What Would You Give Up?


Dylan, a writer and naturopathic doctor-in-training, was diagnosed with ALS in 2017. He originally wrote this piece for the Unfixed Project. Their Youtube channel shares stories of those with incurable chronic diseases to humanize the experience of serious illness and disability. You can check out his full interview here: https://youtu.be/WuWfhHiKOzU

Would I give up my experiences and lessons from living with ALS to walk again, to talk again, to sing and dance again? Would I give up my experiences with ALS to be able to breathe on my own again, and to not have to live with a tube in my throat? Would I give up my experiences with ALS to eat food again, to taste and smell again? Would I give up my experiences with ALS to fulfill my dream of being a doctor in my own clinic, teaching aikido, having children? Of course I would.

Dylan Shanahan

How could you not want to regain so much functioning, so many aspects of my former life, and only have to give away some intangible lessons? Although what part of me is answering that? The one that measures everything in terms of gains and losses is not my higher aspects. It is my ego, or small self. For why would I stop at giving up just ALS experiences, why not also the abuse from my father? Why would I stop there? At a certain point I would have stripped away the experiences that have come to define me, that have shaped me into the person that I am.

If I answer the question from my higher self, I recognize that the hardships of my life and the challenges of living with ALS are indispensable to shaping me into who I am. From this perspective, these experiences and lessons are the cornerstones of my spiritual growth. The purpose of life is a lofty question, but I believe it is to grow into a more harmonious being of spirit and matter, to evolve as a soul to greater depths of love and truth, fully awakening our consciousness to the purest radiant reality. These hardships also provide huge opportunities for this type of growth, as if equivalent to the challenge is the hidden potential for spiritual growth. The Lotus only grows in the mud, a diamond is only made under incredible pressure, and there is no rainbow without the rain. These are hard truths and hard lessons, but I have faith that they bear fruit. I’m on the highway to Buddhahood.

I can choose my destination in life, but to a large extent, not the pace. For me, my destination is spiritual awakening. I could have crossed paths with an enlightened teacher, but for now I have the school of hard knocks, life challenges that intensify my experience to pressurize my transformation in the crock pot of my life. I don’t believe that manifestations are random. As Einstein said, God doesn’t play dice. If one believes in a higher power, use whatever name, the truth is the same, that all phenomena arise from the same source. I don’t get to decide this manifestation is divine but not another. Faith is all or nothing. There is only the one. It’s our mind’s judgment and dichotomies of good and bad, that leads us astray by thinking we know better. It was the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden after all.

That said, if there was a cure for ALS tomorrow that I could take going forward with all I have learned and experienced I would. I’m not sadistic. Otherwise, I would be fighting against my reality, fighting against myself, by letting a desire to undo this ALS experience consume me. It has its place and I keep it there. More and more if I can reside in my higher self, ALS is not my enemy, it’s my ally. So the original question answers itself. I recognize that a part of me will always say, yes I will trade these lessons and experiences of ALS to regain my functioning. That voice is not all of me. Humans are multi layered complex beings. Some of our most inspiring aspects come from our hidden and intangible elements, like our experiences and spiritual growth. Spirit is of the unseen, infused into all the physical world. The intangible experiences and lessons of our life nurture the kernel of our soul to grow and blossom. From that perspective the original question could be, would I give up my soul to not have this disease? Of course not.

Check out Dylan’s other writings at www.lifebreath.net