Category Archives: health care

Your Pet Has Something to Tell You

Even if our pet is a valued member of the family, we still tend to think of it as having a life independent from our own, unsullied by human foibles and driven by simple motivations such as food, good napping spots, and a friendly slap on the ass. However, largely unbeknownst to us our pets are enmeshed in our lives in an intimate and codependent manner apart from our affectionate attachment toward them.

Before we go any further, we need to trot out the well-worn yet frequently ignored principle that we are both individual articulations of consciousness as well as inseparable elements of a unified field. Hence, we are simultaneously having an experience that we describe as my life as well as one in which we are unknowingly influencing the lives of others simply by being in their presence.

Our lack of awareness regarding this latter, hidden dynamic reflects our resistance to seeing ourselves in an honest light. Because of our frequent collective inability to stay grounded and vulnerable, most human interactions end up being exercises in avoidance, suppression, compensation, sidestepping, projection, sleepwalking, and any other euphemism we can muster for checking out. Deep down we desire wholeness, but are so relentlessly programmed to fear it that separation is our default mode.

By “separation,” I’m referring to the fragmentation of a fundamentally whole event—a human being—into a collection of components that rarely communicate with each other, if at all. And so we move through out lives as a motley assembly of selves: emotional, psychological, spiritual, intellectual, body, heart, soul, psyche, etc. Because this model is drilled into us right out of the birth canal, it occurs to us as the baseline condition of a human being, but is actually a form of brainwashing. Separation results in repressed feelings and emotions, accepting fear as a way of life, and physical symptoms. In short, it is the ultimate source of our pain and suffering.

If it occurs to us at some point in our lives that operating within this framework dramatically limits our creativity, capacity to feel, ability to love and empathize, then our life may take a turn to recover some of our lost wholeness.

Enter the pet, the unwitting arbiter of wholeness and barometer for the level of suppression/repression in a given situation. The animal’s natural state of wholeness magnetizes to it the destabilizing element of separation created by the ungrounded humans in the vicinity.

The pet takes on these disowned parts of ourselves and mirrors them back to us. At the individual level we are hiding from ourselves, and at the unified field level we are attempting to reveal our inner state to ourselves through an agent that we regard as separate from us (our pet). We could not make this more convoluted if we tried.

The pet’s role is analogous to the way a lightning rod stabilizes the erratic and chaotic nature of lightning. Unacknowledged feelings and emotions can easily be described as chaotic and erratic in their own right, as they have a sabotaging effect on our lives.

Another way to frame this phenomenon is through the conservation of energy within a system: If one element is not openly demonstrating its entirety then whatever is suppressed will find a way to express through another element in the system. The energy of suppressed emotion is not destroyed through its suppression; it simply finds another avenue by which to surface.

This is by no means a tidy or seamless means of achieving homeostatis, as it requires a sacrifice to cobble together the best possible representation of wholeness as the setting will allow. The animal’s presence provides the opportunity for some semblance of wholeness to be demonstrated in the midst of the separation inherent in human interaction, an attempt at psychic damage control via self-sacrifice.

The sacrifices of a present-day pet are subtler than back in the day when people sacrificed animals to appease or please the gods because they instinctively knew that animals were naturally grounded and a more stable connection to a higher source. However, short of its death, the toll on the pet can be enormous in terms of physical ailments, baseline stress level, and emotional suffering.  (And, I’ve seen the price be death as well.)

This is why the notion of a service animal to assist in emotional and psychological rehabilitation is a lethal redundancy, because the animal is already performing this role by its very nature and we just aren’t aware of it. When we apply the label of service animal we are asking it to perform double duty, adding a level of conscripted empathy to its already formidable task of navigating typical human behavior.

In addition, if the owner who is recovering from trauma does not take responsibility for his/her own healing process, then the trauma will likely be transferred to the animal, resulting in a cycle of displaced repressed emotion by the owner and acceptance of abuse on the part of the animal.

No one is really innocent or guilty: this is a production that runs itself by virtue of our resistance to consciously participating with it, which would require a level of personal responsibility that we are rarely willing to approach. Besides, there are no random events, so the fact that the animals have found themselves in their situation is part of their karmic blueprint.

We could easily substitute “pet” with “child,” “stomach (or any other organ),” because in the absence of an animal these will assume the same function of being a sacrifice to separation in the name of wholeness.

Here are a few recent examples I’ve encountered in my work:

1. A family gathering (always an emotional avoidance extravaganza) where two dogs were present. The dogs both became ill, one violently so, after they took on the anxiety, fears, and chronic digestive problems of a couple of family members.

2. A cat who took on her owner’s fear of aging, mortality, and menopause and manifested changes to her own reproductive organs to approximate her owner’s menopause as closely as possible.

3. A cat who became a conduit to express painful memories from Native American trauma embedded in the property, resulting in his becoming immbile and depressed.

4. A man who micromanaged his dog’s health regimen because of his fear that the dog would die and leave him alone, reflecting back to his mother’s death when he was a child. The dog, wanting to please and taking on his owner’s hidden fear of abandonment, manifested a chronic illness so that his owner could periodically “heal” him and feel that he was healing the loss of his mother.

The best thing we can do for our animals (or ourselves, children, or partner for that matter) is to maintain as honest a connection to our inner state as possible. This will relieve the pet, child, spouse, or organ system from shouldering the entire load of whole-making, in the event that we ourselves are the main source of separation in the environment. It requires venturing outside of separation, which is the mother of all comfort zones.

