One of those strange phenomena of being human is that we get ill. This body sometimes gets tired, and it also succumbs to a wide variety of viruses and bugs thrown at it daily. This body also has the possibility of becoming sick with diseases that can take us by surprise.
I would regard myself as relatively fit and healthy. I swim several times a week, sometimes in the sea, and walk anything between 10 and 20 miles a week. In addition, I have a regular tai chi and yoga practice. Apart from the odd minor cold or headache, I have kept quite well for 5 years. I remember the last time I got really sick quite well, as I was on retreat on Holy Island on Arran, Scotland. I remember only too well how it felt to be ill away from home and feeling fairly isolated without the things around me I needed. That particular virus was very long lasting too. It was very Covid like, with a cough hounding me for a year after, and totally changing my sense of taste and smell. It also left me with blocked sinuses and tinnitus, which I still suffer from some 5 years later.
In the East, there is a deep-rooted philosophy that the body is to be cared for with a cocktail of gentle exercise – Qigong and Yoga and to take care of the meridian system. The meridian system is a set of energetic channels throughout the body which, using Qigong, Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be kept clear. In this way, illnesses are detected early to mitigate their impact or prevented completely.
I started learning about the meridian system 10 years ago when I trained to teach Qigong, Tai Chi and Yoga. But still ever a Westerner, I recognise that I don’t often recognise that the different parts of the body are present until they go wrong.
And one of those moments is now. Something is going wrong. Not just with one part of my body, but multiple parts of my body all at once. On day minus one, I noticed something wasn’t quite right. You know that feeling you get at the back of the nose and throat that come with feeling more tired than normal? On Day One I was on my way back from a 2-night trip away, and the symptoms of a virus began to make themselves very known. My throat started to feel quite sore, I started sneezing a lot, a tickly cough began in my chest and my eyes began to stream. Furthermore, my brain started to feel foggy, and I couldn’t think. Just like that, overnight. Despite having been ‘double jabbed’ of course Covid came to my mind, because that is what we have been programmed for the last 20 months and so I arranged to have a PCR test on my way home. I also decided to take a breath of fresh air on the beach to see if I felt any better. Normally when I am on a beach, I am full of energy and bouncing around like a puppy. But not on this day. No sooner had I made it down to the sea I felt overwhelmingly hot and tired and all I wanted to do was lie down. The picture in this blog is of that moment.
When I got home and was able to rest, curled up in a chair with a blanket, I found that I was becoming very mindful of how I was feeling. It was all I could do to journal a few notes here and there, and this is the result. A mindful journey into a virus.
Resentment started to arise. It was just there, present in my being in no particular place. I had plans to travel to London for a few days on the Sunday, which turned out to be Day Two of the virus. But I wasn’t going anywhere. I was glued to my bed. These plans had been formed months ago and I actually found it hard to believe I was no longer going.
I was a bit surprised when the Covid test came back negative because I felt terrible. It was that feeling of being so unwell that is a few degrees over the tolerance level, but there was nothing to do but accept the situation.
I began to realise that I didn’t have the energy to really feel anything. It feels like my emotions have been supressed and I am buried deep into this being, looking out.
I didn’t have the energy or focus to meditate, and yet I found my body falling into a mindful trance. I can only be mindful because the body sensations are so overwhelming, keeping me rooted in the present moment.
An insight strikes me quite hard. It is that I haven’t been grateful enough for my body when it is healthy. This insight surprised me. I have appreciated swimming and walking and all the things I do in daily life, but have I ever paused in these moments and really truly appreciated my healthy body in that moment? The answer is no. I have been more likely to have been troubled by ageing and my weight than the pure simple gift of feeling healthy and happy with my body in any one given moment. These days my mindfulness practice has helped me to become quite adept at taking in the good. Noticing those small moments in life that bring joy, and then squeezing them into my body and being so they linger. And yet, I had totally missed moments of joy at the body feeling good.
My body is working hard to fight the virus. My heart is beating hard, I feel very hot and my head is pounding. At first I notice that I am not very good at being ill. I find myself fidgeting and moaning a lot. I then have the interesting insight that I have a tendency to keep myself busy. At first there is this little generator whirring wanting to do something, but then it realises the battery has died and there is nowhere to go and nothing to do.
In our mindfulness meditation practice we come to a place of rest, saying ‘nothing to do, nowhere to go’. I can do this in my sitting practice but in daily life, seemingly this is more difficult. So I set my self a challenge. How is it to just accept my body isn’t working properly and rest, properly?
By Day three I feel no better. In fact I feel worse. How can that be? I remind myself that this will pass and for the moment I just have to yield to it. I remember how stress compromises the immune system, so no need to cause any stress for myself. And then I remember to be kind to myself in this moment. I bring to mind the thousands of people suffering from a virus at the moment, Covid or otherwise, I am not alone in this. I can feel my body and being soften, and I fall asleep until the next bout of coughing disturbs this.
Here I am at Day four, writing this in bed, feeling no better but with a newfound awareness.
Kabat Zinn says that so long as we are breathing there is more right with us than wrong with us.
How true that is.
I am grateful I only have a virus that will pass and send out loving kindness to everyone suffering in the world.
I drift into total Mindfulness
Too tired to move
Too tired to focus.
I feel the heat in my body, the tightness in my chest and pain in my head.
I feel the sensations of constantly sneezing and how sore my nose is.
Exhausted from coughing I yield to the virus and trust in my body to restore itself to good health again.
My only concept of time passing is with the fading of the light, the tides changing, the sudden chill in the air as the sun sets.
This brings me to a new stillness as I accept and allow myself to just be.
I dedicate this blog to all those who are sick and suffering and wish them to find a new found peace and acceptance.
The challenge this week is simply to notice how you are feeling. If you are feeling well, is it possible to notice the joy in this and spend a few moments absorbing this goodness? If you aren’t feeling well is it possible to notice how it is to be in this moment and accept how you are feeling? Either way, can we take a moment of our precious lives and be kind to ourselves?
She will also be guiding the online Mindfulness course which runs on a Wednesday evening, starting 12th January, 2022.
She has contributed a chapter to the Mindful Heroes Book entitled “Turning Empathic Distress into Compassion – A Hero’s Journey for Family Carers”. You can watch an extract from the chapter where she talks about the results of her MSc Studies in Mindfulness on Compassion & Family Carers. You can download a free sample of Jacky’s chapter here.