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 When a monk presents as sick, think about this...

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Anne

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PostSubject: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:01 pm

(This suggestion may be the norm within the OBC. Its inclusion here is not to suggest otherwise.)

In ancient India, beggars sometimes ordained as Buddhist bhikkhus to receive better alms-food. The subordinate status of the bhikkhuni sangha may have been to deter women from joining in droves just to escape social inequality and its consequences. In Japan, so I have read, some fathers have insisted their sons ordain for material reasons: some sons may have obliged with great reluctance, others may have been more willing. Other examples may exist of less-than-ideal reasons for ordaining.

As far as I know, these do not usually apply among western Buddhists, so the likelihood is that a western monk wants to train.

When Henry (Kaizan) and Amalia fell ill, teachers doubted the authenticity of this and suspected their intentions. In the non-monastic world, faking it, being a "spiritual slouch", and unmindfully psyching oneself out are not unheard of, and one doing so is unlikely to admit to it. Also, the teacher may have their own memories, and perhaps self-doubt...

Perhaps from these sorts of considerations, some masters treated Henry and Amalia in heavy ways to "give them second thoughts", "light a fire under them" and encourage them to "buck up their ideas" (the phrases in quotes are mine). I think it likely that at least some of the masters involved would have done so with good intentions, thinking that Henry and Amalia would actually be much happier, having reaped spiritual benefits, if only they (Henry and Amalia) stopped messing about. Results of this unfortunate spiritual misdiagnosis appear on the threads:
http://obcconnect.forumotion.net/t76-kaizan-belated-introduction (Henry)
http://obcconnect.forumotion.net/t36-a-former-novice-speaks-up (Amalia)

So my suggestion is for teachers to beware of weighing in with assumptions of "bad attitude" when a monk presents with inexplicable or unusual symptoms; and to reflect on the likelihood that this monk wants to train, and that their symptoms, however seemingly mysterious, may be genuine and not a sign that the monk is "messing about".
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:15 pm

Are you suggesting we beat up Henry?

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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:56 pm

Anne -- On the other hand, there are a surprising number of monks currently at Shasta and at North Cascades who suffer from chronic fatigue or related illnesses. If the ill monk is senior, they are treated with the highest regard. They are excused from regular duties and waited upon by juniors. I have often wondered why so many long-time monks suffer from such illnesses.
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jack



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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:59 pm

Carol wrote:
On the other hand, there are a surprising number of monks currently at Shasta and at North Cascades who suffer from chronic fatigue or related illnesses. If the ill monk is senior, they are treated with the highest regard. They are excused from regular duties and waited upon by juniors. I have often wondered why so many long-time monks suffer from such illnesses.

That struck me as odd, too. Nearly every monk I met (all seniors) was a suffering monk of some sort - from depression, neuralgia, fibromyalgia -- some physical malady, etc. My dataset was pretty limited, but it seemed like the OBC was made up mostly of sickly people. I asked myself, "Where are the healthy people, the happy people?" I saw healthy, reasonably happy people in other traditions. But I never figured it out. I don't know if the OBC acts as some sort of selection criteria so that those people are the only ones who stick with it, or whether the OBC does that to people eventually. But the appearance became pretty pronounced after a while. It could have been, as you described, a means of malingering, of getting out of doing unpleasant work as a senior -- way too little information to make any judgment on that.

Similar story, though, in another regional Zen group whether the leader had to disband the group because she developed fibromyalgia. Made me pause at the time. If that's the result of Zen practice, then it would make sense not to go there.

Anne,

Testing requires wisdom. Every reasonable parent soon learns the difference between abusing their children and not being suckers. It's not that difficult for most normal human beings who came from a position of caring.

What Amalia described is like some of the cruel and unusual punishment dished out by some Christian evangelicals supposedly to defeat the "devil" in their children. Utterly repugnant -- not wisdom of any sort. Nothing I want anything to do with or to get mixed up in. Perhaps there are a few masochists out there who believe in salvation by suffering severely and thus would extol its virtue. Buddhism from day one has never been about masochism.

Teachers should be judged by behaviors. That's what impacts the world, causes suffering (and karma if you believe in that). Who cares how they have rationalized their beliefs or cruel behavior.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:13 pm

You know I remember Mother Teresa being given an award for humanity,at an expensive lunch.
In her reply,she said,'When asked why I do this work,it is because I only see the Baby Jesus'

The two words so often lacking here when people need assistance , need help, need guidance, are compassion and love.

