Sunday, 27 November 2011

Dying to get better

Ours has been the house of the sick for over a week.  ’ö-Dzin started out with the dreaded lurgy and then I must have been feeling left out ’cause I began a few days later.  Being ill is a strange bardo and I think the hardest aspect of it is giving myself permission to just be ill.  I have to tell myself that it is okay not to put the computer on for a couple of days – the email will still be there when I’m better.  We can live on takeaway food for a day or two – it won’t do us any harm and we might as well take advantage of living in the city.  Mum is safe and well looked after in the Care Home – she can cope without seeing me for a little while.  The horses are checked every day and will be fine – Dee hasn’t even wanted to bother to come in for a feed the last few times I’ve visited her.   So... relax and experience the bardo of being ill however unpleasant it may be from the relative point of view of health.

A bardo is the intermediate stage between two states.  In Buddhism this is usually taught as the state between death and rebirth – at the end of one life and the beginning of another.  It can also be recognised as the state between one sphere of experience and another.  One experience dies so the next can be born.  So for most of us illness is a bardo experience that punctuates the flow of usual good health.   Our familiar experience of health dies and a state of illness is born, which will in turn die so that health can return.

I’ve never sneezed so much in my life—8 or 10 sneezes in a row each time—but I quite like sneezing so that wasn’t so bad.  The worst bit was the cough and just generally feeling pretty rough.  One thing I like about being too unwell to join in with the rest of the human race is cooching up in a blanket, watching a film, and (at least once one of you feels well enough to make them) drinking hot toddies and/or mulled wine – oh and I mustn’t forget cat cuddling.  As far as Spots and Smokey are concerned lying around on the sofa is an invitation for quality snuggle time.

There are many opportunities for meditation practice when ill – being aware of the impermanence of health and the impermanence of illness; entering the dimension of the new sensory experiences illness creates; dwelling in the emptiness of not-being-able-to-do.  When the body is sick the mind can remain cheerful.  We do not have to lose our sense of humour.

So today I am emerging once more into the world of the living.  It is always surprising to realise that it has only been a week of illness when I am getting better.  The worst days of being ill can be pretty intense and uncomfortable, but I am one of the lucky ones who are usually mostly well and it’s good to remember that.

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