Spirituality and Politics

I love this essay on the necessity of incorporating spirituality into politics. Spirituality can not exist on its own in a vacuum, separate from the suffering in the material world. There is no part of a human existence that can be separate from spirituality, as we are spiritual beings living a human existence. We are all part of the Divine. God exists in each of us. Problems arise when we become separated from our Source, and separate from one another and nature. I find it very odd when people get upset about spiritual leaders voicing political concerns. This author feels the same way and took the time to eloquently state why the two must co-exist.

http://www.onbeing.org/blog/omid-safi-justice-is-love-embodied/8542

Justice is Love, Embodied
by Omid Safi, Columnist

“Most of the time, the responses (especially here at On Being) are actually lovely, touching, personal, and heartfelt. But there is a specific genre of comment that I have seen as a constant refrain. It’s one of the more common responses I get to my writings.

“I love his spiritual writings, but then he gets political…”

“I wish he would just speak about mysticism, not politics.”

“I like what he has he has to say about being present in the heart, but when he goes off on racism and foreign policy I get uncomfortable.”

This is not a new thing. Much of my life has been about carrying inside me two streams that both nurture my soul. On one hand has been Rumi, Hafez, medieval Sufism: the extraordinary tradition of Divine love that erupts onto humanity. On the other hand have been movements of social justice committed to redemption and liberation. That bookshelf features Malcolm X, Fanon, Edward Said, more recent works of feminism, Cornel West, and critiques of empire.

Perhaps not surprisingly, when I wander into spiritual oceans next to my own — realizing that all oceans are connected — it is usually figures who connect together love and justice that most deeply touch my soul. It is the same Martin Luther King who talks so beautifully about agape and redemptive suffering who is moved to action in Montgomery and Albany, Selma and Riverside. It is the same Desmond Tutu who is a moral compass for the anti-apartheid struggle who embodies the power of forgiveness. It is the same Abraham Joshua Heschel who so beautifully and powerfully spoke about God’s love for the stranger and the marginalized who said that as long as there is war, as long as African Americans are treated as they are, the synagogue and church are forbidden to us. It is the same Pope Francis who washes the feet of inmates who points out the foul stench of capitalism.

I am not sure that there is such a thing as being “apolitical.” The world as we know it is marked by stratifications of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, physical ability, national origin, and more. Even when we do not explicitly discuss these markers, we are still shaped by them. There is no avoiding them.

In every one of these markers, where one stands in relation to these criteria shapes the context in which we write the poetry of our everyday life. So many of us cannot breathe well.

If we seek a life of the spirit, how do we confront social injustice, poverty, racism, sexism, living under occupation, and violence by both states and non-state entities? What do we have to say? Where do we stand with respect to those who find themselves weak and vulnerable?

Desmond Tutu used to say, so beautifully:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

This notion of a holistic justice, that a threat to justice is a threat to justice everywhere — this we have known well. But to ask the Tina Turner question, What’s love got to do with it? Why not treat our current world as a straight-forward political or economic problem?

It’s about bodies. And spirits.

If what touches us about this overflowing love spills over from God’s own being into this world, onto humanity — carrying us back on this ocean of love back to God’s own embrace — then we have to love this humanity. We have to crave humanity. We have to love humanity not merely in the spirit, but also their bodies. We have to struggle against every impulse to bifurcate the human from God, the human from human, the body from the spirit. We have to love every mother who holds a child tenderly, every father who lavishes love, every friend, every neighbor, every refugee, every stranger. And this love moves through our bodies. It is not floating on clouds, or in the ether. This love is an embodied love.

This love shows up in our touch, through our skin. This love oozes out through our smiles, through the love-glances. What is it that Hafez says to us?

I’ve heard nothing
lovelier
Than the words of love
Which linger
Under this azure dome.

It is the scent of my newborn baby and my momma’s cooking that convey this love.

