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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Illness as a Gift

Seeing Illness as a Gift

It has been a couple of weeks since I received a tumor diagnosis, and much has happened in that time.  Most importantly, I've come to be at peace with what's happening.  My spiritual practice has become stronger, and I've gained some powerful insights.  I want to share one with you today.

I've come to see this illness as a gift.

Now, let me be clear.  I would not choose to have cancer, and I certainly wouldn't wish it on anyone else.  It is one of the leading causes of death in our culture.  I recognize that I need to respond actively and energetically to this illness, and I'm doing just that.  My intention is to heal, and I'm acting on this intention.

At the same time, I'm living in this moment, and in each moment, with this tumor. I see it as a gift from the divine source.  Everything comes from this same source, and everything we receive is a gift of love and grace.  I know this, with a knowing that is beyond thinking.  And I know that when I say "everything," it doesn't mean "everything except the things I don't like."  Everything, even this, is a gift from the divine source.

Beyond this understanding, I've come to see this illness as a blessing in many ways.  Here are a few examples:
  • I have received an outpouring of support from family, friends, students, and even some people I don't know very well.  I feel immersed in love and grace, and for this I am grateful.
  • This condition has drawn my wife and I closer to each other, and for this I'm grateful.
  • I have become more present in each moment, and for this I am grateful.
  • I know that many people with cancer suffer horrible pain.  I'm fortunate: the pain I've experienced has been easily managed with simple breathwork, magnetics and modest amounts of over-the-counter medication.  For this I'm grateful.
  • This situation has been a catalyst for my spiritual growth - growth in awareness, and for this I'm grateful.
  • I have experienced wonderful care from healthcare professionals and those in the healing arts, and I'm grateful for this.
  • I have learned so much more about wellness, nutrition and healing, and for this I am grateful.
These are just a few of the many blessings I've received as a result of this illness.  With so many blessings, my heart is filled with gratitude.  Each moment is filled with grace.

This illness is a gift.


Monday, June 20, 2011


Healing and the Five Gifts

I am writing this at the beginning of my healing path.  Let me explain.  Over the past month, I've experienced a lot of discomfort and pain.  I sought and received the benefits of some healing arts, and I worked on the discomfort in my yoga practice.  Yet, the incidents of pain grew more frequent and more acute.  A few days ago, I went to a doctor, and, after a series of tests, I was given a diagnosis of a 9 cm renal mass, which is a large tumor on a kidney.  This diagnosis makes one thing very clear: I need to find a path to healing.

Healing is needed whenever something is out of alignment or amiss within ourselves.  We tend to think of healing as a process that occurs in the body, which is true.  It is also true that we can be out of alignment energetically, in our thoughts, or in spirit.  Any and all of these misalignments require healing.

For me, the first step to finding a path to healing is acceptance of what is.  Would I prefer that circumstances were different?  Sure.  Yet, here I am, in this moment, and this is what's showing up for me.  I could pretend this isn't happening, or become angry, upset or frightened.  All of these are choices in how I respond to this situation.  But, none of these reactions is very useful.  The best response is to realize that what is, is.  Accepting this, I can calmly seek understanding and map out the best path forward.

I'm finding it helpful, also, to use an understanding of the five gifts as a model for viewing my current situation.  For example, western medicine focussed almost entirely on the structures of the gift of the physical body.  The diagnosis I received from my family doctor and the medical testing is essentially an abnormality in the structure of one of the organs in my body - the kidney.  The medical approach is to remove or eliminate the abnormality.  In my case, the doctors are saying surgery is the answer to this problem.  This is one solution, from one point of view.

