STAND ON THE LEG YOU DONâT KNOW CAN HOLD YOU
STAND ON THE LEG YOU
DONâT KNOW CAN HOLD YOU
by Roshi Eve Myonen Marko
February 2nd, 2016
I continue to watch closely as my husband, Bernie, does physical therapy to strengthen the right side of his body, afflicted by the stroke that sent blood coursing through the left side of his brain. He stands with some difficulty while holding on to a bar with his left hand, and begins to walk slowly while the therapist on the other side helps him step forward with his right leg. Like almost all of us, Bernie assumes that once he walks the legs will go by themselves, so he moves his chest forward thinking the legs are there, only the right one isnât. He canât assume that what worked before is working now. And without much feeling in the right leg, he has little awareness of where it actually is.
I stand behind the two men, feeling how each small scene paints such broad strokes. I myself, who havenât suffered a stroke, also tend to move forward with my upper body ahead of the legs that carry me, ahead of myself, mind working out some future plan or scenario while the body lags behind. I remember Bernie often telling me that Maezumi Roshi, his teacher, used to caution him: âTetsugen, when you move fast, people stumble.â Iâve stumbled. And now Tetsugen, or Bernie as heâs presently known, moves very, very slowly.
The therapist is also concerned that Bernie will favor the left leg, which heâs aware of, over the right: âDonât stand on the leg you know can hold you,â he tells him. âStand on the leg you donât know can hold you.â Let go of what you know, the working limb that gives you confidence, and lean on the other side of the body, the side you donât trust, that you can barely make out is there or not.
âDonât wait for the brain to figure it out, you do it first.â And I remember 1986 when I participated in my first public interview. In that highly ritualized, public ceremony, one student after another approaches the teacher and asks a question. I approached and quoted a verse from the âGate of Sweet Nectarâ liturgy: âI am the Buddhas and they are me,â meaning that I am everyone and everything, and they are me as well.
âI donât believe it,â I told Tetsugen Sensei, as he was known then, âso why should I chant the words?â
âYou donât have to believe it,â he said. âJust keep on chanting.â
More on Bernie’s Recovery on CaringBridge.org
More writings by Eve Marko on Eve’s Blog
Photo by Peter Cunningham: 1980, Bernie Tetsugen Sensei and Taizan Maezumi Roshi, outside of Greyston Mansion in Riverdale, New York.
September 08, 2017
July 19, 2017