EMOTIONAL SELF- HEALING REVISITED

I find myself re-visiting previously blogged concepts for several reasons–1) they keep arising in my consciousness and therefore are being offered to me to recall them, 2) they are extremely difficult to actualize.  I touched on this topic over two years ago http://drstevenhodes.typepad.com/meta_physician/2008/08/emotional-self.htm

Our emotional lives are truly where we live.  We may prefer to regard ourselves as rational beings but in truth we aren't.  Feelings rule.  They offer us a smooth ride, a bumpy road or even the crest and trough of a roller coaster.  We often seek the path of serenity to bring stability to our consciousness. 

We are also an instant gratification society.  We demand immediate everything–news, information, emails, love, sex and of course, healing.  Consequently we seek "chemical" substances which we can ingest in one way or other–liquid, pills or injections. Addiction to these exogenous agents will clearly follow.

Being aware of how our brains and minds work may allow us to seek a slower, more arduous but healthier approach to emotional self-healing.  We may be suprised to learn that our bodies evolved with the capacity to combat depression and anxiety.

If I convince you of that truth–will it help you to seek the slower, safer path of self-healing? 

The truth is NO external chemical substance could work on our emotions if our brains did not already possess receptors on the surface of our brain cells to activate them!!

Alcohol, xanax, zoloft, cocaine, heroin etc, etc would do nothing to us.  Truly.

So what does this really mean?  We do have the capacity to empower ourselves by tapping into our internal "drugs".  We can get high.  We can banish or reduce depression and anxiety by rejuvenating our own bodies store of these chemicals.

Ah, how do we do this?  Let's explore this on subsequent blogs.

THE GIFT OF DIFFICULT PEOPLE

Know any "difficult" people?

They may be relatives, business contacts, the disembodied voice on the phone who can't help you at all–they are everywhere!

They push you to the point of losing your composure, perhaps choosing expletives rather than your normal discourse, raise your pulse, blood pressure.  They threaten your serenity, and after so much personal work no less.

How can they possibly be a gift to you?

They challenge your beliefs about yourself and your personal metaphysical journey.  If you think you've evolved, grown, learned something about life and meaning….they are there to there to remind you that you are not there yet.

That's actually something good. Its a gift of self-awareness and we have no choice but to recognize that our journey is far from complete.

SQUIRRELS & RATS — CRICKETS & WATERBUGS: Cute or Gross?

I will not pretend to be an expert on rodents or insects but clearly we all have strong feelings about which rodent and which bug we prefer.

Are squirrels cute? Are rats disgusting? Is it the size and shape of their tails or the cultural context which influences our perceptions?

Perhaps it is a bit of both. But we are all so culturally conditioned that we literally "see" these creatures as appealing or gross.

This applies to all of our perceptions.  Cultural indoctrination is powerful.  It allows human beings to annihilate other human beings with a clear conscience.  It leads people to blow themselves up in the name of religion and to take out the lives of completely innocent human beings whom they have decreed non-human.

Will I be tempted to pet a rat if I see one scurrying across the sidewalks of New York City?  Hardly.  Guess cultural de-conditioning isn't all that easy.

JEAN’S GHOST — “Evidence” for Survival of Consciousness

Some readers of my blog will recall my periodic return to the question of survival of consciousness after death.  It is part and parcel of my own metaphysical journey–to understand the nature of reality.

I have come to consider the personal experiences of reliable individuals (who gain nothing by fabricating them) as evidence for the continued existence of personal consciousness after death.

I fully recognize that readers will question the veracity of these experiences.  I refer to this as the Credibility Quotient and understand why those readers who doubt survival will doubt the experiences.  There are several reasons for this skepticism– 1) they have had no personal experiences to confirm the reality, 2) they have no familiarity with the individual story teller.

I realize that the hard-core skeptic will never believe any of this.  I can only state that I do.  The experiencer has no reason to make it up.  It also conforms with a multitude of other individual's experiences.

Here is the essential experience  I was lying in my bed reading when my cat bolted awake from sleep and stared down the hallway.  I saw an elderly woman, not solid in appearance, somewhat transparent.  She was walking away from me, then down the stairs to a landing.  She turned back to look at me, smiled and waved her hand.  She then disappeared.  I had never seen her before.  After my initial shock I calmed down.  She seemed totally harmless.  I absolutely did not recognize her.

Ah, so what does this mean?  Probably no one story will convince the skeptic of survival of consciousness.  But I will gradually share more of these experiences that I have accumulated over the years.  Some have already been posted, others were published in my book META-PHYSICIAN ON CALL FOR BETTER HEALTH.

I hope they will engender further discussion regarding the meaning of existence and the nature of reality.

9/11, THE MOSQUE, THE “AMERICAN WAY”

Could anyone watch the 9/11 ceremonies yesterday without tearing up?  The pain was so palpable, the suffering so great for the loved-ones of those who died. And for all of us–it was a time to remember, to cry and to be outraged once again.

 Can anyone reasonably argue that a mosque should be built on the premises?

