CHOICE, FREE WILL & THE ‘NO BREAKFAST’ DIET

Does the title of this posting make any sense to anyone?   The background involves my own frustration with losing about 10 lbs of weight I had put on.  Now, it was not really a big deal either way, but the fact that I found myself compulsively eating small amounts of ‘junk food’ at my office was upsetting to me.

After all, where was my resolve NOT to do so? Why couldn’t I control this seemingly ridiculous habit of grabbing a handful of cashews or biting into a cookie, or opening a coffee cake package?

I became aware of the fact that I had begun to eat a bagel with cheese every morning.  This concept of eating ‘breakfast’ seemed necessary as the conventional ‘wisdom’  dictated that it was the most ‘important meal of the day’   I began to skip this routine, drinking coffee alone.  And lo and behold, I found my compulsion to grab anything in site….controlled.  I might look to take some nuts or cookies as before.  But this time I could easily ignore the habit and move on.

Now what was happening to me?  Perhaps it was the curse of the carbos.  Perhaps I was not riding a roller coaster of blood sugar which allowed me to resist what had been irresitible before. 

I was strangley pleased, yet also disturbed by the thought.  Where was my free will? Where was my ability to make rational choices?  Why had eating a bagel rendered me a mindless automaton?

Perhaps free will was less ‘free’ after all.

It makes you wonder….

THINKING & FEELING

‘We think by feeling, what is there to know?’  By these words poet Theodore Roethke in ‘The Waking’ touched on the essence of the mystery–which is the more powerful influence on our daily existence–thinking or feeling?

Perhaps it is both; and in truth they are so intimately connected that we may be unable to disentangle them.

It is clear that our emotional reactions are the most basic and quickest to assert themselves. This explains how often we feel or react to situations before we can control or ‘think through’ our responses.  They emerge from a more primal level of our consciousness.

And this may be for survival reasons since our ancestors needed to react as quickly as possible in order to escape from real or perceived predators.

Neurobiologists have identified an area of the brain, the corticofrontal area which seems to facilitate emotional reactions. It was believed that damage to this area would result in an individual making decisions based on reason and rational thinking.

It turns out that damage to this area of the brain renders the victim unable to make any decisions whatsoever.
It seems as if we require our emotional reactions in order to function in the world.

When it comes to likes, dislikes either personal, professional or global, we need our intuitive/emotional selves to participate.

It is clear to me that political preferences in candidates and parties are a great example of the contribution of emotions to decision making.

I believe that we respond to particular candidates on a visceral, emotional, feeling, intuitive basis first.  Later on we ‘create’ rational reasons to justify our feelings.

The point is merely this–we are complex creatures who clearly ‘think by feeling’.  It is not good or bad to do so.  We just need to be aware of it.  There may be opportunities to readjust our emotional responses if we are aware of this basic aspect of human nature.

RANDY PAUSCH

The Randy Pausch’s death has stirred within the hearts of millions an enormous communal sense of loss. His dying touched us much more than his life itself because he challenged our cultural practice of denying the reality of death by forcing us to face its reality.

The power of his message was as profound as it was simple–1] appreciate and beauty and value of every moment of life, 2] don’t be afraid to speak of death, it is the two ton elephant in the room, 3] love and connection with others is the only truly valuable asset any of us have.

His own professional and/or financial success meant little to him in those waning months of life. Death has a way of showing us the values that are real and enduring.

The power of contemporary communications merely allowed his message to be widely disseminated. The  response it drew was testimony to its impact and resonance.

The most appropriate way in which to honor Randy is in assimilating and manifesting his message.

Let us hope that our feelings and state of mind does not dissipate over time.  Perhaps there will be a foundation created in his memory which will  continue his powerful message.

Only in this way will the enormous and heroic effort he undertook as he was dying enliven and empower our living.

HEALING AND KNOWLEDGE

My understanding of the concept of healing includes the notion of acquiring wisdom and knowledge. This fits the Kabbalistic concept of tikkun in which we are incomplete and engaged in our life’s meaning–the healing of ourselves and the world around us.

If we were to be completely aware, wise, knowledgeable, compassionate, kind, loving and at peace, we would be advanced seekers on a metaphysical path towards HEALING.

Ignorance is a form of incompleteness, of unfulfilled potential. When we learn, we grow, become more complete, stretch ourselves and engage in the process of fulfilling who we are. When we labor under false assumptions, when we dwell in hatred, envy, jealousy and despair, we are in a fractured state. 

As long as there remains knowledge and wisdom that we have not acquired, we are incomplete, un-whole.
Since  to heal means to make whole , acquiring knowledge is a method of healing.

We experience the daily fluctuations of wisdom and folly, of becoming whole, of becoming fragmented and incomplete. Hopefully, the net result of a life well lived is to leave this world more aware, more knowledgeable than we entered it–in other words, further along the path of healing.

HAPPINESS VS happiness

Some confusion exists in distinguishing happiness in the usual understanding versus HAPPINESS as it applies to a condition of serenity, satisfaction and peace.

HAPPINESS is a goal rarely obtained under anyone’s self-assessment of their own lives, yet we can fantasize how it can be a desirable goal. It does not necessitate ‘vegging out’ or retreating from worldly challenges or stresses. It represents a state of mind which can weather life’s difficulties with an optimistic and vigorous response. It involves choosing which values are truly important rather than those which society and our culture seems to promote.

