The Lost Medicine of Art

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Art, in all its genuineness, is the most despised talent.  Conformists have always attempted to censor or obliterate it all together.  Men tend to despise what they cannot control and make subservient to their needs and agendas and so they will attempt, in every manner psychological, physical, or political, to suppress it.  The art form at its purest is the antithesis of rigidity and the sheep-minded.  Art stands alone, its origins stem from beyond human awareness and only manifests itself in the act of creation of the artist.  The art form defies all logic and presupposed manners of rational thought, and yet communicates in unexplainable ways our deepest yearnings and curiosities.  It transcends worlds and reminds us of a universal state of being we have somehow been severed from.  Art is freedom.  Raw, independent, unconscious, deep, pure, unrestrained, stoic, and childlike.  Art is the barefooted mistress, unveiling, slinging her hijab towards her oppressors.  It is the baby, breaking free from the bottle, taking the militant crawl towards the kitchen for a handful of ham, toothless and all.  Art is the free-minded man that questions the herd-imposed beliefs of his peers, at the expense of being ostracized.  Except art, in all its omnipotence and truth, unfazed and certain, will part its victims unscathed.  While poems may burn and statues fall, art laughs, dances away, and takes its residence elsewhere.  

Art is the epitome of freedom.  It seeks artists.  It’s not reserved for a selected few, but to the daring and courageous who will set out to explore the realm of the infinite.  We often resonate with its various forms because it is a part of who we are, our native universal language.  Suppressing art out of conformity, rigidity, and fear creates diseased individuals and societies where the imprisoned idea transforms into untamed monsters. More on this next time…

The Problem of Anger

2b0f816b-0376-4d85-bfc6-5095b070150eAnger is the emotion by which all life depends.  Everything we create has its source in the emotions of passion and rage.  The great artists of history never abandoned feelings of anger in their work.  Instead, they used it as fuel-an indication that something of great importance had be created.  The intensity of anger keeps the fire burning when we set out on a particulate project and, if properly embraced, ensures it is carried out to its finish.   It’s common today for many of us to take on a negative view of anger, that it is something to be avoided and indicates something may be inherently wrong with us if we experience it.  It is exactly this belief, of a need to suppress anger, that creates disorder and violence.  Many young men I’ve worked with tend to be emotionally-repressed. They are afraid of their own anger and as a result behave in passive aggressive ways, showing their anger in subtle but destructive tendencies.  They find that their avoidance of anger has deadened their quality of life and halted the creative process.  Once the emotion of anger has been reintegrated, the person is able to create, to formulate, to take on the daring task of leaving one’s mark in the world.  

Anger is a dualistic power.  It can be used to destroy or create.  For this reason, it is a primary emotion, not something underlining another emotion.  An emotional state of frustration can well be telling us something must be created and you are the one chosen to do it, and it will tug at you endlessly until it its demands are obliged.  We cannot afford to overlook something so natural and evident in everyday life.  

The Truth of Passivity

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Passivity can often be masked as a proud portrayal of humility or spiritual surrender.   We must often take note of the origins of stagnation, disinterest, and even our rationalizations for not taking steps towards our personal goals.  The greatest enemy of progress is not to be found outside of ourselves but within the ignored segments of the psyche.  We may find reasons for our lack of execution of a particular task within the immediate environment, but these are only projections or excuses for our own resistances.  The environment as a blockade to progress only becomes a relief, a deflection for taking responsibility for the abandonment of our life goals.  It is much easier to attribute a lack of time for not working on a project than to face the suppressed reality that we fear stepping into the unknown world of creativity- it is the fear of our own potential that must be dealt with daily, many times from moment to moment.  

I have often encountered people that must make a definite change for the sake of their well-being, as continuing on in a particular behavior will inevitably lead to destruction, and have found that underlining their interpretations, they are profoundly terrified of their highest potential.  It is not a fear of failure that keeps us in misery but rather it’s a fear of what we can possibly become if we took initiative and pledged to set out to accomplish what we desire.  We may hide behind a passive life and settle for mediocrity but in many cases this can prove fatal.  People thrive from striving, competing, and improving themselves.  Giving ourselves excuses to continue hiding behind messages of “accepting one’s lot” or success equates trouble and evil, is a deliberate sedation of truth and life.  A patient I once treated who had a history of multiple overdoses, often victimized as a child, also victimized herself as an adult.  She once decided to leave treatment, telling the staff she did not care about her recovery or her life in general.  With tears in her eyes, and words that disarmed the staff with pity and shock, I looked into depths of her being and said “of course you don’t care, it serves you well… if you did care then you’d have to look honestly inside yourself and see what’s wrong, take responsibility towards improving your life and making something of your existence.  It’s so much easier to not care, your addiction loves that you don’t care because if you did you’d probably become someone you’d love and care about, and in turn people would be drawn to you and love you.”  She was able to digest my words without running away and thankfully continued her treatment.  It’s so much easier to live a passive life but it’s also the hardest and cruelest thing we can do to ourselves. We destruct under the guise of meekness and never discover the hero inside of us.  Keeping our “excuses” for not taking responsibility within our awareness can be frightening and overwhelming, but once we commit to doing so and carrying on, we will prove to ourselves we are more powerful than we could have ever imagined.  

4 Words

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Shuffling papers, meeting with clients, crisis interventions, meetings, family contacts, documentation…Getting busy, staying busy, feeling productive.  And then a shadow emerges out of a corridor, a half-broken figure, contorted, confused and healing- to thank you but you can’t remember for what… a smile and then you remember you only placed your hand on his shoulder and uttered four words.  The smile is reciprocated and you realize that this whole time you’ve been busy with nothing and the most productive thing you’ll ever do is tell someone “I’m here for you.”  

