HEALING THROUGH ACTS OF KINDNESS

        Every known spiritual tradition acknowledges the benefits of performing acts of loving kindness. They reflect the compassionate element of the cosmos. The Kabbalistic Tree of Life describes tifferet  or rachamin as the central sephria or axis point of the entire system. These qualities are present within all of us since we are the cosmos incarnate.
        In certain spiritual traditions we assure ourselves a place in Heaven by the performance of such deeds. In other traditions the acts themselves generate instant karma which will come back to us in this life or subsequent lives.  This is cosmic justice, the ultimate balance.
        Anthropologists might point to an inherent altruism within human beings as having evolved in order to nurture small tribal units.  Purely self-centered activities would not have benefited the group and since survival required cooperation, altruistic traits would be selected for.
        We have also evolved in order to acutely ‘read’ the emotions of others. Our actions, speech, behavior can be sensitively mirrored in their reactions to us. Strong bonds of love and friendship based upon mutual consideration and the performance of unsolicited acts of kindness and compassion produced cooperation and support in times of trouble.
        We are acutely aware of individuals who seem oblivious to the subtleties of interpersonal relationships. Individuals with a form of Asperger’s Syndrome, considered to be a variant of autism,  are incapable of reading these social cues and are guilty of infractions of social intercourse.  They may inadvertently insult and offend others with their apparent insensitivity.
        The performance of acts of kindness, ranging from holding a door for a stranger, allowing their car to enter a line of traffic, assisting someone struggling with packages, offering an unsolicited smile or comment–all create an openness and warmth with heals both parties. The usual barriers of self-defense can easily melt.  In a world of fear, loneliness separation and distrust, the simple performance of such acts is a spiritual and metaphysical balm of healing.
        Kabbalists understand that we heal ourselves by healing others. It is through the performance of such deeds of loving kindness that we all evolve.

Does Time Heal All Wounds?

Like many often repeated cliches the statement time heals all wounds has some element of truth to it.  Difficulties arise, however, when we attempt to generalize the concept to each and every situation.

On an emotional level, it is quite obvious that time by itself cannot undo the feelings that an injury or injustice  has been perpetrated. This is where the notion of a legal system of justice or compensation for injuries has evolved in civilized human societies.

Clearly when it comes to physical ailments, we do not dismiss the power of contemporary medications and appropriate treatments to assist in the healing process as well.

However, I do strongly feel that we live within a cultural milieu which inappropriately rejects the power of time to contribute to healing. I am as guilty as many others in my lack of patience with the processes that surround me. When I get an idea or notion in my mind, when I become physically ill, when I am awaiting the results of some issue, or feeling pain—I want it fixed, better, resolved–now!

I [we] need to realize that the universe doesn’t work that way.  It requires a profound degree of metaphysical awakening to accept this.  It took the universe billions of years to evolve a self-aware being who is capable of writing, reading and pondering our own existence.

Also, I am sure that in times past, prior to the technological revolution which has overwhelmed us people had no choice but to accept the fact that things take time. There was no instant communication.  Letters took weeks or months to exchange. Physical and emotional illnesses were given time to resolve because there was no other option.

Physical illness require time for the body to heal.  Technological and scientific advances can speed up the healing processes–but only to a degree. Our bodies still require time to do the job.  Don’t forget–babies still require time to develop before they can be safely brought into this world.  There is a lesson there for all of us.

Emotional and spiritual traumas take time as well. The loss of a loved one through rejection or death takes time to heal.  There is no short cut to the process, despite our desire to accelerate it.  This does not mean that time alone is sufficient for the process.  This is painfully clear and all available methods of therapy and support should be utilized fully.   But it should remind us that time is an essential component to all forms of healing.

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Make Everyday Thanksgiving

Of course this statement is a bit of a cliche–be more aware of the aspects of our lives to which we should be grateful–but that does not make it less true.
We are, by virtue of our evolutionary bent, worriers, pessimists and negative thinkers.  We are the product of those complainers, conspiracy theorists, paranoid thinkers that planned for the worst. No wonder we have so much trouble seeing the glass half full!
It requires an act of awareness, of conscious will, to look at our lives and see the gifts that surround us.
We tend to discount that in our lives which works, is beautiful, nurturing, rewarding–while focusing  in on that which can harm us.
But without much effort we can all build a substantial list of what we should be grateful for.

