Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Can Illness Be a Path of Self-Transformation?

Illness As a Path of Self-Transformation

I hesitate to share any longer about illness on my Facebook personal profile as I inevitably receive unsolicited and unhelpful advice on how to set my thinking straight or questions like, “What on earth are you eating?”

Some people with a bent toward the Law of Attraction try to correct my thinking and my words, which according to their belief system causes my physical woes. Others offer lectures on the superiority of a vegetarian diet and imply I’m not ready for the “new awareness” because I haven’t adopted one.

I used to feel upset when I received these comments. Now that I’m growing in my self-sovereignty, I delete them.

Of course, I don’t mind people promoting their views on their own Facebook page or blog just like I do. When I visit a page or blog, I have the option to stay or to go and never return, if I wish.

But I feel invaded and invisible when people use my personal profile as a place to proselytize.

What Comes Around, Goes Around

I confess I have a history as a busybody, arrogantly assuming I could solve other peoples’ problems. No wonder I receive comments like this now! As they say, what comes around, goes around.

I finally learned that my interventions were usually not helpful. They only kept me occupied so I didn’t have to look within and heal my own life – too scary a proposition at that point.

I understand people are trying to help in their own way, just as I was. But, at least for me, this type of behavior is not helpful. I find sharing our personal stories empowering, but thinking you have the only correct approach and pushing it on others – no way!

Of course, there’s always something to learn even from cloaked criticism. I try to assimilate any truth or lesson before I hit delete and to do the latter without enmity. I also aspire to be more self-confident and less perturbed by such happenings.

Illness Is A Journey

Unless you have the capacity for profound seeing, it’s very difficult to know the best healing path for someone else. Sometimes a doctor or natural healer will give someone the right treatment, but they never have a 100% cure rate, do they? In fact, their success in numbers falls far short of that.

Also, there’s nothing “wrong” with being ill so there’s no need to rush in to fix someone else. It’s a valid path of potential self-transformation just like any life challenge. Do you want to steal that away from someone else?  Some people face financial troubles or relationship issues, addiction or problems at work. Illness is simply another path that can lead you to your true self.

Whatever path you’re on, this is your journey and your opportunity. And, resisting the journey of transformation is as much a part of the process as learning to embrace it.

As Kris Carr, who has been thriving while co-existing with a slow-growing Stage 4 cancer for more than 10 years, has said that cancer is her guru.  I’m sure she didn’t feel that way in the beginning, however – because most people go through several different emotional stages before they arrive at acceptance.  But now Carr she says:

“This WTF moment sparked a deep desire in me to stop holding back and start participating in my well-being. Though I can’t be cured, I can still be healthy — I can still feel better, love harder and have a more joyful life. So I hit the road on a self-care pilgrimage and haven’t looked back. More than a decade later, my life is more connected and magical than it was before my diagnosis.”

But even if your outcome isn’t so rosy on a physical level, it doesn’t mean you haven’t succeeded in transforming your heart and mind – the only truly important outcome in this life.

When it comes to change, healing, and transformation, it takes as long as it takes. No one can figure it out for you. They might be able to give you pieces of the puzzle or lead you to the right door, but you still have to do the physical, mental, emotional, and energetic work. These elements work synergistically. Without one, the whole shebang might fail.

And don’t forget karma. There’s a timeframe attached to each karma. However, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck forever. You can shape your future by being intentional with your thoughts, words, and actions now. But when it comes to past karma, sometimes you have to wait it out. Acceptance (not resignation) makes this easier.

There may indeed come a moment when the karma exhausts itself and the situation suddenly shifts. So don’t get stuck in impossible or forever thinking either. It’s all about lightly holding what appears to be paradoxical.

The Healing Power of Mind

Although I don’t believe in the Law of Attraction (here are 4 reasons why), I do believe in the healing power of mind.

In a recent talk, contemporary spiritual teacher Prem Baba said the miracle of healing can occur through faith in the ultimate alone. The body is made of the 5 elements – earth, water, fire, air, and space – which can be manipulated through faith and alignment with your spiritual essence.

But, he adds, if you don’t have faith, you need medicine. And, sometimes your faith can bring you to the right medicine. He encourages his students to use natural medicine, but he says sometimes allopathic medicine is needed. Every case is different.

