Letters to Deepak
My doctor told me I have high blood pressure, and I should look for ways to lower it along with taking my prescription medicine. I've heard you have your own meditation technique—will that help me lower my blood pressure?
San Diego, CA
All meditations that silently use a mantra have a similar goal—to take our awareness beyond thought, into pure silence, pure awareness. Our Primordial Sound Meditation, specifically the mantras used and the way in which we select them, is very different from other techniques. The mantra is based on the vibration the universe was making at the moment of your birth. Those who have developed a primordial sound meditation practice cite the benefits of stress reduction, better sleep patterns, and greater peace of mind in their lives. We have also attempted to eliminate the secrecy surrounding many meditation programs.
Borderline hypertension (high blood pressure), often responds extremely well to meditation. Many studies over the last 30 years have shown average readings drop to an acceptable level starting after just one month of meditating. Just by practicing meditation, most people under the age of 40 could expect their blood pressure to fall below the limit set for borderline hypertension, which is 130/90. Along with the other adjustments in your lifestyle, try meditation for 30 minutes each morning and evening.
I was wondering what anxiety really is. Is it the emotion of a fear that is not being felt? Can fear ever be overcome, or does it exist only at a cellular level?
Anxiety is a derivative of fear as are all limiting emotions. Anxiety can be overcome and so can fear. All limitations and conditioning superimposed on our unbounded self can be eliminated through sadhana. Even fear that is stored at a cellular level can still be cleared out because the mind and body are intimately connected. As long as the spiritual practice is deep enough to get to the source of the fear issue, its corresponding effect on the body will allow the physical memory to be released from the cellular level.
I've left a 25 year marriage, my husband is an alcoholic and manic depressive. I want to go forward in life and become financially independent, but I still feel “stuck.” How do I work through this?
Chula Vista, CA
Feeling stuck generally means that some part of you is afraid to move on. You might be afraid of being alone, afraid you can't succeed, or even afraid you will succeed and won't like it. You might want to talk with someone who can help you uncover what these blocks are, and help you address them. You have already taken the biggest step in leaving a relationship that does not nourish you and in taking charge of your own life, now you need to apply that same courage to healing the fears in your interior life. Try meditation to bring a foundation into your life of infinite possibilities.
For more information on Healing the Heart or the Perfect Health Program at the Chopra Center, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888.424.6772, or visit us online at chopra.com.
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Alcoholism, Part 6--
During my years working in hospital-based alcohol rehabilitation centers, I was frequently struck by the profound misunderstanding of the t erm “surrender” as it is spoken of in the 3 rd of the 12 steps, in which one “surrenders to a higher power.” I would grow a bit queasy when a patient in treatment would tell me they had “surrendered to their higher power today.” Surrender is not something you accomplish in one day and are then done with it. It is a process that goes on throughout one's life. In AA, “surrender” means that we allow God or a Higher Power to begin to run our lives, and that we try to align ourselves with God's will, rather than the will of our ego-mind. This is a useful way of looking at surrender for a novice, but is shortsighted.
“Surrendering to the moment,” means, “becoming fully aware of one's inner and outer world…and accepting everything exactly as it is.” It means that everything in this moment is perfect. It does not mean that we can become passive and “Let God do everything.”
“Surrender” is not un-like The Tao, which means “the way” . . . and more. The Tao implies that everything in this moment is perfect and that “striving” is not required. “Acceptance” of what IS—is what is required…but even to use the word “required” misses the point a bit. The Tao, the way of non-striving, the sense that everything in this very moment is okay and perfect, “requires” nothing.
Surrender also means, “Seeing and accepting truth.” But in the Western World, we are conditioned to think that surrender means “giving up.” So, many people will have trouble with the idea of surrender, feeling that they are losing a battle.
It is important to point out a major difference between Western and Eastern spirituality. In all three major Western religions, there is a God or Higher Power to surrender to. That is the highest truth in the West.