Are we part of a loving family?  At least is there ONE family member we actually like?  Do they love us and would they be ‘there’ for us in a time of need?
Do we have friends who would fill those needs?
Are we reasonably healthy?
Do we not live in a country founded on principles of liberty, freedom and democracy? [Granted its imperfections]
Do we go to bed at night and not fear for our safety?
Do we not worry about starvation for ourselves and our family?
Do we not observe the exquisite beauty that surrounds us?
Are we not typically ‘blind’ to much of it?
Do we not awaken each morning as free beings with the opportunity to experience new growth and evolution?
For all this–and more….Let us be grateful.
Just think about it.  It is a meditation that can bring peace and healing to us all.

Interview: Dr. Steven Hodes Offers Metaphysical Prescriptions for Better Health

Read an interview with Dr. Steven Hodes about his new book, Meta-Physician On Call For Better Health.


Interview By Laurie Sue Brockway


For more on Dr. Steve, check out www.meta-md.com

Many of us wish we had a doctor like Steven E. Hodes M.D.

“Dr. Steve” is a traditionally trained physician with a metaphysical point of view. His approach to well-being encompasses both the scientific and spiritual causes for pain, illness, and disease. He helps us bridge the gap between traditional medicine and holistic healing and shines a light on ways non-medical issues — such as stress and emotional blockages — contribute to illness. Although he has a great regard and love for traditional medicine, he believes strongly in the connection between body, mind, and spirit. Dr. Steve has devoted himself to teaching, lecturing, writing, and sharing his wisdom on this topic.

In his new book, Meta-Physician on Call for Better Health: Metaphysics and Medicine for Mind, Body, and Spirit (Praeger Publishers, November 2007), he explores the connection between spirituality and medicine and offers many ways metaphysics can help facilitate healing. He also offers a free lecture and dialog series in Manhattan, “Tuesdays with Dr. Steve,” in which he offers metaphysical prescriptions for better health (for more information, visit www.meta-md.com).

Dr. Steve brings warmth, compassion and the wisdom of almost 30 years in private practice to his work as a Meta-Physician. He received his medical degree from The Albert Einstein College of Medicine and also has a degree in Religious Studies from Franklin and Marshall College.

How do you define metaphysics?

Metaphysics is by definition the branch of philosophy which endeavors to explore the nature of reality. It traces its origins to the works of Aristotle but I believe it has tremendously important practical applications as well. All human beings, I believe, possess an innate desire to make sense of their own lives and the world around them. We are all seeking metaphysical answers to the great questions of existence. Life does make philosophers of us all.

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REVENGE–HEALING OR HURTING

A good friend is writing a book about revenge and has asked for my comments regarding this topic.  It certainly makes me consider the metaphysical ramifications of this rather powerful emotion.  At first glance it seems quite reasonable to feel the desire to avenge a perceived wrong doing. This is, after all, the basis for the notion of justice and the punishment which ‘fits the crime’.

But intuitively, I feel that revenge is not the appropriate response.  There seems to be an element of sudden violence in it.  It is associated with such concepts as vengeance, retribution or vendetta. It also seems to be rather Biblical in its response to any seeming injustice.

Of course, revenge seems to be a natural response to personal insults or rejection.  It is often the emotion that follows a sudden, unexpected loss of something important–a job, a cherished relationship. In other words, to be fired from a job because of a corporate take-over, perhaps a loss of the individual’s position due to such impersonal changes, is far less likely to induce a reaction of revenge than, say, the knowledge that someone at work engineered the firing because of personal dislike or the threat of competition.

Also, when there is a strong emotional investment in a relationship, the sudden feeling of rejection that can occur when there is unilateral severing of this bond, can result is an emotional crisis. One response is to seek an equally emotional response–the desire to see the other person hurt, physically and/or emotionally.

Although this may seem ‘just’ I believe that it is ultimately damaging to our inner sense of self. It does not promote our own evolution as spiritual beings who seek our own healing relationship with the universe. Such strong emotional negativity actually damages both parties. Like hatred, it maintains a powerful link between the two parties and can bring chaos and confusion to both.  The old Chinese proverb regarding hatred is relevant here.  ‘If you hate someone, you might as well dig two graves.’

