An African American woman showed me how to take on the suffering of the world during a five-day retreat on perfecting perpetual peace in my soul.
She came in a vision, handed me a gigantic bag, a magical one that only a Santa Clause could operate with the potential to hold millions — no billions — of gifts for the little children. She showed me how to take on the burdens of humanity, exchanging the suffering from one sentient being with the bliss that I had accumulated though endless hours of meditation.
She gave me her deformed baby. An infant with choleric, one undernourished and deprived of any prenatal care. One with a high propensity to turn to drugs due partly to the ingestion into a girl’s body during the 8 months of her pregnancy. A preemie with swollen eyes, diaper rash and pink eye.
I bathed the infant with loving kindness and a compassion that I remember a mother had provided me, nurturing that life force, and breaking through the walls separating “me and I” from “you and yours,” and connecting with the universal “we.” Tenderly, I transformed that baby into the most cherished being a seed and an egg could ever have caused to come into the world.
Now, for the bliss. I give you my son, dear lady. My beautifully healthy 9 pound, nine ounce baby boy to help ease the suffering that lingers despite my siphoning away your blues. I offer you a joy in this gift that I know from experience will give you continuous happiness as that little Nicholas grows, says his first word “cardinal” and learns to fly with children of all ages and backgrounds.
The “vision” places me at the base of a Ferris Wheel. Extending my arms I grasp and hold on to suffering from another mother as she descends in her “cart.” My shoulders are broad, I somehow realize. I, too, am healthy and can endure pain. The weight brings me down, but then lifts, as I see the mother smile on receiving my giggling, playful sombitchin’ son in her own arms. I give away my “bliss” wrapped in a gift with no strings attached. Unconditional love, madam. Over and over again.
I take away more and more hurt with each revolution of the wheel. Depression, anxiety, fear is suctioned out of these young women whose babies have come into the world, possibly with the negative karma from previous existences. Something done before, may have caught up with them, sins of a past that need purging before purifying.
Let me take the scourge, the horrible, this ugly defilement into myself, place it in my bag, and exchange it with the more joyful child, another happy bundle of a boy named Nicholas.
The wheel rotates 30, 40, 50 more times, and suffering accompanies each in-breath of air I take. Each out-breath gives birth to a new-bound bliss, the gift of my boy. No, it’s now our boy.
The bag fills. It’s heavy. My head bends. Literally. I feel the weight of a mass pulling me down breath by breath until my head is almost touching my legs, my knees as I sit in my meditative pose hoping I have not gotten my self into a state I can’t escape before completing. How low can I go? How far will this burden pull me? Please help me. I cry out softly. Tears flow. But, not from any pressure, fear or pain, but from the redemption provided by a bell!
Someone rang the bell ending the 30-minute greeting of “emptiness.”
Choked up, tears still pouring down my cheeks, I share my “vision” with the group of 25 Buddhist practitioners meeting with the Ven. Barry Kerzin MD., leader of this retreat in Chester County, Pa., outside of Philadelphia. It’s how I feel on taking the first “baby” steps in the practice of a caring and compassionate Bodhisattva, I try to say, but only gibberish comes out. A childish, blissful kind of gibberish.