Commit to Peace Consciousness
Developing peace consciousness is a practical project, and the more of us who engage in it every day, the more momentum we add to the future. The future doesn't exist in time: it isn't a place over the horizon of tomorrow. The future is the next shape that consciousness takes. A flower is the future of a seed. It takes time for the seed to turn into a flower, but in truth the pattern mapped out in the plant's genes controls time. It uses it to bring about a reality already deeply imprinted. Peace consciousness, once imprinted in our minds, can use time in exactly the same way, as the stage for an unfolding that was fully shaped in advance.
The peace movement will succeed as long as people can grasp small achievements every day. The best thing you can do for peace today is encourage the evolutionary impulse in yourself. To that end, here is a program for peace you can implement here and now.
How to become a peacemaker.
What follows is a specific practice for you to follow every day, each centered on the theme of making peace real, one step at a time, in your personal life. Each practice takes only a few minutes and you can be as private or outspoken as you wish. Those around you will know that you are for peace by the way you conduct your life on a daily basis.
Sunday: Being for Peace Today, take five minutes to meditate repeating the words peace, harmony, laughter, love. At the end, say to yourself, “Today I will relinquish all resentments and grievances.” Bring to mind a grievance against someone and let it go. Send that person your forgiveness.
Monday: Thinking for Peace Today, introduce the intention of peace in your thoughts. Repeat to yourself: Let me be loved, let me be happy, let me be peaceful. Let all things, let all people be happy, loved, and peaceful.
Tuesday: Feeling for Peace This is the day to experience the emotions of peace: compassion, understanding, and love. Compassion is the feeling of shared suffering—when you feel someone else's suffering, understanding is born. Understanding is the knowledge that suffering is shared by everyone. When you understand that you aren't alone in your suffering, there is the birth of love. When there is love there is the opportunity for peace.
Wednesday: Speaking for Peace Today, choose consciously every word you utter to create happiness in the listener. Refrain from complaints, condemnation, and criticism. Tell someone how much you appreciate him or her. If you find yourself reacting negatively to anyone, refrain from speaking until you feel centered and calm, then speak with respect.
Thursday: Acting for Peace Today, help someone in need: a child, a sick person, an older or frail person. Help can take many forms. Tell yourself, “Today I will bring a smile to a stranger's face. I will offer help without asking for gratitude or recognition.”
Friday: Creating for Peace Today, come up with at least one creative idea to resolve a conflict, either in your personal life or your family circle or among friends. Change an old habit that isn't working, look at someone a new way.
Saturday: Sharing for Peace Today, share your practice of peacemaking with two people. Give them this text and invite them to begin the daily practice. Do whatever you can, in small or large ways, to assist anyone who wants to become a peacemaker.
Efforts are underway to bring this simple program to a worldwide audience. In the Internet age, communities of consciousness don't have to be physical, and are a simple way to bond us. By transforming yourself into a peacemaker—by going within and dedicating yourself to peace—you are turning invisible building blocks into a new reality—a reality not of war, but of peace.
Deepak Chopra, M.D., teaches at the Chopra Center in Carlsbad. www Chopra.com, 888.424.6772.
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Alcoholism, Part 5 --
Reconnecting to Spirit
Over the past four issues, you have read, in detail about the metabolic chaos caused by alcoholism, and you have learned how it is possible to cure the alcoholic's defective brain chemistry as well as system-wide problems like hypoglycemia, candida, and adrenal exhaustion. You have clearly seen why alcoholism is a disease.
We continue this series by looking at the essential need of the alcoholic to get spiritually re-connected. This article will focus on the long-term issues of recovery, but first we will briefly look at the obstacles to even beginning sobriety.
The alcoholic's denial is a huge obstacle. He does not believe he has a problem. He is also an incredibly good liar, finding endless ways of proving to his family, friends, and himself that he does not have a drinking problem. He suffers from “terminal uniqueness,” the belief that, unlike all other drinkers, he can handle it…or that the situation of his life is so unique, so different from anyone else's, that alcohol is a necessary part of his life.
Those married to an alcoholic know that he is having an affair, an affair with a bottle. The spouse of an alcoholic knows that she comes second to alcohol. Alcohol is truly the object of love of the alcoholic, and he merges with his “lover.” Alcohol is woven into the fabric of the alcoholic's life, personality, and relationships. Given the comfort that alcohol provides, the alcoholic is a reluctant participant in his own recovery, and he is usually dragged kicking and screaming to get detoxed and begin on the path to recovery.
I want to remind the reader about the biology of alcoholism. While there are powerful psychological issues that perpetuate the illness, the brain chemistry of the alcoholic drives him back to the bottle over and over again, because alcohol mimics the effects of all major neurotransmitters. Alcohol and THIQs (created by alcohol) bind with receptor sites for the neurotransmitters GABA, serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, and more. When the alcoholic drinks, his brain “thinks” it is receiving GABA or serotonin, and so the craving to drink is very strong, as alcohol causes the brain to temporarily feel as if it has all the right neurotransmitters. The alcoholic is dealing with very powerful problems of biochemistry. The linchpin of alcoholic brain chemistry involves the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma amino butyric acid).
