I’ve always been a fan of Ram Dass, whose classic Be Here Now served as spiritual guidance in the 70s. In 1997, Ram Dass experienced a massive cerebral hemorrhage—a stroke. He has done various interviews in recent years, and one was brought to my attention this past week. In the interview he speaks to his suffering being grace.
Since seeing the interview I have intensely grappled with “suffering being grace.” I searched further and was somewhat comforted to read his very human initial response of doubting God, and feeling he had been deserted. He doubted his faith to be strong enough to face and survive the physical, emotional and spiritual pain he was now going through.
I know I’m not alone in being humbled by change that illness brings into our lives. But, how does one consider the loss of capacity to function, of income, of independence and security God’s grace?
I realize that it is not productive to healing to remain in the victim perspective. Pema Chӧdrӧn states: “Everything is changing all the time. Having the rug pulled out from under you is a big opportunity to change your fundamental pattern;” and, “Start where you are…it’s not about later.”
Start where you are. Well, right about now I’d like a peek at my page in the Master Play Book to better understand why I’m going through this, and how do I expedite the ‘getting better’ part. I’d like some clues to the spiritual process in which I am engaging. It’s an inside job—I get that. Ram Dass said that his stroke kept him from golf and other things he once enjoyed, and his current experience taught him to go inside and work within. “Spiritual work resides in the present moment,” he said, and he taught himself to not compare what he is capable of doing now with what he was able to do in the past, and to not worry about the future.
Ram Dass suggested that we are so busy in our roles, our external awareness, that we leave that spiritual awareness to another time. Would many of us voluntarily set aside one week a year to trade our busy life style for a time of suffering, because the awareness of the experience would so change us that we might be awakened to who we really are? Pema Chӧdrӧn reminds us, “it’s not about later,” and the timing doesn’t appear to be of our choosing or I would have checked the box that reads, “Not now. Not now!”
‘It’s not about later’ because the illness, disease, or injury IS the designated interruption to examine one’s spiritual identity, to connect to loving awareness and unconditional love. It’s a time forced off the treadmill to examine the other facets of our being. Perhaps in our rush to get well, to become healed, we strive to side-step acknowledging a greater force at work that placed us squarely in this experience of learning, and learning how to detach.
Stephen Levine has authored many books, and from Unattended Sorrow, he speaks to making peace with our sorrow in three steps. These are, of course, abbreviated references to his guidance.
(1) Soften the pain. “Unattended sorrow becomes embedded in the mind and body.” When you realize the sensation of tightness, soften the areas contracted.
(2) Be willing to let love in. Showing ourselves loving compassion and mercy may be a key to changing our fundamental pattern. Sending love to ourselves even though we are in pain is accepting ourselves the way we are, not withholding love because we are not the way we wish to be.
(3) Making peace with our sorrow. “Encourage yourself toward forgiveness and gratitude for even the hard lessons you’ve had to learn and thankfulness for the path that leads toward peace.”
I do give thanks daily for all the many blessings in my life. I have not yet come to the place where I have been able to give thanks for the hard lessons I have experienced this year. That is a part of the spiritual work I am diligently working toward. I’m holding out for greater understanding of this lesson, but perhaps the lesson is to give thanks for even the adverse conditions and detach from the desired outcome.
There are potholes in the process. Without the right frame of reference or guiding resources a melancholy may encroach our body/mind –diminishing our world unless we are healthy enough to reach out for help to widen our perspective, and open ourselves to the love of a friend and family. And, just maybe, the sooner we relinquish the idea that we’ll be back on that treadmill in another month or two, the sooner the deeper understanding we seek will be revealed.
“Perhaps you do not believe that you have the power to make your own reality,
but if you did accept this premise,
you could then create a different reality from the one that causes you to suffer.
We will progress to making a new set of beliefs that do not cause suffering.”
–Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
“None of us is okay and all of us are fine.”–Pema Chӧdrӧn, Start Where You Are
- October 2013 Newsletter – The Temperament of Today: How Am I Contributing?
- “They Have Forgotten Who They Are”