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Lotus in the Fire [Paperback]

Jim Bedard
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 9 1999
In 1995, Jim Bedard, a martial artist and Zen student, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and given ten days to live. This is the story of how he used his spiritual strength to bring himself into full contact with a death sentence as well as with painful medical treatment, including chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. It is also the inspiring story of how the faith of his family, Zen teacher, close friends, and the Buddhist community helped him.

Bedard's story introduces us to Zen practices that can help us cope with emotional turmoil and physical pain. His words on compassion, on karma, on gratitude, on impermanence and the inevitability of death—all from a nonsmoking, meditating, aerobically fit vegetarian who became suddenly and "terminally" ill—are inspiring and sometimes funny. He explores, too, the fundamental question of suffering, its cause, and how the teachings of karma can help us accept illness, ultimately using it as an opportunity to deepen our spiritual lives.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In this remarkable document, Canadian writer Bedard tells how his Zen Buddhist faith helped him overcome terminal cancer. Diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 1995, and given just seven to 10 days to live, Bedard drew upon meditation, prayer, introspection and chanting during months of hospitalization that included devastating rounds of chemotherapy, gallbladder surgery, radiotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. For Bedard, an ex-Catholic turned Buddhist, a vegetarian and a former martial arts teacher who works at the Toronto Zen Center, illness became a spiritual crisis that broke down walls of stubborn self-reliance, egoism, attachment and perfectionism. Now in complete remission, he describes his uncanny out-of-body experiences while in an ICU, as well as a near-death experience that he claims took him to otherworldly realms, confirming his belief that death is only a transition period before one's next rebirth. Through the prism of his harrowing ordeal, he illumines Buddhist concepts of compassion, balance and mind/body unity. Bedard's conviction that karma from present and past lifetimes contributed to causing his disease is a diagnosis with which many will disagree, yet his riveting, taut and very moving survivor's story will appeal to readers of all faiths. A wake-up call to live life to the fullest, told with modest understatement and no New Age jargon, his book will inspire patients and their families coping with illness, as well as anyone coming to terms with death.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In late August 1995, a 42-year-old father of four listened in disbelief as his doctor pronounced a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia. He might have fewer than two weeks to live. In this intimate, sobering, sometimes frightening account, Canadian martial artist Bedard chronicles the precipitous deterioration of his health, life-threatening chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the excruciating pain caused by his damaged gallbladder, and several battles with imminent death. More than a celebration of his eventual victory over the disease, this book offers a real message of spiritual growth and hope. Throughout his year-long ordeal, he drew upon years of Zen practice, particularly his understanding of the law of karma, and the loving support of his family, his Zen teacher, and the Buddhist community. A powerful, personal testimony suitable for popular collections on death and dying.AJames R. Kuhlman, Univ. of North Carolina at Asheville Lib.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Healing Power of Introspection May 3 2001
One of the poems quoted in this book, which begins the Ninth Chapter, goes in part as follows: "All night long / I cannot sleep. / Rising and sitting, / I think a thousand thoughts... / Only by observing / the state where there is no birth / can I remove these teardrops / from the wet sleeves of my robe." These eight simple lines form the essence of the message of this book, based upon the 1995 experiences of a Canadian Zen practitioner, Jim Bedard, who was diagonosed with acute myeloide leukemia (AML) and given ten days to live. It is the story of how he used his Zen practice to bring himself into full contact with the inevitability of his own death while at the same time having to deal with painful medical treatments which included a bone marrow transplant and life taxing chemotherapy.
While the experiences written about in this book explain how this one man used his exposure and grounding in the spiritual practice of Zen Buddhism to help him get through his unthinkable physical ordeal, the alert reader will notice that spiritual practice, whatever it may by, can not only help us transcend such trials in our lives, but also help us to understand and experience our practice in a deeper and more profound way such that it becomes a life transforming event in itself.
What Jim Bedard's experience of fighting AML taught him and what he struggled to understand were the very truths he had worked with in Zen, only this time in a life-threatening, three dimensional way. At one point he admits that, "Each of us had to do the work of awakening to our true Mind by ourselves; no one was going to do it for us."
He was in essence put up against a solid wall, his own mortality, and asked to look inside himself for the key to his release.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Blossoming of the Lotus in the Fire March 10 2000
How each of us faces our individual life challenges varies for we are as individual as our ventures. This is the story of one man's unanticipated journey into and through an unexpected illness, namely leukemia and the hidden treasures of his experience. The rollercoaster of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual change called for his attention all at once.
