Finding an easier way: chronic illness as a guide

Some years ago, my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) shifted into a more severe phase. That meant I had to find an easier way to do many things in life.

How can I do this in a way that’s more comfortable? Require less energy? Take my situation into consideration? Is kind to me and hopefully others?

Here are some examples.

FINDING MY VALUE

I have explored and found my value independent of my actions and activities in the world. Before this happened, I put at least some of my value on my actions and what I produced. (After all, I am a child of the western culture where this is a feature.) Where is my value if all I can do is rest? If I cannot produce or do much?

One answer is that we see a baby as having value, and they mostly eat, poop, and make sounds. If a baby has value, why is that not the case with me and anyone else independent of age and production?

Another answer is in noticing my nature, and that the world to me happens within and as what I am. Here, nothing is missing. It’s complete as it is.

And yet another answer lies in examining any stressful thoughts around lack and finding what’s genuinely more true for me. (As I did for several years through The Work of Byron Katie.)

ASKING FOR HELP

I learned to ask for help.

Before this, I took pride in not asking much for help and created an identity around it.

After this happened, I had to ask for help. And it helped me soften that identification and see the value and beauty both in receiving and giving and in allowing others to give. (Especially as long as they feel free to say no.)

I am not doing this perfectly, whatever that means, but I am exploring and learning.

FINDING A YES OR NO BY NOTICING MY BODY’S RESPONSE

I have learned to find a more genuine yes and no, not only through inquiry but also by noticing my body’s response.

For instance, if I am wondering whether to do an activity or not, I can say to myself: I can choose to do this or not, and I chose to do it. And then notice my body’s response. Does it relax? Does it sigh in relief? Then I say to myself: I can choose to do this or not, and I choose not to. And again notice my body’s response.

The genuine yes is reflected in my body relaxing, in a sigh of relief. Sometimes it’s a yes to the activity, and sometimes it’s a no to the activity.

(How does this work? It may be because the more unfiltered and honest part of my mind is intimately connected with my physical body. Or more accurately, because any tension in my mind is reflected in tension in my physical body, and tension always happens when we are not completely honest with ourselves.)

FINDING ESSENTIAL NEEDS AND MOTIVATIONS

What are some of my surface wishes and motivations? Taking one of them, what do I hope to get out of it? And what do I hope to get out of that? And that? What’s the most essential wish and motivation behind it? How can I give that to myself? In life? How is it to give it to that part of me here and now, within myself? (From Adyashanti.)

This is another way to simplify my life. On the surface, I have innumerable wishes and motivations. And when I trace them back to their essence, I find just a few and perhaps really just one.

This helps me prioritize and find and give myself what I really wish for and need.

It also helps me differentiate my genuine needs and motivations, and the strategies I use to find and give it to myself. It helps me explore a variety of ways to give it to myself. (NVC.)

For instance, I may have a surface wish for money. When I trace it back, I find it’s more essentially a wish for safety. Can I offer a sense of safety to the part(s) of me that wish for safety? Can I find ways to feel safer in life? (I can also explore ways to be a good steward of my life in terms of finances. What are some ways to have more stable finances? What are some ways to have a little more money in my life?)

I may have a surface wish for ice cream. When I trace it back, I find it’s more essentially a wish for love, comfort, and enjoyment, and even more essentially love. Can I give love to those parts of me wishing for love? Can I give comfort to the parts wishing for comfort? Can I give enjoyment to my inner community? Can I find ways to give this to myself in life? (And I can, of course, still eat ice cream if I wish.)

SIMPLIFYING MY LIFE

I have always loved simple living, and leading simple living groups was part of my actual job for a while. CFS has encouraged me to simplify even more.

What can I prune in my life? What can I say no to? (Which is a yes to me.) What drains energy? What do I really enjoy? What gives me a boost? What’s worth spending energy on, even if it has a cost?

What has life pruned for me? And can I join in with it? Can I find where it’s a genuine gift?

FINDING PEACE WITH SAYING NO

Like many in my culture, I have been programmed to think I should say “no” as little as possible. A part of me wants to please others to avoid discomfort. I should answer calls. I should say “yes” if I am invited somewhere.

So I have had to explore this and find more peace with saying no, and sometimes really enjoy saying no.

As Byron Katie says, a genuine “no” is a yes to me. Right there, I find more peace with it and even joy.

I see the benefits of learning to say no. It helps me take care of myself and my health. It helps me prune away activities (and sometimes people) that don’t feel right to have in my life. It leaves room for what’s more enjoyable, nourishing, and meaningful. I find that the space itself is enjoyable, nourishing, and meaningful (!).

Feeling free to say a genuine yes or no is easier through good communication and some education. I am working on being better at explaining my situation to people in my life. The more they understand, the easier it is for all of us to have our needs met. We can more easily find strategies that work.

FINDING AND GIVING TO MYSELF WHAT’S NOURISHING

What’s deeply nourishing for me?

In my case, I find it’s a wide range of things and activities.

Bone broth (!) is deeply nourishing for my body and thus for all of me. Whole food low on the food chain is typically the same. (I find refined foods draining.) Warm herbal tea, and sometimes spice tea, is often nourishing, along with dark miso broth.

