A Blog For Those Affected By Environmental And Invisible Illnesses Written By Fellow Survivors
Science and Spirituality: Embrace both when dealing with chronic illness
Albert Einstein is my kind of guy. Although undeniably one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, he did not see the world simply through the narrow focus of physics. Although his views on religion and the existence of God are far from clear...due in no small part to his (I suspect deliberately) ambiguous comments on these subjects, he appears to have had a spiritual side and despite his great knowledge and understanding of the workings of the universe, he maintained childlike wonderment at that which we call reality.
Einstein famously said "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind".
Although open to interpretation, my take on what he was saying is that without the ability to see scientific findings in the context of a greater whole those findings serve little purpose and do nothing to furthering our understanding of reality and of the human experience. Equally, to follow religious teachings word for word and ignore science is to reject knowledge that has the power to benefit humanity in numerous ways, including the relief of suffering and treatment of illness.
Which brings me nicely onto why I chose to talk a little about our friend Albert. After 20 years of suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), gut dysbiosis/IBS, allergies, adrenal fatigue, depression/anxiety, and a number of years confined to a couple of rooms in my home as a result of severe multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)...I have experienced a lot on my young life (I am still only 32)...and I believe I have also learnt a lot.
Having been pre-illness a faithful follower of the 'chruch of science' (not to be confused with Scientology!) and in fact still so for most of the first 10 years of my illness, things began to change inside me. As someone with a keen analytical brain and interest in science I knew that there must be a way for science to save me and restore me to health but the medical profession was giving me nothing. I devoted myself to researching my condition, trawling through medical papers, and in some cases I came up with treatments and lifestyle changes that helped me, to a degree. There was something missing however - I had been sustaining myself purely on my strong stubborn streak. That character trait that has often been cited as a cause for ME/CFS, the simple desire to succeed and accept nothing but absolute success. While this part of my personality was an asset through a number of years where I was chronically on the verge of suicide...there was something missing from my life. Hope and belief. Something that a sense of spirituality can bring.
After what must have been going on 5-6 years of nudging from my mother and others with a more open-minded take on the workings of the universe, I finally gave in and my life quickly began to change. It was if my mind was opened to possibilities I would previously have dismissed as nonsense. I had a genuine paradigm shift in my worldview. I don't wish to write an autobigraphy here but a few key moments in my spritual transformation include being taken by my parents to a 'spritual healer', an old man who must have been 80, and my introduction to a form of mantra meditation. My analytical brain resisted all of this but I gave in out mainly because I ran out of energy to resist. As it turns out that was a huge blessing.
The encounter with the spiritual healer was a special moment. He was very sought after and lived in a large old manor house - although I genuinely do not believe he actively sought worldly wealth. His story was that during WWII he had experienced a spiritual epiphany during a near death experience (NDE) and a being he perceived as the Christian God had blessed him with the ability to heal, which he had since taken to be his life's purpose. To cut a long story short, he had me sit in the middle of a large room on a single wooden chair while he sat behind a large desk a good 12 ft away. He did not speak a word nor make any physical gestures yet gradually but quite rapidly I felt something building inside me, something I had never felt before, a feeling of pure peace and joy. It could be described as bliss. This feeling remained with me for days although gradually dimished in intensity - but it opened my eyes - perhaps there was more to reality and my existence than what science could show me.
My introduction to mantra meditation was an equally powerful experience. Again, I resisted as I still felt my analytical brain would solve all my problems. It was six months from my first meeting with a Buddhist meditator to the time I sat down with one of his colleagues to untertake the meditation. To my surprise not only did the meditation come to me very easily but it felt like it was meant to be, as if I had discovered something that was meant to be part of life all along! Even more profound is the fact that through this meditation I was, on occasion at least, able to achieve the same feeling I had experienced in my encounter with the Christian spiritual healer a number of years previously.
These events have shaped my life since in a huge way. Don't get me wrong, I still believe in the importance of science - I completed a bacherlor of science degree in nutrition and health last year - but I am now also in touch with another side of my being. A side that makes life with chronic illness that much easier to bare and even allows for the experience of joy in the face of suffering. A side that provides be with a solid foundation of confidence and believe in myself, the people around me and the world as a whole. The world of science included.
Chronic illness is difficult to deal with, no doubt about it, particularly environmental illnesses as we sufferers receive very little medical or financial support. It can take us to breaking point. My journey thus far has taught me that by embracing both science and spiritually we can improve not only our quality of life and chances for recovery but also open ourselves up to a world of opportunity that we did not even know existed.
I don't not subscribe to any particular religion so will sign off simply by wishing you all the best and hoping that you can look inside yourselves and find the truth that will allow your spirits to soar!!