These are the basis of Zen Buddhism,without them we have rhetoric, and set patterns of behaviour,and conceptual religion. The standard of our spirituality is very high indeed,but it is only what our hearts demand
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mokuan



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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:59 pm

I remember at a community tea Koshin --who was not in residence at the time, but there for a retreat or something -- brought up the issue of so many chronically ill monks. He admonished the monks to look at their training and see what they were doing wrong. He actually went on for some time about poor training, and RMJK was nodding in agreement.

I remember thinking maybe it's the environment that's contaminated, not the monks. And I wasn't thinking about the water!

There was little sympathy for monks with chronic illnesses, but RMJK's "allergy" to rubber bands and erasers was carefully protected. I still find that the strangest thing. Did anyone else think that was bizarre?

Yesterday, I took the testimony of an epidemiologist, and as he explained to the attorneys and for the record what his expertise was, I couldn't help wonder what he might say about the Abbey. What would he determine with regards to monk retention, illnesses, psychological issues, this forum, and many other things? What is the one thing they all have in common?
Hmmm, I wonder.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:43 pm

Mokuan.interesting what you say.
I was also interested in epidemiology,I had to look it up.What does it mean to take a testimony, are you like a doctor?
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mokuan



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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:27 pm

Hi Chisan Michael,

No, I'm not a doctor. I'm a court reporter. I occasionally work in federal court, but most of the stuff I do is pre-trial testimony.

Did RMJK have an allergy to rubber bands and erasers when you were with her?
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:46 pm

Court reporter, I got that wrong then. You must see a fair bit of life there.

I did not know about the alergies,I believe she had a problem with thunder storms I am sure someone can confirm this.

It is strange exposing someones humanity, does it it make them less of a teacher? or possibly does it give a gateway to more compassion for other people. Alot of what I have been reading here has shown me that a lot of 'normal' people, or people totally without any religious training or practice, show remarkable spiritual attributes.

For example,I befriended a couple whose son was blown up by a bomb in the Sari club in Bali. They are both lovely people, quite different. carol the mum, has always had incredible dignity,at a time when her live has been blown apart. And neither of them has ever shown any anger, or even wanted revenge. Their main emotion has been incredible grief,but they have lived through it in an incredible way. later this year I hope to start a web site ,a Buddhist website,that can offer help for social and personal problems,ray the dad ,will be able to offer an enormous ammount of help in a specific area, the plan seems to be write in help line,you know, someone there someone being there. I seem to know a lot of people who have experienced above average difficulies, personal abuse, sexual abuse, housing crisis, the people that have experienced such awful difficulties are the ideal people to offer advice. It is something I would like to do
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Henry

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:47 pm

I will write more on this later but for now just want to comment on how by 1982-3 I saw Shasta go from a community of healthy people to more and more people becoming chronically I'll. Then of course it happened to me. The increase in illness did seem to coincide with an increase in discontent in many of the monks that Rev Kennettt was keeping to much control over monks. I think Isan could speak more accurately on some of this.

Isan
Were you there when chronic ilness was exploding?

MokuAn
Thank you again for providing me with info. I didnt remember or wasn't at the tea you described. Admonishing monks for being I'll when Rev kennett's illness was aces on a pedestal. With Koshin making that comment I can now much more easily see him approving what was done to Amalia. No wonder every fiber of my being was screaming for me to get out of Shasta. But I was too ill to even take care of myself. Utterly trapped in a place that viewed me as second or tenth rate for being ill. What a nightmare. But what am I saying. This was 20 years ago. Why should anyone need to know about it?

Chisan
I may be a wimp, but I think I could take you down if you forced me into it.

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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:00 pm

What with 'no hands'
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:05 pm

Carol wrote:
Anne -- On the other hand, there are a surprising number of monks currently at Shasta and at North Cascades who suffer from chronic fatigue or related illnesses.