To do so, we have to overcome our resistance to being “the only one in the room” who is holding a grounded state. It requires vulnerability to feel our conflicting inner states and transcending our conditioning that regards vulnerability as presenting ourselves as fresh for the slaughter. Nothing could be further from the truth. Add to that our ingrained belief that we are incapable of acknowledging multiple contradictory mental and emotional perspectives without being a hypocrite, an insult of the highest order to our egos.

The more we are able to be present to the disordered, irrational nature of our inner life, the more we will be able to look our pets in the eyes and see ourselves, for better or worse.

Why Is It So Hard to Find Urgency? Part 2

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “The Art of Getting Out of the Way.”

3. Until we’re willing to experience the nature and extent of the pain we’re in, we have a limited perspective on our situation and how to find a way out of it. Urgency springs from a transfer of energy that occurs when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to the pain underlying an habitual behavior or emotional state. The energy that was applied to suppressing the pain becomes available when we stop the suppression. It is a shift from a mental effort—suppression—to an effortless act—being vulnerable to our feelings.

That available energy is what we draw from to stay grounded and make a conscious decision to change an undesirable situation. Without that available energy, having a choice in the situation is in name only, because we will reflexively choose our conditioned, default behavior time and time again.

By the time we’re young adults, we’ve portioned out all almost all of our life force toward propping up a persona that we can live with and display to the public. Unfortunately, the script written for that persona is based on childhood adaptive strategies, traumas (real and perceived), borrowed beliefs, misinterpretations, fantasies, and false information. Besides making it very difficult to have a direct experience of what is right in front of us, it is our unwillingness to disassemble this web of misperceptions that stands between us and urgency.

In addition, episodes of illness and injury are woven into the story of our life and become associated with repressed emotions, such that a complete healing of the physical ailment requires revisiting the unresolved emotional component. We often fear what may lie on the other side of healing, because it will likely include the exposure of our hidden agendas around maintaining a certain degree of pain in our lives, and those agendas have to be sacrificed in order to achieve real healing.

In my 15 years in health care, I’ve watched clients (and myself) repeatedly choose chronic pain and illness—even death– over honest self-examination. We permit a depth of healing that corresponds to, but does not exceed, the degree of self-exposure that our ego can comfortably handle. In other words, the depth of our healing is directly proportional to how badly we want to know who we are and what motivates our behavior.

4. The mind leverages small discomforts to exert maximum control over our access to urgency. There is a whole universe of sensations and feelings that informs us about our emotional, psychological, and physical state at any given moment, but our mind dutifully chooses which ones to recognize and which ones to ignore and suppress based on the version of reality we’ve painstakingly assembled.

On cue, our mind-body produces mild, context-specific discomforts that signal the very tip of the pain we will have to confront in order to create change in our lives. However, these physical annoyances are not consciously acknowledged as heralding fear, rage, shame or whatever taboo emotion threatens us so profoundly. The more undefined the danger, the more the mind can keep us under its thumb. These discomforts and annoyances surface in that slippery interface between our everyday awareness and the unconscious, and may take many forms: jaw clenching, chest tightness, holding one’s breath, drowsiness, sour stomach, dizziness, and neck pain, to name just a few.

The discomfort’s message is a subtle, but powerful implication that whatever repressed emotions are uncovered will result in a worst-case scenario: death, destruction, public humiliation, or total loss of control. Until the repressed emotion is actually allowed expression, it is only indicated by this sensation-based signature of the repressed emotion.

Here’s an example. A man desperately wants to tell his father he loves him, but every time the thought occurs to him it is accompanied by a tightening of his throat. This has occurred so many times over the years that he no longer notices the discomfort, although without fail it has the effect of squelching the simple words, “Dad, I love you.” The throat tightening delivers the message that if he were to tell his father this simple fact, something bad will happen. It also masks the real reason he cannot say these words: a deep resentment for something that happened in childhood for which he’s never forgiven his father.

Not telling his father he loves him is the son’s way of withholding love in payment for that episode that happened so long ago. The underlying statement is, “I won’t tell you I love you until you admit that you were wrong.” The throat constriction is tied to the son’s inability to relinquish being right about the incident, and the trade-off is the loss of emotional connection to his father.

Since the son will not consciously admit to himself that he cannot let go of a petty grudge against the person who raised him, all that remains is the throat tightening to control his behavior. The end result is the son’s rationalization, “It just wasn’t the right time. I’ll tell him the next time I see him.” And urgency is successfully sidestepped yet again.

This is one of the mind’s primary methods of keeping us in our prison, both at the individual and collective levels. In this way, our past is always informing our present experience, and spontaneity, hence urgency, is kept at bay.

5. The mind may create a constant crisis state to avoid real urgency. This is a very successful strategy as evidenced by people who use rehab like a vacation home, make a hobby of attending multiple support groups, use permanent disability as a gravy train, or spend all their time putting out other people’s fires. If a person’s baseline state is to be in a crisis situation, how will he possibly be able to discern when he actually is in a crisis?

Hitting bottom for these people will be elusive, since bottom has become the norm. This phenomenon also attests to the extremely subjective nature of pain. Someone may, for instance, be willing to subject himself to the physical pain of heroin withdrawal, but not have the courage to confront the shame that fuels the addiction.

