arrow36 Comments
  1. Ken Holmes
    Apr 18 - 5:20 pm

    I was going to get angry with this, when I read “Deal With it” in the headline, but found this to be very wise and helpful. I’ve been mostly bedridden for over a year now with this last relapse, and this is much in line with what I try to do. I fail miserably at times, but that’s Especially liked the “What Is” quote at the end. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Cort Johnson
      Apr 18 - 5:31 pm

      Thanks Ken…This was the cover story for that magazine its title was “Life is Tough…Deal with it”. That really caught my eye :). Our paths are certainly confusing; I’ve been befuddled and upset by mine but understanding that this really is my particular path. does bring me some relief. It never could have turned out differently than the way it is and this is just the way it is…I will continue to try and get healthier – that’s normal and that’s part of my path and it would be lovely if I could find something and share it – and so is being in not particularly good health. Good luck with everything!

      • SanDiego#1
        Apr 18 - 6:23 pm

        CORT- As always you come through for everyone. I really felt better after the Zen info.
        I have referred many people to this site that are on the Phoenix site.

        I cannot thank you enough for your positive influence on all of the many facets of this
        condition. Would really like more info on how you are dealing with your illness.

        One thing I know no one wants to address -is how they deal with family, that they have to depend on. A lot I suspect feel very guilty bout having to ask for help. How do they deal with family that is ANGRY about the burden it puts on them??? That I think really makes this disease more difficult. That is why I am thanking you ahead for your always positive influence and help to the weaker ones.


        SAN DIEGO #1

        • Cort Johnson
          Apr 18 - 9:02 pm

          Thanks San Diego – that’s a very good question..How to turn this mishap – the need to depend on family – into the path…Boy is that a good question. I must say I
          m better at the little stuff :)

          Fischer might say to watch the feeling and emotions that come up and have the patience to give them room to be instead of trying to swallow them up or deflect them somehow. Nobody is wrong here. Acknowledging family members for their sacrifices is probably a good idea. I’ve heard it said that money and sex are the two biggies for humans. This is a knotty problem that I imagine will take time, understanding and patience to resolve and who knows how it will unfold but but coming at from the stance that this is part of the path does provide a good place to stand…

          The next suggestion in the series will – To turn all blames into one – will probably provide some ideas.

  2. Ken Holmes
    Apr 18 - 5:21 pm

    Make that, “but that’s okay.”

  3. OM
    Apr 18 - 5:29 pm

    Why Suffer? Sooner or later, acceptance.

    • Cort Johnson
      Apr 18 - 5:34 pm

      Makes me think of a haiku OM

      Why suffer?
      Sooner or later…

      Very nice! And it points out that acceptance will happen, sooner or later…and with it will come less suffering.

  4. Denise
    Apr 18 - 5:31 pm

    Thank you, Cort.

  5. Gregory G Cutler DVM
    Apr 18 - 5:34 pm

    I’ve heard it said that holding onto anger is like taking poison to kill your enemies. Yet being Zen is hard, all that is, is change. Thanks for the great thoughts. Greg

  6. Linda Bright
    Apr 18 - 5:46 pm

    Cort,, love your life lesson for today. I used to say I was a Buddist Christian. One day I thought “I wonder how Christ feels about that”. I have come to believe that God is proud that one of His creation has learned to teach wisdom in such simple terms. Neither teaching is antithetical to the other, in fact each fills in the blanks for the other. God plants our feet upon the path without any guarantee of simplicity. ME is part of my path. Wow, if we can accept that as fact, it can revolutionize “how” we live with it. I had some pretty angry outburst on my Facebook page, I just took both of them down. Seems like I wrote another one on some blog about the new DSM-5. If you see it out there somewhere let me know and I’ll take it down. Cort, I don’t know you but I know your heart. So caring and compassionate to your fellow travelers. You are very talented, smart, and here you are our cheerleader and teacher. Thank you for sharing your special light…..Linz Bright yes, doesn’t that saying you have above just fit us so well. I did’t know what EST was. I thought it was Electrical Shock Treatments but could t make it fit into the sentence. (old Psych nurse). Linz

    • Cort Johnson
      Apr 18 - 9:13 pm

      I can’t remember the term but in Buddhism there is a focus on ‘doing good works’; doing good works is part, I believe of the Buddha’s ‘middle way’. Its compassionate to try to fix the world to alleviate peoples suffering – so its entirely appropriate to take actions that prevent a potentially occurrence (publishing the DSM-V); that’s compassionate action at work.

