Sunday, September 28, 2014

This week's blog is on the opposite polarity of Faith, Hope, Belief, Trust which is Hopelessness and Resignation.

Resignation, withdrawal and abandoning Hope may be a manifestation of indifference or apathy, laziness or passivity and desperation or hopelessness, all of which lead to inaction. Fear, and judgment - which is often fear based - arising out of an appreciation for the statistics of the situation and the prognosis of the illness play their part here. Resignation may be a way of looking at the Truth in a negative way and arriving at a decision that all is hopeless. However, that appreciation of the truth may be limited; the truth of the power of that individual’s immune system or inner healer, the truth of that patient’s connection with the Field, the truth of the healer-patient relationship, the truth of that person’s ability to love, forgive and open their heart, the truth of positive social support, the truth of one’s capacity to be in joy and so on. All of these factors can favorably affect the immune system.

 Twenty Four Hours a Day suggests a remedy.
“Never yield to weariness of spirit. At times the world's cares and distractions will intrude and the spirit will become weak. At times like this, carry on and soon the spirit will become strong again. God's spirit is always with you to replenish and renew.”
When you are overcome by temporary conditions which you cannot control, keep quiet and wait for the power of spirit to flow back.”

"Surrender is a giving in, resignation is a giving up"
The Ancestors

         Hopelessness and Resignation are not the same as Surrender.  Surrender implies  Trust, letting go and allowing a higher force to take over which is a quality of expansiveness and flexibility which opens up the potential for health giving possibilities even if one cannot be cured. Surrender is the ultimate expression of unconditional Faith, Trust, Hope, and Belief -- a Job-like attitude – that trusts that whatever happens is for the best. The patient feels gratitude and acceptance and is content to just be. Eastern philosophies affirm the power of not doing, of not grasping, of going with the flow, of being in the Tao. The Buddhist appreciation of the balance that arises from not being attached to things or outcomes requires a different kind of motivation and sustained dedication that is difficult to attain. By going into the silence of not grasping, we communicate more directly with the Field. Surrender and Trust connects us to the Field, while Resignation, and Hopelessness separate us from it. Surrender "fears-less" and does not exclude the use of medical or other beneficial attentions. Resignation implies desperation or depression that is known to suppress the immune system. Resignation is about detachment, surrender, non-attachment which has a different quality. Surrender leads to an openness and receptivity to all possibilities. There can be a measure of comfort in resignation. A friend of mine once said; "ever since I gave up hope I feel better." 
Accepting ones disease as part of oneself may be considered a form of Surrender. By not recognizing it as “other” or “bad,” no duality is created and it may be easier to attain the equanimity sometimes necessary for healing or cure. This may be a helpful way of coping with the Truth of the diagnosis. Visualizations that project the disease as a hideous enemy or ogre may be unsuitable for certain individuals and create Fear and the associated emotions that inhibit the immune system.
Furthermore with a friendlier even humorous  attitude to the challenge, less effort is required to learn the lessons the illness provides. The disease may even appear to be a gift that has lead to an essential transformational change. The metamorphosis may not have happened without it. The patient becomes more open and flexible rather than rigid, aggressive and confrontational about his or her predicament. Surrender leads to a greater Receptivity to the available options that can be an advantage.
Surrender does not mean inaction!
“Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.”
Emily Dickinson 
"Zidele amathamba" = Give yourself up, bones as well
Ndebele saying (South Africa)

Passive Resignation with an underlying hopelessness is not the same as the active and joyous acceptance of Surrender. Surrender arises from a deep connection with the Field, an acknowledgment of a Higher Power working through it, and an appreciation of the Life Force and the strength of the Inner Healer. This comes from the Will to be well and an understanding that whatever happens, the disease can be regarded as a teacher from which gifts and healing benefits come even if a cure does not result. Our most powerful inner experiences often occur in the space of severe pain and suffering from which flow our most heartfelt prayers. This gift is sometimes proportional to the degree of misery inflicted. For many of us it is only through a dark night of the soul that we acquire the grail, and the illness may assume the archetype of a hero/ine’s journey. We could not have attained the blessing any other way. All healers have seen special people with terrible diseases where the condition has resulted in a greater inner peace and wholeness and an incomparable zest for life rather than the other way around – Surrender rather than Resignation. This profound form of spirituality needs to arise from within in order to be authentic. It cannot be contrived or just superficially stated.
“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts”.
Richard Bach
“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the butterfly calls the beginning.”  Zen saying

We are all in the process of dying and it helps to embrace the Buddhist concept of impermanence. We may pass on to a new address but our consciousness will live again in future life times and incarnations. The challenge is to live and die “well.” 

