Where are you focusing your attention?
I’m sick today, and have been for a couple of days now. It’s nothing serious, just a nasty little cold but it would be pretty easy to let such a state consume all the energy I have and allow myself to feel defeated. I think most people can probably understand this situation. When we are sick or tired or even a little bit sad, it is so easy for us to focus all our energy on our misery and to tell ourselves it’s ok because this is just what you do when times are tough. Sure, rest is most definitely important and it will inevitably be accompanied by a decline in physical activity, but does that mean that we have an excuse not to direct our energy toward something positive?
For me, one of the worst things about getting sick is the mood and the state of mind that follow. Our physical state is so shitty that our internal state begins to reflect it and pretty soon the entire negative experience becomes magnified. Our body signals to our brain that we are upset and uncomfortable and so our brain responds accordingly by sending out the chemicals which are compatible with those emotions. It’s a viscous cycle that just continues until our symptoms (hopefully) subside enough to encourage a better state of mind. It’s a really silly thing that we do and it has got me thinking about finding an alternative.
My goal with this sickness, as well as the last few that I’ve picked up (I have a 4 year old so sickness can be pretty abundant in certain seasons) has been to use the down time for meditation. I’ve been trying to capitalize on all the moments when I feel the worst and to use those triggers as signals to sit on the cushion. It hasn’t exactly been easy but it has definitely began to shift my experience.
Even though my body feels terrible and my busy life has been interrupted, I’ve found that I still have the ability to calm my mind and focus my attention on something other than negative thoughts. As long as I just get over that first hurtle of getting out of bed and sitting on the cushion, I have found that sickness actually lends itself quite well the the act of meditation. Because of the fact that I know I won’t be doing anything else during the day and have been placed into a sort of quarantine by the rest of my family, I have nothing to distract or disturb my practice. It’s actually become a rather nice experience.
Even in the middle of the night-when I can’t sleep because my nose is running and my throat is sore-as long as I direct my energy towards the positive instead of focusing on how miserable I feel, the whole experience transforms into a moment of peace instead of an endless struggle. All it takes is a little bit of mental control and a resolve to see the good that lies in the midst of the unpleasant and my perspective can be totally shifted.
Now, I’m not saying this is going to take all the aches and pains and snot covered tissues out of your life, those things are just part of the game of sickness. What I am saying is that how we choose to respond to sickness and discomfort is a choice; one that is 100% up to us to make. Our energy flows where our attention goes, as they say. The only question is, how do you want to use your precious energy?