I lived with major chronic illness for over 10 years.
Fifteen years later I am immensely grateful to the experience.
It played a huge part in my coming to consciousness.
It brought me to humility, tenderness and wisdom.
It forced me to look at the whole of me and let go of what was causing tightness or stress on the system.
It demanded I pay attention to what and how I digested the world, from the food I was eating, to what and how I was emotionally digesting my experiences, past and present.
It was a total revolution of awareness and understanding.
You just can’t experience this kind of thing without it teaching you valuable and humbling truths.
Of course you can also turn away from it in (over) medication, depression, resentment and resignation but that’s not the focus of my attention here. I am speaking to those who are confused, who long to open, who experience the confusion and shock, to those who seek awakening but might be ‘stuck with a persistent chronic (or acute) illness.’
This is really about love and the deepest acceptance of what is.
Yes, I was diagnosed with bowel disease. I felt it was the result of a lifetime of toxic living, major inflammation, buried fear and anxiety and a bad luck call.
I fought it and surrendered.
I loved it.
I hated it.
I listened to it.
I raged at my fate, at the unfairness of it.
I accepted the prospect of death, or the possibility of never healing.
I took it only as personally as I needed, which was a warrior’s task in itself.
I saw the body as illusion and still turned towards love.
I worked with all my beliefs, the good, the bad and the dark.
Ultimately I died into it.
And still I kept on inquiring into it, healing it, working with it.
And don’t misunderstand me, I also worked on inflammation, detox, nourishment, body work modalities, releasing deeply held stress and trauma, and so on. Mine was not a purely ‘spiritual’ journey. It was truly holistic.
The shock of a huge diagnosis in 2005 catapulted me (and Amoda my wife) into fear and panic. It totally engulfed my life but strangely it also focused my energy. There was something almost inevitable about it, it didn’t feel separate from my life. I don’t mean this on the superficial level, because on that level it DID come out of the blue. But on the deeper, intuitive, subtle level, there was a sense that this was a part of my life, albeit uninvited (maybe), but it would be unwise to completely push it away.
I had no choice, it came at me like a massive wave, crashing into my life, into our life.
Those of you who have experienced this know. When illness really strikes it is impossible to ignore. It becomes your new lover, your new teacher.
Illness moves in with you, whether you like it or not. And if you are in relationship suddenly you are in a threesome. It is exactly like an uninvited guest taking up lodging in your body and life.
It becomes your guru or your tormentor, and usually both.
Oh! it hasn’t been easy, it has been relentless. But it has compelled me to go so deep inside myself I found the mine of rubies, that which is untouched by illness, that which is innocent and always free. It actually liberated me. And brought me to love without attachment.
The thing that I learned most about illness is this. It is not ultimately about whether it physically heals, or goes, or any of those things. Of course on a certain level it is very much preferable to be restored to functionality.
But ultimately it is about the depth of the love it can bring us to. The body is a wild teacher, and illness is very wrathful. But it has so much to tell us about ourselves and about life.
This little poem sums up how I feel.
‘If you haven’t fully digested past experiences,
Assimilated what was nourishing
And eliminated what is no longer needed
You may have digestive issues
On all levels of your being.
The past is poison if it rots in your system.’
If this speaks to you, if you are experiencing some of this, I hope it has spoken to you and allowed you to go deeper, or just relieved stress for a moment, or you can feel my tenderness towards you and your suffering. It is all the mystery and none of us knows why or even what really we should do.
As Ram Dass wonderfully said, ‘We are all walking each other home.’
With love – Kavi