YOUTH IN FOCUS: I am a trainee medical staff (brother) in a hospital, but my parents are against me working here. They think that the work is tough and the salary not so high and they want me to do something else. However, I somehow feel that there is value in the job and so I want to continue. What does Lam think?

ST, Tashigang

Your parents are correct in their assessment of hospital work – it is very demanding and the salaries are not high when compared to many other careers. However, you need to think what is important in your life – is it money or satisfaction? In this respect, you should consider the role of money with regard to human life. If wealth equals contentment, then every rich person would be content, but that is not the case, right?

There is certainly no denying that a good salary can bring material benefits, but it is only part of the equation. Even if you are the richest person in the world, you will not be at peace if, for example, there is mistrust within your family or you suffer ill health. Also, when you are old and dying will it really matter how much property you once owned or that you had an expensive car?

Definitely, working in a hospital is tough, but it can also be very rewarding and a means to inspire others. However, to uncover the positive aspects of the job, you need to have the right mindset. In this regard it would be helpful if you could start each day by contemplating advice such as this from HH Dalai Lama:

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”

While these words represent the noblest of intentions, they are difficult to implement immediately and so we need a means to gradually transform our minds. While there are many ways to accomplish this, in the context of hospital work perhaps cultivating these six altruistic and wisdom-based qualities is appropriate: generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, focus and wisdom.

To start, let’s examine generosity and compassion. When you are inundated with people needing your attention day after day, many of whom are in a bad mood due to illness, it is easy to lose touch with reality and become harsh. To prevent this from occurring, you can repeatedly remind yourself that every patient you meet is someone’s mother, father or child. Further to this, you can consider how you would like your own family members to be treated if they visit a hospital. Would you like them to be treated with indifference and spoken to harshly or would you hope that they are dealt with kindly and with respect.

Discipline, diligence and perseverance should also be cultivated based on understanding – otherwise there is a strong possibility that instead of leading to a positive result, it will actually be the cause of a self-righteous and cold attitude. Likewise, if you merely tough out the bad days, you are very likely to burn out quickly.

In this respect, perhaps contemplating this simple example will help make your work sustainable: When you travel from Thimphu to Bumthang you will pass over bright mountain passes and through dark valleys. With introspection, you realise that you cannot have mountains without valleys and that everything you encounter is equally part of the journey. Similarly, you can understand that inspired days cannot exist without tough days. If you can think like this, you will be more willing to accept that both tough and pleasant situations are equally part of your work and that it is your job to kindly and skillfully deal with every single patient who walks through the hospital door, not only the peaceful, co-operative ones.

Anyway, you basically need to consider what you want from life. If you conclude that money is important, then you should ask yourself why you desire money. Maybe it is because you believe that it can be exchanged for goods and services that will lead to a more enjoyable and content life. However, if your job and daily-life already bring you contentment and mental peace, then you have already achieved your goal. Money will just be a bonus.

As it is impossible to adequately discuss how to develop qualities such as generosity, patience etc in a short article like this, I recommend that you read these teachings:”

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

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