HOLIDAYS & FAMILY HEALING

Two recent films to appear in the 'art film' cinemas deal with grossly dysfunctional families and celebrations.  In 'Rachel's Getting Married' it is quite obviously a marriage, in 'A Christmas Tale' the obvious as well.  Although most families are hardly as dramatically over-the-top as those described in these recent films, many families come close.

My mission for this blog posting is to emphasize the need for family members to attempt to transcend their differences.  My motive is more than the obvious about keeping peace in times of family festivities.  I am speaking of a different, deeper, more profoundly  metaphysical reason.

For those readers of this blog who follow my personal perspective my conclusions may be already quite apparent.  I do believe we are 'spiritual beings having a human experience' and that reincarnation is inextricably involved.  We are who we are, with the relatives we have for a definite reason.   Our souls contract to be in families with other souls from past lives.  The reasons are actually apparent in many families…..to work out difficulties from previous incarnations.

It takes two individuals to have a 'fight'. If one chooses to let go of the anger and pain than it just cannot happen.  The one who backs away, who understands what is involved in a deeply spiritual level can maintain their own serenity.  The one overwhelmed with the emotional baggage 'loses' the contest.

Life is supposed to be composed of adversities as well as joy.  Relationships are sometimes supposed to be 'challenging' and difficult.  Why else bother making the journey into physical existence?
The point, therefore, is this–recognize this truth, seek to make peace with your relatives in this lifetime or you will eventually have to do so in a future one.

A friend of mine I'll call Bob had always complained about this parents.  He felt that they never supported him, always put him down and were generally not nurturing to him.  He harbored animosity for years towards them.  After he became a parent he swore to do a better job with his own family.
He apparently did.   Bob  pursued a deeply spiritual path and came to recognize his link with his parents were 'for a reason'.  He forgave his father for his parenting because he came to believe that his father had his own 'issues' and perhaps did the best he could.  This forgiveness did not imply that he accepted the way his father acted, only that he let go of his own anger which was bringing him down.

His father was made to understand that Bob  had learned how 'not' to parent from him—-and that was OK.  Bob  made his peace with his father because he knew it was the right thing to do.  He is more serene within than he can ever remember. 

We are linked with our family for a reason. We  can never truly forget who we are and who we are here with.  The sooner we acknowledge and heal those difficulties the better for all of us.

Happy Holidays !!

SPEAKING & HEALING–my own

I am reporting on my talk to the congregation of Temple Shalom in Aberdeen, NJ last Friday night November 21.  The topic was Overcoming Adversity and was a part of the congregation's weekend dedicated to healing and community. I want to thank  Dr Steven Kairys who had been my contact person for this talk and chairs their Caring Committee. He kindly introduced me to the congregation and I spoke without notes for about 20 to 25 minutes.

This format is both frightening and exhilarating.  I have come to trust the process, that I will be able to speak to the audience from an authentic and heart-felt perspective.  I would like those in attendance to feel that I am speaking to them personally, as if one on one. I actually enjoy the organic and improvisational nature of this format.  I can never quite sure what will happen, but I feel that I will be 'directed' to say what should be spoken.

I met a number of extremely warm and appreciative members of the congregation and was pleased with their reaction.  One man in particular approached me wearing a cut black ribbon.  It is the Jewish symbol of someone still in mourning.  He introduced himself as a former patient of mine [I had not seen him in years which might  have accounted for me not recognizing him].  Despite his recent loss of his wife, he was smiling.  He turned to his adult son and daughter-in-law briefly then back to me.  "You were speaking about her, about my wife" he said.  He turned again  and the two nodded with damp eyes.  " When you spoke, we all thought about my wife.  Thank you so much."

I was speechless but thanked him for attending.  " I'm glad that you found my talk helpful" I think I said.  Then I said something to the effect that we are all there to help heal each other, even if we don't realize that we are doing so."

This was a special moment for me.  I have always suspected that some of my words are coming as much 'through' me as 'from' me.  I believe this gentlemen gave me the gift of awareness.  He demonstrated one of the Kabbalah's most powerful metaphors.  Tikkun or healing is ALWAYS a mutual experience.

