Freedom

In my last post, I asked that we each take some time to allow ourselves to “be still” and “sit with” the space between winter and spring. I also offered a few focusing questions for us to ask ourselves in preparation for this transition. I pray these questions led us to deep reflection, insight, and readiness.

We now have the opportunity to free ourselves from the proverbial “bonds of winter,” as we step into the new life that is now springing forth all around us. We can open the windows, take an outdoor walk, rake leaves and pick up sticks, work in the flower beds, and breathe in the abundant life inherent within the air of spring.

In honor of this transition, I invite us all to try the following exercise:

As soon as the weather permits, let us go to an outdoor space that holds meaning for us, and where the beauty of God’s creation abounds. Let us stand in that space, feet shoulder’s width apart as we breathe deeply, filling our lungs from bottom to top as we intend and visualize the taking in of new life and vitality. We can hold that breath for a time, and then gently exhale as we intend and visualize the sending forth of peace and blessing. As we pause after the exhale, we can also be aware of the touch of the sun and all that we receive from its warming rays. If the sun is not shining, we can focus upon the sensation of the open space, and the magnitude of God’s magnificent creation.

We may find that a rhythm develops for these breaths, and in therapy we often teach a technique known as “square breathing,” which is 4 slow counts in, 4 slow counts hold, 4 slow counts out, and a slow 4-count pause before the next inhalation. We can also add a more structured thought to the inhalation and exhalation. My personal favorite is “Glory to God in the Highest” on the inhale and “Peace to God’s people on earth” on the exhale. We are all FREE to decide what works best for us individually.

HINT: This breathing exercise is also scientifically proven to help set us free from anxiety and panic in that it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the “fight of flight” response.

As we embrace the freedom this exercise affords us, may we also open our hearts and free our minds of limiting paradigms, systems, and associations that constrict us and separate us from one another. May we move past any over-reliance or hyper-attachment to any -ologies or -isms that may stand in the way of the perfect freedom our Creator built into our Universe, the freedom to be and do all that is beautiful, affirming, and life-giving. The freedom to do all that is right and just. The freedom to do every next good thing.

As we continue to grow in this positive freedom, we may find ourselves experiencing authentic peace and joy in our lives, even to the point that when winter comes around next time we may experience its effects less and less. We come to embrace the “ebb and flow” of the seasons with a new understanding that allows us to see the purpose and meaning of each transition, and every new chapter of our lives.

For now, however, let us be fully in spring, and receive all the gifts that come with it. May we embrace the “personal freedom” that is our birthright, and most importantly, may we seek always to . . .

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

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New Life

I am not sure what might be taking place in your own “neck of woods,” but here in South-central Pennsylvania, spring is tarrying. Just as the buds start forming, and the perennials begin to show signs of blooming, the weather shifts back to winter once again.

We are trying our best to “hang in there.” 🙂

And yet, there is a lesson in this, just as there are nearly always lessons in every life experience. When a lingering winter and a tarrying spring are holding us in limbo, we are given a time to wait, reflect, and search for deeper purpose and meaning. When we embrace this opportunity, we are like the buds and bulbs waiting to spring into New Life.

Hence, as we (patiently?) wait, let us consider a few topics for contemplation:

What have I experienced this past winter? What has been hibernating within me, and what has needed to “die” from my old life?

Have I gotten “too comfortable” with any area in or aspect of my life that may need to change?

What do I truly desire for my life moving forward? How might I best experience renewal?

What will I do with this New Life that I am about to receive?

You see, “the best way to start over is to begin again.” Whatever the past, the seasons are always revolving, new opportunities constantly germinating. If we weed and water them, they will surely grow and prosper. It is a law of nature.

Winter closes one chapter, spring opens another. Summer and fall are the journeys we take between. This cycle flows all the days of our lives.

I pray that we might embrace the opportunity to wait, to anticipate, to dream, and to plan as spring lies on the horizon. Let us rest within the cocoon and shell that has protected and nurtured us for just a little while longer. However, know that if we stay in the cocoon or shell longer than we are intended, we cannot thrive. We may experience bondage, and our growth could be stagnated.

The goal is to breakthrough and leave the old cocoons, shells, and nests behind as we press forward in search of every new experience and opportunity that lies ahead. The eaglet and the new butterfly are compelled to fly. The human must survive and thrive.

I myself am joining you in this process, and many amazing new developments are underway even as I write to you today. Stay tuned.

In closing, I wish each and every one of you a very blessed spring season, and my prayer is that we might all do our very best to honor God’s “gift that keeps on giving:” the gift of New Life.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

New Age

Islam is not the only religion that contains a “right wing/extremist” faction. These kinds of sub-groups exist in most religions, to one degree or another.

