Chapter Fifteen - Sickness Is a Choice, Choose Again
We do not choose to be sick, we choose to live blindly in cultural ways that sicken us; it is sickening to waken and see this; fighting against sickness weakens the immune system; waking lifts us out of culture and allows for health.
Nearly thirty years ago I was invited to do a weeklong class on healing at a Presbyterian Synod School in Pennsylvania. Or so I thought. I had been attending Unity Church for several years by then, was steeped in A Course in Miracles, fully absorbed in reading books like Heal Your Body by Louise Hay, The Dynamic Laws of Healing by Catherine Ponder, and underlined most of what I read in Science of Mind magazines. I felt honored to be invited out of state for such a presentation by the same minister who had passed me in the hallway some years before and told me I was pissed. He had followed my growth after that with admiration and felt pleased to invite me to share my growth with others.
On the first day of Synod School, all of the teachers had a brief time in the afternoon to present their topic. I happily wrote “Sickness Is a Choice, Choose Again” on the blackboard and made some points related to that. This statement from A Course in Miracles was ringing true for me by then. Believing all was well, I went on with the rest of my day. Late in the evening the minister who had invited me there came to me and asked me to go for a walk with him. He told me that the board had been meeting ever since my presentation. A minister who attended my talk wanted me out of there. Now! He had been fighting with the board for hours, his point being that cancer is not a choice. And my minister friend was kind enough to not tell me what point he was making about me!
Out of respect for me, the minister who invited me there had insisted to the board that I be given a chance to present and his compromise was that a Presbyterian minister be in the class with me to present a Presbyterian view. I said that I had been Presbyterian for nearly forty years and had never heard the word healing in that church. He agreed that in his years of ministry he had never heard it either. So I graciously agreed to leave first thing in the morning. My ten year old son who was with me giggled all the way home in anticipation of telling his dad that Mom got kicked out of church school.
The most interesting thing about this for me was that I did the presentation as a full day workshop for nurses and health professionals at Cleveland State University just two months later and received a standing ovation. I achieved that only because I did not contract and get stuck in fear from the first experience. I had to provide love and approval from within myself to allow myself to go public with that topic again so soon.
We do not choose to be sick. We choose to live blindly in cultural ways that sicken us. It is sickening to wake up and see this. It is sickening to see that so many cultural systems are not what they purport to be. We have some of the most wonderful medical facilities, personnel, and procedures in the world. We have some of the most powerful medicinal treatments in the world. So what is the problem?
If they do not address the cause behind the sickness or guide us to correct our energy flow, they are a temporary help at best. They address the physical body without assisting us to correct our mind to bring needed balance for our soul. Every repeat of an external “cure” reinforces the idea that we are a body without a soul, or that there is nothing for which we are responsible other than to seek help from outside of ourselves. Add to our misguided medical industry the many charitable organizations that give money to the drug industry in support of finding external “cures.” This whole mindset fosters the very diseases they purport to be “fighting against.”
The first thing that happens when we approach the medical system is to be tagged as “patient.” This gives someone else authority over us. It plays well into being a helpless victim of our health problems. Furthermore, to be tagged as a “survivor” of any disease condition, or violation as rape, keeps us connected with that disease or violation. We still hold the condition in mind as an aspect of our identity which can only live within our lower nature. “Recovery” would do the same thing. We continue to hold identity with whatever we say we are recovering from. In our healed state we release these identities. When I had cancer, I never took on the identity of cancer patient or cancer survivor. I simply had the condition, had the necessary treatment, and just as though it had been measles, I got on with my life. I did not buy into the idea that it would return or that I had to constantly look for signs of more cancer. I did diligently pursue the spiritual lessons I needed to learn in order to correct what I was doing that made me vulnerable to being sick.
