Space for Everything...

"... live without walls of the mind. Without walls of the mind and thus without fears, they see through delusions and finally nirvana" (Pine, 2004).

Depression and anxiety are extremely common in people who live with chronic physical illnesses, particularly when the person experiences a persistent feeling of uncontrollability. People question, "what is the point of living if living with suffering?" Other folks may wonder if they are actually even living when homebound or limited in their activities. Somehow the value of one's life may start to feel less. It is so easy for the mind to misperceive and imprison when accompanied by suffering and unwanted sensations. Is what your mind tells you what you would say to another? Usually not.

The mind fools people into thinking that life must be joyful and pain free.  When something is uncomfortable people immediately attempt to control surroundings to ease the discomfort. This can be pleasurable but is it actually life? It is only a piece of life. Life in itself requires feeling...all feeling. To be alive means that one is fragile, one feels pain as well as joy, and that one's sorrows makes it possible to truly appreciate one's joys. But all of it is just a bunch of sensations. We feel and then we attach perceptions to the sensations...we experience the sensations with a group of thoughts. For example, there is a new feeling in my chest (sensation) therefore my cardiac disease must have returned (perception). Maybe it has returned or maybe it is just a new feeling that is benign. Until a doctor confirms what the new feeling in the chest is, all it really is is a new sensation. A feeling that you can feel because you are alive.

The value of your life remains the same, whether you are healthy or ill. One may think, "but now I cannot work and contribute to my family so I must be worthless." Again that is the mind telling one that working is his/her only source of worth. If one asks loved ones what they think about this, usually they will say that is not true. Value of life remains equal because in reality all life is emptiness. It is the mind that then attaches thoughts and perceptions to the emptiness. Yes what one with a medical illness may experience is tremendous pain and extremely uncomfortable sensations, but those are just the sensations that one wishes s/he was rid of...they ARE NOT ONE'S VALUE/WORTH.

Being alive require space for everything. There is space for joys like having children, falling in love, being at peace, and there must be space for suffering, such as physical suffering. Once this reality is accepted, the walls of the mind can come down and all sensations can simply be experienced as new indicators of breathing...of living. Frustrations with uncontrollability become less relevant and one can let go of fear.

This is not an easy path as the mind is a very powerful thing but there are ways to practice. Meditation is a good place to begin and if medically allowed yoga can be helpful, as are various forms of psychotherapy. Find a way to make space. A way that works for you.

Pine, Red (2004). The heart sutra: The womb of the buddhas. Counterpoint: Berkeley, CA.