When I first began walking with a cane, I would watch others with a real sense of witnessing a miracle. My ankle joint no longer worked (“drop foot”) and I used the cane to steady my uneven gait. Other people were able to lift their foot completely off the ground swing it easily in front of them, place it gently on the surface and shift their weight to it – all without thought. It was magical.
Now, as my hands began to fail me, I am not as spiritually evolved. I am just plain jealous. I watch people take notes at a meeting and find myself becoming resentful and angry.
I am envious of health and those who unthinkingly possess it.
I am learning not to sit in judgment of this process, but to imagine that I am a dear friend. Of course I’m jealous; it makes sense! How natural to wish that I were healthy. How understandable to resent those who don’t appreciate what they have. Those emotions come from grief over what I’ve lost and fear over what I may yet lose. This is not the time to beat myself up.
The Buddhists have a wonderful concept: mudita. There is no exact English translation. The idea is “sympathetic joy.” When I see someone else who is happy, I share in that happiness. When I see someone writing without effort, I celebrate their ability.
This is made easier if I truly believe that we are all one. The idea that we are cells in a larger creature is one of my core beliefs. I am a tiny part of a miraculous whole. So are you. Your strong and able hands and feet and my weak and faltering ones are movements in one dance. Considered this way, I can be grateful for both of us.
I have added mudita to my practice. It works like this:
I feel jealousy and resentment arise as I watch others move, I take a breath I say (silently), “May you move gracefully forever.” I picture my heart as a waterlily opening to embrace the universal whole
I'm an artist who has been living with multiple sclerosis since I was 20. I've discovered that thinking about chronic illness and healing as a creative process helps me move through the hard stuff and get back to the joy. Visit www.dancingwithmonsters.com to find books, newsletters and other services that can help you dance with your monsters.