2019, January 2nd at 10 AM PT/ 7 PM CET

Chronic Illness as a Path to Personal and Spiritual Growth


When illness strikes it seems that it takes away or alters everything important to you: your identity, your career, your relationships, and  even your sense of who you are.  Having your hopes and dreams derailed in this way is an excruciating experience. But illness is also about growth and awakening.  In fact, it is a perfect path for leading us to what is important in life.

Lynn is a longtime caregiver and chronic illness expert who has brought her knowledge of integral philosophy to helping people to understand and live with illness whether as patient, caregiver, provider, or administrator.  She will talk about her experience in working with illness in several capacities and her hopes that people with illness will be seen and will see themselves as explorers in uncovering new depths of understanding about the human condition, understandings that can serve us all.

Lynn is offering a course starting on January 5th. In this course, she focuses on illness as a path to deep personal growth.
Using the integral map, participants will look at how growth occurs and how the experience of illness can offer a direct route to a better, more mature, and more sane experience of being human.

The course is suitable for patients, caregivers, practitioners and others who deal with healthcare matters.

Lynn Fuentes


1:30 Lynn is invited to talk about herself: her background professionally and as a caregiver for people with chronic illness or addictions. She created a program at University of Chicago for students with chronic illness. She discovered INTEGRAL in 1993 which revolutionaized everything she did.  Now in English and Spanish

5:05 What is chronic illness in Lynn’s definition: an illness which makes life different, upside down.

6:45 How much people with illnesses have to offer? People in normal life can get distracted from their problems, while people with illness have to face the problems. They go into depth, even spiritual questions about the WHY. They find amazing answers. 50% of US people have chronic illnesses and are trying to manage their life. They often see themselves on a side line of life.

10:25 Heidi: what is SUCCESS? Lynn: What is the purpose of life? Doing or receiving?

12:00 Lynn’s story how someone got attention by inventing success. The strange thing that we buy into the definition of success and achievement so much

12:35 Martin: what means “successful in different ways”?

Lynn: about WHO WE ARE instead of WHAT WE DO as a goal which is achieveable in all circumstances.

13:55 Martin about a movie “Don’t worry you won’t get far on foot”, about a paralyzed person who gain success anyways in his wheelchair. How do people with illness feel about that that very few have MADE IT, but they haven’t

15:22 “The heroically disabled”, it is a double edge sword. Not everybody can do that, when they need so much effort just for everyday things.

16:40 Martin about a friend who has cancer.

17:02 Lynn: cancer has become a chronic illness, often even in consequence to the treatments of cancer when survived. Also the fear if it comes back. It depends much on the self definition. “In the kingdom of the sick” . Definitions of the illness terms. People with chronic illness usually don’t see themselves as disabled.

19:35 Martin: do people change their self-definition? Pat Fanal: “The chronic illness workbook

20:10 The 4 stages which people go through when they become sick: 1. Trauma and crisis. 2. Stabilisation, where you get out to find ways to handle it. Trying to live a normal life. 3. Acceptance. 4. Transcendence

21:40 Heidi talks about the interview she did with Harald Kastner: “I am not ill, but a person with some restrictions”

23:25 Using integral philosophy can help us in many areas of our life. We can integrate the care for ourselves. Looking into as many corners as possible

24:25 Lynn about illness from the iINTEGRAL PERSPECTIVE, explained

32:15 In what ways is illness a spiritual development? We can develop Spiritual intelligence. Our presence, our awareness, witness state. “Hurts more but bothers you less”. Develop calm and peace. Letting go. Meditation. “I have a body, but I am not my body”. Constant expansion of BEING.

35:30 The Koan of illness.

36:55 Martin: New Age thoughts: people bring illnesses about by their own thoughts. Martin about his own experience: sometimes our minds can make us ill.

38:10 Lynn. This question is a quadrant problem, you cannot lump them together, Quadrant reductionism, first exterior in traditional medicine, than alternative medicine reduced everything to the inside quadrant. Wilber: “We don’t create our reality, but our experience of reality”

40:15 Lynn: A tumor is just a tumor! Thinking to control/ attract everything yourself is a huge egocentrism! We need to check where the problems originate! Which quadrants? Not always only our beliefs!!!

43:15 heidi: a good example how to use integral! “True but partial”, we want to have a clear ONE answer to everything, but…

44:33 Lynn: how integral made such a difference in her life. Heidi: in all of us

45:20 Martin: how life conditions lead to more illness. Lynn: E.g. medical system, economic system, social status: story of the physician’s experience when he was a patient.

47:08 Martin: People with chronic illness getting cynical and blaming society for everything?

48:00 Lynn: illness makes people hyper sensitive. We have to acknowledge that the world is difficult for them. The Koan of illness e-book: The stages of Kübler-Ross: the second stage is ANGER

50:10 How can I help someone pushing you away. Lynn: just listen, not try to fix! But have respect for people. In closed relationships: ASK THEM what would make them feel better? Agree on signals. “I am happy to be with you on YOUR terms”

52:35 Martin: people feel shame for their illness? Lynn: shame and guilt is a huge thing. Humiliation etc. Society adds to that, illness and being old. What when people become super needy?

Finding the balance between caregiver and patient: communication is so important! And mutual respect. All relationships become more difficult with illness.

54:47 Heidi Achnowledges the comments of a live viewer

55:15 Lynn shares her experience and that she can really relate to Angela’s comment

56:00 Infos about Lynn’s course:,  “Koan of illness”.

