The power of paradox

Do not be ignorant of me.

For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the mother and the daughter. [..]
I am the barren one and many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is great,
and I have not taken a husband.
I am the midwife and she who does not bear.
I am the solace of my labor pains.
I am the bride and the bridegroom,
and it is my husband who begot me.
I am the mother of my father
and the sister of my husband
and he is my offspring.
I am the slave of him who prepared me.
I am the ruler of my offspring.

These words are from the ancient text, ‘Thunder, Perfect Mind,’ found among many other texts at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. Written before 350 C.E., although the exact date and author are unknown, it is a Gnostic voice of a divine power that suggests we look beyond intellectual theories and sentimental beliefs of divinity. That so long as we continue to see our world from dualistic goggles, we will remain in darkness.

“The mind that believes, the mind that does not believe and the mind that doubts is an ignorant mind. The path of wisdom does not lie in believing, not believing or doubting. The path of wisdom consists in inquiring, analyzing, meditating, experimenting.

Truth is the unknown from moment to moment. Truth has nothing to do with what one believes or stops believing, neither does it have anything to do with skepticism. Truth is not a matter of accepting or rejecting, it is something to experience, live and understand.” Samael Aun Weor, Fundamentals of Gnostic Education

The dark side of paradox

A paradox is a statement that apparently contradicts itself and yet might be true or untrue, at the same time. My first introduction into the concept was in the novel 1984, and later, in politics. The novel tells the story of Winston Smith who lives in Airstrip One, previously known as Great Britain. During a period of perpetual war, government surveillance and dictatorship, individualism and independent thinking is considered a crime and the government’s invented language Newspeak is used to control the population and gain power. This Party thrives on paradox.

The Ministry of Truth is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. The Ministry of Peace supports the perpetual war. The Ministry of Plenty rations and controls foods and goods. The Ministry of Truth controls the news and media. And the Ministry of Love surveils and arrests real and imagined dissidents, and converts them back to support for the Party. The novel basically represents a world where the antagonist can never know what is real or fall in love. A nightmare from which one either never wakes from or only escapes by death. Dark, totalitarian, grim, and not the only way humans are, in my opinion.

For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and boldness.
I am shameless; I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and peace.
Give heed to me.

Politics is the story of us, the intrigue, the greed, the deceit, the striving, the collusion, the power, the way we come together to do good, to protect the weak, to develop a collective. It is how we succeed and how we screw up. But it is ultimately us, each one of us, whether we support it or throw stones at its walls, or whether we appreciate or curse it.

Since reading 1984, my concept of paradox was that it was a means of manipulation, a form of cohesion, a tool to confuse and therefore delude someone else. Or it could be a random example of strangeness, something to be avoided or dismissed. It was an anomaly, unlikely to happen again. Twenty years later and I am ready to embrace the paradox. To consider it as a possible new movement we could develop in order to save humanity.

I am the one who is disgraced and the great one.

Give heed to my poverty and my wealth.
Do not be arrogant to me when I am cast out upon the earth,
and you will find me in those that are to come.
And do not look upon me on the dung-heap
nor go and leave me cast out,
and you will find me in the kingdoms.
And do not look upon me when I am cast out among those who
are disgraced and in the least places,
nor laugh at me.
And do not cast me out among those who are slain in violence.

But I, I am compassionate and I am cruel.
Be on your guard!

The original whole beyond duality

Give heed, be on your guard she warns, to see something as black without knowing it is also white is a folly. Zen knows this and tells many riddles to expose the paradox of reality and throw the mind off its familiar tracks, or often deep grooves, of logical reasoning. These koans are used to to provoke the “great doubt” and are not meant as logical equations to be explained. Logos means to count, to tell, to say, to speak. It imparts a plea, an opinion, an expectation though word, speech, accounts and reason. It is the ground for order and knowledge, it is problem that can be solved. In Gnosticism the Logos is paired with Sophia, or wisdom. They are a syzygy, a male/female pair and exist equally along with the Absolute, the One. Sophia is effectively the human soul and also the feminine aspects of the One. She was also considered the fallen one for helping to create the material world. Logos on the other hand, was identified with the Son of God Christ, and was seen as a ‘certain rational power’ according to the apologist Justin Martyr. Sophia was banished and removed from history or fused with Logos so that the soul could be considered as part of this rational power rather than it’s own individual ineffable force. Soul is knowing and knowing is the state of being informed with full awareness or consciousness. Knowledge is not the same as  knowing. Logos can learn and speak but only with the soul can he truly know. Without Sophia he is everything, yet nothing.

Saint Justin Martyr 100-165 AD

Things have been skewed ever since, right up to modern times when soul is a word left out of science, politics, medicine, education, philosophy … ah the list is long. In these fields rational and logical knowledge have superseded the actual knowing of wisdom. Remember the words of Samael Aun Weor, “The path of wisdom consists in inquiring, analyzing, meditating, experimenting. […] Truth is not a matter of accepting or rejecting, it is something to experience, live and understand.” It goes beyond Black is not white, white is not black. It is more like the Tao, black becomes white and white becomes black because they are not separate. They are equal parts within a whole. Just as Logo and Sophia are equivalents within a whole.

