The mind is the molder of our every experience. Every sense impulse is analyzed, evaluated and then recorded in the mind as pleasant (supporting our needs), unpleasant (endangering to our needs) or neutral. If our conditioning and beliefs have learned to interpret a particular perception or event as positive or as satisfying, then the mind creates a pleasant inner environment. When, however, the events of life are interpreted by the programmed mind as threatening, fearful or unpleasant, it then creates a state of anxiety and tension.
When anxiety and nervous tension become chronic, then the body and mind are gradually worn down into a state of weakness and ill-health. The energy flow of the body, and concentration and clarity of the mind are disturbed. Organs begin to malfunction. A psychosomatic illness is created. Negative emotional states such as depression, bitterness, fear, anger, hate, envy, jealousy and resentment dominate the mind. Human relationships begin to deteriorate and a feeling of alienation and isolation set in. It is time for «Attitude Therapy».
In «Attitude Therapy» the individual is helped to work on various attitudes which he has towards life, which prevents him experiencing health, happiness and harmony. Negative, life-destroying attitudes are replaced by positive life-building attitudes.
At the risk of being redundant, we are going to repeat some of the most important truths once again in this chapter because our experience is that it takes years of continual repetition and rediscovery of each truth, again and again in new ways, and in relationship to to various situations, in order to actually begin to experience them, which is very different from knowing them. Let us consider some of these beneficial attitudes.
1. I am responsible for my life, happiness and health.
We create our illness and problems through our mistaken ways of thinking, acting, eating, sleeping, living and interacting. When we eat wrongly, do not exercise, sleep too little or too much, do not breathe properly and waste our mental and emotional energy on so many superficial pursuits, in is only natural to lose our health and peace of mind. Thus, we are the creators of our suffering.
We are responsible for learning how care for our bodies and our minds. We have the power to create health or suffering. We are responsible. The choice is ours. We are not, however, at fault. There is a great differenec between fault and responsibility. Fault indicates that there has been some wrong doing or mistake. It is not a matter of fault that we are not well. It is a matter of evolution. WE simply have not yet arrived to the level of awareness where we can create a more harmonious reality.
We are presently learning to do so. A flower bud is not at fault because it has not yey blossomed. It will eventually become and flower. We do not look for the fault which has prevented it from becoming a flower. We know that it is a matter of time. Thus, taking responsibility for our life doesn’t mean feeling guilty for what we have created. It simply means moving and and blossoming into the flower which we really are.
2. I can change my life in any way that I choose.
It is not enough to simply believe that we are responsible. We must also believe that we do have the power to change our habits, and ways of thinking and living if we want to.
This change requires continual awareness and effort at transforming negative patterns of living and thinking into positive ones. It requires persistence in this effort. Results can be had only through steady and continual effort towards this transformation, even in the face of difficulties, tests and set-backs. Unlimited patience is also required in that results may not come quickly. We may not be able to change 30 to 50 years of habits and conditioning in a few days; or even in a few years.
Staying healthy, happy and harmonious is a life long process of Self-analysis, self-transformation and flowingness with the forces and changes of life. In this way we move towards a more perfect manifestation of the natural divine qualities which lay latent within us. The beauty, health, peace and happiness which are within us can then manifest more and more fully in our daily lives.
3. We are all eternal souls in the process of evolution
As we have already discussed earlier, all human suffering and disharmony is a result of man’s ignorance of his true eternal spiritual nature. Having lost awareness of the fact that he is an immortal soul, he identifies with the vehicles or bodies through which he is expressing himself, while incarnated on the earth. (The causal body, pure intellect, mind, energy body and physical body).
When we identify with our physical bodies and personalities we are subjected to continual feelings of isolation, vulnerability, fear, anxiety and tension. When we identify with the perfect spirit which is presently occupying these imperfect vehicles, then we experience feelings of oneness and love for all as well as deep peace, strength and fullness of life.
When we identify with the Spirit we have an inner security which no person, or event, can disturb. We then have the clarity and objectivity to make changes and adjustments in the personality without feeling intimidated by what we see in the personality. We do not have to feel pride or guilt about the actions of the personality; for we are not the personality but a soul who using this personality structure as a vehicle is expressing ever more powerfully and perfectly the divine beauty, love and wisdom within us. If we are travelling in a car to a desired destination and our car begins to malfunction, we do not become depressed and weep «Oh what a bad person I am, or, Oh, what a bad car you are».We step out of the car and examine it objectively in order to understand what is wrong and fix it. The body and mind are the car and steering wheel. We Spirits are the drivers. If the body or mind shows defects or weaknesses or breaks down, there is no need to worry and feel depressed or guilty, we can step outside and objectively analyse what is wrong, with the body or mind, and make the necessary adjustments. This can be done when we identify with the Spirit. Thus each illness becomes an opportunity to move closer to health and harmony.