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in such a metaphysical process.

HEALING RELATIONSHIPS–why so difficult ?

 A recent conversation with a woman friend over her anger with one of her brothers prompted this posting.  I listened carefully as she described how she refused to speak to him, did not respond to his calls and essentially made herself miserable without even disclosing the reason to him.

According to her, he was not 'there for her' when she needed him to be.  It did have something to do with a mutual family member.  It also probably a great deal to do with her career and personality–a hard-driving, energized nurse.  As an aside–many nurses are inherently caregivers and other family members recognize it and often pass off personal responsibility in family affairs to them.

The problem with this situation was that my nurse friend deeply resented her brother's lack of participation.  She was deeply offended, hurt, upset–to the extent that she felt she needed to 'punish' him by not speaking to him.

Of course what transpired was that she wound up torturing herself even more.  She expended a great deal of negative energy in remaining angry with someone she deeply loved.  Most assuredly her brother 'knew' that she was angry with him.  But an entire year went by before she told him that she 'forgave' him.  But even then, there was a reluctance in her tone.

Human nature is the most fascinating enigma on the planet.  Can we ever hope to understand why we behave as we do?  Was there something innate in my friend's inability to forgive and move on?  Did it reflect a childhood hurt that became re-visited?  Did she 'need' to punish him because his lack of response to her reminded her of some other emotional abandonment?

Ultimately it is easier for ann 'outsider' to offer comments about what someone else should do with their relations.  I asked her if she thought her brother's intention was to hurt her?  If not, I suggested, perhaps he was reacting from fear and knew that she would pick up the family's burden.  Perhaps her own personna gave family members 'permission' to not do the difficult work of dealing with emotionally painful situations.

I inquired whether she could re-frame the entire situation–give her brother a pass because of his emotional 'weakness' and mistake.  Offer the possibility that he could 'learn' something from the experience–that it was not OK for him to relinquish his responsibility.  Perhaps he could be shown that he needs to 'be there' in the future when a loved one calls.

I believe that we should try to reconcile with family members as soon as possible.  We don't have to agree with them on all issues.  We don't have to particularly 'like' them as individuals either.

I do believe that we are spiritually connected to them–they are in our lives for a reason that will often manifest as a powerful challenge to our own spiritual state of being.  I do believe that we come into this life with others who may be difficult to tolerate–but that is one of our life's challenges which we should strive to overcome.  From a spiritually 'practical' perspective, the sooner we make peace the better.  Otherwise the same issues will re-appear on future lifetimes together.

Of course this is not easy.  Each case is different.  We may not choose to 'forgive' a particular action, but we should try to let go of our own hurt long enough to offer our relations a continual opportunity to grow. Understand that our loved-one may be less spiritually evolved than we are and that we need to demonstrate that by taking the 'high road' and moving on.

Mistakes are common, we should let each other know if they have hurt us.  But be calm and non-threatening when we do so.  Remove the emotional content of our statements and let it be known that we do care about healing the relationship.

We can only do so much–but it it important to be the one to step forward.  Release the past and be open to genuine change.  It may be less difficult and more rewarding than we imagine.  This life is too short to waste mired in anger and negativity.

THE GIFT OF ADVERSITY

In preparation for my talk on OVERCOMING ADVERSITY I came to realize that there are some
real positive consequences of dealing with life's difficulties.

We need to begin with an assumption, the premise that adversity is not a consequence of punishment nor should we regard ourselves as victims.  Either attitude merely worsens the experience of facing what is a universal human experience.  If we can see ourselves as 'spiritual beings having a human experience' [part of the quote from the late French Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin] we can regard such encounters with adversity as testing grounds for the soul.

Overcoming adversity becomes a prime reason for our existence–learning to face and transform the suffering into a positive state of awareness.  This is synonymous with healing.

Facing adversity can lead us to shed some of our layers of ego protection we have erected during our lifetime.   We can  release the false bravado, the competitive drive to be number one and recognize that HUMILITY  in the face of life's challenges is a more enlightened  spiritual perspective.

