Tuesday, January 2, 2018

JANUARY - 2018



JANUS MONTH


“January takes its name from Janus, the old Roman god of gates and doorways and thus, thresholds and transitions. Most depictions of Janus show two faces looking in opposite directions, representing past and future, the old and the new. As ruler of endings and beginnings Janus was invoked at all major turning points in life. Thus, Janus was particularly present when time turned over in the long, dark nights where the end of a year comes around and a New Year begins it all again...” M. Meade

Image result for greek god janus

2018 – THE YEAR 11. It is very interesting year, as I reflect about it, that the ancient god Janus has two faces and the numerologists say this year is 11 or two aspects. In numerology, the energy of the Universal Year (the calendar year) weaves a universal theme of potential through our lives.  How you then work with the energy of the Universal Year will be dependent on your own Personal Year.

The number 11 is the most intuitive number and is a clear channel to the subconscious. It is the number of leadership, personal power and spiritual truths. The number 1 by itself represents leadership, initiative and new beginnings (2017 was a Universal ‘1’ Year in Numerology) … thus two number 1’s together opens a gateway of potential far greater than the sum of its parts.

So, I am taking a second look at those of us that are psychotherapists and healers. We are either fated or trained – or both – to enter the Universal energy of intuition, leadership, personal power and the spiritual realm and the soul.

In this century, we are called more and more to renew what is the understanding of the meaning of being human in a widely diverse world of cultural, religious and environmental shifts and changes. Thus, it seems that we must take an ecological and holistic look at the Human Psyche (Soul). James Hillman, one of the most prolific writer about ‘soulcraft’ states:

“While nineteenth century investigators were following the archaic, natural and mythical in the outer world, Psychology was doing much the same the archaic, natural and mythic within. We invented psychopathology and thereby labelled it “memoria”- the soul’s house.  We invented the diagnoses (DSM V) with which we declared ourselves “insane”. We therefore are summoned to re-vision ourselves and seek a shift of consciousness to embrace wholeness – Human, Natural and Ecological”.

So, it seems that the key to re-shaping (or shifting) ourselves in the New Year is not only suppress our psychological symptoms with tricks (witness the mad rush to swallow pills), recover from all sorts of addictions (notice the failed ‘war on drugs’) treat traumas, manage stress, or correct dysfunctional relationships, but rather to involve ourselves in the larger story of humanity and the environment. We must develop visionary skills that will revitalise our damaged and endangered world.


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How to develop your visionary skills?

Bill Plotkin, the author of “Soulcraft” (already mentioned in my previous blog post), presents a nature-based map that identifies the various resources we possess or can re-discover. He borrows the idea from many Wisdom Traditions and develops his model, here it is:


THE HORIZONTAL PLANE

THE SELF: This aspect contains the four set of resources. Together they are called the self. These four aspects are connected to the four directions, well known to the ancient cultures: The four seasons, the four times of the day, the four poles - North, South, East and West.

THE SUBPERSONALITIES: These represent the ‘immature’ or underdeveloped aspects of the Self. They may be wounded parts or fragmented /split parts.


THE VERTICAL PLANE

SPIRIT: This aspect travels in a forward or outward direction. We identify with God, mystery, magic, and the non-natural. Michael Meade, the mythologist, calls this aspect “the upper world” and is also connected with the heavens and the whole Cosmos.

SOUL: This aspect reaches downward and is identified with the Soul. It is our unique and deepest individual identity. This ‘downward or inward’ direction is known in mythology as the Underworld, Hades, and the Fertile Ground of Being and it is connected with the Heart.


THE CENTRE

THE EGO: This aspect represents the ordinary, everyday world or Middle World. It is the world of family, economy, education, cultural and ecological life.

Read more in: “WILD MIND - a Field Guide of the Human Psyche” by Bill Plotkin.


CONCLUSION

The time has arrived when Psychotherapy as it is practiced today and for the past 100 years, is coming to an end. Institutes, Training groups, all sorts of courses (many online) are no longer the ‘flavour of the month or year’. Perhaps the new technologies usurping the above work that emerged from the Human Development movement of the 60’s, 70’s 80’s and 90’s. At that time, open groups were common, sex encounters, group encounters and more were populated by hundreds of participants. Today some blame Google, YouTube, Facebook and the many interactive online courses as the harbingers of the demise of human development.

On the other hand, we may re-vision our therapeutic practices in a way that brings SOUL to the picture – a SOULCRAFT METHOD is needed. The real gift we receive from the journey into the Archetypal and Mystical worlds become the gifts we offer our clients and  that means an ecological care of the WORLD that will continue to heal the Earth and all its species – that is a big task and a big ask – but really possible.


Image result for soul symbol


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

REFLECTIONS FOR DECEMBER 2017


DECEMBER 2017 - THE YEAR ENDING


Every ending has a beginning and this year, 2017, is ending soon. It begun with many human and natural events that created enormous crises. It seems that the SOUL is missing from the modern cultures and therefore creating huge discords and mis-understandings on a global scale.

Bill Plotkin in his book "Soulcraft (2003)" states that: "contemporary society has lost touch with soul and the path to true psychology and spiritual maturity or real adulthood. Instead, we are encouraged to create lives of predictable security (safety), false normality, material comfort, bland (virtual) entertainment and the illusion of eternal youth. Most of our leaders - political, cultural and economic - represent and defend unsustainable ways of life built upon military aggression, the control and exploitation of nature's 'resources' and an entitled sense of national security that ignores the needs of other species, other nations, tribes and races including our own future generations. These so called 'values' do not represent our deeper human nature. It seems that we need urgent guidance, especially for men, to be able to achieve successful leadership in these perilous times in human history. It requires a psychological and spiritual maturity. That maturity is possible and never more necessary than NOW!"

In the previous blog posts I pointed out, in my reflections, the failure of psychotherapy to connect with spirit and soul. Cognitive and neurological research brought about wonderful intellectual and theoretical insights but the SOUL and SPIRIT is "lost in translation" so to speak.

