Pema, mi Maestra

Jose Marti
We would need reminders of our commitment in the days ahead.

“In the morning when you wake up, you reflect on the day ahead and aspire to use it to keep a wide open heart and mind. At the end of the day, before you go to sleep, you think over what you have done. If you fulfill your aspiration, even once, rejoice in that. If you went against your aspiration, rejoice that you are able to see what you did and are no longer living in ignorance. This way you will be inspired to go forward with increasing clarity, confidence, and compassion in the days that follow.” Pema Chodron

I’ve written before about my belief that life is what it is. No amount of screaming, waving, kicking or fighting changes it. So now I was taking the exam I had been practicing for.

When I first entered rehab in the hospital, my daughter brought me a card with the above words by Pema. It struck a deep chord within me and I had her tape it to the mirror in my room. What would happen if I could grant myself compassion in the following days weeks and months of my recovery? Wasn’t it something to strive for? I might even be able to grant compassion to my family and friends. It was the first time on this road for all of us.

We all tried to keep a positive attitude as shown in my room decor: photos of running, mountain climbing and young love.

Vision board from the past – how much was possible for the future?

My vision boards from a few years ago made by myself and my family were prominent additions as was a new inspirational poem from my granddaughter:

“S is for strong and spontaneous
T is for tenacious
R is for radiant
O is for outgoing optimist
K is for kind-hearted + knowledgeable
E is for empowered, enlightened encouraging, extraordinary, and always evolving.

See! A stroke can be a good thing. I love you. Thinking of you 😘”

Granting compassion had a lot to do with progress (or not) each day. I tried to be happy if I could stay awake five minutes longer. Joy was being able to walk to the end of the hall instead of halfway. I was pleased if I could lift my legs correctly from bed instead of feeling like beached whale.

Sometimes I couldn’t see progress. The therapist would tell me that they felt my hand trying to move – I couldn’t. Everyone gave me pep talks. They reminded me that I was a “two-person transfer*” when I entered the hospital.

I suppose those were dark days for my family. But they didn’t seem so to me. I didn’t, and I still don’t, consider my stroke a tragic event. It has changed for me forever. I may recover physically, but I will always see life differently. The effort it takes to move through my day is a lesson in humility. Sometimes the effort brings me to tears. Sometimes makes me smile or laugh. But it always makes me grateful.

Teaching my brain to reach out to my hand and make my finger move is a mysterious thing. Will my brain totally get that message? I don’t know. I would like to be like Pema Chodron and have compassion. I can’t always do that but I can try. Life is the daily aspiration.


* it took two people to move me from my bed to any destination.


  1. I wish you speedy recovery.

    My take on compassion that Pema talks about is that you should have a great deal of it for
    yourself to start with. Most of us however consider compassion as being our attitude for others whereas in the Buddhist system, at least as taught to be my meditation teacher, it is first compassion for oneself before it can set in and allow compassion for all other beings. This was borne out by my late wife’s cardiologist who used to impress on me the need for me to look after myself to avoid becoming his patient too.


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