We can recognize that adversity challenges us to find an inner COURAGE and STRENGTH we did not know we possessed.  By overcoming these challenges, we can acquire a confidence, even a form of immunity to future adversity.. We become aware that we can SURVIVE far more stress than we could have imagined.

Adversity should make us more COMPASSIONATE towards the needs of others who are also suffering.  We see tremendous outpourings of loving compassion, charity and caring for others during times of large scale tragedies.  Natural disasters, 9-11 and times of war reveal what is often a hidden human capacity for compassion.  We rise to a higher spiritual plane during those times.

During difficult and challenging personal experiences, we recognize what is truly significant in our lives.  Many of our material dreams, goals and aspirations pale in comparison to being there for a distressed loved-one, or facing our own adversity.  We re-evaluate what really counts in life–love, laughter and day to day appreciation of the gift of life.  GRATITUDE for what we do have, rather than greed towards what we are still 'missing' can be an gift to us as well.

Metaphysical awareness is a tool by which we reach a higher understanding of the nature of reality.  It is also a method of preparing ourselves for the inevitable challenges adversity brings.

FINANCIAL CRISIS — adversity and transformation

No one asks for adversity.  No reasonable individual looks forward to suffering.  Yet as sure as we are human beings, it will find us.  Specifically the issue at hand is the financial crisis.  Analysts have been going back and forth over the causes and consequences.  Clearly 'brilliant' minds were asleep at the switch.  The cause may ultimately be good old 'greed' but the facts remain.  We're all in trouble—personally and globally.

One consequence of all of this is–we must face the reality and deal with it the best we can.  I means spending less, working harder, accepting more stress.  It means finding more time for people we care about and less time buying, spending, purchasing and chasing materialism.

This is not necessarily good for an economy which many declare needs more consumer spending to get it jump started.  Its a 'catch 22'.  Who has the money to do what is 'needed ?'

Facing up to the adversity may cause us to transform our attitudes and priorities.  In the 'good old days' when we had less, we did more with family and friends.

Perhaps we will bring back the 'house party'.  It's more about who you're with than how much you have.  Perhaps there will be some benefit to this suffering after all.

OVERCOMING ADVERSITY…….HEALING

In preparation for an upcoming talk on Overcoming Adversity I came to the realization that the concept is essentially identical with that of Healing. Adversity disrupts the state of peace of equanimity we equate with serenity, happiness and wholeness. Overcoming adversity requires that we confront this challenge and perservere.

Once I realized this truth, much of my preparation for the lecture fell into place. 

I also realized that no one truly overcomes adversity—by that I mean that we do not transcend experiences, don't float above them as on top of a wave, rather we experience them, we move through them, we are undeniably affected by them and hopefully are transformed by them.  Healing involves this sense of being wounded, inextricably altered by circumstances yet surviving in a manner that allows us to acquire a deeper compassion and appreciation for life itself.

Overcoming adversity provides a form of vaccination for future difficulties. We build up our capabilities to face them, our physical, mental and spiritual immunity is strengthened and we gain confidence in our ability to do so.  Fear is lessened, a powerfully damaging component of adversity.

An analogy to physical injury and healing seems appropriate.  A fractured bone can heal, but it reveals its break.  It may even become stronger in the process of repair.  Our soft tissues heal as well, but a scar will always reveal the fact and the nature of the injury.

Emotional and spiritual traumas we experienced may seem overwhelming, even insurmountable when we look back through the lens of time.  Yet somehow we were present in the moment, rose to the mission and did the best we could.  Perhaps we entered some strange state of consciousness that allowed us to function at a higher level.   This remembrance is important for us.  It serves to remind us that we all possess a deep reservoir of hidden strength.

Healing is often a collaborative process–others are brought into the equation.  We share our suffering with others, they with us.  We help each other overcome adversity and healing becomes a mutually shared experience.  In fact the most compassionate among us are often those who have suffered and overcome their personal trials and tribulations.

The ability to heal is an inherent property of who we are.  Adversities are an inevitable characteristic of living. We should face them with courage and the awareness that we possess the capacity to heal and to be healed. 

FAMILIES & HEALING–a difficult journey

Life imitates art, IS art and therefore can leave us both satisfied and unsatisfied at the same time.