I, I am godless,
and I am the one whose God is great.
I am the one whom you have reflected upon,
and you have scorned me.
I am unlearned,
and they learn from me.
I am the one that you have despised,
and you reflect upon me.
I am the one whom you have hidden from,
and you appear to me.
But whenever you hide yourselves,
I myself will appear.
For whenever you appear,
I myself will hide from you.

The night accompanied the study of genius and love

A noite acompanhada dos gênios do estudo e do amor,
1883 – Pedro Américo

How does a movement of paradox work then beyond the grim and darkness? A bit like this:

When we work hard to save the environment, we will likely bring it to our version of ruin.

When we struggle for peace, we will likely perpetuate war.

When we think only of what we don’t want, we will surely only bring it into being.

When we desire to be more manly, we will be less masculine and when we try to be more feminine, we will be less of a woman.

I am control and the uncontrollable.
I am the union and the dissolution.
I am the abiding and I am the dissolution.
I am the one below,
and they come up to me.
I am the judgment and the acquittal.
I, I am sinless,
and the root of sin derives from me.
I am lust in (outward) appearance,
and interior self-control exists within me.
I am the hearing which is attainable to everyone
and the speech which cannot be grasped.
I am a mute who does not speak,
and great is my multitude of words.
Hear me in gentleness, and learn of me in roughness.
I am she who cries out,
and I am cast forth upon the face of the earth.

When we wage war on terrorists, we will surely have more terror in the world.

When we switch to vegetarianism to save the planet from global warming, plant farming will likely decline with no livestock in agriculture.

When we decide a convicted felon needs to suffer by just punishment, he will probably become a more skilled criminal.

When we strive to be positive and happy, we will more certainly increase our depression and loneliness.



Quote from Samael Aun Weor.

Thunder, Perfect Mind text, translated by George W. MacRae.

Lectures and Publication by Lance S. Owens

A real sweet heart

I often have an admiration for a man of ideas. This Valentine’s Day I thought I would share one of my current sweet hearts. David Bohm was an American theoretical physicist whose work contributed innovative and unorthodox ideas to quantum theory, the philosophy of mind, and neuropsychology. As a scientist, he warned of the dangers of unchecked reason and technology and advocated the need for genuine supportive dialogue which he claimed could broaden and unify the conflicting and troublesome divisions in our social world. His main concern was with understanding the nature of reality in general and of consciousness in particular as a coherent whole which is never static or complete but is an unending process of movement and unfoldment. He is best known for his book Wholeness and The Implicate Order and his work with J. Krishnamurti developing a method of communication called Dialogue. These Krishnamurti–Bohm Dialogues took place over a span of almost 25 years and can be found on YouTube.

Hearts illustration

Consciousness and Coherency

A few months after J. Krishnamurti’s passing in early 1986, friends of David Bohm asked him to host a weekend seminar. These series of annual seminars lasted until 1992 when Bohm himself passed. They are known as the Bohm Consciousness Seminars and cover his ideas on Thought and the nature of Consciousness. I write a lot about the environment and recognizing what a treasure it is. Lately, the ideas I have come across keep telling me the same thing, that saving the planet from our behaviour is not an external exercise but an understanding of what is going on internally. The seminars put this into a unique and critical light based on Bohm’s insights as a physicist. According to Bohm it is, “Practically impossible to find a place on Earth that is not changed by thought.” And this gem, “The best way to save nature is to solve our problems.” Almost everyone in the West can admit they can’t actually stop thinking throughout the day, and that waking up in the middle of the night unable to sleep but instead preoccupied by thoughts is a common occurrence.

Bohm quote

The word coherency comes from the mid 16th century and meant ‘sticking together,’ from the Latin verb cohaerere. It is to be able to speak clearly and logically and means united as or forming a whole. Incoherent thought is what we are experiencing most of the time. We can’t see the incoherence of the thoughts in ourselves nor the unintended actions they bring us to.

If you are incoherent one thing is that you do not produce the intended results. That is one sign of incoherence. Another is that you are contradicting yourself, or a third is you are deceiving yourself. That sort of thought, what is the point of that thought, we would be better off without it. If you say you see nobody intends to destroy planet. Nobody intended that, they merely intended to get rich. Comfortable, rich what ever it was. Now I am not blaming anyone, I am saying all of us were in it. We did not see that this was dangerous, this was incoherent. If our intention was to destroy the planet, we would have been coherent.

Given the current rate of destruction and change compared to 1992 when Bohm left us, we are in a serious state of incoherence about the environment, a run away train of thought-action. It is what he would have called a sustained incoherence.

Bohm quote

Dialoguing to communicate

He also discusses sensitivity, a great word to bring up for Valentine’s Day. In sharing thoughts with others, we often use force. This is a subtle form of violence most of us lack the sensitivity to observe. To convince means to win. To persuade is to cause (someone) to do something through reasoning or argument. It is also based on the words suave and sweet and means to win by sweet talk. “It wasn’t easy, but I persuaded him to do the right thing.” According to Bohm, thought which does not understand what it is doing tends to fall into violence. He proposes we consider the idea that the ultimate violence and the cause of all the violence in the world is based on the destruction of our sensitivity. This is very contrary to the spirit of Dialogue as outlined by Bohm.