4. Pain and suffering are my guidelines towards health and harmony.
I remember a story told by Dr. Jayadeva of the YOGA INSTITUTE OF BOMBAY. Once an enlightened being was asked «Who was your guru?» The answer was «Sinusitis». The enlightened one went on to explain that in order to free himself of his sinusitis he had to change his diet completely. Then he started to do exercises and breathing techniques to purify and remove the stresses from his body which intensified the problem. Then he started to practice deep relaxation and meditation in order to quiet the mind and nervous system, which seemed to be at the root of the sinusitis. Finally he had to completely alter his understanding of himself, and the world around him, so as to remove the basic causes of imbalance in his body and mind. As a result of all these efforts and changes, his body and mind became so purified and in tune with the Spirit, that he became enlightened. Let us define health as a harmonious dynamic balance of the forces of the body, mind and soul. When this balance is disturbed by ways of living or thinking,then symptoms of illness begin to appear. The imbalance exist first, and then the illness comes, as a message to the resident of the body-mind that something is out of balance; that something in his way of living and thinking must be changed. Illness is actually an attempt to recreate that lost harmony.
It is illogical to try to stop an illness with chemical pills, which then frustrate the attempt of the illness to recreate harmony. When we take pills which remove the pain or the symptoms of the illness, then we forget about the problem, and lose the opportunity of discovering what mistake we are making so that we can correct it. Having ignored these messages of imbalance for a long time, we end up with chronic illness and suffer deeply and needlessly.
By objectively analysing our lives for the cause of the imbalance, we can use the illness as an opportunity for our transformation into self-actualised beings. The body, mind and Soul will then function in harmony with each other and the surrounding world.
5. I accept and love everyone unconditionally – including myself. Love is the ultimate healing energy which we all need so much. We lack giving and receiving love. This creates a sense of separateness from the people and world around us, as well as from ourselves. This feeling of isolation and loneliness breed mistrust, misunderstandings, competition, antagonism and the whole series of health destroying emotions such as fear, anger, hatred, jealousy, bitterness, resentment etc. These negative emotions build up a personality complex of their own, and grow cut of control, destroying both our health and relationships with the people around us.
Learning to accept and love ourselves and others inspite of all our faults, weaknesses, habits and mistakes is a powerful way of healing. It is healing to us and to those around us. We can learn to have more internal security so as to be able to understand, forgive and love others and ourselves in more and more situations. Every time we feel our heart becoming closed towards a person, we can remember that whatever he is doing is probably being done out of weakness, fear of insecurity. We can understand that he has a problem and that this is how he copes with that problem. We can have compassion and forgive and continue loving.
We must also practice the same loving compassion on ourselves, by letting go of guilty feelings and negative self-images, and realize that we, and all those around us, are souls in a process of evolution.
6. Life always gives me exactly what I need in order to be happy and grow spiritually.
This thought has saved me frequently from worry, fear and anxiety. One may believe this truth from the point of view that there is a Cosmic Being (God) who is looking over his children helping them, testing them, protecting them and seeing to their needs. Another may accept it from the point of view of a higher Self, who has chosen various life experiences, in order to test and purify the body and mind, so as to continue with the process of evolution. Even another may accept it as the result of the mechanical law of Karma (cause and effect) in conjunction with the force of evolution. Life is constantly providing to the various species on earth the conditions they need to continue evolving physically and mentally.
Once one accepts that nothing can happen by chance, but that all is occurring exactly as it must for his own spiritual benefit, he feels tremendous release; a freedom from anxiety, fear and worry. He may have faith that God, or that life, will give him only what is necessary (whether it be pleasant or unpleasant) in order to proceed spiritually. He will then begin to look for the lesson in every experience; especially in the unpleasant ones. Rather than being a pessimist who sees the problem in every opportunity, he becomes an optimist who sees the opportunity in every problem. He finds health and peace of mind.