A more difficult but metaphysically and spiritually ‘better’ response is to allow the negative emotions to settle down. When we are feeling vulnerable and wounded, we are in an inferior, a weakened position in relation to the individual who initiated the action.  We feel powerless, impotent to move on.  We feel paralyzed with grief and lash out in a primitive reactivity to feeling cornered.

With some time and perhaps meditation, we can re-establish our own sense of ourselves, our value and worth.  We can withdraw our negative energy from the other individual.  Perhaps forgiveness is not the correct response here but we should try to understand that the rejection is not about us, but about the individual who did the rejecting. We do not need to analyze why, merely acknowledge our own continuing value and worth.

By releasing our feelings [good and bad] regarding the perpetrator, we can move on in our own journey. They will no longer have any power over us. Justice in a civilized society attempts to remove the emotional content from the punishment it provides for wrong doing.

Those of us who believe that karma serves to balance all actions can allow this force to act for our benefit as well.  We do not have to do anything.  Balance and justice will prevail.  Ultimately, our own healing is best served through remembering who we are–spiritual beings having a human experience.  This requires us to face emotionally painful situations and respond to them with this powerful awareness to the best of our abilities.

Creating a Myth That Works

A fascinating quote that has been attributed to psychotherapist and student of Freud, Carl Jung–‘what we don’t mythologize, we pathologize’ has grabbed my attention. Apparently human beings are prone to mythology in an attempt to make sense of the metaphysical dilemma–what is the nature of reality?

Traditional religions have provided the grand myth for most of humanity— what to believe and how to interpret our own behavior in terms of the behavior of mythological [or historical] characters from religious texts.

When the Bible was universally acknowledged as unquestionably and literally true [contemporary Biblical literalists aside, for now] it was possible for ordinary individuals to see their own weakness, flaws, ‘sins’ in the characters of the Bible.  The highly revered King David, for example, was an adulterer and contributed directly in the death of several others.  Yet he is regarded as one of the most holy of characters.

The average citizen could understand the imperfection of man–how natural it is to make mistakes, to atone for them, and move on without self-degradation and depression.

It may very well be that our epidemic of depression reflects the lack of mythology by which we can forgive our inadequacies.  If there is anyway to transcend the dark emotions of fear, sadness, grief it is by realizing our inherent imperfection and exhibiting the courage to move on.

Yet perhaps now is the time to create our own myths–the ones that work for us.  This is not dissimilar to what cognitive therapy offers.  Re-frame our interpretation of the events in our lives.  Because there is little doubt that our own mind’s understanding of ourselves is the primary consideration regarding our own level of happiness or sadness.

If we live by the myth that we are sinners, losers, incapable of success, unlovable and incapable of love–that is assuredly how our lives will be.

I have found great solace in the myths of Buddhism and Kabbalah.  They offer me a metaphysical platform upon which I can build a sense of peace and contentment–the essence of happiness. 

Kabbalistic Healing–The SHEMA Meditation

    Even the least observant Jew is familiar with the fundamental prayer in Judaism known as the ‘Shema’. In English the prayer is usually translated as Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One.  It is interpreted as the primary description of monotheism, of the belief in One God.

A more mystical Kabbalistic interpretation transforms this prayer into a metaphysical statement which profound ability to heal.  The word Shema, Hear can represent the level of awareness that is necessary for deep understanding. One must be open to hearing in order to truly understand. The word Israel stands for One Who Struggles with God.  This name, therefore, can apply to anyone who undertakes a serious metaphysical journey into the nature of reality.The Lord, Your God, refers to the divine spark of divinity which resides within us all, our soul.  The Lord is One explains how all spirit is interconnected despite the fact that it manifests uniquely in us all.

This powerful prayer is a call to awaken to the divinity within each one of us.  When we come to this understanding, we cannot fail but to appreciate our true value as spiritual beings.  Sadness can be understood as part of the nature flow of emotions and life.  Depression can be countered cognitively by remembering who we are.  To constantly remind ourselves that we are spiritual beings undergoing a human experience is not an exercise in ego support.  Rather it is a humbling recognition of how challenging this existence can seem. It is a reminder to us that we are here to grow and evolve and to heal our wounds. It should help us maintain the courage to be, to humbly see the god in us and in all others. It is a call to tikkun–to heal ourselves and the other divine souls around us.

