Savoring Sickness

mindful sickness

Each moment bears a unique opportunity to connect with ourselves and our world. Even as the Kleenex mountains rise and bedside elixirs accumulate, we can invite peace into the moment.

Sickness offers ample opportunity for mindfulness practice; we’re faced with impermanence (the fleeting nature of health highlighted), forced to let go of plans, expectations, ego… and reminded how grateful we are for our beautiful, functioning bodies.

For centuries, people with chronic pain have practiced mindfulness as a pain management therapy. If people suffering with Multiple Sclerosis, for example, can find greater comfort and ease through meditation, so too can those of us suffering from the flu.

Let’s try it.

Turn off the television, hold off the cough syrup, and tune in to what’s going on. Yes, this may include discomfort, perhaps even pain. But embedded in this awareness is the opportunity to let go of unnecessary suffering.

Scan your body. Without judgment of right, wrong, good or bad, notice how you’re feeling. Draw awareness to the emotional reactions accompanying each physical sensation.

(If your throat is soar - likely there is little do about it besides rest and hydration. But you can alter your emotional reaction to it.)

What comes up?

Frustration due to lack of control or missed opportunities? Worry, that this sickness will conflict with plans and obligations? Restlessness from being sedentary?

Breathe in to these emotions. Acknowledge their existence. Refrain from pushing them away, to fester, grow and overwhelm your spirit. Offer your breath as a pillow– a cradle of buoyancy. Care for each feeling and watch as they begin to dislodge--- lighten --- float.

As you breathe out, allow these emotions to travel on your exhale. Watch as they ride your breath out and dissipate.

Breathing in, I acknowledge my ___________ (frustration, anxiety, judgment)

Breathing out, I let go.

Studies show that happier people are healthier people and practicing mindfulness can relieve unnecessary emotional suffering. Most likely, greater emotional balance will contribute to physical healing too- as you make thoughtful decisions about what your body needs and avoid excess stress. 

Photo Credit: Traci Lawson

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I am sick this week, and this brings up so much, from "I don't have time for this!" to "I just want to sleep all day and have someone bring me chicken soup." I find myself frustrated at the inconvenience (if not injustice!) of it all, and struggling to let go. Thank you for reminding me that there is a lesson in this...about how much I cram into my days, how much I hate my limits...and how much I need a good nap!