They are dukkha magnets.
It was actually the inimitable JKZ (my shorthand for the individual I reference more than any other) who said that hospitals and medical centers in this society are dukkha magnets when he established the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in 1979.
Dukkha means suffering in Pali (the language that Buddha spoke).
“People are drawn to hospitals primarily when they’re suffering”, JKZ said “so it’s very natural to introduce programs to help them deal with the enormity of their suffering in a systematic way—as a complement to medical efforts.”
“When we set up the Stress Reduction Clinic, the question was: Would people accept an intensive meditation-based training program to learn how to take better care of themselves? Would they be willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard on themselves? A question that [wasn’t] very prevalent in the United States.”
And so, the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was born.
For the past two years I have only spent a week or two in the hospital after receiving a lymphoma diagnosis, but I have spent a lot of time in medical centers and hospitals as an outpatient. Princeton Medical Center. PennMed’s Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. First chemotherapy. Then three Clinical Trials. The first two were effective but not effective enough. They did not result in a complete response as they say in the business. The third was the charm. I had a ‘robust’ response which was declared remission.
But I did not suffer most of the time.
There is that which is not wanted (in my my case that included some pain, not knowing, fear, cancer symptoms, treatment side effects, being sick), and there is our relationship to the unwanted.
My relationship to this life situation was one of acceptance. I accepted it all. It was not an effort nor did I will myself to be ok with it. I just was. I attribute this to my practice. I was grateful for the many highly skilled and dedicated professionals, including my sister Julie who happens to be a radiologist specializing in clinical trials.
My acceptance did not make all those things any less unwanted. I held them with compassion.
When we encounter something unpleasant, the parable posits, we are struck with two arrows: the unpleasant thing. And our reaction to it. Our aversion is the second arrow: the story, the judgment, the craving for things to be different than they are. We cannot stop the first arrow from piercing us.
However, we can choose not to draw the bow with the second arrow.
I hope you can join our Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course at beautiful Prancing Peacock in Yardley PA to practice, and learn from your own experience about using your own inner resources. The first class is September 26th. And there are two earlier introductory sessions so you can check it out.
I am thrilled to be healthy and can’t wait to meet this group of peaceful warriors.
JKZ = Jon Kabat-Zinn
Thanks to Dan Fernandez for his mantra inhale: Healthy Mind; exhale: Healthy Body.
With help from Rumi…
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field [The Prancing Peacock]. I’ll meet you there.