Things I’m learning by practicing with injury and illness, Part III

May 03, 2018
pale leaf floating on water with the title Reflections on Inner Peace, Outer Peace

What stories are you believing and telling about life?

This may be the last of the current series on practicing with injury and illness. Not that this practice does not continue, but at some point it just becomes a part of life, and how we practice with whatever situation we find ourselves in. I hope that whether or not you have health issues to practice with yourself, you have been finding this series helpful. What we learn from practicing with illness can be applied to practicing with difficulty of any sort — and we all encounter difficulties.

I want to end this series with this: the stories we tell ourselves are everything. Human beings are meaning-makers;  we are all about the stories we tell. They are our filters for reality (and if you believe that there is only one possible reality/way to look at a situation, I’m afraid you are limiting yourself tremendously!). Even Albert Einstein said, “The most important question you can ever ask is if the world is a friendly place.” I have found that however we look at things, the things we notice and “water”/”feed” are the things that grow. For some reason however, humans can be very attached to sad stories - how we were wronged, how life is unfair, and wondering “why me?”

When confronting whatever life brings our way, an alternate question is “why not me?”. We all know that illness, death, and all forms of difficulty are a part of any human life. Why then do we always seem to ask, “why me?” when these visit our threshold? Jennifer Welwood describes it beautifully in her poem, The Dakini Speaks:

My friends, let’s grow up.
Let’s stop pretending we don’t know the deal here.
Or if we truly haven’t noticed, let’s wake up and notice.
Look: Everything that can be lost, will be lost.
It’s simple — how could we have missed it for so long?
Let’s grieve our losses fully, like ripe human beings,
But please, let’s not be so shocked by them.
Let’s not act so betrayed,
As though life had broken her secret promise to us.
Impermanence is life’s only promise to us,
And she keeps it with ruthless impeccability.

To a child she seems cruel, but she is only wild,
And her compassion exquisitely precise:
Brilliantly penetrating, luminous with truth,
She strips away the unreal to show us the real.
This is the true ride — let’s give ourselves to it!
Let’s stop making deals for a safe passage:
There isn’t one anyway, and the cost is too high.
We are not children anymore.
The true human adult gives everything for what cannot be lost.
Let’s dance the wild dance of no hope!

Stripping away the unreal to show us the real. That there is a reality beyond this physical world of birth and death (“samsara” as it is called in Buddhism and Hinduism), is the crux of all spirituality. That one can be poor yet abundantly joyful, physically limited yet spiritually powerful, imprisoned yet mentally free … I think we all know of people who are able to tap into a reality beyond their current external circumstance.

Again, we must start with compassion whenever we are dealing with difficulties — our own or anyone else’s. And from that baseline of compassion, a very powerful question is, “if some part of me asked for this experience, what would it be bringing/teaching me?” Sometimes it may be about opening ourselves to a reality beyond our literal physical circumstance. Seeing a much bigger energy connecting all of life. Seeing ourselves as part of this flow of life. Exploring this question can open up the possibility of much more liberating and helpful stories.

Life is a mystery and a wild ride. What happens if we stop being afraid of it and its promise of impermanence, trying to deny this promise and control it to look exactly as would make us feel comfortable? What if instead we adopt the story of the world being a friendly place, and meet life as a friend and beneficent teacher, no matter what happens?

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