Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Frightened Children and Wise Elders

      All of us have a fearful, hurt inner child part, as well as a wise grandparent or wise elder nature. Our inner child is easily triggered into 'fight, flight or freeze' survivalist reactions. The more our inner child is held in safety & unconditional love & heals - sometimes with the help of mental-health professionals - the more our wise elder self can continuously express itself & be an aware, nurturing, 'tend & befriend' presence. This gradual progressive shift from compulsive self-centeredness (noisy ego) towards appropriate care for self, others & the environment (quiet ego, allocentricity & ecocentricity), is a hallmark of psycho-social healing, normal human maturation, healthy aging, individuation, evolution of consciousness, arising of wisdom, etc. Self-reflection, meditation, contemplation are essential components of this deep human journey.
     Some of us require help from mental-health professionals simply to survive. Many can endure a life of 'ordinary unhappiness,' but with professional help, could actually thrive, flourish! Two powerful therapies well worth careful consideration are Internal Family Systems (IFS) and depth psychology (Jungian analysis). Those who have taken an 8-week Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course will have considerable insight into both of these therapies.

     Internal Family Systems (IFS) is an evidence-based psychotherapy which helps us 'lean in' & get to know all of our sub-personalities ('parts'), see how these are all actually trying to help us (even parts we initially fear or dislike), and gradually guide all these parts to become peacefully allies. Then the 'Self' (with a capital S, to distinguish it from the common use of the word 'self'), can arise with 8 C qualities (Compassion, Curiosity, Calm, Clarity, Courage, Connectedness, Confidence, Creativity).
     "That ('Self') is what people meditate to get to, that in other traditions would be called Buddha nature, or Atman, or there are analogies in most every spiritual tradition, and I stumbled onto a way to access that 'person' pretty quickly, and not only have it become a kind of observing presence, but to become an active leader.
      IFS does change the way people understand themselves and each other in a very profound way. If everybody knew that there was this undamageable, intact, 8-C Self inside of themselves and everybody else; and that they were connected in the way we were talking about before; and that these protectors aren’t what they seem and they don’t have to fight inside with them (instead, love helps them transform) ... the more you can love your parts that drive you crazy ordinarily, the more you can love people who resemble those parts the same way; then it does change many, many aspects of human interacting, and will have a big impact on the culture." Dick Schwartz PhD, interview: https://resources.soundstrue.com/podcast/no-bad-parts/?utm_source=Customer%20Service&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=N210627-Schwartz%20%28TQHxAh%29&_kx=oubFt43NAjNBb0_NppHaGCF951bovtuCAx1o4i41Tys%3D.JMDgaq
     Richard C. Schwartz. "No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model." Sounds True, 2021.

     Like MBSR & IFS, depth psychology (Jungian analysis) is non-pathologizing ie sees how our mind is actually trying to help us, no matter how confused, inappropriate or even frankly harmful it may appear. Also like MBSR & IFS, Jungian analysis seeks to go much deeper than mere temporary symptom relief, but go to the very root of our suffering, and finally untangle our earliest knots. Again, like MBSR & IFS, Jungian analysis aims to take us well beyond the abandoned fearful child ('noisy ego'), and help stabilize connection with our deepest, wisest nature, which is profoundly connected to all of life.

     “The capacity of the psyche to heal itself, to express both the problem and the agenda for growth in symbolic forms, has been and remains a miraculous engagement to me. We do not invent or create these things; they are working within us to serve and support the work of nature.
     … the psyche always speaks to us. It speaks through the venues of body, of mind, of dreams, of intuitions, and it speaks symbolically. If we knew, as Jung once argued, that there is a two-million-year-old person inside of each of us – a presence bearing the wisdom of nature, the directives of the soul – would it not behoove us to pay attention to that personage, indeed, to cultivate a relationship to it?

ames Hollis. “Living Between Worlds. Finding Personal Resilience in Changing Times.” Sounds True, 2020. An exceptionally fine book (imho) - essential reading for those deeply interested in their patients' & their own OPTIMAL health.

