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Lions Roar : March 2015
to walk. Sometimes you want to drop everything and get some water or food for someone who’s in pain, but what you really have to do is ask them questions or try to get a good shot of them. I felt that getting the story was an important pursuit but it was difficult. At night, before I’d go to sleep, the adrenaline would wear off and I’d start to think about the things I’d seen that day. They’d catch up with me. Did your Buddhist practice help? I think that meditation—and I tried to do some practice while I was covering the outbreak—helped to open my heart to what was going on for people. Good journalism is empathetic and insightful to the condition of other human beings. So the open- ness that Buddhism fosters in us can be very helpful to people who are trying to do good journalism. Do you think Buddhism makes people more compassionate? To be honest with you, no. I don’t think that Buddhist practice in and of itself makes us compassionate. I think we need to have a genuine aspiration to develop compassion. The bud- dhadharma helps us develop wisdom and insight. Through the practice of slowing our minds down and examining our sur- roundings, we develop the ability to see clearly what’s going on in our environment. Then compassion is the key that unlocks the potential of that wisdom. But we need to have a genuine desire to become compas- sionate. It’s important to bear in mind that Buddhists don’t have the market cornered on compassion. Ordinary people who’ve never been exposed to Buddhism are some of the most compassionate, caring, and selfless people you’ll ever meet. So I think Buddhism gives us the tools to become compassionate but we need to have a real desire to manifest that noble quality on our own. Where does that desire come from? I think empathy for other beings is an inherent quality of being human. If we listen to it and have the tools, we can alleviate a lot of our own suffering by learning to be truly compassionate people. But it’s a difficult road. Spiritual teachers and other beings who’ve developed com- passion inspire me to try to establish that quality in myself. Teachers who are really genuine have immense compassion. I look at Chögyam Trungpa and sometimes it’s easy to focus on his power as a teacher, but I think what was really special about him was his compassion. When did you first suspect that you were getting sick? I’d worked a long day with NBC and then I got into a car and I just kind of fell back in the seat. This strong ache ran down my back. I went home and took my temperature. I watched the dial shoot upward and every degree that it went up, my heart started to beat a little faster until it rested at 101.3. I took a second reading and it was the same. I knew I was in trouble. How did you react? Pure fear. As practitioners, we’re training ourselves for unex- pected moments, yet I didn’t have the capacity to do anything other than panic for a few moments. But, also, within that panic, I got very clear-headed and understood that there were things I needed to do. So I didn’t fall apart. I went around to every doorknob that I’d touched and wiped them down with bleach so my roommate didn’t have the potential of getting sick himself when he came in. I called loved ones. I made what I felt were the necessary arrange- ments to begin dealing with what might be about to happen. But in that first moment, I was just overcome by fear and regret and there was not an easy way to poke a hole in that. We make this effort in the buddhadharma to prepare ourselves for death. It’s a noble pursuit, and I think through years and years Above: A man with Ebola symptoms waits outside the Doctors Without Borders facility where Mukpo was taken when he became ill. Below: Mukpo is transferred into an ambulance from the specially equipped plane that brought him back to the United States. He was taken for treatment to the Nebraska Medical Center’s specialized isolation unit. PHOTOBYTIMFRECCIA