Sickness and health

Thoreau wrote: “‘Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.” True if we allow our dis-ease to incite us toward integrity. By that I mean that illness is a messenger, and if we listen to the message we can use it as a springboard to awaken ourselves to the imbalances we’ve created in our lives. Pain is the body’s last-ditch effort to get our attention. Body’s agenda is very different from ego’s because body is the material expression of soul, whereas ego is a construct, a mask programmed and imposed by social circumstance. Ego may insists on overwork for seemingly very rational and pragmatic reasons; these mean nothing to Body. Ego may insist on gallons of coffee and bad food to feed ambition and fear. Body, like Earth, cares nothing for success or failure.

When we take our physical being more seriously than egoic ambition, this is the beginning of true health and integrity. It has been a long way for me, driven first by ambition to dance, then by fears for survival that I used to compromise myself in relationships that ultimately did not align with my path. Sickness in the form of Crohn’s disease was my messenger – an inconvenient and obstinate angel that shook me by my bowels again and again until I paid attention.

If we think that paying more attention and care to the body is inconvenient, think again; the alternatives are far more costly. When illness pays a call, it is time to stop. The Annunciation, though not a visitation of illness, can be for us a model of acceptance. When Mary, seized in an ordinary moment, was visited by the angel – and there’s a wonderful poem by Denise Levertov on this – her acceptance is humble and powerful.  When we accept the message, when we pay attention to the consequences, it is our first step towards honoring the precious vessel of our body, the incarnation of our soul.

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