Vanishing point Alan Johnston 25.09.23 for article by Dr Anne Malatt on Illness
Photography by the illimitable Alan Johnston

Illness is an offering, not a punishment


I am currently ill, and far from feeling frustrated or upset about it, I see this illness is an offering, not a punishment.

In Medicine, we are trained to see illness and disease as something that is wrong with us, and that needs to be fixed as soon as possible, whatever it takes and however much it costs, so we can go back to doing whatever we were doing that may have contributed to us being sick in the first place! We may have a tendency to blame ourselves for it, to think that we have done something wrong or bad and are being punished for it. Or we may want to completely absolve ourselves of any personal responsibility and blame it on the weather, other people, a virus, our parents, our genes … anything but looking at what our part in it may have been.

In my case, I see the illness as a stop moment, a moment to take stock of myself and my life and the way I have been living it, and an offering to surrender more deeply into the repose that is on offer at this time of the year.

I am tired, if not exhausted, have been pushing myself to complete certain tasks within the time frame of the year, and have been using sugar to push through when my body was asking me to rest more. And so now I am sick. Yes, technically I have a virus but I am exposed to them all day, all year long at work and almost never get sick while I am working.

I find it fascinating that my body holds up until there is space for me to rest. It has always done this, even when I was living a much more brutal lifestyle and existing mainly on coffee, sugar, alcohol and cigarettes with some food to line my long-suffering and incredibly resilient stomach!

But the moment I went on holidays, I would get sick. A forced rest, when there was time to do so. I would find it frustrating, but also secretly loved it, as I did not feel compelled to fill my days with people and activities and could actually stop, settle and take deep care of myself, restoring and regenerating my body for the next cycle of life.

Now, my lifestyle is super clean and healthy and those habits have long gone, but there is always more … we are forever deepening, expanding and evolving and as we do, some of our old ways of being have to be let go of to make more room for all the Love that we are.

So while I am sick, my body is having a holiday from sugar. I am not saying I will never eat it again, but for now, I have actually lost the taste for it, and would prefer to do without it than to drag this illness out or make it worse.

Amazingly, though not surprisingly, I feel so much lighter and clearer without a belly full of food that no longer suits my body, and by staying focussed on purpose and working within the limits of my more than usually delicate body, I have managed to complete work in the last days that I could not complete in the past weeks no matter how hard I tried when I was doing it in push and drive!

Our bodies are such delicately divine markers of the truth. We know from our bodies what to eat and when, what to drink and when, when to work, play, rest and sleep. We may override that knowing, but we always register it before we refute it.

Sometimes illness and disease offer us an opportunity to slow down, even stop, and feel what our bodies are actually communicating to us. And it can be an opportunity to stop old habits that no longer serve us, reset our bodies and ready ourselves for the next cycle of life.

So if you find yourself sick at this time of year, take the opportunity to be with your body and ask it what it wants to communicate to you… you may not like the answer, but you may just love the way your body feels if you listen and respond!


  1. An excellent article for, I imagine, many people to be reading at this time.
    We are so used to pushing ourselves generally in our lives, and then, to get frustrated when we get sick, so a very timely, eye-opening perspective.
    Thank you Anne

  2. Thank you Anne for your article. A read so real. Having spent the last six months correcting and healing my body, I totally agree with your comments. Time to revaluate and reset mind and body. Thank you…

  3. A wonderful and very timely read with much wisdom on offer to bring to the way I/we live. To not get frustrated with our body when we become ill, is definitely the first part of the healing process.

    Thank you Anne for sharing your experience with us.

  4. This article beautifully captures the transformative perspective one can have towards illness, turning it into an offering for self-reflection and renewal. The author’s openness to understanding the messages their body conveys, especially during moments of illness, is inspiring. It emphasizes the importance of listening to our bodies and appreciating the wisdom they hold. The notion of illness as a pause for self-care and a chance to let go of old habits resonates, fostering a positive outlook on personal growth and well-being. Overall, a refreshing and insightful perspective on the symbiotic relationship between our physical health and the deeper aspects of our lives.


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