The Spiritual Road to Emotional Health

 

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     When I first began the practice of natural health for myself, it was all about physical health—I was not consciously experiencing any emotional issues that detracted from living my life well, just a host of physical problems that were bothering me. Though not carrying any medical label that would spell alarm in general, the increasing incidence and severity of sinus problems, migraines, chronic constipation and its related symptoms such as stiffness in the neck and headache in the back of the head, and the unpredictable spasmodic attacks that would temporarily paralyze my body from hips to the shoulders, rendering me practically invalid and immobile for three to five days at a time were my main sources of concern. And successfully overcoming and eliminating all these problems led to my leaving my lucrative university research and teaching position in the department of Psychology in the United States and start sharing my experience and knowledge hitherto gained with friends. That was the start of my subsequent practice as educator, consultant and coach in Natural Health. The subject of physical health is dealt with in the article, The Natural Road to Physical Health.

     During the early part of this self-made career, my focus was purely on physical health and the diet that enabled recovery from any disease. And the Higher Power ensured that the early cases were such that they could benefit and recover from such a diet plan alone. After establishing the validity of this way of physical healing in accordance with Nature’s design, however, the people who came to me with their physical problems presented me with more of a challenge—the changes in diet alone did not work. It soon became evident to me that there were deep-seated emotional/psychological issues that were blocking the road to recovery from a physical treatment of the body alone, even though the people came to consult with me for their physical problems. Thus started a new avenue of self-directed research that uncovered specific pathways in the body-mind connection and became the basis of subsequent workshops and talks devoted to the topic. In this article I outline the essentials of emotional health and how we achieve it using the principles of graceful healing.

     The body is a physical entity. The mind through which emotional issues manifest themselves, on the other hand, is not a physical entity. Then what is it? It is a virtual entity whose presence can be felt, in much the same way as we infer the presence of a virtual space that we call the internet. And what could be the relation between these two? The connecting interface is called the brain, which is a physical entity that gives rise to virtual creations. This combination is comparable to a your laptop. There is the physical hardware consisting of so many parts; then there is a small chip that is called the Central Processing Unit or CPU; and then there is the software program that works through the chip with the help of the other hardware and enables the creation of music, documents, pictures and so on. The human being is very similar to this computer. The body constitutes the hardware, the brain is the CPU, and the software is the mental programming that we develop in the course of our lives, updating the versions of our operating system in much the same way as the computer industry does for the laptop. This analogy can help us understand the intricacies of the body-mind connection.

     Just as the working of the laptop can be affected by either faulty working of hardware or the software, either the body or the mind can cause a problem in the working of the whole system. A hardware problem such as fluctuations in current flow cause by a faulty part can cause faulty working of the software; and on the other hand, a vicious virus in a software has the capability to destroy the hardware, making the computer unusable. Similarly, the chemical composition of the body, determined by the foods we put in through our mouths, can affect the working of the brain in such a way as to affect the working of the mind. Research in the mid-20th century has already established conclusively that psychopathological conditions can be brought about by imbalances in the diet; even such a simple thing as high or  low sugar can affect the mind. High levels can bring on a feeling of euphoria, while a dip from normal levels can cause a generalized feeling of anxiety or hunger. At the same time, emotional states have a reverse pathway of effect on the body. An experience of fear or concentrated mental effort, for instance, can lower sugar levels in the blood. An outburst of anger or sorrow can instantaneously cause hormonal changes such as increase in cortisol and other reactions so that even the color of the stomach changes from pink to purple. Such changes are not slow—they are instantaneous. There are foods, too, that cause hormonal and other chemical changes in the body, with resulting effects on the mind. An influential factor is oxidation rate, or the rate at which sugar is burned in the body. Sugar is the main fuel for the body. So the mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fat—the three macronutrients—in a person’s diet is an important factor. The relative proportion of the three ingredients is an important factor that differs from person to person depending on his or her oxidation rate. That being the case, we need to reflect on what we put into our bodies.

     Having said that, it is true that one’s personality characteristics play a great role in how one meets life’s challenges. Some of these characteristics are born out of learned habits and are relatively less stable than characteristics that become evident from a very early age, before one begins conscious learning. These are habits, tendencies and desires that carry over from birth to birth through successive lives until they are extinguished during one of the lifetimes. These habits, tendencies and desires are what bring on the unique problems that each person faces in the present lifetime.

