Is there always a spiritual message in your illness?
And if so, how do I know what it is?
I get asked these questions a lot, when I start to talk about what I sense might be behind people’s illnesses, and they’re really valid questions.
Our body is physical, and physical things (like viruses and bacteria) can attack it and make it sick; physical things can hurt it (like stubbing your toe, falling down stairs, car accidents etc) which can create problems in the body that don’t seem to heal; and genes are physical things that play a significant role in our body’s health outcomes.
So can we really say there’s a spiritual element, or even cause, to all illness?
Firstly, let’s ask the obvious question:
What does “spiritual” mean in the context of health?
When I talk about illness having a spiritual element, I mean that it is related to your spirit. Your spirit is the part of you that gives you your unique likes and dislikes, your talents and skills, your personality, your life force etc.
Your spirit is the part of you that leaves your body when you die, but while you live, it is inextricably linked to your body.
In fact, the purpose of your life is to use your body to give your spirit expression.
So, when we see the body experiencing a health issue, a spiritual element to that health issue makes sense – the body is the spirit’s way of expressing who it is and what it is called to.
I’ve talked about this many times before (read some more here) but the basic foundational principle on which I base all my coaching is that the measure to which your spirit is not being fully expressed is the measure to which your body will be unhealthy.
I stand by that as a general rule, though there are some caveats I’ll cover a little further down.
Our spirit uses our body to help guide us in the direction of its fullest expression. The trouble is that we are usually so blind to the spirit and we are socialised with a bunch of “rules” that guide our choices in life, that we don’t live to express the spirit, we live from socialised fear and naivety.
And our spirit loves us so much that it will constantly try to pull us back to its path, often through illness.
OK, but is that the root of all illnesses?
It’s my firm belief that all illnesses have a spiritual element to them.
I believe this for two reasons:
- I’ve found it to be true experientially, so I have no reason to doubt it
- When we approach an illness from the perspective of “maybe it’s spiritual, maybe not” we miss the opportunity that I know every illness has, to teach us a spiritual lesson, whether or not that lesson is “causing” the illness.
I wrote about the positive effects of being open to finding a spiritual message in your pain here.
When I look for potential spiritual messages to physical problems, I’ve rarely found nothing.
I can’t stress to you enough that if you don’t seek the spiritual meaning in your physical health issues, you’re missing out on really healing your life, your internal world, your experience of being alive and your physical body.
How do a spiritual cause, and a physical cause, work together?
My theory of the intertwining of the physical and spiritual is something like this:
The spirit knows how you’re meant to live, what you’re meant to be doing, it knows the right path for you.
Each time you choose against that (and this can be major choices like marrying the wrong person or very minor choices like watching a tv show that doesn’t add value to your life) you’re pushing away your spirit and this causes the body stress, because the body and the spirit are indelibly intertwined.
Your body has a genetic make up that predisposes it to “break down” in certain ways. You get this from your parents, so you’re likely to have the same physical weak spots that they do.
When the stress load gets great enough, the genetic weak spots are where it will start to break down and illness starts to arise.
Sometimes that illness has a specific physical onset point (ie when I get a head cold I must have come in contact with the germs that infect my body). But that same physical onset point doesn’t cause everyone to develop the illness you have (ie the virus doesn’t leave everyone who gets comes in contact with it with a head cold).
But the study of epigenetics has also told us that genetic predisposition doesn’t mean inevitable development of that issue. Other factors switch those genes on and off.
And we also know that the higher your chronic stress load, the more likely you are to switch those genes on and the less functional your immune system is, so physical repair doesn’t happen well and general health will be compromised. This leaves you more susceptible to the effects of physical things, such as viruses, or less likely to heal properly and efficiently from a physical trauma (like an accident or fall).
So you can see, illness and pain arise from a combination of physical elements and spiritual landscape but the spiritual landscape (your internal life) is either protecting you against the physical issues or setting you up for those to go wrong.
How do I ensure my spiritual landscape is promoting health?
The best thing about realising that your health is spiritually based is that it’s totally within your power to do something about it.
But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. In fact, in my experience working with people with chronic pain, it’s the personal life and internal choices that are the hardest to get people to make.