Yesterday was fascinating to me because of two 'experiences' with family–one in real life, the other in the movies.

Yesterday, Uncle Geo celebrated his 100th birthday by 'dovening' the prayers before and after his Haftorah reading in his synagogue. Without getting too much into the details of the Jewish rite of passage known as the Bar Mitzvah [usually we do it one time at age 13] Uncle Geo had made a habit of re-doing his own Haftorah portion periodically and inviting his family members to attend.  After a few of these 'shows' of bravado, most of us stopped attending.  But yesterday was clearly different.  Let's face it–there are not too many 100 year old Bar Mitzvah 'boys' around.

As he looked around, he was gratified by the turnout.  'More people here than at the High Holiday' services.' he noted.  There were his three remaining siblings [out of an original eight]–two sisters remarkably intact in their 90s and my own Dad, frail by totally 'with it' at  age 89].

Of note were his three children, my cousins.  Each one had stories and remembrances about his parenting style.  They had the psychic scars to prove it.  He had been a tough SOB.  Demanding, yelling, critical.  Rarely did he reveal a soft loving side.  I doubt it there was much physical abuse but  emotional abuse had clearly been dished out.

Each child had dealt with it in their own way–yet they were each there to celebrate with him.  Some have noted that he has 'mellowed' in recent years, perhaps as a result of his own physical frailty and perhaps because of medication.

Each has raised their own children with a direct awareness of how different they would be as parents.  They have each been terrific parents–concerned, involved and loving.

In some manner, each owes their parenting style to their own suffering.  And despite this awareness and undiminished memories of their own tribulations, were able to 'be there' for their father.  Families are part of life's adversity that many struggle to overcome.

Last night by 'coincidence' my wife and I saw the film RACHEL'S GETTING MARRIED' directed by Jonathan Demme.  Anne Hathaway was phenomenal as were the entire crew of actors.  It is about familial dysfunction to the extreme.  Attempts at reconciliation, personal hurts, unforgiving and forgiving are the meat of the film.  Debra Winger play a fantastically cold, self-involved Mother who barely has time for her daughter's special day.

In effect, there are traumas that can be forgiven or at least overcome, and those that cannot.  In an ideal world the story ends 'happily ever after' with warm hugs and kisses.  For some of us reconciliation on some level is possible.  We can learn how 'not to behave' or treat others by the way we were treated.As we grow we can recognize that our parents may have been damaged in some way by their own upbringing.  They were imperfect beings who happened to be our parents.

At times we can 'forgive' the other with a sense of compassion for their own inadequacies.  Perhaps they did 'the best they could'.  Of course we cannot force ourselves to love them.

But if we have an option–reconcilliation is best.  If for no other reason than it can begin to heal a gaping wound in our own souls.  I do believe that we are 'together' for a reason.  Perhaps the healing between two souls may take a multitude of lifetimes to acheive and the truth is it takes two to make the effort to heal.  But one can begin the process—alone. 

This may only involve releasing the anger and hatred toward that family member who should have shown love—feeling compassion for someone who, for whatever reason,  was incapable of doing so —someone who suffered more than you could know, perhaps more than they could know themselves.

METAPHYSICIAN’S CHALLENGE–The Anthropic Principle

December's  DISCOVER magazine article A Universe Built For Us reminded me of the completely compelling, fascinating enigma that continues to plague the best minds in physics and metaphysics–the Anthropic Principle. 

In essence it is the concept that the multiple physical laws and basic properties of matter and energy are exactly as they need to be to allow our universe to exist and for life to have evolved. in other words, the universe appears 'fine-tuned for life.'  These include:  the relationship between protons, neutrons and electrons–a 0.2% change in the mass of protons–and no atoms could exist.  If gravity were only slightly more powerful–stars would have burnt out long before life could have evolved.  If an electron had more mass–no life could evolve.  If the force that binds atomic nuclei were slightly stronger–no hydrogen would have formed and therefore no fuel for stars and no water. If the earth was closer or further from the sun–no life, if its orbit was less circular [like other planets] –you guessed right, no life  The list goes on……..

What frightens physicists, the most exacting of scientists, is the rather metaphysical assertion that all this suggests…..design in the universe!!

