In 1994 Pema Chodron was diagnosed with chronic fatigue, after years of confusing symptoms. She looks back on that illness as life changing and a great help on her spiritual path:
It required me to simplify my life, a very sane thing to do.
Life has taught me the wisdom of moving toward what scares me.
Using a variety of techniques, including meditation, healthy food and simplifying life, Pema is now (2010) strong enough to teach all over the United States and Canada. Remarkable, given that many patients with chronic fatigue never recover. To a fellow sufferer of this condition she wrote:
The key to working with what is so deeply unwanted, is to let go of the ideas, (the thoughts), about how we shouldn’t be sick and what will happen to us if we remain sick. Somehow we have to respect the illness, welcome it, enter into it…we surrender and say, okay, what have you to teach me?…about letting go of control, about slowing down…about tasting the full experience of a moment…the light, the sound, the quality of our mood, of our pain, the sight of dust or birds or nothing special…respecting all that. It’s a kind of death, this illness, the best kind of death if we’ll let it be. It’s the death of old stuck patterns and opinions and habits and it makes way for something new to be born in us. Really, you can trust that. Something new will be born if you’ll let the illness show you where to let go your grip…And please don’t scold yourself for failing, ever.
In her book, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, she writes:
Although it is embarrassing and painful, it is very healing to stop hiding from yourself. It is healing to know all the ways that you’re sneaky, all the ways that you hide out, all the ways that you shut down, deny, close off, criticize people, all your weird little ways. You can know all of that with some sense of humor and kindness. By knowing yourself, you’re coming to know humanness altogether. We are all up against these things. We are all in this together.
6 thoughts on “Pema Chodron quotes on dealing with illness”
I am disabled myself and practicing Buddhism so this really helped me. I wish I could find more writings about her struggle with her illness. Thank you for this, though.
I too wish there were more writings about her experience with this illness. There is a book, by a different Buddhist author, title “How to be Sick” which my be helpful.
I’ve been recovering from a brain tumor surgery, which has caused me many physical discomfort and emotional ups and downs. I wish I could find more information about how to deal with these moments.
Sorry to hear that. I hope your recovery goes well.
The main lesson from Buddhism and Mindfulness is this: start by accepting that things are as they are. Do not fight the reality of the situation.
That is difficult, but if your body is healing from the surgery, you have reason to hope that it is going to get easier.
I find it challenging to be on the verge of death every other day with these symptoms
Gigantic blood pressure spikes
I don’t know how to accept the up and down
I think you probably have to start by accepting that it sucks. Accepting the ups and downs means that you also allow yourself to grieve, be angry, hurt, disappointed and feel whatever else there is to feel.