October 18, 2013

I Am Sick.

I am sick—my world has been overtaken by illness.

My nose is full of snot and all I can taste is phlegm. I brush my teeth every hour to try to get rid of the taste. I am coughing, but I can happily say my throat isn’t sore.

My family is sick too.

I took a DayQuil this morning, so now I’m viewing the world in a drug induced haze. I don’t like it, but it’s better than the symptoms. Everyone knows DayQuil is supposed to be the daytime version of Nyquil, a powerful antihistamine that treats your symptoms without making you tired.

That is true, and I don’t know how it affects other people, but it makes me feel loopy. It makes the world have a dreamlike quality. But it does lesson the symptoms considerably.

I’ve also kind of lost my voice, so I can’t tell my cat Tara (named after the Bodhisattva) to get off the counter, at least not in a stern voice. I sound squeaky and weird.

My family has the sickness too. I just got it a couple days ago. My wife has had it for over a week—this hurts my ability to be optimistic about having a speedy recovery.

Sickness is like Samsara, the ocean of suffering. Rarely is suffering so clearly manifest as when we are ill. We see that our suffering is omnipresent. I feel the illness when I’m reading, when I’m talking, when I’m driving, when I’m trying to sleep, all the time. Every second. I can take pills to lessen the suffering, but I can’t really make it go away completely.

I just have a nasty cold. It’s not a serious illness. I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m whining about it. I know plenty of people are suffering from illnesses more serious than mine.

Both of my parents were cancer victims, so I know a few things about serious illnesses.

But, when the Buddha said, “All of life is suffering” he wasn’t just talking about the horrible suffering of the deathly ill or people who have lost everything in catastrophic disasters.

He was talking about the mild suffering, too.

The common cold, stubbing your toe, that feeling when you eat too much and your stomach hurts a little, when you meditate for a while and your legs start to hurt.

And, of course, the knowledge that one day we will grow old and die.

These things are suffering. Horrible disasters aren’t happening all the time, obviously—but there are always little things.

We need to try to face the little things with equanimity.

And the thing about colds is this: there’s nothing you can really do. It’s like all suffering in life, really. All we can really do is try to face it with equanimity. Antibiotics won’t do anything; there may never be a cure for the common cold. All I can do is wait for it to run it’s course, and try to get plenty of rest so it doesn’t get worse.

All I can do is try to face my suffering with equanimity. And, of course, treat the symptoms.

A lot of life is about treating the symptoms.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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