Nature and being in nature is deeply nourishing for me. (It can be just sitting in a garden, enjoying the sun, clouds, wind, chirping birds, the sound of the wind in the trees, and so on.)

Some relationships are deeply nourishing, especially at certain times.

This type of exploration is nourishing to me, when I have the energy.

Some input – podcasts, interviews, articles, videos, movies, and music – is nourishing for me, at the right time.

Breema is deeply nourishing for me, whether it’s receiving, giving (when I have enough energy), or doing Self-Breema.

Receiving Vortex Healing for energizing is deeply nourishing for my system. It especially helps if I feel very drained or in a crash.

MORE EASE IN THE EXPLORATIONS: BASIC MEDITATION AND MORE

I used to put extra effort into my meditation practice, whether it was training a more stable attention, noticing my nature, or something else. In my teens and twenties, I would often meditate or hours at a time. I would go fully into the Tibetan Ngöndro practice. I would practice as if my hair was on fire, as they say in Buddhism. I found I couldn’t do that anymore. I had to find an easier and simpler way.

What was this easier way? I have mostly focused on basic meditation, noticing and allowing what’s here, and noticing that any content of experience is already noticed and allowed. By noticing what’s already here, I scale back the effort to the essentials.

I found that the essence of the Headless experiments is also helpful since that too is about noticing what’s already here.

Also, I kept some simple heart-centered practices like tonglen and ho’oponopono.

And I have, in periods, done simple forms of inquiry like the Big Mind process, and The Work of Byron Katie, the Kiloby/Living inquiries.

INQUIRY AND HEART-CENTERED PRACTICES

Inquiry and heart-centered practices help me find more ease.

Stressful stories are only partially true and my system is spending a lot of energy maintaining them and reacting to them. Identifying and examining these stories, and finding what’s more genuinely true for me, opens up space for more ease and presence. I find The Work of Byron Katie and the Kiloby/Living inquiries most helpful for this.

Heart-centered practices shift how I relate to anything – discomfort, myself, others, situations, life, and more. (And really, my images of all of these.) They help me shift from seeing them as enemies, struggling with them, and so on, to genuinely befriending them and perhaps even finding genuine gratitude for them. This too opens up space and opens up for more ease and peace with what is. The practices I am most familiar with are tonglen, ho’oponopono, and the Jesus/Heart prayer.

FINDING WHAT I AM

Finding what I am helps me find an essential simplicity.

In the world, I am this human self in the world. That’s not wrong.

Is that also what I am in my own first-person experience? I find I more fundamentally am capacity for the word as it appears to me, for any and all content of experience. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

And here, there is an essential simplicity. It’s the simplicity that allows and takes the form of all the richness of experience. It’s what’s free of tension and stress, and is free to take the form of what a thought may label tension and stress.

THE NATURE OF MY EXPERIENCES IS THE SAME AS MY OWN NATURE

This is perhaps a bit obscure and marginal for most but important to me.

When I experience discomfort, the habitual response in my system is to react to it. To try to push it away. Distract myself from it, often by going into compulsions. Make it go away, sometimes by healing and transforming it away. And so on.

My system responds as if it’s “other”. As if it’s a kind of enemy or problem. As if is a foreign element.

In reality, I am capacity for it. It happens within and as what I am.

Noticing this, and resting in that noticing, helps to shift out of this pattern. And that too gives more of a sense of ease and peace. It initially takes a bit of effort, and it really frees up a lot of energy tied up in the struggle from the old habitual response.

How do I do that? The easiest for me is to remind myself of my headlessness, notice my nature directly, and then notice and rest in the noticing of the nature of (what my thoughts label) the discomfort.

INVITED TO BE MORE SINCERE AND THOROUGH

Very little of this was new to me. These were all things I have explored since my teens or twenties. But the more severe phase of the CFS invited me to be more sincere and thorough in the exploration of all of it. Life created a kind of boundary for me and I needed to go deeper within that boundary. I could get away with less. I couldn’t so easily get away with being approximate and sloppy. I needed to be more sincere and precise.

It almost goes without saying, but a part of this sincerity is to find what’s genuinely true for me. Tricking myself doesn’t work since a part of me (all parts, really) know what’s going on. It has to be genuine to have any value.

OFTEN MESSY

By writing it like this, it can look as if I have it all sorted.

The reality is far more messy and human. I am not by any means perfect in any of this, whatever we imagine “perfect” means. I am winging it. I am learning a few things as I go along, often slowly. I forget and then remember again. I have a lot of issues and traumas that sometimes obscure and confuse any clarity that’s here. I don’t have any final or full answers. And as with most of these posts, I am writing this as a reminder to myself. As an invitation to myself to bring it alive here and now and explore it further.

It’s all very much a work in progress. And an adventure.

Note: What I have written here applies to some extent to many forms of chronic illness. This includes different forms of long-covid, some of which are similar to CFS. Long-covid is a post-viral disease and CFS is often a post-viral disease.


INITIAL OUTLINE

  • Finding an easier way 
    • Basic meditation 
    • Finding essential wish / need in anything 
    • Inquiry into stressful thoughts 
    • Following yes / no signals from body, I can do etc, notice response from body 
    • Simplifying life, fewer things / appointments 
    • Asking for help 
    • Being OK with pruning and saying no

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.