It seems there are always those fundamentalist/literalist types who tend to need the safety of absolutist forms of dogma and doctrine in order to assuage their anxieties regarding the perceived ambiguity of noetic concepts. The problem is that these folks tend to want to make life miserable for those who are seeking to live and practice a balanced and rational approach to matters of Faith.

I recently had dealings with a local group of this nature who had accused me of being “New Age,” which is a term they use pejoratively to criticize anything they feel is too far out of their own doctrinal “comfort zone.” It seems these folks are happy to have a new member, or a new church building, but a “New Age” is far too frightening for them. I guess they are fully content with the current one where materialism and wars predominate?

This experience inspired me to reflect upon the person and ministry of Jesus the Nazarene, whom the aforementioned people claim to follow (except for the judge not, love others part). 🙂

The New “Testament” (Sign, Evidence) itself presents a scenario of an established religion (Judaism) that was challenged by the presence of a man (Jesus), claiming to teach something new and different from what their own doctrines promulgated. Consequently, Jesus was labeled a heretic by these “right wing” pompous Jewish “authorities.” It is interesting to note that these same kinds of arrogant self-righteous authorities exist to this day, but under a new name, and wearing slightly different uniforms.

If Jesus were here today, I posit that there would be many who would not even recognize him, and who would most likely dismiss him as a “New Ager.” The shocking reality here is that in his day and time, he actually was! Nearly everything Jesus ever taught referred to the ushering in of a “new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1) for humanity, where PEACE and LOVE would reign as the new paradigm.

So, if by “New Age” the previously mentioned group is accusing me of an “anything goes, white light and bunnies, unicorns and glitter” type theology and philosophy, then they are grossly mistaken, and are guilty of defamation (which they are).

However, if by “New Age” they (correctly) mean that I believe in a transformed and illumined (two words they despise, by the way) human race, devoted to GOD, full of PEACE and LOVE, and no longer prone to greed, hatred, manipulation, and war; then they are, as the British say, “spot-on.”

I learned it from Jesus.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

The Limitations of “Now”

Some of you may remember a book that was circulating several years ago entitled “The Power of Now” by Eckhardt Tolle, a German “spiritual teacher.” In this book, Tolle provides a clever repackaging of certain Buddhist teachings regarding holding the mind in the present moment.

The book sold millions of copies and was featured on Oprah, and many other modern talk and radio shows. Tolle would go on to tour the world as a sought-after speaker, and he has written several follow-up books. He remains a very popular public personality.

It is interesting (and concerning) how these kinds of teachers and their messages become “all the rave” and spread like wildfire, and eventually come to be accepted as Gospel truth. While critics do indeed arise, the public tends to go with the sweep of popularity, and the teachings become “mainstream.”

I want to encourage all of you to always retain a certain amount of healthy skepticism that is not afraid to weigh and measure ANY concept that is presented to you (even my own). I am not concerned with who said it, or what system contains it. You were created with the capacity to REASON, and you are absolutely free to QUESTION.

A recent event in my own life has caused me to bring the doctrine of “The Power of Now” into question. It was about a week before Christmas when I attended a theater production of “A Christmas Carol.” Fortunately, the producer and actor stressed Ebenezer Scrooge’s exclamation after having endured the three visitations. Scrooge says, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all three shall strive within me.”

I had never quite registered these words before as I did on this day, and I began to think about what an Integrated Psychology ought to have to say about the “now” aspect of mindfulness.

Many would define mindfulness as exactly what has been discussed thus far; that being the exclusion of all but what is “here and now.” However, my experiences with mindfulness both personally and professionally cause me to see it rather differently, and modern research in neuroscience and physics support what I am about to share.

What is needed regarding perspectives on mindfulness and “The Power of Now” is exactly that: perspective. “All or nothing” and/or “black and white” thinking do not capture the deeper nuances of mind-full-ness (emphasis my own). That said, I am also not advocating for having our minds filled and racing either. Here is the perspective I encourage:

“Learn wisely from the PAST. Live fully in the PRESENT. Hope earnestly for the FUTURE.”

This integrated approach to mindfulness does not force one into a mindset that arbitrarily (and delusionally) excludes the realities of the past and future, but instead brings perspective to what it means to be “here and now” within the context of a space-time continuum where past, present, and future may actually exist simultaneously (per modern physics).

