Do not worry about whether or not the sun will rise. Be prepared to enjoy it. -- Anonymous
When our attitude is cooperative, we tend to think, "What else can I do that will assist others even more?" For example, when my husband, Michael, asks me if I want the door closed because I'm feeling chilly, and I say yes, he will not only close the door, but he checks the windows for drafts, turns up the heat, and offers me a sweater or anything else he can think of to make sure I'm comfortable. This willingness to go the extra mile describes the attitude of cooperation.
We sometimes moan that life is unfair, that we don't deserve the bad things that happen to us. Perhaps we would like to have more money, a more creative job, greater health, greater happiness, or closer relationships. How might we be blocking the kind of cooperation that would bring those to us? Attitude is one big factor. When we are in a state of cooperation, our attitude is one of joy. If we are asked to do something, we do it -- and then some. We not only do the job at hand fully and completely, but we might also look ahead to the next project. Our focus extends beyond our immediate needs and desires.
Cooperation has a lot to do with letting go. Once we have accepted the reality of what is, we can go with the flow. We stop trying to control other people or bend situations to our will. To get the idea of what this means, picture a surfer riding a wave. He's not trying to push the breakers or hold back the tides, but to become so attuned to the movement of the water that he and the wave are one. When we cooperate, not only do we let go of the need to be better than others, but we also let go of our resistance to change and to not getting our way.
I am reminded of a wonderful Chinese proverb: "Don't push the river; it flows by itself." It is a reminder of how much of our lives we spend swimming against the current, getting nowhere, only to discover that our true success and inner peace are found when we respect the river and go with the current. As you use your observation and compassion to perceive opportunities for cooperation, you will experience a profound sense of freedom. Cooperation empowers us, allowing us to look beyond being victims of circumstances or prisoners of our illnesses.
In 1981, Michael and I went on a whitewater rafting trip on the Cheet River in West Virginia. I wanted to prove to myself that even with multiple sclerosis, I could be courageous and daring -- doing whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it. We came to an area in the river appropriately named Killer Rapids. Crashing through the churning waters, the boat bucked and heaved, violently thrown this way and that by the tremendous power of the river.
Suddenly, I was thrown from the safety of the boat into the rushing waters of the Killer Rapids, hitting my head on a rock and breaking my nose. The force of the river pulled me under, and a part of me just let go, cooperating, flowing with the river, not resisting it. I have never known such peace. I heard choral music sung by a melodic choir; I smelled the sweet fragrance of tropical flowers; I saw flashes of purple and white light; I heard a deep, clear voice saying, "Do not fear; you are safe. I will always be with you."
At this life-changing, defining moment, I made a promise to myself that, no matter what, I would find this peaceful place again, this inner place of loving. It was a place of total cooperation, accepting what was in front of me, flowing with the water, not resisting, and not fearing what at the moment seemed like imminent death.
So many times, when I find myself playing the victim and fighting my illness, I try to remind myself of that whitewater experience. Serious illness is like the river. It can come at us with a relentless power that can fill us with fear and despair. But if we incorporate the keys for living successfully with illness that I have shared in past HuffPost blog postings -- Balance, Acceptance, Understanding, Patience, Compassion, and Freedom -- we can find the place of peace where we can cooperate, stay in the present, and flow with life, and discover how to move with its power, majesty, and beauty, rather than refusing to accept what has shown up.
There is no real guarantee that the sun will rise tomorrow, but because of our faith, we know it will. We know, and this faith is so strong that nothing can shake it. Remaining in this place of balance, acceptance, understanding, patience, compassion, and freedom have made it possible for me to find my own way once I surrendered to the way it is.
Pause and read this poem out loud. Listen to its words carefully:
I love myself even though I feel uptight
I love myself even when I am pretending to be something I am not
I love myself even at those times when I'm feeling anxious
I love myself even though I am judging
I love myself even when I am being egotistical
I love myself when I am comparing myself to others
I love myself when I worry
Portions of this blog were excerpted from Chapter 4, "How We Change," pp 138-139, in my book, You Are Not Your Illness: Seven Principles for Meeting the Challenge.
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Linda Noble Topf is author of You Are Not Your Illness: Seven Principles for Meeting the Challenge, Simon & Schuster, 1995. Wheelchair Wisdom: Awaken Your Spirit Through Adversity, will be published in 2013 by Berrett-Koehler & iUniverse.
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