Wheelchair Wisdom: Go With the Flow

04/11/2013 04:02 pm ET | Updated Jun 11, 2013

"Take someone who doesn't keep score,
Who's not looking to be richer
or afraid of losing,
Who has not even the slightest interest
in his own personality;

He's free."

-- Rumi

Sometimes, we find our greatest lessons when we must let go of something that has particularly brought us pleasure in the past. For example, Michael and I used to enjoy dancing. We were so good on the dance floor together! It was really our joy. But there came a time when I was unable to stand without a cane, much less dance.

One night, we were at a party where people were dancing, and I nudged Michael and said, "Go ask Sheryl to dance." Now Sheryl is a great dancer. She is beautiful. She is wonderful. I had no idea how well she danced until that evening. I watched Michael and her glide and flow across the dance floor with the soulful music, just as we used to do so many years ago.

And I would be lying if I said it wasn't unsettling for a moment.

But then I looked at Michael's flushed face and his total expression of joy and his full-bodied movements as he threw himself into the dance. As I became more aware of his pleasure, I was able to share in this moment with him; my sense of loss vanished, replaced by an expanded shift in creative expression and boundless love. I felt this vibrant joy with him and through him. That was enough.

One woman came up to me and brashly remarked that if she were in my place, she'd kill Michael -- and that woman dancing with him. She told me I had to be crazy to allow him to dance with her!

I sighed, and felt great compassion for her, not knowing her hurtful wounds from past relationships. I understood what she was saying, but when I love someone as much as I love and trust Michael, I find great pleasure in that person's pleasure.

The reality was that I could no longer dance with him, yet I found that I was so fulfilled by allowing myself to enjoy his pleasure. The loss I felt -- "I wish it were me!" "It should be me!" "Why is this happening to me?" "Woe is me!" -- dissipated as I watched two people I love very much having a really amazing time.

This was the reality of the situation. This was the truth of the here and now. I couldn't be with him out there on the dance floor, so I had to reframe the situation and enjoy the experience in a completely different way.

At that moment, I was witness to a deep connection anchored by a greater source. This, I sensed, was the universal energy of love, wholeness, and connectedness. We glimpse it through love, through poetry, through intuition, through music, through collective memories, through dreams, through art, and through personal vision quests -- and through two people having a really fantastic time dancing together.

It would have been so easy for me to focus on possible fearful aspects of this situation. After all, another woman dancing with my husband, as I had once been able to do, could easily become the source of jealousy and resentment and anger. But I am learning to focus my energy to see beyond this incident: to catch a glimpse of myself viewing life in a very different way, choosing pleasure instead of this darker alternative.

I was drawn to an inner knowing that was healing in and of itself. I felt myself move closer to spirit and to the freedom in knowing the truth is ultimately found by letting go and letting God.

As I confronted the fact that I had defined my identity with my accomplishments, activities that I've physically done -- dancing, painting, dressing myself, or whatever -- my previous investment in the physical doing began to melt away. And as it did, I discovered something beyond it. What I began to see was that my measure of worth did not need to be wrapped up in my actions or physical accomplishments.

I saw that there clearly is a way that we participate in life that is quite beyond that. The breakthrough I experienced that evening was: As we give up our physical attachments, we uncover our authentic, true spiritual self. And this seems to happen even for those who, like me, never thought of themselves as spiritual before.

Appreciation: Look around where you are right now and find something to appreciate. Look especially for those often overlooked or taken-for-granted things (colors, the design of a chair, light reflected through a bottle of water, a simple silhouette against a blank wall). Take a moment to appreciate it, write it down, and find something else. Do this at least 10 times -- but, once you get into the habit, why not do it all the time?

I would love to hear from you so please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at

Excerpted from You Are Not Your Illness: Seven Principles for Meeting the Challenge by Linda Noble Topf (Simon & Schuster, 1995), pp. 46-48.

Contact Linda for practical spiritual counseling, and transform adversity into a spiritual awakening. Visit for more information.

Linda Noble Topf is author of You Are Not Your Illness: Seven Principles for Meeting the Challenge, Simon & Schuster, 1995. Wheelchair Wisdom: Awaken Your Spirit through Adversity, will be published in 2013 by Berrett-Koehler & iUniverse.

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