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Flu and The Flow of Nature
What on earth does catching the flu have to do with the flow of Nature? Like the seasons come and go and sometimes the river is in flood or dries up because of lack of rain, our bodies also go through changes of being well and sick throughout our life. It is just the nature of being alive. However we can find meaning in getting sick and let it be useful to us in unexpected ways.
In noticing and following the meaningful flow of Nature and life we can unfold the process of what is happening to us. This gives us deep understanding and skills to help us deal with stress and worry, relationship difficulties, feeling low and unhappy and even when we catch flu or have lengthy and serious illness.
What is the true nature of things? Process Oriented Psychology, therapy and Counselling are Taoist in their approach. This means that we follow what is happening rather than fight against it. The river doesn’t say, ‘I want to go that way not this way, or I don’t like the wind picking me up and turning me into rain!’ It just naturally flows along. We live in a society where most of us are very busy with work and family and ‘juggling lots of balls and trying to keep them up in the air.’ Or we don’t have a job or are low-waged and struggling with finances and can feel isolated and unhappy. Then we get sick on top of everything else!
“Everyone is a Taoist at heart. Everyone would like to follow nature, but we don’t have enough tools yet to put the philosophy into practice… as soon as someone gets sick, they fight the illness, rather than trying to find out the meaning or purpose behind it.” Dr Arnold Mindell.
I know I fight illness because when I get a cold or flu or aches and pains, I just want to be over it as quickly as possible. It means I am not following my true nature but just my habitual personality to keep going. no matter what. Also our culture has adverts like “Soldier on!” That’s probably why taking ‘over the counter pills’ to reduce our symptoms has reached epidemic proportions. It’s quick and easy but at the same time, if we are not interested in looking at what and why things happen in our body, thoughts and feelings, our relationships and workplace and family, the same symptoms will just re-appear in a different way. We think that we just catch a germ because someone coughed on us on the bus, but have you ever wondered why you catch the flu and others don’t?
The body seems tired, awake, nervous, aroused, sick, or excited at unpredictable and awkward moments. According to many schools of medicine, the body is sick, wrong and in need of correction when symptoms appear. Dr. Arnold Mindell. This is not necessarily so.
The body is wise if we know how to listen and has secret messages to give us. This is also true of dreams. If we know how to follow our own process of the sickness or dream rather than accept other people’s interpretations, we can learn how to uncover deeper meaning which can guide us and reveal the mystery of who we are and what we could do next in our life.
Events can then sometimes take on a numinous quality in that they can become mystical or magical, with a spiritual essence to them. When I caught that nasty flu and processed it, apart from it making me stop completely because I had no choice, I found a part of me that was very inflamed. It was coming out in ‘symptoms’ of stress, mouth infections, some conflict in relationships and having a temperature, etc. The sickness gave me time to work on the deeper underlying process that needed to transform.
There is the story of a young martial arts student who was under the tutelage of a famous master. One day, the master was watching a practice session in the courtyard. The master could sense the young man’s frustration. He went up to the young man and tapped him on his shoulder.
“What’s the problem?” he inquired.“I don’t know”, said the youth, with a strained expression. “No matter how much I try, I am unable to execute the moves properly”.
The teacher and student left the building and walked some distance into the woods until they came upon a stream. The master spoke. “Look at the stream,” he said. “There are rocks in its way. Does it slam into them out of frustration? It simply flows over and around them and moves on! Be like the water and you will know what harmony is.” The young man took the master’s advice to heart. Nothing could come in his way of executing the most perfect moves.
If we learn to unfold the meaning of what is happening to us and open to new ideas and experiences, we become more in tune with Nature and flow with the nature of things as they truly are, rather how we think they should be.
Getting the flu can give us an opportunity to slow down or stop and use the time to find out the deeper underlying wisdom and meaning which can reveal the unknown next steps that we need to take.