Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Fear regarding health

Fear regarding health

A series of talks on the many aspects of of our lives that we may have fear towards—death, identity, the future, health, the economy, loss, separation, and more; touching also on the wisdom of fear and the different antidotes to ease our fears.

  • Anxiety comes when we create a worse-case scenario out of any illness or injury
  • Seeing how karma is involved can ease our minds about poor health or pain
  • With an understanding of karma we can learn to respond to illness or injury in a positive way

Fear 09: Health (download)

Okay so, fear often arises when we don’t feel well, or when we’re injured. And so we get rather tight and our mind writes this incredible worst case scenario that, you know, because we have the sniffles, we are going to die of pneumonia; our mothers thought that! And because we stubbed our little toe that we are going to be crippled forever. And then we think about it, we amplify it, we write stories, we get depressed, we get angry, we lash out at others, we stay stuck in our fear.

Seeing poor health as a result of karma

One very good method for dealing with health things is to realize that karma is involved in this process and on two fronts. First of all; we have the good karma to have a precious human body, which gives us the opportunity to practice the Dharma, and so, to really appreciate that fact and to take care of our body well so that we can practice. In other words, not to hate your body, but to see it as a vehicle for practice. And second of all, when our body is painful to not be terribly upset, or fearful, or angry about that because after all we are in samsara and we took this body and, what did we expect? Clearly we expected everlasting bliss, but we didn’t create the karma for everlasting bliss because we didn’t get ourselves out of samsara, yes?

Two approaches to dealing with our health problems

And so, when we have physical difficulties it’s due to karma and so then to accept that and to think of the kinds of karma that we may have created in a previous life that would’ve caused this. And I’ve talked about this on Thursday’s teaching about karma; that we may not know exactly what we did, but that’s not important, we can get an idea of the kind of actions we may have done by studying books about karma. And then, by making a strong determination “Well, I’m not going to do that again in the future because I don’t like the result that I’m experiencing.” And so, when we keep our mind focused on that, then the mind doesn’t get afraid of what’s going to happen with our health, okay? Because the mind that’s focused on taking responsibility and having the determination to oppose our self-centeredness cannot at the same time, self-centeredly, indulge in creating its melodramas about the fearful states of our health, okay? You’re seeing what I’m getting at? Okay?

Compassion, taking and giving

Then also a way to combat fear, about our health in particular, is to use whatever situation we have to generate compassion for other people who have the same health difficulties, or worse difficulties, and to do the taking and giving meditation and then again, here too, when we’re focused on doing that, the mind can’t at the same time focus on its worst case scenario stories, okay? So it’s ways of pulling the mind out of a way it has on ruminating with inappropriate attention, creating all sorts of afflicted states of mind and instead putting the mind with appropriate attention, viewing situations in a correct way and then using proper ways, emotional ways, to respond to those situations such as having compassion, generating the determination to be free from samsara, taking responsibility for negativities and so on, okay? And so, these are ways, again, that we have to practice now, before we’re extremely ill, so that these things get habituated in our mind.

And they really do work! I remember some years ago, I had an infection in my big toe, wasn’t my little toe, it was my big toe. You cannot imagine your big toe ever hurting so much. Because we usually ignore our toes pretty much, I don’t know about you, but unless they’re cold I don’t pay much attention to them. But I’d never had pain like that before. And I was living in a rural area in France and nobody could take me to the ER room, so I spent the whole night in the meditation hall basically thinking of the qualities of the Buddha’s and Bodhisattvas and how they endure pain for the benefit of sentient beings and thinking of their compassion and how they practice with these kinds of things. And this was the only thing that kept me kind of afloat during that whole night until the morning came and then somebody was able to take me to the doctor. Because I barely slept the whole night because this toe was like puffed up and throbbing. So, to keep your mind if you put it on a virtuous topic and keep it there it gives you ways to really deal with these things and prevents not only fear but also anger and upset, self pity and everything else that accompanies either when our body is injured or ill. So try it, and see for yourself and practice it over time so it really becomes a habit. And take care of your big toes and the rest of you as well. And the rest of others as well.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.