For the past week, I had been feeling pretty ill. It was quite an eye-opening experience for many reasons, the primary being that I hadn’t felt sick in years. In a very grandiose way, I had convinced myself that I could never get sick. Thankfully, I was humbled, and I was able to have an opportunity to learn so much from this most recent episode of illness. Here are some of the lessons I learned:
Acceptance is the easiest way to live. While it’s one thing to know this intellectually, it’s transformational to experience it. When we are in a state of acceptance, we allow life to carry us instead of trying to swim against the current. I noticed when I first felt symptoms, I was trying to deny them. Although I intellectually knew the importance of acceptance, it was hard for me to actually carry out the practice of acceptance in regards to my health. We fear accepting things because we believe that contentment will lead to complacency; however, that does not have to be the case. Acceptance allows us to fully immerse ourselves in the present moment so that we can make the most appropriate choice based on where we are right now. It is through such a deep level of acceptance that we are able to experience quite profound moments and shifts.
Be at peace with doing nothing. There’s a societal expectation that we always ought to be doing something and that we should always be busy. Do, do do, go, go, go. We fear taking a break because we feel like we’ll never catch up on our to do list. The truth is that our to-do list can wait and possibly be tossed out ;-). Life does not have to be about checking off items on our to-do list, instead it can be about enjoying the process of simply living and being. We can enjoy moments where we do absolutely nothing, and we can feel guilt-free about those moments.
Sometimes we don’t need to know why. Curiosity without attachment to an answer can be a fun pursuit but when we are obsessed with finding answers, we can become stressed. I wanted to know why I was sick, what was my body trying to tell me? Instead of being unattached, I was determined to uncover why. But the why wasn’t entirely clear and fortunately, it became comical because I realized finding the answer why wasn’t what was important. What was important was my need to rest and do nothing, not to continue to run around searching for answers. The obsession with finding answers can drive us crazy. Whenever the pursuit of the why is no longer fun, we have lost touch with the truth.
All this to say, I feel much better now and I can laugh at the experience. We become so engulfed in the need to know why, the effort to stay busy, and the fight against what is. We make life much more complicated than it really is despite our inner knowing that life is so very simple. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to get sick so that we can be reminded of the truth. 😉
“The greatest thing you can do for another human being is to get your own house in order.” -Baba Ram Dass
For quite some time, I knew that I wanted to help people. As a young child, I wanted to become an astronaut to advance science in order to help us here on Earth. Then, I decided that I wanted to be a social worker in order to link people to resources. As I continued in school, I finally concluded that I wanted to become a therapist, so I embarked on a journey to become a clinical psychologist. But during the middle of my doctoral training, something about becoming a psychologist no longer resonated. I was starting to recognize that my helping was actually a hindrance in many ways. This is not to say that those in the helping professions are unhelpful (I am still in the industry although I am on a different path), it’s simply to say that something changed in me.
I began to realize that I was not practicing what I preached to my clients and that perhaps by diagnosing and trying to eliminate symptoms, I was perpetuating suffering by indicating that there is a right way to be and that symptoms are a problem. I no longer believe that most symptoms in and of themselves are an issue, in fact, I see them as guides to help us look at ourselves honestly and directly (by no means should they be ignored). Additionally, I was missing that 1) in order for the world to be a better place, it starts right at home with me and 2) maybe there is nothing wrong here. When we look around the world and see so much suffering, it seems absolutely absurd to believe that nothing is wrong but as I have continued this journey, I truly see that nothing is wrong. Our beliefs and expectations have deluded us into believing that things should be different from what they are yet in actuality things are exactly how they should be in order to increase our awareness.
Every situation is a call to awareness. We are continuously being called to look within and to take another look at our beliefs and actions that have led to our collective suffering. When tragedies happen, they usually lead to increased awareness, which is further validation of why I do not believe that anything is wrong. Our world is a reflection of our beliefs and our actions. When we look within, we recognize that the external world is no different from what is going on inside of us. These realizations have helped me conclude that the best way for me to be helpful is to be at peace myself. I have found that I am 1,000 times more helpful when I am at peace than when I am focused on changing someone else. I am able to offer my complete presence, which is the ultimate gift. As Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len says “peace begins with me” and I totally understand that now.
Mahalo for reading! May you all experience infinite peace and blessings!
With deep love & appreciation,
*Note: This post is not a criticism against psychologists. Psychologists can be incredibly helpful and many are committed to helping people become more aware on their path of self-discovery.