Surrender usually invokes a certain humility and subordination of the ego.  Therefore the boon that arises from Surrender is affiliation with the higher Self. Yoga and Buddhism teach that desirous attachment and self cherishing (part of ego) are one of the greatest obstacles on the enlightenment path. When we reach the Crown Chakra or Keter on the Tree of Life we experience the Divine within and without, and we detach from the goal of health or anything else for that matter. We just are, we attain pure being. If we lose the fear or the attachment we have to being cured, we can be healed and possibly even experience remission or be cured.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

This week's blog is on the debilitating effects of fear.

“It is a poor life that achieves freedom from fear.”
Aldo Leopold

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
Helen Keller

Just like pain is inevitable but suffering is optional, fear is inevitable but what we decide to do with the emotion is up to us. 
Stress can either be just stress or eustress – “good” stress. For some, stress or challenge is something they thrive on and enjoy. 
For the rest of us Fear can be something that can lead to an adventure or a hero/ine’s journey. It depends on how we look at it. Our memory for past events and our experience with fear and stress will frame the way we deal with challenges. A strong spiritual practice can increase the threshold we have for a fear response and make life more enjoyable and challenges more manageable. Having gone through a right of passage successfully makes it easier to prevail over another one. 
Disease creates Fear with associated anxiety, alienation, and isolation. Fear and stress elicit the fight or flight reaction from the autonomic nervous system that results from a cognitive appraisal of a threat. In the case of disease Fear may arise out of a threat to life, limb, organ or function, religious or superstitious beliefs and threats to the ego self that can create shame or remorse. There are two other responses to fear; freezing and feigning death which can manifest as paralysis, resignation, incompetence or ineffectiveness, all enemies of the Inner Healer. The possibility that life may be short-lived or never be the same again leads to a range of harmful emotions related to Fear. This elicits a response from the adrenal glands which pours out the hormones necessary for a fight or flight reaction. This is entirely appropriate if one is being chased by a bear but unhealthy on a chronic basis. The reaction was designed to get us out of a short-term emergency predicament. If the reaction persists, too much adrenaline overloads the cardiovascular system causing hypertension and atheroschlerosis, and excess cortisone taxes and exhausts the immune system and may even promote diabetes. Morbid Fear can totally overwhelm the Inner Healer.

Fear and Truth – The Prognosis: Physicians, with their scientific training, feel obligated to tell patients the "Truth." They may quote statistics, such as, "You only have six months to live because you have stage X and grade Y of disease Z." This can be a powerful negative affirmation, and even a type of voodoo curse or hex. Bad news should always be dispensed with a liberal amount of Hope. Whereas the prognosis given by the oncologist may be administered without intent to do harm, it can be an evil spell with a prophecy of doom that may become self-fulfilling.  Only exceptional patients can rise above this nocebo prediction and medical hexing and determine their own destiny with the disease. Patients should never quibble with the Truth of the diagnosis but 
the prognosis on the other hand is always an arguable matter that depends on many variables.
         For a few patients it may even be preferable to withhold the diagnosis because of their unique conditioning, culture or education. Knowledge of such a calamity might completely immobilize them with horror and trepidation. For this reason, withholding diagnoses is a common practice in some countries outside of the United States. I remember being told during my training in Johannesburg by one of my professors in South Africa that we should never tell a patient that he had cancer unless there were critical financial or other decisions to be made. Unfortunately this physician was biased by the fact he had the unfortunate experience of a patient committing  suicide when he was told his diagnosis.
The internet, if misused, can also become a type of self-hexing. Just because one is intelligent does not mean one can master a medical conundrum which may even challenge the best physician. This is just as true as believing that reading a flight manual enables one to be able to fly a plane.
         I try not to give my patient’s statistics about their possible outcome. In the end it is arrogant to believe that in our limited capacity as healers we know the Truth about the patient, the Inner Healer, the Field and God as well as the countless other factors that cannot be measured.