And that’s the key point: Every case is different so don’t presume you know what’s best for someone else.

The path of illness is an opportunity to learn to trust yourself. Only you know for certain, what’s the right approach for you. Some people heal cancer through hardcore surgery, radiation, and drugs. Others, juice it to death. Different formulas work for different people so there can’t be a single right way.

In any case, healing is not just about the physical outcome. It’s about what you learn, how you grow, and the way you transform your heart and mind along the way.

What are your thoughts about illness as an opportunity?  Do you believe in the healing power of mind?  Just scroll down to join the conversation.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thank you for reading! If you have a moment, please share this article with others. Until next time, may you be well, happy, and safe. With love, Sandra

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37 Comments

  1. Hi Sandra:
    I enjoy reading this post.

    I dialogue with lots of people who are ill in my career. When I was younger, I was tempted to “fix” them and offer unsolicited advice. But over the years I’ve learned to ask limited questions, listen and just remain silent. Why? Because some people already know the answers to their illness and don’t need another opinion. Though not all are “healed” of their physical problem, they’ve experience the internal heart transformation that you described. And that is a very powerful thing. I’ve gone to see people on their sick beds, thinking I would offer my “2 cents.” But they’ve encouraged me and I left inspired multiple times.

    Telling someone to find meaning or even learn from their sickness is not our place. People must come to discover the self-transformation path on their own. This may take a week, months or even years.

    I do like your conclusion, “Healing is not just about the physical outcome. It’s about what you learn, how you grow, and the way you transform your heart and mind along the way.” If we embrace this principle before an illness, maybe…just maybe, it will help us go through a potential illness with a positive perspective.

    PS…I’m liking the new site design

    • Hi Kelvin,
      So nice to “see” you! Thank you for these wise words. You’ve learned so much in your time on this earth. I think you’re so right – sometimes the best way is to simply to be a listening ear instead of being full of ideas that we barely see the person we’re with.

      Thanks for having the courage to be with people who are dying. I’m inspired by how you’ve learned from them. That takes profound maturity.

      Just really loving the wisdom of all you’ve said here. Thank you!

      I’m glad you like the new design. I just changed a few days ago. I’m loving it to. Feels like a fresh start for spring. Love to you.

    • Tammy

      You were so wise at an early age ❤️ I will bet you have greatly helped many people.

  2. I had a pretty difficult cancer diagnosis years ago and a wonderful therapist worked with me on the concept that “Illness is a signpost for Change.” I’ve always followed that whether I was struggling with cold or a life threatening problem. It’s quite profound, actually. Not always easy to understand what change is needed.

    She also taught me to “Ask for 100% of what you need, 100% of the time, being prepared to hear no or to negotiate.” It’s another powerful thought.

    • Tammy

      How are you doing, how is your health now?

    • Those are powerful thoughts, Susan! Thanks for sharing them for us. I would love to incorporate those thoughts into my approach to health and healing.

  3. First i love the new blog theme design Sandra….so peaceful! I do believe illness transformed me as you know…and that I am still on that path of healing.

    I am still working on the healing power of the mind, but I have seen what it can do.

    I loved these words, ‘I finally learned that my interventions were usually not helpful. They only kept me occupied so I didn’t have to look within and heal my own life’. I too do not usually say much anymore unless it is someone close to me struggling and asking for help. But most people know what to do, they just need someone to listen. It is still hard for me not to want to fix everyone, but I learned I do not like others unsolicited help as they don’t know what is best for me.

    This was a powerful post my friend….and resonated deeply with me.

    • Tammy

      Donna do you have a blog?

    • This is so wise, Donna: “I too do not usually say much anymore unless it is someone close to me struggling and asking for help. But most people know what to do, they just need someone to listen.” It takes great maturity to be able to stay grounded within ourselves, an open and receptive container. It can be so powerful though, as you say.

      I’m inspiring that you know what the healing power of mind can do! We are all still on the path of healing in some way, aren’t we?