Dialogue, as we are choosing to use the word, is a way of exploring the roots of the many crises that face humanity today. It enables inquiry into, and understanding of, the sorts of processes that fragment and interfere with real communication between individuals, nations and even different parts of the same organization.

In Dialogue, a group of people can explore the individual and collective presuppositions, ideas, beliefs, and feelings that subtly control their interactions. It provides an opportunity to participate in a process that displays communication successes and failures. It can reveal the often puzzling patterns of incoherence that lead the group to avoid certain issues or, on the other hand, to insist, against all reason, on standing and defending opinions about particular issues.

Dialogue is a way of observing, collectively, how hidden values and intentions can control our behavior, and how unnoticed cultural differences can clash without our realizing what is occurring. It can therefore be seen as an arena in which collective learning takes place and out of which a sense of increased harmony, fellowship and creativity can arise.

Because the nature of Dialogue is exploratory, its meaning and its methods continue to unfold. No firm rules can be laid down for conducting a Dialogue because its essence is learning – not as the result of consuming a body of information or doctrine imparted by an authority, nor as a means of examining or criticizing a particular theory or programme, but rather as part of an unfolding process of creative participation between peers.

To be able to Dialogue means we need to retain and even enhance our sensitivity, we are exploring with sensitivity. “Whenever you use force to meet a problem arising in thought then you you have not really solved it, you have left more problems, although the force may seem to succeed.” Violence and fear are connected. “If you don’t have the power to exert force, then you will feel fear. If you feel frustrated and would like to use force but you are afraid to use force you will then feel fear, you may project into the other person your own violence and be afraid of it.” Thought creates fear. Most of us are living in a fragmented culture thriving on violence, inflicted with fear and lacking a shared meaning.

…it is proposed that a form of free dialogue may well be one of the most effective ways of investigating the crisis which faces society, and indeed the whole of human nature and consciousness today. Moreover, it may turn out that such a form of free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation, so that creativity can be liberated.

Saving the world that existed before human thought

Bohm was trying to resolve issues in the late 80’s that are now major crisis we all face and even then he was not overly hopeful of success since we are no longer hunter and gatherer groups of 40 or so people living together. The real challenge is how to create coherency among billions of people living varied lives and each with a unique view and purpose. He also saw that Dialogue requires a thorough understanding of and insight into Thought and the Thinking Process in order for it to be properly implemented. We all have to work on how to do it in order to benefit from Dialogue. Rather than learning Calculus, school children could be drilled on how to Dialogue, the way one used to learn Latin, a subject has to be practical to modern day.

To sum it up, if we want to save the world that existed before human thought, the best approach is to look at those thoughts and what they do. Have a listen.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook or subscribing to this blog!

Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic religious sister and missionary who founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation that runs hospices and homes for people with serious diseases such as leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, dispensaries and mobile clinics, children’s and family counselling programmes, orphanages and schools. As she once did, members must take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience as well as to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”

Mother Teresa wiki

The image of her is one of ultimate sacrifice, charity, altruism and generosity to the world’s most unfortunate people. That image is about to change. Christopher Hitchens’ inappropriately titled book, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, and a soon to be published study from the University of Montréal are about to alter our assumptions, particularly the latter. As Jerry A. Coyne puts it, “This is a peer-reviewed paper written by academics, not a hatchet-job written by an atheist with strong opinions.” The paper by Serge Larivée and Genevieve Chenard of University of Montréal’s Department of Psychoeducation and Carole Sénéchal of the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Education will be published in the upcoming March issue of the journal Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses and is an analysis of the published writings about Mother Teresa.

Who was Mother Teresa?

Their paper dispels the myth surrounding Mother Teresa and concludes that her hallowed image was ‘constructed’ and her beatification was ‘orchestrated’ by an effective media relations campaign. They bring up the facts about “her rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce.”

At the time of her death, Mother Teresa had opened 517 missions welcoming the poor and sick in more than 100 countries. The missions have been described as “homes for the dying” by doctors visiting several of these establishments in Calcutta. Two-thirds of the people coming to these missions hoped to a find a doctor to treat them, while the other third lay dying without receiving appropriate care. The doctors observed a significant lack of hygiene, even unfit conditions, as well as a shortage of actual care, inadequate food, and no painkillers. The problem is not a lack of money—the Foundation created by Mother Teresa has raised hundreds of millions of dollars—but rather a particular conception of suffering and death: “There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering,” was her reply to criticism, cites the journalist Christopher Hitchens. Nevertheless, when Mother Teresa required palliative care, she received it in a modern American hospital.

The real question seems to be why Mother Teresa was so generous with her prayers and yet so miserly with her foundation’s millions when it came to another human’s suffering. She was quoted as saying that she actually wanted her charges to suffer because it brought them closer to Jesus. My point would be, instead of demonizing her and feeding the flames that illuminate conspiracy in the media, to be more constructive and ask what was this all about? How interesting that Mother Teresa’s thoughts about the suffering of her “patients” are so unusual and actually lead to greater suffering than was necessary. All the facts point to this by her refusal to provide practical and adequate medical care with funds that were readily available. Rather than point fingers why not ask some questions about what suffering means to this woman and why did it become the focus of her life and work?