      "The small man builds cages for everyone he knows. While the sage keeps dropping keys all night long for the beautiful, rowdy prisoners." Hafiz 


Saturday, June 26, 2021

Authenticity and Agency in the Largest Context

     “I sat on the bank, holding the stone, and tried to list to myself the motions that were at that moment acting upon it: the Earth’s 700-miles-per-hour spin around its axis, its 67,000-miles-per-hour orbit about the sun, its slow precessional straightening tilt within inertial space, and, containing all of that, the galaxy’s own inestimable movement outward in the deep night of space.”
     Thomas Lowe Fleischner “The Way of Natural History”

     "The first half of life is preoccupied with adaptation, fitting in, learning roles and expectations. These often necessary compromises with the world around us seem to offer protection, acceptance by others, and anxiety management. But over the years, they also become imprisoning structures, reflexive responses, conditioned compliances. Accordingly, in the second half of life, we are challenged to recover our personal authority. Regaining personal, rather than acquired, authority is difficult and becomes a continuing life’s work, so powerful and repetitive are the received instructions and scripts. Personal authority requires sifting through the immense traffic that courses through our minds every moment. Which voices are those from my culture? Which from my family of origin? Which from my soul? And then we must mobilize courage to act upon what is true. While that sounds simple in the abstract, in practice, it is difficult because it requires us to move into less familiar regions of choice and consequence. Even when the old ‘authorities’ are constrictive, they remain attractive because they are so often enhanced through repetition. Stepping into a larger frame, through dreamwork helps us move into a more authentic life, from the ineluctable consequences of fate to the possibilities of destiny. Tilting that balance is the responsibility of consciousness and the gift of depth psychology.

     Journaling, active imagination, and dreamwork are all forms of paying attention: listening to the psyche as it manifests and realizing that some intelligence is there that transcends ordinary ego intelligence. Something seeks to connect with us, something that represents, if you will, the wisdom of nature. This idea does not necessarily fit into the informed intelligence of our culture with which we must deal every day, but it is something that is larger than this time and place. It is willing, in some way, to risk its investment in us. How dare we, then, not undertake a journey to that which is seeking its expression through us? When we do this, it may be a humbling process, but I think it gives a profound sense of personal purpose, depth, and dignity to our journey that no amount of outer accomplishments or recognition by the world can ever equal; it gives that inner conviction that we are living our journey as honestly and as faithfully as we can. All of us, I believe, are invited to that journey and are always equipped by nature for it. And we can thank depth psychology, and specifically the work of Jung, for giving us some of these tools with which to address it. When we do, we will find that the wisdom of the ancients is once again present to each of us.

     The human psyche, differentiated as mind, body, spirit, and soul, is a self-regulating system. You are not governing your parasympathetic nervous system right now, but some agency within you clearly is. We all forget the wonder of this self-regulating system, take it for granted, and abuse it.
Something in us always knows what is right for us and is undertaking measures to bring that confluence of will and nature about, even as it may be oppressed by the burdens and incursions of the outer world or opposed by our behaviors or treatment plans. The psyche is also compensatory: in daily life, complex-driven choices move us to one side or the other, while other energies seek to bring us back in line, back to our centering systems.

     We are equipped for the journey. We possess the resilience of our ancestors who clung to this spinning orb, tumbling through measureless space, and we survive … rich for all that has accumulated on our journey."
      James Hollis. “Living Between Worlds. Finding Personal Resilience in Changing Times.” Sounds True, 2020.


Saturday, June 19, 2021

Larger, More Meaningful

Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody's got a h-h-hungry heart
Bruce Springsteen "Hungry Heart"
      We all hunger for something that no amount of food, drink, accomplishments, homes, cars, trips, etc can ever satisfy for long. How many who, upon reaching their career goals, with lots of money, possessions etc are completely devastated to discover that they feel even more desperately empty & hungry than ever.
      “… we live in a very odd historical moment: there has never been a time in the history of our species when so few of us have paid attention to the world that surrounds us. … Without attentive immersion in the larger-than-human world – the exact immersion for which we are biologically adapted – we dissolve into individual and collective malaise.” Thomas Lowe Fleischner 

“As we travel through life, we are all seekers
after something larger than ourselves…”
Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer PhD
      “The object in meditation and all of our contemplative disciplines is silence. But… that silence is in order for you to perceive something other than yourself — what you’ve arranged as yourself to actually perceive this frontier between what you call your self and what you call other than your self, whether that’s a person or a landscape.” David Whyte

     There are different experiences as a result of meditation practice. “There’s the progressive deepening & growing level of experience which is really a development of consciousness, which changes the way we perceive the world, which changes the way we feel reality, deal with good news or bad news, and so on. 
     And there are other moments when there’s a sudden, unexpected, beautiful flowering, eruption or manifestation. 
     But the combination of these two kinds of experience is found in meaning. What we need today, desperately, is meaning. If you go on the internet, I suppose you could get caught down a rabbit hole searching for meaning in terms of an explanation or exposure to conspiracy theories – this is the meaning of this and that.
     I have a friend who has worked with the dying for all of his medical career. And he observed of course that some people died well, and some people died painfully and in agony. And he came to realize, as others have done, that the big difference was found in the question of meaning. He’s come to the conclusion that ‘meaning’ means the experience of connection, deep connection. Ultimately, it’s not just a connection to your life’s work, or money you’ve created, or the degrees you’ve accumulated, or successes you’ve had, but the connection is with people, and with your self - your deeper self. And that’s why, when people are dying, they want to reconnect with people they’ve hurt, or people they’ve become alienated from. And this reconciliation in the last days of their lives is a liberation – a transformation of consciousness.”
     Laurence Freeman interview: https://batgap.com/laurence-freeman/