  4. Tammy

    This post definitely resonates with me and the timing is impeccable. I have surgery scheduled for tomorrow with a gynecological oncologist and will have my answer as to whether my mass is benign or malignant. Over the last ten days waiting for surgery I have realized that I have been putting my life and happiness on hold, believing there would be time later. I have avoided major decisions and taken a backseat in my own life. If my mass is benign I am going to finally address some things and start to really live. I also tried to fix people’s problems, gave unsolicited advice, etc and now know that this only alienates people. So much to learn 😊 Please continue with these posts, I enjoy them and learn from them.

    • Dear Tammy,
      I wish you the very best with your surgery tomorrow. I’m so inspiring that you’re seeing this as a crossroads and an opportunity with really live. Sending you love and healing energy, and wishing for your speedy recovery.

  5. Hi Sandra,
    It’s been a while since reading online posts but today something in me said yes. I’m glad I did. I can totally relate. Doing the meditation class with you a few years ago has made a huge impact on my ability to be with my experiene of chronic illness in a much more satisfying and healthy way. I do now finally and after many years of being angry and frustrated have begun to accept illness and disability as just grist for the mill on my spiritual path as Ram Das suggested many years ago. The judging mind still kicks in quite often but has lost much of its power and now there is finally enough presence and awareness to just let it be and disolve back into the spacious nature of mind from which it arose. Socially, I still mostly play the hermit. I just got tired of many of the challenges you spoke of and find I’d rather focus on “loving what is” as Katie Byron suggests. Regarding the mind, I believe the mind is key. My mind is much healhier since taking your class and I am exploring creative visualization like imagining myself happily going for a long walk on the beach with out the fear of exacerbating symptoms. I always found it interesting that the drug companies use the placebo effect as the standard they must beat to put new drugs in the market. What they fail to aknowledge is the fact that a “sugar pill” cured someones illness. To me that speaks of the potential and power of the mind. That said, I have also run into some of those law of attraction folks who naively give their, its so simple, advice. I just nod with compassion now and bless them. Thank you for your continuing to offer your writings and thoughts. May we all be well, safe and happy in our minds and may all beings benefit. Love and Gratitude, Richard ♡

    • I’m so glad to hear how well you’re doing, Richard, especially that you feel you can be with your illness in a more satisfying and healthy way. I understand how the judging mind still kicks in now and then, it’s an old habit. But it seems like you’re taming it extremely well. I wish you the very best with your visualization practice. Even science shows that it works very well for many people. Yes, that’s so interesting about the placebo effect! It does illustrate the healing power of mind. How wonderful you can nod your head and bless people when they hold a different view than you. That’s so inspiring.

      Wishing you all the best, Richard. I’ve just started a new health protocol and it’s the first time it feels like a door has opened for me. We never know when things might shift! This is a 6-12 month journey so only time will tell for sure. Much love to you.

  6. This was a wonderful post, Sandra! Yes, I have learned not to give any advice unless asked and even then I will say, “but you yourself know at some level what this is about and how to be with it. Listen to your own heart.” I learned really good listening skills (totally without giving advice or even telling the story of a similar thing that might have happened to me) so I am really grateful for that training.
    I have to keep reminding myself that illness (and whatever comes with aging) is a path and a journey and I am not the first to walk this path or experience this journey. One thing that I have learned is not helpful to ask is “Why me?” Caroline Myss really taught me that one well! 🙂 I also love the new format —-so lovely. Love to you, Sandra <3

    • This is brilliant, Jean: “…but you yourself know at some level what this is about and how to be with it. Listen to your own heart.” Thank you so much for sharing about the listening skills you’ve developed. To be able to listen without giving advice or telling your own story is an amazing capacity. I want to practice that more! That’s a great tip from Carolyn Myss, too.

      We’re not alone, are we? Even though the journey is ours, so many people are walking similar paths.