If love is vessel that carries God to us, then it comes to us through our bodies. We have to love the body, honor the body, cherish the body, and protect the body. Don’t ask me about my mystical practice if the citizens of Flint have brown, goopy water. Don’t go searching for a mantra if some of us are living under occupation or have bombs falling on them. Don’t talk to me about love if a fifth of our human population goes to bed hungry at night. We cannot fill each other’s hearts with love if our bellies are perpetually empty.

If we wish to be one with God, we have to be one with one another. We have to want for one another what we want for our own babies.

To love God, we must love humanity.
To love humanity, we have to address the conditions in which we live.
The dignity of human beings matters.
Structures and institutions matter.

Yes, as I age, I may have become a little more “realistic” about not being able to change and redeem the whole world, but let me, let us strive to transform our own hearts, our own bodies, our own homes, our own neighborhoods, our own communities.

This linking together of love and justice goes back to the very heart of the best of the American tradition. On April 15, 1960, the student leaders of the sit-in movement at lunch counters met in Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Under the leadership of Ella Baker, they articulated the statement of purpose for SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. They spoke about nonviolence as their motivating philosophy, and grounded that in love. They stated what they sought:

A social order of justice permeated by love.

Justice. Permeated by love. We cannot speak of love without linking it to justice, nor of justice unless it is permeated by love.

It was this idea that Martin King would elaborate on, speaking of the organic connection between love and power.

“Love without power is anemic and sentimental.
Power without love is reckless and abusive.”

Oh, how often we see reckless power, abusive power in our world, when power has been divorced from love. But love divorced from power, from justice, is also anemic. We need to make sure that these two remain forever linked.

This is the message of the Qur’an:

God commands you to love and justice.

Brother West has said it most succinctly recently:

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”

Let us go back to those bold and beautiful revolutionary students from the 1960s, the SNCC folks who turned a reluctant Martin King into an anti-war, anti-colonialism activist. They talked about this love that penetrates justice as the agent of social transformation. Here is what they stated back in 1960, about what happens when love is linked to nonviolence as a method. Then, and only then, we see that:

Courage displaces fear;
Love transforms hate.
Acceptance dissipates prejudice;
Hope ends despair.
Peace dominates war;
Faith reconciles doubt…
Justice for all overcomes injustice…
Love is the force by which God binds man to himself and man to man.

From the lunch counters to anti-war activism, these have been the faithful women and men who have insisted on bringing love into public spaces, and linking together love and justice.”

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RNase-L Enzyme Defect Disease (aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)

About a month or so ago, I realized that I didn’t know what the physical root of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was. Is it the mitochondria in the cells that are being affected? Which organs does it emanate from? I tried looking it up on the internet, but found no answers. On Friday, my karma healer handed me an article written by her teacher on “RNase-L Enzyme Defect Disease, also called Myalgic Encephalitis, also called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Immune Deficiency)! This paper contained some of the answers I was looking for! Little by little, I am acquiring pieces to the puzzle.
RNase-L is an enzyme that is normally 80 molecular weight. It is responsible for breaking up the damaged and infected cells in the TH1 immune system, in which the body sends out “scouts” or white blood cells to look for infected or broken cells in the body. “In RNase Enzyme Defect Disease, the RNase enzyme breaks apart for some unknown reason and the center part of the enzyme falls away and the two end pieces of the enzyme join back together forming a truncated 37 molecular weight ‘junk’ RNase enzyme. This junk RNase has many deleterious effects on the body. When the Rnase-L breaks, the TH1 immune system becomes ineffective, so the viruses re-surge.”
“The broken RNase-L KILLS the mitochondria, which are the energy factories of the cells. This causes a slowing of ALL cells in the body. The normal brain cell contains over 1000 mitochondria. When these cells die off, the cell ceases to work correctly, causing brain fog, sleeplessness, and cell death. In some cases, people develop symptoms of cognitive, memory, and reading comprehension problems. Severe cases have been known to develop seizures and other neurological symptoms… Some people claim to have only 15 percent of the physical stamina from before they got sick.”

“The ‘junk’ RNase-L literally junks up the system. The lymphatic system gets filled with leftover truncated junk RNase. The brain cells do not Meios or replicate after childhood. Because of this, they do not clean themselves very effectively and are particularly affected by the broken RNase-L. They are also the first to get channelopathy. This is a condition where the cell walls become plugged and the cellular metabolism fails. ALL other cells in the body are also affected.

