Spiritual Healing After Time in the Hospital

Assistant editor Dan Hoffman never expected his surgery would lead to spiritual growth…

Posted in , Feb 13, 2017

Sleeping and healing.

As I’ve learned working at Mysterious Ways, spiritual lessons come from the unexpected sources—in this case, unfortunate news from my doctor. Just before the December holidays, I found out I had a 1.5 centimeter tumor on my thyroid. I wasn’t sick yet, but if I wanted to avoid future complications, I would need to have my thyroid removed and take time off from work to recover.

I wasn’t so much afraid of the operation itself, or any pain (I’m used to it), but of this forced time off. I’m not a workaholic, but coming to the Guideposts office five days a week gives structure and shape to my time. Thinking about those two empty weeks gave me anxiety. What would I do? Would I become depressed or bored? How could I use the time in a meaningful way?

I slept, as it turned out. After my night spent in the hospital, I mostly lay on the couch and slept in. Normally, I’d feel guilty doing nothing, but my doctor stressed that’s what I was supposed to do: rest. The quality and depth of my sleep improved. I didn’t even meditate like I usually do, because my head felt foggy—and yet I didn’t have the usual stress or anxiety I feel when I skip. I wasn’t particularly aware of time passing at all—whether quickly or slowly.

The most remarkable event occurred the first weekend, still early in my recovery. A temporary side effect of thyroid removal is poor calcium absorption, so I had to take supplements. That day, my calcium level was particularly low. The tell-tale signs were pronounced—numbness and tingling in the extremities and lips. The doctor on call suggested I go to the ER. I spent seven hours there; they tested my blood twice, and gave me two doses of intravenous calcium. Of course, this experience left a lot to be desired. Inner city ERs are not fun places. Nevertheless, I found myself thinking, well, I’m here—nothing to be done but see it through.

Read More: The Gifts of Silence

It occurred to me that my perspective on life was going through a subtle but important change. So often, I think about how to fill my days, how to structure them… how to control them. My fears over how I would pass my time were unwarranted. I passed my time healing—beyond that, it didn’t matter. How often do any of us take time for that? Even friends noticed a difference. One person said I seemed remarkably at ease. It was as if I’d relaxed my grip on myself. While I was physically healing, I was spiritually healing too. It seemed that undergoing a surgery—a shock and trauma to the body—had the effect of calling up spiritual resources I didn’t know I had. In a way I rarely experience, I was able to simply be.

Now that I’m back to work, my days have more or less returned to normal. I wouldn’t want to go through surgery again, nor would I wish the experience on someone else, but my recovery time showed something to strive for. Those “empty” spaces I used to drive myself crazy trying to fill? They’re already booked as time to heal.

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