Failure to solve life problems by expanding our way of thinking brings us a host of physical problems. And if we seek to heal the body using external means without addressing our life problems, we have not addressed the cause. Our body can find other ways to break down. The question is whether we will allow our smaller ways of being to break down to allow openings for renewal rather than having our body break down. Our bodies are wonderful things. They serve as instruments to notify us when we are off track spiritually. If we were to read our bodies as instruments like we read all our digital equipment, we would all be growing leaps and bounds. As long as we follow the programming to go to the drug store or a doctor for the solution to every symptom, we totally miss the information being given us to maintain our health and wellbeing.
We are subject to constant fear tactics that tell us we are going to get some disease. This serves to plant images in mind that the part of our mind that lacks discernment can then create. The drug industry fosters in its ads that if our parent has a disease that we will get that disease. We are not our parents. However, if we choose to think the same way, we most likely will have similar disease processes.
Behind sickness often lies the belief that things like this just happen to us and we can’t do anything about it ourselves. When we speak the words “I can’t,” maybe more unconsciously than consciously, we often mean that we are afraid to open because we see no love for us. The words themselves serve as a defensive style protection that we believe saves us from dying. The paradox of that is that we have to open in order to know that love is there for us. “I can’t” keeps us stuck in contraction. This reflects the missing Mother. Contraction without expansion exhausts the immune system. It also sets the conditions for chronic illnesses.
At my lowest point in life, I remember where I was standing when I made the decision from then on to allow myself a guilt-free choice as a way of solving problems that seemed overwhelming and impossible to me then. I didn’t know the power in that decision at the time. It was the decision to allowmyself to expand beyond my programming and that is exactly what we need to do to truly solve the problems of our lives. After that it became clear to me how we can get completely stuck in life by seeing ourselves in a box with guilt related to choices in all four directions. Perhaps there is always a box to keep us in check, to keep us small, to keep us following our cultural script, to keep us in body identity. There is no such box around the soul. The Mother voice allows us to step out of the box and break free. Love is not a question to the soul. With a sense of Mother, we can expand without questioning if love will be there for us.
Recently I heard the statement, “I have a right to die of old age and not of a terminal illness.” I was so touched by that. I’d never heard that said or implied in any way in our culture. I add to that statement. “I have a right to die of old age and not poisoned by culture, poisoned by the commercial media, poisoned by the commercial products that our agribusiness calls food, poisoned by products of the cosmetic industry, poisoned by household products, poisoned by medicines delivered as saviors by the medical profession.”
The ego is to save the body not the soul. The ego sees to it that we adapt into culture to assure that we get love from outside of ourselves. The soul is saved by forgiving, or releasing the decisions we made for how to save the body. These decisions are reversals. To choose again is to reverse an earlier life decision. Since we rarely remember those decisions, mainly because we simply adapted into a system that already existed, it can seem like a difficult process. It does not help us wake up when everyone we see around us is living blindly.
Like most people, especially us elders, I can have an achy body. It is easy to just take Advil for relief for a while. Then one day I chose to ask myself where I hurt instead of where my body hurts. With that question, I sensed a block of energy release from my body and float away. With it went the pain and any need for Advil for months afterward. Some months later, about the time when I was wanting to start taking Advil again, I woke one morning with the same sense. A block of “pain” that I sensed was from the first year of my life was lifting out of my body. Note the reversal here. Instead of seeing the pain as in the body and calling for an external cure, I saw the pain as in my self which released when given my own awareness. This is to give it my own presence as a loving force. This is the same as saying that I was present as a receiver of the pain, a Mother function in service to the self. How much pain do we experience and do our best to medicate away, radiate away, or cut out rather than ask the simple question, “Where do I hurt in my life and what new response might I give to set myself free?” This requires an expansion, a Mother function. All ego process is set up to keep us contracted and following the same programming. There is no healing without this expansion, without this Mother function.
