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Illness is a Demanding Teacher

We all remember him or her – that one teacher that we had in school (who we probably didn’t appreciate while we were in school) that we look back upon now thinking how much they taught us and how much they helped us meet our true potential. For me, it was Dr. Ralph Shangraw in Pharmacy School. This was the guy who gave us ridiculous amounts of homework and busy work. This was the guy who accepted no excuses for shoddy or incomplete work. This was the guy who gave us the kind of tests that covered the material from lectures AND outside reading. This also happened to be the guy who cared the most about his students and took pride in the role that he played in helping to mold the best pharmacists that modern education could create. Is it feasible for us to look at our various illnesses in the same light? Is it just possible that even though we are in the throes of discomfort and dysfunction that we may some day in the future look back on those experiences and actually thank God (or our genes or our parents) for making us ill in the first place? I would say that not only is it possible; it should be a requirement! Even better – how about seeing it that way while we are in the middle of it? As I look back at my time in pharmacy school, I see that it was actually my resistance to, and lack of appreciation for, my hardest teachers that made the experience worse. If I would have had the ability to accept the work as part of a process and understood the end result that would be achieved, I would have done the work much more willingly… and the work would have been easier and I wouldn’t have had to work so hard to “re-learn” those lessons later on (which I did have to do). Such should be the case with our illnesses… High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Arthritis, Cancer, Depression, Anxiety, etc… none of these things are actually diseases. They are messages… communications… feedback… responses… reactions… they are different ways that your body is trying to tell you something; something very important. Your body is trying to teach you something! We have been trained inappropriately when it comes to how our bodies work and, accordingly, the ways in which to fix them when they are supposedly not functioning properly. The reason for this faulty education is simple… we look to the wrong people as educators. We look to our parents, doctors, teachers, friends, neighbors, coaches, even the media. And all the while, we have the best teacher, the ultimate instructor; right at our fingertips… it is our very own bodies! Illness is not an example of the body working improperly… just the opposite, in fact. The presence of disease is actually the body doing exactly what it is supposed to do based on the input that is has from the outside world. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not some cosmic joke to make God laugh. It isn’t some sort of punishment for something we did wrong either. Headaches are not just an aspirin deficiency and depression isn’t a Prozac deficiency. But isn’t this how we are taught to think about disease? How many times, while growing up, when we had a sore throat did our parents say… “Hmmm… I wonder what your body is trying to tell you with that sore throat.” That never happened in my house – and most likely not yours either. The more typical response was… “Here, chew this Aspergum” (remember that?) or “Let’s go see the doctor and get an antibiotic.” Here is a novel approach… how about if we look at our illnesses with curiosity and wonder instead of alarm and consternation? What if, when faced with some manner of “dysfunction” we actually listen to what our body is trying to tell us and then make whatever adjustment(s) it is asking for? What if we became more observing and less reacting? Here’s what… we would end the suffering with much more ease and efficiency and grace. We’d also probably begin the decline of the Medical Industry in the process, including the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that is the pharmaceutical industry. Ah… but there may be one major stumbling block in our plan to listen to our bodies. Most of us don’t actually speak the language that our bodies do. In point of fact, we are not conversant in that dialect at all. We don’t understand the lingo. This isn’t our fault; it’s just that we were never taught to speak this “body-language”. Now, where can we buy an English – Body-Language Dictionary? Nowhere… that dictionary doesn’t exist (at least not in any bookstore or web-site). The reason is that each of our bodies is unique. Just like snowflakes: no two are alike. Accordingly, no two languages are alike either. But this shouldn’t discourage us because inherently, inside each of us, is the universal translator, just like on Star Trek. And, the really good news is that all it takes is intent for us to turn the switch to the “on” position and begin to understand what it is our bodies are trying to tell us. So, if you are suffering from some sort of chronic disease – maybe one that you are taking a prescription medicine for – sit down in a quiet place, close your eyes, breathe slowly in and out, and then internally ask yourself just what exactly is going on… what is your body trying to tell you. And then just be quiet and listen. When you first do this, all sorts of noise and distortions and distractions will occur. Self doubt and foreign voices (parents, teachers, friends, MDs, commercials) will try to convince you that you don’t have the proper education or training or brains to answer this question. Or you may notice fear and other feelings may come to the surface. This all can be very useful information. Just be patient… and quiet… and respectful of your inner knowing… and see what happens. See what occurs to you. See what you come up with. Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of judging yourself for not doing it right or right enough! With practice, you’ll get better at it, just like if you were learning Italian instead of your unique “body-language”. Also… you may have the tendency to not believe what your body is telling you, because the information seems so unfamiliar to the way we’ve been trained to think about health and disease. We get so hung up with long, medical names and chemicals that we forget to look at the root of why those chemicals maybe out of balance in the first place. For example… if you have high blood pressure or reflux or migraine headaches… you might come up with a message like “You are not having enough fun.” Just sit with it for a while and see what comes of it. Evaluate the “suggestion” objectively. See if there isn’t some truth to it. If you do see the truth, then fix it! Go out and do something fun and see just what happens to that blood pressure or reflux or the tendencies towards headaches. Could it possibly be that simple? You bet it can! There is a favorite book of mine that can serve as a primer for you in this arena… Heal Your Body From A – Z by Louise Hay. Information is presented in a simple format that you can use as a beginning to understanding what it is that your particular body may be trying to tell you. Our bodies have the potential to operate in perfect harmony within themselves, with nature and with the other beings on this planet. If you find that yours isn’t doing that for some reason, use the opportunity to find out why and work on fixing it. And, be thankful for the lesson!!
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