The past month hasn’t been great – I spent half the time recovering from acute bouts of illnesses .. gastroenteritis, then influenza.. Apart from rest, there isn’t much else that can be done to speed the recovery of these viral illnesses and their typical symptoms – fever, body aches, abdominal pain, etc..
Since I was spending a lot of time in bed resting, I decided to practice mindfulness (might as well maximize the time resting). I noticed that influenza symptoms (runny nose, coughing, sneezing, watery eyes) were more unpleasant than abdominal or body aches.
With the febrile illnesses, I usually doze off after trying to notice the symptoms for a few minutes. Being aware of the feverish hotness and the bodily discomfort while seeing the mind get clouded … and then drifting off to a half-sleep, dream-like state where the mind keeps wandering. There is no way to purposely stay aware or be mindful after this.
There is usually a turning point in the illness. You wake up (from one of those dozing off episodes) and suddenly feel the body in a much better state. The mind becomes clearer, calm and aware – Just like it’s ‘supposed to be’.
There is no control over this mind (or body). When the body is sick, the mind cannot be as well as “it should be’. When the body recovers, the mind will become how it’s ‘supposed to be’.
No matter how much formal practice or informal practice we’ve been putting in, we can’t always be Zen.
But little do we realize, that it is in this realization, that we know the practice has been with us. And it is in this realization that we suffer better.
Guest post by Wei Chieh