I recently heard an episode of On Being with Krista Tippet entitled “Forgiving the Body: Life with ALS, ” in which she interviewed the recently deceased Bruce Kramer, a writer and teacher who himself had ALS.
Kramer had an attitude of acceptance and outright gratitude for the debilitating neurological disease that is inspirational, to say the least.
In the interview, both he and his wife were adamant that their lives had been so positively affected by the social consequences, compassion and awareness they had gained from the circumstances around the disease that they wouldn’t take it back given the chance, despite all of the difficulties and frustrations inherent in the ALS experience.
Beyond his personal experience, Kramer discussed the importance of changing the attitude in our society has about fighting disease.
Instead of trying to fight against disease, Kramer encourages us to remember that our bodies are an integral part of ourselves, and thus if we are to fight against disease we are ultimately fighting against ourselves.
Our bodies are the physical manifestations of ourselves, so when we’re fighting against our diseases we are harming our capacity to heal.
I love this point, and think that it expands far beyond chronic and life-threatening diseases to apply even to the most minute aches, pains, and inconveniences we perceive within our bodies.
While the typical militaristic approach to disease might appear to be the most efficient on the surface, it requires a lot of energy to fight.
This is energy that could be better used toward finding balance in our day-to-day lives, with which we can create a more thriving internal landscape and where at least some element of health can more easily be housed.
We have a collective tendency in our society to focus on our inadequacies, to feel that our bodies aren’t good enough -that we aren’t good enough- and that things need to be fixed.
Perhaps we would do better if we could sit back, relax, and be curious about what is being offered to us in the situations we find ourselves in.
Of course, even Kramer acknowledged that there were days when he was fed up and wished for his body to work better, for things to be easier.
But overall he did not feel defeated by his disease, nor did he feel that it was something he had to defeat.
While there is tremendous potential in each of us to transform, grow, and heal, we might in fact be better off if we could learn to accept the place we are in without trying to change it.
Things will change themselves, and the best we can do is walk into our lives with the open-hearted curiosity and gratitude Bruce Kramer demonstrated so remarkably.