     Now we come to the most important point in the discussion of emotional health. Having taught and worked with colleagues in the department of psychology for several years, I have found no real solutions to people’s problems in the clinical psychology, counseling psychology, psychiatric or other psychological therapeutic approaches based on scientific theorizing. I can state unequivocally that all these approaches, while no doubt were born out of a felt need by the public, have come to stay more as lucrative professions rather than something people can use to permanently and effectively overcome their problems. A prominent psychologist was once asked by his close friend and confidant, “in your long experience of so many decades, what is your estimation of the results of your work?” Pat came the reply, “ I don’t know about the results for the clients, but the results for my pocket have been very good indeed.” I know many people who have been going to their psychologist for several years. An incredible proportion of the population in western countries is what I would call psychologist-addicted. It is very common for people to have their regular psychologist, in much the same way as people have a family doctor. If a person needs to go to his or her psychologist every few days or weeks, for years and years, I do not see that as any solution to their emotional problems. What psychologists largely provide is something that used to be available freely in society at one time in the evolution of civilization, but that has now become practically extinct with the advent of modern technology and the resulting culture of highly stressful and busy lifestyles. What is this something?

     Until not so long ago, human presence on the planet was in the form of traveling tribes and stationary villages of settled communities, both of which were relatively small in size. In these small tribes and village communities, everyone knew everyone else from birth—their life histories, their activities, their problems in life….everything, in short. Although there were bound to be individual likes and dislikes and difficulties in interpersonal relationships, everyone understood that they all belonged to the community and that the successful functioning of the community depended on the cooperation of all. So it was rather like a large extended family where one might not like one uncle but may find an aunt to confide in; but in the end, everyone had a friend or a relative to confide in, and a sympathetic shoulder to lean on when facing one’s problems in life, who had time to sit and listen, and give honest and well-meaning advice without judging the confiding person. But with the growing size of these communities, and the institution of religion and marriage and other societal concepts, stress levels increased while the sense of belonging decreased rapidly.

     This sense of belonging, and the sympathetic ear and friendly advice are what have become extinct with today’s extremely large communities in which no one has the time or opportunity to know even one other person since birth, fully and deeply—not even among parents and children, let alone others. This unrecognized but deep-seated need is to a very small extent met in interest groups in which people can “belong”; but these are an apology for the friend of olden days, for one may belong to four different interest groups, but in the end they only have so many people that they spend a limited time with to indulge in their favorite activities. But the days of confiding completely to someone who knows your whole life history are gone, for such a person is non-existent. The psychologist profession has emerged to fill this gap as an opportunity. Needless to state, in many cases all they have to do to be a successful psychologist is be willing to spend an hour largely listening, lending that sympathetic ear—of course, for a fee. And at the end of the hour, the client’s time is up and he or she can have that sympathetic ear again only on appointment, a few days or weeks later, at an appointed time—not when the client is really wanting to share her troubles and is in need of some help in confronting her situation. It is not an aunt or an uncle or a cousin that she can run to and sit for a couple of hours sobbing and pouring out her story—it is a psychologist who fixes an appointment for a certain date and time when she can present herself and be listened to for an hour. It doesn’t matter that she might just be coming out from work and on her way home, too tired to even think of anything, let alone talk. But still, that is the only slot the psychologist had, so she had to book it two weeks in advance. And in that one hour she has to talk about whatever problem she is facing in life—a situation that may have changed greatly from the time she actually faced the problem. And when the hour is up she has to get up and go, no matter if anything was accomplished or not. How much more meaningless can such a life get? Yet that is the reality of today. The stress of making it in time to the psychologist’s appointment is added to the work and domestic stresses already present in the person’s life, can this ever be a solution to people’s emotional problems?

     Until people realize that, like the medical and allied professions, the professions related to psychology actually depend on emotional illness for the professionals to survive, they are simply wasting their hard-earned money. Emotional health cannot come out of someone else trying to fix your problems, because their minds are no better than yours. It is just that the professional waves a spurious licensing credential that really has no practical use for the client, only for the legal system operating in the state or country. The credential exists to protect the psychologist if a client decides to take him or her to court. Beyond that it mean absolutely nothing. This was the profound revelation I had from working on committees that had been formed to create accreditations for professional training programs. It is why, in my own practice of natural health, my approach to resolution of emotional problems is spiritual. Through over a decade of my practice I can say without hesitation that about the only sure and permanent way to resolving emotional problems arising in our lives is the spiritual way ; and it is not only an amazingly effective one, but it doesn’t need the services of a psychologist, and it certainly doesn’t cost a penny. Of course, you can end up spending money on one of the profusion of “gurus” that peddle their own brand of what they call spirituality, but that is far from what I am referring to. Spiritual Truths are never sold for a price. Jesus did not do it, Krishna did not do it, nor did Mohammed or any other spiritual figure in history, although the people who came after them calling themselves their devotees and disciples may have done so. Certainly no true disciple of a genuine saint would be expected to sell the Sacred Truths. So first we need to be clear about what the spiritual road really is about; and then, to understand why and how it alone offers the solution to emotional problems, we need to take a step back and look at what is life all about. 

