Pictured above is a simple Tibetan Buddhist monk taken at Stongdey Monastery in Zanskar, Jammu and Kashmir, India. I love this photo! Out of literally thousands of photos I’ve taken, this is my favorite from this year’s medical mission trip with Hands On Global, Inc. (http://www.handsonglobal.org). This man has been laughing and smiling every time I have seen him. He has spent his whole life, from the age of about eight, as a monk in this remote area of the Himalaya mountains. Life there is hard and simple. The weather gets very, very cold, with only dried Yak manure to burn for heat; the terrain is brutal, and he walks miles a day up and down the mountains; the lack of modern conveniences like medical care, electricity and running water makes life difficult and precarious. This monk is not striving to succeed, or be in charge, or living for tomorrow when maybe it will be better. This simple monk asks for nothing and prays non-stop for all sentient beings. If you look closely at his left hand, you will see the callouses and indented nail from constantly reciting mantras (prayers) while sliding each bead of his mala between his thumb and forefinger. This is what he has done, almost 24/7, 365 days a year, for the last 70 something years. Can you imagine? I think I like this photo so much because I can see and almost experience his profound happiness –despite the hard life that he has to lead.
In the Buddhist world, everything is seen and understood as interconnected. Because I have met this man, held his hand, and taken his photo, all of you reading this post get to experience his inner happiness and joy. I have also seen photographs on social media of this same monk taken by photographers from India, Brazil, and Europe. I have shown his photo to family, friends, church groups, women’s groups, and academic audiences. His “being” that is so evident in photos of him has a global audience now. His face, his smile, and his way of life inspires many to be happy, to be content, to show compassion and loving kindness.
Why am I writing about this photo in this context? I guess it is because as a physician I wanted to make a difference with joy in my heart. I longed to be authentic, yet much of the time I felt constrained and thwarted every time I shared my humanity. Heaven help us if you show too much joy, or laugh too loud, or cry with a patient. I felt like what I did was never right or enough. I was never a good enough doctor, or a good enough mother, and definitely not a good enough wife and partner. I could never see enough patients to please others, or do enough for the patients I did see. The number of people I have interacted with over my lifetime is probably 100 or even 1000 times the number of people that have interacted with this simple monk. Not many make the long journey to his part of the world. Yet, look at the global impact he has had in the world without even trying. He does not question whether he is good enough, or if he is doing the right thing. He also has no idea of the impact his life, via photographs, has had on the world.
So, when I look at this photo, I have the thought that, perhaps, holding a patient’s hand is enough to accomplish when there is little else to be done medically. Perhaps smiling at an overworked parent in the clinic is enough. Perhaps being present with our families when we do have time with them is enough. Perhaps just getting up and facing a new day every day is enough. I am enough. YOU ARE ENOUGH. That is why I like this picture so much . . . it reminds me that no matter what I do or don’t do, I am enough. I can rest in the happiness and joy of knowing that. I can be touched by this monk’s joy of praying his prayers for all of us. We are connected. I am touched by our shared humanity. I am touched by my own humanity and by yours dear healer. We are enough. And we are not alone, but connected. I have hope that it is possible to practice with authentic joy as a complete human being! OM MANI PADME HUM.
Blessings Dear Healer,
Dr. Robyn Alley-Hay
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