     “James Hillman has wisely observed that people come in to psychotherapy not only to relieve their painful symptoms or trace the historical roots of their traumatic woundings, but also to find an adequate biography, by which he means a story that honors the ineffable sources and soulful foundations of their own unique, irreplaceable lives. In addition to understanding the source of their injuries, and working these through with a therapist, they are looking for a new and larger narrative – the true story of their soul’s dual destiny on this earth as citizens of two realms. 
     Ironically, trauma survivors are in a unique position to claim this larger vision because they are often forced prematurely into non-ordinary reality – a spiritual and often mentalized world that helps them survive the unbearable pain of their early affect relationships. They become what James Grotstein calls ‘orphans of the wheel.’ But simultaneously … they become avatars of the ultra-real.”
     Donald Kalsched. “Trauma and the Soul. A Psycho-spiritual Approach to Human Development and its Interruption.” Routledge, 2013.

Sherose Island Rocks!

Friday, June 11, 2021

Loads of Information, Some Knowledge, Little Wisdom

     The word "wisdom" tends to cause embarrassed confusion, even anger! Today, we think that we're far "too sophisticated" for such old-fashioned, naive ideals. Whether or not we consciously identify as a 'scientific materialist,' most of us are cynical & fatalistic about our life, world peace, the climate, the very survival of the human race. How often do we hear - and support - those who, with a smug swagger quickly shoot down any plan to solve serious problems with: "Well, I HATE to be the devil's advocate, BUT ..."? This dominant worldview - "Life is hard, and then you die - end of story - it's all meaningless!" - is imho profoundly problematic & unsustainable.

     There is an infinitely healthier, more realistic alternative - WISDOM.

     “What is wisdom and how can it be cultivated? These are two of the most important questions of human existence, yet they are tragically neglected in our contemporary culture. We are inundated with information and drowning in data, yet largely bereft of wisdom. As T.S. Eliot (1936) put it:

‘Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?’

     This is a dangerous imbalance, and the fate of our species and our planet may well depend on giving wisdom a more central place in both our personal and public lives.
     How did wisdom fade from our awareness? After all, for centuries it was revered as one of the greatest of all human virtues. Thousands of years ago, sages such as the Stoic philosopher Epictetus urged, ‘Content yourself with being a lover of wisdom, a seeker of truth,’ while Jewish proverbs exclaimed, ‘Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom.’
     Yet in recent centuries, wisdom slipped from Western awareness. Dazzled by the flood of scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs, people dreamed that science would answer all questions and technology solve all problems. Science became scientism, technology the new savior, and knowledge – not wisdom – the key to living well.
     Science and technology certainly delivered miracles. Yet in unwise hands, they also delivered unpredictable and unprecedented disasters, as the awesome power of modern technology dramatically multiplied the impact of human actions. As a result, populations exploded, pollution spread, resources were depleted, wars became genocidal, and the very health of the planet deteriorated.
     Like the sorcerer’s apprentice, humankind now possesses enormous knowledge, awesome power, and little wisdom. And that is a potentially lethal combination. [eg See: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/30/the-family-that-built-an-empire-of-pain ] As Robert Sternberg, former president of the American Psychological Association, lamented, ‘If there is anything the world needs, it is wisdom. Without it, I exaggerate not at all in saying that very soon, there may be no world.’
     Fortunately, recent years have seen the beginnings of a major reevaluation. Science is no longer worshiped as simply a savior, technophilia and technophobia jostle ambivalently, and wisdom is coming out of the closet. In society at large, there is talk of, for example, elder wisdom, native wisdom, and wisdom cultures.
     Scientists have recently joined the quest. Though they long regarded it as too abstruse for investigation, research on wisdom is beginning. But though there is growing interest, the research is as yet preliminary and the information obtained is, by traditional standards, far from profound. The great questions of life and death that sages ponder are as yet unasked in modern laboratories. Of course, this is not surprising for a new research field. Moreover, science must measure and count. Yet what really matters can’t always be measured, and what really counts can’t always be counted.
     If our contemporary culture has only a superficial understanding of wisdom, then the obvious question becomes, ‘Where can we go for the deepest understanding of wisdom and of how to develop it?’ The answer is clear: to the world’s great religions and their accompanying philosophies and psychologies. For here, often hidden behind conventional beliefs and rituals, are preserved records of the insights of sages, the depth of existential exploration, and the heights of human understanding.
     Of course, the world’s religions contain a curious mix of high and low, transcendence and nonsense, sagacity and stupidity. Yet the quest for wisdom has long been one of their central goals. For example, Jews and Christians claim that wisdom ‘is more precious than jewels,’ while the Koran declares, ‘those to whom wisdom is given; they truly have received abundant good.’ In Hinduism the cultivation of wisdom constitutes a major spiritual path or yoga, while in Buddhism wisdom is regarded as the preeminent spiritual capacity.
     But what we need above all else are methods to nurture wisdom. Fortunately, the contemplative core of the great religions contains these methods. Each tradition preserves methods for actually cultivating wisdom through systematic practices such as contemplation, meditation, yoga, and reflection on the great mysteries of life and death. These practices constitute a veritable ‘art of wisdom’ or ‘science of wisdom.’ At their best, therefore, the great religions contain both timeless treasuries of humankind’s accumulated wisdom and effective methods for fostering it.
     How can this treasury be brought to the contemporary world? One strategic method is to gather distillations of wisdom from each of the great religions and their accompanying philosophies and psychologies. In short, to create a book that offers summaries of each tradition’s sapiential principles and practices. These are the goals of The World’s Great Wisdom.”