The indignations of procedures and reactions are vividly recalled. He tells of the everyday back and forth torment of his inner dialogue from his human state of suffering, feelings, thoughts and sensations, etc. to the divine acceptance of taking refuge in his Zen practices. The reader is riveted with attention as he weaves back and forth ackowledging the human suffering and then expanding to other realms of existence where he gained new insights from the perspective of the ill and the divine.
His continuing responsibilities and concerns about his family along with their daily adjustments and his brother's ultimate gift in the form of a bone marrow transplant are part of this engaging story. Their watch at his bedside and his mother's strong faith became anchors of strength along with the stoic presence of his father and other siblings.
His illness becomes his spiritual practice while he continues to touch lives from his hospital bed. Encounters with the terminally ill and their families and his extending of unconditional love to them by example is evident as they are allowed glimpses into the life of a devoted buddhist practitioner. He sets up his own altar in his hospital room as his spiritual practices sustain him. He engages the bodhisattvic vows which culminate in his gradual transition from the hell realms back into the world transformed in the midst of his critical illness.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Transcendence of Suffering April 13 1999
The existentialist Gabriel Marcel (he called himself rather a "Christian Socratic") wrote, "One thing is plain to me. Having is always the way in which I give suffering a hold upon me." For Jim Bedard, the special dimension of his "having" had long been his unusual physical vitality, honed by years of exercise, good diet and yoga. Thus Bedard was perhaps uniquely set up for suffering when, within a week of cutting logs and splitting wood at a wilderness cabin, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Where Marcel ponders "our 'absolute having' of our bodies," Bedard recounts the intrusions of intensive medical care: "It was their body: they tended to its needs, bathed it, fed it, inserted tubes, removed tubes and took blood from its arms....I had surrendered my most prized possession to a team of experts...." Marcel, from his western philosophical standpoint, affirms that "being can assert its transcendency over having." Bedard, grounded in his long-standing practice of Zen, proves it to be true. The "transcendency of being," on which both men might agree, is realized through Bedard's refusal to set himself apart from his circumstances and his deep sense of connectedness with all beings. His is a practice of no-having. He repeatedly asks, "Who is aware of this fear? Who am I really?" In crisis after crisis, it sees him through. This is a compelling account of great personal courage. Bedard does not spare the details, and the characters of the writer and his family, friends and Zen teacher stand out clearly in these pages. The reader comes away unable to forget Bedard's willingness to consider illness as a spiritual practice, and to accept his own impermanence. "Even if I am cured of leukemia, I will be coming back to this bed," he tells his wife the first time he leaves his hospital room. "This bed beckons us all."
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Fresh light on concept of Karma.
I kept wanting him to quit this brutal fight. Something for me to look at. Well written. Shone fresh light on the concept of Karma in action for me. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Susan Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars A true pageturner!
Wow. What an amazing book. I am so glad the author Jim Bedard shared his experience. The book was so moving, so heartfelt. Read more
Published on March 26 2010 by Amy VG
5.0 out of 5 stars this book is very touching..
i couldn't put this book down. it makes you be greatful for the little things in life. recommend highly!
Published on Dec 6 2003 by alicia Sin.
5.0 out of 5 stars This book hit me in my mind and my heart.
I am at 15 year old homschooled girl in Maryland. I have been researching buddhism for the past few months. Read more
Published on Nov. 3 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone Should Read This Book
This is the most moving book I have read in some time. It sums up what courage and faith are all about. Read more
Published on June 16 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating guidance for the injured and the ill!
I was injured in a car accident almost two years ago. Nine months later I spontaneously came to Zen. Read more
Published on April 4 1999 by Barbara Alsop (alsop@together.net)
5.0 out of 5 stars Transcending suffering through deep faith and practice.
Arriving at the emergency room of an Ontario hospital to treat what he believed to be an allergy resulting in some minor swelling of his hands and ankles, Jim Bedard discovers that... Read more
Published on March 20 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone who has a body.
This is a travel guide to a place we would never wish to visit, but to which we might be summoned at any moment. Read more
Published on March 17 1999 by Casey Frank
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring account of illness overcome by faith
Mr. Bedard offers an inspirational account of his battle with acute myeloid leukemia. He weaves the story of his illness into the context of his faith, Zen Buddhism. Mr. Read more
Published on March 17 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Spiritual practice, courage and sincerity
This book is a gift: it reveals how a person may grow in wisdom, as well as inspire others, in the way they meet with the intense physical and mental challenges of a serious... Read more
Published on Feb. 22 1999
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