Chara and I connected earlier this year in a Shift Series interview, “The Importance of Nature in health, healing (and even recovery!) for Children” and I am excited to have her back as a guest blogger.
Chara is a passionate educator and advocate of the importance of right relationship to nature. She is a unique blend of incredible “book smarts” with the biggest heart and most beautiful earth loving soul you will ever meet.
If you have an immune disorder or other complex health problem, have you ever wondered whether it’s pointing you toward your life purpose? Are you aware that those with immune problems or other complex illnesses may have a healing role of some kind, maybe focused on themselves, but often focused on tending the wellness of other people, animals, or the natural world?
I believe that when our immune systems go on a rampage, or our health crumbles in other ways, our internal bodily confusion is teaching us that we’re living carelessly. The healing solution, not surprisingly, is to live caringly. This always requires deep self-care and a gentler life pace. It often requires expressing your inner urge to caringly support others in their healing journeys. In the tradition of indigenous peoples, the term ‘shaman sickness’ describes a situation in which a compassionate person with some kind of healing capacity (whether as a teacher, healer of bodies, or friend to animals and the natural world) becomes physically sick, then finds relief from her illness when she chooses to come into alignment with her healing gifts and offer them caringly to others.
I know something about this, but it took me years to give it a name. After the birth of my second child and too many late nights finishing a degree, I was accosted by adrenal exhaustion, fibromyalgia, asthma, and infections which left me weak, deeply fatigued, and anxious about what was happening with my body. It took me a while to realize that I was adding more autoimmune and inflammatory problems to the endometriosis and allergies I already had, and over the ensuing twelve years a few other diagnoses would come my way.
As I struggled with my health, I simultaneously was grasping to more clearly define my life purpose and professional goals. I also was grieving the environmental pollution and climate change indicators that became increasingly noticeable to me as I raised small children and tried to play outdoors with them (which is hard to do when air pollution alerts warn you to keep your kids indoors). Mothering my children was a joy, but I suffered quite a bit in those years as I dealt with health problems and stress about the state of the natural world.
As my life moved forward, I eventually began to see that my pain points were not separate problems, but interlinked facets of the same problem. It may sound strange at first, but I firmly believe that those of us who struggle with immune illness, question our life purpose, and yearn to help solve the world’s problems are serving as signs and teachers, both to ourselves and others. In indigenous terminology, we have shaman sickness. Our bodily struggles are revealing just how out-of-alignment we are in our own lives and our existence on the Earth.
It took me years to realize that my own highest purpose involves not only tending gently to my body, but helping others to see the connections between their wellness and the natural world’s wellness. Like many others, including authors who have written about their own healing, such as Lissa Rankin, Martha Beck, and Louise Hay, I have found that my health problems diminish (some have disappeared) when I follow my inner guidance and walk my highest path of self care and service.
In developed countries we are facing a new and burdensome epidemic of autoimmune and related inflammatory disorders ranging from allergies and asthma to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Crohn’s Disease, Psoriasis, and Multiple Sclerosis. They are metaphors for the larger human struggle to stop abusing ourselves and our planet. To put it in positive terms once more, immune sicknesses are teaching us that our own bodies need care. They are asking us to be honest with ourselves about the caring or healing we feel called to give to others. And they are asking us to care for our life support system, the Earth, because many immune illnesses can be linked to environmental toxicity as well as intense life stress and lack of alignment with life purpose.
If the path of shaman sickness seems to be one you’re walking, my best advice is this: allow yourself to find the connections between your illness and your purpose. There’s a lot of healing and delight on the other side of that process. As you come into alignment with your purpose and calling, health and joy will be your rewards.
You can find Chara Armon, Ph.D., at http://mutualflourishing.org, where she writes and offers e-courses and flower essence consultations. She welcomes you to join her on Twitter at @ArmonChara, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MutualFlourishingForSelfAndEarth, and on Instagram at https://www.pinterest.com/CharaArmon/