The Great Divide – Psychology and Spirituality (Part 1 of 2)

Separated 1941 – Istvan Farkas

We humans have analyzed ourselves into our component parts – we’re a body, a mind, a soul, a spirit.  Depending on where we’re coming from, one or the other of our parts takes precedence.  For an old school allopathic doctor, the body is the primary focus.  The mind is the focus of a psychotherapist, the soul comes under the remit of a priest and the spirit dwells in the world of a guru or a New Age shaman.   

This causes artificial divisions within our world view.  We are a body and a mind and a soul and a spirit and a lot more besides.  It’s all one package.  And the fullness of life can be accessed through any and all of our component parts. 

Traditional religions have condemned the body as the enemy of spirituality.  Yet in tantric traditions the body is the gateway to the divine.  New Age theory often sees the mind as the enemy, but the mind and the suffering it creates can be our most immediate opening to the world of spiritual awareness. 

The study of spirituality is as old as history.  The study of human behavior is just as ancient, but it became an independent discipline called psychology only in the 1870’s.  Before that it was seen as a branch of philosophy.  That separation, which allowed the study of human behavior and thinking to develop as a science, also creates an artificial divide between spirituality and psychology.   This is a gap we need to close because spirituality and psychology are a seamless whole.   Growth in one area immediately affects awareness in the other and limitations in one area immediately handicaps us in the other.

Everyone has something to teach.   Share your wisdom – make a comment.

Quotes for Life: Jesse Jackson

What is Breathwork? (Part 2 of more)

If you live primarily in your mind, getting beyond it can be a tough job.  When it comes to getting beyond mind, Breathwork can be your best friend.

So what is Breathwork?  It’s using your breathing to access the world inside each of us, the fascinating, jumbled, wonderful world of contradictions, the good and the bad and the in between, the mind, the soul, the body the spirit that make up all of us. 

We breathe all day, every day.  We do it without thinking much about it – until we get asthma or emphysema or a lungful of unwanted smoke.    But breathing is the only bodily function that everyone can immediately bring under conscious control. 

Breathwork takes that free and natural bodily function and consciously controls it, molds it into patterns that are designed to open up our awareness to the spiritual nature of ourselves and our world.

There are many forms of breathwork.  It’s an integral part of yoga.  Awareness of breathing is essential to most forms of meditation and breathing itself is the central focus of some  meditation practices. 

The form of Breathwork I’m talking about is consciously controlled breathing and it’s more vigorous than traditional meditation.  In Breathwork, the breather alters their breathing pattern noticeably for 45 minutes to over an hour and the results can be spectacular.  We travel far beyond the mind while taking the mid with us on the journey.

Have you experience of breathwork in any form? 

Everyone has something to teach.   Share your wisdom – make a comment.

Quotes for Life: Giovanni Papini

Getting Rationality Out of The Way.

Conscious, aware connection with the life force is natural, but there are road blocks along the way.  One of the  biggest blocks of all is our dependence on rationality.  Einstein again, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

So for many, the first step on the way to mystical experience, is to recognize the limits of the rational mind.  I’m not talking about suspending rationality at all, just about recognizing its limits.  The great Sufi poet Hafiz described it as “Pulling out the chair/Beneath your mind/And watching you fall upon God.”

There is a place for rationality, for asking why and demanding an answer.  There is great value in insisting that opinion be based on fact rather than fiction.  You have only to turn to modern evangelical religion, of any tradition, to see what happens when rationality is thrown out the window. 

But to touch our spiritual nature we need to become humble about our intellect.  We need  to recognise that there are things we do not know and cannot know with the intellectual tools we acquired in school.   Useful as they may be, they have their limitations.  Truly recognising this fact opens the often scary world of not knowing.  That world is mysterious and often uncharted, but it is also the territory where our spiritual nature emerges into awareness.               

Step one:  Recognise that your mind can’t know or understand everything and to gain awareness, you have to go beyond it.           

Everyone has something to teach.   Share your wisdom – make a comment.


Quotes for Life: Salman Rushdie

What is Breathwork? (Part 1 of more)

The way is sometimes easy, smooth, a downhill trip.  It happens naturally as we go through life.  We have an insight, a transformation.  Sometimes we recognize that it’s the result of days or weeks  or even years spent mulling over things, facing hard facts and processing our emotions.   And sometimes it seems to happen spontaneously, out of nowhere … Poof!  A major obstacle is gone, a tenacious habit has changed, a depression has lifted.  

I suffered from depression from late childhood until my mid-20’s.  I remember clear as anything the day it disappeared.  I was sitting in the living room of a house in Missoula, Montana that has since been demolished.  I can still see the wallpaper, the billowing white curtains, the light flooding through the bay window, the people in the room with me and where they were sitting.   I looked over at my then boss and suddenly felt a weight or energy, don’t really know how to describe it, lifting up from my shoulders and head.  The depression that had hounded me almost constantly for as long as I could remember was gone. 

It’s nice when it happens that way.  It’s very nice.  But it’s rare.  Mostly we have to put some work into it. 

The most effective technique I’ve found to help us do that work is, without a doubt, Breathwork. 

I’m going to write a lot about breathwork, but at the same time I’d really like to know what you’ve found to help you move on.  What works for you?

Everyone has something to teach.   Share your wisdom – make a comment.

Quotes for Life: Robert Moore

The Mystic Emotion

Albert Einstein once wrote, “The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science.”  Mysticism is an old and beautiful word.  It predates terms like peak states, out of body experiences, mojo. 

It means the experience of aware union with the life force…feel free to substitute whatever term you like to use (god, Allah, Krishna, higher power, Great Spirit, Christ…).    When we become fully aware of that union our perception of everything changes.  Or to quote Einstein again, “The…feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.”   This is a scientist’s perspective.  Yours might be worded differently.  But the wonder and awe and beauty, the love and rapture are the same.  This is the experience at the core of religion before the edifice of church and sin had been built upon it. 

We access mystical experience by being open to it.  It’s not about trying, but about surrendering.  It’s not about making it happen but about letting go of what prevents it from coming to our awareness.  And in our culture of acquiring and striving, surrendering can be a lot more difficult than forcing something to happen. 

This is where spiritual practices come in.  Breathwork is the most effective spiritual practice I know, but other forms of meditation, contemplative prayer, being silent in nature, yoga, walking, dancing, writing…whatever does it for you, are equally effective.  If done regularly, they help us surrender, often despite ourselves.   

Everyone has something to teach.   Share your wisdom – make a comment.

What does mysticism really mean? It means the way to attain knowledge. It’s close to philosophy, except in philosophy you go horizontally while in mysticism you go vertically. -Elie Wiesel