Posted in Zen Buddhism

Learning from Illness

I’m home sick today. This rarely happens to me, especially when I love my job as I do this one. I fret that my students aren’t getting what they’re supposed to, even though I know they’re in good hands. I feel guilty that I’m not doing anything productive, even though I’m too sick to work. So what’s to be learned from all this?

First, dwelling on how crappy I feel only makes it worse. There’s a certain amount of “suffering” inherent in being ill. Thinking endlessly about how I bad I feel adds an additional layer of suffering that is purely optional. I can just sit with the bodily sensations without judging them – without saying “I feel terrible!” to myself – or I can do things like type this blog post. Either way, I’m not feeding the suffering.

Second, delegating my class to someone else isn’t neglecting it. I emailed in the lesson plan for today and followed up with two phone calls. Now I can relax and let the people whose job it is to take over, take over. They are professionals. I am not indispensable, regardless of what my ego is telling me.

Third, focusing all my energy on getting well IS productive. I didn’t realize this until one of my dear Buddhist friends emailed me recently that she was home sick and how lazy and unproductive it made her feel. I wrote her back to say that sometimes, healing our bodies (or minds, for that matter) is our job for the day. It was only when I wrote that to her, that I realized the same is true for me. Today is my opportunity to “practice what I preach.” I will focus on getting well. If I accomplish nothing else today, my progress toward health will be accomplishment enough.


Ven. Dr. Myodo Jabo (Sandy Gougis) is a Zen Master and Priest in the Five Mountain Zen Order. She began studying Theravâdin Buddhism in 1998, adding Zen in 2003, and Vajrayana Buddhism in 2008. She currently practices in both the Zen and Tibetan traditions. Her Zen teacher is Most Ven. Wonji Dharma of the Five Mountain Zen Order, and her Tibetan guru is Lama Tsultrim Allione of Tara Mandala. In her free time, Myodo enjoys painting, jewelry making, and other creative endeavors.

2 thoughts on “Learning from Illness

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.