You will never be able to escape from your heart,
so it is better to listen to what it has to say.
~ Paul Coelho – Author of novel, The Alchemist
Maintaining a healthy body and mind is hard work, as well as a mindful practice. With every bite of food, there are amounts of vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are essential to keeping us well. Each bite of food is broken down and absorbed by the vital organs. Our body is a mechanical machine and we have to keep this machine in good working order.
An essential functioning for the body is through blood flow because the blood flows throughout the body. Our blood provides the body with cells filled with oxygen and helps to expel the bad air of carbon dioxide from our system.
Blood is a mode of transportation for nutrients and hormones. Blood flow regulates our body temperature. The platelets in the blood help to clot the blood, particularly during an injury. Our blood also brings water products to the kidneys and liver. It also supplies oxygen to the lungs and other cells in the body. Our white blood cells are a disease-fighting component. When we need these while blood cells, they multiply they help in healing an infection or inflammation.
It is common knowledge that blood is important and everyone has blood and a blood type. It does not matter if one is rich or poor, male or female, tall or short, have lots of hair or not, we all have blood. Everyone fits into one of the categories. There is A positive and negative, which constitutes 40% of the population in the United State. Then there is the B positive and negative that is 11%. Type O positive and negative constitutes a whopping 45% of the population with type AB positive and negative that is only 4%.
I have always known that blood is important, but its functions go well beyond our own lives. That is one reason why SLO Buddhist Church has lent its facility (social hall) for 5 blood drives. The first was held in December 2019 and then every 3 to 4 months until December 2020. The drive was open to our members, as well as to the community.
The overall total donation of blood was 124 units, which can save approximately 374 lives. One unit of blood or one pint can be used to save three lives. However due to the virus, blood supply has been an all-time low and any blood donation is so important to those in dire need. Whole blood only has a shelf life of only 42 days.
Once blood is given, it can be broken down into several components. The blood bank separates the blood into red blood cells, which is most frequently used for blood transfusions. These red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. It is used in surgery; in severe accidents, for some cancer patients or in people with anemia.
Our blood can also be broken down into plasma. It is the yellowish liquid that holds the blood cells of the whole blood in suspension. This is the fluid that carries cells and protein throughout the body. Plasma is 55% of our body’s total blood volume. It is used for trauma victims, in burn victims, those suffering from shock, those with severe liver disease or those with multiple clotting factor disorders. It can help patients boost their blood volume and help to build up the clotting of blood. Those with AB positive and negative blood types are considered universal donors for plasma.
Platelets are another important component in donating blood. Platelets allow our blood to clot and this clotting can help people control bleeding. It is used for burn victims, in premature babies, organ transplants, and some cancer treatments. It is in constant need for it only has a shelf life of 5 days.
Although I hate needles, the experience was not as I anticipated. The register nurse and phlebotomists made it comfortable and put one at ease. I thought it would hurt, but they explained each step and would tell me that I would feel a slight pinch. Before I knew it I was giving blood. The best part of the drive was the snacks and water. They encouraged us to eat as many snacks as we wanted and drink a lot of water. They must have known I was donating because they had my favorite crackers and cookies. Oh yum!!
Even though I have only been able to donate once and have walked the path of shame four times, I keep trying. I continue to build up my iron by eating well and staying healthy, so that one day maybe my blood can help someone live a longer and better life. I continue to fulfill my quest.
Those people who receive blood are strangers, but that should not make any difference. It is our teachings that show us our true self. We donate, not out of ego or pride, but out of compassion for those who are weaker than ourselves. We listen to the teachings and practice the art of sharing. It is our caring of others and our protecting a life. We listen to the teachings and practice what true giving means.
We can call ourselves a hero, but that is not the reason we donate. It is following the Buddha’s teachings of selfless giving. It is our hearts and minds that speak to us. It tells us that we have the ability and capability to be kind and gentle to all living thing. We can learn to protect those who are weaker than our selves. We can change our thinking, change our selfish ways and learn to speak with kinder words. We have taken that one step of doing a pure and beautiful deed by sharing with others, without the interference of ego.
It is our Namu Amida Butsu/Nembutsu in gratitude and thankfulness that we have the opportunity and ability to be able to reach out to others. We are beginning to understand the teachings and how it works through our actions. We have been shared help along our way and maybe this is the time we extend our helping hearts to those in need. We are learning slowly, surely and with wisdom and compassion for others. It is Namu Amida Butsu.
Gassho Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakano