A health care memoir focused on the training I needed to face the suffering of my patients, my family, and myself


Gordon Greene, PhD

Head Priest, Spring Green Dojo, Spring Green, Wisconsin

Clinical Professor of Family Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

Night Chaplain (retired), Meriter Hospital, Madison, Wisconsin



We don’t know how to suffer. We know how to avoid suffering. And, many people have learned to survive suffering. But if you don’t know how to suffer, your ability to help those who are suffering is limited. The most common responses include detachment, distortion, or immediate efforts to problem-solve, rarely effective. How can we change this?


Starting from the moment that my son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy twenty-five years ago, I painfully learned that most of the people seeking to provide care to my son and my family hadn’t learned how to suffer and remained unnecessarily separated from us. As a freshly minted Zen Buddhist teacher and a new medical school faculty member at the time of his birth I was compelled to learn how those professions learn to face the suffering at the core of those they encounter


In this book I focus on that learning, using the context of three intense months of chaplaincy training to interweave stories from my own Zen training, from the training of medical students, with my training as a chaplain.


My focus is on the physicality of the work of facing suffering. Don’t face it with your beliefs or your thoughts. Face it with your whole body. Hard to wrestle without it. When you use your breath, your posture, your senses, a more muscular form of caring emerges, one that has strength and sensitivity in extreme conditions and one that helps prevent burn-out.


The book will have meaning to the tens of thousands of people training as physicians, as chaplains and as Zen priests every year. But there is also a much broader audience that I have begun to reach through presentations at places as diverse as Oxford University and a Consciousness Hacking Meetup in Silicon Valley.


Softcover edition of Facing Suffering now available for easy ordering from your independent bookstore or from Amazon.