Trudy Goodman

From Trudy

Seeing God

At the beginning of each of our retreats for professional caregivers who work at the bedside of the critically ill and dying, I tell a true story about the nurses and doctors who saved my daughter’s life when she was 2 ½ and I was 24. I was studying with a developmental psychologist named Jean Piaget at the Institut des Sciences de l’Education in Geneva, Switzerland when my little girl came down with the most virulent kind of bacterial Meningitis that you can have: Haemophilus B. After she was admitted to the children’s hospital, I was told, “Your child is dying.”

She survived (and went on to thrive!), but she was in a coma for 10 days and in the hospital for 2 ½ months, and her doctors couldn’t know how she would recover. Would she be able to hear? To walk? Learn to read? It was terrifying. Even when she was unconscious, I would sit next to her limp little body, so small in the hospital bed, tied to tubes and catheters and sing soft songs into her ear. I felt she was listening as I willed her to live; this was before we knew that people in a coma often can and do hear. It was years before I learned to meditate.

A few times after she regained consciousness, the IV’s in her little veins collapsed and she coded. An emergency team of six doctors and nurses would quickly gather around her bedside. One scary afternoon, I was sitting in her room, numb and transfixed, helplessly watching them all bending over her tiny frame, resuscitating, reviving, rewiring her IV’s, finding another tiny vein. Something in the atmosphere suddenly shifted. The whole room was saturated with grace. I felt without a doubt that this is what we call God, this compassionate activity of love and tenderness, embodied by the nurses and doctors working to save my little daughter’s life.

She had to learn to walk again, arms upstretched to hold my two hands for balance, taking slow, shivery steps down the hospital corridor. She had to learn to do many things that came easily before, all over again. But now I knew – whatever we call this presence of grace, God, Spirit, True Nature, the sacred magic of LIFE – is not only found in a temple or church or mosque. We can see God/Goddess right here, right now – even in the midst of great suffering – always manifesting as love and compassion.

A few years later in 1974, I formally ordained as a lay Zen Buddhist. In Zen meditation training, as in the teachings of mindfulness, there is no idea of a Goddess or God separate from our own hearts, a being who resides somewhere up in the heavens or out in the galaxies far away from earthly existence. We discover that our very being is sacred. This very body is the holy land, the body of the Buddha; this very place is heaven or hell – depending to how we perceive and respond to this moment. Today, decades later, my deepest wish is that the practices you learn at InsightLA help you connect with your own gratitude and grace-full presence. We are all part of this great dance of LIFE taking care of LIFE.