For someone to escape from this horrible trap, they have to recover a baseline experience of well-being, or at least neutrality. For someone who has lived her entire life in a crisis mode, this can be extremely threatening because feeling good has become such an alien experience and is not easily trusted.

If healing completely is too much of a threat to a victim identity, then the mind knows precisely where to draw the line to feel just well enough to keep the identity operational.

Why is It So Hard to Find Urgency? Part I

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “The Art of Getting Out of the Way.”

Have you ever found yourself envying someone who has received a terminal diagnosis or had a near-death experience, because he claimed that it dramatically enhanced his appreciation for life? Did it lead you to ask yourself, “Am I capable of creating that urgency within myself without needing to look death in the eye?”

Or, we all know a friend or family member whose inability to hit bottom has caused us to shake our heads and say, “Jesus, what’s it gonna take?!” And, in unguarded moments, we may ask that of ourselves as well.

Where does urgency come from and why is it so hard to find? The question becomes even more formidable considering the range of possible reactions to the aforementioned terminal diagnosis. For every person who finds a new immediacy in her life, there are many more that simply give up, hand their fate over to the health care system, or sink into depression or rage because of perceived powerlessness.

Beyond the typical dictionary definition, I would describe urgency as a force that compels us to overcome our habitual behaviors and beliefs to seek a more fulfilling life, and align our actions with our deepest aspirations.

Urgency is required to change many types of situations: quitting a self-destructive habit, ending an unhappy relationship, healing from a chronic health problem, and leaving a soul-sucking job are just a few.

This chapter will not attempt to address our collective inability to find urgency as a nation in rapid decline or as a species that is rapidly destroying itself and its environment. I feel that our individual barriers to urgency are an accurate microcosm of these broader contexts.

The factors that derail urgency are so insidious and varied that it makes sense to identify a just a few of the primary culprits:

1. We don’t give ourselves permission to desire what we actually want. If all we know is that we want a shitty situation to change, but we don’t identify why it has persisted and what we want in its place, it causes us to look for urgency where it does not reside in the situation.

For example, a person may say she wants a partner who is a good provider, but what she really yearns for is someone with whom she can express anger and not be rejected for it. However, she has never given herself permission to feel anger without feeling guilty about it.

In order to have a fulfilling relationship, she would have to find the courage to tamper with her carefully constructed identity of being a person who is above feeling anger. The real reason for her unhappiness in the relationship remains hidden because of her inability to honestly name what she wants due to its personal taboo nature. Until she is able to acknowledge that need she may not even be able to imagine herself in a different situation, and will likely continue in relationships with a partner that does not allow her to express anger.

We’re generally not taught to want something substantive from ourselves like learning to put our own needs first, how to be self-sufficient, how to recover our ability to cry, or be less inhibited. We often look to a therapist or teacher to give us permission to desire these things.

Instead, from an early age we’re handed ready-made constructs to chase such as financial and material success, romantic fantasies, fame, family obligation, patriotism, career, and advanced degrees. So, when our deeper desires gnaw at us they’re often not recognizable as real aspirations but rather as empty, vain pursuits, when compared to the prescribed goals of our culture. In other words, recovering our individual humanity often takes a back seat to being a productive citizen, a cooperative team player, or a good little consumer.

I wasn’t aware of what I really wanted from my life until I was 49, and since then I’ve held on for dear life because my own mind and the pressures of the world are constantly trying to convince me that I’m insane, irresponsible, and self-indulgent for desiring it.

2. We believe that we’re never going to die and that we’re entitled to a pain-free life. If asked, any sane person would deny holding these beliefs, but they are nevertheless clearly demonstrated through our individual and collective behaviors and are reinforced moment-to-moment by the health care system, mass media, our government, the entertainment industry, our educational system, and various other institutions.

Of course, we need only examine our own lives or anyone around us to know that death and pain are hallmarks of being in human form. So, how do we reconcile this massive contradiction in our minds and sustain beliefs that are disproven at every turn? Presto, the magic of suppression and repression enables us to occupy unlimited contradictory positions and avert pain or a spontaneous recognition of our mortality.

We can either choose the pain of staying the same or the pain of growing up, and that can seem like a bleak outlook unless we develop a relationship to pain and discomfort other than our ingrained default response of aversion and suppression. Unfortunately, we most often choose the pain of staying the same because familiar pain is our twisted security blanket, and the latter is an uncomfortable leap into the unknown. It is ironic that we often chastise teenagers for taking unnecessary risks with their lives as though they were immortal, while as adults we express this same belief in immortality through a profound lack of risk taking.

We are rarely encouraged to move toward pain and discomfort as a doorway to healing and change, and in fact, we’re likely to be labeled masochistic and mentally unstable if we do. If we voluntarily chose the discomfort of vulnerability and self-exposure more often, there would be little need for a self-help industry, spiritual gurus, or motivational speakers.

So, we look for urgency in a package that is anything but painful or threatening. However, urgency does not hang out in a warm and fuzzy place, and when we do not find it there the mind serves up a generous buffet of justifications and rationalizations prepared for just this occasion. We pat our ego on the back for at least making an effort to find urgency, but alas, it just didn’t answer when we called.

