Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Where practice really matters: an accident

It actually already happened a few months ago, but I was too busy too
blog beforehand. At the end of August, I was involved in an accident:
I broke five ribs and had stuff in my lungs (pulmonary contusions)
because I was hit by a car while I was biking. It was a great
lesson in the power of practice. Even though I am by no means a great
practitioner, I started to get a sense of what the masters mean when
they say that they welcome obstacles and suffering, as fuel for their
practice. It is during suffering that you can see how powerful the
practice is, even if you feel you are mostly distracted when sitting
on your cushion.

When the accident happened, somehow there was no fear, because there
is always the refuge in the lama, and in Guru Rinpoche. Guru Rinpoche
is such a powerful Buddha that you are protected, no matter what. When
an accident like this happens, I pray with all my might and feel his
blessing, as in the Heart Practice described in the Tibetan Book of
Living and Dying. After they had made all the diagnosis, I was taken
to the Intensive Care unit. My job was simply to breathe, because
breathing deeply would prevent the contusions from turning into
pneumonia. It was thus literally "breathing as if your life depended
on it," as Jon Kabat-Zinn likes to say. Since I had nothing with me,
not even a cell phone, I just spent the first 24 hours mostly
breathing, and meditating. It was like an involuntary retreat. What
was amazing was that the nursing staff seemed to really appreciate the
atmosphere it created in the room. I also spent some time doing the
practice of Tonglen, for all those people suffering much more than I
did, and especially for the driver of the car who had hit me. Focusing
on others' suffering really makes your own suffering decrease.

I also appreciated the teachings on emptiness when I had a lot of
pain. When you contemplate the impermanence and interdependence of
things, somehow the reality, including the pain, becomes less
solid. And it turned out the pain was really not so bad. In fact, my
suffering was so much eased by this tremendous gratitude that I had
the teachings, and that I had so many wonderful people around me who
came to visit, who called, who prayer for me, and who helped me in
many ways. I was really protected by the Buddha, the Dharma and the

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