to see things as they really are

15 01 2009

in the west, as i see it, we traditionally divide healing into two basic groups:  physical and mental.  plenty of other cultures, both past and present, don’t.  the holistic approach to health is difficult to understand from a born and raised westerner’s point of view.

psychology is the western study of the human mind, and the science we use to try to heal the mental part of our livelihood when we feel that it is out of balance or sick.  the basic method of the psychologist, from what i understand, is to help the patient revise his or her perspective; to see something differently is to take oneself out of the sickly point of view and affords them the opportunity to approach their problem with a set of new eyes, as it were.  gaining objectivity helps the person to judge more accurately the situation and to affect themselves positively.  that’s the healing of a mind that is out of balance, in a seriously simplified nutshell.

when a person’s balance is upset by a traumatic event, the methodology could be different.  i’m not knowledgeable in this arena, but i’ve certainly read about some pretty interesting treatments.  i know that it’s common for someone to forget all about, or sometimes just aspects of, the event that so strongly affected them.  this affects their ability to deal with the new problem, to face it and eventually, even if it’s quite a daunting task, to resolve it.  so memory loss is a common response to trauma; it’s a coping mechanism to the extreme emotions that accompany the trauma.  a song lyric i like, by modest mouse, says that “the mind is just made up of strings to be pulled.”  in this case, the difficult event was accompanied by terrible feelings, perhaps physical pain, or intense fear, and the mind, not desiring to feel these feelings, blockades the memory so that the person can’t recall it, which would also pull the strings to retrieve these terrible feelings to relive, as they accompany the memory.  the problem, i guess, is that when the mind is terrorized, there are a number of ways that those strings can still be pulled without recall of the exact memory.  then someone can have horrifying feelings without understanding why, and can be subject to otherwise irrational and paralyzing fears or anxieties.  this is what i suppose is the goal for more intense psychotherapy:  to find a way to get that person to re-access the source of the fears or pains or anxieties so they can appropriately deal with it and eliminate the symptoms from every day life.

this is what i find so interesting, and which i don’t understand.  how is it that simply acknowledging and talking about some traumatic event is usually necessary to curb these undesirable emanations?  why do these symptoms exist if the mind has shut off the access to the root of the problem?  it makes me feel like the subconscious, which is a term i don’t think is really so accurate, is more powerful than people would want to believe.  that everything that’s affected you is always affecting you until you process it and put it away.  that the more important things are constantly being pushed up from below (since i have to use this “sub” conscious model, that’s how i’ll put it) because it knows it’s something important with which to deal.

but why is it important to deal with?  why doesn’t our subconscious just say “hey, it sure was horrible, but it’s blocked off now and therefore isn’t a problem and we can forget all about it?”  it makes me believe that there is actually something very important about not letting things go; about taking the time to feel what was unavoidably put into our tracks and to process it all.  as though it was a lesson laid before us and the whole of our mind knows not to let it go before we’ve taken from it what we needed.

i mentioned, i think, that i had read a book and a half of dr. brian weiss’ (psychiatrist) work in hypnotic regression therapy.  people with serious anxiety disorders or the like would come to him and he would try to regress them to the time that the conscious mind forgot so that they could revisit the root of the issue, and more often than not, the problems they were experiencing in the present would then be largely cured.  this is the only concrete example of what i’m speaking.  i’m not incredibly well versed in therapy techniques or theory–just what i’ve picked up in various psycho-stuff i’ve read or classes i’ve taken and such.  nevermind, for now, that dr. weiss’ work led him to accidentally (and then intentionally) regressing people to past lives to find the sources of their issues.  that’s just interesting icing on the cake.  the basic premise is yet the same.

so in the way that the western psychologist is a guide to navigating the workings of the mind and to the absolution of the symptoms their patients have, so have i found in my personal research in various shamanistic practices and in the theory behind the Vipassana meditation to which i’ve been initiated a very similar model.  there are reasons for any fears or anxieties you may have, and a guide will, through varying methods, take you to the sources so that you can work them out for yourself and then be free of the problems.

like i said, what i’ve found seems to be that all these different disciplines all direct a person toward accomplishing the same goal; they just do it in radically different ways.

more than half of the population of Gabon believe in and “visit” the god Iboga.  They pulverize the bark of the Iboga tree and eat it in heaping bitter spoonfuls to produce a consistent effect:  they are visited by a man-tree, Iboga himself, who scrutinizes them before taking them on a journey through their lives.  they see, as if they are corporeal visitors to the scenes, all of the important moments in their lives, where they intuitively realize the harm that was done to their spirit during the scene and how it affects them to the present.  and in doing so, Iboga affords them the opportunity to revise their psyche and heal the problems presented.

in the amazon, shaman prepare brews (sometimes called yage) with ayahuasca (vine of life) being the main ingredient that they use to help their patients enter unbelievable realms where demons and dark spirits torment them.  they explain that these dark forces manifest themselves in our daily lives as the anxieties and problems that we face; if we successfully abolish them from this realm, we abolish them from our lives.  the shaman have the ability to enter the patients’ visions and help them any time they think the force is too strong for them.  the accounts are unbelievable.  tours are becoming pretty popular for westerers.  they come back reporting miraculous things:  sudden liftings of depression, dissipations of long-held crippling fears, and the like.  one person that i know told me of her uncle, who was diagnosed with brain cancer, had aggressive treatment that failed, was given 6 months to live, decided to go to the shamans of the amazon, and came back a while later claiming to be healed.  his doctors could find no trace of his tumors, so it seems he was indeed healed.

native americans (southwestern, and the name eludes me presently) i’ve read about believe that we’re all just sounds.  particular vibratory callsigns that manifest themselves, as our brains perceive them, as what we appear to be (our world entire is born of sound, in fact).  they use flutes that they calibrate precisely to re-center our tonal frequencies to keep their spirits and energies properly aligned.  i’ve read the least about this, but i is endlessly fascinating to me all the ways that this basic belief/understanding of the world can fit into everything above, and into the chinese energetic fields concepts, and pretty much everything else the world of which i know.

it is as though every region, every culture in the world, has the tools to find its way to clearing the energies not conducive to their well-being.  several of them see the physical problems as being closely tied, even directly related, to issues of the mind or spirit.  but everything can be construed, as i’ve seen it, as being conceptually cohesive no matter how different the viewpoints are.

i’ll put a stop to myself there, without even getting into what i experienced through Vipassana meditation, or about how Gotama the Buddha described 2500 years ago many of the concepts that modern physics and superstring theory are describing now, or about how the 11 dimensions purported to exist by physicists leave us 7 dimensions that we don’t have the sensory capabilities to experience, or how a Yaqui Indian “man of knowledge” sees more in this world than others seem to and claims that the world appears as it does because that’s how it’s been described to us and is thereby agreed upon by most–though i think their “worlds of sorcery” or the appearances of Iboga or the realms of demons and malignant spirits all might easily be inhabitants of one or more of these other dimensions that humans can and do sometimes have the ability to see or experience under certain circumstances–some through plant ingestion, some through dumb luck, some through intense effort, and on and on.

i will say that Vipassana translates as “to see things as they really are,” which implies that how things appear isn’t the reality one may think it is.  i will try to get to explaining that when i can.  i find it quite a challenge to put my experience into words that serve it properly.




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