In researching the ideas of religion and spirituality, I have found lots of gems along the way. In Sufism, Baqa is the concept that the ideal perfection, or highest condition attainable which is much more human than perfection, (also called ‘Najat’ in Islam, ‘Nirvana’ in Buddhism, ‘Salvation’ in Christianity and ‘Mukhti’ in Hinduism) is the original state of ‘God.’ Inayat Khan writes in his book A Sufi message of spiritual liberty, “To this state every being must arrive some day, consciously or unconsciously, before or after death. The beginning and end of all beings is the same, the only difference is their journey.” However, the sufi’s journey is one of humility, of being ordinary and it is very important that in being spiritual one must also live in the community, get married, raise a family and run a depanneur (corner store), … or other common variations of such a life. Fanaa means to defeat completely the self while remaining physically alive. Persons having entered this state are said to be in full unity with ‘God.’ The true nature of fanaa consists of the elimination of evil deeds such as greed, lust, desire, vanity, show, basically the abstention from sin, and the expulsion from the heart of all love other than the Divine Love. A sufi realizes that the only real relationship is with ‘God’ and this leads to a deconstruction of the self. He cultivates this understanding all the while saying, “That loaf of bread and quart of milk is 4.50$ please.”

Distorted sense of self

In the MICH homeopathic approach to health, most of our foibles and illnesses stem from a distorted sense of self. The MICH definition of self is a projection coming from a oneness or whole with a unique point of view that due to its coordinates in space-time cannot be occupied by any other unique oneness or whole. And this definition of a point of view is lovely, a “portal through which Love and Wisdom can flow … like a fountain, with every breath.” It is only when a point of view, the human being, begins to think it is a separate ‘entity’ and not just one of many points of view moving around the universe of space-time that dis-ease may start. Then the point of view starts to develop a simple or a complex pattern of self, it makes up a ‘me.’ This pattern is not a whole or oneness, but merely a collection of experiences and the thoughts related to those experiences caught on a grid looking out into the world that is. The self is a non-existent entity and what the Sufis were trying to get away from in their search for truth.

Our Western culture loves this pattern of self. We thrive on the idea that it is who we are and we have become preoccupied with it, with perfecting it, fixing it, reforming it and giving it material possessions, status, position or power or information, a page on Facebook, whatever it thinks will make it more real. It is hard not to believe in the potential of the self, to not see it as who we really are. Yet it is merely a fiction of our thought processes. I will repeat this since it is hard to comprehend, it is not real. Once the point of view starts to build up the fiction and gets really attached to that very big ‘me’ it is what MICH refers to as the exaggerated point of view, a caricature of the original unique entity.

Source: Victor Pross - Mother Teresa

Source: Victor Pross – Mother Teresa

A caricature is distorted, usually not flattering and yet always recognizable as the original person. Back to what interested me most about Mother Teresa, her obsession with suffering. As the artist Victor Pross puts it, “She frequently described the suffering of the poor as a gift from God. It is ironic that a woman of almost medieval outlook should have been so revered by the world of secular modernism as well as by the community of the devout. […] Mother Teresa is considered the epitome of sainthood and goodness. Her iconic image is considered beyond reproach. […] But her supposed “goodness” may be no more real than the shadows on Plato’s cave wall.” It was really the illusion of self and as much as Mother Teresa bought into it as a reality, so did we via the work of the media. Yet who was she in her original unexaggerated wholeness?


Life without a costume

This is Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, the youngest child of Nikollë and Dranafile Bojaxhiu before she became the revered personality we call Mother Teresa. Despite her dubious way of caring for the sick by glorifying their suffering instead of relieving it, the myth about her, according to the paper about to be published, may have provided a potential positive effect in the world.

If the extraordinary image of Mother Teresa conveyed in the collective imagination has encouraged humanitarian initiatives that are genuinely engaged with those crushed by poverty, we can only rejoice. It is likely that she has inspired many humanitarian workers whose actions have truly relieved the suffering of the destitute and addressed the causes of poverty and isolation without being extolled by the media. Nevertheless, the media coverage of Mother Theresa could have been a little more rigorous.

I wonder what she might have been like as an adult who developed a more balanced life as the Sufis suggest. A life as part of a family, of being part of a community, of doing her work but also doing lots of the things ordinary folks do? Did she really have to become a holy celebrity wearing one recognizable costume and playing one expected role revolving around the concept of suffering? Do any of us need to do this anymore? To live our precious lives as celebrities or celebrated figures, exaggerated icons of our gifts and dreams. Could we not all simply aspire to lead an ordinary life and do our part with what our unique whole sees through its own point of view?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook or subscribing to this blog!

