Issue: Summer 2003, What Gives You Hope and Courage? - Issue #32
Healing from an illness almost always requires of us some inward change. Faced with a condition we cannot with best efforts change, we may be asked to reflect on and discern meaning in our situation, to change our path and direction of life in some way, or simply come to terms with our feelings. Drawn into this process, we may at first feel overwhelmed, but may also later find that we have become more fully ourselves, and more closely related to our world.
This aspect of illness is actually a spiritual dimension, and there are ways in which we can foster it. Traditionally, one way has been to reconnect to or deepen one’s religious life. Another is through reflection on our life either alone, or with others in biography work.
To work with a verse means to choose a short text with a meaningful inner content, and work with it meditatively on a regular basis. This could be a verse from a scripture one feels connected to, a short poem or piece of prose, or a verse created specifically for meditative work. Time - perhaps five, and usually not more than fifteen minutes - is set aside each morning and evening for quiet contemplation of this verse. The same verse can be worked with for a period of months or even years. The goal is neither to analyze the verse nor to program oneself with its content. Rather, it is to discern and reflect upon the thoughts it contains, or that arise in relation to it.
Perhaps the most important fruit of such work is a strengthening of the human ego. By ego, we mean our human individuality, our eternal and most essential part; a spiritual part living within our soul and body, but able to become independent of them, and of the surrounding world. This ego is unique in each person, and is the part we refer to when we say I.
The ego can become self-aware and sovereign in the midst of our many experiences. By effort it can attain genuinely free choice, and responsible directorship of our life. Still, its place is not assured. Amidst the desires and antipathies of our soul, the ebb and flow of our forces of life, the engrossing solidness and weight of our physical body, the ego is as if a child, the newest and most vulnerable part of our human makeup.
Work with a verse can strengthen the ego in several ways. First, through encounter with a noble and universal content, it can explore the higher potentials of its humanity, with thoroughness, and from the inside out. The inner attentiveness this requires is another strengthening factor, cultivating exactness of observation and thought. In this way, occupation with a verse can bring a subtle uplifting of our values and ideals, and of the way we order our inner world.
Such work can also lead to self-knowledge. By degrees, our own life of feelings, our habits of thinking and acting, the direction and circumstances of our life become more visible to us. Is all well with us? Are there ways in which we would like to change? The process requires honesty, but the means for change are contained in the path, and are of a character that strengthen us.
In working with a verse we enter a world of thought greater than the world we normally occupy. As we find connections to this world, we experience that our perspective is enlarged, and that it is a world to which we feel we belong.
We can also come to sense that this world knows us; that although we must work to penetrate it, it in turn supports and helps us. Awareness of such a world, accessible to us and which cares about us, can be a source of great comfort, particularly during illness. In this way, the activity of working with a verse can bring us light, courage and confidence amidst otherwise quite painful circumstances.
Jeff Smith, R.N. has been a registered nurse since 1985. He has worked at the Friedrich-Husemann Klinik and the Filder Klinik in Germany. He now works at Raphael House, an anthroposophical clinic in Fair Oaks, CA.
Meditation for Courage
We must eradicate from the soul all fear and terror of what comes towards us from the future;
We must look forward with absolute equanimity to whatever comes, and we must think only that whatever comes is given us by a world direction full of wisdom.
It is part of what we must learn during this age, namely to act out of pure trust in the ever present help of the spiritual world; Truly nothing else will do if our courage is not to fail us.
Therefore let us discipline our will, and let us seek the awakening from within ourselves, every morning and every evening.
I will kindle my fire this morning
In the face of the holy angels of heaven
In the face of Raphael most beautiful
In the face of Uriel most gracious
In the face of Michael most mighty
In the face of Gabriel most gentle
I will bear no malice
I will bear no jealousy
I will bear no envy
I will bear no fear
Of any that are under the sun
But the Holy Son of God shall shield me.
from the Gaelic