"Each of us has been, or someday could be, Lazarus. Each one of us could be the person who emerges from the tomb of our own serious illness, life crisis, or other catastrophe," writes Lewis Richmond, a Buddhist teacher, entrepreneur, and author of the bestseller Work as a Spiritual Practice. In 1999, when this book begins, he is no stranger to illness. He had battled with cancer fifteen years earlier, spending a year receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Now at the age of 52, Richmond is struck down by an acute and life-threatening case of viral encephalitis.
The author describes himself as "a quick-witted workaholic who coped with the crises of my life . . . by relying on my brain power, energy, and problem-solving ability." None of these resources were of any use as he lay helplessly in a coma for ten days. Doctors told him later that the dreams he had during this period probably saved his life.
In each chapter of this combination memoir and spiritual resource on the healing journey, Richmond imagines vignettes from the life of Lazarus after he was rescued from death by Jesus of Nazareth. The author shares some of the strategies he used during his 20-day stay in intensive care and a year of recuperation.
Richmond salutes fear as an ally, expresses gratitude for those who prayed for him, admits how difficult it was to surrender to the ministrations of others, works through the sadness over his lost identity and shattered sense of self, tries out the yoga of pleasure as a healing balm, and valiantly struggles to practice patience, one of the six Buddhist virtues.
The high drama of his illness registers on our consciousness, and reading this account, we find ourselves upset by the setbacks that occur during his arduous path back to health and heartened by his persistent quest for wholeness. Richmond plows through a sensory fog, a limited attention span, insomnia at night, and anxiety during the day. For a person used to pushing the river, time just won't speed up or be coerced. Yet he perseveres drawing strength and truth from the experience. Healing Lazarus will be good medicine for all those who are willing to be open to the fragility and preciousness of life.