by Bev Borton~A health crisis can easily bring about fear and a sense of powerlessness. Being ill is often synonymous with being vulnerable and guarded. It is natural to think of illness as something we have to fight, or beat. Our minds can race in consideration of the negatives. We want to smooth things out; we think that pain and suffering is a mistake- something to get past- when, in fact, they are part of our human condition.
Here is a path of fewer struggles, a kinder path of not seeing ourselves as victims to our conditions. We can become interested and curious about the emotional process we are undertaking as we also seek the medical attention we need. Instead of trying to move past what is uncomfortable, we can use our illness as the ground for discovery about ourselves towards a richer life experience. We can take the present moments, as difficult as they can be, and really live and learn from them.
Ask some people who have been through the worst. They often will say they would not have had it any other way. They now know the aliveness that was only possible through the challenge. They would not wish their circumstances on anyone, but will readily say they are forever changed for the better.
How do we access the hidden wisdom in a health crisis? What can we learn from it? How can we become more courageous, strong, and alive by means of the challenge?
Slow down, and try to be present. Catch yourself and watch yourself in the scramble to find some comfortable ground. The trick is to avoid putting things into the categories of good and bad. You can learn to befriend what you want to push aside. To the greatest extent possible, let your story line and the editorializing go. Stop giving energy to the negatives.
I am reminded of a story I was introduced to when a friend’s son read it at his Bar Mitzvah, which is memorable because of its unending applications in life. Perhaps you know it.
“That Depends” is about a poor farmer who loses his horse, to which the neighbors react, “That’s terrible!” The farmer answers, “That depends”. Then several wild horses show up near his house. The neighbors weigh in, “That’s wonderful!” The farmer’s reply is the same, “That depends”. The farmer’s son begins to tame the horses, falls, and breaks his leg. The neighbors say, “Oh, how horrible!” The farmer’s response is the same. The next day the army comes calling for able bodied men, and rejects the son. “That’s wonderful!” On goes the story. The point? What is good or bad when put into a broader context, that which is unknown to us at the time?
Can you see your illness without thinking of it as the enemy? Try leaning into the crummy feelings that arise and, instead of pushing them away, witness them as they pass through; they will. Have compassion for yourself. It’s very daring and courageous to actually accept the current unpleasantness and the unknown. This is looking at life as it really is- full of constant change, shift, and ambiguity.
Ever tried to dance on a shifting carpet? By being shaken out of what we thought was our security, we become more alert and awake. We test our true ability to live. Being ill offers the opportunity to consider all things greater- that which is greater than the dis-ease we are experiencing, greater than “poor me”, greater than what could have been, greater than the guilt and the judgments that tend to arise. Encountering fears like this is where real courage and healing emerges. What we truly value comes to the fore. Love can overtake the fear. There may not always be a cure, but there will be healing.
Breathe. Breathe in deeply. Don’t hold on so tight. Don’t run away. Trust. Know that there is great wisdom for you in what seems to be ugly, unwanted or problematic. The only enemy here may be the protection you once thought you needed. You are wonderful just the way you are, and just the way you are not. Discover and love your true self in this way.