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Lions Roar : September 2018
coworkers, and the children I’d see and their parents, it made a difference in the day. Somehow everyone seemed calmer. Maybe because I was. I’ve discovered that fear is at the heart of suffering. The Bud- dha identified clinging as the source of suffering. And we cling when we’re afraid—afraid of losing something we want to keep (like the ability to run a marathon or remember names as we age) or afraid of getting something we don’t want (like cancer or death). I found that it was important to ask patients this ques- tion: “What are you most afraid of or worried about?” If they told me this early in our encounter, we quickly reached a deeper level of communication. I was truthful if I didn’t know what disease they had or what the course of their illness—or police investigation—would be. But I reassured them that I’d be there to help them understand what was happening and to support them. I’ve come to believe that if people weren’t afraid of death, most of their suffering would dissolve, because every fear seems, at its bottom, to have its roots in the fear of death. Medical people are afraid of death, too. We’ve been trained to see death as the enemy. Thus, we put people with incurable cancer on a fourth round of chemotherapy and make their last few months of life miserable. What happens after we die? I don’t know, but there are a few things I do know about death. Energy is neither created nor destroyed. Just as the elements of our body—the carbon, nitrogen, and calcium—were passed through innumerable bodies before our birth, they’ll be recycled after we die and build many new bodies, from spinach to people. In the same way, our psychic energy—our anger, compassion, confusion, and clarity—will continue on and build a new con- structed self. What then is our responsibility? It’s to clean up what we’ve been given, so it’s passed on as a welcome gift to the next being who receives it. This is why practice is the right medicine. Prac- tice gives us the awareness to detect the pollutants of the heart and mind, and the ability to change that energy into something wholesome. When we’ve practiced—millions of times—letting go of this known moment and stepping into the unknown of the next moment, then when the door to death opens, we’re able to step forward with curiosity instead of fear. Pediatrician JAN CHOZEN BAYS is the co-abbot of Great Vow Zen Monastery. Being Well (Whether You’re Healthy or Not) continued from page 65 Josh Korda and Jessica Morey HEALING THE WOUNDS OF THE EMOTIONAL MIND SEPTEMBER 27-30 George Mumford, Rose Pavlov, and Rhonda Magee MINDFULNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE OCTOBER 5-7 Sharon Salzberg and Ethan Nichtern REAL CHANGE DECEMBER 14-16 garrisoninstitute.org P.O. BOX 532, GARRISON, NEW YORK 10524 INFO@GARRISONINSTITUTE.ORG | (845) 424-4800 For our full calendar of more than 100 retreats and programs in the year ahead, check our website. For inspiration and insight, visit our blog. UPCOMING 2018 RETREATS LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2018 78