Welcome to Mind Over Matter -- bringing you inspiration, hope and practical tools for your return to well-being. Whether seeking recovery from depression, anxiety, or stress, or looking for a greater peace, happiness and personal satisfaction with life, we can offer some light in the dark.
More than just ideas to help you during times of crisis and trouble, Mind Over Matter has something for everyone - to help you on your journey towards becoming more conscious, empowered, successful, and joyful.
"When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.
Your innermost sense of self, of who you are, is inseparable from stillness. This is the I Am that is deeper than name and form."
"As long as you are unable to access the power of the Now, every emotional pain that you experience leaves behind a residue of pain that lives on in you."
-Eckhart Tolle (Author of The Power of Now)
Winter Solstice and The Dark Night of the Soul
Often it is in our darkest hour that the most profound and miraculous transformations occur. Rather than seeing depression as an illness to be beaten or a demon to be slain, perhaps we can see it as an opportunity to awaken to the truth of our Being. Depression comes from a divided mind. It is a state of profound forgetfulness, a loss of Self and a confused identity.
Eckhart Tolle, the best selling author of The Power of Now, Stillness Speaks, and several other life changing books, speaks of his own awakening while in the depths of depression and despair.
"The story which I describe briefly in the introduction to the book is that for many years I lived in a state of great fear and continuous fluctuation between states of depression and high anxiety. This was to the point of becoming almost unbearable. One night I woke up in the middle of the night, as I had many times before, in a state of even more intense dread and fear. The mind had lots of reasons why I was feeling fearful, and yet that state was continuous no matter what my external situation was. It became so unbearable that suddenly the thought occurred to me, "I cannot live with myself any longer." That thought was the trigger for a transformation. The thought kept repeating itself many times in my head and then suddenly there was a stepping back from the thought and a looking at the thought. I asked, "Who is the 'I' and who is the self that I cannot live with?"
In Zen they have koans and it's almost as if a koan spontaneously appeared in my mind. A koan's purpose is to destroy conceptual thinking because it has no answer on a conceptual level. So, I asked, "Who is the self that I cannot live with? Are there one or two? If I cannot live with my self, who is that self?" And then, beyond thought, there was a recognition of the "unhappy me," as I later called it, as being something completely non-substantial and fictional. Then consciousness withdrew completely from identification with that "unhappy me." At that moment the whole structure of the "unhappy me" and its pain collapsed because the withdrawal of identification was so complete. What was left was simply beingness or presence. There was still a moment of fear. It felt like being drawn into a hole within myself, a vast whirlpool, and a realization arose in my chest, "Resist nothing." That was the key. Then resistance was relinquished and I don't know what happened after that.
All I do know is that the next morning I woke up and even before opening my eyes I heard the sounds of birds and it was so precious; everything was so precious. Then I opened my eyes and everything was alive and new and fresh as if I had never seen it before. And I walked around and picked up things and looked at them. I was amazed at everything. There was no understanding of it. I was not even trying to understand anything. It was just so beautiful. Then I walked around the city in the same state, even in the midst of traffic. I was in a state of amazement and it was all so beautiful."
The Dark Night of the Soul is a term that is most associated with the literature of St. John of the Cross - a 16th Century poet and mystic. But the concept of The Dark Night, or "crossing the void" as in eastern spiritual traditions - is an accepted and normal phase of spiritual growth in many traditions.
The Dark Night of the Soul is the place of deepest transformation. You may have heard the phrase "The night is darkest before dawn." It seems that for anyone seeking deep insight into themselves - looking for their purpose, the reason for being, their place in the world - the question of existence itself -- this crossing of the dark void is often a necessary experience. It is a place where the last inner battle is fought. Where the last fragments of doubt and fear are faced, and there is nothing to hold onto, no ground to stand on. In this place of emptiness and despair, the ego finally loses its grip, if we are ready to let go, to not resist.
Like the drop merging back into the ocean, it is inevitable that we eventually expand into a greater sense of self. What is the ocean but countless drops of water all moving and existing in complete harmony and unity? Consciousness is not lost, but gained - expanded and liberated - by releasing the small self - the ego identity.
Eckhart Tolle was contemplating suicide when he reached this place in himself. But his ability to observe the process of his misidentification with his ego, ended in his liberation. What awaited him was complete peace, joy and self acceptance. He went on to inspire millions and went from being a depressed, isolated hermit, to an internationally renouned speaker and best selling author.
