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Suffering and spirituality

Discussion in 'Spirituality and ME/CFS' started by Nielk, Aug 17, 2011.

  1. Nielk

    Nielk

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    What is the possibility for a human being in life?
    And what I want to tell you about, does not reside on the
    top of the mountain or at the bottom of the ocean;
    it is something that resides in heart of each and every person in this world.
    - Prem Rawat (Maharaji)

    Do you feel that suffering has made you a more spiritual person?
    Have you become more sensitive to other people's pain?
    Did your view on life change?
    Have your priorities in life changed?
  2. I imagine

    I imagine

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    Hi Nielk. I've been thinking a lot about my spirituality lately so I'm going to answer the above questions. I don't think suffering has made me a more spiritual person. If anything I find myself losing faith because I don't understand how people could be meant to suffer this way for so long. I am definitely more sensitive to other people's pain. My view on life has changed drastically. I was all about my career, "success" as an artist, and doing any amount of work necessary to keep my home. Now I just ask to be healthy, to be able to enjoy life and people again. The priorities that I still have otherwise are connecting with nature and showing compassion to every creature. I still get joy from listening to the birds sing and touching the earth. that will never change.
    Nielk likes this.
  3. Nielk

    Nielk

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    Hi I Imagine,

    Thank you for sharing and answering with such candor.
    I was watching a documentary today about Ram Dass and he said at one point that the Maharaji said that suffering brings one closer to God. This is what started me thinking about all these questions. I have difficulty and confusion about the meaning of my suffering. I am a person of deep faith in God but, it's very hard to maintain this strong bond when you are constantly tested. Therefore, I didn't understand the words of the Maharaji.
    The reason I posed the question is to see if others were affected differently.
    I have deep gratitude for all the goodness that I do have in my life, but I always did. It hasn't changed since I'm sick.
    What I am really searching for is the meaning for my suffering. Because if there is meaning in it, it is easier to live with it.
    Maybe, I'm supposed to change something about myself. I just don't know what it is.
    I am of course not perfect, there is always room for improvement on many levels.
    I feel that if anything, the suffering has been a hinderance in my achieving the best I can be.
  4. Tristen

    Tristen Senior Member

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    My faith, as I knew it in the past, has surely been changed. At first glance it appears to be less faith, but I'm reluctant to call it that because my spirituality is always evolving, and many times it becomes that which I would not have expected. My spirituality is more about removing those things that hinder my ability to see truth, rather than only seeking for truth itself. This illness has worn me out. I have become less vigilant in my spiritual practices, but I suspect I'm still growing.

    Some principals for my spirituality remain. I am much more compassionate and sensitive to respecting all living things right to life. I am becoming the man I knew I would be when I got older (just not now). And in that sense of my spirituality, I am growing. Becoming more the real me. The catalyst has been overkill to the extreme.
    Nielk likes this.
  5. Nielk

    Nielk

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    Hi Tristen,
    Thank you for sharing. I guess you are right that we keep evolving. There is nothing like going through hardships to speed up the maturity process. I don't sense that this is a bad thing for you. Maybe a little scary to deal with because it's happening at such a fast speed.
    It definitely shapes who we are or have become.
  6. liquid sky

    liquid sky Senior Member

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    A meaning to suffering? If there is one, I rather think it would become clearer AFTER the suffering ceased.
  7. Nielk

    Nielk

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    You are right Liquid sky. One cannot think clearly while in the midst of suffering/
  8. Stone

    Stone Senior Member

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    I'm currently reading "The Problem of Pain" by C. S. Lewis. He has an interesting point of view on this subject. I also find him just plain pleasant and entertaining to read. It's a great book to listen to in audio format; lends itself exceedingly well to audio particularly if you like a British 'accent'.
  9. Nielk

    Nielk

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    Hi Stone,

    Thanks for the advice. I guess we are all trying to deal with the situation the best we can.
  10. Tristen

    Tristen Senior Member

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    Other extreme struggles in my life have always lead me to being a more compassionate person, mostly for others going through the same struggle. But with ME going on for decades, it may be necessary to explore those changes in process, rather than waiting for the suffering to be over.

