A Buddhist Nun Told Me To Chill

Pain in my feet might help.

I had foot surgery a little over a week ago.  General anesthesia, both feet, outpatient surgery.  The hope was to repair or modify some of the damage from 26 years of rheumatoid arthritis so I can walk better.

The challenge is not walking on them now.  Since the first couple of days I’ve had no pain so I was up and moving around.  I saw drainage on one of the bandages four days after surgery, went to see the doctor and was told to stop walking on my feet so they could heal.  To the bathroom or to get something to eat is okay.  Sitting with feet up on the ottoman is good.  Lying on the couch is better.  For the next week and a half.

I started a 3-year-term on a non-profit’s board of directors this month.  Triad Health Project provides HIV/AIDS services, education and support to those infected and affected by the virus.  I got involved as a volunteer in the mid-90’s.  You know that Bucket List thing?  I always wanted to say, “I’m on a Board of Directors.”

Last month, I missed the social get-to-know-each-other gathering at a wine bar because I had horrible back spasms.  Now this month, the first for-real meeting, I have healing feet so I can’t go again.

With all my free time, I am reading Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun.  This morning I read about how we get caught up in 8 worldly concerns:  pleasure and pain, gain and loss, fame and disgrace, praise and blame.  While I was reading, the other track in my brain was struggling with whether/how to get to the 5:30 THP board meeting.  (It gets busy inside my head.)

I am used to being the good kid.  I generally follow through on commitments and am pleasant and helpful to have around.  My reputation matters to me.  A lot.

I do not like that my disease may shape others’ first impression of me.  I want to be seen as competent.  Not needy, not vulnerable, not disabled.

Pema Chodron says, “If we don’t act on our craving for pleasure or our fear of pain, we’re left in the wide-open, unpredictable middle.  The instruction is to rest in that vulnerable place, to rest in that in-between state, to not hunker down and stay fixed in our belief systems but to take a fresh look with a wider perspective.  The truth is we’re always in some kind of in-between state, always in process…When we’re present with the dynamic quality of our lives, we’re also present with impermanence, uncertainty and change.”

I think that means I’m not in control.

She describes three commitments or vows Buddhists take.  First, the commitment to cause no harm.  Second, the commitment to take care of one another.  Third, the commitment to embrace the world just as it is.

I emailed the THP director and told her I would not be at the meeting.  (Do no harm to myself.)  I want to be able to help with the big fundraiser in early Dec. If I let my feet heal, I’ll help more. (Take care of one another.)  As my brother used to say, “It is what it is.”  (Embrace the world just as it is.)

I will be present to the discomfort that washes over me every time I imagine my empty chair at the THP conference table.

Sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t feel good.

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Happy healing and be kind to yourself. This too shall pass…you are exactly where you need to be.

    • I know. I’d rather be at the board meeting.

      • If the need to go is all consuming, there is always the wheelchair option.

      • That would take more humility than I can muster today. Plus I’d have to ask someone to push me. Thanks for caring, Pat.

  2. don’t ya just love that huge sledgehammer God, The Universe and Everything Holy uses sometimes? 😉 keep healin’, dear woman.

  3. Love Chodron; quite a life story she’s crafted. Gentle peace in your adjusting to what is, as we all must do, most of us with less clarity and grace.

    • Clarity maybe. Grace in moments, if at all. Plenty in my present to practice with.

  4. The trick is to remain open to change in what we can do, what we want and what we believe. Your feet may be a mess, but your heart and your mind are doing just fine. You are still seeking–and finding.

    • “Your feet may be a mess, but your heart and your mind are doing just fine. You are still seeking–and finding.” Perfect words for me today! I’m noticing my lack of patience with healing from this surgery. I’m not sure where it’s coming from, but I need to spend more time with it.

  5. I hate that feeling of knowing that something wonderful is going on and I’m missing it. But it sounds as if you “logicked” the problem correctly! Sending healing thoughts your way!

    • Thank you, Susan. Every little bit helps. And it always feels better to know I’m not alone.

      • We are all in this crazy life together!


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