An online friend is suffering through one of the most long drawn out and agonizing health challenges I have ever heard tell of. She sent some questions in an email:
Q: Uh-oh, didn't anticipate that I might start having questions I'd like to ask you. I"ve started reading Nothing Personal.
I am consumed and entirely identified with just wanting the agony of this illness to end. It is nearly unrelenting. So, I want it to stop. Sometimes I want to be healthier in order that it might stop. Other times I think I've had enough and want to be dead.
I find it very hard to be in the present with this magnitude of agony, and present to the desire, and present at all. It hurts my head to even direct my attention one way or another. So, then the mind concludes, as it has also sometimes been told practitioners, that when you have a neurological disorder of the sort I have all bets are off. The neurology runs the show, and there is no freedom to be found truth-wise until there is some relief. Cuz there's just no room in the agony-filled horizon for anything else. But I don't want to believe that. But the simple practices of investigation do hurt my head more.
The other thing I wonder is that you are seeking treatment for your physical health of some kind. I guess for you that derives neither from thought, nor from feeling, nor from desire, nor from sensation, nor from an idea of a better future, but from a movement of Heart? I am so much of the time trying to "figure" it out, and I want to get it right. I don't want to lose my life. That seems awfully normal to me!
I liked the part where you said whatever we think or do Mystery is directing it all anyway, and we aren't really making choices. And that our thoughts and feelings aren't even ours, but come thru the way antennas pick up radio signals, so we are not to be blamed even for our fear, which in my case is rampant.
But then there are pointers about making better choices from Heart rather from thoughts/emotions/desires. And I want to make those better choices! But wow, stillness and I seem to have parted company so long ago. So that part seemed contradictory. Don't know if I spelled out the contradiction very well--that on the one hand Mystery is doing the choosing whatever we attribute our choices too--thought, emotion, desire. And on the other hand, we'll make better choices if it comes from Heart or Silence or Mystery.
And I want to mention how much I get the message from all around me that thoughts cause suffering not just to the thinking mind, but directly to the body. Epigenetics and all that. I'm continually being told to think more uplifting thoughts, or I can't get better unless I believe I can, or it's my self-image that's the problem, or beliefs, or traumas, etc.
And I looked at one of the websites you sent, which said that all illness was caused by trauma and conditioning, except where injury and poisoning are concerned. The latter two--poisoning and injury--are definitely major players for me. But I certainly can imagine that trauma and conditioning are as well. Only those are illusory, right? That's the past. So--and I don't mean to be challenging here... just desperate!--why would you be looking for help with those things from practitioners?
A: First of all, your questions are all very good and valid questions especially considering what you are going through. I may not answer them all in depth, but I can share a little:
My perspective has expanded somewhat since I wrote Nothing Personal and I now hold the view that all there is is truth. So everything, your fear, your desires, all of the ideas and theories about health and healing, and of course the bigger truths of our eternal essence are all 100% true. The only question is how true, and perhaps more importantly how true for you right in this moment. It is 100% true that if you buy a lottery ticket you can win, but unfortunately it is not very true :)
So your overwhelming desire to be done with the agony is completely natural, normal and true. The question is how true is it in this moment in your life. I often say that the truth is whatever opens your heart (or your awareness) and quiets your mind. Does your desire to be free of the pain open your heart and quiet your mind? Or does it close your heart and agitate your mind? There is no right or wrong answer and it is always relative. It is possible that in some moments that desire closes your heart and in other moments it opens your heart. It depends on where you are to start with when the desire arises. Are you in the depths of apathy and despair? Then a desire to be somewhere else may be a bigger truth in that moment. Are you in a rare moment of acceptance or perhaps even just distracted by something else other than your agony? Then the desire may be a contraction of your heart, of your awareness in that moment.
The truth itself is big enough for all of the contradictions, and all of the different perspectives about who chooses and who or what you really are and how to live your life and on and on and on. Even illusions are 100% true, they just are not very big truths. My favorite definition of an illusion is it is something real that appears to be something other than what it is. The smoke and mirrors of a magic trick are real smoke and mirrors, but they create the illusion of something else that is not smoke or mirrors. Trauma and condtioning are illusions, but that does not mean we do not ever have to deal with them. Ultimately everything is an illusion, but nonetheless the illusions you are experiencing are here and happening now. Seeing their illusory nature can help you move beyond them, but the point may not even be to move beyond all illusions, but to just get to know them so well that they do not trick you any more. What are the illusions that are showing up here and now? How real or true do they seem, especially if you sense them with your heart? A good practitioner or healer can help with this uncovering or seeing through the illusion as they are naturally not as caught in the particular illusion you or I may be caught in, simply because it is not their illusion in that moment.