Meta-Cognitive Healing–Learning Happiness

As the Buddha is known to have said,’I teach suffering and the end of suffering’.  If so, then there is hope for all of us who have incarnated in this physical realm.  To end suffering is to become one with peace and happiness. Why not seek it? 

A relatively new branch of psychology, Positive Psychology seeks to do just that. It has its roots in the Cognitive Psychology movement, promoted by Ellis and Beck in the 1960’s and 70’s.  It was seen as a radical departure from Freudian analysis as well as the strict determinism of behaviorism.

Cognitive Therapy offered the possibility of healing depression and anxiety without resorting to drugs or electroshock therapy. It’s premise was based on the notion that our thoughts or cognition could influence our emotions. Again, this was disputed by many.  But more than a quarter century of practice and research has demonstrated its efficacy.

There have always been individuals who innately knew how to ‘talk’ themselves through trying times. Positive self-talk is the basis of changing one’s outlook on one’s life.  And it is our mind’s interpretation of the events of our lives which may very well determine our suffering or happiness.

Researchers in Positive Psychology such as Seligman, Peterson, Haight, Csikszentmihalyi  and others have ‘proven’ through extensive interviewing and compilation of data what spiritual teaching have always promoted, the benefit of positive thinking and attitudes. More significantly, they offer ways to actually alter our levels of happiness through cognitive awareness, change our interpretation of our experiences and create a positive self-image which  leads not only  to happiness and contentment but physical health and longevity.

I believe it is possible to more fully integrate the spiritual teachings of the past with the scientific studies of Positive Psychology in order to evolve a Meta-cognitive healing method.

Kabbalisitc notions of reality offer us an image of mankind as a healer of the imperfections within himself and of the universe around us. Tikkun offers us the opportunity to co-create and continue to create a more spiritual universe.  Mankind is challenged to find the holy sparks which reside within all of creation. We are not useless, insignificant sinners awaiting the maw of hell. We are capable of realizing our inner divinity through our actions.

This is an empowering and ultimately healing notion which can bring us satisfaction and happiness.

Buddhism offers us a path to end suffering as well. Recognize the illusions to which mankind is attached: materialism, power, ego gratification, success and competition. Releasing these attachments brings inner peace and happiness. Extending compassion to all beings heals us as well as the world as well.  It teaches meditative practices which allow us to witness the dark emotions of fear, grief and despair.  This is a process which allows us to face their reality and to grow from such experiences. This awareness is key to finding joy.

Other spiritual approaches such as that of Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin recognize that we are ‘spiritual beings having a human experience’.  This, too, imbues us with a deeper understanding of the difficulties of human existence.  It allows us to transcend the suffering which surrounds us by recognizing our true nature.  Having a metaphysical understanding of the nature of the universe is crucial in order to transcend sadness and suffering.

Positive psychology energizes us to recognize that adversity, suffering is universal but that our mind holds the key to transcending it. How we interpret our life experiences, whether we are pessimists or optimists, makes all the difference in terms of our suffering. If we regard failure as temporary, if we see circumstances as not totally our doing, if we can rationalize that we are capable, intelligent and worthwhile individuals despite failure, we can summon the energy to move on.  If can regard setbacks as opportunities for learning, we can find success as well as happiness.

Whether we are paralyzed or energized by fear is strictly the consequence of our mind’s interpretation of adversity. Fear is the most powerful emotion we can and do experience.  We can learn to manipulate to our advantage–once we realize that we can do so!

A powerful method is to actively argue with ourselves over our negative self-beliefs.  Imagine what a good friend would say to you if you failed at work, a relationship, an examination.  They would emphasize your strong points, your good character, your honorable approach to life, perhaps.  They would defend you against those who ‘hurt’ you and encourage you to learn from the experience and move on.  They would predict future success as well, regardless of the disappointment and hurt.

Well, we should remember this.  We should be our own best friends.  Self-love does not have to be obnoxious or delusional. 

The best way to analyze this Meta-Cognitive Healing is to try it and observe how our lives evolve.  If we are too reluctant to recognize our inner worth, unable to talk ourselves through our fears, we will not progress and become content and at peace.  Likewise, if we exaggerate our self-worth and fail to learn from our adversity, we will also fail to progress towards ultimate success and happiness.

At any rate, it is worth a try.