I believe these illnesses are triggered psychologically. By that I mean that they are precipitated by stress, and in the case of OBC monks by the stress caused by the profound conflicts that they choose to live with. Note I didn't say the illnesses are psychosomatic, but I believe to recover health a person must make the unconscious conflicts conscious and choose to resolve them. It's not an accident that Henry was able to get better after he left the OBC. It was true for me as well - I suffered from a number of stress induced maladies including insomnia during the last year at the Abbey. It took me years to unwind the mess, but as the mind improved so did the body. Definitely not rocket science...
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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:05 pm

Henry I have missed the bit about your illness,what actually was it, did you not get care at Shasta ? Did you have to leave to get care? What was the chronic illness period about I have not heard of this?
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Henry

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:23 pm

Thanks for your input Isan

Chisan
No need foryou to worry about my ilness. It Will still be Mano a mano. But if your curiosity gets the better of you, go to my thread (Kaizan) on the Introductions thread. My first post goes into detail of my experience.
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Anne

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Thu Jan 06, 2011 10:58 am

From Chisan:
Quote :
Are you suggesting we beat up Henry?
Hi, Chisan ~ I hope that was a bit of humour there! But just in case you thought I was suggesting something of the kind ~ no.

From Jack:
Quote :
Every reasonable parent soon learns the difference between abusing their children and not being suckers. It's not that difficult for most normal human beings who came from a position of caring.
Do your children agree with this, Jack? (-; But, also, even if a monk did not want to train, they would seem to be free to leave the OBC (once they have sorted out where to go and how to maintain themselves). So the idea of trying to bamboozle someone into training seems superfluous in the context of the OBC.

Perhaps superficially related to this, I have the perhaps incorrect impression that harsh training approaches RMJ saw in Sojiji (e.g trainees routinely being beaten on certain days of the month) may have been a response to having to cope with the presence of people who did not want to be there, or were there for non-spiritual reasons: in other words, who were not interested in training. Now, I am not suggesting that the idea was to harass them into training but perhaps to contain whatever consequences, to the detriment of others, might have erupted otherwise. Does anyone know the facts about this? I wonder if RMJ internalised something of this approach (obviously not the beatings), though the western context is very different. One can sometimes carry on with disparities, aware of the differences on one level, yet not adding 1 + 1 on another, and not even realising that there is (or may be) something to add up.

From Isan:
Quote :
I believe these illnesses are triggered psychologically. By that I mean that they are precipitated by stress, and in the case of OBC monks by the stress caused by the profound conflicts that they choose to live with.
I'm wondering also about dehydration. Plum-like cells work much better than prune-like cells. Is it difficult for monks to keep well hydrated?

Thanks, folks
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:47 am

Henry wrote:

Isan
Were you there when chronic illness was exploding?

Henry, your message actually crossed mine as we were both posting at the same time. I left Shasta Abbey in 84 and I don't remember there being a significant uptick in the number of monks taking ill with things like CFS, but all the necessary conditions were there. In addition to the psychological stresses there was the demanding lifestyle, which included irregular sleep patterns and chronic sleep deprivation. More important was the underlying philosophy. RMJK used to tell a story about a monk she knew in Japan who was diagnosed with a heart problem and told by the doctor to slow down or else. The monk replied that teaching his students was more important than his health - he continued as before and was dead in six months. RMJK held up this story as an example of the correct attitude a monk should have, and it was in fact how she lived much of the time. I believe her sometimes erratic behavior was caused by simply taking on too many students and not respecting her own limits. It's possible she might have lived longer and maintained better physical health (and perhaps been happier too) if she had been willing to relax the regimen. This philosophy of ignoring and constantly pushing past one's physical and mental limitations became part of the bedrock at Shasta Abbey. You were not allowed to back off. It's only a matter of time before the mind and body break down under such circumstances.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Thu Jan 06, 2011 12:23 pm

Anne
I was joking ,but please do not tell Henry.
I hope you realised I was joking too,when I told you to pop your balloon!
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Anne

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:07 am

Quote :
I hope you realised I was joking too,when I told you to pop your balloon!
Chisan, I thought you were being festively jocular. But just in case you have a craving...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Alh-BVVLQ48&NR=1
(You may have overdosed by the first 15 seconds (-:)
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Henry

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:39 am

Anne,

I believe that on a conscious level, the monks were not trying to harm me in any way when I was ill. But the whole idea of meditation is to get beyond just our conscious minds and find the deeper, unconscious ways in which we harm others. As more and more people at Shasta became ill, it became a bigger and bigger drain on the community. Ill people are burdensome; they don’t pull their weight. I went from a constructive member of the community to a burden, and it dragged on month after month, year after year. I believe that in some, resentment grew, and with resentment, one conscious desire to do good can often be sabotaged by resentment taking the reigns. Because people do not want to see themselves in this light, the conscious mind will come up with all sorts of rationalizations for harmful behavior and skewed interpretations of the ill persons intent and actual condition. I believe this occurred at Shasta with me.

