There are times when you are simply not engaged with the world, with your spirit. Especially with a chronic illness, it can be very hard to focus solely on your own wants, needs, spiritual devotions, etc... Sometimes, we take a break. In my case, this break was not voluntary -- it was necessary. I learned an important lesson these past few months: being in constant contact with the fullness of my physical pain and the spiritual struggle that accompany Fibromylagia is too much.
Mindfulness is a very useful tool. Yet as much as we need to learn to be aware of our pain and our surroundings, we must also know when to retreat, when to disengage. I burnt myself out trying to learn too much at once, trying to fix too much too quickly (read also: the story of my life).
I caught a cold back in early September, and it put me down hard. I kept waiting for that day when I would get back up, and I slow began to realize that day would not come. Before I caught the cold, I had too many things going on, and I could not even begin to pick all those things back up bonus points if you can guess what caused my immune system to finally break. I started to realize that I had to go back to the bare minimum, the absolute basics. Thank you, fibromyalgia, for constantly keeping my ego in check.
I had absolutely no desire to go back to the beginning and create basic routines that help me get up and focus in the morning, re-energize in the afternoon, or get to sleep at night. None. But I did it anyway. Since late September, I've made a point of doing my yin yoga and meditation to wake up, journal writing and sketching before breakfast, an acupressure session and tea mid-afternoon, and valerian tea, yin yoga and a pain-relief acupressure session at night. I've even made a point of giving myself a week and a weekend, which, while seemingly arbitrary for someone who doesn't work, has helped bring shape and function into my life. Most days, I do these things grudgingly -- trudgingly, even. But slowly (oh good lord, so slowly) I am finding my feet again. And some days I surprise myself by the energy that springs forth from a good ten minutes of sketching, from taking Sundays off from any sort of responsibility.
Recently, I came across this page on disengagement in the book 365 Tao: Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao, and it spoke to me strongly.
"There are some days when one is disengaged from Tao, not interested in devotion, and everything just becomes an empty form. Gone are spiritual bliss, deep insight and integration with the rhythm of the universe. Instead, there is a duty, form, and stuff discipline. One can try to remember the reasons for one's quest, think of the achievements of the past, reaffirm one's goals, and still not be inspired to do one's practice. What do you do?
Every once in awhile, it's permissible to skip things for a day. If you are angry, under great stress, or ill, then it is best to simply rest. But if one has made vows, if it is only a matter of laziness or indifference, then you must exert your discipline and practice even if it means that you are just going through the motions. In at least half the cases, something significant will happen. The rest of the time, going through your forms is in itself a good practice. It build a tremendous momentum that will manifest itself in later times."It gave me courage to know that it is okay to feel disengaged, so long as we keep trying and trying and trying (and trying) to engage. This is important in all life, but I find it especially poignant for those of us struggling with a chronic illness. It so often feels as though we are going nowhere -- and when we do feel like we are going somewhere, we run out of energy before we can get there. But these small steps, these small routines make a huge difference in the end. And when, like today, I wake up with a headache and no energy, and I find myself not daunted by the task of writing in my journal, but actually heartened by the comfort of doing so, I feel the stirrings of something different on the horizon. The moments of true engagement with myself -- not a forced or forged awareness -- are worth every moment of simply going through the motions.