5 Practices When You Are Sick

This Post Was Originally Published On Tinybuddha.com (Thanks to Lori Deschene for publishing my work)

Getting sick is rarely, if ever fun for anyone, but we all get sick. You can cheat on your taxes, but you can’t cheat on sickness.

When we get sick, we all have a choice of how to work with illness. We can choose to be miserable or we can choose to learn about ourselves and grow from the experience. Since I have had such a hard time with the latter, I’ve investigated 5 ways to practice with illness.

1. Reflect on the benefit of health.
Often illness brings into focus what we wish we could be doing when we feel healthy.

    Once, back when I was a pack-a-day smoker, I got food poisoning, and I remember the smell or thought of cigarettes made me feel so much worse. At that time I vowed not to smoke anymore. I felt the frailty of my body and I didn’t want to live a life that hurt my body. I saw how much I needed my body, how bad it felt to not be able to rely on it.

    Unfortunately as soon as I felt better I forgot what I knew when I was really sick. Being sick gives us the chance to reflect on the value of health and what you want to do with your life energy when you do feel better. People who are in hospitals only have time to sit around and watch TV; is that what you want to do with your free time?

    We only have so many hours and days of health. How can we use each hour of our lives to benefit the people we love the most?

    2. Take time to do little things.
    Write letters, reorganize your closet, or read a book of poetry. We often take small simple tasks for granted. Their simplicity can seem too easy for us when we are in the midst of a busy life, but when we are sick they might be at just the right pace for us.

      I tend to “veg” in front of the TV, but reading that book I’ve been meaning to finish or writing an email to my sister wouldn’t take much energy either.

      Sickness makes us slow down, so it’s a great time to do the simple things. We can use this change of pace to change perspective.
      3. Reflect on the frailty of life.
      So let’s face it: We aren’t going to be here forever. There is no way to avoid old age, sickness, and death. Our willingness to acknowledge impermanence can either bring anxiety or help us focus on what we want to do with our lives.

      Being sick is a great time to reflect on the meaning of our lives. Sickness can be a wake up call to remind us that we aren’t made of Teflon. Alas, all sorts of stuff sticks to us in life and it’s up to us what we want to work to let go of.

      What principles do you want to adhere to in life and what small things could you let slide? If you only had a year to live, what would you do with the time you have left? If someone you care about got sick, what would you want to say to that person? Why are you waiting?

      Sickness reminds us of the frailty and preciousness of this life. It brings into focus that we can never know when things will change for us. We can greet this truth with fear and annoyance, or we can greet it with gratitude for the wisdom it brings us.

      4. Let others take care of you.
      If you are like me, you are often in the role of caring for others. Many people get stuck in the role of the capable and strong person, especially the kinds of people that read blogs aboutmindfulness and self-improvement.

        I have often said of myself, that I make a very bad patient. I can sometimes think that if I’m not the capable one, people won’t want to be around me. Somehow, if I need them instead of them needing me, that will be the end of our connection.
        You may have had this thought process that arises for you when you are sick, or need to ask for help. Maybe when you were growing up asking for help was met with accusations of selfishness, or perhaps not met at all.

        No matter what the situation, it’s important to remember that letting others help us is a wonderful gift to give.

        Just reflect on how good it feels to help someone we care about. Being sick is a great time to practice asking for and receiving the help and care of others. This can be especially true if we express gratitude to those helping in a way that doesn’t involve a sense of guilt or discomfort with their offering.

        Accepting help authentically and expressing gratitude whole-heartedly, helps us remember how both parities benefit from the exchange of kindness.

        5. Reprioritize self-care.
        When we are not receiving help from others, being sick is a great time to learn the value oftaking care of ourselves.

          Sometimes when I am sick, I can trace back to the imbalance that may have led to the illness. We often push ourselves very hard either out of desire or obligation.

          This pushing can work on occasion, but each time we get out of balance we risk falling into ill health: by becoming sick, overwhelmed, or injured. We get so busy that forget about the essential art of taking care of ourselves. Illness is one way we can be called back to value of this art.

          Being sick is a great time to give ourselves permission for self-care. It’s a time to get in touch with what we find soothing. It’s a time for long baths and hot tea, for listening to the rain and curling up underneath a blanket, for eating soup and reading a good book.

          All of the little pleasures that we have a hard time finding time for can be enjoyed (hopefully without guilt) when we are sick.

          Of course you don’t have to wait to be sick to reflect and engage in any of these illness practices. These are all nourishing practices to engage in no matter what the state of your health.

          Here are some suggestions for healthy folks:

          Reflect on what you’d miss most about being healthy if you were sick.
          How can you use you health to benefit yourself and others?
          Take some time to do one little project that would bring more peace and order to your life.
          How would your life change if you did one of these a week?
          Reflect on your own death and what you want to do with the life you have left.
          If you only had a year to live what would your priorities be?
          Ask for and receive help from someone this week, then express real gratitude for their help.
          What if you exchanged kindness with others, more freely, and more often?
          Finally, take time to do one act of self-care this week.
          What if you regularly scheduled time to do something to bring your life back into balance?
          Whether in sickness or in health, life calls for us to pay attention. Every practice that helps us pay attention lengthens the life we have left.


