Five years ago, I caught the flu.
Lots of people do.
Around 5 – 20 % of the US population annually contracts influenza.
About 36 000 die of it in the US each year.
Since you are reading this, you know that I am not one of them.
Not yet, anyway.
Garden variety seasonal influenza. Usual symptoms.
Fever. Muscle pains. Head ache. Chills. Lassitude.
Nothing unusual for a common case of the flu.
Stopped at the drugstore on the way home from work to pick up some oscillococcinum,
a homeopathic remedy for flu-related symptoms.
The remedy takes a couple days to have its full effect from the time of the first dose.
So, I had two days of illness with barely enough energy to sit up.
What to do ?
Noticing brought many unusual sensations to awareness.
Rather than instinctively cringe like a cornered muskrat, the searchlight of attention turned itself directly onto and then into each sensation group.
Example: investigating “chills”.
Where are they ? Front or back ? Upper body or lower ? Left side or right ?
How are they ? Static or moving ? Increasing or decreasing ?
When do they start ? Stop ?
Can I find a single chill by drawing attention in from a wider beam to a narrow focus to one point ?
In so focusing attention strongly on just one fleeting, evanescent phenomena of a chill,
that specific chill disappeared.
Huh ?! How could that be ?
Tried the technique again. Used words to help focus and limit the area and then wordlessly, simultaneously draw attention in like a purse seine net drawing in fish.
Only in this case, the fish evaporate when the net closes around them.
Illness is empty of inherent existence – not just because a dead guy wrote it in a book over a thousand years ago – but because close, dispassionate observation that chills in this body only existed where attention wasn’t makes their substantiality seem very shaky.
After this investigation, the chills felt much subdued, nearly gone.
Found the same pattern with the other symptoms, investigating their qualities each in turn led to a steep reduction in discomfort and intensity.
And the medicine had not had time to work yet, certainly not so dramatically and specifically.
Within 48 hours of taking the oscillococcinum, all flu symptoms had gone.
Sitting up in a chair, I imagined it would be very nice to take a walk outside.
But it was rather chilly and probably not the best idea to immediately go into the cold air.
This little cottage I was living in all of a sudden started to feel confining, too small.
For the first time in more than two days, I was making a self story.
For the first time in more than two days, I felt miserable.
There was no suffering when physical symptoms alone presented themselves.
After physical symptoms had gone and the self story-making started, so started suffering.
This flu brought 3 valuable lessons:
1) Physical pain alone does not make an experience of suffering;
the relationship to the sensations creates the world of experience.*
2) The self story process leads to mental suffering,
no matter how good the physical conditions.
3) With mindfulness and dispassionate observation, suffering steeply decreases and can even disappear.
Try it and see for yourself !
* Shinzen Young described it this way : suffering = pain multiplied by resistance.
Thanks to these sites :
Flu stats from the Center for Disease Control website.
Searchlight pic from this url: http://www.dansdata.com/ledlights4.htm
Pic of fishnet came from here: http://threadingthoughts.blogspot.com/
I always keep a package of oscillococcinum in the house, just in case ! The Boiron company which makes oscillococcinum gave nothing for this spontaneous mention, which was simply historical, and nothing more.