“ATTITUDE THERAPY” FOR A HAPPIER LIFE
In “Attitude Therapy” the individual is helped to work on various attitudes which he has towards life which prevent him experiencing health, happiness and harmony. Negative life-destroying attitudes are replaced by positive life-building attitudes. We discussed the first six of these positives attitudes in the first volume of this book called “DISCOVERING OUR SELVES”. Let us now consider three more of these beneficial attitudes which are deeply connected with our relationships with others.
I COMMUNICATE OPENLY AND HONESTLY WITH ALL
Many of our psychosomatic illnesses are caused by suppressed feelings, desires and needs which we do not express to those around us. Our health is gradually destroyed by these negative energies which remain within us disturbing and inhibiting the proper functioning of our bodie’s various organs. These suppressed emotions also undermine our happiness, our creativity, our ability to give and receive real love, and in general, our harmony. In most cases the others around us are not to blame for this problem. It is we who, out of fear or some other programming, do not speak the truth about our feelings and needs. No one else is to blame and no one else can set us free. At some point we have to realize that we are actually harming both ourselves and the others when we do not express our feelings and needs. They are not mind readers. They cannot peak into our minds to see actually what we are feeling. They are, however, receptors of our negative feelings whether we express them or not. Yes, even if we do not express our depression, or resentment, or fear, or anger, the other receives those feelings on a subconscious level. Then he often reacts to us according to those hidden feelings, which he himself is not even aware of consciously. It appears that the other is doing us an injustice, but this is not the truth. He is reacting to our unexpressed negative feelings. He is forced to express the negativity which we are not expressing. Thus we are harming both ourselves and our loved ones and friends by not being clear and honest in our communication. Only we ourselves can change this situation.
It may not be easy. The others may react negatively in the beginning because they are not used to this new way of communicating. We will have to learn how to communicate effectively, not suppressing and not blaming the others. (It may be necessary to take a seminar on self analysis and effective communication). As you learn to express yourself more freely and effectively, you will find improvements not only in your relationships with others but also in your health.
There may be some difficult moments during the transition; but it is worth it. You will have to be careful of one common danger. When a person has suppressed himself for many years, there is often an accumulation of resentment in him. (Independent as to whether he feels this consciously or not, it may be hidden in the subconsciousness). For this reason when such a person starts to express himself more freely, he tends to be a little over aggressive and over demanding in the beginning. The built-up tension comes out with more force in the beginning. This is natural. Be aware of it. If possible, do not let it get out of control. If it does get out of control, do not reject yourself for this; realize that it is a natural phenomenon which will soon complete itself as the pent up tension is released. On the other hand you can ask the other’s patience, and forgiveness, explaining to him or her what is going on; that you have been suppressing feelings for many years and now you are learning to express them, but that they are coming out a little aggressively. Ask for their patience and let them know that you love them and do not want to hurt them. Your relationships will be much more honest and loving.
Feeling that we are all one in the body of humanity, in the body of God, helps us to develop a sense of brotherhood with the others. This allows us to let go of many negative feelings such as jealousy, disappointment, greed, competitiveness, anger, hate and revenge. It also releases us from feelings of superiority and inferiority; all are equal aspects of the one divine essence and deserve the same respect, independent of their differing abilities in various aspects of life. No one deserves more respect or love than another. This belief in the brotherhood of humanity helps us to develop the feeling of forgiveness towards all for everything. We will treat this subject separately because it plays an important role in our health and illness.
WE ARE ALL CELLS IN THE BODY OF THE DIVINE
The basic cause of all man’s problems including illness is his sense of separation from the divine and thus from nature and all the world. As mentioned earlier, this feeling of isolation creates fear and a feeling of vulnerability and mistrust towards the world around us. This puts us in a state of continual attention for possible dangers. This means overactivity of the adrenal glands and sympathetic nervous system. It means a constant constriction of all the organs of the body. The blood vessels, nerves, kidneys, stomach, gall bladder are all in a state of continual constriction. Gradually a paralysis settles into these tissues and organs. There is a blockage in energy flow and in the proper flow of nerve messages. This is especially true when tension is stored in the muscles of the back along the spine. This tension causes the muscles to press on the nerves and also to pull vertebrae out of their proper position, creating disturbances in all the organs of the body to which the nerves from those vertebrae communicate.