Physician Fear and Truth: American physicians are frequently motivated to tell the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth because of their own Fear. This is a result of the litigious nature of the society. There always seems to be a phantom attorney sitting on the patient’s lap dictating the doctor’s decisions. No medic wants to be sued for lack of full disclosure. “Informed consent” before invasive procedures requires listing all conceivable complications related to diagnosis and therapy. This custom creates unnecessary Fear and anxiety. The Truth or informed consent prior to medical procedures can be delivered in an informative, supportive, nurturing manner with due regard for the patient’s sensitivities. There are different ways of telling the Truth and delivery of the message does not have to be detached, rough handed or cruel. Giving enough facts to inform but not terrify the patient is a vital clinical skill. Also the patient can be advised that suitable precautions have been set in place to prevent these and that they can participate, e.g. early ambulation to prevent blood clots forming in the legs. The physician’s Fear of the legal system should not be transmuted into patient terror.
The raw Truth may elicit Fear that may be a negative factor in healing but a compassionate, balanced and hopeful look at the Truth can be a  transformational tool that induces the changes required for better health and healing. A patient who is knowledgeable about his or her condition without being debilitated by the Fear of its consequences can rise to the challenge and gain a sense of command. Knowledge of one’s predicament can give a sense of control and lessen Fear. Ignorance is not necessarily bliss. Being well-versed and taking charge gives us a feeling of confidence that counteracts Fear and all its adverse ramifications. 
"Tell all the truth but tell it slant -
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind" 
Emily Dickenson 
Fear can be manipulated with time, risk, complexity and withholding information. 
This principle is used by the armed forces to train recruits and strengthen them against fear. These polarities are relevant to healing as well. 
If a patient is told he has a very slow growing tumor like prostate cancer and has plenty of time to make a decision about treatment, fear will be lessened. The opposite is true if he is told he has an aggressive and rapidly growing testicular cancer and treatment must be instituted immediately.
The fear factor will increase for the patient with adverse risk factors such as has heart failure, diabetes and obesity.
If the complexity is greater there will also be more fear, for instance the difference between having an appendectomy or a complicated open-heart operation.
If information is withheld about the procedure fear may be aggravated. This is the benefit of informed consent but the information must be given with compassion and skill.
Even in the face of formidable and justifiable fear the healer or physician  should never dispel hope.
When we are ill we need to see the wood for the trees. Our energy reservoir may be limited and we do not want to squander our life force on trivial fears and stresses. We need to focus on the life-threatening issues and not the inconsequential ones. This means concentrating on the disease and not the incompetence of the parking attendant who seems to be intentionally preventing you from getting to your doctor’s appointment. Equanimity is a friend of the Inner Healer, "dis"-ease is not.
 "Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big worthwhile things. It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out - it's the grain of sand in your shoe"

Robert Service

Sunday, September 14, 2014

This week's blog is on the power of love for healing

“Love is the most universal, formidable and mysterious of all the cosmic forces”
De Chardin
Healers acknowledge that they are not doing the healing but rather they are  channeling universal healing energy which is Divine love in disguise and that in fact... 
“Only love can generate the healing fire.” Agnes Sanford 
There are two basic emotions, Love and Fear. Love is always good for healing and is linked to the placebo of Hope, Belief, Trust and Faith. Fear is an ally of  its opposite, nocebo, and is usually bad. Fear is also part of Resignation and Hopelessness which will be featured in the coming blogs. Some fear may be good since it will motivate the patient to act. Morbid fear is paralyzing and counterproductive. Courage counteracts Fear and although bravery is usually part of one’s inherent makeup, with faith and surrender it can be nurtured and developed.
Of all the polarities on the Tree of Health, lack of forgiveness, resentment and guilt may be the most pernicious since they are so easily kept smoldering, hidden or overlooked. Grudges and hatred  can become so much part of our ego identity that we do not want to give them up.