We do not always get to decide what truths we experience, but we can discriminate how true they are. For example I have found that the idea that our thoughts cause our illness and suffering is often used as a judgment and so is usually not very true, as I have rarely found a judgment that really opened my heart. However if the idea is not being used to reject our experience or criticize someone, then it could still be a useful and even helpful or relevant piece of the truth. However, all ideas are only at best a small part of the truth. There is so much more going on in everyone including you than just your thoughts. How could they ever be the only cause of anything?
Everything you or I know about health and healing is also just part of the truth. So much always remains a mystery. Right now you do know what you are experiencing, and it sounds like it is beyond even my worst imagination of the worst that could happen to someone. But there is still so much that you and I both do not know. What is the ultimate effect of this much suffering on your soul? Can your soul be harmed, or does even the worst suffering eventually pass? Will your soul be much more wise and compassionate after this illness is over and long past? Is your soul much more wise and compassionate right now than when this illness started? Is it possible that even if that compassion and wisdom is blocked most of the time by the pain, that it is still here? Any conclusion even about these bigger questions that arises is just the conclusion in this moment. It is again a 100% true conclusion, but it is never the final conclusion. There is always the next conclusion and the one after that, and the conclusion after a couple hundred more lifetimes have gone by in the blink of an eye.
I am not sure that we are here to only make "better" choices. When I hold too tightly to the idea of something being "better" it tends to close my heart and sometimes even paralyzes me from making any choice. When I hold the idea of "better" lightly, then I make my choices and get on with it. Whatever comes of my choice is whatever comes of my choice, and my choice is only a very small part of what determines what comes next anyways. However, even though it is only a small part, it is still a part of what determines what comes next so I still try to make the "better" choice, I just don't worry too much about the results.
Similarly, when I have health problems which I have had my fair share of (although clearly much less than you), I just get curious about the choices that show up to be made, and do my best with them. Most of the time I experience it as something like wandering around in the dark. I try dozens of things that maybe help a little or maybe don't help at all. Then once in a blue moon, I experience something that seems to help a lot....at least for a while until the situation shifts again and suddenly it does not help anymore. In my best moments I find all of this fascinating and rich beyond words. In my worst moments I get caught in a small truth about how it should be, or what is wrong with me, or what is wrong with life that this should happen to me. The many experience of very big truths that I have had do tend to make me relatively unconcerned when I get tangled up in a small truth. It seems like my over-arching lack of concern does mean that generally the small truths pass very quickly, but any effort on my part to get rid of them makes them stay a little longer. When I just accept them as being small, they usually pass very quickly.
So I seek treatment for my health issues, I just get on with my life, I get distracted by other things, I play with my dog, I sit and feel my way into the depths of presence and love, I eat lunch, I am swept up in awe, I am swept up in desire, I am lost in confusion, I experience a shatteringly profound insight, and on and on and on. All of this is life. All of this is truth. It is not up to me how big or how small a truth appears before me or arises from within me. I can resist, hold on, let go, laugh, cry and still the movement of life unfolds with more for me to be mystified by, and again, at my best moments, inspired to embrace and savor to the utmost.
I invite you to perhaps investigate until your head hurts from it and then do something else. Do everything you can to help yourself get better and then let yourself give up and do nothing. Take it all one moment at a time, and then worry like hell about the future and resent the past. Find something else to think about and then give up on that also. If you feel overwhelmed that is natural and normal given what you are experiencing. If somehow mysteriously in the deepest moments of agony there is a glimmer of acceptance and peace, that is also natural and normal. Sometimes the deepest surrender comes when we are way past the end of any rope. And sometimes more agony comes when we cannot believe there could even be any more agony.
I do not even know if anything is ultimately a big truth or a small truth, I only know what is here and how open or spacious my awareness is or how small and contracted it is in this very moment. The only constant is that I am very often surprised by what happens next, and even by where a bigger truth is actually found. Often it shows up in the center of the smallest truths I encounter. In that spirit, in this moment I send you as much light and love as I can imagine sending anyone. It might just touch you a little or it might reach deeply into the suffering you are experiencing. I hope maybe it is the latter, but I do not know what it means ultimately even if in this moment you are touched. I just know it feels true to send the love your way in this particular and unique moment, and it touches me deeply to consider how difficult and overwhelming your situation is. I am humbled and saddened and mystified and broken open by compassion. And then to be honest and transparent about the unceasing movement of this mysterious thing called life, in a few moments, I will most likely just get on with the usual stuff and simply brush my teeth and go to sleep. But for now, you have my utmost love and compassion, as we truly are one and the same being. May you find all of the peace and ultimate healing that it is possible to find.