Chan Duc | Sr. Annabel: Mindfulness in Times of Ill Health | Excerpt from the book: Mindfullness and Christianity.
“Neither he nor his parents sinned …
He was born blind so that the words of God might be revealed in him.” (John 9:3)
The he wonderful thing about ill health is that it gives us a chance to learn about our body. Before falling ill, we did not take the time to understand our body, and may have done things that have led to our present ill health. It is clear from the teachings of the Gospels we should not think of ill health as a punishment from God. We should not say, “Why do I have to bear this sickness? I have lived a healthy, wholesome life!” Rather than blaming God for letting this happen, we take it as an opportunity for the glory of God to be realised, which means an opportunity to heal our whole being: body, mind, and spirit.
Our body is a truly wonderful instrument. We hesitate to use the word “instrument” because instruments are manmade, and our body is something that has evolved over millions of years: very subtle, cons- tantly changing and adapting to its environment. When we fall sick, we do not need to lose faith in our body. In fact, we can find a deeper faith in it than the faith we had before. That faith comes when we experience our body healing itself. We have all observed how when we cut our finger, it will heal itself in a wonderful way. We just need to keep it clean and still. Sometimes it is best to do nothing, in other words, just to rest. Like a sick animal will lie down in a quiet place and let its body take care of itself. At the very least on falling ill, we do not immediately engage in all kinds of activity. We take the opportunity to rest as much as possible, both physically and mentally, giving our body a chance to heal.
We learn the subtle intricacies of our body and how every part is inter-related. A body is the most wonderful example of inter-relationship. It also inter-is with the mind and the spirit. Our ill health could have begun with stress, fear, anxiety, and sorrow. We did not know how to handle these emotions and they cause blockages in the energies that flow through our body. We may have eaten the wrong food, failed to exercise our body, or exercised it in the wrong way. The pollu- tion of the environment by human beings is also a major cause of ill-health. Now we have a chance to listen to our body and let it tell us what it really needs. We can talk to our heart and the other organs of our body. As we lay our hand on the part of the body where the organ lies, we ask the organ what we can do to help it, and if we are still enough, the answer will come from an intuitive wisdom deep within. Sending our love and our mindful breathing to a part of our body that is in trouble, after ten or twenty minutes, nearly always brings some relief.
It is true that the technology of modern western medicine has saved many lives, but we can learn not to over-rely on doctors and nurses. We can see that the doctor and the patient inter-are. The truth is that the body knows how to heal itself, and the doctor is there to empow- er the self-healing in the patient. We could say that the doctor does 50 per cent and the patient has to do his or her 50 per cent. The good news is that every moment is a moment of change in our body, and so can be a moment of healing. Cells are constantly being born and dying. Mindfulness of the body and of the feelings is the key, because it is an awareness of what is happening in us from moment to moment. With some help and advice from a good doctor, we can begin to heal our self.
We can be aware of what is going right in our body, not just what is going wrong. Just as in your garden there may be one or two trees that are sick, but many other trees are healthy. You can still enjoy the healthy trees. In times of sickness you can call to mind your ancestors and relatives who have lived to a ripe old age and remember that those long-life genes are also in you.
In recent times we hear about integrative medicine that heals body, mind and soul together. Mindfulness becomes the key in this kind of healing. We are mindful of our body, our feelings, perceptions and emotions. Mindfulness of our body means we become aware where our energy is blocked in our body. We can do this on our own and call on the help of the health-care professional if needed. Then we become aware of our feelings. They can be pleasant or painful. While we dwell in mindfulness we are not carried away by the pleasure or the pain. If we recognize the pleasant feeling is healing us, we keep it in our awareness as long as possible. If the pleasant feeling is causing us excitement or anxiety, we use our breathing to calm it. We are mindful of our perceptions, our view of the world: whether it is optimistic or pessimistic and whether it leads to loving kindness of aversion. When we recognize a thought or perception that heals us, we keep it in our awareness as long as possible. When we recognize a thought or perception that causes us pain, we are careful not to keep thinking that thought. We are mind- ful of our emotional state and how it is influencing our health. We recognize anxiety and stress and how they are directly responsible for unease and discomfort in our body. We do our best to breathe and walk mindfully in order for the parasympathetic nervous system to operate. This kind of mindfulness is both preventative and curative medicine.
Source: EIAB MAGAZINE, Contributions from the EIAB and the international Sangha august 2020