MattAndJojang's Blog

God. Life. Spirituality.

What Do I Do With My Pain?

with 6 comments

Photo: Fr. Laurence Freeman, OSB

May I be the medicine and the physician for the sick. May I be their nurse until their illness never recurs.


Last Easter Sunday, I received a viber message from An [1]. It was an invitation to a virtual dokusan [2] with Sr. Sonia [3]. I was pleasantly surprised and, at the same time, elated by this invitation. Come to think about it, it was probably 20 years ago since I had my last dokusan with Sr. Sonia!

Among other things, An asked me if I’d like to take up a koan [4] with Sr. Sonia during dokusan.

These days I just sit. Overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, I just sit with the uncertainty, fear, isolation, pain and suffering that most people are going through nowadays, myself included.

Somehow this became much more personal to me after I found out, a few hours before I got An’s message, that my 2 sisters, who are nurses in the U.S., got exposed to the coronavirus. And they couldn’t even get themselves tested because there are no testing kits available.

A few days ago, I was reading an article written by Fr. Richard Rohr. He asked the question: “What do we do with our pain?” I don’t know if you can call that a koan. But it clearly articulated to me what I’m sitting with these days.

Faced with so much suffering and pain, I’m left with no words. I can just sit.

Just sit until I calm down.

Just sit until I’m fully in the present moment.

Just sit until the ego drops.

Just sit until the sense of fear and isolation dissolves.

Above all, just sit for those affected by this deadly virus, as well as for the protection and safety of family, friends and neighbors.

As the 8th century Indian Buddhist monk and scholar Shantideva puts it, “May I be the medicine and the physician for the sick. May I be their nurse until their illness never recurs.”

In the movie Zen, which is about the life of Zen Master Dogen [5], there was a scene where a woman brought her sick and dying baby to Dogen, asking him to save her child. Dogen said, “There is only one way to save the child. Visit every home in this area and try to find a home where no relative has died. And have that family give you a single bean.”

Of course, no such home was found.

No one is left untouched by old age, sickness and death. Perhaps this is what the COVID-19 pandemic is teaching us.

During dokusan I was struck when Sr. Sonia said, “It is God who gathers our sadness.”

It is Christ who gathers our every pain. It is Christ who suffers in us. Our tears are Christ’s tears.

“Christ has no body but yours,” St. Teresa of Avila says.

St. Paul cries, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”(Galatians 2:20).

I am every man, woman and child.

I am every sentient being.

I am Kannon [6], the perceiver of all the cries in the universe.

I am Christ, who heals every broken heart in the world.

Yet, as this deadly pandemic rages all around us, it is strange… I feel a deep sense of equanimity and profound connection.

Perhaps the Zen Master Unmon [7] holds the key when he says, “The whole earth is medicine.” Yes, the whole earth is medicine, because the whole earth is my True Self.

And there is just One Body. One Life. One Breath.

As I end this short reflection, let me leave you with these words from Ruben Habito Roshi:

“There is no one and nothing that is not an essential part of myself… Just as the pain in my little finger is felt by my whole body, I cannot but be concerned with all that is going on in this world of ours, with all the pain, the suffering and cries of anguish of so many living beings. They are my pain and suffering.”



[1] An Mercado Alcantara is a senior member of the Bahay Dalangin Zen Community, a Zen group based in Metro Manila.

[2] Dokusan means private interview with a Zen Teacher.

[3] Sr. Sonia Punzalan is a Catholic nun and Zen Teacher.

[4] A koan is a paradoxical statement taken from the biographies of Chinese Zen Masters, usually from the Tang or Sung Dynasties, and is assigned by a Zen Teacher to a Zen practitioner as an object of meditation.

[5] Dogen is a 13th century Japanese Zen Master.

[6]  Kannon is the bodhisattva of compassion. A bodhisattva is a person who delays enlightenment to help suffering beings.

[7] Unmon is a 10th century Chinese Zen Master.


Written by MattAndJojang

April 20, 2020 at 10:33 am

6 Responses

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  1. Great article. We will both pray that your sisters will self-resolve and be asymptomatic. These are times that only prayer and patience can give us the spiritual and emotional consolation we need to remain centered and healthy.

    John Twomey

    April 20, 2020 at 11:07 pm

  2. Hi, Tito Jack,

    Thank you for the kind words.

    Yes, you’re right we can only hope and pray that they will self-resolve. The good news is one of my sisters already got tested and she turned out negative for the coronavirus. However, both of them work in high-risk areas. One is working in an assisted-living facility, while the other is working in a prison hospital. Both of which are hotbed areas for COVID-19. I’m still worried that they are at constant risk of being exposed to patients infected by this deadly virus. Yes, we can only entrust them to God’s protection during these difficult and trying times.

    I and Jojang are glad to hear from you.

    And please give our regards to Tita Core.



    April 21, 2020 at 2:01 pm

  3. Will include your sisters in our prayers.

    Yahoo Warning

    April 22, 2020 at 6:33 pm

  4. Hi, Cristy,

    I really appreciate that. They surely need our prayers, since my sisters are working in high-risk facilities, and are daily exposed to patients with coronavirus.

    Thank you for including them in your prayers.



    April 23, 2020 at 12:51 pm

  5. Dear Matt,

    Not sure why I do not get this on my gmail anymore, but this is another email I can be reached at.

    Thank You so very much for being still for us all and especially for this suffering world. You are special and your stillness does shine.

    The picture to your above post I noticed once over my left shoulder while attending worship at a Quaker Meeting House. I recalled that this morning while contemplating what you shared. And this came to me, which came as I meditated on the Cross and the words of Christ now. Perhaps it is a Koan.

    “Jesus said To carry the Cross, not to wear it.”

    In that I hope and pray for a protection for all who love and trust JESUS. And that HIS Divine Mercy be realized in this suffering world.

    God Bless,


    Christopher Horn

    April 27, 2020 at 5:46 am

  6. Dear Christopher,

    I am not sure how email subscription works in WordPress. It’s supposed to be automatic. At any rate, you may try to subscribe again using another email address.

    Thank you for your kind words. This COVID-19 has been brought home to me with such force and clarity, because family and friends have been affected, including my sisters who are nurses. Both are based in California. One of them works in assisted-living facility, and another in a prison hospital. Both have been tested (finally!). One was found negative from the virus, while my other sister is still waiting for the results. Just yesterday, my Mom, who also lives in the U.S., informed me that the eldest daughter of one of our family friends, who works as a physiotherapist in New York, was rushed to the hospital and was tested positive for COVID-19.

    I can only sit in meditation for them and for those affected by this deadly and terrible virus, and entrust them to the God’s mercy and love.

    My prayer is that Jesus’ Divine Mercy will touch all of them and bring healing to all of them in these difficult and trying times.

    Keep safe, Christopher. God bless you and your family…



    April 27, 2020 at 7:20 pm

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