Recently I read a particularly inspiring post called ‘Devotional tips for those with chronic illnesses and limited energy‘ by Michelle at Northern Tamarisk. It really helped me remember that I am certainly not alone with chronic illness and it also encouraged me to write about my own illnesses and how I deal with it interfering with my faith.
About my Illnesses
I suffer from chronic pain diagnosed as fibromyalgia, but due to the ‘catch-all’ diagnosis associated with this illness, I am making sure to get tested for everything. In fact today I went to the GP asking about it yet again, again they just said it is fibromyalgia. It’s frustrating for me as it developed only a few years ago and has gradually been getting worse and worse. It started off as a soreness and tightness in my calves when I walked to work, then last year it got so bad I had to start using a cane to walk, and now I cannot walk more than about 5 minutes without intense leg and back pain.
It affects every aspect of my life from sleeping to eating. It’s amplified by having type 1 diabetes (the needle kind!) and mental health problems. I basically have a big cocktail of illness which affect me greatly and really brings me down a lot. The ‘chronic’ part is what upsets me the most – if there was any way I could cure these ills, I would.
Michelle’s post popped up on my feed at a very relevant time for me; my pain has been getting worse and I’ve been unable to do many things as of late. It’s all been getting me very down and so the post really spoke to me. It reminded me that even though some days I can barely move, I can still write, meditate or do anything else which will further my knowledge and devotion to Shinto and my path.
What I Do on ‘Bad Days’
Like Michelle’s post (please do check it out if you haven’t already!) I’m going to make a list of things I can do even when bedridden. This is partly to share my experiences, but also way to remind myself when I am having the dreaded ‘fibro fog’ that I can still show my devotion no matter what.
- Lighting candles and incense: The simple act of lighting a candle or some incense can really change my mood. If I am experiencing mental fog or feeling low this can change my whole outlook. There’s just something about the flickering flames and the strong scents which can snap me out of any self-destructive mood and bring me back to the here and now.
- Talk to the Kami/Spirits: Sometimes just talking to Inari-sama is enough for me to feel that I can get through this. Although I do norito (Shinto prayer) in the original Japanese, when I casually talk to Inari-sama it is always in English – I wish my Japanese was that good! I have what I’d call a casual relationship with Inari-sama. Even though I do formal ceremonies in her honour, she also feels very much like a mother figure to me and so I often find myself chatting and joking with her. On bad days I apologize to Inari-sama and the other kami I hold shrines for and let them know how much they mean to me. The fact I can see the main kamidana from my bed helps me a lot!
- Blogging/Writing: What I’m doing right now from bed! Thanks to the advent of technology such as laptops, it’s possible for me to write from anywhere! In fact I could even blog from my phone if I wanted to! If I am not in the mood to blog, I can just write in a notebook or somewhere like Evernote. Sometimes the brain fog seems too much for me, but I’ve found that just writing and letting it flow will often help with that.
- Daily Offerings: Usually I put out daily offerings of water, rice and salt for Inari-sama and the other kami I have shrines to as well as reciting norito. Sometimes my pain and mental fog is so bad that I either forget or are unable to and I feel bad for this. I know that the kami do not mind as I am not deliberately mistreating them or anything, but I do feel like I fail as a devotee when this happens. As mentioned above, I will sometimes just light candles instead and/or apologize to the kami. If I cannot stand up due to pain, I will recite norito sitting down. All in all, I try to at least change the water in the shinki containers every day.
- Prayer beads/Mala: Although not actually a Shinto practice, I sometimes use prayer beads to focus my concentration when feeling bad. I sometimes say what I am thankful for, recite the words ‘arigatou gozaimasu/ありがとうございます (thank you) for each bead or recently, Inari Shingyou (Inari sutra). As Inari-sama is also a deity in Buddhism and the fact I am eclectic in my practices, I feel no bad energy doing this. In fact I feel Inari-sama really appreciates this. And so even when I am ill I am able to pray, no matter what form.
- Make Art: I am an artist and enjoy drawing and sketching no matter what. When I am stuck in bed it can be very therapeutic to just sit and draw. By drawing in dedication of Inari-sama or a particular deity or animal it really helps the energy flow. Plus Inari-sama really loves hand-made gifts of any sort!
- Read relevant books/blogs: This is something I need to do more often, especially when I have brain fog or generally feel down. Reading stimulates me a lot and learning new things is what I live for! There’s nothing like discovering new things about your faith, patron deities or anything else. I have a large collection of Shinto and spiritual books so my down time is a perfect time to dig in!
- Meditation: Meditation is good for many things from stress-relief to spiritual journeys. I have my own sacred space which I visit when I meditate and this is a powerful way to cleanse myself of a negative mood or even inspire me to create something.
So this was just a quick post about what I do when I am having off days! Thanks again to Michelle for the inspiration behind this and if you haven’t already, please check out her fantastic blog at Northern Tamarisk!
Do you have a chronic illness or something which stops you with spiritual work? I’d love to hear from you! You can either comment here or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Thanks so much for reading and have a fantastic Tuesday!