     Let us begin by clarifying the distinction between spirituality and religion. Religion is what we get into after we are born, and depends on the community we are born into. Spirituality is a personal aspect that comes with us when we are born, was ever there through all our previous lives, will continue through however many future lives we may have, and has no name or ritual attached to it. Religion is created by human beings, and as such, is defined by distinctive rituals, norms, philosophical expositions, and practices. Spirituality has no such human intellectual creations attached; it stems directly from God, or that super power, Universe, Almighty, the Self, or whatever else you might choose to call this higher force that we have no explanation for or control over. You may or may not believe in rebirth, past and future lives and related concepts, or even in a higher power; and it doesn’t matter. The Truth will never change, and it will come to everyone in one lifetime or another. When it dawns on us is not in our hands either—that also seems to be simply by Divine Will or Grace of God, or Providence or whatever you call it. So if it is not your time yet, you may not get it even if it is given to you. However, know that the fact that you are reading this is not a coincidence—you can be sure of that! Every person is provided with opportunities during his or her lifetime to get to the Truth, and it is up to the individual to attend to it or not. Even the belief in a God or a Higher Power, though widespread in the human race, is not a privilege given to all. There are many people who pride themselves on being aethist until something happens to shatter that bit of ignorance. And you can be 101 percent sure that the shattering will happen, if not in this lifetime, in another one. Now you may ask me, how do I know all this, to sound so sure about what I am saying? I have no scientific answer to this question, I can only share my personal experience and that of others I know about. This knowledge happens when it happens, you just “know” one day, even if you did not believe in it. You can trust me on this, for I myself preferred to avoid the topic of rebirth and past lives until the inner knowledge happened. How it happens is by the Grace of God, I have no other explanation, nor do I seek to convince anyone. I know this is the Truth, and it will reach you some day in some lifetime if it hasn’t already. But even if you don’t agree with me at this juncture, you will do yourself a favor by reading the rest of what I have to say in this article.

     To continue our discussion, having distinguished religion from spirituality, let us get outside of specific religious belief systems and focus on what came with us—our spiritual selves that we may call variously as the Higher Self, the Soul etc. A detailed discussion of the nature of this Self is outside the scope of this article, and is explained in a different article, Who we really are. However, it would be useful to read that article at this juncture before proceeding, because certain terms used later in this discussion have reference to that article. What is relevant here is that we come steeped in ignorance of who we really are, and until we find out, we have to experience mortal lives. In fact, it is only through mortal life as a human being that we get the chance to learn the truth about who we are; but it is a long process of learning, much as we do in grade school. We have specific lessons in each grade, and we have to learn our lessons and pass our exams before we can get to the next grade. This process would continue until we graduate. However, the similarity ends here. In grade school, the lessons are clearly specified and highly organized into chapters set out in text books that we are given to learn from. Further, teachers are assigned to each grade to help us learn the lessons and pass the exams. All students of a specific grade are placed together in the same classroom so that the learning becomes clear and easy. Each of us knows which grade we belong to.

     Life School, if we may call it that, is different. There is no textbook, no written lessons. We are not even told which grade we belong to, or how many grades there are. Lessons happen through experiences, and there is no teacher to interpret the lesson for us. We are largely on our own, because everyone is in the same boat. No one knows which grade they belong to, so everyone is busy going through experiences, most of us even without knowing what they represent or that we are in a school and need to progress, or evolve, in a certain realm called the spiritual. And so we stumble on through life, wondering what it’s all about when things don’t go as we planned or desired, but mostly not even having the time to reflect on the meaning of life as they did in ancient times, for now we have bills to pay and things to do that not only keep us busy, but stressed out as well.

    The stress in our lives arises from the fact that our lessons have not been identified or learned. In such a case, the repeated occurrence of an unpleasant experience gives us a hint that we’re doing something wrong; but even these we often miss because we don’t even think of it as a lesson, but simply (and incorrectly) as experience that we had no control over, placing blame squarely on other people or the situation involved. Not surprisingly, such ignorance of our lessons brought about by dysfunctional attitudes and outlooks raises stress levels that accumulate over time to cause physical and emotional disturbances. The fundamental piece of knowledge that can help us get out of this fix is that we are in this life to evolve through our experiences, that our experiences represent lessons or the results of our performance in a test. When we start to look at life from this perspective, our lessons begin to appear clearer and we can begin to find answers to our lives’ practical problems.