When we realize that we are united with all people, animals, plants and insects through the one divine universal consciousness which is uniting us all, we start to move from our “fear-consciousness” into “unity or love-consciousness”. When we feel unity and love, we relax. We feel safe and our organs and muscles can relax, our blood can flow freely to all parts of the body undisturbed. Our nerves can relax and our mind can enjoy the peace of security. Our immunological system can stop overworking (as in allergies) or it can stop being suppressed by feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.
When we feel that we are a part of God, we feel pure, innocent and worthy of health. We realize that we are also divine and that illness is only a function of mistaken thinking. Since I am part of the God’s mind, I cannot really be ill. My own thought processes must be creating this problem. Let me align myself again with the Divine within me. Believing in our inherent divinity allows us to call upon the healing powers which are latent within us for our own healing. We can use prayer as an effective technique for healing ourselves and others. However skeptical someone may be, there are literally hundreds of thousands of cases of healing through prayer throughout history which cannot be explained in any other way. The skeptic may say that it is self-hypnotism, or placebo effect, or the person’s own energies which are healing him. Who cares, the important is that it works. Include prayer, without attachment, to your list of healing techniques. I say “without attachment” because, we do not always know what is best for our evolutionary process. Even Christ as He was praying for “this cup to be taken from him” (the ordeal of the crucifixion) followed his prayer with, “Let your Will be done”. Thus in praying we can express our preference for health, for a cure, for life over death, but it is always best to follow it up with, “Let your Will be done” or “Let whatever is best for our evolutionary process take place”.
I FORGIVE EVERYONE, INCLUDING MYSELF, FOR EVERYTHING
Perhaps no other message was repeated more by Christ than to “forgive”. Peter asked him how many times we must forgive someone who has harmed us or has done us some injustice. Peter suggested the number seven, but Christ answered, “Seven times seventy times”. That means 490 times, which actually means “infinitely”. Before going on to discuss this subject more deeply, let us clarify that forgiving does not mean letting people do whatever they want or letting people do injustice to us or others. It means not having negative feelings towards them. It means hoping for their good and not hating them. It means that we pray for their health, happiness and harmony regardless of whether they force us by their actions to take them to court, to restrict them in jail, or to limit them in some way. Just as we do not stop loving our child when we are forced to restrict him for his own good, the same would be true of others who are becoming dangerous to us, or to society, or even to themselves. Forgiveness is being able to still love and try to help this person in every possible way to find his real self, his harmonious self which is in tune with all around him.
Forgiving is not so important for helping the others as it is for helping ourselves. We gain much more than the others when we forgive them for something that they have done to us. (Or, actually, for something that we think that they have done to us). When we hold negative feelings towards some person, we are blocking the free flow of natural life supporting energies in our own bodies. Those negative feelings are suppressing our happiness, not the other’s. They are tensing our nervous system, not the other’s. They are inhibiting our adrenal glands and immunological system. These feelings of hurt, rejection, anger, injustice, hate and revenge are destroying our health, happiness and harmony. The other is not nearly so much affected.
The reality is that if we believe that someone else is responsible for our unhappiness, we are perceiving reality through a mistaken belief system. Nothing has ever happened to us which was not exactly what we needed for the next step in our spiritual growth process. The others, who were the apparent “causes” of these unpleasant experiences, were simply the vehicles or actors through which life has presented us with the experiences and tests which we needed in order to grow more spiritually aware. Forgiveness and unconditional love require a major effort from us and plenty of testing from life. Otherwise how will we know if we have really developed this ability, to forgive and love, if we are not tested by others’ negative actions.
I have worked with a number of people who have been holding on to anger and hate towards their parents for many decades now. These feelings have been undermining both their physical and emotional well-being. They are not only suffering from their feelings towards their parents, but also from guilt about those feelings and thus the problem is twofold.
If you are a person who is suffering from negative feelings toward people (living or dead), you can begin to work with those feelings in the following way:
a) Make a list of all your complaints in a notebook. Be specific in your writing, explaining the details about what happened and how you felt in each situation. Be aware that anger, hate and revenge are secondary emotions. In order to feel them you first have to feel hurt, vulnerability, rejection, injustice, lack of respect, embarrassment, shame, or other such feelings of weakness. Be sure to express these also in your analysis. They are the real causes of your anger and inability to forgive. When you are really emotionally strong enough and love and accept yourself enough, forgiving will be easy. The events will not be important to you any more. If you write in the third person, using your name or the pronouns “he” or “she” you will have more objectivity in your analysis and quicker results in getting free from these emotions.
