The practice of patience is acknowledging that feelings take time to process; limiting time may not be the best option for every client. Lama Yeshe mentions three types of patience: patience when harmed by others when we are suffering, and keeping concentration. Lama Yeshe’s definition of patience when we are harmed by others includes being harmed physically and mentally but not reacting by getting angry or harming them in return. That immediately sparked in my mind when I had the situation with my tea group. At the time I did not know how to react so I chose not to react or respond at all. I did not necessarily realize that would have been a practice of my patience.
Practicing diligence is letting our relationships build on follow-up interactions, not just leaving them to grow like plants. One session does not always solve the issue, or else clients may think that we do not care about them. This is the same for our own individual practice. No matter how much we can care for others, we still need time to care for ourselves. I honestly felt different about self-care and did not realize its importance until I began to go deeper into chaplaincy work. I was at Tzu Chi working at a mega health fair where there were about 8,000 patients and over 3,000 volunteers in attendance. I was the volunteer coordinator so there was a lot of work before, during, and after the event in order to keep all the volunteers in order. My hours during the weeklong fair were literally to go in before the sun came up and to leave when the moon was up. I was already drowning in the pool of burn-out and I lost all motivation for life altogether. There were times that I would want to hide in a corner and let the tears roll off my eyes because I was that tired. I took a few days off after the fair and did absolutely nothing. I did not communicate with anyone at all. That did not feel good either, so I later picked up a sutra text and started reading it, after reading the text I got up and started to do things I liked like cooking, brewing tea, walking in the park. My mind was off work but it was doing more than letting me sit at home with a dead mind. When I came back to work I felt more energized and fully charged for the next task at hand. That was when I realized the importance of caring for myself.
Through the practice of meditation, I can build upon the self and care for others whether physically or remotely via contemplative practice. Venerable Master Hsing Yun in his book For All Living Beings talks about the Song dynasty poet Su Tung Po and his description on the stages of enlightenment in his poetry. The main theme of the poems is the mountains and rivers have not changed much; it is the mind’s view of the mountains and rivers that change. Just like we already have the ability to meet the same Buddha at the same frequency, our minds just cannot get ourselves to break through the ice and fog which is our ignorance. Even for myself, I have to reflect and think about how I interact with people, that is probably one of the most common subjects I meditate on, I also practice meditation through chanting, brewing tea, burning incense molds, and calligraphy. Through these methods of meditative concentration, I constantly reflect on what would be the best way to present my best self for the benefit of the client and for all beings.
When the practices of the entire aforementioned are in motion, then the practice of wisdom can be activated. Thich Nhat Hanh refers to this perfection as the perfection of understanding. The perfection of understanding is not only the understanding that we are normally accustomed to, but a very deep understanding, the highest kind of understanding that is free from ordinary knowledge, concepts, ideas, and views. In Sanskrit, this is the Prajnaparamita. Thich Nhat Hanh used the example of loving someone and that if we can offer understanding to someone we care about, then that is true love. My take on that is when the client and I reach common ground, then we can grow together. This is when the ice has melted and the fog has disbursed, Cold Mountain appears after all. Like going through the tearful experience of peeling through the layers and layers of an onion, Buddha Nature is found.
In the end, whose ice am I trying to melt? Whose fog am I trying to disperse? Am I awakening the Buddha Nature in the client or in myself? Chaplaincy may look like a one-way street, but it is actually a development of both parties. With that, I would like to dedicate any merit generated from this practice to all suffering beings, may they find the Cold Mountain in themselves.
May palms be joined together in every world expressing kindness, compassion, joy, and giving.
May all beings find security in friendship, peace, and loving care.
May calm and mindful practice seed patience and deep equanimity.
May we give rise to spacious hearts and humble thoughts of gratitude.
 Lama Yeshe. “The Six Perfections.” Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive. March 03, 2017. Accessed December 05, 2017. https://www.lamayeshe.com/article/chapter/six-perfections.
 Xingyun. For all living beings: a guide to Buddhist practice. Translated by Robert Smitheram. New Delhi: Buddha Light Art and Living, 2011.