      We’re not here to sit on our hands; we’re here to do something – the question is what. I have no idea what was in the DSM-V but opposing it would be an act of compassionate action to me. Diminishing the people who came up with it, on the other hand, would not be. That’s my take on it .

    • Johannes Starke
      Apr 23 - 1:02 pm

      Linda, I love your perpective on the Buddha’s and Christian teachings working together well.

      When I first discovered Buddhism, I thought I was a Buddhist or had to be a buddhist to make the most of the teachings. Now, a few years later, i realize that even without converting from Christianity I can get all the goodness from Buddhism.

      When I sing church music such has magnificat or Elijah from Bach or Medelssohn, I feel something that feels like god. So do I when I life my days mindfully with the help of the Buddha’s teachings.

      I agree with you, the teachings don’t seem antithetical at all :)

  7. Richard P
    Apr 18 - 5:51 pm

    Actually, I have had CFS for almost a half century! It prompted me to write the book “Boot Camp To Eternity.
    It’s also available as an ebook at Kindle section.
    Talk about philosophy! Very different, but I think it’s hard to rebut. Even for preachers.
    Thanks Cort, I very much appreciate all your great work.
    R.A Perill

  8. Linda Bright
    Apr 18 - 5:54 pm

    Interesting, I just thought about it, I had added several pictures to my FB page of pictures of paths thinking about this very thing earlier in the week. Linz

  9. Graham
    Apr 18 - 6:44 pm

    You’re right of course Cort. Accepting that it is part of our path doesn’t mean that we can’t seek to improve it: in fact it probably encourages us to. Nor does it say it will be easy, ‘cos it sure ain’t! But I for one have met a lot of really good people on this path, people who are sincere, deep and true. And this Health Rising path is a pretty good one that you are on, Cort: good for many of us.

    • Cort Johnson
      Apr 18 - 9:06 pm

      Thanks Graham

      It’s natural to want to be well and to try to be well. I just happened, believe it or not, to bump into the grand daughter of Pema Chodron, a renowned Buddhist teacher, who became ill with ME/CFS, I’m not sure – probably at least 10 years ago. Her granddaughter said she’s now well but she’s been seeing doctor since she got ill.

      My guess is that turning this mishap into the path means dealing with treatment possibilities calmly and logically and living the best we can while we’re doing that. Every moment in Buddhism is precious…

      • Mary Jane
        Apr 18 - 10:46 pm

        Now I want to be a Buddist! I loved this article. And tonight it was especially needed. Long story, but now I see how a situation I wanted to run from, ‘is my path’
        Thanks Cort

  10. ixchelkali
    Apr 18 - 10:32 pm

    Thanks, Cort. I was fortunate to be introduced to Buddhist practices early in my illness and it has helped me a good deal in coming to terms with it. I tend not to talk about it much, because I’ve found that some people with ME/CFS think of acceptence as giving in or giving up and get upset when I try to explain. And some healthy people, when I talk about finding things to appreciate about the situation, think that demonstrates that I really want to be sick.

    One koan that I’ve found helpful is a story about a Buddhist student who is cleaning the master’s room and accidently breaks his favorite teacup, a cup he has enjoyed for many years. When the master comes in, the student confesses what has happened, expecting the master to be angry, but the master simply smiles. The student, puzzled, asks the master why he is not angry. The master replies, “I can have a broken cup and be angry, or I can have a broken cup and be at peace. Either way, the cup is broken.”

    That’s how I feel about having ME/CFS. I don’t choose to be sick, but I am. I can be sick and be miserable and unhappy, or I can be sick and be at peace. Either way I’m sick. In practice, I’m less sick when I don’t use up a lot of energy being angry about things I can’t change. This is my life. I don’t want to spend it being miserable and unhappy, and that IS something I can do something about.

    Some people think this kind of acceptence is passive, but it’s not. It’s hard. It isn’t passive submission, it’s something you do with your head up, a warrior’s stance. It takes practice and it takes strength to meet life as it is, head on, without ducking or evasion, and come to peace with it.

  11. Agnes Cleary
    Apr 18 - 10:39 pm

    Cort, very interesting. If you have not already, try to find Toni Bernard’s How to Be Sick. She has been ill with ME/CFS for a number of years and discusses how she has applied her lifelong practice of Buddhism and meditation to coping with the illness. I think it is the single most helpful book I have read, and I’ve been dealing with this illness for more than 25 years.

  12. Questus
    Apr 18 - 11:16 pm

    Well written Cort. Thank you for sharing.