b) Once you have completed your list (you can always add to it later), it is time to express these feelings and thoughts. If you feel that you can express them directly to the person involved, this would be best. Even if the person has left his physical body, that soul can still hear you (even though you cannot hear it) and you can communicate whatever you want to that soul, just as you were speaking to someone sitting in front of you. If you are not able to express these thoughts directly to the person, you may consider writing a letter expressing your feelings, reminding him of those events and explaining how you felt then and now about what happened. You may or may not decide to actually give this letter to the person. Even if you do not give it to him (and if he has left his body it will be impossible) only the fact that you have expressed all this on paper will be a great relief.
You may also read what you have written to a very good friend, in whom you have full trust and confidence, or even better, to a psychologist or person trained in helping people work through such emotions. As you are reading this letter, be aware of the feelings which are created within you as you read again what happened and how you felt. A rule that I use is that I ask the person read the letter outloud as many times as necessary (not at the same moment, but say once a week) until he can read it and really see it as a drama which has finished and does not concern him anymore. You will know this when no more strong feelings are created as you read the letter.
Another possibility is to communicate with the person, towards whom you have these feelings, while in a state of deep relaxation and are more in touch with your real feelings, and not so much in conscious control. This requires an experienced guide to bring you into a state of relaxation and then to ask you to imagine the presence of that person before you, and to encourage you now to speak (verbally) to that person expressing your feelings, complaints and needs. In such a session we would try to end the session with an effort to forgive that person now that you have had your say, now that you have expressed your anger, or hurt, or whatever. In these sessions one is often likely to cry or even on occasions shout in anger. This is a good release and makes forgiving even easier once this energy has been released. I have found this technique quite useful for a large number of people with such problems.
c) The third step is forgiving that person for what he has done. This too may be done in any of the ways mentioned above, directly or verbally, or through a letter, or to a third person (perhaps as a rehearsal for the real thing), or in a state of deep relaxation. This state of deep relaxation is very useful for forgiving souls who have left their bodies. We are able to imagine their presence more clearly.
Certain spiritual truths will help us to forgive more easily, such as “LIFE GIVES ME AT EVERY MOMENT EXACTLY WHAT I NEED FOR THE NEXT STEP IN MY GROWTH PROCESS”. In such a case, whatever the other has done to me is an opportunity for spiritual growth. I can see him as a “teacher” and be grateful for the opportunities he has given me (even if he himself may be ignorant of all this). Or, “WE ARE ALL SOULS IN THE PROCESS OF EVOLUTION”. Since we are all in a state of evolution, then obviously no one is perfect. The other will obviously make mistakes, just as we will make mistakes. Just as we would like others to forgive our mistakes, others would like us to forgive theirs. “WE ARE ALL EXPRESSION OF THE ONE GOD”. In this case we are holding negative feelings towards God himself, who is manifesting through that person. In such a case we are refusing to forgive God. There are many other spiritual truths which can help, but perhaps the simplest is “DO TO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD LIKE OTHERS TO DO TO YOU”. If we were in the other’s position, would we not like to be forgiven?
And if you are not interested in all this “spiritual stuff”, just remember that it is your body and mind which is suffering from these negative feelings. It is your reality, create it as you like.
We suggest that anyone who is suffering from ill health, or any type of mental or physical problem, work on incorporating these and other positive attitudes into his view of life:
1. I am responsible for my life, my illness and my therapy.
2. I can change my life in any way that I choose.
3. We are all souls in the process of evolution
4. Pain and suffering are my guidelines toward health and harmony.
5. I accept and love everyone unconditionally – including myself.
6. Life always gives me exactly what I need to be happy and continue my spiritual growth.
Make signs of these or similar phrases and place them where you will see them often. Write these phrases many times, or repeat them verbally often, so as to reprogram the subconscious mind. Make deep relaxation or mind control and repeat these phrases into the relaxed and receptive mind. Think deeply about them and attempt to discover in which situations you forget these truths and act without clarity and responsibility. Practice remembering these truths even in those moments of despair or emotional upset. They are much more effective and lasting in their results than any type of tranquilliser or other chemical substances.
These attitudinal changes compliment and make more effective any other efforts toward self-healing, such as physical exercises, breathing techniques, cleansing techniques, proper diet, fasting, relaxation, mind control and meditation.