There is something useless in reminiscing, yet my thoughts of late keep going back to the past, the early 90’s when I was young and things were of course better, just because they were. “Why I used to have to walk 5 miles through six feet of snow to get to school without any shoes carrying my two little sisters on my back…” You get the idea. Although in my case it is more like, “I had to survive a whole day without a smart phone, Google and an email address, and gasp, if I had to connect with someone not in the same location as me, I had to pick up the phone and call them and actually talk to them.” The irony is I spent the better part of my 20’s without a phone since we could not afford one so living in the present moment with the person in front of us was as natural as using an outhouse in a winter thunderstorm. There is something about modern times that has alarm bells ringing, and not just my own. The century of the individual has morphed into the new century of the social image. Our relationships are moving more and more into a cyber world of social media, texting and email among other methods. And this can be good, interconnectivity to everyone regardless of location and access to almost any information any time, and not so good, the lonely and disenchanted looking through a shiny glass illusion of what life is supposed to look like.

Denman Island living

What worries me is the number of people I know, including myself, who, when faced with a less than perfect situation or experience, will shut the door to the outside world and retreat into their personal space. A continuation of the Home Depot cocoon trend of started in the 90’s now augmented by modern telecommunications. According to Margaret Rouse Cocooning is the act of insulating or hiding oneself from the normal social environment, which may be perceived as distracting, unfriendly, dangerous, or otherwise unwelcome, at least for the present. In the past, most people would have to go out into the social sphere to function. The social sphere was a part of one’s life, an extension of home where one shopped, worked, went to school, interacted socially and lead a greater part of their lives. I have a suspicion that it was easier if one was having a bad day to find a suitable crutch and just do one’s best. A swig of alcohol, a cigarette, a Twinkie, add a Gravol or other over the counter drug and all your problems were pushed aside. It made you a bit of a fool and numb, but you were out and about regardless.


Source: feministezine.com/feminist/historical/Good-Wifes-Guide.html

Now that health is the latest big trend, we no longer want to be drinking and smoking and certainly not depriving ourselves with pharmaceuticals but that means we no longer have our socially acceptable crutches, and we may no longer be hapless fools in public and instead we we might be wounded, hurt and depressed souls wandering out there in the dangerous world of other souls who according to what we see on the TV or the Internet are probably beautiful, happy and leading exceptionally adventurous and fun lives. And who has the time for anyone who is not happy and not having fun. “Why they must think my whole world is a grey and dusty gravel pit where birds never sing and I certainly would not want to be a downer to their fabulous day. I think I will just stay home.”

The less than perfect moments

I once knew an older fellow who was a bomber pilot in WWII flying. He described the bombing of Dresden and how the orders were specific, avoid bombing the cathedral and try to hit everything else. When the dust finally cleared the cathedral had been destroyed. Sort of like saying to your bomber pilots, don’t think about a pink elephant while you are flying around in your cockpit. He also said that people are no longer very alive. “They are so stiff and reserved and trying so damn hard to be serious.” He would nostalgically tell me about the 50’s when it was ok to be glad to be alive and it was ok to have a drink and loosen one’s tie once in a while.

Dresden frauenkirche ruin 1958Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-60015-0002 / Löwe / CC-BY-SA

Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-60015-0002 / Löwe / CC-BY-SA

Maybe age has something to do with it because when I was young in the early 90’s the guys I knew had taken off and thrown away their ties and passing time with each other was the highlight of each day. It was not the vision of hollywood and the TV sitcom, we were trying to get away from that, it was very plainly human. Now, the mass market, media image has given way to the image of regular folks using the same devices, film, photos and Photoshop but the result is the same, we only see the ‘good’ sides of what being human is. The pretty, the fascinating and the power leaden parts of one’s life. The modern day pink elephant is to be happy at all costs.

I wonder how much people are forgetting what it is to be alive and to just be. To not have to be happy, or serious, or in a good mood or doing great. But to be going through something, to be in pain, to be hurt, to want to understand and ultimately to want to find the most healthy thing of all, social interaction with others.

What it is to be human

Thich Nhat Hanh published a new translation of the Heart sutra last year. In a story he tells to help explain why he wanted to revise the text I see one of the reasons we would be better not to stay at home when things are not going so well.

The Zen master asked the novice monk: “Tell me about your understanding of the Heart sutra.”
The novice monk joined his palms and replied: “I have understood that the five skandhas are empty. There are no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body or mind; there are no forms, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings, or objects of mind; the six consciousness do not exist, the eighteen realms of phenomena do not exist, the twelve links of dependent arising do not exist, and even wisdom and attainment do not exist.”
“Do you believe what it says?”
“Yes, I truly believe what it says.”
“Come closer to me,” the Zen master instructed the novice monk. When the novice monk drew near, the Zen master immediately used his thumb and index finger to pinch and twist the novice’s nose. In great agony, the novice cried out “Teacher! You’re hurting me!”
The Zen master looked at the novice. “Just now you said that the nose doesn’t exist. But if the nose doesn’t exist then what’s hurting?”

We all need someone to help show us ourselves instead of wanting the truth to be that the hurt and the part hurting does not exist or that no one else can see it. Only in the experience of being with another person can we really explore ourselves and what we are doing and what it is to be human. Without each other in these moments we will want to cherry pick what is real and what is happening and chances are we will be in error. And this is what we may be losing in the Western cultures, our real need to be ok with being just the very person that we already are.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook or subscribing to this blog!