Meditation is Not the Problem

This is a response to the Atlantic Monthly article, “The Dark Knight of the Soul.” (

This article in the Atlantic Monthly highlights a clinic in Providence, Rhode Island where Dr. Willoughby Britton, “an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Brown University Medical School receives regular phone calls, emails, and letters from people around the world in various states of impairment. Most of them worry no one will believe—let alone understand—their stories of meditation-induced affliction. Her investigation of this phenomenon, called “The Dark Night Project,” is an effort to document, analyze, and publicize accounts of the adverse effects of contemplative practices.”

This article deserves serious examination because if the demonization of meditation becomes the next fabricated trend in pathologizing and treating normal human behavior, then it might just signal the beginning of the end for the spirituality/personal growth industry in this country.

One of the obvious sources of confusion regarding meditation is that the word itself is used to describe a variety of different approaches and techniques. Across all these techniques, though, meditation is nothing more than focusing one’s attention. The critical aspect that differentiates one technique from another is what is receiving the focus, and the spirit in which the focus is being transmitted.

Due to the limited scope of a blogpost, I’m only going to contrast meditation practices that are health or relaxation-oriented vs. those that might be described as contemplative or transformative.

As we know by now, meditation can be used quite effectively as a relaxation tool, a means to lower blood pressure or pulse, and to counter the effects of stress. This is a very useful reminder of how we can program our physiology via our attention, and if it were adopted by a majority of people it could, for example, put a big dent in the ridiculous over-prescribing of blood pressure medication. A person might conceivably use meditation solely in this practical role for her entire life, because the mind has clearly established a specific agenda and it will not stray outside the set protocol if it’s to achieve that goal.

However, if someone begins to discover a persistent sadness that accompanies her relaxation protocol, she might think that she needs a new technique or that her execution is flawed. In such an approach to meditation, thoughts, feelings, and emotions may be regarded at best as annoyances to the task at hand, but not as useful sources of information in themselves. If there is a clearly defined agenda driving one’s motivation to meditate, then the mind will do its damnedest to suppress, rationalize away, disregard, and minimize any incoming information that conflicts with this agenda, just as Scrooge initially dismisses Marley’s ghost as “an undigested bit of beef.”

Generally, this approach to meditation, while having practical value, doesn’t encourage an attitude of exploration and discovery beyond the specific physiological results that are being sought. As such, it can coexist quite well with the baseline rigidity of the mind without much fuss.

Let’s contrast this with a meditation practice that is intended to cultivate a state of contemplation or witnessing of the mind itself, which is the type of practice that I’ll be referring to for the remainder of this blogpost. If a person undertakes such a practice, then he has already recognized on some level that there is something lacking in his life. All that remains is to discover what that “something” is and establish how much he’s willing to sacrifice in order to rectify it. In some circles, this is known as a spiritual path.

With this type of meditation practice one is usually encouraged to combine a point of focus with an attitude of vulnerability and surrender. (Already, we can see how the ramifications of such a focus might differ greatly from the limited goals of a relaxation/stress management model of meditation.) Since our culture at large actually discourages vulnerability and surrender and equates these with weakness, our initial efforts at understanding and putting these qualities into practice can be very painful and clumsy. The attitude of a contemplative practice is the opposite of how we live our lives most of the time, which is in a fiercely guarded state where we’re terrified that we may not be right about everything.

Because we begin a meditation practice with all of our social conditioning solidly in place, there are some underlying assumptions we bring to the table that are hidden to our conscious minds until we encounter our resistance to letting go of these same beliefs. Then we hold on for dear life.

I feel the number one assumption is the belief that we can know anything, including assuming that we know what a human being is. But if we assume we know what a human being is, then we think we know what the mind is. Next, if we know what the mind is then we know what meditation is, and so we know what to expect and what not to expect. Because, gosh, we sure don’t want any surprises.

When vulnerability and surrender meet these beliefs head-on, something’s gotta give. In attempting to reconcile these conflicting forces by allowing our rigid beliefs to soften in the face of being vulnerable to the possibility that we might be wrong, we gradually become aware of the power of quiet destruction that we’ve beckoned into our lives. Indeed, we would never have consciously asked for this, because something else—something other than our discriminating mind–has drawn us onto this battlefield.

Meditation can potentially devastate our illusions, identities, agendas, and roust our skeletons from their closets, regardless of what we thought our intention was going into it. The misperception that a meditation practice will necessarily be an enhancement of one’s present life situation rather than a force that may cause its disintegration is often one of the first sacrifices in achieving any depth in one’s practice. In our current 2014 environment, in which we’re conditioned to regard constant bombardment by external stimuli as normal, the impulse to look inward is an inherently subversive act.

Here are a few quotes from the article by clients who are said to be recovering from meditation:

“I had a fear of being thought of as crazy,” he says, “I felt extremely sensitive, vulnerable, and naked.”

David explains that he finally felt awake. But it didn’t last. “I started having thoughts like, ‘Let me take over you,’ combined with confusion and tons of terror. I had a vision of death with a scythe and a hood, and the thought ‘Kill yourself’ over and over again.”

“Psychological hell,” is how he describes it. “It would come and go in waves. I’d be in the middle of practice and what would come to mind was everything I didn’t want to think about, every feeling I didn’t want to feel.”

And there you have the prevailing American perspective on spirituality and personal growth: If I don’t get it just the way I want it, then there must be something wrong with the technique, my teacher, or me.

