Loving What Is, Saint Francis Style

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

I Was in Assisi, Italy, Before I Went to the Desert

And I loved it.

My spirit felt very free and open there. Maybe it was the energy of the place. Maybe it was the week-long private retreat I was doing with a client in an old monastery there. Maybe it was the memory of St. Francis that is so alive in this ancient town.

Whatever the reason, all I wanted to do was to simply be. To bask in the openness I was feeling.

And While I Was there, My Curiosity about St. Francis Was Sparked

So I read a bit about his life (on Wikipedia of course). 🙂

Here’s what struck me: “In his ‘Canticle of the Creatures,’ he mentioned the ‘Brother Sun’ and ‘Sister Moon,’ the wind and water, and ‘Sister Death.’ He referred to his chronic illnesses as his ‘sisters’.”

I’d heard of “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon.” But I’d never heard of “Sister Death” or “Sister Fill-in-the-Blank Chronic Illness.”

And It Resonated Deeply with Me

I’ve used The Work of Byron Katie to question my stressful thoughts about chronic illnesses and bodily conditions. I’ve written worksheets on fatigue and back pain and slow digestion and even on emotions like depression.

And what I inevitably find when I question my stressful thoughts about my internal “neighbors,” is that they are neither good nor bad. They are like brothers or sisters. They are just there from time to time. And the more I allow them, the less I suffer.

For me, the only suffering comes from labeling them as bad and wailing against them. Or trying to eliminate them forever. That is pain. That is a powerless feeling.

And that Is the Opposite of how St. Francis Seems to See Them

In saying “Sister Chronic Illness,” St. Francis shows me the maturity of his non-attachment, his patience, his unconditional love. He describes with this simple term what Byron Katie calls “loving what is.”

It is a wonderful reference. And yet, I still have to do my work. And find it myself in each instance. “Brother Slow Digestion” or “Sister Back Pain.” These feel genuine to me because I’ve worked them and found my truth.

I invite you to question your thoughts about any body issue or external issue in your life. And see if you can find a genuine reference for what St. Francis means when he says “brother” or “sister.”

If you can make peace with what you call bad, your heart can soar free like mine did in Assisi.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“The truth is that until we love cancer, we can’t love God. It doesn’t matter what symbols we use—poverty, loneliness, loss—it’s the concepts of good and bad that we attach to them that make us suffer.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

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