Shattered

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We talk too much, often expressing what we think we desire rather than taking time to listen to ourselves… it’s no wonder we fluctuate between anxiety and depression.  Our default focus tends to be on the anxiety producing concerns of what others are thinking or doing, on what should be or could be, and on what appears as the accepting consensus.  All the while, the depressed soul withers from its unattended cries of purpose, identity, needs, and passions.  It’s hard to explain this to the disquieted person.  It seems it has become easier to increase dosages and wait in line for a prescription than to address the pressing matter of who we really are, what living is really about, and how to live according to our individual purpose.  We live in a sedated society, medicated by detached practitioners who themselves, through ignorance, evade the    real issues and causes of anxiety, depression, addiction, and other ailments.

Bottom and Birth

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I’ve come to realize that at the core of every relapse, underneath the distress and volatility of each craving, there is a sincere and desperate cry for reality… a reality tht lives out love, wisdom, and truth in its purest form.

All the rituals and practices of the major organized religions cannot parallel the moment a person hits rock bottom. There are no scripts, no pretensions, no rehearsed utterances…just a man or woman bearing their soul, pleading for healing, for answers- sending their cry into the void in hopes that Something or Someone will come.  It’s miraculous to watch.  You’ll never see someone as connected to their natural state as that.  It’s similar to watching the miracle of birth.  Being able to be a part of moments like this, I’ve discovered that there is something greater than ourselves watching over Its creation and I’m convinced loves us.

Smile Through Storms

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“Pick me up and throw me where you will.  Wherever I land I shall keep the god within me happy…” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I’ve heard many stories from people in recovery dealing with obstacles, some so severe I wondered how they were managing to stay clean and sober.  Some had lost their homes to foreclosure.  Some were laid off from work.  And some had even lost children to illness.  In every account, the same statement reappeared at the end of each share, “But I didn’t drink” or “I didn’t pick up”… “no matter what.”  These people were living proof that something profound had taken place within, a spiritual awakening.  Though the external reality of their lives were constant and difficult, there was a wise and directing consciousness beneath what they presented. This consciousness was impenetrable- although their lives were shaken, they were far from broken.  

Recovery is spiritual awareness.   People become aware of the divinity within and make a decision to honor it on a daily basis.  Outside circumstances such as death, divorce, and financial problems cannot influence the spiritual life within.  Many people in AA refer to this idea as the “98 Burn”, a statement made on page 98 of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book text which states “job or no job, wife or no wife…burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone.”  While our world may be shaken or everything seems to be crumbling down around us, we must acknowledge the god inside us, unfazed, smiling, and always willing to direct us towards the next step.  Stability, healing, and recovery depend not on what happens to us but on the reckoning and daily practice of honoring the divine life within. 

Stir

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Periodically, I like to meditate on a couple of things that help restore and elicit a sense of gratitude.  It constitutes a period of contemplation evoking powerful emotions of joy and a state of thankfulness.  First, I think of a difficult or frightening moment in the past I eventually overcame.  I think of how, by great fortune, I was spared of the worst possible outcome of the event.  For example, I once slammed on the breaks right on time in traffic avoiding a fatal collision with an 18 wheeler.  Or I was called to cover a different unit on the day I was scheduled to see a patient who had been caught with a shank in his cell.  On both such occasions, I was spared and I didn’t have to be.  Many people die everyday from such unfortunate occurrences.  I like to think that the time I’m given beyond these moments are added bonuses that I should embrace and do as much as I can with the “complimentary hours.”  

The second thing I contemplate on is recalling all the people I’ve known, both directly and indirectly, who are battling or have battled serious life conditions such as terminal and chronic illnesses, addiction, severe mental health issues, homelessness, incarceration, abuse, and other forms of prolonged suffering.  I think of how if there is a universal good that exists in the world then perhaps these people serve a great purpose.  Perhaps, through divine wisdom they are the ones chosen to bear it for now so that I won’t have to.  

As macabre and dark as it can appear, surprisingly these two exercises cultivate a genuine kind of gratitude where the effects are  immediately felt.  Suddenly, the coffee tastes fresh, people become more loving, and the possibilities endless.  

Cut

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When we want to express our most profound sentiments, our rawest emotions, dreams, fears, or opinions in any given moment on any given circumstance, but fail to do so, we commit the greatest offense to the self.  When we’re filled with a passionate idea but bite the tongue out of fear of being criticized or oppressed, it is the equivalency of self-mutilation-a denial of our unique creativity.  In attempting to gain acceptance we lose the part of ourselves that earnestly seeks authenticity, the part of ourselves that yearns to find its place in the world. In turn, our vibrancy is diminished and our confidence withers.  It is better to be daring and speak one’s mind risking ridicule and ostracism than to keep silent to appease the masses.  The former you can quickly recover from, but the latter creates irreparable damage to the soul.  

The Deep Path

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We fall into trances…asking what seems to be broad existential questions regarding meaning and purpose.  A man in dire straits who engages in self reflection may at some point ask himself “why is this happening to me?”  If he would just remain still he would discover that he need not go far externally or into his mental faculties to find the answer.  Most times he snaps out of his contemplation due to desperation and attempts to find the answer from the outside, missing the chance of finding the answer right there in front of him. The answer he seeks can most times be found within his question.  So if he asks “why is this happening to me?”, the correct answer will likely be “why, this is happening to me!”  Though we may find it unlikely or even quite a strange response, it is one of the few answers that will prompt him to action.  Another matter to take note of is if the one asking the question already possesses the answer during or prior to asking, it is essentIal to ponder who is it that does the asking.  Surely, it is the same one who answers. This points to the strong likelihood that divine guidance resides inside man.  

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