Mirror of Zen Blog

Blog this Trip (34): Sick?

Well, things might have been pushed a little bit too far on this trip. I notice a range of strong sensations overtaking the whole body: a sore throat and incipient cough, headache, watery eyes, some sweating, a different and unfamiliar feeling in the chest, and full-body aches creeping over. Immediately out of the plane, I am heading straight to a testing center, just to be on the safe side.

One of the features of this ongoing pandemic, which many people have noted, is the fact that, for the last two years, people were catching colds less, catching the flu less. In fact, it was pretty much nonexistent in our lives! This was chalked up to the fact of the ubiquity of mask-wearing, which is what people do in Asia whenever they feel the slightest symptom of sickness coming on. We used to laugh at this all the time in Korea. As soon as someone in the temple community experienced even the beginning of a coughing spell, or anything even remotely resembling a cold, either they or someone in the group would slap a mask on them. It always seemed so ridiculous, because masks were things that were just born in hospitals, in the West. And yet it seems that that odd cultural habit might have been the thing which caused so little influenza to occur during these many months of pandemic, and the winters have been noticeably devoid of such sicknesses.

And now, during these eight days in Norway – – where mask-wearing is not required, either inside or outside or basically anywhere – – some sort of bug can now really travel around. One woman during the tightly-packed retreat this past weekend left during the retreat when she felt these same symptoms. Apparently she tested negative for Covid that very day. But I didn’t hear any followup on whether she retested.

In any event, it seems I might have pushed a little hard. Most nights, I could not finish work before 11 or 12 midnight. There were often long consultations with students who had questions about their practice, and also several long discussions with family members back in the States who are trying to digest a recent family tragedy. On top of that, there are always documents and emails that need to be checked and responded to, regarding the Zen Center or the myriad other inquiries and requests that come across my plate every day.

Homa and Yogi took very, very excellent care of me during the stay there. So it’s not for lack of support. (In fact, at one point they remonstrated with me very strongly that I might need not to so habitually make myself available to questioners in the periods following or outside the practice events.)

It might just be that, since this wonderful “work” has no borders or edges, weekends or “off-time”, and in our ubiquitous interconnectivity through messaging apps, where people in other time zones still feel it normal (and too easy) to reach out to you, leaving a question or a problem that they wish your insight or help with, you end up burning the candle at both ends, whether you like it or not.

So, to the testing center.

But first, a steaming hot terrine of strong traditional German broth with bread dumplings. So good for the body, so “right” for the soul. It’s what my German Grandma would have given us.

Bavarian Kraftbrühe — just the way Grandma used to make it! (And that’s an Apfelschorle, not beer. Brews were amicably divorced a long, long time ago now.)

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