by Christine Guerrera
We are now in an age where it is more acceptable to seek support for our mental health. Perhaps we needed to arrive at this collective place of desperation unavoidably seeing how humanity is riddled with fear/anxiety, depression, rage, violence, trauma, isolation, grief, delusional thinking, dishonesty and addiction which ultimately results in the array of physical illnesses such as cancer and autoimmune disease to name just a few. The drive to maintain the “it’s never enough” lifestyle we have co-created certainly seems to overshadow the basic human values most agree to be the ideals necessary for a life well lived.
Yet, here we are with an earned abundance of illness. Yes! I said earned. Mental, emotional, relational and physical illnesses demand our attention with a pleading urgency. We do not pause to sincerely connect with ourselves, others, or the world, nor do we recognize we are not earnestly practicing those values we hold so dear. The consequences are sickness. Therefore, we must ask, where does illness come from? All illness starts within our neglected and bankrupt spirits.
As with the body, our spirits need to be fed. Of course, healthier food gives way for a healthier body and spirit. Feeding our minds and our bodies with nutrient rich fuels, disciplines and spiritual truths then promote a human who can learn to process and manage emotions and choices with wisdom. This, of course, has a direct effect on whether the body and mind are operating optimally.
Being in the wellness field for the last 25 years, I have been blessed to witness many on their healing journeys. I was inspired to pursue a career as a psychotherapist discovering its value and necessity having struggled from my own depressive, anxious and addictive tendencies. I learned that in order to heal, we must deeply examine ourselves and take an active role in changing our minds, bodies and spirits rather than just seeking to relieve symptoms. Transformational healing requires a commitment to expanding our psycho-spiritual understanding and devotional practices, otherwise we merely band aid our symptoms experiencing only brief reprieves from pain and suffering. Without growing this devotion to ourselves, we return again and again to the mental, emotional and physical habits which perpetuate dis-ease.
We must wholeheartedly understand and accept this commitment to then execute a practical plan to finally begin to heal, to become free. We must realize the dishonesty with ourselves as demonstrated by living lifestyles that simply do not foster wellness as well as our distorted expectations of ourselves, others and life. Additionally, we must come to earn a deep faith in ourselves. Our unrealized potentials and dis-ease are due to ignorance, greed, busyness, desire, judgment, fear and neglect to the practices and disciplines that create not only wholeness and health, but a sense of fulfillment, joy, awe, brotherhood and gratitude. Now, doesn’t that sound like the golden ticket?
Simply said, but in no way would I suggest it is easy. It is all about practice and finding humble and devoted teachers, guides and community who can support us toward truth and compassion. Many of us have perhaps established the discipline to do what society conditions us to and demands of us, yet we leave no time to tend to our spiritual needs, knowledge and work. Many of us will pursue physical health but are we doing so with the pure intent of honoring and loving our sacred bodies, or are we attempting to attain some ideal body to please our egos and society’s misguided priorities? Many of us, myself included, have gone from healer to healer, doctor to doctor, therapist to therapist, medication to medication to seek answers and freedom from suffering, yet are we honestly being accountable for our choices and engaging in the studies and practices necessary to begin to truly control the stinking thinking which creates our realities? Are we doing the work of a master?
I definitely was not! Though, “bless my little heart” (as my dear southern friend would wittily condescend when she came face to face with my stubborn perhaps narrow perceptions and efforts), I tried. I did not know what I did not know! It took years to see my own ignorance and victimhood. Who me? A degree in education, another in psychotherapy, an interfaith minister, IGNORANT? One word…YUP! After the humbling shock of discovering my ignorance I was relieved, because within the embrace of humility is another token toward freedom.
Thankfully and verily, we each have that whisper inside which not only lets us know when we are off course, but can direct us back if we learn to listen. That whisper is present at all times and our own inner connection to healing and Self-realization. This is the voice of the Soul. Yoga calls this Atman. This is good news; however, most cannot hear this voice, believe this voice, or attempt to become familiar with it because we are fervently attached to our desires and ego’s will. As mentioned, we have been conditioned to believe that life is about acquisition, pleasure and survival. Get or be gotten, kill or be killed is the way of the untrained mind and body.
Healing is believing. Healing is expanding beyond what we think we know based on our little life experiences, senses and cultural entrainments. Healing is recognizing the inner God (if I dare say) voice and making that commitment of being devotional. Devotion means to be dedicated and disciplined according to that love. Devotion means to place that voice, your Soul, before all else; that is devotion.
Devotion is a practice as it is not something we do perfectly. We do this while embracing our humanness and forgiving our habits while offering compassion to ourselves and all we encounter. Devotion is illustrated by our actions and our thoughts. How many of us can say we are truly devoted to anything beyond our mindless chatter, desires, impulses and egos? That’s ok, not many at all. This is where the acceptance and compassion for my humanity comes in.
I do declare that true and integral healing of mind and body can only come through the discovery of and intimacy with your Soul. This is why we so often hear you cannot truly love others until you love yourself. But further on in that fact, we must admit that true love can only come from and through the Divine. We cannot truly love ourselves until we have studied, contemplated, nurtured, awakened and devoted to the truth within each of us. This truth is the divine nature in everyone and can only be fully realized through the practice of stillness and silence.
The path to the Divine Self is unique to each of us. For me it was the 12 steps and the 8 limb path of yoga. Both are universal spiritual paths that offer practices and principles to help one to discover and realize God. This is not a race; there is no right or wrong. There is only practice. If you are on a spiritual path ask yourself if it provides you with practices that will help you to discover your true nature, your Divine Self. If the answer is yes, then ask yourself, “how devotional am I to these practices?” If the answer is no, I invite you to begin.
As for me, I know I could not grow in my devotion or discipline until I was deeply immersed in the study of the 12 steps, and now, yoga. Both are quite similar, yet many do not realize it. As with all spiritual paths, these two can be misinterpreted, misunderstood and taught incorrectly and/or diluted to justify our egos and attachments.
When I find I am not choosing immersion and intention with my spiritual practices and studies, I need to remind myself that I am choosing diversion from my Soul. Of course, being human means this happens regularly. However, I commit to myself to actively participate in spiritual community and work with sincere teacher(s) who humbly walk their talk and study spiritual texts and universal and science based scriptures to adjust and align my thinking that goes easily astray. Of course, if my thinking is astray, so too will be my actions. If both are astray, I will not only NOT heal, but I will fall more deeply into creating more dis-ease.
Within the practice of stillness and silence we learn to not act out from the need to please our senses, our desires, emotions and our skewed perceptions. In stillness we learn the practice of releasing attachments to our thoughts and bodies and to allow our Divine Selves to come forward. Stillness is the practice of meditation in all that we do. “Be still and know that I AM.” This is for you, this is for me, this is for all. These are our clear cut instructions if we so choose the path of a healed master.