It feels like a cliché to talk of illness as being a powerful healing force these days. Yet some people are outraged by such an idea – how can one welcome, to teach us, suffering and even perhaps terminal debilitation? Yet, it strikes me as odd that when illness appears, we do our utmost to relieve or avoid the symptoms while not addressing the cause. Surely the swelling and discomfort of a twisted ankle should tell us: rest up, and above all, DO NOT go back on the football pitch! Annual bouts of bronchitis or shortness of breath as we struggle up School Hill cajoles us to give up smoking.
We ignore such signs at our peril – as we age, one thing leads to another and the illnesses become chronic or develop in to That Which will Kill Us. We create stories, particularly victim stories, around 'our' particular illnesses that we unconsciously choose as our life companions. Yet, everything, especially illness, is a communication, and it's possible to turn back the clocks and unravel illness, just by listening to it. More than that, it can point us in the direction to a healing and wholeness that goes way beyond the body, even, according to som, to our ancestors.
When I discovered I had cancer I was particularly dismayed that I was once again launching on a heroic journey. I'd been struggling with the tyranny of this particular self-chosen role and balked at the label of 'brave'. I'd recovered from two dramatic illnesses in the past – a disastrous sterilisation that I finally got reversed two years later, and thereby recovered from, and rheumatoid arthritis that I self-healed naturally, against medical advice. I decided that cancer was not going to be a heroic fight over who gets the upper hand – rather, this time, I'd take a sabbatical year from my self-chosen front line and take more of a line of gentle and deepening enquiry, and being more receptive to guidance. And it is, dare I say, working, Inshallah.
The challenge now is to choose different beliefs. As I let go of responsibility I'm becoming more playful. As I release resentment I'm having moments of great happiness. Is it possible to truly change? Could life really be as simple as carry water, chop wood?