Chronic fatigue as a modern form of monasticism

 

Some years ago, I talked to a therapist in England who referred to chronic fatigue (CFS) as a modern form of monasticism.

I can see how that fits.

CFS requires a withdrawal from distractions. It creates a situation where we come face to face with ourselves, including what we have avoided in the past. We are invited to question basic identities and beliefs and find what’s more true and helpful for us. We find ourselves in a situation where we may have to go deeper with any spiritual practices we are familiar with.

CFS may also be connected to feeling off track in life, so this is a chance to notice and return.

More specifically, any serious or chronic illness tends to challenge our basic beliefs, identifications, and hopes. A lot is stripped away, including a great deal we found comfort and took pride in. It may bring up our deepest fears. Life invites us to notice and question all of this. And it also brings up questions such as who am I without all that? In what way is my life still of value?

In some ways, any challenging life situation is an invitation to release identification with more superficial identities (roles, work, gender, preferences etc.) and shift the center of gravity into more universal ones.

We can also ask, what are the genuine gifts in this situation? If this is the best that could have happened, why would that be? How am I invited to relate to this, my life, and the world?

And if we have a spiritual orientation, it’s perhaps an invitation to go deeper in inquiry, surrender, prayer, heart practices, and whatever else we are drawn to. In my case, one example is that it helped me find a more genuinely restful and basic form of meditation (notice what’s here, rest with it, notice it’s already allowed).

So in all of these ways, and probably several more, CFS can be seen as a modern form of monasticism, or at least a retreat. It can serve some of the same functions, if we let it.

Note: I have written this post in a quite loose and unsystematic form. I chose to not go into typical beliefs and identities that may be challenged by CFS and any chronic illness, and also the many approaches for healing our relationship with CFS, our life, and the world that could be used. I have done so other places in this blog.

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Initial notes…..

  • CFS as modern monasticism
    • withdraw from any distractions
    • face to face w oneself, invited to question identities/beliefs + find what’s more true/more helpful
    • find rest, allow + notice
    • CFS may be connected to feeling off track in life, so a chance to notice, return

We can also ask, if life is kind and this was the best that could happen,

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Initial draft…..

Some years ago, I talked to a therapist in England who referred to chronic fatigue (CFS) as a modern form of monasticism.

I can see how that fits.

CFS requires a withdrawal from distractions. It creates a situation where we come face to face with ourselves, including what we have avoided in the past. We are invited to question identities and beliefs and find what’s more true for us and helpful. We are invited to go deeper with any spiritual practices we may have engaged in.

CFS may also be connected to feeling off track in life, so this is a chance to notice and return.

Any illness tends to rub up against our identifications, beliefs, fears, and hopes. A lot is stripped away, including a great deal we found comfort and took pride in. Who am I without all that? In what way is my life still of value?

We can also ask, what are the genuine gifts in this situation? If this is the best that could have happened, why would that be? How am I invited to relate to this, my life, and the world?

And if we have a spiritual orientation, it’s perhaps an invitation to go deeper in inquiry, surrender, prayer, heart practices, and whatever else we are drawn to. For instance, for me, it’s helped me find a more restful and basic form of meditation. (Being present with what’s already here. Notice.  Allow. Notice it’s already allowed.)

So in all of these ways, and probably several more, CFS can be seen as a modern form of monasticism, or at least a retreat. It can serve some of the same functions, if we let it.

Note: I have written this post in a quite loose and unsystematic form. I chose to not go into typical beliefs and identities that may be challenged by CFS and any chronic illness, and also the many approaches for healing our relationship with CFS, our life, and the world that could be used. I have done so many other places in this blog.

 

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