Are you having issues with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, concentration levels, depression and other forms of general mental illness? If you live in a city, probably you are. We all do from time to time in the concrete, laboratory experiment called urbanization. Author Matthew Silverstone has found scientific evidence that hugging a tree can help. In his book, Blinded By Science, he cites research indicating a tree’s ability to alleviate our ails when we commune with them. And you don’t have to touch the tree to get better, just being close will have a beneficial effect. He backed up his ideas by citing several scientific studies. One report of how trees might affect us physiologically came to the following conclusion, “Safe, green spaces may be as effective as prescription drugs in treating some forms of mental illnesses.” Well move over Big Pharma and build us all a nice neighbourhood park then.

Amrita devi saving trees source: katesennert.com

Source: katesennert.com

Matthew Silverstone, serial entrepreneur with a degree in economics and a master’s degree in international business, wrote Blinded By Science in 2011. Having attempted and failed to make millions before the age of 25, he decided to leave film making for less glamorous sectors of business and developed many successful companies in cleaning, building, property development, childcare and transport. This work came to a grinding halt with the illness of his son, which suddenly became his full time career. Due to the lack of medical help within the orthodox sectors of science he begin to question everything that he had been told about that science. Since then, his son has made a full recovery using an alternative healing method and Silverstone has made some interesting discoveries.

Life in all its forms

Both his brother and father are professors of medicine, so it was not easy to let go of traditional medical ideas and start questioning the very foundations of science. He spent two years of research and then wrote his book. It helps to explain many of the reasons why doctors will never find cures for some of the major illnesses that are affecting society today. He realized it is the vibrational properties of trees and plants that offer us health benefits. He points out that everything vibrates in a subtle manner and different vibrations affect our biological behaviours. When touching a tree, its different vibrational pattern will affect various biological behaviours within our body. He explains that everything vibrates, absolutely everything, from the nuclei of an atom, to the molecules of the blood, our organs, our brain, light, sound, plants, animals, earth, photons, space, the universe and by understanding this basic principle everything suddenly becomes clear. “Once you apply this theory to the world around you, you will be astounded by what you learn.” Einstein knew this with Wave–Particle duality. “It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do.”

Sure, we all know everything vibrates, but do we know yet how vibrations interact with each other? Vibrations, whether they are in the form of sound, light, electricity, magnets or gravity, are the number one factor that causes all of the unknown phenomena that western science fails to understand according to Silverstone. “Without an understanding of this we have been guided down the wrong path by science to where we are today. Most of us have had a very poor scientific teaching in the way that life works, for if we did we would all look at plants, the solar system and our health in a completely different light.”

Bold tree hugging potential

Tree hug

Source: lauramarietv.com/en/the-health-benefits-of-nature-for-your-mind-body-and-soul

I have hugged a lot of trees, meditated next to them, wandered around forests for many hours and now that I am living in a city, I feel a real, tangible deficit of their presence in my life. Unfortunately, it is so much harder to hug a tree when you are in a city where everyone is more content to pop a pill in private thinking that will make them feel better. Help spread the word so us tree huggers don’t have to be considered weirdos, especially if real science can now back us up. Or be bold and set the precedent, go hug your nearest tree today. You will feel better because of it.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook or subscribing to this blog!

Free Art strikes again…

Yes, my closets are still quite full of unsold art and so once again I decided to donate art to strangers. This means that I am moving, … again.


It was a bit funny to hang art in the snowy landscape of Montreal East and I was a little worried that a freezing rain storm was coming to town. Wouldn’t that be a tease, free art, once it thaws from the fence a few days later. As with most worrying, none of this came to pass and they found new homes by the end of the week.

Free art, take one, it's yours 2014

Happy holidays everyone and all the best of magic and miracles in 2015!

A study by Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, supported by the United States National Institutes of Health, found that there might be a link between anxiety and dementia. The study analyzed data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative that documented changes in cognition, brain structure and mental health in 376 adults, from age 55 to 91, all of whom had mild cognitive impairment related to mild memory problems such as forgetting why you went to the kitchen or forgetting where you put your keys. Over a three-year period, patients reported whether they felt anxiety, or experienced symptoms of anxiety such as shortness of breath, nervousness, shakiness or trembling. The Baycrest study found that in patients with mild, moderate or severe anxiety the risk for developing Alzheimer’s increased by 33%, 78% and 135%, respectively. The suggested reason is the higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in people with anxiety disorders. A steroid hormone released in response to stress and low level of blood glucose, cortisol is known to damage the hippocampus that is important for memory processing and emotion.

It is already understood there is a link between depression and Alzheimer’s and the study was able to separate the effects of anxiety from those of clinical depression as they only studied patients with low depression scores. In patients whose condition deteriorated into Alzheimer’s disease, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) detected structural changes such as atrophy in brain regions involved in creating memories and in processing emotions. It was considered unlikely the patients’ anxiety was only an emotional response to cognitive decline. Previous research on depression and emotional stress also points to shared mechanisms that could lead to or exacerbate Alzheimer’s disease.

Since anxiety medications for patients with mild cognitive impairment could interfere with sleep and dull cognitive function, researchers are suggesting lifestyle changes. Better sleep, learning a new language or dance to stimulate the synapses and mindfulness-based stress reduction. Basically to try to live in the present moment and enjoy things is what they recommend. [1] Try being the key word.

