Something Delicious: Reflecting on Compassion in Everyday Life
The past couple years, I’ve spent a lot of time in doctors’ offices and hospitals. Mostly that was with my mother, who died earlier this year after a long series of illnesses. But I’ve also had some issues with my own stomach/digestion--likely the result of my own aging and the stress of helping care for my mother, grieving her death, and managing the estate. I am sure many of you have been through similar challenges and I know that, as Buddhism teaches, life is full of challenges like this. A central teaching of Buddhism is that sickness, old age, and death are inevitable in human life and they are hard!
The way modern American medical care is provided, along with the stresses of COVID, have made the last couple years a challenging time to get great medical care. Everyone is busy and many interactions are mediated by computers, limiting human interaction. Over the past year my family and I filled in forms over the computer. We were given appointments that were too short for the provider to reasonably listen to us. We even spent 26 hours at the emergency room waiting for a bed to become available on the hospital’s cardiac floor. The staff tried their best to take care of us, but they were busy, and very ill 89-year-olds need a lot more TLC than the medical staff had time or energy to offer.
I think all that stress just made my digestion worse! I saw a few different providers and eventually ended up seeing a Chinese Medicine specialist. On my first visit, he got a lot of information about my history and what foods I could and could not eat. He brainstormed with me about recipes that might be easy for me to digest. And then he paused and looked me in the eye and said, “I want you to have food that is nutritious, but I also really want you to have something delicious.” He said this in a way that made me feel like I was not a medical problem to be solved, but a fellow human being who needed care, a person whose happiness mattered. When he said the word “delicious,” I immediately felt better. My body relaxed. I felt hope. I felt cared for. Since that moment, I have felt better--not cured, but better. His concern and compassion for me were genuinely healing.
Photo: Preparing food and eating together are an important part of our temple's tradition. During the pandemic, when eating together was unsafe, our members and friends have prepared these meals for take-outCompassion is the powerful force at the heart of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. My experience of receiving compassion regarding my digestion reminds me of the power of compassion to heal us and support us through the difficulties of life. Amida Buddha’s vow is for all suffering beings to experience infinite compassion and to transcend the world of suffering. Amida’s compassion, and wish for our happiness can be experienced through saying the nembutsu: “Namo Amida Butsu.”
Although we are not capable of offering infinite compassion as Amida does, we can still care for each other. Giving and receiving compassion, wanting others to be happy, are important parts of human life. Please take time to appreciate all that you have received in your life and to share what you have received with others. In this way, we can all experience healing as we make our way through the challenges of human life.
So with this in mind, as we approach Thanksgiving, let me share my wish for you: “I hope that you are able to truly enjoy something DELICIOUS.”
Photo: Something Delicious prepared with love by our IOBT members and friends.
In Gassho, Rev. Anne