The Open Door

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If there is a struggle of any kind at this time that overwhelms you, ask yourself two things:  what does it mean? and where is it leading me?  Our minds are inclined to believe that it’s only through light and bliss that we’ll obtain freedom.  But, by now we should know this is utter and complete bull****.  We find the invaluable in the darkness, we obtain the diamond through clawing our way out of the dung hill.  It’s the place that we often put off from approaching but it’s the only way towards realization and balance.  Living a one sided life in which the primary focus is positive thinking  is a denial and rupture of the human condition. The reality is life is brutal filled with battles for us to engage and conquer.  Every one has a battle to overcome but you cannot overcome what you don’t know what you’re fighting.  The denial of our wounds only makes them worse.  It’s necessary to stare down those dark places in our lives, take a stand, and be willing to enter through the dark corridors of our being.  This is how authentic character is built.  Deciding to put fear aside and face reality, face our wounds, is the emancipating and heroic act of escaping the prison of stagnation.  It’s marks the beginning of character.  It’s the only way we come to realize how powerful we are. 

Running

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More often than not we will find that our discontent with outer reality is a reflection of the neglected and unresolved yearnings of our soul.  Our displeasure with some aspect of our career often points to a conflict or unresolved dilemma of our life’s purpose;  a pattern of problems with particular types of people mirrors a hidden and ugly quality we would rather not face in ourselves;  or a preoccupation with trivial fears and phobias may be set off by failing to surrender to a greater internal battle.  A failure to engage in deep psychological work to find the origin of such external distress that really arises from within tends to lead us in an illusory path of seeking relief.  We may habitually change jobs, partners, places of residence, religions, friends, etc- all at an attempt to be released from the debilitating internal struggle of psychological conflicts that most times erroneously reflect external circumstances, people, and events.  These attempts prove to be futile in the long run as the person may seek release through extreme escape behaviors of severe isolation and compulsive habits.  When we perceive there is no where to turn to, when life gets incredibly uncomfortable to bear, the result is the beginning of addictive behavior.  Addiction is a desperate attempt to find release from external and internal conflict when resolution cannot be found- it is the mind’s most resourceful way of getting free from a build up of psychological madness that threatens to obliterate the little comfort that is left.

Addiction personifies a universal problem.  Society is on the go and yet so stagnant, so fast paced and yet ridden with a melancholic disposition.  We are going no where fast, tending to problems erroneously or superficially, fatally ignoring the cries of our psychological lives.  The end result always being a series of temporary departures from reality where our lives and structure remain unchanged.  Perhaps its time to reckon that we have missed the mark, that we’ve been looking for answers in all the wrong places and as long as we continue in the same direction, we won’t find peace but a disruption, or even worse, an obliteration of life.

Healing begins when we are tired, when we stop to say there is something wrong here, and perhaps it’s within me.  Facing oneself honestly is painful-the mirror doesn’t change to our opposing responses or sensibilities.  However, it is only through the undertaking of swallowing hard truth about ourselves and deciding to take action is when the possibility of a better life is made apparent.

Shaman, Shamania

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Our ancestors sought answers by journeying far and wide, seeking spiritual leaders for guidance and answers to life’s most pressing issues.  Many times, they sacrificed their lives in order to listen to the wise counsel of the healer, the devoted shaman.  The shaman was the median between the gods and the people.  He would summon spirits through deep contemplation and rituals, receiving divine life saving knowledge from beyond.  The shaman wore clothing that distinctly separated himself from the community, wore specific painting designs on his face, chanted freely towards the spirits in language unknown to the laymen, and danced in a convulsive like fashion.  Among those that sought out the shaman was a universal understanding that this process was the way of attaining help, direction, and insight into specific issues.  This understanding was ingrained in those that came before us and is a part of our present day make-up.  The chanting shaman is a representation of hope, renewal, and rebirth.  The outcome of seeking these “medicine men” was always one of healing, or at least a consolation of some kind.  

Fast forward present day, the most influential form of entertainment is heavily populated with shaman-like artist drawing in millions of young men and women, who as many of us, are seeking genuine and concise answers to life’s most essential questions.  The “medicine man” effect lures in crowds through senseless chants, tattooed faces, belligerent dances, strange smoke, lanky bare chested men receiving their share of the gold from their performance-and those eager to find answers, while entertained- come empty and leave empty.    