Eastern spirituality teaches that man and God are made of the same “stuff,” that God is the ocean and each of our individual souls is a river, which will eventually merge back into that ocean. Another way to say it is that each of us is a small spark of the divine, and the divine is an infinite flame. Ramana Maharshi was/is one of the best teachers regarding the discovery of our true nature. If, for example, someone asked Ramana Maharshi how to deal with a child with severe illness (or any problem at all), Maharshi would answer, “Who wants to know? Who is asking the question? Your body is not asking the question. Your mind is not asking the question. Who is the ‘I' that is asking the question?” Maharshi's goal was to help bring the student or spiritual seeker to the conclusion that the “I” asking the question was the source, the core, the soul of the individual . . . and that when one realizes that one IS the soul, all questions are answered. By the way, this is a tough path to enlightenment!
In Eastern spirituality, the idea of separateness is considered to be an illusion. Anyone who has had a mystical experience knows that separateness is an illusion, and that “unity is reality.” According to a recent Gallup poll, 43 percent of Americans have had an unusual spiritual experience and 15 percent of us have had a near-death experience. Both of these are experiences in which one experiences the unity of all things, and feels one's Self merge with God or Nature. In these experiences we do not feel different than, or separate from God. This philosophy and way of living definitely ruffles some Western theological feathers. You can easily imagine a fundamentalist of any Western religion saying, “How dare you say that you are God, that your nature is God, that you are the same as God.”
Whether one is attempting to surrender in a Western way or an Eastern way, one is trying to answer the question, “Who am I?” and the answers are slightly different between East and West. However, the overall notion that we are spiritual beings does not need interpretation. East and West agree on the need to connect with and identify ourselves with Source. In a sense, the difference in perspective between East and West is academic. The spiritual aspirant of the East, especially Hinduism, begins by identifying a God or Higher Power, and then does his best to surrender to that Higher Power. His goal is ultimately to become one with God . . . but that is no small task and may take a lifetime of spiritual work to attain. So, in a more down-to-earth way of looking at things, East and West are not so far apart. All of us are (hopefully) trying to surrender to something greater than ourselves (our small ego-self).
Perhaps the Native Americans can serve as a meeting place between East and West. The Lakota phrase, “Mitakuye O'Yasin,” which literally means “all my kin” really means that all beings are part of an interconnected web of life. Each of us is part of that web, connected to all other beings and to Mother Earth. When one embraces Mitakuye O'Yasin on a daily basis, one's recovery is ongoing. One's spiritual progress is ongoing. Eventually, one sees that there is nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide…and “surrender” really means accepting the reality of our interconnectedness.
Alcoholism and Mysticism
One might assume after what you have read that a serious commitment to spiritual growth and transformation will be an enormous aid in recovering from alcoholism. And you might think that the drunk alcoholic is lacking in spiritual experience. As with everything in life, the issue is not quite so cut and dried.
Many alcoholics drink in order to quiet their mind, and when their mind is quiet, they may have experiences of Self and God. This is not a popular thing to say, but it is what many alcoholics report. It is not a false God they are finding in a bottle. Rather, they are able to experience God and even have genuine mystical experiences while drunk “because” their mind has been set aside and the soul is allowed to emerge. The goal of recovery is obviously to help the alcoholic have an experience of his Source and God without the aid of alcohol, experiencing the joy and bliss without the destruction of life that alcohol causes. The alcoholic needs to learn that what he has found in a bottle is something that has always resided deep within, and that by re-connecting to his soul, he will become whole and will require no external drug or stimuli to feel connected.
I have run across another interesting connection between alcoholism, mystical experience, and psychic abilities. Some people who have psychic gifts or healing abilities are frightened of them and bury them with alcohol. For such people, recovery and sobriety can lead to an unexpected eruption of powerful spiritual and paranormal experience. The best example I know is a nurse, whom I'll call Tina, who works in one of the local hospitals. In her sobriety she was deluged with paranormal phenomena. It was something she had to get used to. Here is one example of her psychic abilities. Nurses “give report” at the change of shift. One nurse talks and another takes notes. Lisa would be taking report, taking notes, while the other nurse gave report. At times, Tina would keep writing after the reporting nurse had briefly stopped talking. The other nurse would look at her and ask what she was doing and what she was writing. What Tina was writing were the next words the other nurse was about to say, and Tina usually heard those words in advance of their being spoken. She heard the words as clearly as those spoken through ordinary means, and was not able to tell the difference between words she heard from the lips and those that came straight from the other nurse's mind. Tina did verify with the reporting nurse that what she heard and wrote were, in fact, the exact words the other nurse was about to say.