I have recently written posts about the purpose of isolation and cutting oneself or monastery off from the world is to develop keen insight and inner awareness. I believe that what occurred to Amalia and myself showed a startling lack of this awareness on a very basic level.

Take my case. Prior to my illness, I had worked in the kitchen for 6-7 years, most of that as assistant cook. The kitchen was known as one of the most demanding jobs: you worked through sessions, you worked on days off—everyone had to eat everyday. My next job was as head of the gift shop. Kyogen had gotten it off to a great start, and then I took it to the next level. Business increased so much that we could barely keep up with orders. It became an excellent source of income for the abbey, and could have been moreso if this had been wanted. (I never understood why monks had to go out to work for a few bucks an hour, when if we were given more help in the gift shop, we could have supported those monks—but that’s another story). My next job was a tenkien, a job that no one wanted. I was up all night. I most often, if lucky, I got 2-3 hours of sleep prior and the same after being up all night. Six hours sleep was very exceptional. I most often volunteered to work for a good part of the day.

I then became ill and gradually over months became unable to work. Leaving my room was scary due to the pain and spasming. Sometimes I had to be helped to the toilet. I spent almost all my time in bed. Sitting for more than 10-15 minutes was very painful. This is how I lived my life--week after week, month after month, year after year. No one ever saw me live differently because I never did--this was my life.Yet some thought I was out and out faking, and many others thought I was not training.

So here you have someone who contributed to the monastery as I described for over 10 years, and then all of a sudden decides that lying in bed for the rest of my life is desirable, needing help to go to the bathroom is desirable, being a burden to my friends is desirable. Personally, I think that the lack of awareness this takes is pretty staggering. Mokuan wrote that she heard Koshin admonish people like myself to train harder. It's best that I don't comment on that. I'm sure I'd get a private message from Lise if I tried. And of course Rev. Kennett nodded her head in agreement.

While Koshin and Rev.Kennett might have had "good intentions" we have to look at what that means. Does it mean seeing things as they are with clarity, or does it mean wanting to do good, but being unable to see past one's own distorted perceptions caused by unresolved personal issues? And given what Koshin said about me and others, it doesn't surprise me what happened to Amalia. It appears very possible that Koshin simply went further down that road of delusion to the point that he and his fellow monks could inflict what they did on Amalia.

Good intentions are not good enough. There is a real danger of people become so certain of the superiority of their enlightenment that they take their perceptions as truth and need no other input, or need only the input of those most likely to agree with them. If this is the result of "isolating oneself from the temptations of the world" I have only one suggestion: Meian, tear down that wall!

God!! Whoever thought I'd need support from Reagan to express my frustration.
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Sophia

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Fri Jan 07, 2011 2:54 pm

I'm not sure what I can contribute here, but I would like to write about my experiences with illness at the Abbey.
For many years I had endometriosis. I had it before I came to the abbey, with several undiagnosed trips to the emergency room as an undergraduate. When I was on retreat as a lay person I again had an episode of acute abdominal pain that went away after a period of time. These incidents were isolated enough that I thought of them as something that happens to me from time to time--after all, your invincible at 20, 21, anyway...
After I became a monk and I was once again in the emergency room, a perceptive doctor thought maybe I had endo and sent me for a diagnostic surgery. The results were positive and they removed a mass of endo cells. This turned out to be the first of 5 surgeries that I would have, spanning the years of my novitiate through being a senior monk. I had stays at the Berkeley Priory undergoing treatment. There were times when the seemingly slightest stretching would set off pain that would last for days (rendering me bed-ridden). Between scar tissue from the surgery and endo strands on organs, I seemed to have alot of potential pain triggers. It was hard to figure out: the doctors said even the pull of a wielding a broom could set off the pain. I tried the best I could (unscientifically) to figure out from my pain how I could move in ways that had the least potential for triggering these episodes. Sometimes I was unsuccessful, sometimes I could do alot. I know it was the times that I could do alot that caused doubt over my condition to arise in the community.

