Yesterday I heard a renowned Buddhist teacher speak about being in the hospital for serious heart surgery. During his 2 week stay, many dear friends––all Buddhist teachers––visited him. He described how well-meaning, but ultimately useless, their spiritual advice was to him.

"Everyone was trying to guide me into 'you'll feel better tomorrow...." Tomorrow, tomorrow. If I relax into my body... If I notice my breathing... Etc. Etc.

But his body was barely feel-able to him. He was hooked to a ventilator, so noticing his own breath was impossible.

This 65 y/o renowned teacher "slipped his headphones on like a teenager in the backseat of his parents' Buick." He tuned them all out. What was he listening to? Blind Boys of Alabama, "they were a straight pipeline to I borrowed their faith."

Anytime a nurse came in his room, it was a cheery "How ya feelin?" to which, of course, he responded, "Not great." & the theatrics of cleaning up another person's emotional pain ensued––Oh, but tomorrow! Tomorrow!

Nobody wanted to let him feel pain. To be with him in it.

He had to lock himself in the bathroom to weep, to just be with his pain. Nurses, pressed against the door, "Are you okay? Just let me in there." Understandably concerned. But, he was feeling. He was weeping. Finally. His pain was being allowed its space.

"Don't let your tools or skills get in the way," he suggested to us. If you're a doctor. Or a meditator. Or so-called "spiritual." Whatever your profession or religion or practice, don't let it get in the way.

"You're going to be scared," he said. "Of course you are."

Can we be with our own pain, fully, without "Tomorrow-ing" it? Can we be with others' pain, as best we can, without shoving promises/expectations onto it? Can we stop gift-wrapping the Mystery, the fear, our present––covering it up somehow, as if that will make it better?

What strikes me vividly is that all this was coming from a deeply learned Buddhist teacher with a lifetime of hospice work. & he was saying, Be a human about it. All our fancy tricks, cushion-time, that's great, keep it in your tool box––but how are you in a room with Pain?

How are you in a room with pain?
The room of your own body? Do u shush it?
The room where others are crumbling, helpless, afraid? Do u cover it up?
The room of our world––in so much need of affection, presence, trustworthiness––do u bolt?
How are u in a room with pain?

I've often felt, "Others must know. Doctors must know. Gurus. Teachers. How to deal with this pain. I must learn to know.

Then this lifelong teacher of pain, who'd been flattened by a heart attack, surgery, 2 strokes––with tears in his eyes, saying:

"I was afraid."

"...& you will be afraid."

Dont take away your own, or others, fear. Dont smooth it over with platitudes. Fear belongs. Its not everything we are. There's space around it, if we can allow it to be held. As @racheleliza_g says, "clarity & mystery arrive together."

I cant explain how freeing it is to know that there's no Superman cape I can put on to stop myself from feeling my heart break. It will break. His did, literally. He needed to weep for it.

The Q is not: "How do I stop pain from happening?"
It's "How can I be with it?"

For those asking, the teacher is Frank Ostaseski. I'm taking a year-long course called "A Year to Live" through Spirit Rock on mortality & death. He visited our last gathering.

Much of what he said can be found here:…

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