When you have a chronic illness there is so much in life that doesn’t turn out as planned. There are the big things like the career you were on track for or the ability to find a partner or start a family, and the lifestyle that is lost, not just from physical challenges but also from not being able to earn in the same way. And then there are the everyday things like not having enough energy or being in too much pain to have fun, or the regular bad days which get in the way of you being able to do, even what you’ve adapted to as a new normal. We are almost constantly faced with things not being how we want them to be.
Ironically, the biggest thing that you can do to take back control of your happiness is to learn to let go. The only way that you can possibly make the most of the what is, is to let go of any ideas of how it should have been or how you wanted it to be.
Often letting go, especially of the big things, involves a grieving period before you can reach an acceptance of what is. Even with the little things, it’s very important to acknowledge how you feel about not being able to do what you want, before you let go.
But letting go is so powerful. It frees you of the energy you’re wasting on resisting what is. Anything that has happened up until this moment cannot be changed, so resistance is just a futile waste of energy. Letting go allows us to use that energy more constructively for improving this moment forward.
In Buddhism, suffering is thought to result from the state of wanting. Sometimes that can be a negative kind of wanting. Not wanting to be in pain, is really wanting to not be in pain. The ideas is that we can minimise suffering by letting go of being in the wanting/ wanting not, state, wherever we can.
I’ve learned that the more I let go, the more at peace I can feel. I still have aims, but I let go of wanting the outcome. I just do what I can and see where it leads. A big part of this letting go is being able to trust that it will all eventually lead somewhere good. Or choosing to have faith that it will.
The more I truly surrender to what is, the more available I am to really enjoy what is. Last year, when my health was really bad, and I could hardly do anything without post exertional malaise (PEM), the only strategy I could really engage in, was to practise surrender. And the more I did, the more joy I found in my gentle reading, the more joy I found in watching the birds on the feeders, the more present I was to the love in my family. In fact, I would say it was almost easier to be happy then, than when I have a bit more energy and am more tempted to want to achieve something! When I’m feeling better, I often have to work harder at letting go of the ‘wanting/ wanting not’ state.
The other great power of letting go is that the resulting state of peace is much more conducive to healing than being in the state of suffering that ‘wanting/wanting not’ brings. The great paradox is, if you’re really serious about healing yourself, the best thing you can possibly do is let go of wanting to be healed.
What wants do you have that are causing you suffering right now? How could you let them go?
Image courtesy of dutourdumonde at Yayimages.com