Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Personal Quest: Transforming into a Counselor

Although I did not realize it then, working with people in this intimate way was going to become my life passion.  During my undergraduate years away at school I often found myself in a informal counseling role with those whom I interacted with.  Whether it was on the great lawn at school, in someone's apartment, or at some local venue, there I was, the guy talking to someone seriously, not about my life, but about theirs.  This was something I naturally enjoyed.  Being able to understand someone without having prior history about them felt surreal to me.  Offering insight to them, a perspective into their own world, felt as if I were giving them back to themselves.  This evoked a feeling in me that made me feel alive.

I would come to realize down the road that these important interactions would fundamentally shape the way I approached healing and therapy.  These experiences, among many others, is what led me to apply to graduate school.

During my graduate work I was blessed with the opportunity to work with "at-risk" youth as their counselor.  I was the intern therapist for a 1,000 hour internship.  I was a nervous wreck from the start.  From day one I was challenged by stories I did not come across on a typical day.  Many of these people have had an assortment of challenges by the age of 18 that many people never experience in their lifetime.  As doubt often makes its way into all of our lives during our greatest personal challenges I found myself questioning my ability to offer guidance and relate.  Yet here I was, trying to help them.

During this experience I profoundly realized two things.  Firstly, that all people hold within them a will to evolve and move past their troubles no matter where they come from or what they experience.  And secondly, I was still good at listening, offering insight, and helping people no matter their life experience.  It did not matter that I was working with people from inner city gangs although I was some "white guy" from a predominantly white suburb.  Both my clients and I realized that people are people no matter what and that life challenges and changes were aspects of life that united everyone.  During and after this internship I was convinced that working with people one on one was the career for me.

Yet, to my disappointment, I found that most work done in the field of psychology was very institutionalized and that the conduct of therapy was severely influenced by the demands of insurance and pharmaceutical companies.  I am not hear to declare that main stream psychology has not helped people.  It has.  But I feel that it has also left many people either more damaged then when they started or left them yearning for something more.  I feel that a lot of the time the institution of psychology and psychopharmacology has left many people dependent upon medications that, for the most part, suppress their emotional experience.

I understand the counter to this argument.  That psychotropic medication helps people get back into the work force so that they can support themselves.  Yet, I am talking about the overwhelming majority of cases where psychiatrists are incentivized to medically treat people with a cocktail of pills as a first line of treatment as opposed to helping people understand themselves so that they can help heal themselves and live a meaningful life.   To me, mental illness is a individual problem that has its roots in a social dilemma.  I see it that people do not need short term solutions, but they need encouragement, confidence, and mental strength to transform themselves so that they can influence the world around them in a positive way. *I would like to add that I know a handful of therapists who have helped people tremendously [and they typically feel the same way I do on this topic].

I admit I have a bias because I have had personal life experiences that support my view.  During a very hard time in my life, around the age of 18, I sought help from a psychiatrist.  I was dealing with the tragic death of four of my best friends as well as a family divorce.  I felt lost and was unsure of what to do.  So without much direction I entered the office of a psychiatrist.  I sat with this seemingly detached and uninterested man for 90 minuets telling him my life story.  When I left I handed him a check for $300 in exchange for a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder and depression, as well as a script for an SSRI [anti-anxiety/depression medication].

For the year that I was on this medication I became increasingly numb to life.  I distinctly remember the feeling of not even being able to feel my emotions.  I knew that I felt sad in my mind, but I could not feel it in my body.  Furthermore, I had a girlfriend I loved at the time, but I could not even feel this love in my body [I started the medication halfway through our relationship].  Yet, as my freshman year at college preceded I began to feel that I knew I was responsible for my own well-being and that if I were to seek help it was going to be from people who really wanted to help me help myself.  [I will disclose more about my own personal transformation in another post].  So I digress.

To me, the field of psychology was feeling more and more impersonal and less and less about empathic exchange.  During my graduate years I developed the notion that the institution felt to be more about keeping "patients" compliant with the norms prescribed by the institution which seemingly held a distinct boundary, often times patronizing, between the "patient" and the therapist.

I will not say that graduate school did not offer me anything, to the contrary it taught me so much about the therapeutic exchange and about the importance of proper delivery.  Graduate school taught me, to a great degree, about the unconscious and conscious processes of the human mind.  Importantly, it was a time of great introspection and self growth as many of my courses had an experiential undertone.  Nonetheless, I gained the sense that unless I had my own private practice that was uninfluenced by the insurance and pharmaceutical matrix I would not be offering the most I could to the world and to the people which whom I work with.  Because of personal experience as well as moral principle I sought my own path.

Now nearing my 3rd decade on this blue green planet I feel that my convictions and determination have led me into the right career.  As a coach and counselor I feel that I can help people learn how to help themselves.  I like to call this "giving people back to themselves."  I call it this because people, often times when in need of healing, are led to believe that the remedy lies outside of themselves.  Yet, what I teach people is how to get back in touch with the guide they have from within.  It is a form of preventative mental health.  It is similar to preventative health in regards to physical health.  For example, if we can learn how to take care of our bodies from the start we decrease our reliance on the medical institution and outside authority.  In this regard we take control of our own physical health as opposed to waiting for a problem to happen and then to seek help.  I help my clients do the same thing in regards to their own mental health.  Through our work together I teach you how to become your own coach and counselor [as this is something I have done for myself].

This is only part of the story of course.  I can go on for days, as too why and how I have transformed into a life coach, but that will be exhausting for the both of us.  Just like you, it has been life's challenges that have helped me evolve and become the person I am today.  If you are seeking greater clarity into your own life and path then I am here for you.  If you seeking help to understand and move past some of the most troubling aspects of your life then I am here for you.  It would be my honor and great pleasure to assists you in your own personal development.

Monday, February 13, 2012

What is Truth?

If there were an absolute truth, something undeniably real that exerts natural law over existence, what would it be?  Would it be God?

I feel that I am left with such confusion over the matter because I know that my mind cannot fully grasp the eternal, god, or the infinite cosmos.  Yet, there is still something within me that wants to know, with certainty, what this thing we call life is all about.

Is it possible that life, in its ambiguous nature, could simply be a mystery to which we will ponder for eternity?  Could it be that the more we come to understand life we come to realize that the act of “understanding reality” only expands infinitely?

Of course, throughout our of years inhabiting this planet we have gained great knowledge and insight into the nature of life.  Mathematics, the language of the universe, has allowed us to peer deeply into the hypothetical realm of realization.  Science has enabled us to look deeper into the roots of our existence.  Science has also allowed us to develop great technologies that aid civilization.  We have discovered a lot about the world around us and the world within us through these mediums.  Yet, it seems that there is still something so fundamental to life that eludes us…

It is very sad to acknowledge the fact that wars have been fought over one group’s declaration of their truth over another group’s truth of what "God" is.  Relationships have been squandered, progress has been deterred, and unity has been thwarted all because different segments of our society hold their “truth” as superior to another’s.  I am not here to have a debate about religion, but I am here to observe that maybe God after all is not something to be statically defined but rather that the understanding of God eludes linguistic definition.  Maybe the truth is that there is only an experiential understand of God – meaning that we can only perceive this beacon of creation through our sensations.  I am trying to imply that we cannot fully understand God with the mind, but rather we can better understand creation [God] through our feelings.

Imagine the social implications if the masses stopped to find truth and clarity in words and concepts and started to seek truth through pure perception and feeling? 

We would be very egotistical to think that cognitive understanding is the peak of universal consciousness.  Could there not be an entity that perceives and experiences life with a greater aptitude to “understand” what life is really all about?  Maybe that entity is in some other part of the cosmos, in some other civilization across the sphere of the infinite universe, or maybe that entity is within us, waiting to be realized and realized again as human consciousness evolves into higher plains of perceptual understanding.

If it were true that human beings can evolve, consciously speaking, it would hint to the possibility that there is no end to realization, no end to the expansion of perceptual consciousness.  If this is true than what are we here for?  We are now trekking into the unknown, the aspect of reality beyond our grasp, but maybe it is possible that within the realm of the unknown lies are potential?  The realm of experience beyond the mind...

Maybe the truth is that there is no truth but the truth we call our own.  Would I be so brash to say that God is an individually sacred concept and that each individual's declaration of what God is is true? Could the experience of God be a subjective one?  Could absolute truth be subjective?

Our declarations of truth influence the way we co-create life.  Maybe thats what is so fundamental to life.  Maybe that is what connects all of life together. It seem that every unit of consciousness exerts a degree of control as to the way life unfolds.  Therefore, if the human experience occurs within the realm of creation itself and that we are co-creating our lives and thus influencing the outcome...are we not then God's - aspects of God existing within the infinite sphere of creation [of God]?

So in my realization of the greatness that is life I find a feeling, a subtle feeling, a feeling not bound by the limitations of words, that empowers me.

Without the mental concepts as too what "God" is or what "absolute truth is" I now realize I know less than I thought I knew.  But in that realization I am awoken to the perception of something greater than the ego centered person I have come to know.  This seems to me to be what ego transcendence is all about.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Relationships: How Intimacy Leads to Personal Growth

It seems that couples that allow their partners to safely feel intimate create a relationship that inspires personal growth.  To know if your relationship is one that allows you to safely feel intimate ask yourself if you feel safe becoming emotionally exposed.  When you attempt to no longer hide behind your defenses you allow yourself to be vulnerable.  Yet as we all know, being vulnerable does not come easy. 

Intimate relationships are good for our own personal evolution because they give us clear perspective into our behavior.  Relationships give us opportunities too see how the past, with all of its cumulative experience, has shaped how we relate to our partner today.  Thus relationships become an experience to which we can change the way in which the past may have a hold on us.  We can change the way we relate to the present by tracing the roots of the emotions that surface during times of heightened emotion.  Awareness gives us the power to evolve past old ways of being that no longer serve us.  Awareness gives us control by holding the past accountable for how we react in the now.  Forgiveness is the means that allows us to move on with the control gained through awareness.  When you realize that that you are no longer the impulse that pushes you to act or feel something you are given the power to evolve through those old engrained behaviors and feelings.

A healthy relationship is bound to make you expand on the notions you have about yourself.  It does this by forcing you to break free of your emotional isolation and share your life with another.  This is the essence of intimacy.  We become intimate because with this emotional exchange we make ourselves susceptible to showing our partners our “dark side.” We all enter relationships with emotional baggage.  Nobody is flawless.

As a side note: if you fear reveling yourself to your partner to the degree to which it makes you suppress aspects of yourself…is it a relationship you want to be in?

A healthy relationship allows you to explore your emotional baggage together. The two people in relationship do this by accepting each other how they are.  Yet, this does not mean we stubbornly stay the same, ignoring our partner’s feelings that hope we may want to better ourselves for the sake of a better relationship.  Sincere acceptance of your partner gives your loved one a safe place to observe the “not so good qualities” they may have.  Subsequently, the love you share for each other encourages the two of you to evolve out of the emotional patterns that do not suit you anymore.  This is how a healthy relationship sustains growth and personal evolution.

Yet all good relationships do hit their “roadblocks.” Without clearly communicating to each other there is bound to be incongruence, dissonance, and strife within the relationship.  Often times those relating may be too selfish to look within and take ownership for the reasons that their relationship has become challenged. Complicating the matter, those who act selfishly within the relationship may become defense upon hearing their partner’s criticism.  Furthermore, one or both of the partners may be too afraid to voice their concerns.  Those who are unwilling to voice their concerns may emotionally shut off.  Either way, the relationship is on a course that may lead to its demise.  It is important to realize though that whenever a dissonance arises within a relationship it speaks to an incongruence someone is having in his or her own personal life.

If there is a partner within the relationship that is having a hard time being aware to their partners concerns, this speaks to their inability to be emotionally present within the relationship.  To be emotionally present within a relationship goes hand in hand being emotionally present within.  The relationship is a mirror into yourself.  Yet it is always good to remember that being vulnerable and “showing up” emotionally within the context of a relationship is an act of courage.  It is this act of courage that allows you to shed conscious awareness into the unconscious aspects of self that are getting in the way of a harmonious relationship. 

When unconscious emotional and behavior patters get in the way of the harmony of the relationship it is time for the love that the two people have for each other to support the personal work that can be undertaken.  During difficult times it is important to remember what has brought you to this point.  The meaning is not lost if those who are in relationship can put their ego aside and remember the significance of their partnership and how far it has brought them.  Having this empathy for each other, despite hard times, allows the two of you to communicate again.

Nurturing relationships exemplify patience and care.  These relationships allow partners to illuminate their vulnerabilities to each other.  It allows for the two to propel each other forward by bringing these aspects of egotistical selfishness and or their own fears of being heard into their own conscious awareness.  Love and acceptance propel us then to dismantle these “not so good qualities” and grow into higher aspects of yourself.  Personal growth is achieved independently, but it is healthy and conscious communication that supports this personal growth.

In conclusion, the reward of communicating and being honest not only with your partner, but with yourself, is lasting love.  Love is the outcome when the two of you accept each other for being exactly who you are yet all the while encourage each other to evolve into the people you desire to become. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Solar Healing & Pineal Gland Activation

Below is an article on the ancient practice of sun gazing.  It was written by Andreas Mortiz.  You can find him on facebook here.  I found this article to be fascinating.  I have begun doing this when I can and I do feel a difference in my general well-being.  *But please take caution.  I recommend you do more research on the practice if you are considering to do this.  The sun can be damaging as we all know.  *Only sungaze from sunrise to one hour after sunrise and from one hour before sunset to sunset. 

The Ancient Practice of Sun Gazing
By Andreas Mortiz

Sun energy is the source that powers the brain. Sunlight enters and leaves the human body most easily and directly through the human eye, provided it isn’t filtered out by colored lenses. The eyes are the portals through which sunlight enters the body.

Sun gazing is an ancient practice that can induce healing of body and mind.

Acting as a photo lens, the human eye is able to break down the entire spectrum of sunlight into the different color rays – a sort of ocular prism. In a camera, the various rays of light react with the chemicals of the film and encode the pictures you take accordingly. Likewise, upon entering the pineal gland in the brain, the different light rays are chemically encoded in the brain and passed on to the organs and systems in the body.

The vital organs of the body are dependent on specific colors of the light spectrum. For kidney cells to function properly, for example, they require red light. Heart cells need yellow light, and liver cells require green light. Light deficiencies in any of the organs and systems of the body can lead to disease. Regular sun gazing can help restore balance and efficiency to all cells in the body.

The pineal gland is one of the most researched glands of the body. Scientists have established that bright light stimulates the production of serotonin and melatonin in the pineal, but there are other neurochemicals produced by the pineal that have more profound and complex effects apart from regulation of moods, sleep, reproductive function and body temperature.

Scientists refer to the pineal gland as the ‘atrophied third eye’. Indeed, it, along with the pituitary, is the third eye chakra or energy center, better referred to as dormant rather than atrophied. According to Max Heindel’s Rosicrucian writings, in the distant past, man was in touch with the inner/outer worlds through an activated pineal and pituitary gland. Considered the most powerful and highest source of ethereal energy available to humans, the third eye has always been important in initiating psychic powers (clairvoyance and seeing auras etc).

To activate the ‘third eye’ and perceive higher dimensions, the pineal and the pituitary must vibrate in unison, which is achieved through meditation or sun gazing. When a correct relationship is established between the personality operating through the pituitary, and the soul operating through the pineal, a magnetic field is created. The pineal can generate its own magnetic field because it contains magnetite. This field can interact with the earth’s magnetic field. The solar wind at dawn, charging the earth’s magnetic field, stimulates the pineal gland. This is why many spiritual teachings claim that the period between 4 and 6 am is the best time to meditate and why sunrise is the best time to sun gaze. At these times, the pineal stimulates the pituitary to secrete Human Growth Hormone. That is why sun gazers often experience rapid nail and hair growth, restoration of hair color, and general rejuvenation. Cleopatra used to place a magnet on her forehead to stimulate the pituitary to restore her youth and good looks. She did not know she already had a magnet in her head.

Fruits and plants have the ability to trap and store sun energy. We get our energy from eating fruits and plants. When we eat fruits & green leafy vegetables, we are eating stored sun power.

The technique of sun gazing demands no more than time and attention, and is very simple. One should gaze at the sun only in the morning or evening hours, about one hour or less after sunrise or before sunset. Look at the rising or setting sun once a day. On the first day, look at the sun in a relaxed manner for a maximum of 10 seconds. On the second day, look at it for 20 seconds, adding about ten seconds every succeeding day. After ten continuous days of sun gazing you will be looking at the sun for about 100 seconds. The eyes can blink or flicker and don’t need to be steady. To receive the main benefits of sun gazing, you need to increase the duration in the above manner until you reach three months. This brings you up to the length of 15 minutes of gazing at a time.

At this stage, the sun energy of the sun’s rays passing through the human eye will be charging the hypothalamus tract – the pathway behind the retina leading to the human brain. As the brain increasingly receives extra power through this pathway, you will find a drastic reduction of mental tension and worries. With access to this additional source of energy, you are likely to develop a more positive mindset and increased self-confidence. If you suffer from anxieties and depression, you will find that these go away. Sadness and depression are known to increase with reduced or lack of exposure to sunlight. With fewer worries and fears, your brain may use the saved and additionally supplied energy for healing and improvement of mental and physical wellbeing.

One of the most frequently reported benefits of regular sun gazing is improvement of eyesight.

Life giving, golden rayed, the eternal watchful eye, called ‘the beginning’ and ‘the ultimate truth’ by wisdom,  The Sun is also the earliest acknowledged doctor of mankind. We have turned to the sun for healing since our very beginnings.