Let's say, for example, that a man began drinking when he was 17 and stopped drinking when he was 37 years old. He is like a prisoner who has spent decades in jail. He has no clue how to live. However, the prisoner just released from prison has an advantage over the alcoholic, for he has had to learn, day-by-day, what coping skills will work best to keep him the happiest, safest, and most sane. He has had time to use his brain/mind to negotiate the difficult challenges of everyday life. The alcoholic has not developed any of the normal coping skills to deal with life's everyday stresses, and so he is emotionally raw and terrified in the face of dealing with anything. He has no tools at all.
He has lived in a dream world for 20 years, amongst a fiction of lies he has told himself. When he begins to “wake up,” he asks himself, “Who am I without alcohol?” and he has no answer, for his entire identity has been entangled with alcohol. He asks himself, “What is my purpose? Why am I here?” and he has no answer, for he did not evolve a purpose the way others do. He is like a terrified child who is lost and abandoned, and he has lost his one source of love and consolation, namely the bottle. He has not developed inner mechanisms for healing old wounds. In essence he is facing a terrifying new world, and it does not look as good as the old world. And the “promise” of a better life without alcohol does not seem real and feels more like a cruel lie”—at least, especially when he is trying to give up alcohol, or even right after he has given it up.
Alcoholism requires a profound re-connecting of the spirit, a discovery of one's relationship to God, and finding the serenity of one's own Self or Soul. It is not surprising that the incidence of atheism in adolescence is much higher among alcoholics than it is for non-alcoholics. For some reason, that has not yet been identified, large numbers of future alcoholics lose faith during adolescence. They lose faith in themselves, their ability to cope, and in the existence of a soul, God, or a Higher Power.
After going through the trials and tribulations that finally lead to sobriety, he is face to face with his spiritual void. If he does not succeed in his spiritual quest, the risk of severe depression is quite high as is the risk of successful suicide.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the well-known 12-step program, is the best-developed program to help the alcoholic begin to reconnect at all levels. The whole purpose of AA is to put people in touch with God. However, the Big Book, as it is called, is often misused in alcohol treatment programs. I worked at Scripps MacDonald Center 's Drug and Alcohol Treatment program for many years and also worked at Mesa Vista Hospital 's drug and alcohol program.
As with anything else, it is important to clarify that those who propagate a message or technique are not always as pure as the source. The Bible is a good example! All too often I saw drug/alcohol rehab counselors treating AA more like a dogmatic religion than what is actually contained and recommended in the Big Book. I was kicked off the staff at Scripps MacDonald Center by the medical director, for using mental imagery techniques. I decided to come on staff after interviewing with the medical director and letting him know what I do, so I was a bit shocked to be told to leave, after having made it clear how I practice. I had developed a series of mental imagery techniques that supported each of the 12 steps. Subsequently, the medical director was fired for reasons I will not go into here! (Notice my small grin here).
Recently I spoke with a priest, who is a recovered alcoholic, who has worked in drug and alcohol rehab facilities, and who runs workshops with a Native American shaman. I gained greater clarity of the essence of the 12-steps, along with pitfalls on the road to recovery. Some of what follows comes out of my discussion with him.
The 12 Steps
Step 1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. The short version: “I can't.”
Step 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. The short version: “God can.”
Step 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him. Short version: “I will let God.”
The shorthand way of understanding the first three steps is: “I can't. God can. I will let him.” Steps 4 — 9 have to do with the causes that brought on and perpetuates alcoholism, and in making amends. “Making amends” involves more than saying, “I am sorry.” It involves taking action to correct wrongs done to others. For example, if you owe someone money, you make amends by setting up a payment plan to pay off the debt.
The 12 steps intend to help the individual move from the small, ego-self, to an identification with one's inner essence, soul, atma, or spirit. The steps help people to get involved in helping others, to express gratitude, and to move out of the small mind, the selfish mind.
Sobriety is different from being “undrunk,” and involves a metamorphosis, a spiritual transformation. The alcoholic who is truly on a healing journey moves from “getting and forgetting” to “giving and forgiving.” Every day he prays that his actions will not be driven by fear, greed, envy, or anger, but will be motivated by love, service, and gratitude. Each day the conscious, recovering alcoholic prays, “Thy will, not my will.”
The alcoholic has been in a deep sleep for a very long time. Waking up is not easy, but a spiritual awakening is essential, for the body has been drugged, the mind poisoned, and the soul left to languish. Through the 12 steps, an individual begins to get in touch with God or a Higher Power and, over time, strives to deepen that connection. He also re-connects with family and friends at the level of love, rather than from the level of fear, addiction, lying, and manipulation. And he strives to quiet his mind to re-connect with Self.