  7. Dear Sandra, you have me smiling on a Monday morning and reminding me I never did write that post on LOA back in 2013 🙂
    Love your new blog design , it reflects you
    Yes Illness is a transformational journey that was my experience and I believe a gift, although like Kris Carr I didn’t believe so at the time This is so true : The path of illness is an opportunity to learn to trust yourself. I am still working on this in life even though I am healed. Thanks SAndra a powerful post Love Suzie xxoo

    • Thanks, Suzie. Happy you’re smiling and healed. You’ve really transformed so much on the physical level, haven’t you! There can be so many layers to trusting ourselves. I understand, it takes time but we’re still growing we every change we

      • Yes Sandra and on the spiritual level too 🙂 The trust is o important and with that comes for me patience and so much more me time. I still listen every day . Yes change is ongoing once we get on the path of truly knowing who we are and why we are here 🙂

  8. Thanks so much for sharing some of your thoughts on this Sandra. I manage a chronic illness, and quite often get unsolicited advice on what to do (and sometimes, as you say, get critiqued quite heavily for what I am doing!). I so agree we can only really know what’s going on in our own path. Whilst I’m not at a place to call illness a gift, I do agree that it has presented me with many opportunities to grow in the years I’ve handled it.

    PS – new site design is lovely, and that’s a gorgeous photo!

    • Hi Ellen,

      I don’t always see illness as a gift either! Sometimes, I just want it to go away. We’re still human so I find the dislike just part of the journey. And many people suffered so strongly, I don’t want to diminish the truth of that either. Overall, like you, many opportunities for self-transformation have come my way as a result of illness and I’m grateful for them. I’m glad you like the new look of the site! 🙂

  9. I have lost a lot of people I love to cancer and have seen others I love come through the other side, so I know well the desire to ‘help’ to ‘advise’ to ‘share’. What I have learned is that I have no power over the choices that others make, regardless of how much love I have for them.

    We all have our own path to walk, our own life’s purpose to fulfill and we none of us can say what it is for another. The best I can do today Sandra is to imagine everything turning out in harmony with their soul’s journey. Myself included. 🙂

    • I’m sorry for your losses, Elle. As always you have a wise perspective on life. I believe that imagination and prayer have power so I’m with you on that for sure. Just last night I was thinking how instead of getting mired up in negative feelings about someone’s life coming closer to its end, I could also trust that they’ve gained everything they can from this life and are ready to move to the next. Sometimes, a subtle shift in the thought process can make all the difference for me. Of course, I will still have feelings of loss but not necessarily amplify them to the extreme.

  10. I wrote something on Twitter this morning like “I wish instead of trying to heal or fix me while I have cancer, people would simply love me”. That’s what I’m currently doing with myself, which I feel contributes to my healing. So, when I read your title, it felt synchronous and I ‘popped in’ to read.

    I feel that most people don’t understand or have the skill to be present with love, holding space – their attempt to share what works for them or a fix, healing or way of being is the way they know to show love. I understand it, even when it feels overbearing, but I also pull back from connecting with people or in spaces where this is prevalent while I keep connecting with people who can hold space, with love.

    I believe *everything*, including illness, is an opportunity to expand our understanding and awareness, with our heart energy, in time, within natural unfolding. An opportunity means we have a choice to be present to it, or not, and I feel it’s best if we allow each other to have that choice, and keep loving each other through our individual choices, without judging them (the person or the choice).

    I don’t think illness is a gift but I do think we can find the gifts in it, if we choose, and as the experience unfolds.

    I believe strongly in the mind/body connection, that physical pain correlates to something energetically and we can use that understanding as part of the whole-body healing process, along with other resources and information.

    I do believe in, and practice, the Law of Attraction, along with the other energy laws, but I have a slightly different perspective because I believe we draw in like energy according to our base energy, not our ‘surface’ energy. So, I don’t believe in the idea of ‘judging our thoughts’ and I don’t believe ‘bad thoughts’ lead to, or draw in, illness, and I do believe (and experience) that while ill I can draw in delightful surprises and manifest wonderful things (all of which differs from what most LOA practitioners teach).

    I’ve heard of cases where the power of thought has been healing, and I’ve experienced that in my life, but I think there are many factors, beyond thought, which weave into whole-body wellness.

    While I’ve shared my beliefs here, in response to your questions, I don’t share them, unless I’m asked to (or I’m on my personal pages). I have learned (am continuing to learn) to be present to what a person chooses to share about their experience and to hold space for unfolding, with deep peace and love. Thank you so much for this conversation! Your article, and the comments are rich with wisdom!

    • Hi Joy,

      I appreciate the thread of love, compassion, and non-judgment that weaves through your comments – both for ourselves and others.

