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

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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

Radical Acceptance

Have you ever had a particularly extraordinary day? The kind of day where everything seemed to just “fall into place?” A day that you might even go as far as to say was a “perfect day?”

I believe many of us can say that we have experienced days like this, and some of us may have found a way to have them more often, and still others “more often than not.”

But how do these days come about? Are they random, or could there be a key or method to manifesting such experiences?

I took some time to face these questions by analyzing the elements of one of my own “perfect days,” and what I discovered is quite paradoxical. Paradoxical because I discovered that the day itself was not actually “perfect” by scientific standards. The day contained a usual mix of positive and less positive occurrences. Hence, we cannot say that the quality of a day can be completely measured by the nature of its “happenings.”

What then accounts for the differences in days? What qualia can we isolate that contributes to the experience of a “perfect day?”

For me, the one element that emerges clearly from my analysis is something known as Radical Acceptance. This concept became a focus in humanistic psychology in the 1960’s, but it has existed within religious teachings for centuries. It is currently a well-known intervention in a modern system of psychotherapy known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

Radical Acceptance is a process through which we suspend our “critical mind” and simply allow what is to be as it currently is. Essentially, we release our ideas about how things ought to be, and allow them to be as they are. The result is often a deep sense of surrender, release, and PEACE. Many of you will see and recognize this as a kind of Mindfulness.

The algorithm would look like this:

Awareness – Judgment + Acceptance = PEACE

Now, it was not long before the “critical mind” stepped back into my analysis with a few strong (and salient) objections. “How can we just radically accept so many horrible things in our world?” “We cannot just escape into our own little words of bliss while the world continues to spin out of control.”

Here emerges a caveat: Radical Acceptance is not the condoning of things as they are, but the acknowledgement that they are as they are in the moment. It does not mean that we are called to just let everything be and continue, but it does mean that we do well to face what we can and cannot change.

Also of vital importance in the practice of Radical Acceptance is the identification of and focus upon all that is good and beautiful within a given moment (or day). Even in winter there is a visitation of a “rogue flower” or “messenger bird.” Even in war there are acts of humanity. Our goal is to highlight these moments, and make them the “new norm.”

Our algorithm now becomes:

Awareness – Judgment + Acceptance(Beauty) = PEACE

Imagine if we could teach every human being on planet earth how to accept and focus upon the good that is present and continually possible in every moment of existence?

This, then, is our pathway to world peace and universal human wellbeing.

May it begin with each and every one of us as we think, feel, and do every “next good thing.”

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

A Life of Luxury

I would like to write to you today about a topic that has been presenting itself somewhat frequently in the treatment room in the form of repeated cases of individuals who have been either consciously or unconsciously seeking a Life of Luxury.

What I refer to here are individuals who believe that the highest goal in life is to have a life that is free of challenges and problems, and where all personal needs are immediately and fully gratified. Furthermore, many of these folks believe they should have this life now, without having to do anything to achieve it or pay any dues to get it.

Now, I will not go so far as to target any particular generation on this, but I do have to say that this dynamic seems to be becoming more common in recent times, and I have some ideas about its etiology.

Consider some of the details of modern life in an industrialized and technological society. There is a machine to wake us up, one that brews our coffee, one that gives us our news and entertainment, one that takes us places, and on and on. Going one step further, we now see that these individual machines are being combined so that one can do the work of several (i.e., cell phones with multiple apps, cars with computers, et al.). One could envision that future humans might need never leave a cubicle where the walls will be media screens, and controls will be biologically interfaced.

Some might question why this is not being accepted openly by all as the next evolutionary jump for humans? Isn’t all of this new technology making life easier for us?

And with these questions, we have our answers.

Nearly everything in modern society seems to be gearing itself towards the immediate fulfillment of human desire. Need something to eat, we have it fast. Want to hear a particular song? Speak to Alexa or Siri and it is played. Need a fact? “Google it.” Need to alter your brain chemistry? View some porn or play a violent video game.

Modern life has become the pursuit of a Life of Luxury, and if you are lucky you just might be discovered, win the lottery, or find a modern Guru who can guide you through the process.

We are fast becoming a society of addicts. The drug: instant gratification. The means: You name it!

Here is the sobering paradox: Getting everything we want makes us absolutely miserable! The insatiable nature of carnal desire means that there is never enough. Dial-up internet was once fast, but now cable is not even enough. The BMW was nice, but now I want the Bentley. Alcohol was a good start, but now I need some Oxy to get the same effect. The cycle goes on and on.

Friends, trust me when I tell you that it would NOT be a good thing if a Genie granted you three wishes, and having everything at your fingertips is NOT making life better. In fact, these trends are actually highly destructive to the human mind and soul, and they will eventually spell disaster for our collective society.

That said, let’s focus for a moment on what a Life of Luxury does to the individual:

First, when everything comes easy, the individual becomes complacent and isolates. Each day becomes a repeated cycle of craving and satiating as the amount needed for satiation remains ever elusive.

Second, this lifestyle causes one to lose focus of the fact that life is a challenge, a training ground of sorts, and that occasional suffering is part and parcel of character development. We thrive when we strive.

Third, having everything at one’s fingertips turns her or him into a spoiled brat who enters into a delusion of grandeur that leads them to believe they are actually entitled to a Life of Luxury.

