Looking back I’ve been examining my thoughts, wondering when I started to move in a different direction; free from conclusions and discriminations that held me back intellectually, creatively emotionally and intuitively from being the best I could be within the parameters of any disadvantages. When did I move away from the old ruminations and habitual conclusions and discriminations? And when did I open my mind, my heart and my spirit to the family, friends and the world around me, with interest and receptiveness; with kindness and compassion?
Many years ago I registered for a class in Vipassana (Mindfulness) Meditation. The day of that session, I got there late. Out of a class of 25, three of us were either late, or chatting away, or apparently indifferent or self-absorbed. Our mentor and teacher introduced himself; paused -drew his attention to the three of us; and then, very quietly and reverently said the following: “At this moment, become mindful and aware; look around you; take note that ‘you are not the only one in this room’. I didn’t know it then, but that awareness has heightened my perspective about the meaning of life, life’s journey and all that I experience every day.
So how does that pertain to me after having been diagnosed many years ago with MS; because here I am essentially living each and every day with handicaps and limitations? Clearly, there is no doubt that I echo the personal views of a chronically ill MS patient; someone dealing with disabling symptoms and complicated physical and emotional constraints. But – here’s the paradox. These afflicting symptoms are not necessarily visible to other people. To that outside world, I do not look ill. In fact, I’m often told ‘you look so good’. Over the years, it became clear to me that most people I come into contact with were not cognizant of my frailties and continuing distress; did not really see the full extent of my weaknesses and poor health; and could not comprehend the full wrath of MS. Consequently I was often provoked to anger, or I was disappointed, aggravated or exasperated. Why? Because by not looking ill, my distress was not visible. Oh my! How frustrating? So few people could see my suffering.
Fortunately, we have the advantages of time; time that can sometimes be a healer and is often a teacher. Soon, with the passage of time, I realized I didn’t want to travel that road of ‘woe is me’. Time helped to transform me and it became time to ‘turn myself around, dust myself off, and start all over again’. So I began to re-evaluate and re-examine my thoughts; to question my subjective judgments and survey my feelings. And then I remembered that enlightening session; that revelation; that epiphany; ‘I was not the only one in the room’. When I changed the equation from how everyone sees me to how I see everyone including myself, the gates were open to comprehending and examining the distresses we all have. It became clear to me that we are all plagued on many different levels by overwhelming misfortunes, calamities, and concerns.
What became apparent was how my interest in ‘the other’ changed the dynamics. ‘I see you’. ‘You see me’. And, if you don’t see me, am I still able to see you’? ‘I can’t change you; I can only change myself’. But, surprise of surprises, looking at the world from that perspective I am able to create a better dialogue with everyone, and consequently a better place for myself. So I became a ‘WE’ and the dialogue improved. ‘WE’ opened up to each other in more concrete ways. By approaching life from this new plane I too could often feel and receive the benefits of being comforted by others. Oh – how I welcomed this new back and forth; recognizing that sometimes dividends come in unexpected ways, and I am thankful for the dividends.
Are there still some days of gloom and melancholy? Sure there are! But most of the time I remember that ‘I am not the only one in the room’.