I’ve had a couple of weeks of pretty devastating levels of pain followed by crashing, jelly legged exhaustion and I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t demoralised me just a little. When you’ve done everything to make steady and, most of the time, pretty consistent headway with your health and suddenly…for no apparent reason…you’re deep in the mire again, its nearly impossible to it shrug off with a cheery smile. Watching other people go through health challenges then recovery to come out the other side while yours is still going strong months, even years, later can feel like a long-running trial by endurance. Your mind tries to lure you into learned responses, including self-criticism at the fact “its” still here, like you must be doing something wrong; perhaps you made it come back by thinking about it too much, or in the wrong way (that law of attraction stuff is a minefield of judgemental beliefs). You know you look perfectly fine; other people really have no idea what you’re going through, which can be one of the most hurtful things to contend with. So, whether they do or they don’t, you think you hear them thinking “you must be making this happen by being too self-absorbed; why don’t you get on with your life, think about something more positive, don’t think about health matters at all”. Yet when you are “in” these episodes, the intensity is extreme and, for me, there is such an overwhelming feeling that something wants to express itself through me; to be heard, so I tend to want to purge through my writing, mostly done for my own benefit. These days, I’m far better at letting that mud settle before sharing what surfaces with an audience and then what comes up tends to feel more insightful, less emotive. Out of the latest deep dive, this is it:
What I know, if I’m honest, is that chronic illness is a “thing” of our times that is something like a purge of cellular memories from the collective memory bank of the planet. Therefore, there’s a level where it’s not uniquely ours as the individual experiencing it but is actually everyone’s stuff and it really wants to be “outed”; we are those vehicles and, at some level, we volunteered for this. Like acupuncture needles placed in key meridians of the Earth, we are bringing stored-up energy out from the vaults of the global mind and it can feel remarkably intense. In fact, one of our challenges is to not identify with it so much as to think it is uniquely ours, which has a tendency to make it hang around for longer. If there is a match in our energy field then this can be harder to do and we may have some work to do healing this area of cellular memory but we can allow so much of what comes up through our bodies to be handled beneath the headings of umbrella themes (operating at personal and global levels) that we start to become so adept at recognising through synchronicity and so the process does get quicker, less messy. This links in with a post I shared about memory on my other blog just a few days ago (The Point of it All: Memory Shared) and it feels “true” to me at the level where I have been getting to know this phenomenon for over ten years now.
As a result of the time its taken, which brings a true intimacy with pain, it’s as though a strange camaraderie has formed with the very thing that has, in a sense, taken me hostage for so long. I know something of what it is about and won’t let it step outside with its hands on its head without speaking up for it first…hence the relentless urge to give voice to what is coming up through me…and yet I don’t want to stay its hostage either. Yet the time never feels quite right to let it go…not while the world is still in so much judgement about what is right and what is so-called wrong, including (perhaps especially) when it comes to pain. Is this the unfinished business aspect that puts the word “chronic” in front of the word illness for so many of us these days? Are we here to set the record straight on a gross misunderstanding about what pain is; one which has outlawed it for so very long?
In our culture, I’ve discovered that there is a hierarchy of pain; a sort of currency attached to whether or not we are experiencing it. Due to the belief system that says experiencing no pain is the pinnacle, it is still heralded as the greatest success to have no pain at all thus, conversely, being in pain is considered a flaw, a weakness, a major fault in the system. Just look at how quickly our culture races to turn pain off through any means at its disposal, from drugs to alcohol and you will see what I mean. Most people are not prepared to pause for even a moment to consider what pain might be trying to tell them about something that needs attention before obliterating it (the same could be said of how we deal with many things “going wrong” on our planet…) People simply don’t want to feel it; they scatter in terror running away from it and thus this avoidance holds them prisoner in their own lives. I experience regular bouts of pretty extreme pain and yet I am the only person I know who is not taking any kind of prescribed medication or drinking alcohol, which is astonishing. So that is where those with chronic pain stand in that hierarchy of success; considered weak and faulty by our society and sometimes particularly by those who measure spiritual success by the ability to manifest what you want in life, law of attraction style. Of course, no one wants pain…so, if we are drowning in it, we must be doing something “terribly wrong” by those standards. Yet I fervently believe that this perspective is missing something huge about what pain is here to do whilst remaining locked in a dualistic perspective that prevents the next evolutionary leap from happening. When we miss out the pain stage, it tends to come back in another form…and another form…on and on…pushed down deep it only pops back up again…since it is a voice that is increasingly having to shout to be heard; I give you our present-day world as an example.