The weakening of the first line of defense leaves the body open to other disease processes and maladies. Because the TH2 immune system becomes overactive when the antibody titers surge from the failed TH1 immune system, various auto-immune problems can arise as the TH2 immune system becomes over-revved.”

He says one way to keep the RNase-L from breaking into the ‘junk” version is to lower overall inflammation. Heavy exercise (especially cardio over 10 minutes) MUST be avoided, as it dramatically increases inflammation and requires RNase-L in large numbers to clean up the body of broken cells from the exercise. (I don’t know who would be able to do even a few seconds of cardio or heavy exercise with CFS!) Alcohol and sugar causes the RNAse to break into the defective version and must be avoided. Gluten should also be avoided. Lowering psychological and mental stress also helps to reduce inflammation.

There is only one place in the US that performs an RNase-L assay test (VIP Dx lab in Reno). “High levels of the broken RNase-L 37 molecular weight are very indicative that a person has this syndrome. Some statistical analysis says that 95% of people with the symptoms of CFS show the RNase-L protein marker.”

Prognosis

“There are some statistics that show only about 20% of people who get this condition partially recover and only about 4-5% completely recover. (!!) There is evidence of shortened life with many dying in their mid-fifties to mid-sixties through the development of secondary problems from the weakened immune system. The weakened immune system is also thought to cause co-infections and susceptibility to parasites and toxic chemicals. Research has pointed out that 5-10% of REDDS victims develop Non_Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Many people get cancer from the weakened immune system.”

“It is a little like Alzheimer’s because of the brain fog and loss of some concentration and cognitive abilities It is a little like AIDS because it is an immune system failure. It is little like Rheumatoid arthritis because in some people, the broken RNase-L attackes the joints, causing great pain. It is a little like Multiple Sclerosis because it may cause nerve damage and even seizures in some individuals.”

A great wave of compassion swept over me as I read this article. I finally had an answer for what was happening inside of my body! And now, I have a way of explaining it to others. No one seems to have sympathy for a person who who is completely depleted or unable to recover from energy expenditure. I find people’s strong reaction to the word “cancer” so interesting. So many people that have been diagnosed with cancer are able to work full-time, exercise like they always have (even running marathons!), and have a fully functional life, when people who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Lyme Disease, or a host of other auto-immune diseases are confined to their beds or homes, unable to function at all, or have at best, a tiny sliver of their former capacities. No wonder I have no energy and no ability to recover! My mitochondria have been killed and EVERY cell in my body is being affected! And I am one of the luckier ones. There are many people with CFS who can not even stand up and have to be fed intravenously!

Here is a short video featuring one of these people (along with 2 other cases that aren’t as severe). It highlights the stigma of the disease, the lack of concern from doctors and society, the stripping away of one’s life, and the tremendous isolation this disease causes. I highly recommend watching this!

And here is great documentary about a woman’s search for answers after receiving no help for her own condition. She tracked down doctors and patients from the first outbreaks of this disease in the US. Unfortunately, not much has changed since this documentary came out in the late ’90s!

Health Update/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

My good news is that I have made major improvements in my digestive system in the last five months- all by completely changing my diet and taking supplements! After nearly three years of daily diarrhea and crippling abdominal pain, this feels like quite a miracle, and I am very happy about it!
The not-so-good news is that my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome still holds a tight grip on me. I felt that I was starting to improve a bit in January, but slid right back in February and early March. I gave three talks in February, which is more than I have given in a month since I lost all of my energy in July. Unfortunately, my body still can not recover from exerting any energy. After each talk, I was nonfunctional the following day (only able to sleep or sit and do nothing while awake), and it took a good week to return to my baseline of sleeping 12/13 hours per day. Giving three talks meant that I was in a constant cycle of trying to recover from the previous one. When my body is trying to recover, my brain also shuts down and I am not able to write or do anything more than read a little bit. This is why I have not been able to update my blog in such a long time.

