Psychology vs. Spirituality

As many Westerners do, when we are having trouble in our lives, we seek the advice of a qualified practitioner in the form of a psychologist (MSW) or a psychiatrist (MD). It’s a cliché that we expect them to ask, right off the bat, “Tell me about your mother”. Automatically, we de-internalize the subject, instead focusing on the things that happened to you rather than how they were observed.

When I first went to my life coach, she asked me what I wanted to get out of it. I have never had a therapist ask me this. And the funny thing was… I didn’t have an answer. Even after a few months, it’s still evolving, breaking down into smaller, more pure pieces. I am changing my vocabulary, saying that “I am happy” rather than “I want to be happy” (which is some place in the future). Small tweaks.

This morning I read a blog post from Brian Johnson’s “Philosopher Notes”. Excerpt below:

“Quick fact: In the 20th century, for every one hundred articles psychologists published on *negative* aspects of human behavior (stuff like depression, schizophrenia, etc.) there was only one article published on the positive stuff.

To address this issue, in the year 2000, Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi created a new movement called “Positive Psychology” that promised to identify the scientific underpinnings of how we can live with more happiness, meaning and all that good stuff.

They went Old School—sifting through all the classic wisdom texts where they saw the same ideas repeated again and again. Although they differ on the details, these classics (from the Bible to the The Bhagavad Gita to the Bushido samurai code) say the same thing: Live with virtue.

In fact, the researchers identified a constellation of six core virtues: wisdom, courage, love, justice, temperance and spirituality. They set out to *scientifically* establish that, when we put these virtues in action, we’ll live with more happiness, meaning and mojo.”

Imagine a psychologist/psychiatrist talking about wisdom, courage, love, justice, temperance and spirituality. None of this is fact based. These things are all felt. They come from the heart and not the head. And yet we continue to identify with these therapists because that’s what Westerner’s do. And many people have been helped by this. But what happens when you combine psychology with spirituality? Well, you probably wouldn’t get insurance to pay for it. But you might find yourself. The observer looking behind the eyes that are part of the greater Wisdom those facts can’t touch. Instead of seeing it to believe it, you have to believe it so see it.

By diving into our histories, therapists try to untangle a web of years of reactions to external stimuli. I say that it doesn’t matter how you reacted, all that matters is that you reacted. This point is subtle but powerful. Rather than knowing that you reacted to a certain situation because you grew up in an abusive household (for example), knowing that there is an observer inside of you that saw the ego react gives you a greater sense of control. The awareness is the key. Also recognizing that good and bad situations have nothing to do with “you”, but they have everything to do with ego (yours and others).

I invite you to read a more authoritative article on this topic from Mariana Caplan, PhD entitled “Psychology and Spirituality: One Path or Two?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mariana-caplan-phd/spirituality-and-psychology_b_941242.html

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Thin Red Line

“This great evil. Where does it come from? How’d it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who’s doin’ this? Who’s killin’ us? Robbing us of life and light. Mockin’ us with the sight of what we might’ve known. Does our ruin benefit the earth? Does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night?”

Sacrifice… a dirty word?

According to Webster’s, the definition of sacrifice is:

1: an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially :the killing of a victim on an altar

2: something offered in sacrifice

3: destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else

    something given up or lost <the sacrifices made by parents>

4: loss <goods sold at a sacrifice>

 

These all sound awful. Death, loss, destruction. So when you tell someone that they should sacrifice something, of course they’re going to object. This is “mine” and I’m not giving it to anyone. Maybe we need to change the vocabulary, but I’ll gladly sacrifice for my children, my spouse, or someone in need. We have to see this as giving rather than sacrificing. Because the beauty is that there is no sacrifice. And actually, you gain something. When you give to others, your consciousness level increases and you benefit. You can glow. And even though you should give for the sake of giving, dang, it makes you feel good!

So sacrifice something today. It’s for your benefit.

Who is it that thinks these thoughts?

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In my current meditation practice, I’m going further and further back trying to see what this thing is that thinks it is me. I yo-yo on this a lot and second guess myself assuming that, of course I’m my ego. Who else could I be? What is the point of meditation if the goal is to only find out that you aren’t you, but a wave on the sea? Humanity tends to feel the need to be unique and loved. But what ‘thing’ needs this and why is it ‘good’ to bestow this on others?

The ego is art, love, music, dance, laughter. But it is also fear, anxiety, jealousy and hate. It is a pendulum swinging left and right. Our only hope is to find some comfort in the middle, because without dark, there can be no light. Mindfully, we become aware of the ego and can (hopefully) manage the swing. Sometimes we can’t. Sometimes we explode. This is human. But then we begin dissecting why we explode, diving into our childhood toy-box looking for the lost teddy bear so we can say “a ha! This is why I am that way”. Does it matter? It’s not for me to decide. “I” can’t even do it because that is the ego anyway (and around and around we go).

So why do we even have an ego? This thing that is so destructive? Why did our ganglia decide to team up and say “hey humans, have we got something for you!” Maybe it’s a test. It definitely takes some studying. The sad thing is that a lot of people don’t even know that they are in a school being asked to take an exam whose score determines a lowly outcome: your soul.

People ask: “Are you awake?” I don’t know how to answer. Maybe to the Buddha I’m asleep, but to my dog I am a god. It’s relative and one of those circular questions that has no end. BUT (there’s always a but), it’s something to strive for. To be mindful of your surroundings, interactions, food intake, health and spirit. Because buddy, if you aren’t taking care of it, no one else is!

Alan Watts said in The Book “as the ocean ‘waves’, the universe ‘peoples’”. I’m not sure how this makes me feel. On one hand, I am part of something greater. On the other, I am no one.  There is no ‘me’. There is no ‘I’. There is only an observer, who may or may not be ‘human’. The observer sees the human body, but it is not the body. The body and the observer are part of something much larger. But our attachment to ‘I’ keeps us trapped in a circle of suffering.

So me and my ego go walking hand in hand down the path. The path is where I want to be. The ego will never go away, but it might be managed. Maybe it can be happy and content and stop bothering me.

Are you awake? And as you ask yourself that question, ask yourself “who” is actually asking.

Take Care.

The breath.

The breath. So simple and so easily ignored. I am currently seeing a life coach and often leave her place with my head in the clouds, pondering what I have just learned. And then suddenly, miles away, my breath returns. And I notice it! How weird that something I repeatedly do throughout my day (and life) goes almost entirely undetected. Until… I awake. I become mindful. Then I breathe in. And it’s not your ordinary breath. It’s sweet and actually has texture, like the universe conjured it up just for me to consume and be whole again. The breath.