58:15 Martin’s takeaway: He has close people with chronic illness and he has learned a lot. Take the course for being prepared when it hits us

59:10 Heidi appreciates Lynn and what she does to help others.

1:01:00 Lynn.  

Closing: Heidi about Lynn’s course and the book she is writing.

This was the live stream of our first conversation on Jan 2nd. There were several glitches with increasing intensity so that we decided to meet for a second conversation and to use another streaming platform.

Chronic illness

Lynn Fuentes #1

0:00 Overcoming tech issues. Heidi doesn’t come over well,

1:30 Heidi’s short intro, Lynn starts to talk about the topic and why she is engaged with it.

3:35 Lynn about her course: illnes as a path to growth

4:20 Heidi: what is “good” about illness? Lynn responds

5:10 See illness differently, reframe the experience. Wisdom to be gained from this situation when faced with the deep questions of life.

5:20 Self-acceptance.

7:08 “In the kingdom of the sick”. It is a different world! More wisdom and compassion qualities than the average population.

8:00 Heidi: is that the “spiritual growth”? Lynn: accepting leads to wisdom.

9:00 Martin’s question leads Lynn to introduce the integral model and her integration in her courses. Growth in different domains of development.

10:45 Martin asks for specific practices, Lynn responds: e.g. meditation, Tonglen, Yoga Nitra, We-space practices etc.

12:40 The disorienting dilemma. The Koan of illness: a puzzle to which is no answer. Different ways of seeing might appear!

14:20 Have ill people more time to introspection?  Lynn: people often can do what non-ill people can do, special difficulties and physical symptoms. They don’t have more time for DOING, but for Introspecting, which often is rumination instead.

16:40 what type of chronic illnesses are we talking about? Many chronic illnesses ae invisible outside (e.g. diabetes)

17:50 Pause: From here Heidi speaks but she is not recorded

18 About the course and about the New Age concept of illness being attracted by the person herself

19:45 The four quadrants explained by Lynn in the context of illness.

Ken Wilber: We create our experience of reality, but not reality itself. But how do I relate to what happened? New Age: blaming sick people that there is something wrong with them when falling sick (to 23.50)

Pause, Heidi speaks mute

24:15 Lynn we can change our experience by shifting your attention! Not by some magical way!

25:16 Martin shares his daughters illness which was seen as “caused by herself”

“Grace and Grit” (Ken Wilber). Martin shares about his burn out experience which somehow WAS created by his mind. Also healed with autogenous training.

27:50 Lynn: yes, we can create illness from Upper Left, but not necessarily cured there. Important to understand where the illness comes from (which quadrant?) Most illnesses are located in several quadrants. Not jump to one solution only!!

30:50 Martin shares about her daughter and her studies in Africa. Lynn: belief systems, look at diet! It is very komplex. We need to look at all quadrants!

32:30 Spiritual awareness: you can be whoever you want to be regardless of the circumstances you are in. Do I want to carry resentment despite what has happened to me where you would have all reasons to be resentful.

34:35 Martin: surrender? Lynn: not in the sense of giving up on yourself. But surrendering to the moment and then you can go deeper.

35:56 50% of the US population has a chronic illness! We don’t want to shut people out of life! The challenges and efforts are enormous and often not seen.

38:05 People don’t want to ask for help. (Heidi talks but cannot be heard on the recording).

Lynn shares her experience when having been ill, albeit limited in time.

39:58 Lynn: ageing: so much needs to be done on the society level! Have places where to be treated kindly. Spiritual: We need to realise that eventually we will lose control over our life.

41:24 Positive Thinking = often cut out half of life. Oddly enough, there is beauty in suffering.

42:40 Heidi begins to wrap up – although you cannot hear it – because she realizes that the quality has deteriorated and even Lynn had started to be fuzzy on screen.


The integral map is a precious tool to orient ourselves in the world. It helps us to clarify our ideas and approaches and make sure that we don’t leave out important pieces of the puzzle. Especially health and healing benefits from an integral perspective in our times where traditional medicine ignores alternative approaches and vice versa. Integral teaches us to take the best of all approaches and create a unique integrated view on the health situation of the person and on the possible treatment.

We started The Wisdom Factory 4 years ago and in the first series we talked with Lynne Feldman who, after her healing journey of cancer using the integral roadmap has written her book : INTEGRAL HEALING.

Today we are talking with another integralist, who has a clear vision about healing from an integral perspective. I am really curious about what she will share with us and what she will be teaching in her new course: The Koan of Illness


Dr. Lynn Fuentes has pursued a path of personal and spiritual growth for many years in conjunction with a varied career as a lawyer, mediator, journalist, and university professor and administrator. She has been a devoted student of integral theory since 1993 and lives the philosophy as a daily practice.  She has a BA, MA, JD, and a PhD in conflict resolution, rhetoric, and transpersonal psychology. She and her husband founded and manage Transformation Teaching, LLC  

In 2003, Lynn founded the Chronic Illness Initiative to help students with chronic illness obtain a degree at DePaul University, where she also designed and taught courses in chronic illness, conflict management, goal setting and planning, and adult development.  She has also served for several years on the boards of an illness coalition in Chicago and with the CFIDS Association of America.  Lynn is a longtime caregiver herself and currently offers courses in illness management using an integral approach here



 Free interviews of people with perspectives on chronic illness


 Free modules on Integrallife:
 — on the quadrants and chronic illness