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Spirituality and Illness: The Connection You Might Not Expect!
And so my illness is the essence of my spirituality, because my suffering reflects the earth's suffering, and because my suffering connects me to you and to the whole.
My spirituality and experience tell me to stay positive, because when I get negative, I just get weaker. But every day is a challenge, and every decision is an inner conflict. Should I write this blog, for example? Voice recognition programs don't like me. Plus, talking is exhausting. Writing works better, but I'm tired and I get crippled from typing. And worse, if I really get into the topic and feel happy, motivated and excited, my body gets amped up and the result is a crash.
Every minute I have to choose between bad and worse, and I don't always know which is which. Should I get out of bed or lie here till my bladder bursts? Should I spend all my time in bed and face back pain and disappearing bones, or should I try walking around the house and face knee pain and have my body shut down from the exertion of my personal marathon? Should I let myself get hopeful, get activated and face the physical backlash, or should I just surrender to my cushy bed, sinking deep into the ocean of relaxation and inertia, where death feels like a choice?
So What's the Answer?
I have no answers. You would think that after 56 years of severe illness, I would have enough practice to have figured it out, but I haven't. But here's what I do know:
I have to be myself, and I am a spunky fighter with a zest for life and a fire in my belly. I still want to help transform the damned world and I can't kill that part of me! I am too aware to be passive. I can't stop talking and thinking! I can't stop intervening with the unconsciousness that I perceive in this world - even with the people who support me, which means I tell them what I see, despite the fact that it often makes them mad and despite the reality that I'm totally dependent on them for my survival. I refuse to stop blogging and speaking out to the world, even though people often get offended and spew venom at me through their thoughts and sometimes even through hateful comments, all of which wipe me out because I'm so darned sensitive, I feel it all. I refuse to stop getting excited about life, excited about seeing people fight inequality and oppression, excited about my students getting stronger and taking on the battle for Oneness, Accountability and Mutual Support, which are the hallmarks of the Inner Revolution. I refuse to give up, even though my own excitement, enthusiasm and drive wipe me out.
And I figure out ways to do something, even if I can't do everything I want. I went over a year with virtually no voice because I barely had the energy to speak, so I spoke into a portable PA system to be heard by my client sitting next to me. I have struggled to write, so I switched from books to blogs. I have lost the ability to do lengthy counseling sessions, so I have discovered that with my intuitive abilities, I can do more powerful work by working in shorter bits. I have developed a support system that will take care of this blog, so I only have to write it - not submit it or do anything else. I am not done with my work and my life, even if it kills me!
I still feel the waves of intentionality move through my entire being. I am only a small voice in this world, but I will not be shut up. The needless pain humanity causes itself, other species and the earth itself will not let me rest. The courage of the few who stand up to the general mindlessness of those still trapped by our conditioned responses feeds my weakened spirit. Knowing you are out there, I keep going out of outrage and hope!
What Does This Have to Do with Spirituality?
People think spirituality is about gratitude. I cannot be grateful for this illness. Every morning, I wake up and say, "Thank you God for this day and for everything in it," but I don't always mean it. I know that my illness doesn't define me, but it shapes my life - every decision I make. I know who I am and what I could do if I were well, and I am deeply saddened that my disabilities increase with age.
But if spirituality is NOT about gratitude for my illness, spirituality IS about who I am in the face of it. And who I am is my spirit, which keeps pushing me beyond the limitations of my ability to endure the agony of daily life. And who I am is my mind and body, which work with my spirit to somehow manage to keep me here on the Earth, alive, present and kicking.
And I do have gratitude. I am grateful to God and the universe for providing me with the resources to keep me going and for the unbelievable spiritual power that still manages to flow through my broken body. I am grateful that I am aware of the hideous suffering endured by millions, no billions of people who are afflicted by poverty, illness, mental torment, hunger, discrimination, physical and sexual abuse. And I am grateful that my own pain and suffering have not stopped me from caring about others and their suffering.
And this is the connection between my illness and my spirituality. Spirituality is about connection, and my own suffering is my connection to all beings - including the animals trapped in cages, the people enslaved by the ego-centric organization of society that encourages people to care for themselves at the expense of others, the others caught in disabilities, physical, emotional and spiritual. And in fact, we all suffer and we are all disabled, in one way or another.
I am ill, very ill, but being ill and a virtual invalid have not defeated me, because I have my spirituality. I have support, love and room in my heart for you and for your suffering as well. And as long as I feel that connection, then I will endure whatever I have to in order to keep up the fight to transform this world into a place of wholeness and mutual support. And so my illness is the essence of my spirituality, because my suffering reflects the earth's suffering, and because my suffering connects me to you and to the whole.