The difficult periods of meditation, feeling like we don’t enjoy anything anymore or that our life is meaningless, is a way to get us to STOP doing what we’ve always done, because the inherent emptiness of our old life is being shown to us. For a lot of us, our internal dialogue simply never makes it to an audible level because we censor it so completely, precisely because it includes such disturbing material. When someone feels depressed, panicky, anxious, or hopeless as a result of their meditation practice, it is alerting them to a whole level of repressed emotions and feelings that have not been allowed to see the light of day. The fact that they are now at the surface where they can be acknowledged means that there is finally a possibility for healing.

Have I personally experienced depression, white hot rage, thoughts of suicide, and intense fear and anxiety as a result of meditation? Yes, and I continue to do so, but it’s not “a meditation-induced affliction”! It’s opening the door of my mind’s cluttered attic, finding out what’s inside and learning to cope with being a more fully-feeling human being in a world that is increasingly determined to produce robots, to feel as human as possible without going insane. Meditation is simply the vehicle by which I give myself permission to do so.

Does it help to have someone to talk to during these difficult periods? Of course! But that person certainly doesn’t have to be a mental health professional that is poised to tell us that there’s something wrong with having normal human feelings. A person is much better off not embarking on a meditation practice if he isn’t willing to risk discovering that there is something other than his mind, and that it has nothing to do with his individuality or agendas. Because the mind doesn’t appreciate being deconstructed, to put it lightly, it may view its obliteration through the lens of a mental and emotional breakdown and cause one to seek intervention so that it can abort the process of transformation and preserve its dominion. Mission accomplished.

With the widespread use of antidepressants and other mood-altering aids, as well as suffocating social pressures such as political correctness and public shaming, we are driving our collective emotional selves deeper and deeper into inaccessibility. Our rapidly shrinking outlets for honest emotional expression doesn’t squelch our need to find that expression; it does, however, mean that an encounter with our true feelings is more likely to be unexpected and precipitated by events seemingly beyond our control. Meditation can certainly be a way to counteract this trend and intentionally enter into an interaction with our deeper selves, so we don’t have to wait for life to beat the stuffing out of us for us to feel something.

We make the mistake of believing there’ll be a straight line from desiring change in our lives to seeing evidence of change, and this linear way of thinking about personal growth or transformation is yet another mental construct that can fall apart in the face of a meditation practice. The difficult truth is that it may require years of opening ourselves up to repressed fear, depression, or rage that is standing between our current, unsatisfying life and something quite different and much more honest. Until we’re willing to really feel the pain that has drawn us toward meditation in the first place, we’ll continue to look anywhere else for change except where we almost certainly need to go.

In our “you can have it all” culture, we think we can subject our mind to the rigorous examination of a meditation practice and still believe in the American Dream, still keep our failing marriage together, and still hang on to our miserable, high-paying job. We want to be connected with the whole universe and all humanity except for that person over there that doesn’t smell very good. It’s like thinking you can open Pandora’s box just a smidge. When we permit ourselves to get away with this degree of internal haggling, it’s no wonder that we rarely see the change in the world or in ourselves that we passionately claim we long for. We persist in the contradictory line of thought that we want change, but we want it to feel familiar so that it doesn’t scare the shit out of us.

We advocate taking risks in order to experience life fully, but we stubbornly maintain that we can take risks and control the outcomes at the same time. If we need intervention to recover from glimpsing the reality of our inner state, then what’s next?

The clinic featured in this article is the latest twist on American health care’s fine tradition of killing the messenger, whether it’s in the arena of physical or mental health. In this case, meditation is seen as the problem rather than the means by which a person recognizes some truths about her emotional and psychological self, just like an orthopedist who tells a patient that’s experiencing pain while jogging to stop jogging, while the real issue is the patient’s badly misaligned pelvis. It also reflects western medicine’s inclination to confuse the qualities of a healing process with the pathology itself.

“Many people in our study were lost and confused and could not find help,” Britton says. “They had been through so many doctors, therapists, and dharma teachers. Given that we had so much information about these effects, we realized that we were it.”

Cool! Let’s create a brand new affliction and just happen to be uniquely positioned to treat it. Et voilà, the expert is born! In the guise of the helper or healer, we once again have someone who wants to short-circuit the process of healing, in this case the disintegration of the ego, the big daddy of them all. And, let’s just happen to be associated with an Ivy League university medical center so that our research will have brand name cachet, bountiful funding, and a fast track to publication.

I get seasick just trying to make sense of someone researching the adverse effects of meditation on the mind. It’s like a husband who is cheating on his wife that hires a private investigator to prove to himself that he’s cheating on his wife. Well, the brain may give up some of its secrets to researchers, but the mind has very little interest in revealing itself. We simply can’t reliably study the mind with the mind. It’s like a dog chasing its tail, but much worse because at least a dog will eventually get exhausted and lose interest. But our misguided and relentless efforts to understand the mind results in entire belief systems, institutions, and social structures that only serve to prevent us from accessing anything beyond the mind. As a result, we only discover what the mind is willing to give up without risking the existing order of things.

Meditation, however, provides us with a perspective from which we can actually witness the mind without trying to understand it, which in my experience is the only way it will reveal its secrets, strategies, machinations, and most importantly, how it creates and perpetuates what we perceive as reality. Unfortunately, the price that one pays to have this experience is in the fine print and rarely provided up front. We don’t realize we’re asking for the destruction of those parts of us that are just distractions from seeing ourselves for who and what we really are, and now we want our old life back. Guess what? Your old life is what you were asking to be freed from.


