Living with a Serious Illness
We human beings are subject to the pairs of opposites that belong to this physical world – conditions such as health or sickness, wealth or poverty and happiness or sadness, all of which may affect us at any time of life. When we, or those we care for, become ill, the situation may even be critical or life threatening. Yet however helpless we feel, it is important to remember that a choice is always open to us .We can choose either to be a victim or we can choose to be a willing participant in the flux of life, accepting our destiny with courage.
When we play the part of a victim we probably cry, “Why me? How can I have such bad luck as to end up with this awful disease?” But if we choose to remain in control, it’s time to be positive. Instead of wrapping ourselves in self-pity, we can look objectively at the situation. If we turn around we will see that we are not alone – many people suffer in life, some in most dreadful ways. Why should we be exempt from the laws of life? Maharaj Charan Singh puts our suffering into perspective. He writes in Divine Light:
All pleasure, pain, poverty and disease are parts of our life due to our past actions. Disease, poverty and pain are for our own good. They turn our face to the Lord and create humility, meekness and devotion in us. They are essential parts of the economy of creation and are as necessary as health, wealth and pleasure.
If we align our thinking with this perspective rather than remaining in our own isolated bubble, the acceptance it brings will be a source of strength and comfort to us. We should take what steps we can to get medical treatment and then be patient. The meekness, humility and devotion that Hazur mentions are spiritual attributes that we must develop at some time in our quest for God-realization. Through the medium of the serious illness – previously seen as a blight – we can learn to practice these attributes. For instance, finding that we are dependent on doctors, nurses and friends may be a bitter pill, but if it teaches us to let go and be grateful, we have received a wonderful blessing. And if in our hour of need we turn trustingly to the Lord, the illness is his grace indeed.
Applying clear thinking is a start and we should then continue to reach out for a positive perspective, using the tools we have been given at the time of initiation. For a satsangi, the best way to keep humble and positive is to do simran at the time of meditation and simran all the day when the mind is free. This spiritual repetition, with focus, draws us into the field of the divine energy which is actually always within us; mere intellectual assertion is never enough, but when we align ourselves with our Master through simran, negativity is dissolved.
We similarly need this support if we have a friend or family member who is suffering. Telling the person we are caring for to cheer up, they are just going through their karma, is not necessarily helpful. Do we know it’s all karma or are we just repeating a concept? But by regularly doing our meditation and keeping the Master in mind, understanding and empathy will be increased; we will automatically be led to helpful actions which bring genuine cheer.
Though we are told that this plane of existence is all illusion, our suffering and that of dear ones naturally feels real enough to us. To get over this we must dig deep, have faith in the teachings and do our spiritual practice. This is the route which gives us the power to bear what we must and to help ourselves and others.