Crazy Makers

Photo: Maks Karochkin

“The Buddha’s compassion is perfectly equal and impartial.  The Buddha views all beings as his own children and strives to elevate them to attain his same enlightened state of life.  It’s not that there are no differences among people.  Rather, it’s that the Buddha, while fully recognizing people’s differences, does not discriminate among them.”

—Daisaku Ikeda Continue reading…

Celebrating Birthdays

Photo: Aih

One week ago, my family and I celebrated my father’s 75th birthday.  Even writing that number I find shocking (probably almost as shocking as my father finds reading it).  Birthdays have always represented the most important of all celebrations in my family—more important certainly than any local or national holidays.  What, after all, could be more important to celebrate for a person and the people who love him or her than the fact of their existence?  For what should any of us be more grateful? Continue reading…

How To Comfort Yourself

Photo: pipitdapo

The other week, a patient of mine told me he’d recently come to the realization that he has a tendency to become almost embarrassingly needy in certain situations, something he attributed to several early childhood experiences.  When he was three, he told me, his five-year-old sister died of cancer.  He doesn’t specifically remember her dying but does remember being left alone with a maid for a year and feeling abandoned.  His father, an alcoholic, left his family soon after.  He counts as his first memory seeing his father’s suitcase lying open across a bed. Continue reading…

The Rippling Effect

Photo: A6U571N

Several years ago, a graduating medical school class invited me to be a guest at their graduation dinner.  A resident with whom I’d worked previously had also been invited and was scheduled to speak.  When the time came for her to make her remarks, she began by telling a story of a former mentor of hers who, she said, had once told her, “Someone is always watching you.” Continue reading…

The Joy Of Not Hurrying

Photo: Autistic Psycho

The other day I found myself standing in a long line to buy breakfast in my hospital’s cafeteria when I noticed something that surprised me:  I wasn’t feeling annoyed at having to wait.  In the past, such a delay to the start of my day—to any part of my day, really—would have driven me slightly crazy.  Not because I think I’m so important that others should part before me, but because of an omnipresent feeling I’ve had to get on to the next thing I needed to do—whatever it was. Continue reading…

Redemption

Photo: Ms. Phoenix

Over a decade ago, I did something about which I remain ashamed to this day:  I broke a promise to someone in a way that hurt her terribly.  I rationalized my decision by arguing that I hadn’t wanted to make the promise in the first place but had been pressured into it.  Many of the people in my life agreed at the time that for a variety of reasons my action was more than justified, framing the situation in different terms that made it seem more palatable. Continue reading…

When The Love Of Your Life Doesn’t Love You

Photo: Lance Shields

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me about a particularly painful breakup he’d gone through recently.  His girlfriend had decided she no longer wanted to be with him and had summarily cut him out of her life.  Naturally, he yearned for an explanation and some closure, so he confronted her.  She explained to him what she perceived to be the problem, that he wasn’t focused enough on her and their relationship, Continue reading…

How Touching Saves Lives

Photo: Josep Ma. Rosell

When I was a fourth-year medical student, I once did a month-long rotation in the ER.  One night a woman came in who we decided needed some lab work.  When I let her know we needed to draw her blood, she began to tremble visibly.  “I’m scared of needles,” she whispered to me. Continue reading…

When You Don't Like Yourself

Photo: erix!

Some people have the misfortune to have been born to abusive parents who belittled them and prevented them from developing a healthy self-esteem.  Others are born predisposed to view themselves in a negative light because of their physical appearance, a disability, or for no reason anyone, including themselves, knows.  Research has consistently supported the notion that it’s difficult to be happy without liking oneself.  But how can one learn to like oneself when one doesn’t? Continue reading…

The Therapeutic Application Of Denial

Photo: Cl@re Bear

A few years ago, a patient of mine was diagnosed with lung cancer.  A metastatic work up revealed a small mass in his liver that had the radiographic appearance of a benign liver cyst.  But in the setting of a newly diagnosed lung cancer, we couldn’t be sure it wasn’t a metastatic lesion, so we decided to biopsy it.  Due to scheduling issues, we couldn’t get it done for seven days.

Two days into the seven, he called me in a panic over the possibility that the lesion in his liver was cancer, a fact, if true, he understood would change his prognosis from good to dismal.  I offered him a prescription for Valium, which he accepted gratefully, and then suggested a strategy to help him manage his anxiety that took him by surprise:  denial. Continue reading…