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if only i didn’t have to throw up

“The substitute life is a very narrow way of living. This narrowness is rooted in our need to feel comfortable, to cling to what is familiar and safe,” writes Ezra Bayda. His words ring true after a day and a night of tossing and turning, disjointed dreaming, throwing up, aching stomach, and vertigo that keeps knocking me over. Nothing spectacular as illnesses go but still, not what I’d prefer. I’d rather sleep well, keep food where I put it, and wake up reasonably refreshed and pain-free.

Not knowing the cause of this condition is one thing, but equally annoying is the unpredictability and in convenience of it all. Already I had to cancel two volunteer shifts and I’m even further behind in my correspondence. House-moving boxes are piled up in the living room and the deadline for emptying and cleaning the old abode is four days away. What a nuisance, and, just behind that, variations of Poor me and Why now? In short, my attachment to how life should unfold is being ambushed by things beyond my control. Home-made suffering on top of natural discomfort.

What I’d like is to sleep and wake and walk and eat and go about my business without interference. That’s the attachment, a preference for the status quo. As I look back over the last 24 hours I realize that I’ve become increasing annoyed with my body, especially my stomach. Why are you giving me pain? Why make me worry? Why not keep food down? Put this way, I’ve been treating my body as the enemy.

And yet, it is neither enemy nor friend but a complex system of systems. What if I were to pay attention to it, give it some compassion, listen to its aches? Asking “What is this?” is what Joko Beck suggested to Bayda during his long illness. Lying still, breathing into my stomach, I turn loving kindness inward. Almost instantly, the tightness in the belly relaxes as awareness sinks into my centre, spreads from there, relaxes body and mind. What is this? is not to be answered intellectually but as an inquiry away from what I want (attachment) to what is (reality). Simply giving attention to pain and discomfort, to listen and to care, calms my body and I fall into a light and restful sleep.

sources: Bayda, E. (2003). At home in muddy waters: a guide to finding peace within everyday chaos. Boston: Shambala, p. 43. Beck, C.J. (1993). Nothing special: living Zen. HarperSanFrancisco. images: (top) sick puppy at; (bottom):


6 responses »

  1. A friend said something to me many years ago which has stayed with me… and, when I remember it, is an important ‘mantra’ for me… for the one who wants to keep going at all costs…

    “Break your journey before it breaks you”

    I too am ‘sick as a dog’ right now, though it has been going on since last October! Unknown as yet what it is.

    Being kind to the ailing body is a practice in itself.

    How well it serves me, has carried me all these years, through great trials, yet I still complain when it wants to rest. Is it my slave or my companion? A little kindness is all it asks… can I be humble enough to honour it?

    • stricly speaking, fiona, the body is neither slave NOR companion, it just “is.” and keeps changing moment by moment, cell by cell. it’s our mind that’s problematic in that ir creates scenarious based on fear, preferences, likes, aversions, etc.

      knowing this doesn’t make the pain go away but it does open the door to healing (see Buddha’s ‘Noble Truths’).

      with love, peter

  2. Thank you Fiona for your beautiful way of reminding us to not take for granted this body we live in…you seem to have come to a peaceful acceptance of your body’s need to rest right now…
    May you be well.

    • Thankyou Dawne. You’re right, acceptance is the clue… whilst I continue fighting what IS, I can have no peace and the body can have no rest. I have had to learn this the hard way over many years, and still I forget sometimes! I seem to have such a strongly ingrained notion that Doing is more important than Being…

  3. Yes, I agree Peter, but , hey, even cells need love!!! 🙂

    Research has shown that cells respond to all kinds of stimuli – stress, heat, light, laser, uv rays, oxygen, starvation etc. etc…. I feel sure that if it could be measured they would find a response to loving kindness too…

    How Cells Respond to Stress; May 1993; Scientific American Magazine; by William J. Welch;

    …all cells–from the simplest bacterium to the most highly differentiated neuron — increase production of a certain class of molecules that buffer them from harm. When biologists first observed that phenomenon 30 years ago, they called it the heatshock response. Subsequent studies revealed that the same response takes place when cells are subjected to a wide variety of other environmental assaults…
    It occurs in traumatized cells growing in culture, in the tissues of feverish children and in the organs of heart-attack victims and cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.


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