In this final year Reflections, I am offering a discussion paper I wrote recently regarding me, as a man. After some 40 years of travelling on my life's journey, I discovered a way to a man's soul and spirit. I entitled this paper "Fatherhood as a Spiritual Path." I am happy to share my journey with all the readers and invite your own reflections and comments about your own search for soul and spirit.






FATHERHOOD AS A SPIRITUAL PATH – the way to a man’s soul.

Yaro Starak


I will start by telling you briefly, MY story. I was born a month after the Nazi started the WWII with the invasion of Poland. Soon after, Ukraine was invaded by both enemies: the Nazis and the Communists. The land where I was born became the start of a struggle between two forces convinced that one of them is right. Eventually both contributed to a major destruction of most of Europe. My father, who was a photographer, was arrested by the Communists and deported to Siberia and after then he was never seen again.

Having lost my father at a very early age, I relied on my mother during my growing years to adulthood as a guide and support. Fortunately, I had two uncles (my mother’s brothers) who were very present as my male figures and roles models during those formative years. They enabled me to learn about the male role in a mainly female household.

It is evident that a child does not have to have a biological father and even some children who have a biological father have had sadly negative experiences when growing up. However, research indicates that when a father or male carer, is present as a positive support, that presence may reduce psychological problems and behavioural issues. An increased amount of real time involvement of the adult male may help increase the child’s social, educational and relational ability that will ensure the potential to have a solid and positive marriage as an adult man.

A brief history of Fatherhood

The link between sexual acts and procreation can be empirically identified, but it is by no means of immediate evidence. The conception of life cannot be observed, whereas its birth is obviously visible. The extended time lag between the former and the latter certainly does not help to identify their link, but on the contrary it makes even more difficult to assume any kind of relationship between these two events. Some may even go as far to argue that human beings have occasionally ignored that males impregnate females. During this early human evolution period procreation was sometimes even considered to be an autonomous 'ability' of women. Men were essential to ensure the survival and defence of the social group, but only women could enhance and guarantee the human survival through their ability to create new individuals. This gave women a role of primary and indisputable importance within their social groups.

 Ancient female sculpture


This situation probably persisted during the whole Palaeolithic age. Some scholars believe the well-known Venus figurines of that age to be clear witnesses of it. During the transition to the Neolithic age, agriculture and cattle breeding became the core activities of a growing number of human communities. Breeding in particular is likely to have led women – who used to spend more time than men taking care of the cattle – to observations and considerations which gradually allowed them to discover the procreative effect of the sexual act between a male and a female.


Ancient Rome

Roman law and tradition (mos maiorum) established the power of the Pater familias (Father of the clan) within the community of his own extended familia. He held legal privilege over the property of the familia, and varying levels of authority over his dependents: these included his wife and children, certain other relatives through blood or adoption, clients, freedmen and slaves. The same maiorum mos moderated his authority and determined his responsibilities to his own familia and to the broader community. He had a duty to ‘father’ and raise healthy children as future citizens of Rome, to maintain the moral propriety and well-being of his household, to honour his clan and ancestral gods and to dutifully participate—and if possible, serve—in Rome's political, religious and social life. In effect, the pater familias was expected to be a good citizen. In theory at least, he held powers of life and death over every member of his extended familia through ancient right but in practice, the extreme form of this right was seldom exercised. It was eventually limited by law. Therefore we know that traditionally, fathers continue to act in a protective, supportive and responsible way towards their children.

Even though the father was considered as the provider, the mother, on the other hand, is still viewed as the predominant carer of children due to her capacity to give birth. Feminists  have challenged this  premise of ‘gender arrangements’  of work and care and the male ‘breadwinner role’ and therefore we have seen more policies targeting men as fathers and demanding a more sharing relationships in the modern family.

The Father challenge


My two sons


Sam Keen(1) and  other writers have observed fatherhood and made similar statements as Sam Keen in his book FIRE IN THE BELLY. Sam Keen stated: “We men tend to view ourselves as independent actors. As warriors, controllers, providers, protectors, and occasionally as lovers. We peg our self-worth on our tax brackets or how much we've published or how many women we've been with. We constantly look to the outside world for our valuation. Within the "men's movement" there is a tendency to talk about how I was treated by my father, about the lacks I had in my life, about my own confusion and pain and grief, about initiation (without any idea of what we want to initiate our children into). These are legitimate experiences that afflict our lives, but there comes a time when we men have to look beyond our own suffering and recognize that we are also causing suffering”. He states further that:
 "There is no way for men...to recover wholeheartedness, to become passionate and truly free, without rediscovering the central importance of the family." To rediscover the family, we, as men, must rediscover ourselves as fathers and parents, and place this role of the many roles we play at the centre of our lives. It is within the context of the family that we live our lives, and it is here that we receive our deepest wounds and most profound joys”. (Fire in the Belly).

For many years I have given away the responsibility to raise my son to his mother. I was raised by my mother, so I believed that mother can do a better job. However, having travelled, worked as an academic and a Gestalt therapist, I discovered that my son was longing for my contact and so we made sure we played sports and games for many years. Yet, I did not feel a real involvement with him.

As fathers, we give our children many gifts along with many wounds. Paradoxically, the wounds and the gifts are two sides of the same coin. When we give time and attention, we heal the wound of abandonment. When we acknowledge a child's accomplishments, we give the gift of confidence. When we support the free expression of feelings, we give the gift of self-esteem. In essence, if we show with our dedication and time, our love, attention, nurturing, it will demonstrate that we truly value our children and then they will come to value themselves and us.

We have to be willing to be available to our children as often as we can, and to be with them as often as practicable. There is no substitute for time with children. They know it and so do we. As fathers, we can no longer afford to use such excuses as "college expenses," "personal growth," "bigger houses," " more cars, gadgets, or other toys" to justify our abandonment of our children. For at a deep and profound level all men are the fathers of all children whether they are biological or not. We have to go beyond the personal to the communal, and work to heal all of the damage our forefathers still perpetrate through us. Such damage is evident in the many violent acts that men perpetrate even today.

When I conducted many men workshops, over the past ten years, I discovered that I am not really teaching about how to be a man, but learning how to be a man! When men asked me “what to do to become a better father to my children”, I had only one answer: “become aware that YOU need to change”. Change must come from within and not from the cultural, religious and social introjects. One important option to develop yourself as a father, that has been largely overlooked for centuries, is the importance of fatherhood as a spiritual practice.

