By Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO
Illness is a teacher with many lessons. The lessons are not easy, and some are exceptionally difficult. Perhaps the most difficult lesson of all is the instruction of unconditional love. We all occasionally forget that we are unconditionally loved every moment for being exactly who we are. We forget and suffer because of it. Fortunately for us, Grace intercedes on our behalf and creates opportunities for us to remember that we are deeply, soundly and surely loved. One of the most powerful of these opportunities is the experience of illness. Every illness through the suffering it creates, beckons us to sink back into the open arms of forgiveness and love. This is the most magnificent gift of illness.
And, as with some gifts, it is not always or easily accepted. In some cases, the gift of unconditional love is flat out and resolutely rejected. Stripped then of its most majestic offering, illness becomes a raw and painful experience. Suffering descends. Nowhere is this more poignant than in the experience that we chronic debilitating disease. Faced with a seemingly inexorable march towards incapacitation and decline, we suffer. The relentlessness of chronic disease challenges our ability to trust our body, to embrace ourselves. In this state of despair and foreboding, the gift of love that illness brings becomes elusive, occasionally catching our attention as the possibility of it flickers in our peripheral vision. In its absence, anger, grief and hopelessness settle in. The gentle balm of all encompassing love is not felt. The gift of chronic disease lays unopened and beyond reach.
Beyond reach, that is, until we, the physicians, pick it up and offer our patients this gift of chronic disease. When our own hearts are open, we can keep our arms extended, laden with this most exquisite gift, until it is received. We, the naturopathic and integrative practitioners, are gift bearers. We recognize the sacred gifts that illness brings. We also accept the suffering of those who are unable to accept these gifts. When we do our service well, we embody the gift itself. We unconditionally love those in our care. We pass no judgment on their suffering or their experience. We simply love – with all of our hearts. Our love constructs a web that connects the illness to the person to the suffering to love to us. As this web shimmers with the intensity of these connections, love travels the strands and the gift of illness is received. In this moment, the ill person is well, whole and healed. Their heart is open, full and robust. They are not dis-eased. All is cradled in the soft warm embrace of unconditional love.
This moment is the transcendent moment of our healing work. It is this moment which we are service bound to continually strive to create, re-create and create again. Our willingness to simultaneously embrace the bounty of illness while, at the same time, recognize the pain it causes, mark us as healers. Our medicine bag contains that which we know can ease the suffering of illness, but is permeated with love, our most powerful medicine. We engage the experience of illness and facilitate the myriad of gifts that it brings. People heal, love returns. This is the open hearted way of practice.
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