Medical Outcomes Surveys

A Medical Outcomes Survey deals with three levels of human experience and how they tie into our health and well being.

  1. Physical Health: Physical functioning, satisfaction with physical ability, mobility, pain effects, pain severity, role limitations due to physical health
  2. Mental Health: Psychological distress (anxiety and depression), psychological well-being (positive affect and feelings of belonging), cognitive functioning, role limitations due to emotional problems
  3. General Health: Energy/fatigue, sleep problems, psychophysiological symptoms, social functioning, role functioning (eg, unable to work), current health perceptions, and health distress

But how capable are we to ensure all these factors stay in a healthy range, all the time? We can see that psychological distress refers to anxiety and depression. Here are some facts on anxiety and depression from The Canadian Mental Health Association.

  • 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
  • Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women from adolescence to middle age.
  • Anxiety disorders affect 5% of the household population, causing mild to severe impairment.
  • Almost one half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem.

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness affecting Canadian adults. More facts:

  • One in four Canadians will have at least one anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
  • 4% of the Canadian population experiences anxiety disorders at serious and chronic levels.
  • 58% of OCD clients experience academic underachievement.
  • 47% report occupational impairment.
  • 40% are unable to sustain long term employment.
  • The presence of an untreated anxiety disorder in youth is a risk factor for the development of depression and substance abuse in early adult years.
  • Anxiety disorders are also more chronic than other groups of mental disorders, including affective disorders and substance use disorders.
  • They disproportionately affect individuals from lower social classes.
  • Anxiety disorders are associated with a ten fold increase in suicide risk.

Stress, anxiety and our bodies

So we have large numbers of people experiencing depression and anxiety and the health, financial and social issues they can cause yet many are not seeking help. I would extrapolate that this is not just a Canadian problem. In an interesting experiment involving two silhouettes of bodies alongside emotional words, stories, movies, or facial expressions in order to see how emotions are felt in the body people were asked to colour the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing while viewing each stimulus. The significance of this work is in how emotions coordinate our behavior and physiological states during survival-salient events and pleasurable interactions.

Bodily maps of emotions, Lauri Nummenmaa

Bodily maps of emotions
Bodily topography of basic and nonbasic emotions associated with words.
The body maps show regions whose activation increased (warm colors)
or decreased (cool colors) when feeling each emotion.

The tiger strikes

Recent research is shedding some light on what stresses are doing to the body. We are not so evolved from the Hunters and Gatherers that were our ancestors, although our lives are so very different. In his article Stress -and Allostasis- Induced Brain Plasticity, Dr. McEwen explains how the brain is the key organ of stress processes. The brain has a dynamic and plastic neural circuitry that coordinates, monitors, and calibrates behavioral and physiological stress response systems in order to meet the demands imposed by particular stressors. These processes can be adaptive in the short term (allostasis -the process of achieving stability, or homeostasis, through physiological or behavioral change) and maladaptive in the long term (allostatic load -“the wear and tear on the body” which grows over time when the individual is exposed to repeated or chronic stress).

“Stress and stressful experiences have long been implicated in the etiology and pathophysiology of chronic physical and mental health conditions that now pose a great threat to public health. Historically, disciplinary variation in defining and studying stress and stressful experiences posed both methodological and conceptual challenges to the medical community’s understanding of how an individual’s health status could be affected by such complex processes over the life course. These challenges have been addressed by current perspectives, which build on recent advances in translational animal and human research and emphasize that the relationships between stressful experiences and health status depend on a dynamic interaction between genetic liability and exposure to environmental factors. This interaction begins in utero and continues until death.”

Although we are rarely trying to outrun a tiger, or take down a bison to feed the family, we still live in a state of stress based on what we perceive as dangers or as threatening. We maintain homeostasis through the allostatic adaptation to the external and internal demands that are registered by the brain.  This allodynamic adaptation comes at a cost of the wear and tear on the body and brain, which is termed the allostatic load. The allostatic responses to stressful experiences are best when they are also rapidly employed and then terminated. You climbed the tree to escape the tiger and now you can appreciate the clouds in the distance while you wait to descend. Or, the bison has launched off the cliff and you can now celebrate with your hunting comrades while your heart rate slows and you catch your breath. When the allostatic responses are prolonged and not terminated promptly, the allostatic systems undermine mental and physical health. [2]

“An important aspect of allostasis and allostatic load is the notion of anticipation…psychological states, such as apprehension, worry, and anxiety, as well as cognitive preparation for a forthcoming event. Anticipation arising from neural activity within the brain can drive the output of allostatic biomediators, and it is likely that states of prolonged anxiety and anticipation can result in allostatic load. Other important aspects of individual responses to stress in relation to allostasis and allostatic load are health-damaging and health-promoting behaviors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, sleep, diet, and physical activity, collectively called lifestyle behaviors. These may be embodied within the overall notion of allostasis—i.e., how individuals adapt to and cope with a challenge—and they also contribute to allostatic load.”