Fathering as a spiritual practice.



It is my conviction that fathering, for men, is clearly a spiritual path. For many men, their first step into their hearts, entering the heart of love, is through their love of a woman. Men take solace from women. Because of the deep seated nature of the competitive male spirit, many men don't trust one another. But they often trust and can let go of their protective shells in the presence of women. This is also possible with one's child. Some men turn their backs on their children. Some let the women in their lives be the ones that become enthralled with their children. We can raise our kids by default, or consciously. There will never be more pain, more transformative pain than with your child or children, nor more opportunities to grow big in heart and spirit. By rising our children, we (parents) revisit childhood again, the magic, the pain, the joy.  We are gifted with the opportunity to experience one of the most powerful of the ancient healing processes. Hanging out with his kids, an involved father will hear, not Ommmm, but the sound of his own silly laugh, a close reminder of the giggles of his own childhood.

 Having had the wonderful and magic opportunity to be a full time father to my second son, I was able to actually experience the great spirituality that he offered me from the moment of his birth. Through being a full time dad, I was re-parenting myself! I experienced a love process. Wherever my son goes, he goes in his world, whatever he does (when we're together), I am there. I might take him there. But he takes me in. We go to places-physical places, emotional places that I never accessed with my absent dad. I protect him. I play with him. I guide him. And in return, he inspires and challenges me. Together we learn, play and grow our love. Swimming, rock climbing, bicycling, watching movies, reading books and comics,  rough-playing , making the bed and learning our limits. Through his experience of wonder I get to feel that soul wonder all over again. Through providing healthy limits for him and calling him when he breaks those limits, I get to rediscover those boundaries for myself. Through teaching him the importance of honesty, integrity, patience and perseverance, I get to model and be reminded, at a fundamental level, of the strength I have to live those qualities daily.

Over many years, I have had the good fortune to learn and travel the world. I spent time at alternative and spiritual communities around the world. Attended meetings at Ashrams and read some of the important books on meditation and joined seminars about soul work. I also trained in gestalt therapy and became a founder of two institutes in Australia.  I've cleaned out my closet of negativity and am continuing to clean up my act. I've healed a lot of wounds with my father and made peace with my mother. My heart has been split open and then healed by love and crushed by grief. I've danced and loved my way into countless forms of bliss. I've experienced the wisdom of the breath, been moved by deep silence, witnessed the inherent beauty of simplicity, and I have been moved by honest and kind words.

All great teachers remind us that Love is the answer. Love is the answer for me too. The question it answers: "What is truly important?" and the answer is: our children as our wise guides. I have gained this insight by spending my time with my son. Focusing my time and energy into raising my son is now my spiritual path. This is not only a rediscovery but a revolution of who I am.

Many people think that their next great spiritual lesson is going to come from a new teacher or "spiritual pursuit." They travel to India to find the guide. However, if you are a parent who is paying attention and prioritizing your children over other self realizing, self-fulfilling pursuits , then you probably are experiencing many awe-filled, quiet and simple moments of pleasure. The gift of parenting is often in those rare moments in-between all the busy stuff. If you are a father spending your time on your child, giving your full presence, whether you're interested at that moment or not, whether you have that time or not, you are a revolutionary!

What is the path for men?

We know that most men were not trained to prioritize their active involvement in their family. How could they? In school, life skills’ training for boys is dismal where it involves caring for themselves or others. Boys are trained in the don'ts: "Don't be a cry-baby", "Don't let others know you're hurt," "Don't let others see that you are weak," "Don't be a wimp," "Don't be effeminate," "Don't be sensitive to other's pain." Boy's training means: minds overrule hearts. Productivity is more important than sensitivity. Boys are rewarded for paying attention to facts and numbers, not themselves, not others. For men to unlearn and retrain themselves, going against what they've been taught about who men are and what men do, is not easy. What men often need is the equivalent of sensitivity training in gestalt groups. Many men need to revisit what they were told is unimportant and learn to trust their intuition. Many men need to become aware that when they were told men were not supposed to feel, need to practice feeling. Those men would then be good to themselves and those they love by learning about gentleness, kindness and being real. Those men would do well extending compassion and gentleness towards themselves and others. But it is hard to combat this training at a cellular level. In reclaiming the essence of our nature, the nature that is in men as well as women, boys as well as girls, we learn the necessity of caring for one's self and others. This is not as simple as it seems. If a man was not taught to honour these qualities, he will need patience and incredible commitment to learn these lessons. Once we take the time and make the effort to connect with the heart's sense of love, creating and prioritizing family over almost anything else makes perfect sense.  Men, who are waking up to this, doing the work and making this commitment, are lavishing a gift onto themselves, their partners, but most importantly their children and the community.

Conclusion

Living and breathing and thinking about our children is what many of us must do as our spiritual work. This is the first order of love.  Though men have been trained to respond differently, many fathers, like me, are heeding the wisdom of their heart. Then love is present not only in us but our children and in their child or children.

Fathering is a loving spiritual practice!



“All suffering gives rise to a great compassion
A great compassion creates a generous heart
From a generous heart is born an honourable person
An honourable person builds a united family
A united family generates a gentle community
A gentle community creates a peaceful nation
A peaceful nation makes a happy world
In which we all live in solidarity, peace and happiness”

BUDDHA
  



Saturday, October 21, 2017

REFLECTIONS FOR NOVEMBER 2017






THE ZEN OF PSYCHOTHERAPY-NOT WHAT SHOULD BE BUT WHAT IS.

Kevin Donnelly wrote an important book for our times: “WHY OUR SCHOOLS ARE FAILING”. He claims the PC (politically correct) left has invaded the Universities and is introducing a view that our centuries old “liberal and open education is described as imperialistic, elitist, patriarchal, misogynist, racist and inequitable”. University Humanities departments once were teaching a liberal view of knowledge and involving a “universal transcendent truth”. Now the cultural left argues that that education is cloaked with self-serving power of white Eurocentric male ideas.

