With the various reactions to physical disability I’ve heard, most people say the worst is the loss of independence. We can get used to not having the use of our arms and legs, or both.
Well, sort of. It’s like climbing Mount Everest: there is a point when the thin air and lack of oxygen becomes unbearable and the climber just wants to get out of there.
Sometimes the metaphorical “lack of oxygen” in the climb of Mount Disability also becomes unbearable and any kind of relief is welcomed; anything that lessens the pull of gravity - or at the very least, our experience of it.
I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy in the late 80s and by early 2000 I started to use a wheelchair. Over many years, as my weakness progressed, I sank further into denial.
Then I discovered meditation and muddled around with it, sometimes using it to increase the veil of denial, and occasionally finding genuine relief. I learnt many different meditation techniques from books and groups until finally I received some solid instruction from a proper instructor. I was shown the “middle way” of neither pampering nor punishing the body, a very important lesson for me. Although drawn from some of the worlds great spiritual traditions the meditations have no cultural or religious bias.
To my surprise, meditation is the complete opposite of what I had come to understand over the years. Meditation is just mindfulness or awareness, and it is easy!
The type of meditation which I do is not a concentration technique nor does it require any kind of special effort to still the mind. All types of thoughts and feelings are just allowed to be there, and yet I have discovered that my concentration and other mental powers have increased significantly.
I still have times when frustration and depression is the order of the day but I feel open to a sense of life so much greater than my physical limitations. With practice I have found that my mind can become very still and I experience a wonderful sense of joy, like the sun appearing from behind a cloud. In those moments I realise that the human soul is free and that regular meditation really can help people with all kinds of disabilities or chronic diseases!