In distinction, happiness is an emotion, like sadness. It is cherished when we experience it but is impossible to achieve on any lasting basis. We can certainly pursue activities and attitudes which encourage joyous emotions and feelings, but we cannot reasonably be disappointed when we experience pain and suffering as well.  They are all part of the spectrum of life.

Perhaps another analogy will be useful: HAPPINESS is an enduring state of consciousness, resistant to the daily fluctuations of feelings such as happiness and sadness. These are the waves which ride a sea of serenity known as HAPPINESS.

AWARENESS LEADS TO HAPPINESS

A brief follow-up to the previous posting.
Awareness of the metaphysical truth, that pain & suffering are expected and anticipated aspects of living can actually release us from fear and denial.

If our metaphysical paradigm has brainwashed us to regard pain & suffering as a consequence of our inherent sinful nature, than when they inevitably occur, we will suffer even more.  It will be a confirmation of our lowly spiritual status and our victim status in the cosmos.

If we can adopt the metaphysical paradigm that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, than the natural challenges of pain will result in less suffering.  We know it will come, we accept it as reality, we recognize that we are not being punished for our sinful natures but have chosen to be incarnated in order to face them, transform them and grow spiritually–we can actually move forward with serenity and contentment.

This is the true meaning of happiness.

PAIN VS SUFFERING–revisited

Pain vs suffering is a topic that I find myself returning to quite often. Pain describes the natural consequences of existence: disappointment, loss, physical pain, death of loved ones, disease, sadness, frustration, anger, resentment etc.

Suffering is often used as a synonym for pain but is actually different. Suffering reflects how our mind perceives, interprets and manages our pain. Suffering is often a function of our attitudes about pain. The degree to which we suffer varies tremendously from person to person.

Fear, worry and projecting into an unknown future all worsen our suffering in the present moment. Failure to accept pain as a normal part of living only worsens the suffering that follows.

But we can choose to view pain as more than a despised and feared enemy, a curse visited upon humanity because we are inherently ‘sinners’. Physical pain alerts us to something significant going on–something we should not ignore.

Individuals with diseases which impair pain perception eventually damage their limbs, fingers and toes which can lead to deformity, gangrene and amputation.

Emotional pain alerts us as well to a situation that needs attention. Perhaps it reflects are dissatisfaction with personal or professional relationships. Perhaps it signifies our own frustration with our present path in life.

What we do with these signs and signals is our choice. Unfortunately some choose to deny, suppress or ignore them. This rarely works and merely leads to further suffering.

Both are inherent and unavoidable consequences of being alive. They can be seen as challenges and opportunities for growth.

Of course this is not to suggest that we live with our pain and not seek remedy for it.  We can certainly treat and reduce the pain itself–just don’t ignore the underlying cause.

Pain is a clue to a challenge which should be faced and dealt with. Suffering is a function of how we handle our pain.

Suffering can lead us to anger, withdrawal or depression.  Or it can lead us to understanding the value of compassion for other living beings.

Pain & suffering can be understood as gifts of higher awareness. But this requires an active choice on our part to do so.

SAVED IN IRAQ — AN EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCE OF AWARENESS

Another personal experience of high credibility came to my attention quite recently. As evidenced by a recent plethora of these tales on this blog, they often do arrive in groups.

The following was from one of my patients Mary who described the experience of her future son-in-law Mike in Iraq.  He was about to jump out of his bunk in order to join a group of soldiers bound for a mission.  He described himself being ‘held down’ by an unknown but powerful ‘man’ whom he had never seen before.

Mike described the individual as wearing particular clothing, a tee shirt with a police insignia, black shorts and black sneakers.  The man said nothing but forcibly kept him from rising from his bunk.  He was finally released as the stranger mysteriously disappeared. It was too late to join his companions.

He later learned that several were killed and wounded.

Eventually returning to the States and arriving at Mary’s home Mike described the bizarre events.
My patient immediately understood and showed him a family album.

Shocked, he immediately pointed to a picture of a man he had never seen before–‘Oh my God, that’s him!!!  That’s the man that held me down so that I couldn’t fight with my buddies.’

Mary smiled, ‘That’s a picture of My father, Joe. When you describe him and what he was wearing I knew it was him.  He was a former cop and always worked out in exactly that outfit your described. And just like him, he was just trying to protect you!!!  I guess he did.!!!’

METAPHYSICAL PERSPECTIVE–ROW,ROW YOUR BOAT

The metaphysical perspective can bring novel points of awareness to even the most ordinary or well-known aspects of life and culture. I am curious to read any comments/thoughts.

The children’s simple rhyme ROW,ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT takes on an interesting twist when it is viewed from a deeper perspective.

ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM…….. Life requires the will and desire to participate in the journey. Rowing implies an active role in the process. But the phrase also indicates that there is a certain flow that appears in one’s life which accepts the action.  Struggle needs to be limited and directed in the right direction and the right time. The correct path should seem like it ‘works’. This may require acceptance of what one cannot change. This allows for the gentle passage into the future.

MERRILY, MERRILY, MERRILY, MERRILY….LIFE IS BUT A DREAM…….One can adopt a positive attitude during life’s journey. The passage to happiness/serenity is the mind’s work. It is not something objective or distinct from how we view our lives with all its imperfections.
The reality of our own life, the importance we place in our ability to control our own destiny and that of others needs to be relaxed. The importance we place in our own achievement, success, accomplishments is at times misdirected. This one life is a ‘survival weekend’ in the scheme of multiple lifetimes and of eternity. It is a dream whose implications are important but ultimately ephemeral.