All of this said, I do indeed continue to encourage my Clients and Patients to practice mindfulness in a way that emphasizes the present moment, but to not do so in a way that denies any importance at all to past and future. Another saying can be added here for emphasis:

“The past has passed, the future is forthcoming, the present is now.”

Therefore let us:

– Honor the “past that has passed” by remembering the positive memories
created and the lessons learned from the challenges.

– Honor the “future that is forthcoming” by positively intending for the good
that we can indeed create.

– Honor the “present that is now” by truly being here, now, centered,
focused, invested, peaceful, and joyful.

We can indeed welcome the “Spirits of Christmas” to remain in our hearts “all year long,” as we acknowledge and allow the “past, present, and future” to inform our best thoughts, words, and deeds.

To limit ourselves by exclusively focusing on just one (to the detriment of the others) is to risk depression (past), anxiety (future), and delusion (present).

May our lives be lives FULLY lived, with the perspective afforded by a complete (integrated) philosophy that honors past, present, and future.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

Resolutions

It is that time of year again when folks start talking about New Year’s resolutions. We discuss our wishes for cessation of habits, better health, greater success, new experiences, etc.

However, after the “ball drops,” the fireworks have ended, and the champagne bottles are in the recycle bin, we find that the New Year’s resolutions we have set also begin to fade into the past, unrealized.

Studies show that only about 8% of New year’s resolutions actually reach fulfillment. That is a 92% failure rate. And yet, folks still engage in the tradition of “talking the talk,” without “walking the walk” year after year.

Some in the world of psychology have suggested that we discontinue the practice based upon the fact that it has simply become cliché. If there is no real truth and/or force behind it, why bother. Others suggest that it is merely a harmless tradition that at least gives folks a temporary lift of encouragement.

My own approach is, of course, an integration of these two views.

I find that the energy that exists around feeling positive and having wishes is a very good thing, and celebrating a passing year while looking forward to a new one is indeed a very meaningful and helpful tradition. I would even go as far as to say I would rather see people share resolutions and not fulfill them, than to never dream at all.

But we can do much better than that!

It is very possible to learn how to improve upon the practice of the New year’s resolution, and to therefore actually experience significant and meaningful results. What is needed is a better understanding of how goals (resolutions) are best approached and realized.

It is absolutely not enough to simply state a goal. In fact, forming a “goal statement” is actually a detailed process that requires some dedicated thought. For example, instead of saying, “My New Year’s resolution is to lose weight” we would encourage one to articulate the goal something more like:

“Beginning January 2, 2018, I dedicate myself to a healthy diet and exercise regimen consisting of . . ., with measurable and attainable goals of . . ., with daily, weekly, and monthly reviews of my progress; with accountability to . . . ., and an attainment date of . . .”.

Now, no one is expected to recite this at the New Year’s party, although doing so would be a wonderful example to others (while also getting yourself “flagged”). 🙂 The details of the resolution are for YOU, but the problem has been that the details rarely exist in that most people never move beyond the mere naming of the goal.

If you would like to know more about how to really nail a New Year’s resolution, I encourage you to research and utilize “S.M.A.R.T. Goals.”

For the sake of this Blog post, the one point I most want to leave with you regarding success with the New Year’s resolution is this:

“You really have to want it, own it, and get it!”

This means that there must be strong intention and desire behind your goal. In fact, the very word “resolution” is comprised of the word “resolve.” You must be RESOLUTE in your pursuit of the change you seek. Without it, not much really happens.

So, I do sincerely encourage all of you to continue to develop (S.M.A.R.T.) New Year’s Resolutions, provided you will do so with intention, desire, and RESOLVE. It will not be easy, you will want to quit (many times), but if you stay with it you will be proud to one day stand on the other side of the challenge or obstacle you faced, with the smile of victory lighting up your face.

I wish each and every one of you a highly successful, joyful, and blessed New Year filled with Light, Life, and LOVE! May we fully discover and apply the power we possess to visualize and realize our highest and best desires, and in doing so may we all “be the change our world so desperately needs.”

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

An “Integrated Christmas” Wish

I am not sure about your own experience, but for myself and many others that I know, this one has kind of “snuck up on us.” Suddenly we realized that it was Advent, and now in one week it will be Christmas.

As I ponder this situation, I sense that it has to do with the speed with which the world is proceeding, and the myriad “happenings” unfolding all around us. Everything seems to be moving so fast now, and thanks to technology we are now able to see and hear about all of it; all day, every day.

There just doesn’t seem to be much time and space to sit and breathe, nor does there seem to be a sense that slowing down is valuable. Everything is just “go, Go, GO!”

