Someone very wise once said to me, ‘Trust this time’. She was speaking about the difficulties that we often face and how hard it is to just ‘be’ with it. It’s also about trusting, that no matter how difficult or unwanted this thing that you are facing, there is something here, during this very time, for you and your personal growth.
Intellectually I understand this and in hindsight, I have seen it to be true. I can look back at a marriage that painfully and abruptly ended now and see the benefits that came from the dissolution. At the time I could only see the loss. And I can think of times this happened in work situations, relationships and dreams that I had so hoped for.
This past fall, after an amazing month of living in Flagstaff and escaping the heat of Phoenix, I came home to illness. Shortly after I returned I was diagnosed with pleurisy and began a series of tests and doctors appointments to find out what this was so I could be treated. I felt awful; chills, aches, fever, exhaustion, night sweats, short of breath and no appetite. I had to stop working, was alone most of the time, had no appetite and was losing weight. It took so much energy just to do the simplest things like brush my teeth, shower or warm up soup. I had many days of feeling down and deeply saddened over my situation. I felt as if I had been taken on a ride that not only I didn’t want to go on, but a ride that was miserable and one I couldn’t get off.
Over the next 2 months I rested, did only what was necessary and slept as much as I could. I drew around me a wonderful team of health care providers for support and guidance, and most importantly I reached out for help through my church, yoga community and family and friends. Slowly after weeks and weeks of no improvement, I began to get better. I remember the morning that I felt the shift. I woke with just a bit more energy…it was subtle but I could feel it.
Trust This Time. My life work, as a coach and yoga instructor, has been about trust; trusting ourselves, others and life. And then taking action on what is next needed. This was my ‘work’ because I needed to learn it myself. It’s true; you teach what you had to learn. And I have. I have learned to rely on my inner guidance above all else, to listen deeply and to make space each day for that relationship. I’ve learned to pay attention to the way life speaks to me through the body’s wisdom, symbols, chance happenings, serendipitous events etc. So when this happened although I was upset lonely and didn’t understand, I choose trust. I got very quiet and in the stillness asked for guidance and listened to what to do.
For example, when I was working even though I felt awful, I heard ‘stop everything and take care of yourself’ so I did. And when I was lonely I heard, ‘Ask for help’ and I did that also. When the doctor wanted to do an invasive test I listened again and felt this clear prompting to ‘wait’. Doing that gave my body the time it needed to heal and I didn’t need the test after all.
‘Trust this time and know that there is something for you in it’. This is what my wise friend had said.
What about you? Is there something going on in your life right now that is difficult to be with? It could be health issues, financial, relationships or feelings of aloneness, fear or anxiety? It could be a deep longing for something you want and yet seem unable to achieve? Or maybe it is something that is totally out of your control that causes you pain? I encourage you to ‘trust this time’, just as it is, create space for yourself, be curious and listen to your inner wisdom. Trust what comes through and act on it.
I wanted to share some of what helped me through this time in hopes that you will find something of value for yourself or someone you know that is going through a difficult time.
- By far the biggest asset I had during this difficult time was feeling connected to something much bigger than myself. I use the word Spirit. One of the best things I have ever done is to make time for a morning practice. It gave me a chance to connect and build a relationship with the Sacred. I’ve done this in a number of ways. For me, at this time, it’s journaling, meditation, prayers and sometimes yoga but it can be any number of things that allow you to come into the stillness and the quiet so you can listen. We each have this inner wisdom available to us all the time but often only turn within in times of crisis. By incorporating a morning practice you get to know your True Self, that part of you that is connected to something much larger than your own personality or ego. I’m most grateful that I have done that in my life. Because when I was hurting, afraid and feeling so isolated, most of the time, I was able to turn within and trust that even though I felt this way now and didn’t understand what was happening, I was loved and not alone. And on those times when I just couldn’t connect, others were there to help.
- Ask, what is this illness illuminating? And listen. For me when I asked myself this question and spent some time reflecting I realized how much energy I typically put ‘outward’ and how often at the expense of my own self care; staying up too late to work, missing meals or worrying too much. This illness illuminated for me the true importance of health and not to take it for granted. I made a promise to myself when I healed I would make some significant changes. What about you? It doesn’t have to be an illness; it can be anything you are struggling with. What is it illuminating for you?
- Step out of your comfort zone and explore all your options for healing. I have deep respect for both traditional medicine and what is considered ‘alternative or natural medicine’. I used them all. I trusted that I would find the right people and I did. I met with a family practice doctor, the pulmonologist, a nurse practitioner as well as a chiropractor, massage therapist, acupuncture, healers, and medical intuitive. They all helped.
- Ask for help. I reached out finally when I realized that I was losing weight and it was such a huge effort to eat. A special friend after visiting with me wrote my yoga community and shared with them how much I needed support. After her note I received extra meals and visits. Sometimes it takes someone else advocating for you to let people know how serious something is. I learned from this experience that I will speak up in the future for others too. People are busy with their own life and yet they do care. Often I would hear, ‘I didn’t realize you were so sick. I wish I had known.’ I believe people really do want to help and by sharing it with more than just a few very close friends it spreads the need.
- Process your feelings and emotions. It is so easy to become a victim and feel sorry for yourself. I had to cry, say what I felt out loud and at times be witnessed. I also needed to listen to this person if they pointed out that I was comparing myself, being a victim, etc. Find someone you trust that is worthy of your trust. Someone that you know will show up with love, respect, compassion and listen. The more we can process the more we can let go of the pain or sorrow. Doing this helped me to be with exactly what was happening without shame, embarrassment or fear and have a real need met.
- Look for inspiration. When hurting, whether it be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual it is easy to feel discouraged or heavyhearted. Seek inspiration! I read autobiographies of positive people, found poems, listened to music that spoke directly to my heart…all of these things helped lift me up. I encourage you to do this if you feel down. I know for myself that when I am feeling down I am inward focused and it can feel like a downward spiral. Looking up and out makes all the difference. And inspiration can come from the most unusual places. I was at the grocery store and saw a kind act from one person to another that inspired me. I was seeking inspiration at the time and looking for it in a book, and yet there it was, right in front of me.
I never did get a formal diagnosis. The closest was viral pneumonia with pleurisy. Fortunately and gratefully, I am feeling much better and my body is regaining strength once again. This experience was hard and difficult to face as I’ve always been healthy. Yet, it taught me patience, deepened trust and increased my compassion for others that are dealing with long-term illness and loss. It also taught me to respect the fragility of life and embrace good health with gratitude and appreciation.
Here’s a blessing by Beloved Irish Poet John O’Donohue. This wonderful piece is a gift at any time, but especially during times of difficulty. I hope you will find it helpful.
Peace and love,
On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders
and you stumble,
May the clay dance to balance you.
And when your eyes freeze behind the gray window of loss
and the ghost of loss gets into you,
May a flock of colors, Indigo, red, green and azure blue
come to awaken in you a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays in the curragh of thought
and a stain of ocean blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you,
An invisible cloak to mind your life.