Wellness Briefs–“Medication Toxicity”

All of the conditions described in these posts are effectively treated with Pattern Release Energetics (PRE).

Do you ever wonder why pharmaceuticals have endless lists of possible serious side effects? One reason is because after our bodies have made maximum use of the medication and excreted as much of the excess as possible, whatever traces of it remain can get stored in a variety of tissues, including muscle, nerve, brain, and organ tissues. Residual medication can settle in these tissues indefinitely and create a toxic environment that can persist long after the medication has been discontinued. This toxicity can produce symptoms such as chronic muscle and joint pain, nerve pain (neuropathy), organ system dysfunction, allergies, headaches, and insomnia.

Chemotherapy meds, antibiotics, antidepressants, interferon, blood pressure medication, and blood thinners are just a few of the medications I’ve encountered stored in clients’ tissues and causing the previously mentioned symptoms. The mere fact that a person must be weaned off a medication already suggests that his or her system has become unnaturally accustomed to having the substance in its tissues, since it is considered risky to simply stop altogether. As with infections, stimulation of the lymph system with PRE encourages the body to release medication toxicity in a safe and efficient manner.

Unfortunately, medication is often used as a long-term treatment strategy which makes the body dependent, lazy, and unresponsive. Over time, this can result in the medication causing the very same symptoms that it was intended to eradicate. If you have symptoms whose origins no one has been able to trace, and you’ve been on a prolonged course of a medication at some point in your life, then medication toxicity should be considered as a possible source.

Wellness Briefs–“Infection Medley”

All of the conditions described in these posts are effectively treated with Pattern Release Energetics (PRE).

For both people and pets, multiple types of infections often occur concurrently. For example, an infection constellation composed of bacterial, viral, yeast, and fungal sources, or any combination of these, is common. If only the bacterial component is diagnosed and treated with antibiotics, it can obscure, and perpetuate, the other infectious elements. In fact, antibiotics can actually create the environment for these other infections to enter the scene in the first place.

The non-bacterial infections may mimic the symptoms of a bacterial infection, so it’s essential to know what exactly is present from the start, before the picture is muddied with any external stimuli. The dangers of indiscriminate use of antibiotics have been known for decades now, but it is still surprisingly rampant.

A grouping of different infections needs to be released layer by layer, in a specific sequence dictated by your mind-body. Otherwise, the healing is incomplete and encourages what is referred to as a “chronic, low-grade infection” or some such wording. Very often, there are emotional patterns that are being repressed in association with a particular infection layer, and these also need to be identified along with the infection type. Infections of any kind can be quickly cleared through activation of the lymph system with PRE, and people can easily be taught how to do this for themselves, as well.

The Intervention Fallacy: Part III, Freeing Yourself from the Cycle

This is the final installment of a three-part series.

[The approach to self-healing that I use in my Pattern Release Energetics work is described in detail in my e-book, “Activate Your Inner Physician,” available through, but this post is intended to summarize the principles behind it.]

Breaking the habit of intervention and re-learning how to heal oneself is–pardon the cliché—simple, but not easy. The first step, of course, is to stop intervening or allowing others to intervene whenever you have an uncomfortable, disturbing, or unfamiliar sensation, pain, emotional reaction, or obsessive thought. This at least gives you a chance to discover what experience is being short-circuited with intervention. Most often it’s an encounter with hidden beliefs, repressed memories, and unexpressed emotions.

Since we’ve taught ourselves to fear this encounter, we need a strategy to replace our default response of suppression, and develop a different relationship to pain and discomfort. We start by restoring the lines of communication between our bodies, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. These lines of communication are silenced over time as we’re socially conditioned to regard a human being as a compartmentalized phenomenon.

I teach people breathing and grounding to create a foundation for reestablishing this communication and encouraging the mechanism of expressive healing. These two tools provide a means to stay anchored while focusing on the symptom you’ve chosen to explore. Then you rotate your attention between all the physical sensations and emotional components that accompany the symptom, which might be described as a voluntary embracing of chaos.

This causes a type of tension to surface caused by the mind raising its resistance to examining the deeper sources of the symptom. Allowing this tension to build while staying grounded erodes the false compartments between body, thought, emotion, and sensations, and enables a freer flow of information between the conscious mind, the hidden self, and the physical body. By simply choosing not to suppress this experience, you are harnessing the healing forces inside you and encouraging them to interact until a resolution occurs.

This may feel very foreign at first, because in American culture we’re generally encouraged to resolve tension as quickly as possible, regardless of the context. The creative possibilities that non-resolution of tension engenders are unimaginable to the conscious mind, whose agenda is to choose either black or white and then rigidly defend whatever it’s chosen. In expressive healing, black and white are allowed to occupy the same space until they work it out and a third possibility reveals itself: healing. Tension and chaos are essential elements in expressive healing, and they are precisely what are trampled on with a suppressive approach. This is not a logic that can be reproduced by the intellect.

Another way of describing this approach is that it’s a way to make yourself vulnerable to yourself. Until you can do that, making yourself vulnerable to anyone else is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Vulnerability–the willingness to feel–is necessary to access whatever is trying to get our attention through disease, illness, pain, or dysfunction.

