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Dark experience leads to spiritual clarity, living with joy.

Byline: FROM HEART TO HEART By Steven Deutsch For The Register-Guard

Sometimes in our lives we have dark nights of the soul - those wrenching experiences that challenge our very being. Thomas Moore, in "Dark Nights of the Soul," explores such experiences and illuminates a path for personal insight and growth coming out of such dark moments.

One of those moments came for me in the past year with a near-death experience when I was struck by a vehicle in a pedestrian walkway in Seattle. I went through brain and body rehabilitation for 10 months. I experienced pain, limited mobility, unpleasant brain concussion symptoms, post-traumatic stress symptoms with nightmares, and high anxiety associated with vehicular traffic. All of this overtook my life and shaped it for more than a year.

Out of all this I came to a clear realization that I was not depressed. I was so filled with joy over the gift of life and the love of family and friends. After seven decades, as I contemplated the inevitable end of my life and the awareness that it had almost come in that accident, I celebrated new life with all my grandchildren.

Each visit to the rehabilitation clinics made me more sensitive to the suffering, debilitation and challenges of others. I felt myself ever more praying for their well-being and not just focused on my own.

For some time I was much less aware of the larger world around me, but soon came back to the reality of my environment. As I learned of growing casualties in the horrible war in Iraq and the human toll in so many locations, I became aware of my sense of hope and optimism, and that my general attitude was positive.

I asked myself why this should be. I realized that the ordeal I was experiencing had truly enhanced my sense of the joy of living, the privilege of being, and the challenge to live in a fashion that would heal the world.

Adding to my normal regimen of seeking quiet and contemplation, I built in more time for meditation and exercises as part of the therapy I was receiving. Many physicians, such as Larry Dossey (author of "Prayer Is Good Medicine") and other health practitioners, have extolled the virtue of prayer and spiritual nurture in the healing process. I am convinced that this has been true for me.

We all experience dark moments or trauma as a result of losses and pain of all kinds. These seem inevitable in the lives of all.

What I find uplifting is the evidence that we come through these times, and that the process allows us, if we so choose, to become more in tune with the inner being, the soul and the reason for our being.

Life is a gift. To become ever more sensitive to that fact and to live in a fashion that celebrates life in relationship to others is the core of my spirituality. It is love. It is divine. And it is quite wonderful!

Steven Deutsch is a lifelong member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), a member of Eugene Friends Meeting and Faith in Action, and a former Two Rivers Interfaith Ministries Steering Committee member. This column is coordinated by TRIM. Call 344-5693.
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Title Annotation:Religion
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 19, 2007
Words:544
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