Henry said:
As more and more people at Shasta became ill, it became a bigger and bigger drain on the community. Ill people are burdensome; they don’t pull their weight. I went from a constructive member of the community to a burden, and it dragged on month after month, year after year. I believe that in some, resentment grew, and with resentment, one conscious desire to do good can often be sabotaged by resentment taking the reigns. Because people do not want to see themselves in this light, the conscious mind will come up with all sorts of rationalizations for harmful behavior and skewed interpretations of the ill persons intent and actual condition. I believe this occurred at Shasta with me.

I know this was the case. I heard it expressed by several people. Not just about the big stuff, but when we would all come down a cold at once, and a dwindling number of people had to serve the stricken ones with meals. But people definately said to me on occassion, if you can do X, why can't you do Y? I remember very well the fear that would arise in me that someone else being in control would ask me to do something that would then cause me to get pain. There was a huge conflict in my body over "being willing" and loss of the ability to move in ways that supported the tightness of my adhesions. It is hard to get beyond fear when moving 'fearlessly' ends up in excrutiating pain (even if it is possible to find a place, on your back, of peace underneath that pain--who wants to live on one's back the rest of one's life?). Being under someone 'in charge' who one has to respond willingly to became untenable as I struggled to find a path wherein my body could move and I could accomplish things. Luckily, some of this coincided with my increasing senority. But there was always community work, kitchen clean-up and any number of situations when someone who, for whatever reason, could ask me to do something that ended with me in bed. To say 'no' was only a limited option. Hard to explain that I think something might cause pain (how do I know until I try?).
Into this atmosphere of self doubt and sense of others' doubt came new rules (I'd guess somewhere around 94 or 95). Monks should be accompanied to doctor visits and the the results of the visit reported back to Eko. After my last surgery--which was a hysterectomy that I undertook because my symptoms had been decreasing and I thought, maybe, this would definatively take care of the problem--I was on pain medication. They gave me a really strong one right after surgery and I used it on the trip home from Bend, OR. I stopped using it after that, as my body healed. But it takes a number of months (up to a year, the doctor said) to return to complete health. After a few months, Eko expressed doubt over my pain: you seemed so much better when you first came back from Bend! I explained the difference between the codeine dose I was taking and the mega pain killer I took for the trip. He asked me to start taking more codeine. I knew it was addicative and did not want to do this (I didn't). But I had to face his accusations of malingering. I couldn't help but think of all this when reading Amalia's account of TS and her addiction to methadone. I wonder how that happened? The pressure I experienced to do what it would take, chemically, to participate fully in the schedule was not good.
I left for somewhat different reasons, although they spinned off of various pressures resulting from my experience with illness. It was interesting, however, to see that a new drug that had been prescribed for me while I was a monk, and which I did not get filled until after I left (just because the events of the last month were so tumultuous), gave me a physical freedom I had not had for over a decade. As my confidence grew that action would not cause pain, I did more. It took me a few years to be well enough not to take this medication, but it was not addicative. It seemed too ironic that so much physical freedom was possible outside of the monastery. I don't know what to make of it except the pressures to conform--and especially the psychological ones of 'willingness' and 'fearlessness'--contributed to a sense of helplessness, which seemed to worsen the illness. In retropspect, it was a black period of powerlessness. All acceptance is the key to the gateless gate: yes, power/powerless dissolves at a certain place in meditation. But I could only find this on my bed. And that did not and does not feel right. You move off the cushion into kinhan, ceremonial and the world: I couldn't execute that movement in the physical stillness needed to embrace the pain completely. When Dogen speaks of the oneness of body and mind, it seems to me that the mind--in this instance--is not being given its due when we are asked to be 'willing' to such an extent. Willingness is a beautiful concept, but it has to be in balance, not only with the needs of the body, but our own mind that comprehends what our limits are.
This post is under a thread 'suggestions for the OBC'. What could be gained from this story? I definately question the wisdom of pressuring people to participate in an ideal schedule. Doubting trainees' sincerity kills that sincerity. Meditation empowers us. But that wholeness can be undermined through judgments and pressures to conform to standards that presuppose health (and perhaps youth).
I offer this story in the hopes helps as the Abbey moves forward with its self-examination. No doubt there are other ways my life at the monastery was perceived, but this is how I understood it, and that has its own truth.
In gassho,
Sophia
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Fri Jan 07, 2011 3:27 pm

