If there is one thing Lyme disease has taught me this past year, it is that the difficult experiences in life are so much less difficult when we simply open to them and meet them.
Lately there have been days when I can hardly move or get out of bed all day. This is a natural part of the healing process I am going through, but when this happens it is easy for my mind to go down the track of fear, worrying about what will happen if this never passes, what people will think of me if I cannot uphold my commitments, what will happen to me financially if I can’t work, what will happen to the projects and plans that I value so much, and on and on.
Fortunately, I know that these thoughts are where the majority of my suffering comes from. And through the gift of mindfulness, sooner or later I notice when I am starting down this path of suffering. I notice it because my body tenses up, and I feel the sensations of anxiety, sadness or anger in different parts of my body. And these uncomfortable sensations remind me to shift my mind.
When I shift my mind and open to this moment, it is clear to me that laying in bed and feeling what I am feeling is exactly what I am supposed to be doing right now. Because I don’t have any other choice, and because resisting it only makes me feel worse and denies my body the rest that it needs in order to heal.
When I remember this and shift into the moment, I instantly feel my body relax and my awareness expand. And suddenly the sensations of being sick are not actually all that bad. The warm, humming, feverishness in my body can even be pleasant at times. I can soothe my aching muscles with awareness, like soaking them in a hot bath. I notice the pleasant scent of the sheets that my partner has lovingly laundered. I hear the birds chirping and the children playing outside. I feel the sunlight shining in through the window and get lost in the exquisite shapes of passing clouds. And I’m not a miserable invalid anymore. I’m just alive, laying in bed. And life is beautiful.
When I am able to open to the moment in this way, I find that I am then more able to open my heart to it all. I can more easily open to a sense of compassion for myself, and appreciation for my partner, our house, our dog, and all the support of the friends and family that surrounds me.
And in doing this, I can more easily open to my higher power and guides, and I pray for their help in staying with this experience and meeting it fully. Because they always gently remind me that this is all we ever have to do in life: We are here to be here. All we ever have to do is show up. And when we do, the love, purpose, and happiness that we have been seeking all begin to flow automatically.
The great thing about illness (and many other difficult experiences in life) is that, in such times, the contrast becomes so clear between the path of suffering and the path of happiness. The path of suffering is an unconscious mindset of resistance and distraction, which leads to being swept away by blame, anger, despair and all the other negative emotions. The path of happiness is simply dropping our thoughts and judgments about all of it and meeting life as it is, in this moment.
And this is exactly what mindfulness helps us do. It helps us notice these two paths throughout our daily life, and it gives us the freedom to choose which path to take. And it helps us discover that we can instantly switch paths in any moment – it is never too late!
With practice, as our awareness grows, and as we become increasingly conscious of what each of these two paths feels like, it becomes harder and harder to choose the path of suffering, and easier and more natural to choose the path of happiness.
I invite you to choose the path of happiness right now, with this 10-minute guided mindfulness meditation on “Dropping Your Story”: