Getting past self-pity when struggling with health issues

Turns out, it’s not always an easy exercise to find what inside of me needs releasing today and has crystallised enough to find way into reasonably coherent words here, and I use “reasonably” loosely. (Wonder how to add emoji to posts, do any of of you know how?)

I had a fairly busy day, still catching up on meal prep, laundry and work. It is a great blessing to work from home once a week these days. Hope I find a reasonable rhythm before things change.

The last couple of years of knee and foot injuries and accidents have left me with very weak legs that are also out of balance. My right leg is significantly weaker than the left. Lately I have been trying to do some exercise prescribed by my osteopath but that’s causing pain in the arch of my foot and very tight and sore achiles tendon. Blah blah blah.

As I write this post, I have Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban playing in the background. Those movies are therapeutic for me, I can tune in and tune out, it facilitates my writing. Believe me I tried many other TV shows and movies but there is none I am so deeply familiar that I can tune in and out and relax into my creativity.

Dementors are the embodiment of fundamental darkness or the devil king of sixth heaven. They represent how something can suck all joy and life and purpose out of our lives and only very strong positive light and force from within us can defeat it. Brilliant representation, isn’t it?

Anyhow, I digress. Over the last many years of seeing several medical professionals has provided me with this ability to observe and describe my symptoms. At first, when I used to see my TCM doctor every week for acupuncture, I did not know what to say. I was so disconnected with the experience in my body that I did not know what was happening to me and how to describe it. Slowly I developed this awareness of myself. This by all means is a good thing. Connection is better than disconnection.

The next stage to this is though, trusting that what is out of balance can find balance on its own and helping that process along. For the most part, I haven’t found this within my being and my consciousness yet. Some days I have it but when I am struggling with pain or physical discomfort, it becomes harder to think positive thoughts and send healing messages to my body.

And in this difficulty and pain, I find myself questioning – why me, why is this happening to me, when would it stop. I find it hard to discern and balance the line between self-pity and self-compassion.

President Ikeda wrote, quoted from the Indigo Magazine Jan 2018 issue, page 30:

“My days back then were a continuous, intense struggle. I had no time for self-pity. I knew in the depths of my being that an eternal, ever-victorious, indestructible bastion was being built within me as I strove tirelessly to support my mentor with the spirit of exerting millions of eons of effort.” (…) It is only when we struggle against adversity that the tremendous power  residing in the very depths of our lives begins to reveal itself. Those who can summon great strength at the most challenging time are victors.

Self-pity falls within the realm of fundamental darkness. It is the feeling of being a victim and being powerless to affect my situation. It keeps me stuck in suffering and prevents you from looking at what I need to learn and transform, and from doing my human revolution.

Compassion comes from recognising my own Buddha nature or greatest potential. It comes from an unwavering faith in my ability to change poison into medicine. The question is am I willing to support myself and continue to believe in myself even when it is painful, physically or emotionally? For me, this can happen only when I look at my struggles with the eyes of faith.

From Indigo Magazine Jan 2018, page 32, President Ikeda writes:

Difficulties are inescapable. “No one can avoid problems, not even sages or worthies” (WND1p681), says the Daishonin. Since we cannot avoid them, we must overcome them. We must overcome them and attain Buddhahood. In Letter from Sado, the Daishonin writes: “Iron, when heated in the flames and pounded, becomes a fine sword. Worthies and sages are tested by abuse” (WND1p303). Swords are tempered in fire. That’s the only way to make a sword.

From the eyes of faith, my struggles and difficulties, are all happening for me. Life is happening for me – so I can build my own “Treasure Tower” and unlock the path to absolute happiness.

As for health issues, from President Ikeda’s Dialogue with Guy Bourgeault, professor at the University of Montreal, published in Indigo Magazine Jan 2018:

Bourgeault : Health, in human beings, is the prolonged capacity of an individual to cope physically, emotionally, mentally and socially with his or her environment (…) This definition makes room for the dynamic effort and tension (…) It reminds us that good health is not a stable state, that it is always threatened and that we can never take it for granted. Above all, it is never complete and whole, that is, it is never perfect.

Not only is good health not about chasing perfection, it is determined by our individual capacity to cope. Anything that helps expands our capacity to cope would contribute to our health. The reality is always dynamic, in flux and ever-changing. The reasons that make us hopeless can be turned around and fill us with hope.

And the dialogue further states (excerpts):

Ikeda: Illness is a natural component of the life cycle. It does not necessarily mean the defeat of life. On the contrary, the struggle to confront illness enables us to celebrate the victory of the human experience in the combat to renew life. (…) Nichiren Daishonin also said, “Illness gives rise to the resolve to attain the way”. Sickness helps people pioneer a more fulfilled way of living by reflecting on the meaning and dignity of life.

If I reflect on the last 8 years of my life and my illness, I have grown leaps and bounds as a person and really made huge progress towards understanding the deep meaning and dignity of life. Perhaps some people have this innate understanding and others learn it quickly and still others live their lives in delusion or just go slow in their learning.

Either way, each journey is unique and meaningful.

My journey on my path to kosen rufu leads me to expanding my capacity. As long as my purpose remains clear and in focus and I continue to strive towards it, the rest of my life and inner journey continues to progress.

Could there be a more hopeful way to live?

I think not.


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