Each day as I leave for work,
Mummy imparts the ancestral
blessing of Jai Shri Krishna
punctuated by Have a nice day.
A nice day is when each patient
is on time, no dirty laundry
hanging outside their neatly packed
suitcase of symptoms I hope will
disappear after the appointment is done.
Today, I challenged the notion
of a nice day, invited a few patients
with heavier suitcases to stay awhile,
to unpack their symptoms and the
stories underneath them. I learned
that I don’t have magic medicine
to soothe every ailment or a perfect
plan to permanently cure disease.
What I can offer is a loving look
that says I see you as more
than a problem list of diagnoses,
supportive listening presence
that hears the wish for wellbeing,
compassionate hands holding
all the places that feel broken
inside patients, inside myself
trusting something larger than
us both to guide the way.
What does it mean to wish someone a nice day, a nice weekend, a nice vacation? For me, there is often a mental labeling that is associated with nice. It could mean good, smooth, easy, joyful, happy, no drama, etc.
And I know that this perpetual notion of nice goes against the natural rhythms of life. Things are often far from perfect. The seventy something year old patient with a long list of complaints who can’t come in at a later appointment and is trying to fit into a 20-minute slot, now 10 minutes after rooming and me running behind schedule. The driver who weaves in and out of two lanes on community roads as if it were a racetrack. This body that misbehaves physically, emotionally, and spiritually despite my best efforts to heal it (more like control it). A virus that continues to mutate despite advances in science, technology, public health, and so much more.
When I challenge the notion of a nice day, perfect life, or anyone, anything that catches me off guard, the attention widens, deepens to notice what else in present. What have I missed? What can I remember? What wholesome heart-mind states will help to hold what is happening with humor, compassion, care, wisdom, patience, trust, beauty, courage, among other things?
It takes energy to widen and deepen the attention. I’m not always in the right heart-mind state to do so. It helps to remember that I am not a limitless source of energy, that sometimes it’s best not to confront uncomfortable situations when tired, hungry, sleep deprived, reactive, or any other indication that I am likely to cause more damage than repair. I also need to wisely discern what is in my control, and when I’m trying to drive a car without the right keys.
Expending too much energy in multiple directions against the flow of life is useless. I can tell when the body is physically exhausted, the mind agitated and still trying to formulate an alternative plan, the heart whispering to just stop and remember a different way. When I heed the heart’s advice, body and mind slow down. Full exhalations occur before the next inhalation, so there is more space for wholesome qualities to enter.
As a healer, family and community member, the burden of guilt sometimes outweighs the freedom to travel the path of least resistance. I’m learning that it’s not all up to me or in my hands, AND I still care. In certain situations where I don’t have magic medicine to soothe every ailment or a perfect plan to permanently cure disease, the gift of steady, loving presence is profound. When I trust in the mysterious unfolding of each being’s life (including my own) and apply energy in a manner that supports healing and freedom, there is less ego attachment and more connection to the moment. There is also recognition that things will change, that what’s useful now may need adjustment in a different scenario, trusting something larger than the ego self to lead the way.