As the topic of this reflection is psychotherapy, we are also noting how the ideas of the PC left have come to psychotherapy and note the way the profession has shifted from a discipline that took many years of required study in various theories from psychology, social work, medicine and intensive supervision and personal inner work to a short course "on line" offering a diploma. The practice of therapy under supervision, clinical mentorship, group therapy experiences in the field and a long and extensive clinical experience is not a way to learn to become a psychotherapist anymore.

The so called ‘identity politics’ has become a major influence in our western society where not only individuals but also whole countries are subject to this influence. We are not aware as to who we are. The word “I” has become the narcissistic symbol of this socio-political movement. Alan Watts wrote some years ago that the “I” is an illusion and he states: “I have been interested in this idea of “I” and have come to the conclusion that what most civilized people mean by that word is a hallucination, a false sense of personal identity that is at complete variance with the facts of nature. As a result of having a false sense of identity, we act in a way that is inappropriate to our natural environment and when that inappropriate way of action is magnified by a very powerful technology, we see a profound discord that is separating men from Nature. As is well known today, we are in the process of destroying our environment because of our attempt to conquer it and master it. We are making a great mistake and already are paying for this” (Watts 1969).

Psychoanalysis and other psychotherapies are clearly a copy of our Newtonian (man as machine) concept. We think, for example, that the ‘libido’ is the same as the science thinks of the universal energy as being blind and unconscious. We are still learning in psychology classes that what was the view of the mechanistic 19th century philosophy. That is that the “psyche’ (soul) is based on the mind, the ego, the superego, the Id and they are all basically a mechanical function of Self.

Therefore, outside a few therapeutic theories like Gestalt, Existentialism and Process Psychology, we are still looking at the human being as an object to study in a lab and dissect. This has been called “Scientific Naturalism”. The popular phrase: “I came to this world” is not true – we came OUT of this world, in the same way as a fruit came out of a tree or a flower came out of a plant, as a bird came out of an egg. The same applies to the solar system and the universe as a whole.

In Gestalt therapy, we call this process ORGANISM/ENVIRONMENT FIELD. Or a Field of Being. We cannot be separate from the environment for we are part of it. We cannot exist without the earth, the air, the water and a balanced temperature and all these are present within us. For example, we are made from about 80-90% water.

Therefore our “I” is merely a symbol of ourselves and the SELF is the whole psychological organism, conscious, unconscious plus the environment – that is our real Self.

That means that our REAL SELF is the Universe centred in our Organism. When we spend time learning psychology, psychotherapy and the human fact, we must consider the mutuality of SELF with the WHOLE. This is a mutuality that is undivided. When we leave for the outer space, we must take our environment along with us or we cannot survive.



THE ZEN OF PSYCHOTHERAPY

Alan Watts wrote many books about “Nature and Man”. He used the metaphor stated in the wisdom of ZEN, the Eastern teachings about Nature and Man. He wrote that the Western psychotherapy is impregnated with the idea that soul, spirit, body and mind are all separate. God is experienced(interpreted) as a separate being – somewhere ‘out there’. Therefore, identifying ourselves with being apart, we have a problem of inner Soul. We feel different from the “out there” and so we are taught to manage, conquer, manipulate and problem solve the natural material world.

In the ZEN view, the everyday world is not a problem to be solved. The ZEN wisdom has the essential point of view that Life is a flowing process where mind, spirit and consciousness of the human being are intrinsically involved. We are part of the whole life flow and any separation of mind from the flow of life is an illusion, a fantasy, something imagined ‘as if’.

There are many books today translated from the 3000 years of wisdom and practiced by most Eastern societies. However, in the West, this was not known as a ‘spiritual therapy’ but some sort of religion. Yet, ZEN is clearly a discipline of healing mind, body and soul. 

Here is a nice example quoted by a ZEN master in the year 500 AD – this may be seen today as a masterful existential/gestalt therapy:

“ A Chinese monk came to see the master Bodhidarma with the usual troubles that affect us all and he said: ‘Master, I have no peace of mind – please pacify my mind’ (the man is suffering of a typical anxiety state). The Master looked at him and said: ‘Bring me your mind out here before me  and I will pacify it’. The monk said: ‘But when I look for my mind, I cannot find it’. The Master said:’ There it is - PACIFIED!’ At this moment, the monk had a realisation (an AHA!)  He realised what is REAL and what is NOT!











I INVITE YOUR COMMENTS AND REFLECTIONS


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

SEEKING A NEW IDENTITY IN A COMPLEX WORLD



BLOG OCTOBER 2017




This blog is celebrating all those born after October 21st. All those SCORPIOS that are identified as water signs in the Astrological world.

C. G. Jung studied most if not all the esoteric sciences that have been evolving over the past many thousands of years before Christianity. He not only studied the Chinese I-Ching, the Astrological charts, the Hindu mythology, but also created the idea of the Collective Unconscious and the Arquetypes.

We moderns may call this the “INNER-NET” as Caroline Myss defined it: “a high speed interconnected psychic network that links every human being through a vast system of Archetypes.” (Archetypes, 2013). Unfortunately for us (the public) the Myths and Stories that define those Archetypes are no longer helping us to define who we are.

In the past, people could clearly define themselves as part of a tribal collective or being a Hindu, a Christian, a Muslim, an Indian, a Chinese, a Tibetan, a white or black person, a man or woman and so on. Now it is not a clear indication that those labels (although still in use) are really defining a person. Many rely on the modern, contemporary psychology or rely on the ‘political correctness’ that the media is presenting us daily on TV, social media and the internet.

This new search for one’s identity is now being reflected in many countries where each person, group, association or political party is promoting differing identities based on old patterns and seeking freedoms and ‘liberation’ from the majority.

One major example is the current independist vote in Catalonia, Spain. This mainly illegal and anti- constitutional move is being criticised by the European Union and the Spanish democratic government as the most blatant mockery of the democratic process and totally illegal.

Similar events are being developed in many other countries that are not in line with free and fair votes but are doing what they please. The old democracy is failing to get the full approval of many people around the world and promoting a new struggle for change and identity.