      I also love your insight into “holding space for others with love.” I would like to develop this capacity more! It really is an art and there is so much you are showing me about this with your words.

      The way you practice the Law of Attraction is very interesting to me. I’ve never heard it presented this way before and this resonates more for me. I don’t want to get uptight about every little word I say, that’s for sure!

      Thank you for your appreciative words. They means so much to me!

  11. Sandra,

    I love that you say:

    “Also, there’s nothing “wrong” with being ill so there’s no need to rush in to fix someone else. It’s a valid path of potential self-transformation just like any life challenge.”

    So true. Sickness, challenges, and problems are all part of a normal, typical life. It only causes us pain and unhappiness to expect otherwise. It is part of it and and opportunity to grow and learn. It’s not fun, but it can be meaningful. I also love Kris Carr’s wisdom.

    • Hi Debbie,

      I loved you’re article on flowing with instead of resisting everyday problems on Live Purposively Now. That so applies to illness as well. You’ve grown leaps and bounds after incredibly challenging circumstances, which shows us that there is a way!

  12. Dear Sandra,
    I too was called to read this post today. It touched on practices I work on, such as not trying to fix, give unasked for advice, judging, and active listening. Seems over the years I have made some progress and the habits of mind have gotten more subtle. Some have transformed.
    I just wanted to say that when I was on my journey of healing from RA , I finally realized that although I may never be cured and I might die from this very difficult disease. I was healed and I had become well in my own skin. At that point I realized that death or chronic illness or pain could be the outcome of my journey but that I was well in myself and I was/am healed.

    Most of the time I remember this. Sometimes I forget.

    Sending Love to you dear heart.

    • This is so inspiring Joan! First, that you have these regular practices in your life of not giving unsolicited advice and have seen a shift with this. Yes, I know, some of our ways of reacting are subtle and take time to erase! And secondly, that you came to peace with chronic illness and discovered that feeling well in yourself is more important than the physical outcome. That’s huge.

      Thank you for sharing your story, dear Joan. I know it will inspired others. Love you tons!

  13. Yes! I hear you on this. I was very very sick about a year and a half ago, like in a wheelchair full time and ridiculously low energy. And now I am back to feeling like me again. It took quite a while, and a hell of a lot of effort, but I’m doing good.

    I have completely changed my life and my outlook on life. I’m not back to living the life I lived before, because that made me ill – why would I do that.

    There is a lot we can do for ourselves and a lot of it is how we think about things. That is NOT to say people who are sick aren’t thinking straight, but mental attitude helps a lot. I have a genetic condition, it’s always going to be there, but I can do the best I can to live a good life.

    • This is such a sound perspective, Jennifer. Thanks for contributing your thoughts and experience to the conversation.

      I’m so glad you’re better, and I fully understand how much time and energy it takes. I think many people don’t heal in part because they find it hard to take the time needed to do so. I’ve been there for sure. It’s so significant that you’ve decided not to go back to your former ways of living.

      I so agree, mental perspective can make all the difference in the world whether we’re able to heal the actual condition or not.

      I hope your improvements continue unimpeded and I wish you the very best life possible with your chronic condition.

  14. Darling Sandra,
    Firstly big hug! Cause YES no one needs fixing! Dare we intervene with the divine plan 🙂 We all need loving and that is all.
    I love and believe in every word you shared here. Literally every sentence. I read this post twice word for word. If I could come through the screen and hug you I would 🙂
    If you notice my online activity, you’ll notice, I dont share personal stuff. Very seldom maybe. Simply cause I don’t like being told what to do. I know what I need, I know what I’m feeling and thats good enough. If I need advice I’ll ask… free flowing advice is already very rampant in the real world…why go online with it too?! right?
    But we can’t stop people whatever their intentions online or offline. No need to let it get to you.
    While I love sharing my journey online on the blog, social media is a little more ‘open’ for my heart to endure.
    But I love you for sharing your journey and appreciate all that you share. Your life, your journey, your decisions, your healing….and I happily learn from it. No fixing required. Acceptance as you said, is key.
    xoxo,
    Z~
    p.s. OMG the design is SO YOU!!! And ofcourse I love the color palette. How can I not?! I’m itching to change mine now 🙂 Will keep you posted.