By far, this art form is extremely damaging to the psyche because it taps into the human drive of seeking truth and direction.  While we have moved away from the primitive days of climbing mountains for divine wisdom to climbing stages at an attempt for the same, the result of the latter creates psychological and social decay.  The messages we wholeheartedly yearn have been completely distorted into those that promote violence, hedonism, drug use, promiscuity, addiction, objectification of women, the breakdown of family and community, and the devaluation of morality.  We must all stop to ask ourselves what effect the shift from “knowledge from above” to “f*** b******, get money” has on our youth.  

There is no doubt that such senseless music and artists should be banned from our society.  More importantly though, and more effectively, it would benefit the individual and society to carefully filter content that resembles anything that promotes social garbage and deceptively disguises itself in the images of the “wise old men” of the past.  

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.

Anxiety, Depression: Signs of Spiritual Anemia

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The soul requires your attention.  If it’s depression or anxiety we experience, before we seek to medicate, we need to ask ourselves how much time are we spending nourishing our souls.  While we may spend time balancing the physical and social aspects  of our lives, the soul may remain neglected signaling ‘hunger’ through the pangs of restlessness and melancholy.  Often, someone who is experiencing a generalized form of anxiety or depression will discover that little time has been vested in soul-enriching activities that restore emotional and spiritual balance.  So before a discussion on medications takes place, an exploration of wellness activities should be discovered.  These may include:  

Meditate

Meditation has been proven to significantly reduce anxiety.  In fact, there is research proving that meditation is just as effective as prescribed medications in managing anxiety.

Read

Reading increases awareness and can help improve the ability to understand what is going on within you.  It also helps with shifting focus away from what you are experiencing to being in tune with the plot and characters of the story.  

Laugh

Laughing or even the act of smiling releases pleasure creating chemicals in the brain, giving off a sense of well-being.  Engaging in content or with people that make you laugh is a sure way to combat the imbalance of ‘feel good’ neutrotransmitters in the brain of those suffering with depression and/or anxiety.  

Many times, our moods are worsened by overthinking or catastrophizing.  A “keep it simple” approach in which we spend time devoted to the deeper part of ourselves is important as a starting point to manage our moods before reassessing and exploring further solutions.  

The Best Investment

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An essential kind of success-perhaps the most critical type-is psychological.  Unfortunately,many people attain financial wealth and yet ignore the importance of their psychological health.  We tend to frequently check our bank statements and balance our checkbooks, yet we put off reflecting on what’s happening in our minds.  With the rates of  anxiety and depression becoming more prevalent, it’s time to prioritize and take inventory on our thoughts, feelings, and actions.  We begin by reflecting on our past and current relationships (social, personal, occupational, spiritual). What seems to be the theme?  What or who is the common denominator of the problem?  What are my greatest liabilities and am I ready to discard them?  The initiation of such a process is probably the most daring and life changing endeavor a person will ever embark on.  Psychological success requires discipline, structure, and an enduring commitment to tend to one’s inner life.  A dedication to reflect, admit defects, and take on the painstaking task of breaking unhealthy patterns and cycles is by far the best form of achievement.  Psychological success is the thread that holds everything together and it’s proper management pays off the greatest dividends.  

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.  

Be Still

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Man envies every least deserving thing.  He strives and dies for the things that should always be allocated at the background of reality.  The promotion, the size of his home, his bank account, the attention given by others, where his kids go to school, where he dines and gathers- all take center stage and consume the pathway to his purpose. And nature which seeks to teach him how to live, how to be happy, is altogether ignored, kicked away like an orphan who incessantly begs for loose change and crumbs.  He seldom ponders the trees that show him how to weather the inevitable storms, to stand strong through the turbulence, to accept harmoniously the place it’s been given, and to fall gracefully when it is time.  It’s tragic that we often fall prey to the erroneous escapes of life’s struggles-the pill, the powder, the bottle, the dollar, the relationship, etc- through self medication and yet, often ignore the guiding example of nature.   Nature stands still, stoically, through both the pleasant moments and drudgery of existence.  It doesn’t rebel nor complain about what should or could be… it stands and exists in perfect harmony with what is and what has been given.  If you’ve run out of answers, if there’s no more ways to escape left in you, switch your focus to bringing nature and life center stage and lessen your priorities on those things that hinder.  

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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