Sophie I have often looked at your photo and again if you do not mind me saying,you seem such a nice girl I apologise if that is embaressing,but to me you do. I seem to have lived in muck and grime,as a consequence,your story again makes me feel sad that you experienced some ones personel struggle for glory.

on the other post I have just had a contact from windmill john
your letter reminds me of a night way back when we helped a Catholic father with a soup run for homeless people.
John was with me one night we stopped off in Victoria Gardens by the Thames we had on board a rugged guy who was at rock bottom, we collected him from the first drop a railway arch.It was dangerous stuff the first stop the guys and girls were frisky.Any way at the gardens, I jumped out to see a black regualar,who did not wear shoes and slept in a box,it was important he saw me as a face he knew.I was talking to him when John and a beautiful girl called Jessica shouted out Mike Mike,I knew I did not want to hear it but I did,i ran back to the van and sure enough The guy had pulled a razor,John was having a go to control the guy,I jumped in and grabbed his hand with the razor and I think John had the other I tell you the guy was serious and strong, the razor was coming towards me,and I had to use brutal force to pin his arm back. Then feminine wisdom came in,Jessica lit a cigarette put it in the guys mouth and stroked his head,he calmed down What a beautiful girl she was.
I saw Jessica last on TV as a peace keeper in the Gaza. If anyone could save the world it would be Jessica.
The point of the story is not me nor John it is a vivid reminder for me about what are lifes lessons
and I ask you Sophia
'What is the job of the strong' ?
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Sophia

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Fri Jan 07, 2011 4:40 pm

Hi Chisan,
I agree, being 'strong' is not always physical! I'm sure Jessica was still enough at that moment to comprehend that nicotine could shift the dynamic. It is definately a case of Kanzeon responding to the cry of the world.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Fri Jan 07, 2011 4:59 pm

Sophie thanks for writing back.

I cheated I asked you an old koan, it is an unusual old koan, as actually it came from a destitute vagrant at this time.
He was skipping, which is slang for dossing, sleeping rough in a safe ish spot. Remember these guys would kill each other sometimes.
There were 4 of them and they were skipping in a deri ( derelict house) they were off their heads,somehow the house caught on fire they escaped all but one who was too bombed out to know.One guy who escaped went back in, risking his own life to save a mate. When asked why he did it he asked, 'What is the job of the strong'
There are many answers, the georgeous jessica was one, his answer was 'To help the weak'
It is a powerful lesson, and it is what we should do,without exception.
When I read your story I get another answer, someone else deciding who is ill and who is not.I read stories of power struggles even within themselves.I think Mark or Josh suggested a while back about the benefit of leaving a temple for a period,live in the real world,it will test you, there is a new koan everyday
What is life without love
you said Dogen said something about body and mind being one, what is the use if it does not include every body else
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Henry

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Fri Jan 07, 2011 6:17 pm

Sophia,
Thank you very much for writing of your experience. Our situations were so similar, as was our emotional response. I too was very frightened of leaving my room, leaving my bed, for fear of what might be asked of me. When I said no, the judgmentalism could palpable. And then, of course you start to internalize the judgments. What is wrong with me that I can't even do this little thing? Do I have a psychological problem? These doubts eat you from the inside, and as you said, adds to your illness. I too improved just leaving the abbey, thought it took me 10 years until I got a full time job. Even today, I struggle in many ways with my physical condition. That my wife, Cyndi, is so understanding and helpful is a blessing I can't describe.

The judgmentalism and certainty of those in authority was a frightening thing when you're so helpless and vulnerable. It is very difficult for anyone who never experienced this to understand. Of course, Rev. Kennett, Eko, Koshin would have scoffed to even consider getting outside advice on how to help both the ill and the caretakers deal with these situations in a healthy way. They had the knowledge, understanding and certainty to deal with this on the deepest level. All else was inferior understanding. What a horror and nightmare to live through. But Sophia, we both made it. Thank God we both left and found greater health and happiness, and a spiritual practice that is not so judgmental.