NEUROSIS IN OUR TIMES

For psychotherapists working today, it is worth re-reading Freud’s book “Civilisation and its Discontents” published in 1929. And the new book by OSHO “Enlightenment is Your Nature: On the Neurosis of Becoming Human”, published in 2017.

The authors are from different backgrounds but both have made a major impact on the world. Freud a Jewish conservative from Austria developed the new psychoanalysis and Osho Rajneesh, born in India and became a master guru at the age of 21, established the most advanced spiritual and psychotherapy centre in Puna, India that is very active today, even after his death in 1990.

Freud and Osho have given the same message to the world and that is that the Neurotic phenomenon plaguing most people today is mainly because we cannot tolerate the total obedience to the same rules created by society to protect us from violence, evil and injustice. However, Osho has given a new interpretation: our fragmented and split personality is struggling against the “shoulds” of socially prescribed rules and the “wants” of the heart. The mix of words, feelings and thoughts and objects are creating major misunderstandings among people that need to be balanced by spiritual preparation like meditation and awareness training.





Freud wrote the following in “Civilization and Its Discontents”:

In this book, Sigmund Freud enumerates what he sees as the fundamental tensions between civilization and the individual. The primary friction, he asserts, stems from the individual's quest for instinctive freedom and civilization's contrary demand for conformity and repression of instincts. Freud states that when any situation that is desired by the pleasure principle is prolonged, it creates a feeling of mild contentment. Many of humankind's early instincts, such as the desire to kill and the craving for sexual gratification, are considered bad to the well-being of a human community. As a result, civilization creates laws that prohibit killing, rape, and adultery, and it implements severe punishments if these rules are broken. Thus, our possibilities for happiness are restricted by the law. This process, argues Freud, is an inherent quality of civilization that gives rise to perpetual feelings of discontent among its citizens.

The third chapter of the book addresses a fundamental paradox of civilization: it is a system that we have created to protect ourselves from unhappiness, and yet it is our largest source of unhappiness. People become neurotic because they cannot tolerate the frustration which society imposes in the service of its cultural and religious ideals. Freud points out that advances in science and technology have been, at best, a mixed blessing for human happiness. Although some states (like the USA) guarantee people the freedom to pursue happiness. However, the laws of civilization serve to circumvent the natural processes and feelings of human development and eroticism. It is no wonder then, that this repression could lead to discontent among civilians.

Here is a resume of Osho’s book: “The Fundamental Difference Between Psychology, Therapy, and Meditation”

Soon after he first settled in Pune and a community of seekers had begun to gather around him, Osho began to integrate new Western therapeutic approaches into his work. Known broadly as 'Humanistic Psychology Movement,' these methods had evolved in the West as a response to the limitations of Freudian "talk therapy" and B. F. Skinner's behaviourism.

Osho combined a wide variety of these therapy groups and processes, as stepping stones, with his revolutionary ‘active meditation techniques’, which soon earned the community a reputation as the world's finest growth and therapy centre. It attracted those in search of personal transformation, some of the most innovative therapists and bodyworkers in the West, and people interested in meditation. Osho worked closely with both therapists and group participants to ensure that these offerings were in tune with his vision of a psychology that aims not to restore people to the functional neurosis society defines as “normal,” but to open the doors to a radical transformation of consciousness.

This book, “Enlightenment is Your Nature”, lays out Osho’s approach as he explains that therapy is used only as a cleansing process, that it is only a preparation for meditation. In his vision, therapy has a different function from that used in the “outside world” where therapists and counsellors try to bring the person back into the mind so they can function efficiently in society. Instead, Osho uses therapy only to prepare the ground, cleaning out the weeds of neurosis to plant the flowers of meditation. Rather than trying to "fix" the neurotic mind, the person is supported to be courageous enough to take a step beyond the mind – and that happens through meditation.

It is not against the mind, either. It recognizes the mind as a useful tool in navigating through everyday life and many of its everyday challenges. But meditation is the key to being able to use the tool of the mind as a servant, rather than being a slave to all its moods, "problems" and tensions. Meditation is, according to Osho, a process of dropping from the outside into the inside, forgetting the world of objects, the world of thoughts, the world of feelings - and a moment comes when pure consciousness is there, without any content. To know this consciousness is to understand what the psychology of the buddhas is: to rest in the fullness of the inner being. That inner being knows no pathology, no neurosis, no fears no anxiety.

In “Enlightenment is Your Nature”, Osho deconstructs all misunderstandings of what enlightenment is, and offers a view freed from all spiritual and religious beliefs – including the distortions of asceticism and renunciation that have arisen in both Eastern and Western cultures. Taking the reader step by step through the history of how both East and West have approached the mysteries of the human mind and spirituality, he offers a simple science of consciousness and how it works, how we have lost contact with it, how consciousness is related to the mind and the brain. In very clear and scientific terms he shows how one can, through awareness and taking full responsibility for one’s life, go beyond all the belief systems, habits, and superstitions that keep us tethered. That process of awareness and understanding, he says, brings us back to our nature – and that is enlightenment.
Osho claimed that he is the first person who uses therapy, but whose interest is not therapy but meditation, just as it was with Chuang Tzu or Gautam Buddha. They never used therapy because there was no need. People were simply ready, and you could bring the rosebushes without clearing the ground. The ground was already clear.

In these twenty-five centuries man has become so burdened with rubbish, so many wild weeds have grown in his being that using therapy just to clean the ground, take away the wild weeds, the roots, so the difference between the ancient man and the modern man is destroyed.
The modern man should be made as innocent as the ancient man, as simple, as natural. He has lost all these great qualities. The therapist must help him – but his work is only a preparation. It is not the end. The end part is going to be the meditation.




Rajneesh (born Chandra Mohan Jain, 11 December 1931 – 19 January 1990), also known as Osho, Acharya Rajneesh, or simply Rajneesh, was an Indian Guru and leader of the Rajneesh movement. During his lifetime he was viewed as a controversial mystic, and spiritual teacher. In the 1960s he travelled throughout India as a public speaker and was a vocal critic of socialism, Mahatma Gandhi, and Hindu religious orthodoxy.