     From this perspective we find that every dis-ease, physical or emotional, has something to teach us. The higher power communicates with our ignorant souls (ignorant because they have wrongly identified with the ego instead of the Higher Self) through the experiences of the body and the mind, both of which are associated with that ignorance. It is the reason that the medical profession will never crack the mystery of disease, it will ever have to be content with suppression of symptoms. Similarly, all that psychologists can ever achieve at their very best is a temporary feeling of relief for the client. There are no lasting solutions. On closer scrutiny we see that it must be so—for really what psychologists, even at their best, are trying to do is to eliminate or erase a lesson or message from this Higher Power given to the client. That is not only not possible, but the client in seeking such a “solution” is actually, though perhaps unwittingly, trying to run away from the lesson or message. That can never bode well for the individual concerned, for the primary purpose of her very existence is to study and understand the lessons that Life School has placed before her. The message can neither be eliminated nor ignored. If so attempted, it will only lead to further complications and suffering.

     What is the message? Emotional “problems” are nothing but a form of suffering, even if one is trying to confront the problem at an intellectual level. Suffering of any kind needs the cooperation of the mind, for without the mind one can feel neither physical nor emotional pain. The mind as we know it is the operational aspect of the brain, which is part of the body. The suffering comes from identifying ourselves with our ego, mind and intellect. Since the ego, posing as the Self, influences both the mind and the intellect, we feel hurt if someone insults us. But what is an insult? At the very base it is just a phrase or sentence that another soul has uttered. It is the ego that places a value judgment on that phrase and either rises up in defense (anger) or feels hurt, and provokes the mind to react one way or another. If we were not steeped in our primal ignorance of mis-identification with the ego, but centered in our Self, then we would simply be aware of the phrase being uttered, but would see that as being addressed by one ego to another, neither of which has to do with us (meaning our Selves). Then there would be no reaction of the mind, for the mind would have resolved into the Self. There would thus be no suffering, and no emotional “problem” to talk about.

     The Truth about our states, once known and understood intellectually, is the beginning of the spiritual road to emotional healing. The solution lies somewhere along the journey to Self-realization, or the actual experience of the Self. The good news is that it is not needed to actually enter the Samadhi state to resolve our emotional problems. The hard news is that the journey takes some effort, just the intellectual understanding of our primal ignorance or what is to be done will not cut it. We actually need to get that ego and the monkey mind under control, and for this we use the intellect to chart out our path of spiritual sadhana. As we make progress on the spiritual path, we will find our emotional problems melting away. The mapping of our journey, unlike our scientific and psychological theories, is not a complicated process. All it takes is a sincere surrender to the Higher Power, a recognition that we are not what we think we are, a constant awareness that our bodies, minds, and intellects are not ours but that of the ego that has sprung up posing as “I”, or our Selves, and—this is the hardest part—bringing the monkey mind under control. The wonderful thing about this journey is that it becomes an extremely empowering and at the same time joyful one, especially as our grade in Life School starts becoming clear, and we become aware of the several messages from the Higher Power that we get every day. Then we realize that in fact, we have been getting messages all along but have not been aware of them.

     From this point on there is no looking back, for emotional problems become a thing of the past, and we have our priorities in Life straightened out. Life becomes a breeze, and an enjoyable one at that as we get engaged in the task of decoding the messages coming to us. Our outlook changes from one of “I” and “mine” and “they” and “theirs” to “we” and “ours” as we begin to understand deep inside that there is God talking to us through every soul whom we come across each day—whether stranger, friend or relative. As this point we become spiritual aspirants.

     Our main sadhana as novice spiritual aspirants is to stay aware of this knowledge through the day. The distinctions between ourselves and other people gradually disappear if we do our sadhana sincerely and persistently. That is important. When we find ourselve1s slipping, all we have to do is ask the Self to help us; we are never disappointed in that quest. But we have to feel the need, and ask. The sages tell us to plunge into this sadhana with a “one-pointed mind”, meaning that we should be alert not to just gradually dilute our attention and slip out of the sadhana. At first it is difficult, for we are not used to this perspective or way of going about our daily lives. But the more intensely we practice the quicker the results, and it becomes easier by the day, until it just becomes part of our nature. That is the road to liberation from the otherwise endless birth cycle and reunion with the Divine or Higher Power. It manifests at every stage as a blissful experience and a lightness about life that we did not experience before. Our difficult relationships with others seem to become effortlessly easier and more pleasant; and when things don’t go according to our plan, instead of becoming stressed as we used to, we now recognize the Divine Hand at play, and go with the flow.

     Soon we will find that we become neither sad nor joyful with things happen to us, recognizing each that can change to something else the next moment; instead, we learn to stay in a tranquil-blissful state that seems to be ever in equilibrium, always conscious of the Higher Power embracing us in Its Grace, looking after us through all times with more love than even a mother is capable of giving her child. When you get to this state, you cannot see problems, only Nature at work; you are not a judge, but an aware observer of situations and people; and you never react, only act, guided by that Higher Self at all times. Life, then, has been conquered and you are no longer the slave of your mind, but its ruler, and the king of all this world of Maya!

     May you ever reside at the holy feet of the Lord and bathe in His Grace!     

 

 

 

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