    I've always admired Victor Frankl's teachings. His work is more about surviving the struggle than a focus on who we become because of it. He was an amazing person.

    My experience has always been that I don't change into someone different, I just become more of who I really am. Struggle and pain accelerates this process. But I would never volunteer for pain, especially the pain of ME, for any amount of growth.

    This topic is good in that it's getting me to reflect on where I'm at spiritually. And that's a good thing because it can help me see where I need to improve, and where I can feel grateful for progress made. Thanks Neilk.
    Nielk likes this.
  11. Nielk

    Nielk

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    I love Victor Frankl too. What I understand from reading his book is that suffering id bearable as long as there was some meaning or hope attached to it.
    It's like the parable of a prisoner who is forced into hard labor. Every day his job is to turn a large heavy stone that is attached to ab outside wall. Every day, the prisoner is working very hard, sweating away turning this wheel and all the time he is imagining that he is probably grinding some mi;; that is supplied to many people. He survives twenty years of this hard labor and is finally sent free. For the first time he is going to see what his wheel is attached to. When he gets to the other side, he sees that there is nothing there and his 20 years of hard labor didn't accomplish anything. He is so devastated that he gives up on life and dies.
    Without meaning, suffering is unbearable.
  12. Ember

    Ember Senior Member

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    Early on I decided that, since I had no choice about this illness, I'd choose to use it as a spiritual teacher. I still think that was a good decision, though I'm not about to report on good progress. Like Tristen, I've become less vigilant in my spiritual practices.

    Overkill to the extreme pretty well describes this lesson for me. To remind myself of my place in the universe, I watch the first 30 seconds of Mr. Bean, Episode 2, Part 1 on YouTube. (Every crash a new lesson in humility.) It brings me back to reality when I think the only meaning I'll settle for is finding the cure for ME.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=krLB81phgfY7
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  13. Nielk

    Nielk

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    Thanks Ember for the link to Mr. Bean video.
    Don't be hard on yourself about your perception of lack of progress lately on your spirituality.
    Just the fact that it's on your radar and your search for your place in the universe, speaks tons about your character.

    So many people here on the forum, I find have such great feelings of empathy, humility, humor, giving that I find it amazing considering the ill state that we are in. It is very uplifting for me to see this.

    By every king word, reaching out, advising, giving information not only does the giver attain a higher level of purpose, but they inspire all of us to do the same.
  14. Nielk

    Nielk

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    Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.
    ~ Viktor Frankl Quotes

    What I understand from this is that whatever life brings our way, it's our response to it that is our meaning in life.
    If you are sick, suffering, battling financial problems, family difficulties, the loss of friends..etc., it's how you respond to these things that is your meaning in life.
  15. Timaca

    Timaca Senior Member

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    Hi Nielk~
    I was a very religious (spiritual) person prior to becoming ill. Before I got sick I prayed: "God I'd be willing to walk through hell if it would bring one person closer to you." Within a week I was hit full on with CFS/ME. It has been a hellish journey. And I think the person that has gotten closer to God has been me. I've also prayed in the midst of this illness that I would not be miraculously cured, but that it would be clear through my symptoms and labs what is going on so that the doctors could understand this illness better. That has happened a couple of times....where symptoms have matched up with labs, indicating an infectious pathogen playing a role. That has been exciting, but it has not been enjoyable for me to go through. I've learned I should be careful what I pray for! :rolleyes:

    In the midst of the suffering and pain I've asked God to show me Himself once a month. He has done that and that encourages me to continue on in this difficult journey. There have also been some significant miracles that only He could have orchestrated so that keeps me believing that He has His hand in all of this and that my journey through CFS/ME is something He is allowing for a reason.

    I have become much more sensitive to other's pain and have come to realize that just because a person looks well they may not be well. I thought I was compassionate before my illness but I have become more so.