Her level of empathy reached extraordinary proportions. She might be in an elevator and suddenly experience crushing pain in her left leg. She would slowly look around the elevator and notice a man with a cast on his left leg. She experienced the pain of people from across the street…even the pain of trees being cut down. She also developed, rather suddenly, the ability to heal with her hands. I remember on one occasion, showing some nurses at Mesa Vista Hospital , a piece of hematite I carried around. Hematite is a shiny, silver-colored stone that is dense and heavy. The stone I carried with me was egg-shaped and less than an inch long. Several of the nurses held the stone and then passed it to Lisa. When Lisa handed it back to me, it was about 30 degrees hotter than it had been. I asked, “Lisa, what did you do to this stone? It is so hot I can hardly hold it.” She just laughed and said, “Oh, I transferred some energy into it.” She went on to explain that earlier in the day she had cured another nurse with a lesion on her face. Lisa simply placed a finger on the lesion and a minute later, the lesion had disappeared.
Lisa is unusual, but it is important to be aware of the “unusual.” Her story shows how alcohol can suppress latent psychic and healing abilities, and how those can erupt very quickly once alcohol is out of the system. Like other alcoholics, Lisa had to learn normal coping skills. She also had to quickly learn how to deal with an explosion in her consciousness that was giving rise to paranormal abilities and mystical experiences.
Alcoholism: Medical Disease or Spiritual Disease?
The first four parts of this series dealt with alcoholism as a physical disease. Now you read about alcoholism as a spiritual dilemma. The answer is not “either-or.” Alcoholism involves problems at the level of the body, mind, and spirit. You will lose the essence of what I have been writing if you think strictly in a linear way. You may ask, “Well, which is more important—the physical disease or the spiritual dis-connection?” Western medicine only works in this linear, analytical fashion. I suggest trying to hold all of these elements in your mind at the same time, and, rather than looking for a simple answer to complex problems, look for what is practical.
What is practical is to address body, mind, and spirit…and don't let theories get in the way of what works. Now, here are some ways of looking at the relationships between body/mind and spirit. As a rule, consciousness precedes manifestation in the physical world. In the beginning there was nothing except for pure consciousness, formless God. From pure consciousness, physical form, the physical Universe, emerged. A similar principle is involved within each of our lives. We may work hard at spiritual growth for years and not see any positive, tangible thing happening in the external world. What is happening is that your spiritual work is transforming and elevating your consciousness. When consciousness has hit critical mass, or a critical level, those changes in consciousness will manifest in the physical world.
Let's look at the implications this idea has for the alcoholic. Using the AA model, recovery is essentially a plan to re-connect spiritually and raise consciousness. On a mental and physical level, the non-drinking alcoholic may feel miserable for a long time and may crave alcohol for a very long time. Unknown to him is the fact that the gradual shift in consciousness “will” transform his life. Ultimately the elevation in consciousness will manifest on the physical plane as love, peace of mind, focus, purpose, and a healthier mind and body.
Now, let's look at these relationships from the other direction. While spiritual re-connection is essential, it will not, in-and-of-itself, correct brain chemistry, hypoglycemia, adrenal exhaustion, and systemic candida. By repairing the metabolic chaos, you will eventually cease to have alcoholic chemistry, which, in some ways means that you are no longer alcoholic. I know that last statement can be interpreted as heresy…but I do believe in the word “cure.”
By curing your alcoholic biochemistry, you will feel better. Your body will be stronger and more vital. Your mind will have greater focus, concentration, and memory capacity… and your moods will stabilize. This will occur by repairing brain chemistry and total body metabolism.
When you feel healthy, spiritual work becomes much easier. When you have a brain capable of concentrating for long periods, meditation, contemplation, and prayer become much easier. It is terribly difficult to remember and practice what you “should” be doing spiritually when you feel miserable. You don't feel miserable just because you are spiritually disconnected. You also feel miserable because of the metabolic chaos.