In 1970 Rajneesh spent time in Mumbai initiating followers known as "neo-sannyasins." During this period, he expanded his spiritual teachings and through his discourses gave an original insight into the writings of religious traditions, mystics, and philosophers from around the world. In 1974 Rajneesh relocated to Pune where a foundation and ashram was established to offer a variety of "transformational tools" for both Indian and international visitors. By the late 1970s, tension between the ruling Janata Party government of Morarji Desai and the movement led to a curbing of the ashram's development.

In 1981 efforts refocused on activities in the United States and Rajneesh relocated to a facility known as Rajneeshpuram in Wasco County, Oregon. Almost immediately the movement ran into conflict with county residents and the state government and a succession of legal battles concerning the ashram's construction and continued development curtailed its success. In 1985, following the investigation of serious crimes including the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack, and an assassination plot to murder US Attorney Charles H. Turner, Rajneesh alleged that his personal secretary Ma Anand Sheela and her close supporters had been responsible. He was later deported from the United States.
After his deportation 21 countries denied him entry, and he ultimately returned to India, and a reinvigorated Pune ashram, where he died in 1990. His ashram is today known as the Osho International Meditation Resort.

Rajneesh's syncretic teachings emphasise the importance of meditation, awareness, love, celebration, courage, creativity, and humour—qualities that he viewed as being suppressed by adherence to static belief systems, religious tradition, and socialisation. Rajneesh's teachings have had a notable impact on Western New Age thought and their popularity has increased markedly since his death.



Monday, August 28, 2017

PSYCHOTHERAPY AT THE CROSSROAD - SEPTEMBER 2017




ALTERNATIVES TO PSYCHOTHERAPY – WHERE ARE THEY NOW?






For the past 60 or 70 years we have experienced (in the Western society) a plethora of therapies with hundreds of techniques of personal growth. We participated in long weekends (some were 24 hours of sleep deprivation), week-long seminars and 30 days intensives with expert facilitators. Therapies flourished in many forms: Psychoanalysis, Kleinian Analysis Rational Emotive therapies, Bioenergetics, Rebirthing, Existential and Humanistic approaches, Gestalt therapy, Postural integration, Voice Dialogue, Rolfing, Psychodrama, Transpersonal Analysis, Archetypal therapies, NLP (neurolinguistics), Psychosynthesis and so on.

The objectives of most of these therapies was to develop a deep sense of Self and an integration of body, mind and spirit to achieve a fully aware individual with a connection to the Universal Oneness.
My own long-term experience and learning was in Gestalt therapy. It developed by Dr. Fritz Perls at Esalen Institute California in the 1960’s. He conducted group seminars, month long workshops and public demonstrations of his unique style of therapy focusing on the “here and now” process. Seeking the integration of Body Mind and Spirit, Fritz made deep studies in Japan about Zen Buddhism, Psychodrama with Moreno in New York, Body work with Ida Rolf and his early training in Psychoanalysis. He enabled his clients (mostly workshop participants) to open their self  to the present awareness and stay honest to their higher Self as a contrast to the rigid, automatic and passive dependent social paradigm in America of the 40’s and 50’s.

The other giants of Holistic Health, as the movement was eventually defined, were: R.D. Laing, the promoter of ‘antipsychiatry’, Alan Watts, the promoter of Zen and Buddhism to the West and Humberto Maturana, the Chilean doctor researching the biology of Cognition. Here are the stories of each as quoted by Wikipedia.

RD Laing ( 7 October 1927 – 23 August 1989)
Laing spent a couple of years as a psychiatrist in the British Army Psychiatric Unit at Netley, part of the Royal Army Medical Corps; conscripted despite his asthma that made him unfit for combat, where he found an interest in communicating with mentally distressed people. In 1953 Laing left the Army and worked at the Glasgow Royal Mental Hospital, becoming the youngest consultant in the country.

In 1956 Laing went on to train on a grant at the Tavistock Institute in London, widely known as a centre for the study and practice of psychotherapy (particularly psychoanalysis). At the time, he was associated with John Bowlby, D. W. Winnicott and Charles Rycroft.

In 1965 Laing and a group of colleagues created the Philadelphia Association and started a psychiatric community project at Kingsley Hall, where patients and therapists lived together. The Norwegian author Axel Jensen contacted Laing at Kingsley Hall after reading his book “The Divided Self”, which had been given to him by Noel Cobb. Jensen was treated by Laing and subsequently they became close friends.

In October 1972, Laing met Arthur Janov, author of the popular book The Primal Scream. Though Laing found Janov modest and unassuming, he thought of him as a 'jig man' (someone who knows a lot about a little). Laing sympathized with Janov, but regarded his primal therapy as a lucrative business, one which required no more than obtaining a suitable space and letting people 'hang it all out’. Later this method became known as “rebirthing”.

Inspired by the work of American psychotherapist Elizabeth Fehr, Laing began to develop a team offering "rebirthing workshops" in which one designated person chooses to re-experience the struggle of trying to break out of the birth canal represented by the remaining members of the group who surround him or her.

Laing and anti-psychiatry

Laing was an important figure in the anti-psychiatry movement, along with David Cooper, although he never denied the value of treating mental distress.

“If humans survive, future men will, I suspect, look back on our enlightened epoch as a veritable age of Darkness. They will presumably be able to savour the irony of the situation with more amusement than we can extract from it. The laugh is on us. They will see that what we call "schizophrenia" was one of the forms in which, often through quite ordinary people, the light began to break through the cracks in our all-too-closed minds.” (R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience, p. 107)

He also challenged psychiatric diagnosis itself, arguing that diagnosis of a mental disorder contradicted accepted medical procedure: diagnosis was made based on behaviour or conduct, and examination and ancillary tests that traditionally precede the diagnosis of viable pathologies (like broken bones or pneumonia) occurred after the diagnosis of mental disorder (if at all). Hence, according to Laing, psychiatry was founded on a false epistemology: illness diagnosed by conduct, but treated biologically.

