As I head into tenth year of practicing medicine, I have come face to face to self doubt of my work and life balance. I lost myself in exhaustion and over fixation on work, “physician burnt out,” as we called it. The sense of failure became overwhelming. During the struggle and unsettling time, I came across Buddhism and Chan (Zen) through Buddha Jewel Monastery. The time was right, as my mother would say.
I remembered the first day walking into Zen Hall of the Monastery, a sense of calmness and heightened awareness of surrounding settled in. I sign up for class at the Monastery with apprehension. Often, I would rush to meditation class after a long workday. Thus, during Chan (Zen) practice, wandering thoughts and drowsiness were the two most common intruders. Slowly by practicing breath counting with internal observation, mindfulness and self-awareness became much lucid.
In the past six months of this challenging time of COVID pandemic, being frightened of the uncertain future was an understatement. I shocked my brother when I informed him my will has been prepared in case of the unthinkable. Early awakening with nervousness was a common daily routine. I often lost sleep the night before the outpatient respiratory clinic shift as I did not know what I would be facing against. The uncertainty showed its ugliness regularly.
In Dharma Talks of Zen 7, “’Be mindful and let not a single thought wander, then the woes of existence may be extinguished.’ By reciting Bodhisattva Guanyin’s name, one after one without letting a single thought wander, it is mindfulness, it is Samadhi, it is pure thought in succession.”
To cultivate compassion became one of my many focuses, then finding my way to serenity by reciting Heart Suture and Great Compassion Mantra regularly. Instead of one’s mind dwelling on anxiousness and sadness, one can focus on the moment to find peace. Therefore, I began to weekly gardening, visiting the local zoo, and hiking. With each activity, I learned to relax and worked on being present, being mindful, and meditate.
In one of the Buddhist verse, ‘to know what you’ve done in the past, observe what is happening to you in this life. To know what will happen in the future, observe what you are doing in this life. ‘
Life is transient and impermanent. Many times, when obstacles arise in life, it seems as though life does not want us to succeed; however, life merely shows us causality. To let go and to accept is to be kind to ourselves and others around us.