I once met a spiritual healer who claimed that ME/CFS was an illness of people who aren’t able to be themselves. He claimed it was caused by people forcing themselves to fit a mould set by society or by others expectations, that wasn’t in keeping with who they really are. Any suggestion that my illness is psychosomatic can hit all the wrong buttons in me, so I responded with forceful arguments about the biological nature of my illness. Over time though, I have reflected on his words and have come to an acceptance of the premise that the natural expression of our true inner nature will result in improved happiness and health.
Chronic illness interrupts the way our life is going. There is a lot of grief involved in this, but every problem brings opportunity. When our life is interrupted we can take the opportunity to reassess how well it was working for us. Was it taking a direction that is a natural expression of who we really are? If not, we get a chance to make new choices about the direction we want it to go in. Our energy levels may limit how we follow that direction, we have to choose a path that fits the here and now, but we have an opportunity to choose something that is fitting with our true self. Activities that fit with our inner nature are easy. They take little effort and use energy more efficiently. If you have reached a level of activity where you can do more than just look after your health, then it makes sense to make the most out of your energy by using it in ways that suit you.
When I first got this illness my life was so full on, so filled up, I couldn’t see how it could go any better. What I can only see in hindsight was that I kept myself so busy doing things, that I had no idea who I really was because I never gave myself the time to just be. ME/CFS forces us to take that time, so we might as well use it wisely.
Here are some tips for exploring your true inner nature.
Meditation, Silence and Nature
Spending time in silence, contact with nature and regular meditation can all bring you closer to your inner self. It takes practise to quieten the mind, but once you learn to let go of the tyranny of your thoughts your true nature will reveal itself to you. All you have to do is listen and observe. When I was younger I used to talk to trees. If there was something on my mind that I just couldn’t work out for myself, I’d find a big, old, beautiful tree, sit down at its roots and ask it a question, then I’d just sit there quietly patiently listening out for it to answer.
Ease and Enjoyment
The things that come easily to you and the things that you enjoy so much that you lose all track of time are natural expressions of your true self. Make a list of all the things that you have ever done that you really enjoyed doing, focusing on things that were easy and which made you lose track of time. Which of them could you do now with limited energy? Look for things that you could break down and do in short bursts. Or perhaps things you could share with someone who’s willing to help you. For example, since I discovered my love of gardening I have always been lucky enough to have people around me who also love it and will help me with what I can’t manage alone.
Creativity and Talent
When are you most creative? (My post on getting creativemight help if you feel you’ve lost touch with your creativity). What do you consider your talents to be? Remember the principle of ease and enjoyment. There might be some things that you’re quite good at but don’t really enjoy. Some people get pushed down a road that isn’t right for them just because they have an above average ability in something. At 15 I appeared to be pretty good at maths, I didn’t really enjoy it much but I didn’t find it too hard so I accepted the advice that I should take it at A level. I’ve never struggled at anything more in my life and only scraped through thanks to a very patient teacher! Have you been doing something you don’t really enjoy just because you’re reasonably good at it? Don’t confuse this with a true talent which is an easy and enjoyable expression of who you really are.
Streams of Consciousness Writing
If you find that writing comes naturally, you might want to try streams of consciousness writing. The idea is to write down your thoughts freely as they come to you, without trying to order them or make any sense.
Choosing Your Own Values
As we grow up we absorb the values of those around us. Our need for a sense of belonging often means we respond to the expectations of our family and culture even when they might not fit with who we are. What are the values that have been guiding how you live your life? Do they really make sense for you? Do they feel right? Allow yourself to start living life by the values that you choose, not just the ones handed down to you.
Learning from the Past
Some people find that looking back can be a useful tool. If you choose to do so, make sure you focus on what you can learn from it. What will be helpful in the here and now? When reviewing the past think positively. Instead of thinking I never want to do that again, plan for a positive alternative for what you would want to do instead. Let go of any thoughts about past mistakes, focus on what you have learned about yourself that can guide a more positive future.
Counselling and Personal Development
You might find it helpful to get some support while you’re choosing a new path. Counselling and personal development groups are other tools that might help you learn to live in harmony with your true self.
Being You in the Here and Now
The way this illness limits what we can do can often leave us feeling as though it’s impossible to be ourselves. If I’ve have described myself to someone before I got this illness I would have used the words active and adventurous. I’ve now come to understand that I am still the same person. I was always a lot more than active and adventurous, those two traits were just the way I expressed myself most regularly. The challenge with this illness is to learn new ways of expressing all aspect of our self in keeping with our lower levels of energy. It’s tough but not impossible! I invite you to rise to the challenge! I’d love to hear about how you get along. What tools do you use to help you get in touch with who you really are?