There’s also that other factor to do with our rapidly increasing evolutionary process to take into consideration which is, as evolution happens, we become ever more sensitive since that is a big part of the process. As we wake up, our senses tune-up and the scales fall off; the combined effect of which is that we feel oh-so much more than we ever did before and probably a whole lot more than the person standing right next to us who hasn’t got there yet. With this comes…guess what…more pain, at least initially. As we learn how to work with that pain differently (including not labelling it “bad” and making it the next thing to become fearful about), we not only evolve ourselves but we help to evolve the whole planet – now isn’t that a turned around perspective?
Let’s get something else straight here. I’m not depressed, not in fear, not out of my joy, not in need of a hobby and certainly not weeping over the past. I LOVE my life and then some, and spend my days noticing and appreciating all kinds of seriously gorgeous examples of everyday loveliness in my world that other people seem to walk straight past (and which I try to help point out through my art, my photography and my writing). Life for me is golden…plus I happen to have a lot of pain and bouts of debilitating exhaustion, which switch on at will, often at the most inconvenient moments, which (you could see this as a major plus-point) prevents me from over-structuring my life. It doesn’t detract from who I am or the perspectives I have of how beautiful life is and how perfectly everything has always unfolded for me, nor does it take away any of the armfuls of gifts I continue to gather from every situation imaginable, or my desire to continue living and loving and experiencing life to the best of my ability for a very long time into the future. That being said, I wish I could do all those things – going forwards – without so much pain and exhaustion since, of course, that would feel more expansive and liberated. I just want to know I can put it down now, to step into an easier phase, whilst never having to insult my experiences by pretending to anyone that I hated my illness, that I conquered or defeated it or, indeed, any of that typical “fighting” vernacular which suggests it was wrong or undesirable. How could I ever say that when it has fuelled some of the most momentous soul-growth I have ever achieved? Yet hanging around to defend it and sift out its positives, so others can hear about them, feels like it could potentially keep me focussed on pain, bringing it back each time I feel I have to correct their perspectives of what I’ve been through…time and time again. I guess you could say that is where I feel I am stuck right now; wanting to speak out for what I have been through (and on behalf of others going through it) yet let it go, simultaneously.
To help do that, I want to talk a bit about what it has given me in terms of, you could say, spiritual growth; which is priceless and without which I would not be the person I am today. I also want to demonstrate how pain is quite different from fear (which people tend to assume is what perpetuates chronic illness…I don’t believe that) and how the one has enabled me to work most effectively with the other.
When your health starts to “go wrong” you are suddenly forced to work with fear, almost like an unlikely partner, at least for a time; getting to know each other intimately, awkwardly (you could say, looking fear straight in the eyes) in a way that you might have been able to avoid before, but not any more. By bringing hidden fear up to the surface, you start to know what you are dealing with and this is important as a starting point. However, sooner or later, you start to notice what fear does for us, which is to summon even more fear since it attracts more of the same when you focus on it. In other words, you make no headway in your recovery while you are still in it. So, you get to a point when you realise that as long as you have taken the necessary actions (precautions, remedies, whatever works to improve or progress your situation) there is nothing else to do but get on with other things; fear is not helpful and is best kept away. You do this by slowing yourself right down and distracting yourself with beautiful things which, all of a sudden, you are noticing and feeling grateful for…and the more you do this, the more resilient the habit becomes. For me, this stage utterly transformed my life. I left a miserable job, started to paint, began to notice beauty everywhere, spent much more time with my family and out in nature, became a writer, got to know myself beyond all the habits and demands of materialism, to drop the learned behaviours and ditch the long-running addiction to over-stumulus of every kind (all of which fell by the wayside)…the list goes on and on.
What happens, eventually, is that the light you switch on inside through doing all this stays on, regardless of what is happening externally (and that includes pain, which – being of the body – is external to this feeling of lightness in your soul). In other words, it becomes unconditional, reliable. You trust it and sense how it will always take you beyond any pain you happen to be in. It resides in the “now” and so you are no longer fixated on the past or the future since now is where your existence bursts into life. Since your life is no longer this super-predictable thing, each moment comes as a surprise gift and you keep looking for that lighter feeling – the light that never goes out – within each moment (not just every once in a while, at weekends, when you can fit it in…but all the time). This, again, becomes the most resilient habit, over and above paying attention to the pain. Repeatedly, you head for the better feeling…the better feeling…the better feeling…and this guides your thoughts which, in turn, impacts how your whole energy field feels to you (in other words, you increase your vibration…up up up). Even in the depths of incredible pain, you still know to head for the better feeling (it could be a thought, a choicepoint or simply something you decide to focus your eyes upon) and you just keep doing it, navigating by it, and it gets you there. You learn to mitigate pain and to even avoid it developing by using these skills; no drugs required. With pain always looking over your shoulder, you are in fast-track training and you are honing this navigation skill that serves you in ALL aspects of your life. Just imagine what all those years of training have done for you when more than half the rest of the world seems to be drowning in a sea of pain and yet so anesthetized by their lifestyle choices that they don’t even register the half of it or what it is doing to them.
