Lynn Fuentes (Part 2) – The Unwanted Challenge of Chronic Illness: Existential Questions and Spiritual Perspectives for Patients, Caregivers, Family & Friends

Lynn Fuentes Transformation Teaching

Lynn Fuentes, Ph.D., author of The Koan of Chronic Illness and teacher of a series of courses on managing chronic illness, shines a bright light of understanding on chronic illness with all of its far-reaching ramifications in this very moving and important conversation. Lynn not only illuminates what chronic illness involves physically, emotionally, and relationally, but delves also into the existential questions it engenders: How should we live? How can we love each other? How can we embrace our suffering and allow it to be our path to greater connection with spirit? Lynn speaks from personal experience, having spent many years caring for a family member with a debilitating illness, and explains how she used the Integral Map in her own struggle to help make sense of the huge, all-consuming project that inevitably follows a diagnosis. Now she teaches others what she has learned about coping with the overwhelming logistics, healing the trauma, and also about transforming illness into a spiritual practice.

This conversation really pertains to all of us, whether we are very ill or not, as aging towards death is something we all face. Can we learn to prepare ourselves? Can we reflect deeply on what is truly meaningful and important about life itself and live accordingly? Can we open to the wholeness of life, the pain and the bliss, the suffering that our cultural narrative would just as soon ignore? Chronic illness is a heartrending subject, but Lynn’s warm, wise, skillful, Integral approach allows us to see it in an expanded way, more profound, more transformative, than we may have seen it before. Recorded December 15, 2022.

“We cannot separate suffering from life, they are intimately interconnected. Illness really shows us that.”

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Topics & Time Stamps – Part 2

  • What are the essential things in life? Self-knowledge, the need for community, a spiritual connection, appreciating the small things (01:27)
  • Transforming illness into a spiritual practice and the practice of surrender—in surrendering we can become larger; it’s not giving up, not defeat, it’s acceptance (05:20) 
  • Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief end in acceptance (08:22)
  • Respecting people’s journey: people are too ready to make assumptions about what is needed, when we actually need to listen and ask, “What do you need?” (09:00)
  • It’s very scary letting it in: this could happen to anyone at any moment (11:32)
  • I thought life was about doing something! But now I can’t do. (12:53)
  • How to take sick people’s grumpiness and irritability (13:27)
  • How do we navigate the relationship part and allow each party, sick person and caregiver, to have their feelings; where is the place for sacrifice while still taking care of yourself? (14:50)
  • We need to teach people how to be with a person who is suffering (18:13)
  • Do most of us grow wiser as we age? (20:32)
  • The importance of reflection and taking responsibility for one’s life (23:08)
  • How is God here with me—as caregiver, as provider, as patient? (24:19)
  • Philosophy—the love of wisdom—and the importance of spiritual practice in preparation for illness and dying (27:26)
  • We cannot separate suffering from life—they are intimately interconnected (29:46)
  • Opening to the wholeness of life goes against our cultural narrative that we have managed to eradicate suffering (32:43) 
  • The dialectic of progress: every social advance cures some problems but also introduces new ones (33:55)
  • The important part is how you hold your suffering, how you relate to your illness or your suffering (37:03)
  • The realization of love and its redemptive power as an answer to the koan (37:59)

Resources & References – Part 2

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Lynn Fuentes - Chronic Illness

Lynn Fuentes, Ph.D., is CEO of Transformation Teaching, which offers personal and spiritual growth coaching and courses in adult development, life planning, and chronic illness management, based on the integral theory of Ken Wilber.  Lynn is also the author of the 2022 book The Koan of Chronic Illness: An Integral Approach and It’s Not Too Late. She has taught in the areas of conflict management, chronic illness, writing, and adult psychology at Prescott College and DePaul University, where she also founded and directed the Chronic Illness Initiative, a unique program to help chronically ill students obtain a college education. She also served for many years on the board of the Solve ME/CFS Initiative.  

Lynn’s primary focus is The Koan of Illness, a program dedicated to helping people with chronic illness using integral principles. Lynn has been a caregiver for the past 36 years for family members with serious chronic illnesses and was recently diagnosed herself with a chronic condition.


Podcast produced by Vanessa Santos and Show Notes by Heidi Mitchell


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