One of my concerns about the metaphysical community is how illness can be characterized as a direct result of some life lesson not being learned or an unhealthy pattern of thought or action. Some books and websites may that tell you a liver issue reveals unresolved anger and continue to match each ailment to a “wrong thinking” cause. I can understand the temptation to see things this way – following the “right” practices provides a feeling of safety and immunity from illness. Also, when faced with another’s pain, we may seek to emotionally disengage from the sufferer by assigning some fault to their suffering.

But, again and again in my shamanic practice, I see that while there is sometimes a kernel of truth to this viewpoint, it is a misleading oversimplification of physical illness. I can find a belief within myself that engaging in my spiritual practices will spare me from some of the harder aspects of being human, such as illness. But when I do get sick, this belief comes back to bite me, because not only to I feel bad, but I feel like it’s my fault because of some physical, mental or emotional failure on my part.

I recently spent a week in bed with a cold. The last nine months have been intense, most recently with some major shamanic dismemberments and initiations. The illness allowed the physical body and the psyche to catch up to the soul, releasing and reorganizing based on the healing work I had done. I could actually see the energy reaching back into past lives to clear lifetimes where I died of illness. I could see how my dreams were my subconscious reorganizing and resolving certain themes.

To most effectively clear and heal energy from the past we need open up the contained energy. Illnes can be an emotional, physical or mental experience that resonates to where the pain is being held and allows the pain to be released and cleared away, just as a physical cut is sometimes needed to drain infection from under the skin.

Part of why I got sick was because I have a strong intent to be healthy, whole, and healed. Paradoxically, a head cold for a week was the best way to release, clear, and resolve old wounds that my soul carried. It helped me to catch up to myself and to come back into my center. Was there another way to do this healing? Of course. But this was extremely efficient and I’m a big fan of efficiency.

It also gave me a chance to look at the deals I make with the Divine; if I’m a good do-er of my breathwork and supplement swallower, if I manage my emotions well and do my shadow work, then I never have to get sick or have a flat tire. In fact, I had over a year without a cold or a flat tire, so I figured I had everything dialed in. But I realized that while my practices do measurably reduce the illness and flat tires in my life, these things aren’t a pass to get out of the less comfortable aspects of being human. In the case of my recent cold, my intent to be healthy and whole, and my longing for some downtime were stronger than my intent to avoid viruses.