Screen shot 2014-11-14 at 9.58.59 PM

Conventional holistic view of pathogenesis showing
contributing factors of chronic disease (Dr. McEwen)
Judyann K. McNamara © 2014

Wiki defines anxiety as an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behavior, such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints and rumination. It is the subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events. Fear is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat; anxiety is an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing. Anxiety can be appropriate, but when it is too much and continues too long, the individual may suffer from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are partly genetic but may also be due to drug use including alcohol and caffeine, as well as withdrawal from certain drugs. They often occur with other mental disorders, particularly major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, certain personality disorders, and eating disorders. Common treatment options include lifestyle changes, therapy, and medications.

How to outrun a tiger?

Again, a suggestion of lifestyle changes to remedy anxiety. I would argue who does not want to feel happy, healthy and calm! If it were as simple as making choice, would we not all just do it? Would it not be wonderful to be lit up like an orange Christmas tree as the above diagram suggests happiness feels like? Ok, so you make the choice to be happy and not anxious, yet nothing happens. So the next best idea is to seek out help. We have a problem when we go to the doctor complaining of anxiety however. How can the root cause be determined? It is obvious the cause would vary from individual to individual and it is not likely to found by blood tests, MRIs or other scans and tests when we ourselves feel that something is not quite right. So how can we help someone suffering from anxiety? It was already made clear from Baycrest’s study that treating it when a person is young can avoid serious health complications such as Alzheimer’s, atrophy in the brain, and studies suggest you could also avoid social problems, lost income and substance abuse issues. Certainly, it needs attention before it reaches the level of serious depression or of suicide. Too many people wait until there is disordered functioning of the affected organs and systems and the problem of allostatic load sets in. Then the problem is on an unconscious loop and starting to affect all parts of our life. At the very late stage when signs and symptoms indicating structural alterations in the tissues and organs appear, the doctor can finally give a definite diagnosis. [2]

Yet, what is their treatment at that late stage point? Medication or lifestyle change. So going back to the big argument, medication is their answer because most of us don’t succeed in making a lifestyle change big enough or sustained enough to save us from our own thoughts and perceptions. Yes, the tiger will likely eat me, I know it is around the corner and it probably, oddly, looks just like my boss, so I run into that scary monster five times a week. This means we are kind of up shit creek as my mother would say, since we can’t think our way out of a problem that our thoughts got us into.

Albert Einstein quote

Homeopathy can help with anxiety

In her article, the Noumedynamic Human, Judyann McNamara explains the problem of stress and anxiety and how homeopathy can help. Stress is essentially the application of or resistance to a force. “Stress, by definition, is the process through which adaptation and evolution occur in response to externally and internally driven forces. Life is movement, a dynamic interaction of forces. Stress can be environmentally induced or self-induced. Self-induced stress can be experienced as two forms: a force pushing the individual or a force resisting change or life.” [2] This comes from a homeopathic understanding of disease and health. In order to help someone with chronic disease states such as anxiety or depression, a homeopath needs to understand an individual’s processes of adaptation and susceptibilities. The causes are often found to be self-induced stress and what current research also shows is that the discrepancy between the real and the perceived in a stressed individual causes stress-related consequences on a very subtle level of biological organization. [2] This is the allodynamic component of an individual where the balance is now tipping from happy allostasis to miserable allostatic load.

Modern research now shows that mitochondria are also susceptible to physical, mental and emotional states in the person. When the individual perceives challenges beyond his or her reach, perceptions are altered, stress responses become fixed, or there is a dichotomy between the real external environment and what the individual perceives, this shows up in how the mitochondria organize themselves. [2]

Mitochondria as bioenergetic portals (McNamara)

Mitochondria as bioenergetic portals (Judyann McNamara)

“The top section of the chart illustrates a situation of optimal health and susceptibility. When the difference between the external and perceived realities are somewhat consistent, the mitochondria can coherently channel the vital field to enable to cell and the organism to adapt to changing conditions, and evolve. In this scenario, the mitochondria show themselves to be fusional, in close contact and together, as a group forming a coherent image of an underlying electromagnetic field through the alignment of their cristae. When the difference between perception and reality increases, this coherency is lost. Perhaps with this loss is the loss of adaptation, freedom of response and the possibility of evolution. When the difference reaches a certain threshold, the mitochondria change shape (balloon out) and become dysfunctional. If environmental factors are too extreme, they lose their shape completely, become pale and anemic, and begin a process that will lead to the death of the cell in which they are enclosed.” [2]

With the help of homeopathy we are able to fill in the source of both what inspires the individual and of the unhealthy delusional state that leads to disease. In order to decipher the true root cause to be addressed in chronic disease, a homeopath must understand the individual’s processes of adaptation and evolution. This is the beauty of it, the healing process can help in cases of depression, anxiety and stress without causing further harm, and all without or in conjunction with medications. The state of having the discrepancy between the real and the perceived reduced by homeopathy is difficult to describe unless it has been experienced. Einstein knew what he was talking about when he said that we can only solve our problems with a different level of consciousness than where we started with it. It requires an evolution and the mitochondria play a role in that, so does homeopathy.


[1] Article resource.

[2] Judyann McNamara. Montreal Institute of Classical Homeopathy

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook or subscribing to this blog!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 362 other followers

%d bloggers like this: