Thursday, April 30, 2009

Every cloud has a silver lining?

I have never been a particularly religious person. Born a Sikh, I have gone to Gurudwaras with my family. As a student in England, I attended chapel twice a week with the rest of the school. And, India being a predominantly Hindu country, I have participated in pujas and prayer ceremonies in the mandir (Hindu temple). I did not dislike these experiences, but none of them inspired in me any sort of religious fervor.

Lately, however, I find myself being drawn towards spirituality. By spirituality I am not speaking of organized religion, but of an awareness of the self and of the soul/spirit/divinity/faith that lies within us all. I don't have the correct words...perhaps what I am speaking of can be best described as a search for our true selves.

I think I can trace this slow journey towards 'spirituality' to when I first started yoga for my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Before CFS, I was a classic type-A personlity. A typical day went something like this - wake up at 5, go to the gym for an hour, work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (good ol' dot com era), go clubbing after work, and start the whole cycle again the next morning. Any wonder my body decided to give up?

No one is sure about what causes CFS. But I believe that stress has a lot to do with it. Both physical and, especially, mental stress. When, after I got CFS, I was forced to slow down, it was as though my entire world had collapsed. And the stress of not being able to do anything about it made the fatigue worse until I was bedridden.

Yoga helped me recognize the importance of relaxation for perhaps the first time in my life. As I continued with yoga, I started feeling a little better. But, brought up in the 'science' culture, I was reluctant to accept that a "mystical" concept like yoga could actually be helping me. Where, I demanded, was the proof?

I started studying yoga more seriously and soon realized that yoga is an extremely scientific practice. Yet it's spiritual aspects can't be ignored. And so I started reading more - what is spirituality? Is there a God? If so, why does S/He allow suffering? The usual questions. I can't say I've discovered the answers, but I'm actually grateful to the CFS for having made me slow down enough to ask the questions.

I recently read a wonderful book - 'Autobiography of a Yogi' by Pramhansa Yogananda. I'm not going to go into the details of the book, but I can honestly say that it's one of the very few books that has changed the way I think. I would sincerely recommend this book to anyone interested in question like - 'are there miracles?', 'does astrology really work?', 'do we have a predetermined destiny?'.

At first the book may seem a bit too fantastic, but if you continue, it becomes a fascinating read.

Another subject I've been reading more about is Buddhism. What I especially like about Buddhist teachings are that they are more a way of life than a religion. Anyone, from any religious background can practice basic Boddhisatva virtues like compassion, generosity, patience, non-violence and truthfulness. For an easy-to-understand, modern yet thought-provoking read on the basics of Buddhism, I suggest 'Awakening the Buddha Within' and 'Buddha Is as Buddha Does' - both by American born Buddist teacher Lama Surya Das.

I know that this post has been a bit more serious than usual, but I'm in an introspective mood. Also, doing yoga, reading book on spirituality and learning to accept things gracefully are really helping me cope better with my illness. I can focus on everything that's good in my life, not on all that I can't do. But best of all, I have (mostly) accepted CFS as a teacher, and not as my enemy.


  1. I think spirituality is a very big component of coping! One of the hidden blessings of CFS is that it forces us to look deeper than most people even come close to. I definitely know more about myself, my strengths, my weaknesses, and what is important to me now than before CFS. I encourage on your journey and hope you find joy along the way!

  2. Hi Shelli,

    thanks for your share your experiences and/or any ways you have found that especially help you cope with the fatigue...