A brief example. I have treated a great number of people with CFS/ME. I struggled with a near-fatal case of CFS/ME for nearly ten years, starting in 1984. Do you know what kind of spiritual work you can do in that state? Very little. I recall that all I could do was hang onto God for dear life. That is all I had to hang onto. I certainly could not meditate, do yoga, or any of 50 spiritual disciplines I practice. If you can imagine God with feet, all I could do was imagine that I was hanging on to those feet, and just going for the ride. It was a terrible and terrifying ride, but without a brain that worked, there wasn't anything else I could do.
For the alcoholic, and for all of you, try to remember that “surrender” means, “accepting what IS.” It means, “trying to live with faith and trust” even during the dark night of the soul, even when it looks like nothing is working and that there is no help. And how do you get to “faith.” You get to faith through a leap of faith.
Most of all remember that there are no hopeless situations, and remember to be very kind to yourself on your healing journey. I can tell you to re-connect spiritually, learn to surrender, trust, and have faith, and you might be thinking, “Go to hell, Dr. Gersten. You don't know how this feels.” But that's where you're wrong. I do know how it feels, and I know that only you can carve out your healing path. No one else can take the steps for you. And if God really is running the show, then your recovery is going to take as long as it takes in God's time, which is never our time. God certainly does not agree to my time requirements — ever! Try to accept the current moment, knowing that healing occurs moment by moment, and that, if you allow yourself to fully experience this moment, you will discover that This Moment is okay. Then you can move on to the next moment. By becoming more and more present, you will re-connect on all levels—but it will not occur at any timetable determined by me, AA, or anyone else. This one is between you and God. Best of luck on your life journey of spiritual re-connection.
David Gersten, M.D. practices nutritional medicine and psychiatry out of his Encinitas office and can be reached at 760-633-3063. Please feel free to access 1,000 on-line pages about holistic health, amino acids, and nutritional therapy at www.aminoacidpower.com.
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I've been told that I may have cancer of the esophagus. I'm so surprised, especially since I never even get sore throats or colds! What can this mean?
T.N. , Santa Barbara
If “they” are saying that you may have cancer of the esophagus, I'd definitely get a second and even a third opinion. Second, I'd go to a good nutritionist and have a major diet overhaul. This may only be a warning sign for you to make changes in your life.
Pick up a copy of Healthy Healing by Dr. Linda Page, and read her section on this dis-ease.
On the mental level, conditions in the area of the esophagus can mean a deeply held conflict about whether and what to take in, in the way of nutrients. The person may feel a deep distrust to all that the Universe can provide them. Affirmations to use: My body is always working toward optimum health. My body wants to be whole and healthy. I listen with love to my body's messages.
I'm a Westerner living in China doing as much as I can to assist the people around me and help the country to grow. Can you please give me your thoughts on herpes? STDs are really a problem. Thank you for your insight.
A.C., Guangzhou, China
Sexually transmitted dis-eases (STDs) are a problem everywhere—China, as you know, is no exception. I commend the work you're doing, as it's certainly not an easy task. Not only are you dealing with dis-ease, you're also dealing with a totally different culture. Herpes attacks the body when the immunity is low; poor diet is also a risk factor. People who attract herpes often have a massive belief in sexual guilt and the need for punishment. They're full of public shame, and they're convinced that God's going to punish them for being who they are. They're usually intensely rejecting of their genitals and of themselves.
How you'll translate this into their culture is up to you. Ask the Universe for guidance and to bring you someone there you can discuss this with. Affirm: All the information I need for my work is easily brought to me. I am solution oriented!
I've read a number of your books, and I love them. How can I stop thinking of others and start changing how I think of myself? I have all the answers for others, and I know what I need to do, but I can't get out of my own way.
C.S. , Boston
Why are you not worth saving? What have you done that's so terrible that convinces you you're not lovable? If you answer these questions, you'll discover that there's really nothing wrong with you—you've just been operating under a false premise all these years. You absolutely must take the leap of faith and accept that you're lovable and are willing to fall in love with yourself. If you don't, you'll leave the planet one day still believing that you're “not good enough.”
Okay now, get off this negative spiral and get yourself to a mirror. Don't look for flaws! Begin, instead, to say: “I love you. I really, really love you.” And stick with it. Say that each time you pass a mirror and every time a negative thought comes up. I know you can do this! And you can do it now. I believe in you!
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