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.