Killing the body is a sadly misguided effort to destroy that which is false, and return to a state of unity. In fact, it is not the physical body that must perish, but the ego - the false self. All spiritual traditions teach us that liberation is possible in this life, now.
As the darkest time of year - the winter solstice approaches, let us remember the returning of the Light that awaits us on the other side. Every day since the summer solstice, the hours of daylight have grown shorter and the nights longer, as we move closer to winter time. We have an instictual desire to hibernate, to seek safety and warmth and connection. The metabolism slows down. We want to sleep more, contemplate more, and withdraw within ourselves. This is natural and it should be honored, rather than seen as a sign of a problem. After the longest night on December 21st, the days begin to grow ever longer once again. With each passing day the light of the sun grows stronger.
May we all find peace. May we all know joy. May we all be liberated from fear, and released from illusions. May we all return to Truth.
Transpersonal psychotherapy is a unique branch of psychology, founded on the recognition that we are more than our individual histories, more than the physical body, more than our beliefs and personality.... there is a pure consciousness that exists at our core, and it is within this pure and unlimited consciousness that the mind and body appear to reside.
In practice, transpersonal psychotherapy (and many other types of therapy), aim to assist us in getting beyond the dysfunctional and limited beliefs and thoughts that keep us in pain. What is unique about the Transpersonal approach, is that rather than just replacing one thought with another, the ultimate goal of transpersonal therapy is to free the mind from attachments, and to experience more expanded, more blissful, more unified states of consciousness.
Meditation: What type of meditation is best for me?
"The soul loves to meditate, for in contact with the Spirit lies its greatest joy. If, then you experience mental resistance during meditation, remember that reluctance to meditate comes from the ego; it doesn't belong to the soul."
- Paramahansa Yogananda
I regard meditation as the highest form of self-help. Most forms of meditation can be loosely divided into one of two types: Mindfulness Meditation and Yogic Meditation. So which is better? It should be understood that all forms of meditation that spread throughout Asia and beyond, trace their origins back to the ancient Yogic traditions of India, where they are alive and well today. From this tradition, came Zen, Taoism, Kung Fu, and all forms of Buddhist Meditation - which has popularized the tradition of "Mindfulness Meditation."
One primary difference between these two paths, is that yogic meditation usually involves more technique, and more intense, single-minded focus on an object of your concentration (such as a mental image, a word, a chant, an inner "sound," a feeling, a symbol, etc). Mindfulness Meditation is less technique oriented and the object of your focus is everything that comes into your awareness (sounds in your environment, thoughts in your mind, emotions, sensations, and so on).
If you are experiencing depression, dullness of the mind, poor concentration, poor focus, foggy headedness, lethargy and the like -- then in most cases, I would recommend a Yogic form of meditation, as this has the greatest chance of quickly raising the vibration of the body/mind and increasing the feeling of energy and focus.
If you have any family history of psychosis, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder - or have any of these issues yourself - then I'd be more inclined to suggest Mindfulness Meditation - in moderation - to gradually develop an inner observing consciousness, and to become more aware of the inner landscape of your mind and body. Some yogic practices are very powerful and can trigger mania or psychosis in those with a vulnerability to this.
Anyone with persistent suicidal ideation, dissociative episodes, or severe self-critical or disturbing thoughts or unresolved traumatic memories should work with a therapist and/or qualified meditation teacher to provide close guidance and safety. Sometimes intensive meditation can seem to worsen these symptoms before improving them, and can increase the tendency to dissociate more.
Meditation may free you from many self-imposed limitations, fears, and unhealthy attachments, but the results come gradually, and only through regular practice. Even so, the results can be more profound and far reaching than just about anything else you might do for yourself.
Why wait? Try meditating right now. Put on some headphones and click play to listen to my guided meditations. Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit as you listen. These two 15 minute meditations should give you a good start:
EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is a technique of "energy Psychology" in which you tap lightly on various acupressure points while focusing on a disturbing thought, feeling, physical symptom or traumatic memory. It was developed as an effective means of resolving core issues within minutes, or days, rather than weeks, months or years of therapy. As I develop my practice of EFT I am continually amazed at its effectiveness. In many cases - miraculous would be the best way to describe the results - often achieved within minutes. Not only for emotional/mental disturbances, but for physical pains and ailments as well - even chronic ones that haven't responded to other treatments.
It is best, if possible to start by learning from a trained teacher/therapist, but if you don't have access to one, you can learn to apply this technique to yourself.
