The Poison Leaves

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The Poison Leaves

When we choose to learn from our experiences, we attain a pure heart and
a quiet mind.

In my last blog teaching, I shared I would write my next teaching in a month.  You might have noticed that I’m writing this, not in April, but in July – four months later.  I also mentioned in that previous teaching that I had a dream that identified two poisons in my life – hope and fear – and I promised that my next teaching would explore why this might be so, not just for myself but for others, too.  Well, I didn’t keep my date-promise but I will keep the promise to explore the relationship of hope and fear. As one might expect, my four-month delay in writing this teaching has a “story,” and, yes, it’s a story of hope and fear.

Soon after I started working on this teaching, I developed a severe case of shingles. I had “hoped” I was managing my stress concerning the sale of a property, finding and moving to a new location, and redefining my work responsibilities. Yes, these are all listed at the top of stress charts. And yes, the shingles delivered the message that, indeed, this stress proved to be too much for my immune system.

Looking at my shingles experience from a perspective of hope and fear, I told myself: “I hope my shingles pain is short-lived and I’ll be well in a couple of weeks.  I hope the treatment the western physician gave me cures the problem in a short time. I hope I can bypass the nerve pain people tell me can sometimes last for a year. I hope I can keep up with my work responsibilities. I hope there is a magic bullet I can take that will cure the pain immediately.”  You get the point, I’m sure.

Beneath each of these “hopes” was fearfear and thus doubt that none of these hopes will come true, fear and doubt that the pain will ever go away, fear and doubt that I can find a healing approach that works, fear and doubt that I will fail at work, fear and doubt that I can discover what approach is best for my healing, and so forth.  On the one hand, I “hope” I won’t experience the relentless pain that has no remedy.  On the other hand, I “fear” and thus doubt my pain will ever go away.

A turning point came during a medical appointment when my internist said, “There is nothing more I can do to help you so you won’t need to make another appointment.”  I was devastated and felt adrift. I realized how much I had hoped my problem could be resolved with a western medicine magic bullet.  Fear that a magic bullet didn’t exist was beneath this hope.

Quite unexpectedly, when I left the doctor’s office I had a powerful insight:  I do have the ability to be self-responsible for my pain and to search for solutions that meet my needs.  I don’t doubt that I can draw on my inner strength, competence, and confidence to design a holistic healing program.  Soon, I selected a medical intuitive, a Qigong healer, an acupuncturist, and a chiropractor as helpers and learned Buddhist breathing practices.  I increased my meditation time and wrote in my journal, dialoguing with my pain and with my heart, the area where the nerve pain was located.

I stopped choosing hope and instead, chose to learn from my pain. Instead of feeling victimized, resentful, or bitter, we always have a choice to be responsible for our feelings and reactions and learn from them.  When we choose to learn from our life experiences, the quality of our relationship with ourselves and others changes. I know already that one of the gifts of my shingle pain is a deepening of my compassion for those in pain, whether that pain is physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual and whether those in pain are of the human, animal, or plant kingdoms.  My shingle pain has also gifted me with an awareness of just how much the two poison leaves, hope and fear, have kept me from living my life completely and well.  The true antidote to the poison leaves is to live a soul-inspired life.

Select a recent experience in your life in which you expressed having “hope.” Repeat the following phrases several times until you identify the “fear” that lies beneath each “hope.” 

On the one hand, I hope _______; on the other hand, I fear _______. 

Journal your insights from this exercise and note any learnings.  If you could see your experience from a perspective other than hope and fear, what would that be?

lotus leadership

Let me know how hope and fear have shown up in your life since reading this teaching, share with me what you experienced doing the Reflection exercise, or just say hello and let me know if you are finding my blog of value. 

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Photo courtesy of G. McDonald

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