Alan Watts(6 January 1915 – 16 November 1973)

Watts attended The King's School, Canterbury next door to Canterbury Cathedral. Though he was frequently at the top of his classes scholastically and was given responsibilities at school, he botched an opportunity for a scholarship to Oxford by styling a crucial examination essay in a way that was read as "presumptuous and capricious."

When he left secondary school, Watts worked in a printing house and later a bank. He spent his spare time involved with the Buddhist Lodge and under the tutelage of a "rascal guru" named Dimitrije Mitrinović who was influenced by Peter Ouspensky, student of G. I. Gurdjieff, and the varied psychoanalytical schools of Freud, Jung and Adler. Watts also read widely in philosophy, history, psychology, psychiatry and Eastern wisdom.

In 1936, aged 21, he attended the World Congress of Faiths at the University of London, heard D. T. Suzuki read a paper, and afterwards was able to meet this esteemed scholar of Zen Buddhism. Beyond these discussions and personal encounters, Watts absorbed, by studying the available scholarly literature, the fundamental concepts and terminology of the main philosophies of India and East Asia.

In his writings of the 1950s, he conveyed his admiration for the practicality in the historical achievements of Chán (Zen) in the Far East, for it had fostered farmers, architects, builders, folk physicians, artists, and administrators among the monks who had lived in the monasteries of its lineages. In his mature work, he presents himself as "Zennist" in spirit as he wrote in his last book, “Tao: The Watercourse Way”. Child rearing, the arts, cuisine, education, law and freedom, architecture, sexuality, and the uses and abuses of technology were all of intense interest to him.

Though known for his Zen teachings, he was also influenced by ancient Hindu scriptures, especially Vedanta, and spoke extensively about the nature of the divine reality which Man misses: how the contradiction of opposites is the method of life and the means of cosmic and human evolution; how our fundamental ignorance is rooted in the exclusive nature of mind and ego; how to come in touch with the Field of Consciousness and Light, and other cosmic principles.

Watts sought to resolve his feelings of alienation from the institutions of marriage and the values of American society, as revealed in his classic comments on love relationships in "Divine Madness" and on perception of the organism-environment in "The Philosophy of Nature". In looking at social issues he was quite concerned with the necessity for international peace, for tolerance and understanding among disparate cultures. He also came to feel acutely conscious of a growing ecological predicament; writing, for example, in the early 1960s: "Can any melting or burning imaginable get rid of these ever-rising mountains of ruin—especially when the things we make and build are beginning to look more and more like rubbish even before they are thrown away?"

Humberto Maturana (1928)

Maturana, along with Francisco Varela and Ricardo B. Uribe, is particularly known for creating the term "autopoiesis" about the self-generating, self-maintaining structure in living systems, and concepts such as ‘structural determinism’ and ‘structure coupling’. His work has been influential mainly in the field of systems thinking and cybernetics. Overall, his work is concerned with the biology of cognition.

Maturana's research interests concerns concepts like cognition, autopoiesis, languaging, zero time cybernetics and structural determined systems. Maturana's work extends to philosophy and cognitive science and even to family therapy. His inspiration for his work in cognition came while he was a medical student and became seriously ill with tuberculosis. Confined in a sanatorium with very little to read, he spent time reflecting on his condition and the nature of life. What he came to realize was that “what was peculiar to living systems was that they were discrete autonomous entities. All the processes that we live are lived in reference to ourselves ... whether a dog bites me or doesn't bite me, it is doing something that has to do with itself." This paradigm of autonomy formed the basis of his studies and work.

Maturana and his student Francisco Varela were the first to define and employ the concept of autopoiesis. Aside from making important contributions to the field of evolution, Maturana is associated with an epistemology built upon empirical findings of neurobiology. Maturana and Varela wrote in their Santiago Theory of Cognition: "Living systems are cognitive systems, and living as a process is a process of cognition. This statement is valid for all organisms, with or without a nervous system." Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living. Dordecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co., 1980.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

I am very interested to get feedback and your own thinking about the above question. Writers abound in many books on the topic of psychotherapy. From James Hillman & Michael Ventura “We had 100 years of psychotherapy and the world’s getting worse” (1992), to “Dance of the Ancient One - How the Universe Solves Personal and World Problems” by Arnold Mindell (12013). These are only two books that may be seen as opposite in view, but all seem to state that the MIND is not a “thing”, it is a process: the process of cognition, feelings and it has an identity with life itself.

My own opinion is that Psychotherapy (of any orientation) needs a shaking up, a push past the ‘contemporary’ boundaries of its accepted ‘modern’ ideas; therapy needs to emerge, again, ( as it did in the 50’s and 60’s) to shift the accepted paradigm of healing. Now we need to speak to the new generation of psychotherapists to point out how we are shrinking people into false and forced normality and doing business out of the human pain.





Tuesday, August 8, 2017



THE NEW AGE HAS COME TO AN END

Some 35 years ago, there was an era where I participated in with great passion. It was the 70’s and 80’s and the emerging Human Potential Movement. The songs sag; “this is the age of Aquarius!” – the NEW AGE - the time after the wars ended and a new generation of baby boomers begun to explore all aspects of the human possibilities. But like all eras in history, this had also its positive and negative aspects. The positive aspects were the opening of a wide range of existential visions as to what the person in society can accomplish and that will lead to a new freedom from any kind of oppression. It exposed all kind of false beliefs that were kept from the rigid social order of the Victorian era and settled in the morality of the 30’s and 40’s.

As far as the negative aspect are concerned, the New Age left many people traumatised and confused by the many false ‘therapies’, magic solutions to personal problems, self-appointed ‘gurus’ and promises of a new life for all and thus leaving enormous expectations for those seeking change but leaving many perplexed and lost.

The NEW AGE arrived at a time when the world religions, particularly the Christian Church were in a crisis of faith in the West. The youth that experienced the WWII and the Viet Nam wars, lost all trust in the establishment. The New Age generation’s motto was:” Make Love Not War!”  They embraced the Oriental spiritual principles that did not place God as a single powerful entity. The Oriental spiritual practices offered a different point of view of what it is to be human. They promoted individual responsibility, all-inclusive and universal connection with spirit, the possibility of other entities ‘out there’ and the importance of personal growth to discover the whole person: body – mind- soul.