We like to think of ourselves as feeling beings, but until we’re actually asked to feel we don’t realize how profoundly intellectualized our experience of life has become. We say all the time that we want to feel more alive, but are we willing to experience what that really feels like after a lifetime of being programmed into a narrow band of feeling and self-expression? It’s not a stretch to imagine, for example, that your personal experience of feeling more alive might get you a diagnosis of bipolar disorder from certain mental health professionals.

Becoming a more feeling person doesn’t mean having one’s emotions spill all over the place at the drop of a hat. It involves being able to sense and honestly evaluate one’s internal state at any given time. Am I angry? Am I jealous? Is alcohol destroying my liver? Do I get a headache every time I visit my sister? Have I fallen out of love with my husband? Do I hold my breath when I talk to my boss?

Recovering one’s self-healing abilities is a solitary pursuit, because you’re not going to find much support for it out there. There is an unceasing exposure to elements that reinforce the intervention model, and the degree to which society attempts to keep a lid on our fundamental ability to heal ourselves is daunting, to say the least. If you do pursue it with some commitment, you’ll realize more and more how our culture’s approach to living one’s life is about suppression in practically every context you can imagine.

The point of all this is not to skate through life in some pain-free state or “tidy things up” emotionally. That’s a big part of the problem to begin with since tidying up suggests that certain emotions are unacceptable. It’s to observe, feel, acknowledge, and express. It’s a way to become more aware of why we do what we do, think what we think, and how that makes us feel on both a physical and emotional level. We can take the initiative to begin unwinding ourselves right now, or go with the flow and wait until life beats the crap out of us yet again, or we wait for the wake-up call of an emergency level of crisis.


The Intervention Fallacy: Part II, The Illusion of the Health Care Practitioner

First, a few definitions.

Vulnerability: A willingness to feel. This applies to physical sensations as well as emotions. Without it, healing does not happen in this model.

Conscious mind: Everyday awareness. Some of its tasks are to categorize and label, interpret sensory data, and search for meaning. A few of its qualities are resistance to change, avoidance of chaos, fear of death, and a need to be right.

Hidden self: Those aspects of being human that the conscious mind judges as undesirable and hides from view. Whatever doesn’t correspond to the personality and image that the conscious mind wants to show the world is banished to the hidden self. This includes cultural and religious taboos, socially unacceptable attributes, unpleasant memories, and painful emotions

Wholeness: A human being’s fundamental yearning to merge the conscious mind with the hidden self to experience a greater range of expression.

Healing: A movement toward wholeness.

This series began with the statement, “All healing is self-healing.” So, where does the health care practitioner fit in?

A lot of what passes for health care is the equivalent of an athletic trainer who gives an injured player a painkiller injection and sends her back into the game. Nothing is done to address the acute or chronic injury/illness pattern, and the messages of the mind-body are totally disregarded through suppression.

Sometimes we’re sick or in pain because something inside us is trying to keep us out of the game, and will continue to do so until we get the message. Let’s say we’re working 12-hour days to avoid being alone with the pain of our divorce, and as a result we’ve got daily migraines. In that case, a practitioner who simply prescribes migraine medication is enabling our addiction to a lifestyle that’s literally making us sick. We’re all familiar with the custom of killing the messenger who brings unwelcome news, but the intervention model of health care kills the messenger before we even have a chance to hear the message.

Training or certification in any therapy or healing art only grants someone the possibility of participating in a person’s healing, to be in a position where others can make themselves vulnerable to him or her, and vice versa. Unfortunately, all the focus is on training, technique, and how many letters the practitioner has after his or her name. Because we’ve set it up this way, the only way we can recover our permission to heal ourselves is by getting it from someone else, again and again. If we really pay attention, though, we may eventually remind ourselves that there’s only one doctor, and it’s inside of us. Does this diminish the role of the practitioner? On the contrary, this is a very privileged position! It’s just that American culture doesn’t value the quality of the practitioner’s presence over a bloated resumé.

This leads us to the patient-doctor role playing exercise, which itself is based on a lie: that there is a broken one and one that does the mending. In reality, the practitioner is no less broken than the patient. The irony is that by expressing symptoms of illness and dysfunction the mind-body is functioning optimally to inform us that the hidden self is asking for expression or recognition. However, standard medicine sees only undesirable symptoms, which it describes as “ill health” and sets about eradicating. Actually, it is suppressive approaches to health care that cause someone to be broken in the sense that the normal communication of signals between the conscious mind and hidden self is rendered non-functional.

If a treatment is to result in anything other than suppression, then it requires what I call “neutral witnessing” on the part of the practitioner. Among other things, being a neutral witness requires the self-discipline to NOT try to fix someone when they’re not broken in the first place, to NOT reinforce the client’s attachment to their diagnosis, and to be willing to play the practitioner role while knowing at the same time that it’s an illusion. It requires that the practitioner be vulnerable herself so that the patient’s vulnerability might actually result in a movement toward wholeness. In short, there’s the potential for real honesty, a rarity in any given human interaction. This creates an equal possibility for healing of both patient and doctor, but don’t tell that to the billing department.

Illness, disease, or dysfunction is held in place by belief, and if doctor and patient agree (consciously or not) to stop maintaining the beliefs that are holding it in place, the illness pattern can come undone. However, if both parties agree only to validate the beliefs around the symptom, and treat the diagnosis as gospel rather than as a point of departure, then they forge an agreement as to what is “wrong,” thus holding the illness patterns in place.

