Living with a chronic illness, I often find myself in a state of fear. I catch my mind clinging to phrases like, “When are my symptoms going to hit?” or “How will I cope if I crash?” I am so caught up in what might happen, I’m missing out on any semblance of normalcy in the present moment.
Instead of fearing when my symptoms are going to come, I am working on being more curious about them. Practicing being present and bearing witness to experience and life. Sitting without turning away in an open manner to whatever arises and inviting it to sit with me in a place of safety and comfort.
You see, the problem is that we, as humans, like to make up stories in our heads about what we experience. Those stories we create are often negative and far worse than reality. This happens because we tend to focus our awareness on our negative experiences instead of experience in general. The experience of not feeling well itself is just pure experience, but the whole story behind it, the “Oh my God, I’m going to be sick forever; I don’t know what to do”: that is the problem. And to get past that, you have to be curious about your experiences.
If we really watch experience, we see it is constantly changing. If you take a second to follow your train of thought, it might sound something like, “My head hurts, the sun is bright, I hear a bird, I see a flower, I feel tired, I am foggy, I see a tree, etc.” Experience is always happening, constantly shifting, and ever-changing. We never stay with any one experience for more than a few seconds.
It is our awareness that gets stuck on specific parts of our experience and keeps bringing us back to it. Our awareness is the part of us that says, “I am sick, I feel bad, I’m always going to feel like this.” It is where our awareness goes that shapes the story we tell in our head. When we stay stuck in a story, our awareness is working hard and constantly going focusing on, and pulling a particular experience back in, over and over instead of staying in a state of pure awareness where you can see all of your experiences instead of just the ones you are hooked on.
What happens to you being sick, if you are not thinking about being sick? Where do you and your sickness go if you stop creating the story of being sick? I am not saying you will suddenly not be ill. But by your awareness not being stuck on your negative experience, those experiences will no longer define you.
I am saying that, if you’re going to create a story, which we as humans do, why not create the story you want? Be curious about all of your experiences, and realize that your illness is only a small fraction of what you experience every day. Focus on the positives, no matter how small. Maybe it is even just something as simple as the wind gently touching your face, the sun melting through your skin, or the smile someone gave you. Let your experiences be your guide to health and happiness. By being curious, we can create a story that we want to live.
It is important to clarify that this is not about tricking your body into immediate health; it is about creating the story you want. By creating that story, it slowly becomes THE story, the truth, and the blueprint upon which your life is built. And that helps your body in the recovery process.
Stay strong, and keep moving towards health,