Now, I am by no means opposed to healthy human progress. We are indeed created to co-create, which ultimately requires action and activity. A balanced sense of motivation and intensity surely have their place in modern life.

However, the operative word here is BALANCE, which is very closely related to what many of you know to be one of my favorite words and concepts: INTEGRATION.

I share here my own operative definitions as they inform an Integrated Psychology:

“Integration, as a verb, refers to the process of purposefully combining concepts and methods from the vast array of human knowledge and capabilities in order to have access to and make us of the highest and best that is currently available.”

“Integration, as a noun, is a state of being in which all aspects of a self or system exist and operate in homeostasis, equilibrium, and optimization.”

This verb/noun dichotomy is very useful in understanding the bi-directional nature of Integration when applied in our lives, for as we “draw from without,” we also “draw from within.” The inside affects the outside, as the outside also affects the inside. Simultaneously.

Now dear Reader, because it is Christmas I will offer you the gift of me avoiding my tendency to “wax theological, philosophical, and psychological” at a point like this, and I will simply “cut the chase” and “bottom line it.”

(Someone, somewhere has audibly exclaimed, “Thank-you, Dr. Mik!”) 🙂

“Drawing from without” and “drawing from within” are equally necessary in our quest for the Integrated Life. There is KNOWLEDGE available from the outside, and there is WISDOM that can be accessed from the inside. As we run these processes concurrently we continue growing and expanding via what Jung described as the “tension of the opposites,” which is actually a very good thing, for without it nothing would ever grow and/or evolve.

Therefore, Seek, Discover, Learn, and Grow (SDLG) regarding all that you can find from without, but also Pray, Meditate, Think, and Feel (PMTF) upon the treasure that can be found within. In doing so, may you be blessed with the gift of the Integrated Life as you continue to embrace the Therapeutic Lifestyle.

I close with the words I often share in the treatment room this time of year:

“I invite you to take the rest of the year off! 🙂 Settle in and create a space where you might fully embrace the beauty, the warmth, and the joy of the Season. Immerse yourself in the full experience of your faith and your family. Then, step into the New Year refreshed and empowered to create the life you most deeply desire.”

A Blessed (and Integrated) Christmas to you and yours!

Dr. Mik

 

Devastation

While life continues “as normal” for many of us in various locations in our world, there are others, MANY others, who are currently suffering from the DEVASTATION of recent natural and human disasters.

These events have a powerful impact upon the bodies, minds, and souls of those who experience them, and I think it important that we remain mindful of them and their suffering now, and for many months (and even years) to come. May our loving prayers, intentions, and actions go out to them as they move forward in recovery.

While these may seem like “worst of times,” there is something else that we observe during these times of crisis that can be quite encouraging. Often, crises and disasters can bring out the very best in humanity.

We witness this through the acts of bravery and kindness that people exemplify in these situations:

  • A rescue worker puts it all on the line to save someone in peril.
  • A man allows a woman who needs electricity more than he does to take the last generator at a store.
  • People unite in offering refuge and supplies to those in need.

We also witness the emergence of the strength and determination that exists within the human person during experiences such as these. People “dig deep” and actualize their faith and fortitude as they push through the challenges they face. They also display wisdom in the way they assess what truly matters in life, and how materials can be replaced and rebuilt, but persons and characters often cannot.

I wish to thank these “Victims who become Victors” for the fine example they have set for all of us, and for reminding us of the goodness that remains in humanity. One day, we can hope that the balance will shift, and that all of these very positive capabilities within humankind will overcome the negative as we unite in creating solutions to the perils to which we contribute, and often directly cause (i.e., pollution, wars).

One of my absolute favorite spiritual teachers, Saint Ignatius Loyola, used the terms “consolation” and “desolation” to describe the “ebb and flow” of life events, and the accompanying feelings we can experience within them. Life is full of times of consolation as well as desolation, and each ultimately informs the other. I can truly appreciate the warmth of the sun after it has been hidden for a time behind the dark clouds.

After each consolation, a desolation, and then another consolation, and so on. After years of experiencing these transitions, we learn to become less reactive to the changes, and we accept that “Grace and Love are sufficient” (see the Ignatian Suscipe Prayer). The really good news here is that one day this duality will yield to a unity, and we will know true and lasting consolation.

Until then, we persevere through the challenges being sure to find the deepest and most sincere BEST within us, knowing that we are not alone, and that others can also be their best selves when given the trust and opportunity.

Ultimately, we can never truly know any kind of permanent DEVASTATION, and we can continue to RENEW ourselves with each challenge and/or adversity we face, determined and insistent that each new transition will yield something better than before.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik