Illness and the essential

When we are visiting someone who is seriously ill we can find that words fail us. Simple gestures, like hugs, often work better. It spreads to the rest of our life too. We see more clearly what is essential and authentic. We move away from the masks we normally hide behind, the silly ways we relate. We reach out.

Now is the time of dark invitation beyond a frontier that you did not expect.
Abruptly your old life seems distant.
You barely noticed how each day opened a path through fields never questioned
yet expected deep down to hold treasure. 

When the reverberations of shock subside in you,
may grace come to restore you to balance.
May it shape a new space in your heart
to embrace this illness as a teacher
who has come to open your life to new worlds.
May you find in yourself a courageous hospitality
towards what is difficult, painful and unknown.

May you use this illness as a lantern
to illuminate the new qualities that will emerge in you.
May your fragile harvesting of this slow light help you
release whatever has become false in you.
May you trust this light to clear a path
through all the fog of old unease and anxiety
until you feel a rising within you,
a tranquility profound enough to call the storm to stillness.

May you find the wisdom to listen to your illness,
ask it why it came,
why it chose your friendship,
where it wants to take you,
what it wants you to know,
what quality of space it wants to create in you,
what you need to learn to become more fully yourself,
that your presence may shine in the world.

May you keep faith with your body,
learning to see it as a holy sanctuary
which can bring this night wound
gradually towards the healing and freedom of dawn.

John O’Donohue, A Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness

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