In this place, you know there is nothing to distrust so safety becomes a way of life. Even in the midst of weird and wonderful symptoms that would have a less experienced person cascading into terror and running to the hospital, you remain calm and centred. Should a real emergency occur, you know you would detect this since panic isn’t your default and you have all your highly-developed senses on board; in fact, holding this calm state of being keeps many body reactions from tripping that emergency wire since the body pays attention and takes its cues from these core responses. Having learned to keep our thoughts out of catastrophe, we are probably one of the calmest people we know and this serves us so well in all kinds of situations; people notice we have a calming energy and an innate wisdom about us, they seek us out when they feel flustered and need grounding. We hold a state of deep serenity that sometimes looks like chronic fatigue; mostly, it’s a recovery mechanism that allows the nervous system to go into a state of hiatus in which to heal and we learn to allow those phases to happen, however long they need to last. We know from experience that the sooner we listen to requests to pull back from life’s overwhelm, the quicker we repair and recover. Our body trusts us since our track record of letting it down or forcing into anything that doesn’t feel good is receding into the distant past compared to this whole new way of living life, which may look a lot slower than everyone else’s but this too is evolution.
And we have developed courage in spadefuls; a quiet, gentle courage that sees us through some incredibly challenging phases with new symptoms that might otherwise send us back into fear. “This too will pass” becomes a way of living; we develop faith in ourselves, faith in life, faith in the support systems of life. We develop the life skill of transforming fear into “all is well” even when we don’t have any proof that it is. Faith becomes incredibly strong and proof becomes this thing we no longer rely upon, which takes us through a portal into a whole new way of living our lives; somewhere we are all heading as left and right hemispheres come together in our world. I have watched this transformation occur many times and, once learned, how it extends into every area of your life, helping to create this new reality.
Repeatedly, with every new so-called “crash” back into pain or limitation compared to what you normally spend time doing, you are faced with fresh opportunities to surrender that which is holding you back – fear, doubt, belief systems, old stories, imaginary boundaries, outmoded preferences…knowing how they lead to outcomes that you don’t choose. You let go of what doesn’t serve, over and over, until what you are left with looks very different to the life you had before; and, in too many ways to count, preferable. You witness once rock-solid beliefs simply dissolve away as now utterly defunct, ready to be swept by the tide of the new. You learn not to add energy to pain; not to drama-it up, to form too many theories or hang old stories around it, all of which encourage it to become more solid than is necessary to fulfil why it is here. These are such important life skills; they lighten and speed things up considerably, keeping you out of loops and cul-de-sacs and allowing the spiral of evolution.
In the midst of health crisis, you develop confidence in who you are; more confidence than you have ever had in your life before. You move into greater flow, clarity and understanding. Everything seems to come together. Synchronicities orchestrate your life with such perfection. Experience expands even as (you know) others look at your life and see it as smaller than it once was. In time…just give it time as the body is the slowest vibrating part of you…all of this feeds straight back into the body’s cells and starts to inform a whole new reality at the physical level. If your physical crashes feel as intense as they always were (perhaps more so), maybe it is because of the contrast with how rapidly you are now vibrating in the nonphysical dimensions; perhaps you can allow that there is a perfection, not a problem, going on and you are having to integrate a massive change into your physical vehicle, which might take just a little practice before it becomes smooth and seamless.
Meanwhile there’s this misunderstanding about pain and it still bothers you, even lowers your vibration when you remember how it is so misunderstood by the vast majority. It can fuel this need to talk about it, to almost whine or bang a drum about it, because you want to set this thing straight. I know I do; I know it bugs the hell out of me to be regarded as faulty in any way. I want to be regarded as whole, not broken – which is my truth – and yet this benchmark still exists “out there” and it makes me want to avoid the outside world where I have to explain myself endlessly and where others see me as compromised when I sometimes feel far less compromised than they are. I want them not to feel awkward around me; to care how I feel, to check in and show an interest in how I’m doing but not regard me as broken. I don’t want to feel chastised by their silences or the way they step around me or “the subject” of my health, which can sit like an elephant in the room. I want it to be acknowledged like we would acknowledge anything else going on in our lives; not with voices loaded with pity but so there is no implied criticism along the lines of “its best not to talk about it” because it would only encourage me in something I’m “doing wrong”. I keep coming back around to it and I know this feeling of being a misfit amongst other people with their opinions is anchoring me to pain and exhaustion far longer than I need to be, which is what happens when you are in a tug of war between how you are perceived and who you really are. Its not all of why I am still in pain but it is part of it along with this feeling that I want to put them straight (and, I know, its not my job).
