier.

You mentioned in a reply to one of my first comments, that you like Borg (Bork?) of the "Jesus Seminar". He was the author of some JS stuff that a Sunday school I was in used. And I used the Web address on that material to access Borg's (Bork's?) Website and find out more. Honestly I'm not impressed. I will give him credit for presenting a brief statement of his faith. It was very brief, very basic & VERY generic (& not Christian), but at least it was a statement of faith.

Later I read two JS tomes about the "Gospel" of Thomas, one of which gave a translation of the text into English. After reading that, I had two strong impressions. 1. Some passages in the "Gospel" of Thomas were parallel to passages in the four Canonical Gospels, and these were verbatim identical. 2. The saying attributed to Jesus in Thomas that didn't match anything in the Canonicals presented a Jesus radically different from the Jesus of the New Testament. The author/editor of the book described these original passages as being "Zen-like". And I'd agree, again from my limited understanding of Zen.


Tu hermano, Glen Alan