Yesterday Christine shared a quote in the blog comments that said, (I paraphrase) "everything that comes into our circle is there to teach us something" and that expresses so well how there is Dharma everywhere if we are willing to look.
Today started with a call from a friend. She is an old friend, not given to a great deal of self reflection, but kind and thoughtful and doing the best she can, as we all are. I hadn't seen her since early December and she visited Friday. She looked terrible and had been sick for 4 weeks with a cold or flu and various complaints that just weren't going away. We walked and talked. She has a stressful job working with handicapped kids. At one point she looked at me and said that her husband had said to her, "we create our own stress". I agreed and I could tell from the silence that somehow the proverbial penny was finally dropping for her.
This morning said friend called and when I heard her voice I knew she was still off work. "I know why I'm sick", she said. I thought oh, oh, I hope she didn't bring me anything really contagious (my we're self centred little creatures!) "It's stress", she said. A light had gone on over the weekend. All the things piling up, worrying about her daughters' problems, the relationship between one daughter and her husband, her very stressful job; things had reached a level where whether she wanted to acknowledge it on a conscious level or not, the body was rebelling. My friend the monk says, "if we don't get it when it whispers in our ear, sooner or later we'll get hit by the two by four." And of course she is not making any reference to household renovations. So my friend is being visited by some medium sized lumber. She is finally having to look at "how we create our own suffering" and what to do with that.
She called me because we have always seen each other through tough times. Several years ago I was touched by her tender caring when I was really sick. I like to think she called me because she knows I will support her. I offered a "hearty good for you" for figuring out what the problem was and reassured her that it was all good, that everyone at some point has to wake up and look at their pain. And that is the beginning of healing.
And then to figure out what to do. We talked about her options. She had a call in to a chiro that deals with emotional issues and she talked about how she didn't want to go back to work. I reminded her of the little AA prayer that talks about looking at what we can change. She was already thinking about parts of her job that she could let go. And so as she talked and I offered the bits of Dharma that seemed like they might be helpful (including these things don't get dealt with overnight). I reminded her of some meditation CD's I'd leant her last year and told her how helpful the book of small inspirational quote she'd brought me when I'd been in the hospital had been. It felt good to be able to support her and it felt good to see that she was dealing with the "real" issues in her life, not just putting on the antibiotic bandaid.
And so there it was the Dharma .... How most of us have to be dragged there kicking and screaming, to a place where we are willing to have a good hard look at what we do. And it is all good ... good that we got there (the compassionate side of suffering). It is our opportunity to do the real work of our life. And we all get there when we get there, no sooner or later, and all we need to bring is our willingness. And the suffering that she was experiencing is the suffering that leads to the end of suffering. So I say a good for you to my friend because it is not easy. But it is definitely rewarding and enriches our lives. In a recent blog post I quoted PT Sudo who said the Japanese character for crisis could be translated as both, danger and opportunity, the makings of an interesting soup don't you think? I'll have a bowl of that, hold the matzo balls.