Yet I also know none of my power comes from when I look at myself backwards; in other words, if I am already ahead of this defunct benchmark then that is where I now need to be focussing; not trying to shepherd other people along with my endless explanations. I consider this post to be it a turning point in my need to explain anything about my health using outmoded belief systems and terminology around being broken or behind. Those of us in this position are on a particular evolutionary trajectory, just like the rest of the planet (who may be working on different themes), and what we are contributing as we take this particular route is not insignificant to the evolution of the whole since we are sampling and modelling the skills of a new way of being…a FUTURE way of being…in the now. If taking pride in what we are doing is what it takes to flip this coin from feeling like failures to owning how we are major players in the evolutionary game then this is the stance I am choosing from now on.
It feels like the infrastructure for a completely new world full of brand new responses, new choices, new levels of living in love, joy and peace are already there in our world…however, many of us just don’t seem to know how to take it and make it our own quite yet. We mistrust these newnesses for being so different; almost, a little too easy-feeling compared to how hard we have been making things until now. We are standing on the very threshold of a portal looking straight at these new possibilities and yet we hesitate, questioning whether we even see them or if it is a mirage; being far better at seeing what we expect to see than what is so new that it is almost invisible to eyes unaccustomed to such lightness. So we put one foot in and one out again and we often turn back to responses that feel much more familiar, more solid (if heavier; it comes with the territory). Once backward looking, we read the news, get drawn into negative conversation, get tugged back into fear, we assume the worst and alow our morale to be stolen from us by all those many arbitrary things that seem to grab our attention far more effectively than our own tender shoot of optimism, which gets so quickly trodden underfoot. For some reason, we *think* we feel better doing things as we have always done them and that genuinely new options are so terribly hard to come by. We hardly believe that such new ways of being could already be standing right there in front of us in every moment; its like we can’t see for looking. Sometimes it takes a crisis, an illness for instance (anything that shakes you out of the learned way of seeing and gets you using the full spectrum of your observational skills), to notice what is already there.
Recognising that there are new possibilities just a hair’s breadth away is the start point to our own transformation. It’s enough to get you going on that new trajectory and the recognition is as subtle as a ribbon of fresh air through a newly opened window…which happens as soon as you consider, does this choice feel light or leaden, am I invested in it in some heavy-old contractual way or does it flutter freely like a butterfly on the summer breeze? Does it release a fizz in the stomach or drop concrete in my heart? After making the choice, did I feel relief cascading in my body? Did my shoulders relax, all my tension drain away like free-flowing water poured from head to toes? Do I feel invigorated, excited or, suddenly, chronically exhausted by this action set in motion? Some of us that have been through years of pain have become acutely sensitive to such very subtle variances in our nervous system and really so adept at interpreting them that this kind of navigation is second-nature to us. So now is our time to make use of these highly developed sensibilities as a means to navigating our lives forwards towards a new kind of human experience.
Learning to take our next steps like this, using subtle data gathered by our super-sensitive nervous system as our lead, can break us out of some of the very “old” stuck patterns that we’ve been caught up in like a kitten in a ball of wool, releasing us from being the hostage of our own life while making none of our experiences of pain “the villain of the piece”. Keeping “fault” (or “fault-y”) out of the vernacular of this stage in our evolution is hugely important. Speaking our truth is cathartic, yes; but we need to consider, at what price do we add the weight of further words and do these words feel liberating or burdensome; do they come with more strings rather than wings? Are we truly expressing from the perspective of the present moment, not from an idea we had some time ago; does what we say fit the infrastructure of a brand-new potential that is starting to take form on the winds or is it a rehash of old ideas that are already feeling outmoded and throughly well dug-over?