    Mindfulness is a practice. Meditation, breathing techniques and learning to ‘be’ in the moment takes lots of practice. Be patient with yourself.

    I’ve learned by working this for years it takes effort, and that intention combined with attention is a part of the process…

    We all have ‘good’ intentions but it’s not until we apply our attention to our intentions that we can move this ball forward.

    There are lots of good and free videos online that teach meditation and visualization as well as breathing techniques, and it’s a great way to start.

    If nothing else it’s amazing what meditation and breathing can do for sleep and stress.

    Deepak Chopra has a lot of good ‘stuff’ out there.


  13. Dusty Girl
    Apr 19 - 1:37 am

    Great article, great comments.

    Just want to add here that what got me back into meditation and then to Buddhism this year was Ashok Gupta’s Amygdala Retraining Program. He does a lot of NLP and other techniques which were useful but what has benefited me most was his insistence on daily meditation. After a year working the program, imperfectly I might add, I feel I am a different person permanently, less reactive and more in the moment, able to frame many things differently reducing the harshness of life. I am certain it was from his modest 20 minute to 1 hour meditations I did most days.

    And more, it got me very interested in similar things such as the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction work from the University of Massachusetts and a half dozen other teachings. The fact that it was my tribe on the forums and that so many of the other retrainers were also taking up Buddhism and similar practices sweetened the whole deal. I owe a lot to that program because I doubt I would have had the personal discipline to come this far toward wholeness without all the structure he offers.

    It can only be helping my health.

    • Dusty Girl
      Apr 19 - 12:53 pm

      The MBSR course I mention was created by Jon Kabat-Zinn, to connect it with Simon’s Full Catastrophe Living comment below.

  14. Rosalynde Lemarchand
    Apr 19 - 4:51 am

    Thank you Cort. This is very interesting and helpful. In a way it`s what I`ve learnt to do after ten years of illness. I know I can`t change it so I have learnt to live with it. I`ve learnt not to fight it all the time and to play the `victim`. I`m learning to embrace it and feel it`s a part of me. It`s not easy and there are those days when I still want to fight against and go back to feeling sorry for myself. I`m human after all!

  15. Simon McGrath
    Apr 19 - 11:25 am

    Another great article, thanks, Cort. I’m getting tired of writing that :) so why don’t you get yourself a nice like plugin eg, for people too lazy to comment…

    But while I’m here: shortly after I got I’ll I came across the book “full catastrophe living … Facing stress, pain and illness” by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He was the pioneer of using Buddhist techniques inside conventional medicine, and, well, now it really has become mainstream itself. Tat book also includes some wonderfully gentle lying-down yoga sequences that I still practice. The yoga, and the Zen principles, are no cure, but they certainly help me live with my illness and its consequences.

  16. Enid
    Apr 20 - 5:44 am

    Good thinking Cort. I’m a great follower of Buddhist thought. No cure of course except an attitude of mind (acceptance ?) living with chronic illness.

  17. Loz
    Apr 21 - 7:11 am

    I got M.E while I lived in a Buddhist centre. I have always seen this illness as part of my spiritual path and it has brought me moments of deep peace. Not all the time as I am not enlightened but it has and is the most wonderful spiritual teacher. I refer to many spiritual pointers, Buddhism being among one of them and I feel we are all on a spiritual path but it takes times before people realise it. When they do then everything becomes a spiritual practice and we perceive life different which brings about different experiences. That doesn’t mean everything becomes easier and happier all at once unless you have an full awakening. However, it does mean we start to see things differently which changes our life, each step, each realisation takes us closer to liberation from suffering. Eventually we begin to experience deep peace, joy and contentment regardless of what is happening in our life story.

    M.E can be every bodies spiritual teacher and once we know that then we are beginning to ‘wake up’ become more spiritually aware and our life story is just that, a story but we go beyond our story and that is where the deep peace is found.

    We are not this illness, nor are we our body or our life story and all the contents of that story. We are a ‘being’ having a human experience. Accept ‘what is’ , because it is, and see how different your experience of life becomes, just by accepting ‘what is’ and just ‘being’.


  18. Mary
    Apr 21 - 12:07 pm

    You made my day with one simple line regarding how we want our tombstone to read. Do we want ”Had chronic fatigue syndrome for 50 years and was pissed off the entire time?” That certainly puts things into perspective. It also made me laugh at my situation, which is aways a good thing.

  19. Johannes Starke
    Apr 23 - 1:08 pm

    In my experience, turning things into path does not only happen on a conscious level, as you describe in this article, but also on a subconscious level.

