Monday, November 7, 2011

Suffering is optional

Today my body seemed to be telling me to step back and rest.

When I sat with the discomfort, I became aware of all the stories each symptom carries within it.

I realized that while hurt is sometimes inevitable as part of a disease, the stories we tell ourselves and others are not. In other words, suffering is optional.

While it may be useful to be able to describe the symptoms of illness, this can also serve to deepen these beliefs and stories. Once my neurologist had diagnosed my illness and helped me pinpoint why I had been feeling unwell, I intuitively knew that I wanted to be cautious about how I spoke about it.

I did not want the fear stories of others to fill my mind when I was trying to make sense of it myself. This kind of thinking only left me feeling as if I were buried up to my neck in sand with the tide coming in. It seemed that being ‘helpful’ only meant standing by and taking photographs while shouting well-meaning encouragement!

Why is it that we think fear is helpful and protects us in some way? And how can we be truly helpful when someone has been given a frightening diagnosis?

Being overly positive and optimistic obscures what the person needs to find out for them selves. It can be a way of hiding and seems to say, “I don’t think we know how to handle this, so let’s paint a happy picture instead”.

I have found that if we ask those around us to be patient, to resist the urge to ‘fix’, that illness has a message. Our deepest fears can emerge in the presence of patience and love. They are too timid to show themselves if there is too much noise and activity around them.

If we want to be truly helpful we must wait until the fear uncovers itself, revealing the miracle within. With patience we find our true identity, wanting and waiting to be discovered.

Terror only obscures this awareness and drives it deeper into hiding. If you want to be truly helpful, give up the need to soothe your own fears and be still. Stop ‘doing’ and start ‘being’. Leave the care of physical needs to those who feel called to do it and be confident that the ‘sick’ have wisdom inside that wants to be shared.

When those involved feel a deep peace with the presence of someone struggling with bodily issues, then healing is happening.  Let go of your need to control the outcome and ‘save’ them. It’s in the hands of a something much greater, so cease your helpful efforts.

Be grateful to witness the unfolding of something wonderful.