Because these were my last scheduled talks, I forced myself to send out over 60 e-mails to libraries and schools, reminding them that I am still offering my PCT talk and announcing my new talk entitled, “The Gifts of Chronic Illness: Turning Adversity into a Path of Awakening and Transformation.” To date, I have received only one response of interest for my new talk, which was quite surprising to me. I had hoped to reach broader audiences than ones interested in hiking. I have to trust that the universe is looking out for me, knowing that I need to put all of my focus into my recovery at this time.

On Wednesday, I went for a short walk for the first time in a long time. I thought I was doing something good for myself- getting out in some sunlight and fresh air, and moving my body and circulating my blood. I was thinking hopeful thoughts. But as soon as I returned to my apartment, my body quickly started shutting down. I had wanted to make a smoothie for myself, but suddenly had no energy to do so. I slept for 2 and a half hours and felt AWFUL for the rest of the night. I slept until 1:30pm the next day (a little more than my usual noon-1pm). All because I attempted to move a little bit! It felt scary and very disheartening to become SO depleted after a short, flat walk. I wonder if I will ever be able to hike again. And I wonder how I will ever be able to support myself.

Having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is like living in the red zone of the battery on your phone. When the power in your phone drops to this place, it warns you that your battery is low and asks you if you want to continue. If you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and do decide to continue and expend some energy, you become completely depleted without the ability to recharge. Completely resting for a week might bring you back to 10-15% of your power, and then you choose again whether to stay at that place, or do something and drop to zero again… Your body never moves past the “red” zone.

This video on singer Avril Lavigne’s experience with Lyme Disease shows her visceral remembrance of those months when she experienced the complete shut-down of her body to the point where she could not walk or talk, as well as how it feels to be told that you are “depressed” by your doctors- all of which I have experienced and felt, as well. It is very frightening to not know what is happening to your body, to suddenly become bedridden, and to be dismissed by doctors.

These chronic autoimmune illnesses have NOTHING to do with lack of motivation, laziness, or depression! They are completely physical. Avril is very lucky that she has a large fan-base to show her support. I have felt the very opposite!

Whenever I get down about my lack of progress, I have to keep reminding myself that I have not heard of a SINGLE person who improved in less than 1-2 years. I have heard of MANY cases who took several years to even start improving, and when they did, it was a gradual process.
One of these people is a karma healer who I just started seeing. She suffered from Lyme Disease, as well as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, herself. For three years, she was unable to work at all and was unable to care for her son. She started to get better by taking certain herbs and by receiving the kind of work that she now helps others with. She communicates with her clients’ guides, identifies their archetypes (accumulated from this lifetime as well as past lives), and then clears them. In my first session, she compiled a list of nearly two pages of archetypes for me and said that she would be exhausted if she were carrying all of that, as well! I have done a lot of work on my own (changing my diet, taking supplements, informing myself about autoimmune diseases, doing the daily workbook exercises in “A Course in Miracles”, listening to Marianne Williamson’s weekly lectures, meditating an average of 20 minutes a day, doing some gentle yoga when I feel up to it, and keeping up my gratitude journal). However, there are a lot of things an individual can not do on their own. We all need a support system and people to help us. I know that although my gut issues opened the door for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to be expressed, that this disease is heavily rooted in my childhood and in a lifetime of not being seen, and of enduring trial after trial with no breaks. My life has had very few joyful moments. Most of them have occurred on my long hikes, but this past one was tied with extreme illness and pain, which led to more and more of that until my body completely stopped functioning. This work helps to clear a lot of these burdens and pain. It is fascinating for me to sit back and be completely quiet while my guides tell her very accurately who I am, how I feel, what I have experienced in my life, and what my strengths and weaknesses are! None of us are alone. We might feel like it, but we all have unseen guides looking out for us and rooting us on!

I apologize for being unable to post for so long, and will do my best to write as I am able!

(For anyone interested, you can find me on Facebook, which I update much more frequently. Lately, I have been posting a lot of support for Bernie Sanders, who I feel very strongly about getting elected as President, as well as information on health-related topics.)