Some of the greatest impediments to opening the heart to love are lack of forgiveness, our sense of separation resulting in duality, a deficient inner practice and no sense of community. 
It is noteworthy that cynicism depresses the immune system - forgiveness and compassion increase it. AIDS patients who forgave the person who gave them the HIV virus live longer and have higher T cell counts than those who did not. Guilt and shame are contracting spiritual and healing forces that increase pro-inflammatory factors. These are associated with an increase incidence of certain cancers, some auto-immune diseases and atherosclerosis.
The heart cannot open to love without forgiveness. Any deep spiritual practice and self-love cannot go hand in hand with self-condemnation. They are mutually exclusive. Forgiveness begins with forgiving ourselves. 
“A great many modern people … find it very difficult to forgive themselves anything. Christ said to love your neighbor as yourself and we cannot really love or forgive our neighbors – no matter how we may deceive ourselves on this point – until we can love and forgive ourselves.” Barbara Hanna
“…the last step is forgiveness. This is perhaps the most important stage. It helps release energy that has been diminished by harboring anger, bitterness and resentment. Forgiveness can allow you to get on with your life rather than nursing old wounds. It is human to want to punish those who have wronged you … but no amount of punishment to those who hurt you will help you heal. In fact, anger that you hold onto damages you, not them. Forgiveness is something you do for you; it is for your sake and for your healing that you forgive. You forgive to regain inner peace, joy and serenity for yourself, not necessarily for the people who wronged you.” Denise Linn
Forgiveness does not mean that you have to engage in any way with the person you have forgiven. The goal is to forgive, lay down that burden or albatross you are carrying, open your heart and move on!
“Self condemnation strengthens guilt which is one of the greatest obstacles on the path of realization.”  Sri Swami Rama
Guilt, shame, self-recrimination etc. have no place in the healing paradigm.
Neuroscience with the help of M.R.I. scans is showing that shame and self-condemnation actually engender a flight/fight/freeze or feign death response and puts our brain in lock down much like any survival situation. Its the same as a lion circling our cave in ancient millennia. This shuts down our frontal lobe the source of our higher aspirations and induces the primitive brain into a do or die modality. Although this is good for confronting a life threatening situation it is not good for healing or any sort of transformation.

Our Western paradigm tends to separate us from each other and ...

“The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there.” Roshi
Bishop Tutu emphasizes the importance of community and the Zulu concept of "Ubuntu" and Western science tells us that people who are ill do better if they have a loving spouse, belong to a church or support group or even have a pet at home.
“ Ubuntu speaks to the essence of being human. The solitary individual in our understanding is a contradiction in terms. You are a person through other persons. Ubuntu speaks about the importance of communal harmony, warmth, compassion, generosity, hospitality and seeks to embrace others”.
Bishop Tutu
For doctors and healers under the gun and subjected to the challenges of big business an appreciation of the benefits of the doctor/healer-patient interconnection should not be lost to them. Whatever unconditional love they give to their patients will be returned to them. The Mother Theresa archetype is a healthful, love-filled and happy example to follow... 
 “The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have learned and found how to serve.” Albert Schweitzer
The ability to heal and to help is a gift and a blessing to those who undertake it. If love is given, love is received.
And at the end of the day it also helps to remember
“The worship most pleasing to God is service to others.” L. Boff

Saturday, September 6, 2014

This week's blog is on denial of the truth

Denial may lead to a deluded sense of what is appropriate action, resulting in failure. The patient has to be realistic about the undertaking or there will be a mismatch between the energy required for healing and the effort expended for the task. Denial may help us feel better temporarily, but in the long term Truth is a more powerful agent. Denial may be good palliation, but Truth may be more curative. Truth is the antidote to Denial and Ignorance. Denial of the diagnosis is usually bad 
but denial of the prognosis and a recipe of hope can be good.

 Denial may be a manifestation of Fear. For some, Denial can be a powerful coping mechanism For instance someone admitted stat to a coronary care unit with acute chest pain. This may seem a contradiction since Denial would appear to be self-defeating when it comes to health. In the short term, however, Denial may help the patient get over the terror of a medical crisis and fear of imminent death. The patient’s subconscious may know that true knowledge of the predicament may be too much for the Inner Healer to handle at that critical time. Denial may be good in these special circumstances but not when it prevents the person from going to the hospital in the first instance. Resignation may play some part in this, for instance, if one was lonely and tired of life Denial can sometimes be a subtle form of suicide resulting from inattention to the predicament.

There are occasional patients with advanced cancer or other diseases who may completely deny the prognosis and truly believe they will be cured in spite of all statistics. These exceptional patients sometimes remain in remission or are even cured due to the power of faith even though they are in denial of what the medical establishment regards as the truth. Their perception of the truth may in fact be more expansive and  true. There is a gift that comes from absolute belief where grace can more easily enter because of  a true inner belief, faith or knowing of the Divine’s capacity to heal anything.