     Roger Walsh ed. “The World’s Great Wisdom: Timeless Teachings from Religions and Philosophies.” State Univ of New York Press, 2014.

     “The journey of awakening is the most remarkable adventure any human being can undertake. No other activity is ultimately so rewarding for ourselves or so helpful to others. 

      Our world is in desperate need of healing. But it also rests in good hands, because it rests in yours. And in you rests the Source of all healing, and all that is needed to awaken you and the world.” 

      Roger Walsh. “Essential Spirituality. The 7 Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind.” John Wiley & Sons Inc, 1999.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Troubled Inner World - Troubled Outer World

     “Trauma is the invisible force that shapes our lives. It shapes the way we live, the way we love and the way we make sense of the world. It is the root of our deepest wounds.” Gabor Maté MD

     "New data shows atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have reached their highest level in over 4 million years. Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration measured CO2 levels averaging 419 parts per million in May — about 50% higher than pre-industrial levels.
     This comes as Amnesty International is blasting the Group of 7 world leaders for failing to meet the challenge posed by the climate crisis. Amnesty said in a statement, 'The unambitious climate plans submitted by G7 members represent a violation of the human rights of billions of people. These are not administrative failures, they are a devastating, mass-scale assault on human rights.'
     Meanwhile, June temperature records continue to break in many parts of the world. Five countries in the Middle East have topped 50 degrees Celsius this week — or more than 122 degrees Fahrenheit. And much of the U.S. continues to bake in extreme heat, with weekend highs in parts of South Dakota and Minnesota topping 100 degrees." www.democracynow.org

     "The problem is that people rise to leadership in our society by a tendency toward extroversion, which means a tendency to ignore what is going on inside themselves. Leaders rise to power in our society by operating very competently and effectively in the external world, sometimes at the cost of internal awareness...*
     I’ve looked at some training programs for leaders. I’m discouraged by how often they focus on the development of skills to manipulate the external world rather than the skills necessary to go inward and make the inner journey.” Parker J. Palmer

    *"... often resulting from a profound lack of empathy, likely due to unresolved trauma in their own lives that leads them to be out of touch with the needs of others and the often painful or frightening realities of the world around them." Joel & Michelle Levey WisdomAtWork.com

     Some say that we're now accelerating towards irreversible mass extinction. And yet, world leaders continue to be far more interested in holding onto power, the GNP, national pride, etc. Let's hope we all wake up sooner than later!
     “A ‘flip’ is a life-changing moment, often catalyzed by some extreme event, in which a person enters an altered state of consciousness and subsequently reverses or flips his or her metaphysical perspective.”
 Jeffrey Kripal PhD

     Instead of complete extinction, may we ALL 'flip' - have a human-race-wide near-death experience (NDE).
     A psychiatrist who's researched NDEs for 40 years observed that after an NDE, people "often come back with a sense of the golden rule as being what it’s all about – not as a goal they should aim for (as the rest of us do), but one they realize is the law of the universe - like gravity - that what you do to someone else, you do to yourself as well.
     Bruce Greyson. “After. A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond.” St. Martin’s, 2021.

“All the joy the world contains
Has come through wishing happiness for others;
All the misery the world contains
Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself.”