What to do when someone you love is ill - and there is nothing you can do to treat or help with the illness?
There are of course many things to do, and yet we can not do anything about the illness, about all sorts of other conditions they must go through. This question is all the more so when we/they are at a distance. Many of us have faced this and might right now be in this situation.
This is exactly suffering, the unsatisfactoriness of ever changing conditions. This is the birth, sickness, old age, death that is our life.
What to do where there is nothing to do "about" circumstances, about affecting the changes that we "want"? In a world of conditions changing and often being other than what we want, other than the condition we are attached to, this is a fundamental life question, a fundamental practice question. We may have things we can do, or at least think we can, think we should have things to do. Good. Do what you see as best. But what to do when you find that there is no thing you can do?
Our practice opportunity is this moment, being this body mind condition and yet not being caught by our likes or dislikes, grief, over the condition. Doing so, we can enter this and also leave this, so that we can be this without having to react to this, without getting "caught" by this. Only then can we do our life in the midst of our life.
This is difficult and painful concerning the conditions of people we love or are close to. This applies as well to the "way" the world is, the conditions of war, peace and violence, and to our ideas of what would be best, 'right' or just in political, social and economic circumstances.
My adult daughter is in UK and ill. Being here in the US, there isn't anything I can do to assist her with needed medical treatment. Even if she were close by, this illness is a reminder of the limits of what we can and can not do about circumstances, our own or others. The ongoing impermanence of sickness is reality. And there are many things one can do, whether close by or at a distance, to support and compassionately respond, empathically join with others, in the midst of ongoing change, impermanence.
This is not a new concern - there is the story in the time of Shakyamuni Buddha of Kisa Gotami and her dead child, her extreme grief and suffering about this. She wanted the Buddha to bring her child back to life, to relieve her suffering. We want and don't want all sorts of things, in the midst of ongoing change which is itself Buddha nature, this cause and effect impermanence which is itself Buddha's teaching of the nature of reality. And the Buddha's teaching enabled Kisa Gotami to clarify suffering, embrace the grief and suffering, live "through" the suffering so that it no longer bound her.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kisa_Gotami, http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/btg/btg85.htm )
The history of Buddha himself includes his own family and clan being wiped out in war despite his best efforts.
Always our task is to see what to do in the midst of the conditions and circumstances that tug at us, at reactive habits, at fears, grief, sense of justice, a "need" to do something.
This is where our practice is.
Can we see where attachment and stress are blinding us from being present, from being what is so, from seeing what is so, from seeing what to do? Experiencing this moment, then from this doing, even not doing, are exactly the opportunity for skillful action, for our particular humanness to manifest.
Can we manifest who and what we truly are, manifest and reveal the wisdom and compassion that we are, what we are capable of right now?
(c) 2011 Elihu Genmyo Smith