I believe this issue goes to the essence of this country,what we mean by the "American Way".

It has been said that the whole world is watching how America reacts to the mosque.  It is implied that the "American Way" is being tested somehow and that we must all comply with the desire of some to build it there, regardless of our feelings and the suffering it will engender.

It is said that we are a nation of laws, a nation that believes in freedom of religion.  It is said that the jihadists will use this to recruit others.

I say–bullshit!

The jihadists will clearly view the mosque as a victory for their cause.  Their recruitment occurred prior to 9/11–didn't it?

We ARE a nation of laws.  But beyond that–we are a nation of caring about individuals and their suffering. 

From this perspective we are different than many other nations of the world–and clearly different from the Islamic nations who bore those who perpetrated the murders on 9/11.

We are a nation of laws–but first we are a nation of caring, compassionate people.  We do not allow our own laws to subvert the purpose of our legal system–to protect the innocent.

So the issue of the mosque is not about what is legal.  It is about what is right. 

 That is the "American Way".

 

THE PARADOX OF WORRYING — It Doesn’t Help Anyway

To worry is to be human.  Isn't it?  Some of us, however, are more 'human' than others. 

To prepare for the future is clearly necessary. To avoid  unnecessary chaos and confusion is totally reasonable and rational. 

Worrying that immediately leads to change and pro activity is useful.

I'm talking about the other kind–the hand-wringing, pacing around, losing sleep and NOT acting on the worry, or not being able to act on it.

The Serenity Prayer speaks to this issue. Grant the serenity to accept what we cannot change.  That means NOT WORRYING about what we cannot change.

This type of  worrying is beyond the rational.  It tastes of obsession and paralysis.  It leads to suffering.

I realize how difficult this is.  For many it requires breaking a habitual response to stress. For others it may represent some irrational thinking–"I need to worry, otherwise something bad will happen."

A simple observation should demonstrate what I mean.

Think about all the times you worried–about everything.  You worried about a job, a relationship, whether you would hit traffic, the weather, if a loved one was safe, your health.

For the most part–I'm referring to statistically speaking.  The vast majority of time you worried, everything was OK. Yet in those moments of worrying, you suffered terribly.  You imagined the worst–and you experienced it!

Of course there were times when things did  not work out for the best.  But did worrying help in any way?

The worrying just added extra suffering.  The results, if negative, produced enough on their own.

The truth is that most of the suffering that we experience seems to arise unexpectedly–an accident, a phone call that someone died, bad news about a friend or relative.  Unless you are psychic (which I'm not) I don't seem to be aware ahead of time for most of the negative events that occur.

So the paradox is this–what you worry about usually doesn't happen.  What you don't think about, does.  So why worry?  Do what you can to address the nature of the worry.  Once that has occurred and it is out of your hands–let it go!

Worrying will not  change anything.  It causes suffering in the moment. It just adds extra suffering to a challenging existence.

As some wise person said, worrying is paying interest on a loan you haven't taken.

 

GRATITUDE — 2010

This is not my first posting on the topic of gratitude.  I recently reviewed one from November 2006 http://drstevenhodes.typepad.com/meta_physician/2006/10/healing_power_o.html  It was rather long and involved.  After reading it I recall the raw feelings it engendered, so close to the death of my mother and the near-death of my father.

But truths don't fade away.  I regard the conscious awareness of what is positive in our lives as an antidote to much of the suffering we experience. By conscious awareness I mean an active decision to remember what we should be grateful for.

Worry and negativity is the human default position. The 24 hour news cycle floods our minds with fear and anxiety.  Iinstant access to information from the internet is predominantly dark and foreboding. It is difficult not to exist in the grip of fear and despair.

I know someone whose life seems nearly flawless–great spouse, great job, no financial worries, adult children and grandchildren who seems fine.  Yet she cannot avoid the overwhelming fear that disaster is just around the corner for someone or something she loves.  At times this feeling impairs her ability to enjoy the blessings she has. 

 It was perhaps necessary for survival purposes that our ancestors ponder the potential disaster around the bend.  For most of our existence as a species, those who prepared for trouble had a better chance to survive.  Therefore the "worriers" passed on their genetic tendencies to us.

The problem for many of us is that the default position to "go negative" clouds our consciousness on an on-going basis and impairs our ability to enjoy life on any level.

Only by an act of willful remembering are we capable of attaining a state of consciousness in which we enumerate what makes us glad to be alive.  And it is not about comparing ourselves with anyone else. It should be our own private and deeply personal list.

Notice how we slip in and out of despair.  When our minds are attending to something beautiful and joyous, our sadness evaporates.  When we recall the pain, the suffering cascades over us once again.  Realize that all that  has occurred is within our minds.  Nothing changed about the "facts" of our lives.  Did experience that suffering help us or anyone else?  Most likely not.  In truth it may have harmed us.  Chronic, unremitting stress can lead to our own impaired immunity.  Our own ability to live our lives can suffer.