How many times have I heard, "things got better at the abbey after you left." And yet you wrote that monks had to be accompanied to the doctor and the results reported back to Eko. This practice of infantalizing grown men and women is so disgusting. This infantalizing started under Rev. Kennett and continued with Eko. And of course nobody at Shasta stood up publicly and said, "enough is enough. We will not be treated like children." And why? Because that is the culture of Shasta--seniors and those in authority know best and you have to learn that you must rely on their better judgment even in matters between you and your doctor. Of course this is not explicit, but when I look at what I experienced and what many on this site have reported, I can only say actions and experience speak louder than words.

I am so grateful that I left that place and so bewildered that it took me so long to understand it was what I needed to do. If there are any monks at Shasta reading this that are in any sort of similar situation, I and I'm sure many others on this site will give you whatever support we can to help you reclaim your life. I suppose many will say, "It's not like that anymore." To that I say, how long ago did Amalia suffer what she did?
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Fri Jan 07, 2011 6:47 pm

Henry I believe you have spoken my mind, actions speak louder than words,this type of behaviour seems to have been passed on down the line.Inthe process the order has lost fantasic representatives, fantastic spiritual people.
Sophia is a great example, of someone, who believes in the way and practices with great sincerity,and yet she could have been hampered not helped by the people and place she took refuge in
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mokuan



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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Fri Jan 07, 2011 10:07 pm

Hi Sophia,

I remember those many, many times you were ill. Your lovely complexion turned ashen. At times you looked like the walking dead. I'm so glad you're feeling better.
Loving hugs, Very Happy
mokuan
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Fri Jan 07, 2011 11:25 pm

Sophia, hugs from here too. Hard story to read, and to write, I'm sure. Thank you for it.
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Kozan
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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Sat Jan 08, 2011 2:50 am

Sophia, thank you so much for posting your story!

Although you had kindly shared the basics with me previously, I realize that I am only now just beginning to be able to understand what you went through.

With your sharing of the details, I must say that I am struck even more by the incredible grace with which you seem to have healed and transformed the experience--demonstrated by the way that you have taken back your life--and your spiritual practice!

In fact, I believe that everyone posting on this forum is demonstrating an astonishing level of good grace and integrity--each in her or his own way.

Thank you Sophia!!
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Sat Jan 08, 2011 5:57 am

Sophia
I woke up a few times in the night and thought not only about your post,but also your messages to me. I want the guys here to know I was right about one thing, you are a nice girl, sadly somehow, that makes your story hurts me more. Sounds like you are doing well and good luck to all of us eh
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Sat Jan 08, 2011 6:08 am

Lise
a special well done to you to for keeping this going ,that may well include Watson and Robert too. I can imagine it is easy to leave or fall out with an institution and feel it is one's own fault. It is a simple party line, when Gensho left I was told some stupid stuff about him, and Mark had been caught smoking well well.
I think the forum is being found more easily,and gives people a better chance to make informed choices of spiritual practice.
It is rough and windy here,even the seagulls deserted my early morning walk so I have no nice animal stories for you today
Take care
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Karen



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PostSubject: Re: When a monk presents as sick, think about this...   Sat Jan 08, 2011 11:53 am

As a layperson visiting the Abbey and hearing stories about how RMJK was lovingly tended during her health decline, and also seeing how priory animals were lovingly tended toward the ends of their lives, I had developed a belief that all monks at the Abbey would be tended lovingly if they became ill. It had never occurred to me that Abbesses and animals were in a special category that deserved gentle, attentive care. So I am finding the stories of Henry and Sophia particularly important here.

In spite of hearing various vague statements over the years from monks about life at the Abbey being difficult, I had no idea how profoundly difficult before this forum -- in fact "difficult" is kind of a euphemism, I'd say. And I did for a time consider becoming a monk, although no one ever encouraged me to do so, and I suspect after reading this forum that no one ever would have -- I'm not very good at being a true believer of anything, or at venerating anyone. But I am good at idealizing what I don't know enough about. So thank you all -- both those I have named here and those I have not.

-Karen

p.s. one of my very favorite lines from OBC scripture is "and then compound delusion later on by following ideals." It was counter-intuitive for me at first, but oddly fascinating. And it just keeps getting truer and truer the more I look at it.
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