Here's the latest 'solution' to the Anthropic Principle–the multiple universe [multiverse] theory.  In this theory there are an infinite number of universes in which every possible combination of physical properties 'exist'.  Ours works for us because we have evolved here to observe it.  In other words, our presence 'proves' that our universe came into being–strictly by chance. 'If there are vast numbers of other universes, all with different properties, by pure odds, at least one of them ought to have the right combination of conditions to bring forth stars, planets, and living things.'

Does anyone find a problem with this theory?  It is particularly interesting since to date, there is no experimental evidence for its assertion.

Even hard-core skeptics have found a problem with it–it seems less reasonable to lay all this 'fine-tuning' on a probabilistic hypothesis then on some higher Intelligence who may have participated in some way in its origin.

It is fascinating to observe that some physicists would rather 'believe' in the Multiverse Theory than to 'believe' in God.  There is no evidence for either.  It seems to me, neither has been 'proven' and therefore the belief in God may be as valid from a scientific perspective as any other explanation for existence.

Of course, the implications of a Spiritual Intelligence in the universe are far more fascinating than merely the 'origins' of it all. We should remain open to any new breakthroughs in science which might lead credence to the Multiverse Theory–, but at the present time,  if evidence for the Multiverse Theory or God is equally compelling…..you can make your own choice!

WELCOME

CONGRATULATIONS  TO  OBAMA  AND  TO  THE  UNITED STATES  OF  AMERICA


This is not about politics but about the political process [however slow and painful at times].


Our system, as imperfect as it is, allows change and even transformation to occur without chaos and bloodshed.  It is to be honored and appreciated. 


In historical terms the election of an African-American man to the presidency is remarkable and the rest of the world can jusitifiably look to this Country with admiration for its ability to transcend its own past injustices.


 I pray this event will contribute greatly to what should be the goal of all humanity and the message of Martin Luther King-to judge and evaluate every being as an individual without regard to race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, etc.


While this may be an idealistic goal–without dreaming their can be no progress.


We all understand the difficulty of his mission. We may have had individual disagreements with Obama’s past and with his  proposals for the future.  Hopefully the power and prestige of the office will temper his judgments in the years ahead and I pray that Higher Wisdom and love guide us all.

‘MYTHOLOGY’ IS A VALUABLE TOOL FOR HEALING

I received a reply to my last blog in which I emphasized the importance of mythology in making sense of the nature of the universe and its ability for human beings to place their individual adversities in a larger, less personal context.  The power of mythology is to allow us to accept our failings and move through them without 'falling' into existential despair.  When Biblical heros, for example, sin, make errors in choice and action, fall and then rise again and are acknowledged as great spiritual beings, then hope is not lost for us as well.  Carl Jung understood this notion when he wrote about our tendencies to internalize our angst and create physical and emotional symptoms  [pathologize] when we lose our connection with mythology and spirituality.

A comment from one my readers questioned my use of the term 'mythology' and implied that it was somehow misguided.

I'm not quite clear about the objection but I assume that to the reader the term 'mythology' implied that the image or metaphor was 'false'.  To some extent I do mean to  imply that myths are not to be taken as historical truth.  I do believe that all religious texts are 'man-made'.  I do strongly disagree with any literal interpretation of any religious writing.

They are ALL man's interpretation of something–something Divine, mysterious and inherently beyond simple stories.  Don't human beings do the actual 'transcribing' ?  I do believe, however, that these stories/myths that we have created over the centuries reflect an underlying metaphysical spiritual truth.  They should be honored, read, debated and meditated upon for this very reason.

The persistence of these myths over the centuries reflects how deeply they touch this higher truth.  We risk losing the benefit they provide if we either–

 1] deny their spiritual source and reject them  thereby suffering  physically and emotionally.

2] take them too literally, as historical truths and, in doing so, lessen they power to heal us.

I do advocate continuing the dialogue with those who care to do so.  I understand that a fundamentalist approach to any religious text often precludes the ability to discuss their deeper, mythical and mystical meaning. I feel that this is unfortunate on many levels–not only does it curtail dialogue, it reduces the power of these myths to transform us.