The world’s scriptures tell us there is a gift in every test, some lesson to be learned or virtue to be awakened. Loss, illness, or a major change can become our teachers if we are open to the life lessons they bring. I was fortunate to find a physician who specialised in post-polio and other energy diseases such as chronic fatigue, a short seaplane flight from where I lived.
The first thing he taught me was that I had to be my own physician. He said, “Listen to your body. Have compassion for your body. Take care of your body.”
In the midst of a full-on career traveling the world with The Virtues Project and playing intense administrative catch-up the brief times we were home, I hardly had time to be aware of my body. I didn’t stay hydrated because I didn’t notice when I was thirsty, much less stopping to rest amidst my mad rush to keep up with the huge pile of correspondence on my desk or in my email.
How humbling to be literally struck down by a repeat of some of the symptoms I had as a child of eleven during the polio epidemic of the early 1950’s. I contracted Bulbar Polio shortly before the first polio vaccine was discovered by Jonas Salk.
The “Go, go, go, crash” pattern is not unique to energy illnesses. It happens to busy people driven by over-responsibility, guilt, or ambition.
Self-care is completely off their radar until their bodies and minds can no longer sustain the pace. For me, an unthinkable pause in my “important work” necessitated a more important task – creating what I was inspired to call “A Pace of Grace,” which soon became the title for a book.
Those words came to me in Rarotonga, when I was about to begin my first presentation after months of recovery. Paddy Walker and her PSSEAWA team had invited us to the Cook Islands to give a five-day workshop on The Virtues Project. I knew that more than 60 people awaited me and my husband in a nearby room, and I was scared.
I prayed, “How am I supposed to give five days of workshops when I barely have the strength to stand for more than a few minutes?”
The answer came swiftly: “Keep a pace of grace.” These words calmed me, and as the workshop proceeded, I realised that my style was far less pressuring, not only for me, but for those attending. It was a more graceful experience for everyone. What an eye-opener.
When we are peaceful rather than pressured, we growl less and smile more. We create a ripple of Grace that gives others a sense of tranquility. We are content with enough, rather than pushing for more. We accept the gifts each day brings with gratitude.
I have come to realize that at every season, each of us needs to create our own unique pace of Grace. This includes creating an uncluttered space of grace around us at home and at work, boundaries to protect daily times of silence and reflection, and pausing to rest. It is refusing to say yes when we mean no, and choosing our yeses wisely.
We need the virtue of mindfulness to discover what we are willing to do and what we are not willing to do.
Sufi poet Jalal’u’din Rumi says, “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”