It’s much easier to defer to the Dr, who says you can’t heal but here’s a bunch of pills that may help the pain. And please note, I’m not suggesting you stop seeing your doctor nor stop taking medications that are helping you cope with your illness. A spiritual approach to healing is complimentary, not alternative, at least to begin with.
The process of healing spiritually involves a revolution of approach to how you’re living your life. And the foundation of that approach is to see the purpose of your life as expressing your true spirit.
And that requires that you discover the nature of your true spirit.
To do that, you need to look at all the choices you make
– physical choices like food & alcohol, exercise, chemical exposure in cosmetic and household products, rest and sleep choices and what you do for recreation.
– mental choices like what thoughts you allow free reign in your mind, what you choose to believe about life, yourself, others, the Divine, love, purpose, peace etc, what you feed your mind with and whether you’re willing to change your beliefs when they don’t serve you (which really means, how you deal with fear, hurt, loneliness, anxiety, anger etc).
– emotional choices like how well you express emotions, how kind and accepting you are of your own and other people’s emotions, how well you’ve processed strong emotions from past experiences, how comfortable you are with letting emotions that seem irrational have some airtime in your life, etc.
– and finally, the choices of your spirit, which involves the big life choices that will make your spirit soar and give it full expression…these are the deep yearnings of your heart that are often scary but so delicious and will almost always involve breaking some “rule” that you’ve been taught you can’t break and stepping outside your comfort zone to reach for something that seems impossible.
Making the choices that give your spirit expression
So you’re ready to start seeing your illness as a spiritual issue? Great!
I want to give you the best opportunity to do quick and easy things that can open your eyes to the message of your illness. Note that this may not mean instant recovery – it may not even mean recovery at all.
I do believe the body can be pushed to a breaking point that will never truly heal, but I also believe that even when this is the case, the natural healing system in the body will improve your condition immensely when you start to live to express the spirit and calm the stress load, so improvement should be evident over time.
And while we’re on the topic of time, remember that this isn’t an instant cure technique. Your illness is there to show you where you need to make whole-life changes in order to better express your spirit. Don’t be fooled into thinking that one quick exercise can help you heal immediately.
Your goal is to slowly transform your life to be one that feels beautiful to live, because all your deepest desires and yearnings are being given expression….that’s an amazing way to live, it’s a challenging way to live, it’s an exciting (but scary sometimes) way to live and it will require you to grow.
And that ALL takes time.
But start here:
EXERCISE: All my exercises start with closing your eyes, sitting comfortably and breathing in deeply. A “square count breath” is a good way to start – start by gently deepening and slowing your breath until you can count to four on your in breath, count to four as your hold your breath, count to four as you breath out and then count to four as you hold. NB: if this just sends you in to stress, don’t keep it up. Try holding for only two counts, or just breath comfortably.
Next, feel into the part of your body that is in pain or is unwell. Really connect with it and become it – it is part of who you are in this moment. Make it grow and be as big in your consciousness as it wants to be. (As I write this, I have a head cold, so I’m connecting to it, feeling all the ways it’s affecting my body right now – sinuses, headache, body ache, tiredness, puffy eyes, slight sick feeling in my stomach etc). Be conscious of all of it.
As you “become” your pain or illness, start to give it a voice, speak as though you are the pain or illness. For me, I will be speaking as my head cold..ie “I’m Naomi’s head cold. I am murky and groggy and blurk!” How does your pain or illness feel?
Next, let your pain or illness keep talking – how does it feel emotionally? For me: “I feel wiped out and overwhelmed and weak and lost – I can’t do anything. I feel like a child who’s been left alone and can’t fend for herself. I need to be hugged and cared for and nurtured and told that it’s ok, I’m ok, I don’t have to do this alone”. What about your pain or illness?
Finally, ask your pain or illness what it needs from you and what it needs to say to you, as in “Naomi’s head cold, what do you need from Naomi? What do you need to tell her?”
Again, for me: “You need to give yourself more self-love…the deep nurturing kind not just the superficial treat kind. You need to develop more deep inner joy and delight in who you are and play with that delightful girl, like you would a cute, happy baby. I need you to love yourself that much.”
And that’s a quick and easy method for hearing your illness’s spiritual message. My spirit wanted me to delight in who she is more. Take care of her more. Stop piling stuff on and leaving her overwhelmed.
What’s your spirit saying through your illness? I’d love to know in the comments below.