The Buddhists speak of our own suffering as a teaching for us.  We can learn to empathize with the suffering of our fellow beings.  We can learn compassion and share that connection with others who suffer.

Find the courage to enumerate the good in the face of these overwhelming feelings. Viktor Frankel in Man's Search For Meaning claimed his ability to survive the brutality and degradation of the Nazi death camps because of his stubborn insistence on finding one reason to go on living.  There were many in his position who gave up and perished.

Be prepared to feel different as you enumerate what is good in your life. Even one good friend is enough.  Even one beautiful, sunlit day should suffice.   Waking up each day to the possibility of new experiences and the potential to share the world with another human being is all one needs.

Think about the word "savor".  It refers to being present in the moment when we experience enjoyment.  We often rush through eating, regarding nature, greeting another human being.  Savor the moment.  Be grateful for it.

The state of serenity we all seek, called happiness by some, requires that we attend to that in our lives to which we are grateful. Do this every morning. 

The world is created anew in every moment. Gratitude can help us create a better one for ourselves and for those around us.

The Jewish New Year & Post-Religious Spirituality

It was a difficult decision.  It was an easy decision.  My wife and I recently resigned from the synagogue to which we have been members for over 25 years.   It has occurred at the time of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Nominally it had to do with the present rabbi.  He is an unimpressive spiritual leader.  He may or may not be personally honorable.  I don't know him well enough to say.   But his sermons are  woefully void of spiritual wisdom.  Their delivery is even less impressive.

Perhaps it is a consequence of my own metaphysical journey.  My deep identification with Judaism remains.  It is ethnically and historically the root I relate to. 

But sadly I find less and less within the practice of this religion that is meaningful to me.  And, furthermore, there are no other religions in this world that offer me anything better.

As I struggle to evolve spiritually (and it is a struggle) I find that the prayers and rituals do not satisfy me.  I am seeking ultimate truth, seeking to understand the nature of reality.  I resonate with Buddha's admonition not to believe what I have heard but to find my own path. Although there is much to the Buddhist philosophy which I find appealing, I do not seek to become one.

In doing so I give up much.  There are unintended consequences to all our choices.  But I do intend to honor those traditions which are meaningful to me.  Passover will always be so.  It is a holiday which honors religious freedom and decries retribution and suffering.  It is a time for family and loved ones to be together.

I still hold out hope that I may find a synagogue which provides me with what I need. Perhaps those whose rabbi and service is infused with Kabbalistic overtones.  Perhaps those who seek to heal more through understanding and promoting tikkun, the healing of oneself and the universe.

I suspect that they exist.  I just haven't found one yet.  My journey is far from over.  L'Shanah Tovah–A good year to all.

HEALING & DEATH — Strange Bedfellows

Healing and death.  Could there be more contradictory concepts?  After all death is the ultimate failure of healing.  Isn't it?

Healing implies a process by which suffering is relieved. A broken bone heals, yet it is not the same as before. There may be healing of a cut, yet a scar remains. So nothing returns to its previous state of being.  How could it?  Everything changes, nothing remains the same, even in healing.

And healing is not the same as curing.  As Ram Dass states, "healing is not the same as curing, after all; healing does not mean going back to the way things were before, but allowing what is now to move closer to God."

In a sense, healing means moving towards a state of peace, of serenity. It represents a cessation of suffering.  So in the Buddhist sense, healing recognizes an awakening to the nature of mind and its power to lead us into or out of suffering.

Consider how we suffer when we fear an unfavorable outcome to any of life's experiences. We may be afraid that we have failed an exam, messed-up a job interview, offended someone we care about.  We fear the loss of someone we love and who loves us.  We suffer in that state of mind–at the present moment.

Only in time do we come to realize that our suffering may have been totally unecessary.  We didn't fail the exam, we weren't fired, our loved-one understood why we said what we did.  At once the self-imposed prison of our minds releases us–healing occurs.

And if we did fail in any of those examples–then the suffering could be justified at that particular time. Any prior distress was wasted energy.  Furthermore, suffering when appropriate should be viewed as a source of motivation to correct the mistake.  It should not become a chronic state of mind.

Even in death, there is healing.  How so?  Because if it follows the deterioration, malfunctioning, discomfort or pain of a failing body, then, indeed, death ends physical suffering.  In this release, death becomes an ironic  source of healing .

But doesn't death leave suffering in its wake?  What about the loved ones left behind ?

Perhaps the recognition of metaphysical truth will help–to paraphrase, we are not human beings having a spiritual experience , but spiritual beings having a human experience.  

Such awareness may help us realize that  our own suffering is self-centered.  We mourn what we no longer have from that physical connection with the deceased. The power of this emotional loss may cloud our primary goal–to have our loved one at peace.  

Also we should be aware that despite emotional suffering, suicide does not produce healing.  On a spiritual level,after death the soul remains aware of its distorted thinking and has acquired the additional burden of observing the devastating effects of its actions on those who remain behind.

So the metaphysician within each of us should be mindful that healing and death are not always contradictory concepts.