I’ve got this illness at the moment.
It’s making me tired and off-colour:
gives me sweats or makes me cold,
causes me discomfort in my neck.
I’m trying to make friends with it.
A good man recommended this to me.
He said it’s good to listen sometimes
to stuff you don’t want to hear.
‘Hello little illness,’ I smile,
‘Good to have you along.
I notice you’re giving me a hard time:
what’s that all about then?’
‘Ah, got through at last! What a struggle.
You have an unfortunate habit of not listening –
so I have to ramp the volume right up till you do.
Sometimes pain is the only thing that stops you.’
‘Stops me doing what? – I’m listening now, by the way.’
‘Rushing round in your habitual ways,
damaging yourself and those around you’.
‘Oh. Well tell me more – I’m still listening.’
‘You noticed yesterday, didn’t you,
at the kitchen sink, the pattern of the pain.’
‘I did notice.
I realised that every time I had a thought to do something,
I’d immediately start to do it, almost simultaneously.
But then it would hurt, and I’d have to pause instead.
Turn the tap on; open the drawer; move dirty dishes;
put clean ones away: every little action.
The pain made me realise how often I did this –
sometimes several times every minute, extraordinary.’
‘Yes, and imagine how many times that adds up to in a day,
in a week, in a lifetime.
And you also realised what was missing…?’
‘I realised I was doing all these things thoughtlessly,
my mind elsewhere. I was going off on habit.
I was driven by I know not what.
I could see that I do so much without awareness.’
‘Every time you do something without awareness,
you are probably doing it without love.
When you do something without love,
you risk damaging yourself and others.
Love is too important to leave to chance.
‘Your habitual patterns of doing things were laid down in the past.
The actions you take now may be loving, or neutral, or damaging,
but unless you bring your awareness to bear in the present, you will not know.
You could in small ways be damaging yourself, and then others.’
‘Well, you know I’m a pretty careful guy.
I don’t have any intention of hurting myself or others.’
‘I see your scepticism – but how do you know you’re not?
How can you be certain, if you are not conscious?
Yesterday you had evidence – every time you moved without awareness it hurt
and you could feel clearly how damaging it was to your being.’
‘You’re making me think afresh, it’s true.
Why don’t you tell me what else I should think about?’
‘Think of it this way: suppose every time
you make one of those seemingly tiny moves without thinking,
it’s like making a tiny tear in the fabric of your being.
You can see, can’t you, that hundreds of tiny tears every day
add up to some pretty big rents before long.
Think of the energy leaking out, think of your integrity lost.’
‘Yes I can see that. I thought I was mostly acting with awareness,
but this takes it up another level.
Or down to a more detailed level would be more accurate.
I can see there’s a lot of work to do…’
‘Yes, but do it with joy, love and awareness. Otherwise…’
‘… it just becomes more thoughtless, potentially damaging actions.’
‘You’re getting it. I’m going to go now, and leave you to it.’
‘Wait a minute – you’re not really my illness are you?
I was thinking you might be my body in disguise, but you’re beyond that.
You’re the wisdom and the love beyond my sense of self.’
‘Perhaps your sense of self has been limited and needs to expand to include me.’
‘Sounds a bit scary. What happens if I won’t do that?’
‘More pain I guess. Sometimes it’s the only thing you understand.’