I had not intended to write today, but I have a story to share. Tuesday morning, I ended my 12 hour night shift of nursing with a feeling of malaise. For hours I had a headache that was not strong enough for pills, a tiredness I could not explain, and a deep feeling of emptiness, confusion, and loss of purpose. My sleep was intermittent and I awoke with the same feeling I had when I went to bed. Feeling as I did, I could not face another night of no patients, occupying myself with reading, fighting to stay awake, temperature changes from hot to cold, and the never ceasing roar of multiple electronic machines. So, I called in sick.

I was sick, sick in spirit. Something was wrong and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I just knew I had no motivation and the positive pulse that had been directing my days for the past many months was gone. So, I rested. I rested my mind and body. I stayed in my night gown and robe, moved slowly, cooked dinner, took a nap, watched a movie with my husband, did my spiritual practice, and was in bed before one a.m. (which is early for me, even on nights I don’t work).

Of course, I didn’t fall asleep right away but I forced myself to lie in bed and rest. I knew I needed rest to get well, I needed to rest my mind and my body. When I finally fell asleep the first dreams I remembered were confusing and frustrating. They were the type of dreams I have too often of trying to go somewhere and never reaching my destination. Then I had the following dream.

I was sitting at a dining table, the Dalai Lama was at the head of the table, and I sat on his left side, next to him. He spoke with energy and enthusiasm, moving his arms and hands to emphasize his words. He turned and smiled at me, as if he knew me well and we had talked before about what he was discussing. Then, I was in a storefront teaching a class about taking refuge. Someone was mopping the floor as I talked.

When I awoke from those dreams, I felt rested, refreshed, and refocused. I did not get up immediately, I wrote down my dream and then let energy flow into me. The first thought I received is the topic of my next story. Then, the ideas came for the book I have been writing, The Ultimate Wonder, my collection of stories on death and dying.

Finally, I realized that the reason I had gotten sick was that I had stopped writing. The busyness of the holiday season, a new focus and interesting challenges on my job, and a host of intriguing distractions had pulled me from writing. I had even fooled myself into thinking I didn’t need to write, since all I get are rejections and seldom any comments or responses when I do write.

But, as I repeatedly tell Brian, my husband and a visual artist, we must do our work for ourselves and because we have to work to live. We create not to make money but to feel that every day offers the possibility of creative activity, a new insight into the meaning of existence, a novel approach to recalling an experience, a unique and original way to capture a compelling story. So, whether or not I ever achieve recognition, publication, or “success” as a writer in this world. I have this forum to say I am a writer, I live to write, and I will continue to write.

Upon reflection, not only did the Dalai Lama heal me of my malaise, the dream gave me clear direction. My writing is to serve the purpose of sharing the Dharma, the good news that with compassion for ourselves and all sentient beings (and a lot of work) anyone can realize their Buddha nature and attain enlightenment. . .but that’s another story.

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