Could we say that chronic illness is disloyalty to life? Perhaps it is an effective way for the ego to limit our life to what we believe we can handle without a sense of Mother. Perhaps it is a way to get help and care from outside of the self when we have no sense of Mother within to allow us to fulfill our lives. At the age of nineteen I went into a hypothyroid crisis and started taking thyroid supplement. At the age of fifty I took vocal training for four years to activate my thyroid center and went off thyroid pills. Actually, a lot more happened there than I was prepared for. As the teacher worked to open the mask of my face, which she called freeing my little girl voice, I would cry and sob. As the teacher worked to open my chest and abdomen, which was all part of making my body into an instrument of sound, I would get in touch with rage. So I found that we can see with our eyes and not really see. We can sing with our throats and not really with our bodies. It became clear to me that the hypothyroid condition was no more than a resetting of the gland to how much I had restricted myself.
At the age of sixteen I started wearing glasses. At the age of fifty I also took off my glasses and went through an exercise program to strengthen my vision. What I did not realize before that was how our prescription glasses set our way of seeing. While it may just be metaphoric, it truly felt like my way of seeing had been set free. I remember the first walk around the block after taking off my glasses. It was the difference in seeing things on television, removed from them, and being one with all around me. Since my vision for reading was so marginal, I found that only a sip of my husband’s sweetened soft drink blurred my vision enough that I could not read at all. What does this say about all the sugar in our processed foods the number of children now needing glasses? In later years, I do wear glasses for reading. I have no restriction on my driver’s license related to wearing glasses.
These decisions to no longer take thyroid pills and to no longer wear glasses grew out of a determination to not be dependent on doctors and drugs for my wellbeing. By this time I had also realized that so much in culture is tradition, so often not questioned, just lived out generation after generation. I had a gay friend who continued to attend a church that was vocally anti-gay to assure that he would have a minister to bury him when he died. How sad. It was sad enough that the church was anti-gay. It was even sadder to me that he was so stuck in cultural ways as to tolerate such a situation and give silent consent to its continuance.
I lived all my young years with a father who had a chronic illness (called ulcers, and I suspect undiagnosed gluten intolerance). I lived all my first marital years with a husband who had a chronic illness (Multiple Sclerosis). My second husband was chronically ill for eleven years of our marriage (Alzheimer’s). My current partner has cancer. I have served others since I was a teenager. As is often the case, my greatest weakness grew up to be my greatest strength. My greatest weakness in relationships was rescuing as a way to try to get love from the other to make my life safe. “If only I do enough for you, certainly you will love me.” “If only I can keep you functioning, then certainly you’ll keep supporting me (financially) and I’ll be safe.” My greatest strength is that I can now allow another their process and stay true to my own. I am not afraid of the dying process. I have twice had to make the decision to let my energy separate from husbands who were withdrawing from life and let them go death’s way while fully investing my energy in life.
Besides growing myself up through these situations, I’ve observed a lot about these men living with chronic illnesses. Both of my husbands had lost a parent when they were young. I think that was significant. With Multiple Sclerosis I noticed that my husband would “have an attack,” meaning he would go numb, at every step in our lives. This happened the day I announced I was pregnant, the day his mother came across the country for a visit, the day our second child was born, the day that I went back to college, and the day I started a new job. Note that this is at every expansion point, every growth point. He lacked a sense of an inner Mother that would make it safe for him to expand and grow up, or for him to feel safe as I grew up. He only contracted his energy.
With Alzheimer’s I noticed that my husband was unable to handle grief. With every loss in our lives, I would expand and my life would become richer. His life seemed to be about sending the feeling someplace in his brain where he would not need to feel the loss until his brain took over and did the process for him. He started out as a brilliant scientist, talented musician, and gifted photographer and became more and more mindless to not feel. And of course, without feeling and accepting the loss, there was no growth, only contraction. I get the sense that people are very dedicated to their sicknesses. I sense that people take vows to their sicknesses as we make wedding vows, “until death do we part.” They do not see a better way.
