by Sue DeGregorio-Rosen, RN, CLNC, Contributing Editor
In the early 1990’s I began to study Buddhism. I had been fortunate enough to work with a gentle and very attractive man by the name of Carlos who I worked with in an inner-city Emergency-Trauma Department. He, like me, was a dedicated RN, and when we talked, we talked about Buddhism and what it all meant. He shared what he had learned to become a better practitioner, and a better man. He told me that he had learned in Buddhism there are Four Noble Truths, truths we could apply to our lives and to the lives of others – life is suffering and that everything changes. He pointed out that one must realize the causes of suffering are attachment, desire, craving.
Interestingly, at least for me at the time, he suggested that we must recognize that it’s possible to end suffering, and to do so requires one to take the necessary steps to end our own suffering. Those steps are the right understanding, right attitude, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. It’s about intentions, breath, and the love we share.
The meaning is to use our own inner wisdom, our own thoughts to help us to decrease personal suffering of others, but most importantly, our own. We maintained our connection and in 1999, Carlos and I had the opportunity to participate with a group of fellow RNs who were receiving teachings and healings at a 10-day intensive course with the Dalai Lama right in the same city of NY where we both worked. We jumped at the opportunity to join them.
Carlos and I had grown close to each other. He would pick me up before our shift began, and always seemed to put my needs first, whether it be a cup of coffee or just a smile and a tight hug. He was always present and that encouraged me to be always ready for what the day may bring.
One of the first things that stood out to us, when we began this course was that the Dalai Lama was present and ready before everybody else every single day. He was in class pretty much before everybody else, every day. It was such a unique experience with such a gifted healer.
Carlos held my hand during those 10 days of intensive work. We would often stop at a local coffee shop and discuss what we had felt that day, and how precious our time together had become.
He was humble enough to understand that we, as much as we wanted to be, were valuable. And that we too were learning real humility in our practice. We were learning about love and we were exploring this journey together. There were no coincidences in his mind and we would find the purpose of this journey.
One evening when Carlos had driven me home, I invited him to come up to my apartment with me. I had never done that before, but I wanted him to know me, to see me, where I live, who I am besides a woman who shared a hectic work environment, that I was more than just a friend with some shared interests. He did, and I made us both a cup of hot cocoa as we made our way to my cozy, but small couch. I was feeling so good that night, and we discussed how our jobs taught us much about what we were dissecting and willing to improve in our practice. caring for the sick and injured. We talked for hours on end about our experiences, our lives, but we both noted that we had an early shift in the morning. I walked my friend to the door, as it was time……. and then he kissed me, softly, first on my neck, then my check and ever so softly on my lips said good night and he left.
I wasn’t sure what just happened, but it was sweet and hadn’t gone any further, knowing full well that it could have.
The next morning, Carlos picked me up for work and was his usual self. I, on the other hand, was not. I had spent half of the night tossing and turning wondering if he wanted me, did he want to take this kiss and explore any other possibilities? Did I? I wondered if he noticed how he affected me. I had never set any boundaries with him before, hadn’t ever thought about it, there was no need to, but now what?
It was time for work, and time to stop fantasizing, although I was finding it somewhat enjoyable……and so we went to work. But I started to notice that when we would pass each other in our busyness of care, that our eyes would lock in a different way. The day went on, and tonight was our last night with the Dalai Lama. What would this night mean? Would he kiss me again? Would I kiss him back? Would we touch each other in places that only lovers touch? Would he make me ache for him, as I did right now? Ok, enough!
We left together, as usual and we were both quiet on our ride to class. Carlos, always the gentleman, walked around the car to open the door and put his hand out for me to hold. and I wondered, almost out loud, if he heard the difference in the sound of my voice that said, ” I want you”.
We walked in together and took our seats. We prayed as we usually did at the beginning of our class. I felt centered. I glanced over at my friend, and could see he was feeling the same peace, breathing and content. I had to struggle to listen, my mind was so distracted. I wanted to make love to this man. So, I took the liberty of placing my hand on his man’s thigh. He looked at me, and he smiled. He took my hand and squeezed it. My hand found its way to his inner thigh and I felt him relax. We both continued to listen intently, to be in the presence of such a gifted healer was breathtaking, I was sorry it was ending but when we ended the message came.
” Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”
And then we both knew. We knew at that moment that we were both survivors…………and whatever this was, whether it be love or compassion for each other, it was time to explore the possibilities.