    The best ways to get your subconscious, gut feelings aligned with the path are focusing on unpleasant sensations in a meditative way. After a few minutes of doing it, our resistance drops and we feel more peace. It’s one of the most powerful things I’ve discovered on my path.

    Psychologist Eugene Gendlin, PH.D. popularized a “focusing” technique in the seventies in her book “Focusing.” It’s also part of Ashok’s Amygdala Retraining program under the name “Soften and Flow.” I’ve also created a free audio to do that focusing that you can download from my website:

    Hope this helps :)

  20. Liz
    Apr 23 - 4:29 pm

    Good stuff, Cort. Thank you.
    I remember that Kerouac turned that Zen saying around just a little bit. In On the Road, he wrote, “Ripples in the upside-down lake of the void. The bottom of the world is gold and the world is upside down.”
    I don’t have any idea what he was talking about, but it gives you something to think about while you’re lying on your back all day.
    I love the Zen approach, but on any given day, I must admit… patience does not always come.

  21. Linz
    Apr 24 - 4:30 pm

    I have so enjoyed the sharing and depth of thoughts by so many. Very helpful to me personally.

    Just a revisit to those who may read this and worry that this community has become “non-Christian”. I don’t want to loose anyone who has always considered Buddhism another religion that replaces Christianity. I have a dear friend who was a Monk for many years with a Masters in Theology from Harvard. When he left the Monastery, he went to Calcutta working with Mother Teresa for years. He is such a holy man, a beautiful Christian and lives the Buddhist philosophy. If you read writings of Mother Teresa, she sounds the same as my friend Tobias. Basically we are all body, mind, spirit. Intentionally feeding and watering our spirits is as imperative as caring for our body and mind. Many people, myself included, turn to their faith in God for peace, comfort and joy. However, my spirit is nurtured by enjoying the beauty of our sunsets, nature, babies and The teachings of Buddha and reading from ‘suffering souls’ how finding meditation and Buddhist teachings, nurtures their spirits, relaxes their bodies, and brings peace to their minds. So too, Christianity and prayer.

  22. Christian
    Jul 03 - 9:23 pm

    Dear Cort – I really need your help…
    I’m in my 13th year into CFS and have lost 90% of the active life I had prior to it, and I am still “pissed off”, as your hypothetical epitaph aptly coined it. And “pissed off” is but one of so many other emotional states involved, some far more intolerable than that one . Many of us I am sure have laughed at those words of yours, and I guess it is because they provided us with a humouristic relief for how we really feel. I repeat: how we really feel. Believe me, I want more than anything to achieve the kind of accepting state of mind you are talking about. “It is your path”; it sure is, I know it too well. And I try on a daily basis to apply that kind of thinking, lying in bed, I tell myself – such is your life, now; and though my resources are less elevated than yours, nothing oriental and spiritual, but say, “rougher stuff”, à la Nietzsche – Amor Fati – just be tragical before your destiny, like the Greeks were, etc. – I simply find it impossible. Either way, spiritual or tragical, seems to me to be overpowered by psychological laws: all major depression aside, we are built to have wishes and drives and impulses, – or even better: we have built-in drives and desires and instincts . Let’s take an extreme case: a mother sees her own child, her flesh and blood, killed; “it is your path” ?… You can say, yes, even that. But how can she achieve a state of acceptance?
    Cort, I am truly struggling on a daily basis with the question of acceptance. I feel, very paradoxically, that I have so much left in me, but it is gone, just gone, – and still there. Feeling it is forever gone, but still there. Please Cort, help me accept that.

    • Cort Johnson
      Jul 06 - 11:09 am

      Hi Christian…

      I see acceptance as an ongoing practice and not an easy thing; something that needs to be worked on again and again and again and in small doses. By that I mean acceptance works best for me when I take it second by second…that pain I feel…that disappointment I feel, that thing that just happened to me…..I would forget about CFS the big picture and the big losses and take on the small ones that make up our lives.

      You might also try this practice: look at a situation (something in your experience – not a concept) and tell yourself that you accept it and then tell yourself that you don’t accept it and see which you feel better with; that might provide a guideline as to whether this ‘acceptance practice’ works.

      Keep in mind that there are different strokes for different folks, as well; acceptance might not be the best way to approach this for you. I would certainly give it another try and if it doesn’t work now, dip into it again at some point.

      I don’t think it’s forever gone Chris….I’ve had moments of better health in which it was clear that all of ‘it’ the sharp thinking, the clarity, the feelings of wellness are still there.

      Good luck!

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