Being in a Relationship with Dis-Ease
How do you respond to a state of dis-ease? Do you become isolated and hide, escape or flee? Do you become anxious or angry, maybe retaliating? Perhaps you are a problem solver and dis-ease motivates you to begin brainstorming ways to resolve and end this state of unpleasantness. After all, it is certainly not ‘ok’ to feel dis-ease, is it? Disease is something we urgently find ourselves needing to get rid of and find freedom from; this is the common approach. As you begin to reflect on your own experiences with dis-ease, what feelings surface? If you are unsure of what way you respond when faced with dis-ease, you might consider pausing here for just a moment and noticing how your body and mind feel at this point in the reflection. If you have another moment to spare, take out a journal and write or draw what comes to you. By pausing, and being with your own dis-ease for a few moments, you may find some very self-revealing clues as to what your personal relationship with dis-ease is.
This pause and reflection of being with emotion and sensation, is a practice of mindfulness.
Google’s Definition of Mindfulness:
1 the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
2 a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
In the case and exercise above, we utilized mindfulness as an opportunity to come into a relationship with our dis-ease. Like any new relationship, we form a connection by beginning to spend time together. Notice how you feel together. Sit together and listen… just you and dis-ease. As you begin to learn more about her (dis-ease), your relationship will deepen and an awareness may develop as to what she triggers in you. How do you react or respond to her? In many relationships, we find ourselves falling into familiar patterns of closing down or opening up, in response to what feelings or sensations elicit within us. In a healthy, loving relationship, we do this without judgement. We simply notice what arises and maybe recognize that we have a level of acceptance. Over time, this can be viewed as a long time friend that drops by… “good old dis-ease”. She’s always showing up at the wrong time, with another problem to share with us, but we accept her because that is just “who she is”. She needs us to be there for her; we can listen to her and soothe her with a warm embrace, then we say goodbye and let her go until we meet again.
Last week, I found myself in a deep state of dis-ease and discontentment. Perhaps it was the gloom of winter or emotional garbage coming up from the the deep work I had been doing through healing meditation; but the reasons for the dis-ease don’t really matter, as they are as irrelevant as the stories I made up to justify my destructive responses to feeling disease, because my initial, hundred or so responses to being with dis-ease, were ugly. I had things to do and the more dis-ease visited me, the more anger and frustration I felt. I was not a kind or welcoming friend to her. I wasn’t treating disease like a friend that needed to be heard and held, but instead rejecting her, and therefor prolonging her stay with me and my own discontentment with her. The result was that my entire week was an emotional rollercoaster of frustration, anger and discontent. This week also became the experience of dis-ease as a great teacher.
Dis-ease as my teacher, showed up on my yoga mat and she showed up on my meditation cushion - All. Week. Long. Dis-ease, the teacher showed up on my mat, as the theme of Santosha (contentment) landed itself in my lesson plans. As I came to the mat with this lesson each day, I held space for any awareness that could come from my own discontent. Through this, I found moments of release and certainly greater awareness, but judgement was close by and mindfulness was far away. So, the feeling of dis-ease kept surfacing, it would not just let me be!
On my meditation cushion, I reached out for advice from my teacher and peers on methods to let go and stop the destructive cycle of my emotionally dis-eased state. This is where a shift happened. They taught me to try gently leaning into my emotions, rather than attacking dis-ease with warrior-like efforts. I was advised to allow dis-ease to be comforted and held, by the soother that resides in me. This inner ‘soother’ could be visualized and accessed to embrace these uncomfortable emotions presenting themselves as dis-ease. I wasn’t told how to fix anything, or actions to take for change, but simply supported and empowered. The dis-ease within me is normal, I can just acknowledge it’s presence by noticing that it has arrived again and begin accepting the emotions that arise when I meet it. With this advice, I am going to try to begin using what I know about mindfulness in application to more moments of calm awareness when in a state of dis-ease.
So now I am visualizing “her” (dis-ease) as a friend and learning how to treat “her” like a friend who is struggling. I hope to make more time to mindfully sit with her; listening and holding her gently. I want to foster a healthy relationship, where there is less judgement in her presence, because I realize that she is a friend who is bound to show up unexpectedly with stories of pain, suffering and drama, from time to time. I hope to begin to greet her with an open heart and hold the space she needs for healing with radical acceptance, before I mindfully let her go.
With you on this journey,