    My priorities in life have changed. I used to be very physically active (skiing, mountain biking, backpacking etc). I can't do those things at all. My family still does. I take what energy I have to meet their needs as I can, then work to help those with CFS/ME. To that end I have worked on some projects with my doctor: http://chronicfatigue.stanford.edu/ and written a book (all proceeds going to various CFS/ME organizations---this month all proceeds are going to Phoenix Rising :D) http://www.whensomethingswrong.com/ I would not have done those projects if I had not gotten ill. I never would have chosen this path, but since God has allowed it, and made it clear through various miracles that this is the path for me I have tried to stay open to His voice about what He wants me to do while I am sick.

    I have made it clear to God that my prayer was I'd be willing to walk through hell, not stay in it, so hopefully that prayer will be answered someday. In the meantime I try very hard to focus on the positive not the negative. It is a battle, but I'd rather be upbeat than not. So, for today I am grateful that I slept relatively well and that the antibiotics are not hurting my stomach. Also, on a more general level, I do have a house to sleep in, food to eat, clothes to wear, etc. Many people in the world don't have that.

    I listen to podcasts often on my ipod. Joel Osteen, Chuck Swindoll, Chip Ingram and Joyce Meyer help me to keep my attitude good rather than sour. We need all the help we can get when we go through this stuff.

    God knows if I win the lottery the majority of the proceeds are going towards solving CFS/ME. He has not blessed me in that way yet. Hopefully He will some day. :D In the meantime, I try to listen to His voice, for what He wants me to do, for I am dedicated to helping those who suffer with this illness.

    Thanks for posing these questions Nielk. I enjoyed thinking about them and reading others responses.

    My best to all and may we all feel God's loving arms during our trials.
    Timaca
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  16. Timaca

    Timaca Senior Member

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    Nielk~ To expound on how we respond to things....what you wrote reminded me of Chuck Swindoll's Attitude statement. It can be found in a condensed version here: http://thinkexist.com/quotes/charles_r._swindoll/ I put the full quote in my book, because I like it so much. :D

    Best, Timaca
  17. Nielk

    Nielk

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    Timaca,

    Thank you for this very inspiring powerful quote!
    It sounds like you have a very close relationship with God and that is helping you shape who you are.
    It must feel very comforting to know that a caring God is in your life every minute of the day. It makes it easier to deal with whatever comes in our way.
    Thank you for sharing your amazing belief.
  18. richvank

    richvank Senior Member

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    Hi, Neilk and the group.

    I don't have ME, so can't identify personally with what all of you go through 24/7/365/N. However, I have had some difficult times in my life that did go on for some years. (I'm 69.) One of the great comforts for me during those times was to read the book of Job. Job himself expressed what I was feeling very well, and that in itself was helpful to me, perhaps in the sense that "misery loves company." I felt less alone in my suffering to know that this ancient book dealt with this same issue that has plagued mankind for eons. Of course, the fact that the book has a happy ending gave me a certain amount of hope, too. Since I have a Christian perspective on the book in light of the New Testament, I understand that the "happy ending" doesn't necessarily occur for everyone in this life, as it did for Job, but may not arrive until the next. In my case, I have had some happy years down here, and I hope that can be possible for all of you, too. I'm motivated to try to help that happen.

    Rich
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  19. Nielk

    Nielk

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    Hi Rich,

    Thank you so much for sharing your outlook. You, by the actions you take are such a great role model. You give of yourself freely and we all appreciate everything that you have done and are doing for our community. I don't think any human on earth can escape some suffering. You state that you had issues that you had to deal with. Maybe, thats why you are so sensitive to our suffering? Job did come to a happy ending but at some great cost. He is a real hero role model of how not to waver no matter what befalls you. It is a very hard feat especially when one doesn't know when there will be an ending to our illness and even if that's a possibility. We have to hold on to hope and not give up. We also need to appreciate what we do have. That's the only way that I can see to go on, day by day.
  20. Nielk

    Nielk

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    Hi Timaca,


    I looked up your book "When something's Wrong". I see that amazon also carries it. Cort gave you a lengthy great review there. Is there a difference to you if one orders through you or amazon?

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