I recently walked through the full cultural practice with a friend whose wife had died. He and his family did everything exactly culturally and religiously correct. When my second husband died, I asked my four children to gather with me. We sat in a circle around the kitchen table to share about our experience of his dying. We then gathered to share memories of the past. And then we gathered around a hole in the back yard, placed his ashes in the hole, and planted a redwood tree. My oldest son offered a prayer and a charge to my younger sons to carry on their father’s legacy and be responsible adult men, husbands and fathers. There are reversals here. While the other family followed tradition at the funeral home and church with most decisions made for them, my family made every decision as to how we would handle the gathering and the burial so that it completely met our needs. While the other family had public events that restrict sharing to the social level, my family shared intimate and personal time in my home. While the other family buried their loved one in a box in a public cemetery, we buried our loved one’s ashes where they can nourish a tree and take up no permanent space on Earth.
While my friend speaks of the shock and trauma of the event, I feel only nourished at a deep level of soul by the way we handled our event. While my friend speaks of how lonely he felt during the wake, I felt the calming of deeper connection with my children. The only way we can fulfill needs of the soul is to take responsibility for meeting our own needs. First of all we must realize that we can. We need to examine all the ways we have just adapted to culture and blindly follow traditions as if they are dictates. When we realize that our traditions were established by the patriarchy and exclude the expansive, creative opportunities brought in by the feminine, we can look for new ways that honor the soul.
As we use our imagination to create pictures of life with Mother’s love absent, we literally and purposely use our imagination to create pictures of life with Mother’s love present. When I first started doing this, I would speak as the mother as best I could to myself. It wasn’t long before a voice took over that seemed to come from beyond myself. I trust that I had to prime the pump, or declare my readiness. This switches the “I can’t” to “I can” now see that I can safely expand and grow. Until we see a receiver for our pain and our joy, we block feelings and they create our chronic illnesses, or chronic dis-ease.
Culture programs us and hounds us to continue our adaptations and addictions. We believe that we take care of ourselves with our adaptations and addictions. If we follow external dictates, we will eventually reach a point of futility. If we keep our focus external, one way we can get taken care of by others is by getting sick. And in our culture, people are absolved of responsibility for sicknesses. We think they happen to us. In fact, there are many secondary gains of sickness. We are relieved of responsibilities when sick. We can justify taking time off work, staying in bed all day if we wish, and not having to take care of anyone else. And this brings up another point. We need to be willing to expand our thinking to include rest time in our busy lives without having to be sick to justify it.
One of the more difficult waking times for me was related to food. I didn’t realize that I experienced “my” grocery store as a mother until it closed and I grieved like I had lost a mother. Perhaps we are always asking where love comes from and all of life is about trying to get it or learning to receive and express it. When the food issue came up for me, I once again tapped into the two year old pneumonia scene. At that time, the nurses had put sulfa in my eggs and milk. I probably beIieved that they were poisoning me, and probably blamed them for my progressing sickness. I have not drunk milk since then and to this day I can have difficulty eating eggs. Now as these feelings came up for review, I became paranoid about grocery stores and restaurants. I came to realize that they do not care if I live or die. They simply sell food, all of them with profit as their bottom line. While we now have some great grocery stores and restaurants that truly care about the quality of food, most food available in the United States is dangerous to our health. It is a challenge to provide food for oneself that is healthful in our culture. I realized that I was the one responsible for providing the Mother function in every way related to food. I expanded my thinking beyond culture’s ways.
It may seem like an even greater challenge to find food that nourishes the soul. This is not at all true. What is true is that we do not see it when it is all around us. Nature itself provides an abundance of beauty and intrigue when we are willing to see it. I once gave a group a weeklong assignment of keeping track of how much time they spent with their feet on Earth, not on concrete, not on asphalt, not in homes or buildings. Some of the people had not touched the ground in a week. I can imagine that some would not touch Earth in months. Think about that.