When we tune up our subtle observation skills, we start to observe that many ideas that once felt worthy and of substance are becoming unsure of themselves, dissolving into nothing and seeming to want to be let go of now. What we thought about something yesterday might not hold any water today and we need to keep on our toes with this; staying flexible and alert, always prepared to dissolve our own best-laid plans rather than progress what no longer feels higher-vibrational. Then of course, used mindfully, expression is one of the great gifts of the feminine aspect, the “yin”; which, having been out of balance for so long, can use the leveling effect of the kind of communication that reaches into all the corners to expose what has been hidden, to bring transparency and rebalance what has been tilted. Yet there is a fine balance between this and saying so much that we add more substance to what is ready to be completely washed away in the flow. In other words, if we keep banging the same drums, disappearing up the same gullies (tempting as it can be), we will remain stuck in the same old version of reality. It’s a responsibility we have that we need to be able to discern those widely varying potentials derived from remarkably similar actions, leading to very different outcomes, then choose wisely for our brand-new future (and I think I am getting somewhat better at it). Again, those of us that have travelled the long-persistent route to health-stasis have become adept at noticing the broadly different outcomes that are possible from subtly different choicepoints; and we know how recognising feelings in our body gets us to where we really want to be.
It really all comes down to focusing on our own personal journey of evolution (healing, by the way, is a very fast-track version of evolution in action, in case you were still wondering); we can’t shepherd anyone else, we can only demonstrate through our living example. Our own super-intense journey towards increased wellbeing (we all have one) is all that really matters; this is how we impact the whole. You could say, this is where we really make a difference; by refining the relationship we have with our feelings (which is where pain sometimes comes into it). What we learn, the whole of humanity learns (whether we talk about it or not); we can be sure of that. When we keep hesitating in our own forward momentum to check how the rest of humanity is coming along, we stall our own progress by looking backwards for longer than was necessary and, sometimes, throw ourselves back in the mire. Its been a foible of mine to keep doing this in the name of “helping others” and I know I need to become more selfish, in a sense; even if that means not sharing every single leap of progress I make. When we make those leaps, we need to do what it takes to let them settle in, holding that new space until they have grounded into the three-dimensional for long enough to develop resilience; not dashing around telling lots of people how we did it or spinning around to see if anyone else has noticed (I’m all too aware how ego can come into this). Our own longterm wellbeing needs to be our primary purpose and the focus of all our attention; that’s it, nothing else is so powerful or sustained as that singularity of focus (and perhaps those of us who have been through long illness know this better than most). As other motivations drop away, this makes room for healing to take place since the cells of the body receive a clear signal that we are ready to move past all the old stuck points and diversions; to pull away the blocks from the aircraft wheels ready to take off and fly.
This whole process really is – and has to be – unconditional. It matters not that I go back into episodes of pain and limitation when those circumstances are approached from this perspective. Instead of feeling like episodes of failure, of backtracking or relapse, they prick my interest as periods of massive personal growth and I always come away bearing armfuls of gifts (this last week has been especially challenging and, yes, especially rich in what it has given me). They feel much more like upgrades than crashes and, in my home vernacular, this is the word I tend to use; so perhaps its time I used the word more broadly, and unapologetically, across the board (our words hold such a powerful energetic charge). When upgrades are underway, I calmly step back from my life to wonder what will come of this latest burst of deeper understanding; knowing also that the phase will be relatively short in the big picture of things and there will come a day when I’m back to my busy life again (it certainly never gets dull). Many things get stirred up during those phases yet I’ve learned to let that mud settle, to not share every word that I write (immediately or even later), or to try and write down every thrilling epiphany that floats through the new expansion of my mind and to allow what wants to come up to the surface to do so in its own good time. Always…and I mean always…I find that slowing down in this way allows a vast newness to flow into the void that is created once the first attempt at interpretation (which tends to charge in somewhere near the beginning…) has subsided because I refrained from giving it energy. This can make me seem quiet – very quiet – during these times but, really, all is very well. When I slow life down like this, I find (amongst the many true gifts of my journey) that I have learned how to be patient, trusting and aware enough to receive far more than I ever thought was possible.
In the same week that I was starting to compose this post, a two-part article on the subject of living with chronic illness came out on Facebook, written by Julie Ditmar of True Divine Nature, who has been on a similar journey to my own. These installments felt so timely and really resonated with me, being relevant to the perspective I have shared above. I was left sensing that pain and long-running illness have reached their time for seeking the new light that they deserve; it is their moment to come out of the closet and be received somewhat differently than how we have tended to handle them.
In them, Julie acknowledges illness as the master teacher that guides you towards achieving greater courage and a deeper relationship with self than you might otherwise have realised, a chance to intimately connect with the “inner shaman” whilst showing you how to live a life of profoundly unconditional joy. She lists so many ways in which pain can be reconciled and approached in a way that does not detract from life. Indeed, from my own experience, I would say that its biggest gift is to show you how to reach a place where nothing can compromise your thrill and enthusiasm for life, from which point you can release the condition that says “one day, when it has gone, I will feel much better” in order to receive the profound joy of living here, today.
Also useful – this video from Abraham Hicks