Because of our conditioning around intervention, our conscious mind requires proof that an acceptable means of external stimulation is occurring. Hence, the role of the technique or medicine. In the setting of neutral witnessing, however, a healing technique is akin to a ritual, in that an intention is represented in form to distract the conscious mind so that the hidden self has an opportunity to reveal itself. If a person’s repressed guilt and chronic muscle pain are inseparably linked, those elements have to communicate with each other in order for expressive healing to take place.

It’s the quality of the practitioner’s presence that really counts and not the technique, technology, or medication. This is not a suggestion to fire all of your health care providers! All of us look for permission from others before we’ll grant it to ourselves, and a lot of us will never learn how to give ourselves that permission. However, the further we can break down the limitations created by artificial patient-practitioner roles, the more vulnerability will be possible between both participants, and the greater the chances for a true healing experience.

Next time: The Intervention Fallacy: Part III, Breaking the Cycle

The Intervention Fallacy: Part I, How It Starts

This is the first in a three-part series.

All healing is self-healing.

What feeling does this statement elicit from you? Does it register as a vague recognition or a distant memory? Does it make sense, but you’re not sure how it applies to your own health in a practical way? If so, you’re not alone. Actually, this simple truth is highly subversive with regard to our health care industry, which works overtime to conceal it from us.

In general, standard medicine doesn’t trust a body’s ability to heal itself. So, it intervenes with medication to produce an effect. This effect usurps the body’s innate capability of self-regulation, which is analogous to wearing a breathing apparatus instead of presuming that our breath can operate on its own. Consequently, our system gets lazy and before long it relies exclusively on intervention instead of its own ability to monitor and heal itself. We unconsciously train our bodies to wait for this external stimulation in order to obtain relief from distress, instead of seeing to it ourselves.

All healing is self-healing. How do we lose track of a truth this profound? For starters, we human beings are predisposed to being easily conditioned and manipulated. This applies not only to our behavior, but to the very thoughts we allow to enter our awareness. This is not an aspect of human nature that we’re eager to own up to, but many of us are desperate to be told how to live our lives and health is one area in which our greatest fears and insecurities reside.

We get accustomed to intervention even before we can talk, in small, but powerful ways. The earlier the exposure starts, of course, the more ingrained is our belief in it. Baby aspirin, flintstones vitamins, Vapo-rub, antibiotics, vaccinations–these are just a few of the elements that cement the belief that we require external stimulation in order to heal or feel better.

The people we trust most in this world, our parents and family, are the first to deliver this message of powerlessness to us. Everyone means well, of course. It’s simply the trance we’ve fallen asleep in, and if we don’t ever feel compelled to question our conditioning then we simply pass it on down the line. If I’d had children as a younger man I would’ve done the same thing.

Our self-healing abilities atrophy just as a muscle that is not used shortens and weakens because it has no reason to maintain its full function. So do we enter a society in which we’re urged to seek help from the experts who are trained to intervene, and dissuaded from learning the language of our own bodies and minds.

We’re constantly cautioned to view our physical sensations, emotions, and feelings with suspicion and fear, instead of curiosity and patience. Our blanket perception of pain and discomfort as being undesirable and a sign that something is wrong is the best example of this. This practically guarantees a disconnection between our mind, emotions, and physical body by the time we’re young adults, and promotes the intervention-based model of health.

The pharmaceutical and health care industries ensure their survival and relevance by creating the very problem that they serve, that of molding “patients” who abdicate responsibility for their own well-being and line up obediently for their meds at Walgreen’s. Drug companies can get away with listing a medication’s endless fatal or near-fatal side effects, yet still sell a shitload of drugs because they wrote the manual on the intervention model of health. Many people feel that drugs are their only option, and gee, at least Big Pharma’s being honest about the side effects.

In addition, so-called experts apply disparaging labels to our ability to heal ourselves, such as “faith healing,” “witchcraft,” “placebo effect,” and “pseudoscience,” which plays into our embarrassment at being associated with fringe groups and “unscientific” perspectives. The collective effort to hide our power from ourselves is actually quite a well-oiled machine, and rarely receives the type of scrutiny that would engender a revolutionary alternative to the health care industry.

In this model, when we’re taught that certain functions are “involuntary,” such as breathing, heart rate, and digestion, we unfortunately take that to the extreme due to our conditioning by assuming that we have absolutely no influence over these functions. Our conditioning ensures that we’re constantly poised to avoid a direct confrontation with our mind-body, so we look for the language to justify the avoidance, and seek the medication that will replace our encounter with a scary involuntary function. So much for the spirit of adventure and exploration, to put it mildly.

Essentially, we have two choices of dealing with a symptom. We can drive it back below the threshold of our awareness (a suppressive approach) or we can participate with it (an expressive approach). With suppression a door is closed, and with expression a whole world opens up.

Most of what is typically described as healing occurs as the result of suppressive mechanisms. Painkillers and antidepressants are obvious examples, but any type of therapy can employ a suppressive approach. It is often a fear-based strategy, as we unconsciously fear to examine what is underneath the symptom.

Expressive healing describes the mechanism of self-healing, and views a symptom as an indication that something within us is asking for acknowledgement, most often trapped or repressed feelings and emotions. Relief or resolution occurs as the result of recognizing and giving expression to these underlying sources, because the symptom was only there to point us toward the deeper cause in the first place.

Next time: Part II, The Illusion of the Health Care Practitioner