The Koan of Chronic Illness

Dr. Lynn Royster Fuentes Body, Full-Length, Video Leave a Comment

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Do you suffer from a long term chronic illness? Are you a caregiver to people with chronic illness in your family or friends? Do you work as a provider for people with chronic illness or design practices and systems that affect them?

In any of these roles, you will have seen the overwhelm, fear, anger, and denial that arises when a chronic illness strikes and the individual and their family turns to deal with the condition. Multiple questions arise: which doctors should you go to, what information or opinions should you believe, and how do your potential treatment options have the potential to change all aspects of your life?

Chronic Illness expert Lynn Royster Fuentes looks at these questions as part of a koan, a puzzle you have been asked to solve, an all-encompassing and fundamental question that can be answered and re-answered as you investigate the approaches that will reduce your suffering, the ways in which you will reconstruct your life, and even the meaning of suffering itself.

Illness can be a trigger for unveiling issues at all levels of development whether physiological, emotional, mental, or spiritual. For example, because illness often requires changes around food, problems such as an addiction to sugar, the use of food as comfort and a social lubricant (now disrupted), and various dogmatic beliefs about a “good” diet can come to the forefront and create conflict within the person and between them, their family and friends, and their medical team.

During the 30 years that Lynn has taught about illness and been a caregiver to members of her own family, she has discovered many things about managing this puzzle. The most helpful to her, which she shares in this module, has been the Integral approach, based on the teachings of philosopher Ken Wilber. Lynn has found that the four quadrants, or perspectives, of the integral model offer the most complete assessment of the challenges that chronic illness can bring into human lives. By utilizing them, it is possible to reduce the overwhelm, find unusual and creative answers to the koan, and unearth practical approaches that can be taken to reduce suffering and the conflicts that often arise with it.

In this module Lynn offers teachings and practice on the following topics:

  • Managing chronic illness as both a project and a traumatized event.
  • Resisting the tendency to want to “fix” things.
  • Becoming aware of constrictions in each of the quadrants of experience.
  • Noticing where your emotions come into play
  • Making a plan to work on challenges one at a time.
  • Managing chronic illness as a path of spiritual development
About the Author
Dr. Lynn Royster Fuentes

Dr. Lynn Royster Fuentes

Lynn is a college instructor, educational course designer, and a mediator with a BA, MA, JD, and PhD. An experienced classroom and online instructor, she has designed and taught courses in transpersonal psychology, writing, planning, chronic illness, and conflict management at DePaul University, where she also founded and directed the Chronic Illness Initiative, a program to help students with chronic illness obtain a degree.

A devoted student of Ken Wilber and integral philosophy, she has published integrally oriented essays and articles on conflict resolution and illness management and weaves integral ideas into her course design and teaching. Like Jose, she follows an integral life practice of physical, psychological, meditative, and cognitive development.

Lynn is a trained mediator and has skill with several methods of personal growth including various forms of shadow work, personal inquiry, life planning, and meditation. She has published personal essays, academic articles, and a children’s book.

Lynn has also volunteered in many capacities – with battered women, people in the recovery community, and people with chronic illness – and currently serves on the board of the CFIDS Association of America. Despite her study of many disciplines, Lynn regards her greatest learning as long-term caregiver for severely ill family members.


The Koan of Illness: Solving the Puzzle of Illness and Disability

For more information on how to map and manage the myriad issues associated with chronic illness and to download a free ebook on how to use illness as a path to personal and spiritual growth, click here.