Over the many years of the human potential movement that spanned the Western world, we witnessed an emergence of such centres like Esalen Institute in California, the residence of Fritz Perls that pioneered Gestalt therapy. There were seminars by Abraham Maslow, Body work by Ida Rolf, and many others. Many more ‘schools’ opened across USA and Canada first and then in the rest of the Western world later. Some of the leaders were really change agents and some were of dubious quality. There was such a great response to these centres of wisdom that we witnessed ‘gurus’ from India, enlightened teachers form the East teaching meditation and yoga skills. Astrology seminars reaching a wide public by way of TV, Tarot readers, inner awakening groups, encounter groups and so on.
Over time, many of these “schools” degenerated into cult- like groups that created untold damage to the naïve members that followed those false leaders who promoted extra-terrestrial contacts, rebirthing, mind control and even suicidal events.

Today most of the authentic institutes that were at the cutting edge of human transformation and development no longer are the old ‘outsiders’ of the mainstream education but have adapted the academic models of teaching. Many have aligned themselves to University programmes that offer the standard diplomas and master’s degrees. These pseudo-schools depend largely on government grants and must follow the mainstream University course requirements and thus losing the freedom of exploration of new ideas.

Therefore, the NEW AGE era with all the utopian ideas has ended. Today most courses are offered on line with little or no human contact. Here is what the Wikipedia is writing about this phenomenon:
“As a form of Western esotericism, the New Age drew heavily upon many older esoteric traditions, in particular those that emerged from the occultist current that developed in the eighteenth century. Such prominent occult influences include the work of Emanuel Swedenborg and Franz Mesmer, as well as the ideas of Spiritualism, New Thought, and Theosophy. Many mid-twentieth century influences, such as the UFO religions of the 1950s, the Counterculture of the 1960s, and the Human Potential Movement, also exerted a strong influence on the early development of the New Age. Although the exact origins of the phenomenon remain contested, it is agreed that it developed in the 1970s. It expanded and grew largely in the 1980s and 1990s, in Europe and within the United States. By the start of the 21st century, the term "New Age" was increasingly rejected within this milieu, with some scholars arguing that the New Age phenomenon had ended.

Despite its highly eclectic nature, a number of beliefs commonly found within the New Age have been identified. Theologically, the New Age typically adopts a belief in a holistic form of divinity which imbues all the universe, including human beings themselves. There is thus a strong emphasis on the spiritual authority of the self. This is accompanied by a common belief in a wide variety of semi-divine non-human entities, such as angels and masters, with whom humans can communicate, particularly through the form of channelling. Typically viewing human history as being divided into a series of distinct ages, a common New Age belief is that whereas once humanity lived in an age of great technological advancement and spiritual wisdom, it has entered a period of spiritual degeneracy, which will be remedied through the establishment of a coming Age of Aquarius, from which the milieu gets its name. There is also a strong focus on healing, particularly using forms of alternative medicine, and an emphasis on a "New Age science" which seeks to unite science and spirituality.
Those involved in the New Age have been primarily from middle and upper-middle-class backgrounds.

The degree to which New Agers are involved in the milieu varied considerably, from those who adopted many New Age ideas and practices to those who fully embraced and dedicated their lives to it. The New Age has generated criticism from established Christian organisations as well as modern Pagan and indigenous communities. From the 1990s onward, the New Age became the subject of research by academic scholars of religious studies.”

Today we are filled with technological tools that give us all the information needed to make a more accurate and well researched data about the many beliefs promoted by the New Age leaders. People interested in spiritual matters, inner work, mindfulness can access webinars, eBooks and on-line courses available at a small cost. There is also plenty of good research available about the effectiveness and value of the various esoteric ideas, beliefs and practices.

One current book that I recommend reading (Amazon.com) deals with a new or different way of dealing with personal growth. That book is entitled “Soulcraft: Crossing the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche” by Bill Plotkin.

SOULCRAFT  – THE NEXT STEP IN CONTEMPORARY PSYCHOTHERAPY

My reflections, this month, are based on my own experiences, personal observations and research about the New Age movement in Canada and USA. It all began in the 1960’s when I graduated in Psychology and later with a Master’s in Social work. In 1973, I graduated from the 3-year course in Gestalt therapy in Toronto, Canada. At that time, I became totally immersed in the New Age movement as all my colleagues were. I visited many of the growth centres and institutes in California, attended a week encounter group in New York, travelled to Sonora Mexico in search of the wise Yaki Indian mentioned by Carlos Castaneda, visited 15 alternative communities all over the world and established several training institutes and gestalt groups in Australia.

These experiences, over 40 years, helped me to discover my own and the Western world’s paradigm shift that became to me an integration of science and soul. The book on Soulcraft, by Bill Plotkin is mapping the future of psychotherapy. We no longer can help anyone if we do not include the SOUL and SPIRIT in our work. There is an emerging need to co-create and develop a clear ecological awareness to save humanity and the planet Earth.

The new and emerging technologies help us to understand clearly the scientific facts of human growth and at the same time bring a new ‘shadow’ side. This shadow aspect is evidenced in the commercialism of everything, corrupt political leadership and economic growth for growth's sake.

However, it is evident now that the major scientific discoveries in astronomy, medicine, psychology and soul work are directing the new paradigm towards the acceptance of the most fundamental fact: that the Universe and the individual are co-dependent and co-creative. This paradigm is supporting the principle of SOULCRAFT. See my previous blog post for details.


“Knowledge is doomed if we cannot understand that knowledge alone is recursive, and harbours the seeds of its own destruction, if taken to extreme”

Neil Rush, Parabola, 2017






                                      “Make Love Not War”: Hippies 1970’s











 By the late 1980s, some publishers dropped the term "New Age" as a marketing device. In 1994, the scholar of religion Gordon J. Melton presented a conference paper in which he argued that, given that he knew of nobody describing their practices as "New Age" anymore, the New Age had died. In 2001, Hammer observed that the term "New Age" had increasingly been rejected as either pejorative or meaningless by individuals within the Western cultic milieu. He also noted that within this milieu it was not being replaced by any alternative, and that as such a sense of collective identity was being lost.