          What Is Mindfulness? – Start Today

          What Is Mindfulness? – Start Today
          Hey, You! Pay Attention!
          People seem to think mindfulness is complicated, but it’s actually very simple. Mindfulness means paying attention. Sure I know what you’re thinking, “I’m already paying attention.” But what are paying attention to?
          We have million things to pay attention to. We pay attention to Email, to Facebook, to Reddit, to Google, to iPhones, and to TV. In the past decade the things we pay attention to have grown exponentially. Which means there is less of our attention to see what’s going on in our heads.
          It’s Kids Play
          When I was a kid I always thought my mom had eyes in the back of her head. She always knew when I was trying to pull something off. I didn’t fully understand this until I took a job teaching preschool.
          It’s easy to tell when kids are getting into trouble. They look suspicious, they get really quiet, and something is clearly going on. Kids don’t realize how obvious they are. From their perspective you seem super human when you catch them.
          The reason teachers and parents can catch little kids sneaking around is they have a larger perspective. The kid’s perspective is this little box, but the parents can see the big picture.
          Zoning In
          You’ve probably already had this experience. It happens a lot to people when they exercise. It’s often called, ‘being in the zone.’ Your mind opens up and you aren’t so focused on the small things. Instead, you get a big picture view of your life.
          This is why exercise is so therapeutic; it helps us make this shift. People have told me they love exercise, because it helps them process their day, see things in a new way, and even solve problems.
          Sometimes this shift in perspective is more dramatic. There are moments when, all of a sudden, we shift from the little box to the big picture. It feels like we’ve woken up out of a fog and we can see clearly at last. We call them epiphanies, realizations, or A-ha moments.
          In one moment our whole perspective on the world and our lives changes. These moments give us great joy and can start us on the path of enduring transformation.
          What’s amazing is we don’t have to wait around for these moments to happen. We can plant the seeds for these life-changing moments everyday. We just have to have the right tools.
          That is what the Mindful Fitness Movement is all about. Exercise will help you have a more fit body, but if your mind is still clouded you’ll have the same problems in a slimmer body. Mindfulness can help you be calm and relaxed, but without taking action you can slip into dullness.
          When you combine these two practices your life will become a give and take of realization and actualization. The fitness practice helps clear your mind and the mindfulness practice gives you the confidence to keep going.
          When you engage in mindful fitness, you can do more then simply create a healthy mind and fit body.  You can reduce your suffering, grow inside and out, and change your life for the better. I know because I’ve lived this transformation first hand.
          A 5-Minute Solution
          So you might be thinking GREAT! But how the heck do I practice mindfulness? My life is hectic and I can hardly find time to exercise. Mindfulness is the realm of monks, new agers, and yoga teacher, but in truth mindfulness is for everyone.
          The great thing about mindfulness is that you can start by practicing for just 5 – 10 minutes a day. You’ll be amazed by how big a difference 5 minutes a day makes. You just have to be willing to give it a try.
          MindFitMove Practice
          There are two simple practices that take 5 minutes or less a day:
          The 5-Minute Meditation
          Meditation can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here is an easy way to get started. Just follow these three rules
          1.     Meditate for 1 – 3 breaths at a time.
          2.     Start with 5 minutes a day.
          3.     Do it regularly
               (Great times to start the meditation habit are before or after exercise, first thing in      the morning, or last thing at night)
          Here is a simple meditation you can try.

          • Pay attention to your breath as it goes in
          • Notice as it switches from in to out
          • Pay attention to your breath as it goes out
          • After 1 – 3 breaths stop
          • How did you do? This isn’t about good or bad. It’s just about checking in.
          • OK now start again

          Remember it’s totally normal for your mind to wander. That’s why we stop after just a couple of breaths. Meditation isn’t about laser focus for hours (unless you are a Zen master). It’s about working out our attention muscles. Little by little meditation helps us create space in our lives.
          The One Sentence Journal
          Journaling can seem like this huge endeavor, but it can actually be very simple.
          For years I started and stopped journals, because I thought I had to write a chapter a night. After all, what will the ghostwriter use for my memoir? Then I discovered one-sentence journaling.
          The concept is simple: Just write one sentence about your day everyday. It can be mundane, profound, or silly, but write one everyday. This makes reflection an easy daily practice. If you want to see some of mine you can go to twitter.com/MindFitMove or search for the #1senjournal on twitter.
          The key is to do these practices whole-heartedly. These practices will support you in creating a healthy mind and fit body. If you do one of both of these practices everyday for a month, you will be amazed what you will learn about yourself.
          You’re Not Alone
          No one can walk the path for you, but that doesn’t mean you have to walk it alone. My mission is to support anyone who wants to reduce suffering, grow inside and out, and change his or her life for the better. 
          Get started is by signing up for The Mindful FitnessMovement Blog. You will receive new practices 3-4 times a week to help you build a healthy mind and fit body. As a thank you I’ll send you a free eBook that has 10 simple Mindful Fitness practices to start transforming your life today.
          The next step is to join MindFitTeam. MindFitTeam is a community of like-minded individuals who use mindful fitness practices to maintain a balanced approach to enduring transformation.
          MindFitTeam members get

          • 2 One on One Mindful Fitness coaching sessions a month
          • 3 webinars a year about a different mindful fitness topic
          • Answers to your questions and challenges
          • And a Monthly eBook full of daily practice tips, insight, and support

          Right now the first month and eBook on Awareness are free and after that it’s just $29 a month. I always offer a full no questions asked money back guarantee. If at any time you don’t feel you’ve gotten your moneys worth out of any of my offerings I’ll be happy to refund your money.
          No matter who you are or what your fitness goals are, Mindful Fitness can get you there in a balanced and sustainable way. Whenever you’re ready to start your mind and body fitness journey please let me know. I can’t wait to help you make Mindful Fitness part of your life.