A young woman named Alexandra developed some breast lumps, and in spite of many assurances from very good doctors that they were benign, couldn't stop worrying that they were malignant.
I invited her to take a few deep breaths, relax, and imagine that she could take her mind inside her breast. I asked her to invite an image to form that could tell her something useful about these lumps, and to accept and explore the image that came, whether or not it made immediate sense to her.
She reported that she saw a small stream, with a number of small stones partially obstructing the flow. As she looked more closely, she said that the stones actually looked like pearls. She began talking about how oysters formed pearls as a response to irritation, and how the pearls were an attempt to protect the oyster from these irritations.
I asked her if that reminded her of anything in her own life, and she told me about a good number of irritations and stressors she had been experiencing, none serious or unsolvable, but mostly having to do with being torn in several directions by the needs of her family and her charitable interests. The demanding schedule she had been trying to keep in order to meet all these needs had led to her drinking more coffee, eating poorly, not resting enough, and feeling run down, and she saw how these were likely to be at the cause of her developing these lumps.
She ended her guided imagery meditation with a feeling of appreciation for the wisdom of her body, and a feeling that she could and would resolve these issues. As she reworked her schedule, balanced her attention between others and herself, ate better, and eliminated coffee, the lumps went away.
People who stop to consider what life and spirit may be telling them through their bodies learn that the wisdom of nature is built into their bodies, minds, and spirits and that they can have access to it by taking the time to get quiet and invite its guidance. Symptoms are a way that the life force gets our attention. They are like the oil lights on our cars. We wouldn't pull our cars into the gas station and ask the mechanic to tape over the oil lights or cut the wires to them—we would want to know what's needed to make the proper adjustments so we can prevent further damage.
By respecting the life force, asking for its guidance, and paying attention in this special way, we often find that illness can teach us about health and wellness. We learn that we can cultivate our ability to care for and learn from the healing nature that lies within us all, and we renew our respect for the healing marvels that we truly are.