The Spiritual Message in your Illness
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.
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.
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.
Our spirit expresses its needs and desires for life through our body. When something is going wrong with our body, there’s always a chance that there’s a connection to an issue with expression your spirit.
The trouble is that we are usually blind to our spirit, socialised with a bunch of "rules" that guide our choices in life instead. 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. Illness is often the way this happens.
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 every illness has offers us - to teach us a spiritual lesson, whether or not that lesson is "causing" the illness.
When I look for potential spiritual messages to physical problems, I've rarely found nothing.
If you don't explore 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.
When the stress load gets great enough, your genetic weak spots are where your body will start to break down and illness will arise.
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.
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 even 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 & get worse.
How do I ensure my spiritual landscape is promoting health?
The best thing about realising that your health has a spiritual component 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 changes 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.
The process of healing spiritually involves a 180 in your approach to living your life. And the foundation of that approach is to see the purpose of your life as expressing your true spirit.
That requires you discover the nature of your true spirit.
And to do that, you need to look at all the choices you make
- 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
If you're ready to start seeing your illness as a spiritual issue here’s some quick and easy things that can open your eyes to the message of your illness.
Note that this is unlikely to 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 when you start to express your spirit more fully. It will calm the stress load, so improvement should be evident over time.
Your illness can show you where you need to make 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.
Start with closing your eyes, sitting comfortably and breathing in deeply.
A "square count breath" is a good way to start - deepen and slow your breath until you can count slowly to four on your in breath, count to four as you 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 - it is part of who you are in this moment and I want you to become conscious of it within you.
As you’re thinking about the body part, make it grow and be as big in your consciousness as you feel. (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 fully conscious of all of it.
As you connect into your pain, try to "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... i.e. "I'm Naomi's head cold. I am murky and groggy and blech!"
How does your pain or illness feel?
Next, let your pain or illness keep talking - how does it feel emotionally?
My head cold says: "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".
How about your pain or illness?
Finally, ask your pain or illness what it needs from you or what it wants to say to you, as in "Naomi's head cold, what do you need from Naomi? What do you want to tell her?"
My head cold said: "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.