The Priest and the Shaman
What role does the shaman play in the healing modality I am reviewing here? He is most concerned with helping the alcoholic re-connect with Mother Earth. The shaman teaches that the Earth does not belong to us, but we belong to the Earth. The shaman teaches that every breath is the breath of God, and that by simply becoming aware, present, and expressing gratitude to the elements of Mother Earth, one can become more fully re-connected. If we don't realize that our connection to the Earth is essential and that in alcoholism we have become disconnected from everything, total healing will not occur. The alcoholic, as well as the rest of us in the West, have lost our grounding and our ability to live in the Now and simply being present with “what is.” All of us in the West, as part of our disconnect from Mother Earth, have become disconnected from natural, deep breathing. If you consider that the word “inspire” means “to breathe” as well as “to be spiritually elevated,” you can appreciate the importance of our disconnection from Mother Earth and natural breathing that is part of a solid connection to Her.
No matter how you look at it, alcoholic recovery requires that one become free of the mind. There are endless techniques to help one become free of the mind, to quiet the mind, to find an inner stillness. It is not the point of this article to elaborate on techniques, but to underscore what is required for recovery.
The spiritual quest does not end after 5, 10, or 20 years of sobriety. It is a life-long process, which reaches fruition when life becomes a prayer. And, as outlined in past issues, alcoholic biochemistry does not self-correct. After ten years of sobriety, the underlying biochemical problems that gave rise to alcoholism and that became ingrained through years of drinking must be healed through comprehensive nutritional supplementation. When this task is accomplished, one no longer has alcoholic biochemistry. Being sound in body and mind makes spiritual work much easier.
The alcoholic learns, through AA, to live one day at a time. That is all any of us can do. We will evolve more quickly if we live one moment at a time, learning to surrender to and accept what IS in each and every moment. When we bring conscious awareness to what is going on in our body, mind, and spirit…in this moment, profound shifts in consciousness occur. Spiritual re-connection occurs at levels we never dreamt possible. Living life through a bottle is a life of limitation. Living a sober life, in which we fully experience each moment, is a life of peace, joy, and truly limitless possibilities. Spiritual re-connection is its own goal. While sobriety is the result of this re-connection to God, Self, and Nature, spiritual re-connection in-an-of-itself is the ultimate goal.
David Gersten, M.D. practices psychiatry and nutritional medicine 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 have a deep feeling that my presence on Earth has a greater meaning than acquiring material things. Nevertheless, I'm pursuing prosperity, which includes love, family life, great spiritual life, health, happiness, and financial freedom. Although I'm only 32, I feel like I'm living a deeper life than people I know, including my own husband and friends. How can I ask God for guidance, and perhaps meet a guide that would share my vision of life?
M.F., Sydney, Australia
That's true for all of us, yet there's nothing wrong with the best creature comforts we can manifest. We've come to this planet equipped with enormous powers and abilities. It's up to us to learn the laws of the Universe and to connect with the Source of all Intelligence, which many people call God.
It seems that you're already doing this. Your request for guidance has already been heard. Now it's up to you to open your consciousness and allow this energy and guidance to come forth. You can do this in meditation by simply saying, “I am open and receptive to the next step on my spiritual pathway.”
Also, ask for more understanding each day. And in the morning ask that, for this day, you see all your earthly experience through spiritual eyes and spiritual understanding. Remember that your friends could be living an even deeper spiritual life than you. We never know, and it's never good to assume anything. One of your best friends could be the very guide you're looking for. All of us have the capacity for deep spiritual understanding.
I have a great life. I love my job, my wife, and my kids, but sometimes a wave of depression will come over me for no reason and I can't seem to shake it. Do you have any advice for me? Thank you for all you do.
A.G., Los Angeles
I too have the occasional wave of depression come over me. It happens less and less as time goes by. In my case, I know that I've touched back into an old childhood memory of pain and abandonment. So I talk to my inner child, reminding it that those days are over. I, the adult, will never allow any of those things to happen again. I tell this child how much I love it and then ask, “How can I make you happy?”
So don't try to shake the depression. Realize that your inner child needs love and reassurance right now. Give it all the love and comfort that you can, and the depression will fade away by itself. Also, look in the mirror and say, “I love you, I really love you.” It works wonders.
Over the past three months, I've had injuries to my right arm and fingers. First I smashed two fingers in the car door. A week later, I slipped and really injured my wrist and forearm. After finally healing from the arm injury, I injured my thumb while reaching into my purse. A sharp object poked under my nail and it is now infected and excruciating. I realize that there must be a specific lesson here that I'm not getting. . . maybe slowing down, not making so many commitments?
B.A., Boulder, Colorado
What man really upset you around three months ago? The right side of the body is the masculine side, so it's either your father, or some other authoritative figure, and although you'd like to smash them, you feel unable to do anything about the situation. Perhaps it's a boss. You're still holding on to the anger, and you're injuring yourself because of the guilt you're carrying. This sort of thing happens all the time. I would suggest that you scream in your car, with the windows up and the music playing. Scream out all the anger and fury that you're holding in. Or beat some pillows at home. When that's all through and the crying is over, go to the mirror and say to this person, “I forgive you. I bless you with love. I release. I set you free and I am free.” You'll be amazed at how quickly you will heal and the accidents will stop.
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