I have recently read The Deepest Acceptance, by Jeff Foster, having been recommended it by someone whose book recommendations are always spot on. She had previously recommended Ingrid Bacci's The Art of Effortless Living (my review of which you can read here).
And this book was no exception. Although I can't say I enjoyed it - such books are typically no light read - I found it refreshingly honest. It was certainly thought-provoking and made some interesting points that I don't necessarily agree with but I still took a few things away from the book, even whilst I spent much of it thinking of situations that are the exceptions to, and contradict his statements!
Having read several self-help books since becoming ill, and being the recipient of much similar (unwelcome) advice from friends and family (as I am sure any patient will understand), there was a difference in this book - an acknowledgement of the situation, and of the reality of life with illness;
"The pain was still painful - let's not deny reality or pretend it in any way. It still hurt, but on the deepest level it was ok."
"Telling someone there is no pain can be a way to invalidate their present-moment experience."
"Remember, acceptance doesn't mean that the pain or hurt goes away."
His realism and appreciation for the grim reality is both refreshing and reassuring. Taking advice from someone who is too simplistic and overly positive is always a challenge. Things in life are never just black or white, there are (fifty!) shades of grey all the time. Proverbs and sayings that are all or nothing bear no resemblance to real life and can be difficult to apply to yourself. In his writings, Foster acknowledges this, but still paints hope.
"Welcome to ordinary life, dear explorer - the final frontier of spiritual awakening"
"I am not actually offering a solution to suffering, but another way of looking at suffering - a radical new way of relating to it"
One of the real take-home messages for me was this:
"Acceptance is not a time bound achievement, but a never ending present moment reality."
I go through phases of thinking I have accepted my situation, only for a thought, memory or situation to seemingly send me back to square one again. I remember unpacking my bags having just arrived for my first term at university and finding a card from my parents that said "success is a journey, not a destination", and I very much believe acceptance is similar - although possibly a more hilly road?
The most pertinent phrase for me was this:
"When we suffer pain and illness, what we are really doing is grieving over our dreams of what should have been."
The last few weeks for me have been littered with sharp pangs of grief about my dreams, and what should have been, and that is inexorably linked to my illness and associated pain.
He talks about how we can learn the most from our enemies - certainly true when your worst enemy is a long-term illness! It can be the best teacher ever. I have learnt lots about myself and about life. Don't get me wrong - I would have much preferred sitting on the sofa on a nice Sunday afternoon reading a self-help book and learning the lessons that way, but I know that I would not really learn that way. Without wanting to depart too far from the grim day-to-day reality of illness, I like the concept that good things can be gained from the experience of illness, namely knowledge. I think that reflects my determination to find the silver lining to the cloud . . .
Despite the overuse of rhetorical questions, the book has some excellent points and is both comforting and takes you outside of your comfort zone, challenging your inner-most thoughts and into a world of completely different thinking.
For more information on Jeff Foster's books and work, visit www.lifewithoutacentre.com