The five gifts reminds me that there are other perspectives as well.  The physical body is one gift we've received, and examining the structures of the body is one lens through which we gain understanding.  The gift of life is another lens, another perspective.  Looking through this lens, we see ourselves as an energy system.  There is movement and energy flow, a dynamic and ever-changing picture.  Life animates our bodies and communicates through our emotions.  When the energy flow is constricted, trapped or blocked, we experience dis-ease.  The solution from an energy practitioner - an acupuncturist, reiki master, reflexologist, ayervedic physician, or one of many other healing modalities - is to un-block the energy flow to allow healing to occur.  Emotional intelligence is also a tool for healing that focusses on the gift of life.  Louise Hay's wonderful book, You can Heal Your Life, gives us powerful insights into how our emotions - especially ones we harbor for long times - cause illness that manifest in the body.

Looking through the lens of the gift of thought, we gain another insight into dis-ease and healing.  Our thoughts lead to emotions, which have powerful impact on our energy wellness.  What's more, our thoughts guide our use of the physical body, and our thought habits directly affect the micro, cellular and macro-structures of the body.  Mindfulness is a powerful healing approach.  Many people, most notably Jon Kabat-Zinn, have been working to integrate mindfulness practice with western medicine, with positive results.

The gift of awareness is a high-powered lens, the most powerful one within our dominion.  Present moment awareness is inclusive, integrative, holistic.  By being present, in the here and now, and by accepting what is in this moment, we are able to guide our thoughts, emotions, energy, and actions along a holistic healing path.  Two examples from my own case are illustrative.  First, all of the medical scans and tests I've had over the past few days have been physically and energetically challenging, and seem to have produced a torrent of bad news.  Through awareness, I've been able to remain grounded and calm, and not get swept away by the negativity.  Secondly, my awareness practice - meditation and yoga - has helped me to reduce the pain, calm and expand the breath, and clear the mind.

The gift of divine grace is the most powerful source of healing.  Indeed, it is the only source.  All healing comes from this gift.  The surgeon's skill, the reiki master's hands, the healing ideas we receive, even our own being - all are manifestations of divine grace.  We cannot harness this power.  This gift is not ours to control.  What we can do is ask for grace, and open to it, receiving whatever the divine universe sends our way.  When I open to grace, I see this tumor as a gift of grace, sent into this world to help me, and others around me.  I'm grateful for it.  And when I ask the divine source, "guide me," I begin to see the path I must follow to healing.

So, what do I do with these views, the five lenses that help me to see what is?  I create a multi-dimensional path to healing.  Within the gift of the physical body, I see that surgery is likely to be necessary.  The physical body has enormous self-healing capacity, but this capacity is over-stressed by such a large tumor within the body.  It will be helpful to remove the tumor, and allow the healing powers of the body to flourish.

Through the lens of the gift of life, I see that the tumor is alive, consuming Prana and other energy in an unnatural, unhealthy way.  I need to reinvigorate and nourish my life energy system, through reiki, acupuncture, or other energy-centered healing modalities.  And, I need to clear away the emotional energy - anger, shame, frustration and hatred - that are blocking the flow of healing energy.

The gift of thought gives me the ability to discern and decide what information is helpful, and what is not.  Through the lens of thought, I put the puzzle pieces together, choosing what healing approaches I will do, and which ones I will abandon.  And as I discern the success of the steps I'm taking, I can adjust my approach in each moment.

The gift of awareness allows me to see and guide my use of thought.  Through awareness I can let go of thoughts that resist my progress or disempower me, while allowing thoughts that support and nurture me to dwell in my mind.  Also, through awareness, I see the whole picture.  I see myself as a whole, healthy person, in the present moment.  I guide all of my resources toward an outcome of wholeness and wellness.

When I awaken to the gift of grace, the right path is revealed to me, and I am able to walk the path in gratitude and peace.  With each step I take, I trust that the next one will be revealed.  I experience many gifts of grace along the way.

My intent is to do all of these things, simultaneously, in each moment, and as time progresses.  I accept all of the gifts I receive with gratitude.  The result is simple and profound: healing.

I am deeply honored to meet you along this life path.  I'm grateful to each of you for the support and love you've offered me.  Be well. I'll see you along the way.