Posted by: sistermom1 | December 18, 2011

Broken Open

Lately I have been reading a very special book by Elizabeth Lesser – Broken Open: How Difficulties Help You Grow

Through Buddhist study, I have been exposed to and learning from the idea that problems and obstacles have a specific purpose in your life.  More than just “my karma”, or my own past causes catching up with me, the problems that I have are opening me up so that I can experience my life very differently than I had been, and become even better and stronger.   The poet Rilke wrote that” in the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us.”  I am definitely being worked on.

Ms. Lesser’s book has expanded my view of exactly what the challenge of MS is revealing in my life, and why I should welcome rather than regret it.  As Nichiren Daishonin, a 12th century Japanese priest has written , when obstacles and problems present themselves, “…the wise will rejoice and the foolish will retreat.”   Reading  Broken Open has helped me see my current situation very differently, and helped me not retreat.  Not only as a wife, parent, daughter, friend and sister, but as someone who is living with a chronic health condition.

MS is not a punishment.  Dealing with it has begun to break me open in many ways.  It has forced me to slow down and pay attention to what happens to me and my family.  To really appreciate the little things.  To separate from and question my ego and the messages it sends me throughout the day.  (Just because I think something does not make it true!)  To be where I am at any given moment – not looking elsewhere for another place to be, or avoiding the place I am.

The journey is also teaching me the importance of the tone of my speaking voice. I have always been a bit of a diva (did you catch the blog title?)  and whatever I felt about things I shared — whether or not it was an accurate assessment.  I am just beginning to understand how this behavior impacts the people I care about.

My good friend “M” is a true blessing in my life.  She tells me the truth about myself in a way that I can hear, accept and move forward.  The other day, after I shared a complaint about my life, she challenged me to reflect upon my own attitude and to examine how it contributed to the problem.  She reminded me that it is not just what I say, but how I say it that communicates a great deal.  Her encouragement has led me to a series of realizations about myself, how I interact with the world, and some of what this journey is really about for me.

My journey.  We are all on parallel journeys – individually and as a community.  I see it as concentric circles – ultimately including the entire planet and the entire universe/galaxy.  MS continues to be an experience that is breaking me open — but to what?

There is much for me to experience – to read and to learn — not only about MS, but about my life — and what MS is here to teach me.  As I advance along this pathway, there are times when I find myself appreciating (not yet rejoicing at!) the challenges that I find.  As the holidays envelop our family schedule, my latest challenge has been staying in the current moment and appreciating it for what it is, rather than rushing past it to the next one.  I am becoming more comfortable with being broken open.  Wish me luck as we start a New Year!



  1. thank you so much for this post…. i have studied and practiced some Buddhist philosophy for the past15 years… and it has helped me in many ways with this MS journey, as well as other aspects of life… i have not seen this book but am buying it right now 🙂

    • You are very welcome! Thank you for reading this blog — I will check yours out too! I do hope you enjoy reading the book. All the best to you, and Happy New Year!

  2. I should have known you were into Buddhism by your insightful comments!
    Happy Holidays!

  3. I was always intrigued by Buddism. Wonderful insight! 🙂

  4. Your words resonate with all of us! For me Broken Open also helped me during a really difficult time. You’ve inspired me to go back and read it again for deeper insight into how I live my life everyday. Thank you for your blog. I know that it takes time and energy for you to write. I know you to be very kind hearted and so you are just getting some gentle reminders to thread that kindness into everything. (I know that I need that reminding as well). Happy New Year.

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