Learning from Illness

I’m home sick today. This rarely happens to me, especially when I love my job as I do this one. I fret that my students aren’t getting what they’re supposed to, even though I know they’re in good hands. I feel guilty that I’m not doing anything productive, even though I’m too sick to work. So what’s to be learned from all this?

First, dwelling on how crappy I feel only makes it worse. There’s a certain amount of “suffering” inherent in being ill. Thinking endlessly about how I bad I feel adds an additional layer of suffering that is purely optional. I can just sit with the bodily sensations without judging them – without saying “I feel terrible!” to myself – or I can do things like type this blog post. Either way, I’m not feeding the suffering.

Second, delegating my class to someone else isn’t neglecting it. I emailed in the lesson plan for today and followed up with two phone calls. Now I can relax and let the people whose job it is to take over, take over. They are professionals. I am not indispensable, regardless of what my ego is telling me.

Third, focusing all my energy on getting well IS productive. I didn’t realize this until one of my dear Buddhist friends emailed me recently that she was home sick and how lazy and unproductive it made her feel. I wrote her back to say that sometimes, healing our bodies (or minds, for that matter) is our job for the day. It was only when I wrote that to her, that I realized the same is true for me. Today is my opportunity to “practice what I preach.” I will focus on getting well. If I accomplish nothing else today, my progress toward health will be accomplishment enough.

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