You have to have someone you can trust for reality checks
If you are surrounded by people that don't have a clue about Bipolar Disorder, you are at a major disadvantage. Your well-being depends upon the support of a caring, objective, self-aware, and well boundaried other - be it you therapist, spouse, doctor, neighbor, friend, clergyman or anyone. When mood episodes sweep you away, you will benefit greatly from having a trusting relationship with this person who can gently but clearly remind you of what is real, what matters, and who you are. Such relationships are rare but worth more than gold. Find at least one person (more would be better) to cultivate this relationship with NOW. Don't wait until you are depressed or manic, because by then it may be too late to make your needs known.
Bipolar Disorder or "manic depression" affects about one in 70 people, across all cultures, and is equal for men and women.
The most successful approach that I've found for treating Bipolar Disorder is holistically -- from all sides -- to achieve optimum health on all levels. Some of the most influential artists, musicians, poets and entrepreneurs have been Bipolar. By getting comprehensive treatment, the creative genius of the Bipolar mind need not be lost in a haze of medication. Medication can often be minimized by learning to reduce stress, manage relationships, recognize warning signs of depression or mania, and building a reliable support system.
What you focus on, grows. So don't focus on your pain or your fear. Focus on what you want - and don't get discouraged and lose hope when it doesn't appear before you that day, or the next. Sustained focus on the object of your true desire will draw you to it, and it to you, by steady and sure steps.
If you think about this you will see that it is true: whatever you focus your attention on, increases in quantity, frequency and intensity. Focus on the evil in the world, and there seems to be no end to the dark side of humankind. Focus on the goodness in others, and you find more goodness. Focus on worries, and on what you don't want - and the unwanted things seems to get bigger. Focusing on not having enough - even saying to yourself "I need more - I don't have enough - I need to make more money (or else...)" creates more not-having. What you focus on increases.
Make it your mission and purpose to visualize only positive outcomes. Forget about what you think is "realistic" or impossible. Focus your mind on the highest, most beautiful, most preferable reality that you can visualize. The longer you can keep your mind on this, the better. This is the best use of the Will. If you want something, then don't make up excuses why you can't achieve it. If it's something that you really want, then decide right now that you can, you must, and you will have it. You don't have to know how. In fact, trying to figure out how to get it before you are ready, will cause you to fail before you begin. Just trust this:
The more frequently you focus on having the object of your desire, the more energy, motivation, will, creativity, inspiration and ideas will naturally and effortlessly come to you. You will know when your having one of these inspired ideas because you will feel excited, optimistic and passionate about these ideas. They won't feel like "shoulds." And they won't cause you fear or dread.
Recommended Supplements: "ThinkStraight"
I am happy to have found a great new supplement that I have found to be very effective for stress-related conditions, insomnia, emotional and mental exhaustion, low energy, depression, poor memory and concentration, and even symptoms associated with Dementia in seniors, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children and adults. ThinkStraight is not sold in stores, and can be ordered through my website.
Art Therapy: Collage
Collages are a powerful tool for change, and for visualizing. Spontaneous collage making can reveal amazing and transformative themes, emotions and subconscious thoughts that were outside of awareness. The process can lead to greater insight, emotional release, awareness and sense of direction and purpose. I've seen profound, life changing transformation occur when a collage is done with the intention of expressing deep unresolved emotion, such as a childhood trauma or loss.
Collages done for the purpose of focusing on attracting positive things into your experience are also highly effective and simple tools, and are one of the most powerful methods I've found for achieving your goals.
Start collecting and cutting out magazine pictures, old calendars, and any other images you can find. Just toss them into a box and when you have a rainy day at home, start pasting pictures onto a large piece of cardboard or poster board. A glue stick works best -- no mess and easy to move things around. Don't think too hard about the process. A meditative and spontaneous attitude yields the deepest results.
Don't Give Up
Every life challenge is an opportunity to awaken. There is no situation that is hopeless. Something positive, healing and transformative is possible in all circumstances, even when we can't recognize it at the time. Sometimes we forge ourselves out of the fire of suffering and loss, and it isn't until the end that we realize what a beautiful work of art has emerged within.
I value your opinions and your feedback! Please let me know if this newsletter was helpful and feel free to ask questions. I update my website regularly, so check the site for new information, and if you like what you see, let others know about it.
Wishing you health and great joy!
Ben Schwarcz, MFT is licensed psychotherapist (#mfc35606) and meditation teacher with a private practice at 3452 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA. He can be reached at 707-326-5566
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. As with any drug, not all supplements are safe for all individuals and there may be risks and contraindications for people with certain conditions. Always consult a professional healthcare provider before before trying to treat a serious condition on your own.
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