Spirituality, Depression, Illness and Balanced Living
Article ID: 15266
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Stewart Bitkoff
Posted: December 2nd. 2012
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1) What is balanced living? From the point of a spiritual search, why is balance important?
Much spiritual practice can be defined as an attempt to reach and maintain balance, on a worldly level, so that the spiritual consciousness might awaken and come forward. One of the characteristics of our physical body is the continual effort to maintain a state of homeostasis and relative quiet. From a spiritual perspective this quiet or balance is necessary so that that the traveler may go beyond the surface level and experience what is far below, in the quiet depths, ultimately using this awareness consciously in daily life.
In every day life what is required, is a balance between our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual needs; to fully engage in the world, each bodily system is necessary to express the many parts of our self. It is said, the entire system must be operating and in balance- in order to achieve full active living and a state of optimal health. In fact, this is one of the requirements of the Teaching: that the spiritual traveler be an ordinary, well-balanced member of their community.
To achieve this ordinary equilibrium, what are required are correct amounts of work, play, leisure and social engagement. We are multi-level beings, with an assortment of needs, desires and ways to express our self; all of which must be operating in unison to reach a full active life. And once this synchronicity of parts is achieved, as God/Light Wills, some thing else might come forward and begin to operate- the spiritual awareness.
So you see, for the spiritual traveler, the first step is to become an ordinary, balanced citizen who is integrated into their family and society- then the spiritual consciousness can more easily be added. Most often, travelers go on a spiritual search, long before they have achieved worldly balance trying to find the missing piece. At this level, often the missing piece is simply an aspect of normal, healthy living: such as feeling important, having a social group, or expressing self in the world. Hence their search for higher consciousness is doomed from the start, because they are substituting one thing for another and settling for ‘fool’s gold.’
2) How is spiritual balance different from healthy, balanced living? Or is it different?
Usually when we are discussing spiritual balance, we are discussing a systematic activation of the spiritual centers; usually this is done over a period of time, in sequence, and under the guidance or grace of a spiritual path. This balance is in addition to/or complimentary to balanced healthy living that most travelers are seeking through expressing self in the world.
However, one must not forget that all things are spiritual, so, in a sense the effort toward balanced healthy living and homeostasis is also a spiritual quest.
3) Many seem to be on a spiritual quest, who externally do not seem to be balanced? In fact some of these spiritual travelers seem a little odd. Please comment.
For some, this seems to be an accurate assessment. Many begin a spiritual search, looking for the missing piece, long before they are grounded in their society and have achieved an overall balance expressing self in the world. They become attracted to a teaching because it will give them something that they lack (feeling important, expressing self, finding happiness, being with like minded people) ; instead of asking self, what they can offer the Teaching.
It is said, only those who love and wish to give- reach journey’s end.
4) Many seem to be on a spiritual journey for personal reasons, such as feeling important, or adding something significant into their lives; is this accurate and can you comment on this?
Some of this has been answered above, however, a little more is required. From our point of view, each is born with a primal emptiness that can only be filled by the Light of Eternity. This emptiness or deep yearning pushes us forward from world to world, and day to day. We keep looking or searching for the missing piece, until one day it is defined as a Spiritual Reality. Once this happens, the real searching begins in earnest.
It is this yearning to reach fulfillment, that pushes us forward from world to world until we return home and merge for the final time with our Beloved.
1) Why is it that in spiritual literature and many spiritual traditions little appears to have been said about a wise one’s trials with personal illness? It seems as if there is an assumption, that the wise one, with a minimal amount of effort, over came this trial. Also, in some traditions, it is said a wise one is cheerful and content with what the Universe presents. Please comment.
Much of this is due to selective reportage. What we know or read about any wise one is due to what others have reported or decided that we need to know about this person. Also, for the most part, a wise one is cheerful and accepting of what the universe offers. This is a universal truth for a highly evolved, spiritual being; or said another way, an aspect/characteristic of their personality and state of being.
However, keep in mind that each person has a full range of thoughts and feelings that must be expressed in the world. These thoughts and feelings manifest in everyone, even for a moment; they cannot be obliterated, thereby, denying their manifestation. Often spiritual travelers believe that these wise ones were God Men/Woman; what they were, were human beings who had achieved a high level of spiritual capacity. Each having fears, desires and faults- these feelings pushed aside so something else might manifest. One of our teachers used to say- ‘if you are going to be happy, be happy with God/Light. Similarly, if you are going to be sad, be sad with God/Light.’
Perhaps, in another tradition, some have reached this exalted state/station of transcendence of physical pain and suffering- I am not able to speak to this point. I can only offer what I have learned and experienced. Just that we are all human beings, who add spiritual capacity and must experience fully the human form, with its range of feelings, joys and pains.
2) From your perspective, what is the correct posture/attitude for a spiritual traveler who is in pain and very ill?
When one is in extreme pain, this pain rules the consciousness and body. It becomes ‘master in the house’ and must be acknowledged and heeded. Pain is a signal that the body/consciousness is ill and out of balance. Always keep in mind, it is much easier to be ‘spiritual and offer up prayers, ’ when the consciousness is still, free of pain and distracting thoughts.
Can extreme pain be transcended and a joyful, lofty spiritual station achieved? Certainly- in the universe anything is possible. However, this experience transcends the physical laws, is achieved rarely and only for specific purposes.
For most, when extreme pain enters the house- it is a signal the body or consciousness is sick, and out of balance; when pain becomes the master: the body/mind are signaling a return to health and balance is required.
3) It has been said many times, ‘illness is the great teacher;’ what is meant by this?
When the physical body and ordinary healthy living is taken; that which is Permanent is more easily perceived. In the sick bed, many is the hour, the traveler contemplates what is lasting and most precious.
Many traditions indicate, ‘when God/Light loves a traveler, their life is filled with trials, turmoil and testing.’ While all of this may be true, also keep in mind, it is the nature of all flesh to decay and everyone tastes death, pain and suffering.
1) Typically wise ones are portrayed as cheerful and accepting of what the Universe offers them; how does this posture/attitude relate to the illness of depression where the individual is in mental/physical pain and profoundly sad?
All emotions are transitory- they come and go. Our consciousness is a kaleidoscope of thoughts, feelings and desires. So when one is discussing permanence of feelings or over riding states of consciousness, this transitory aspect must be considered and acknowledged.
Even when one is depressed and profoundly sad, there are moments of laughter and joy; rare, perhaps, however these moments do exist. Also keep in mind, many treatments for depression include laughter, doing fun things and engaging in healthy pursuits with others. While this is usually very difficult for the depressed person, often these are part of the treatment regimen.
Clinical depression is characterized by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and any restoration of health, includes the use of different treatments (medications, therapy, healthy living) to return to this more healthy state of balance and homeostasis. Often depression can last for months and even years- which is a very stressful period of physical and mental pain. This is the nature of the illness.
Now let us return our attention, to the question of cheerfulness and acceptance in a highly attuned, spiritual individual. All states of consciousness, including emotions are transitory- that is the way we are hardwired; even the higher spiritual states, come and go depending upon the needs of the situation. So can a highly attuned, spiritual individual be both depressed and cheerful, alternating over an extended period of time- why not? Keeping in mind- the healthy human consciousness is so constructed that it usually can only keep one thought in it at a time.
Remember the Teaching: ‘if you are going to be happy, be happy with God/Light. Similarly, if you are going to be sad, be sad with God/Light.’
O yes- child of Light, Light and Darkness can manifest and alternate in us- over a period of time.
2) In our time and society, many seem to be suffering from anxiety, depression, and profound feelings of loss and inner pain; how can spiritual practice help with this illness?
Sadly, in this age, many have lost healthy balance and forgotten how to live a full, complete life. One of the positive aspects of the Teaching is that it requires a return to full, balanced living in order for the Higher Consciousness to emerge, operate and maximize. When balanced, healthy living is disturbed often there is a disruption in the individual’s ability to manifest Higher Knowledge. Keep in mind, that even in the most highly attuned, an individual’s ability to manifest Higher Knowledge is usually transitory; coming and going, depending upon the higher needs of the situation.
For many, this is an age of darkness, fear and anxiety. Many have forgotten how to live a full, complete life, becoming lost due to the prevalence and acceptance of false beliefs and teachings. The pull of the lower soul and its grounding in materiality- contributes to this growing feeling of alienation. Also we are living in age where the healthy resources of the earth mother have been stretched and in many cases destroyed. As well, this destruction contributes to our own poor physical and mental health. The food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink, in many cases, has been tainted/damaged by the greed of others. As we are a complete holistic system, striving to maintain balance and homeostasis- these often over riding negative factors severely affect our health, consciousness and daily activity.
3) As the human body is subject to decay, illness, pain, and death of self and loved ones- what is the correct posture or attitude for some one undergoing these trials?
Because our journey through this life is meant to be a full experience, we are meant to experience all of this. Spiritual capacity is in addition, to a full, complete life; a full, complete life is filled with sadness, sickness, pain, suffering, laughter, joy, happiness, spiritual awareness and a thousand other experiences. Additionally, it is influenced by the historical age and community in which we live. This is all part of the Plan.
O child of Light, you ask, why must this be so? The answer to this question, O dear spiritual traveler, is also part of the journey and must be personally experienced.
Remember beyond darkness is the Light. After every sunset, there is the morning. One cannot be experienced without the other. Yet beyond this duality- there is the One.
That is the First Natural Law- the Oneness of Creation.
4) It is said, one of the goals of advanced spiritual practice, is to accept and even love what the Universe offers us; when this offering is a full cup of sickness, pain, death and profound sadness, how does one get past these trials, reaching this seemingly lofty station of acceptance and love?
As indicated earlier, one must make a distinction between when the spiritual traveler is in extreme pain, first learning of an illness, or hearing of a family member’s death. All of these experiences require time to heal and come to acceptance of what is emerging. Remember, emotional reactions cannot be avoided or obliterated; what can be limited is the amount of time one spends honoring and expressing these emotions. This is subject to individual expression and need.
Love is the energy of the Universe and our ultimate destination and expression. On a conscious level, the point, or goal of the journey, is to express this Reality with every breath and action. This is our Goal- however, on a conscious daily level, most vary in this expression.
Yet far below the surface, in our heart of hearts, the inner Light is always emanating and expressing Love’s Reality. Deep within, we are always One With the Source. Remember the journey is to consciously express this in daily life.
The sea will be the sea whatever the drop's philosophy.- Attar
** Check out my two new books: Sufism for Western Seekers: Path of the Spiritual Traveler in Everyday Life and The Ferryman’s Dream. Both books are now available through Amazon.com or local bookstore.
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