Practicing With Illness–Like the Old Days

Happy day to you, friends!

It’s great to be back on my feet today after a week of illness, and I’ll tell you that I’ve had an interesting time over here as I’ve practiced my way through the experience. If you don’t mind, I’d like to share with you a few things that I became aware of this past week. It ended up being a profound and helpful time for me, and I’ve come through the experience with a renewed vision for my practice and my life going forward.

Whenever I’m sick I’m reminded of my time at the monastery. At the monastery, once a monk became ill they went into their hermitage and didn’t come out until they were well. Food was brought to us each day and left on our doorstep, and that was the extent of our human interaction, if you can even call that ‘interaction’. We had no way to distract ourselves from whatever pain or discomfort we were going through, and so we could do nothing but simply be with the experience, moment by moment as it passed, day by day. Ironically, some of my sweetest memories from that time in my life were from those days when I was sick, and the long, dreamy hours during which I watched the day pass outside the window of my hermitage. It was a special opportunity to be forced to attend to myself in that way, and I’m grateful to have had the experience.

These days I have a world of distraction at my fingertips, of course, and so if I’m going to be present with myself in discomfort it’s a moment by moment choice rather than a necessity. I don’t hold on to a perspective that says it’s a bad thing to give oneself some relief at times during illness through the use of media of different kinds. This past week I listened to a lecture series on Middle Ages in England, and enjoyed it thoroughly (I’m an enthusiastic history buff, as you may or may not know). I do hold a perspective, however, that it’s not a good or helpful thing to abandon ourselves when we are in discomfort, whether that comes from illness or any other source, and that the work of practice asks us to be present with ourselves and care for ourselves spiritually and emotionally while we go through difficult things. And so this past week I spent many, many hours in simple silence. Whenever the sun was shining I laid on a blanket outside, soaking in the warmth, and either sleeping or gazing up into the branches of the trees, with the blue sky behind them. At other times, when it was cold or dark, I laid in my bed with a candle burning. Those times were beautiful and precious to me, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to just let go into the experience I was having and take care of myself in that way. I feel for those who’s responsibilities will not allow them to relax into such a place of simple self-care. It’s a precious gift.

As I said, there was an unexpected movement during all those hours of quiet within my heart and mind. I came to see where I am in my life, currently, in a new way, and I have some ideas about what I’d like to invest my life force into going forward. I’m out of space right now, however, so I’ll tell you about that tomorrow….

Thanks for being out there, folks! Thank you for your practice, and being the beautiful people that you are. More soon!

In peace,