Folks, these are the reasons why we have so many 20 and 30-year-olds living at home eating their parent’s food, utilizing their parent’s Wi-Fi, with a cell phone the parents are paying for, in a heated or air-conditioned space (paid for by parents), and a few bong-hits every few hours (that the parents tolerate) between levels of a video game (that the parents gifted at Christmas)!

Okay, the post is getting a bit long (and intense) :-), so I need to “cut the chase” to a discussion of some solutions:

First, we can learn to embrace life as a challenge, and occasional suffering as essential to our continued growth and understanding. We must rise out of the delusion of the material world and the deceptions of the physical body and remember that there are higher meanings and purposes to this training ground we inhabit.

Second, we can realize that we are not doing anyone a favor if we enable her or him to live a Life of Luxury. It is not an act of love to allow someone to deteriorate into a state of “spoiled rottenness” and loss of autonomy and self-sufficiency.

So, it is time to put down the gadgets and turn off the television and begin to use them wisely rather than allowing ourselves to be used by them. It is also time for Sally and Johnny to grow up and face the challenges and hardships life offers. Some are in need of a serious “wake-up call” to the realities of survival and self-sufficiency. If you truly love them, stop being their personal assistant and victim, serve them with a 3-month eviction notice, and work with them towards a plan to move forward in pursuit of their lives.

May we each work to find the balance that is crucial in managing the current technological and sociological trends as we are careful to not lose sight of certain traditional values that remain salient to our success. May we have the courage to resist the lure of the media and the modern Gurus who tell us we can have everything we want, and accept that it is enough to have what we need, including those challenges and hardships that will develop a strong mind and an evolved Soul within us.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik Ludwig

Election 2016

Several years ago I made a personal vow that I would no longer render any public political or religious opinions. Since that time of vowing to “hold my peace” I have indeed experienced a great deal of peace. 🙂 I especially enjoy no longer having to anxiously and repeatedly check my FaceBook to see what scathing comments may have been left in reply. 🙂

That said, I feel it prudent to offer a few thoughts concerning the current election as a means of addressing the very heightened anxiety and depression reactions that we Clinicians are seeing that are tied to current political events. This situation has reached such severity as to prompt the American Psychological Association (APA) to release a warning regarding this threat to the health and wellbeing of our citizens.

Therefore, I will “break-protocol” a bit and offer some thoughts regarding the current state of affairs in our country and world. Please note that I offer all of this merely as “food for thought” to be applied or discarded as each of you sees fit. This is, after all, still a Democratic Republic where thoughts and opinions are our own. Correct?

And with that you have my first thought: How far have we deviated from the original plan for this country that was laid out by very enlightened men and women who had themselves directly experienced the “plights of tyranny?” Imagine the fear and anxiety that these earlier Monarchies and Despotisms created within persons, and consider how they recycle again and again.

It really is “the same old story” repeating over and over. Self-appointed Elitists cloaked within false personas and motivated by depraved values prey upon a people who are managed En masse and limited to a certain range of success under a guise known as “equal opportunity.”

In the Old World this meant a daily struggle for survival, in the New World it means barely “getting by.” Old World Monarchies to New World Oligarchies. Same game, different players, similar results.

In America, Democrat and Republican are simply individual names for the contending oligarchies who are in a perpetual battle for power and control. For the everyday citizen, they are merely two sides of the same coin. Modern persons are now left to vote based upon the “lesser of two evils” as compared to their own personal values, needs, and desires.

And so the story has gone, and so it will continue to go . . . UNTIL . . .

I continue to hold fast to the idea that collective change begins with individual change. Only by appealing to individual consciences can we hope to manifest the collective consciousness that is needed to create a political environment based upon authentic equity and justice. This change will come when the minds of persons are set free from the primitive impulses of the past and the technologically induced delusions of the present so that we will be free to evolve from base animals who prey upon one another to fully enlightened humans who truly love and bless one another.

The good news is that we are well on our way. The less good news is that we still have quite a distance to go.

My encouragement rests in the fact that we have indeed come very far in this collective journey, and that we have indeed crossed a threshold that can carry us forward at a more accelerated pace. More minds are awakening and more Souls are enlightening in our world today, and we are therefore seeing the beginnings of a new consciousness taking form.

We can draw strength from holding the vision of the world to come – a world free of war, hunger, cruelty, greed, deception, and disease. We can also find peace in knowing that we are daily doing our part to bring this world into manifestation: A world where authentic justice, compassion, equity, and contentment rule from within the hearts of all. A world where persons will be regulated and guided from within and will therefore no longer need to be controlled and directed from without.

So, how to vote? According to your own HIGHER conscience regarding which candidate you DISCERN is most capable of taking us in the direction we truly need to go, and who will be capable of assisting the evolution of a truly free, just, and responsible nation and world.

We can also continue to pray and intend for more evolved and enlightened candidates in the future, and that we will one day break out of the duality of the Two Party System in order to have more options and better choices. Until then, we must continue to do our absolute best with where we are and what we have.

And there you have it, my first and only Blog on the topic of “Election 2016.” My prayer is that we remain focused, optimistic, and determined to bring about the highest and best in humanity as soon as possible. May we each do our part by first being, then sharing the change our world so desperately needs. In the mean-time, let us continue to pray and work to make the best of each and every situation until such a time when our current best reaches its true “highest and best.”

May God bless America, and may she be restored to and remain the Beacon of Light she was and is intended to be in our world.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik