Re-claiming your essence

(excerpted from my submission to Touch Journal Issue 11, September 2011)

When you are ill or in pain for days or months, you may experience a sense of powerlessness over your body that can leave you feeling like a shell of a person, as though your spirit has abandoned your life and refused to live in it any longer. This is the first salt in the morning and the last at night. You may wish to be someone else, to experience anything other than what you're experiencing in your body and your life, which don't feel like yours anymore. Your body is equal parts culprit and victim. Some days you may wish to comfort it like a sick friend. Other days you may wish to kick it out the door like an intruder.

But just as the mystic medieval Christian poet Mechthild of Magdeburg said: A bird does not fall from the sky. A fish does not drown in water. We are all meant for something, our entire being. Even during difficult times, life will claim you—your essence—like drawing blood from a screaming child. Every day is finding a spot you can live with...or letting it find you.

As adults we bear scars. We have been nibbled at. We are frayed around the edges. Yet it amazes me how we carry on despite our trials and inadequacies. Herein lies the fundamental challenge—how to wake with right mind despite pain or illness or despair and experience the joy and awesomeness of a moment now and then for that is where it is found, in glimpses and, if you’re lucky, in sustained minutes. Some days it seems as though everything in the world is working against it.

Despite problems, we can eliminate the non-essentials and find ways to go on with life and yearning, not because we don't want to stop, but because nothing else in the world will stop for us and no one is going to come along and rescue us. I have also learned and re-learned a valuable lesson about myself—to trust my body and to trust life. This has been the toughest part with each new thing that arises, large or small. Someone once said to me that all we need to do is let our bodies and souls heal themselves. With a lot of help and a full dose of compassion we do heal, but as slowly as a tree grows and with a hidden wisdom that I have only begun to understand.


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