    • Dear Zeenat,

      Thank you for your kind words. I’m touched this article resonates so strongly with you.

      I think you found a good way – sharing more openly on your blog but less so on social media. I’m so glad you shared your approach. I think this would be a good way for me to follow.

      I didn’t think about this in connection to the divine plan, but that’s a bit of how I feel since we don’t know what will unfold for ourselves or anyone else.

      I’m so glad we do share openly on our blogs as I know I’ve learned so much from your journey and know you’ve also made a difference in many peoples’ lives.

      So glad you like the new design! 🙂

  15. Sandra, I have to admit I cringed a bit at your title. But I was both thrilled and relieved as I read on. I loved your quote from Kris Carr: “Though I can’t be cured, I can still be healthy — I can still feel better, love harder and have a more joyful life.”

    And I also appreciate the honest words of the late Jessie Gruman, who – on being congratulated for her truly impressive accomplishments as an author, educator, speaker and patient advocate – once told interviewers that the truth was she’d “trade in all of it in one hot second just to not be sick in the first place.” Jessie also wrote some controversial things about serious illness:

    “The belief is that sickness ennobles us; that there is good to be found in the experience of illness; while diseases are bad, they teach life lessons that are good – but this belief can inadvertently hurt sick people and those who love them.” (I wrote more about Jessie’s work here: https://myheartsisters.org/2011/09/30/surviving-heart-attack-make-you-a-better-person/ )

    All of those sentiments pretty well match how I too often describe my life with ongoing daily cardiac issues. And it can vary from day to day. I do not believe that I somehow needed to live with this diagnosis to gain the opportunities that others think I now ‘get’ to appreciate.
    (For a no-holds-barred take on this approach, read Nancy Stordahl’s terrific book called “Cancer Was Not A Gift And It Didn’t Make Me A Better Person” ).

    I happen to be sick in bed while I’m writing this (nothing serious, just a yucky stomach bug that both my daughter and my little grandbaby have had for the past week – I knew that kissing those chubby cheeks might impact contagion, but just couldn’t stay away!) Today is the first time in four days I’m attempting a small bit of yogurt/applesauce to see if I can manage to keep it down.

    Being sick with this acute illness is a good reminder of how different living with a chronic and progressive illness can be by comparison. I know that I will soon be able to get out of bed, will be able to eat what I like, will be able to go walking outdoors, see the friends and family I’ve been cancelling plans with for days, and most of all, visit my grandbaby again.

    I’m so looking forward to “just” having heart disease!

    Keep up the great work, Sandra…

    • Hello Carolyn,

      I appreciate your insightful thoughts on this topic. I think Jessie Grunman makes some very important points. In fact, I resonated with that post the first time I read it on your blog. I also have personal issues with the idea of post-traumatic growth, which may occur for some people, but not so easily for others for a whole spectrum of reasons.

      It can sound very cliché to speak about “illness as a gift.” The main point I takeaway from your article and Jessie’s comments is to be careful of the expectations we put on others who are ill – it can add to their burden.

      The way we deal with illness is very personal indeed. I agree that it doesn’t help to prescribe a particular way for anyone else.

      Living with chronic illness is often like living in a different world. It’s almost impossible for people to know what it’s really like if they’ve never been there.

      I hope you’re feeling better, Carolyn. Thanks for your encouragement too.

  16. You make a great point Sandra, that we don’t have the answers for other people and should not give advice about someone’s condition because, as you mentioned, every situation is different.

    Having health challenges can be a powerful teacher and my hat goes off to those, including yourself, who are sharing their journey as I know it helps others be stronger and work through their health issues, but can certainly understand why you may feel that need to pull back a bit.

  17. It is a journey for each individual. I have a close friend who is dealing with cancer. She is following the conventional route and I keep my mouth shut. It is not the course of action I would take for myself, but it is her journey. If I thought there was an opening to talk more about supporting her health and alternative methods, I would offer them. It is hard to hear what she is going through and now that there are other things that could support her. I naturally want to help people but it is a fine line. Everyones journey is different and you can never understand what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes.

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