Category Archives: Psychology and Therapy

The Garden Lives

I’m very pleased to learn from Hiram Crespo that Epicureanism, which I still also like, is experiencing some surge of interest. The International Society of Friends of Epicurus has been formed, in his words, “to ignite a much-needed full revival of the ancient philosophical school.” We learn too that there are Gardens in Athens and Thessaloniki which attract hundreds at annual events, and one in Sydney that is rather smaller.

I suppose I will have to remain a fellow traveller. If I were to establish a Garden of my own here, it would likely have a similar vibe, but I would want to hypnotise people occasionally too. :)

Since Epicureanism has so often been used in modernity to dismiss the nonphysical (Locke, Jefferson), and always had strong materialist leanings, why use it as a spiritual person?

I was always looking for something that didn’t have a spiritual element, so it would be more neutral and allow me to discover spirituality without reference to a particular dogma.

The main difference between a spiritual and a non-spiritual philosophy overtly is the basing of one’s actions and identity in the non-physical. One finds the soul, and it must be the basis and guide.

When I look at what I actually took from Epicurus, it emphatically does help with this.

— the contentment with the simple, the ability to distinguish natural and unnatural desires, an excellent idea not least since we know simplicity and maturity helps to ignite spirit (more on that in the upcoming series);

— the ability to come to terms with death and pain, not to fear them — the example of Epicurus being someone who was cheerful under any pain; you need some way to interfere with its power to affect the thought and disposition;

— the enjoyment of the state that results.

Epicurus himself maintains that with these you are no longer a “mere mortal animal”. These particular emphases are useful in a society that constantly projects violence and pain and hypes appetite. Yes these profoundly interfere with the workings of the soul. When I am in contact with my soul, I don’t necessarily need words. But I think the value of a simple philosophy like this is that it can give the conscious mind somewhere useful and positive to focus. The thought of Epicurus (and Democritus too actually) is fresh and friendly. It has no hierarchicalism. So it suits me.

But of course I focus on plenty of other things that many Epicureans wouldn’t like, especially not now…

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“He who is rich in virtue is like a newborn child…”

I left a remark insufficiently explained last post: “Your consciousness begins your physical life far less local to your body.” This is much more literally true than most people understand.

With Erickson it was a matter of observation — for example, he saw babies reaching out to touch their right hand with their right hand. You are not born knowing where “me” is, and you are not born physically coinciding with it. Your body begins as a marker — partly a cultural marker.

This is a good collection of papers by well-qualified individuals, although somewhat diffuse or even tentative. The history and literature of hypnosis and mesmerism is extraordinary…

But the modern perinatalist observations have confirmed this far more strongly. Grof has a lot, and another great resource is hypnotherapist David Chamberlain. See for example his paper in Leskowitz, ed. Transpersonal Hypnotherapy (2010). Here you find hypnotised clients seeing the moment of their birth and finding that they had great awareness of the surroundings, an awareness not completely local to the body. They describe “knowing I have to put myself in that baby body”. There can also be memories of full-blown OBE as a baby.

The mind at that stage seems very intelligent, as Erickson would predict of what will become the unconscious mind. One patient, Deborah, says for example: “I felt I knew a lot — I really did. I thought I was pretty intelligent. I never thought about being a person, just a mind… I saw all these people acting crazy [about her delivery as a baby]. That’s when I thought I had a more intelligent mind, because I knew what the situation was with me, and they didn’t seem to. They seemed to ignore me. They were doing things to me, to the outside of me. But they acted like that’s all there was.”

“Not a person, just a mind” — exactly what we mean by not being hooked in to the cultural and physical body. This mind knows a context culture does not. Hence the perceptiveness and objectivity. The baby is mind-aware but the adults are only personality-aware. Adults have gone through that twofold process of identifying with the body, then with the culture. The tiny infant has not. “They seemed to ignore me”, meaning, my real self, but also their real selves — this being equivalent as we’ve seen to being caught in a mask or “estrangement” from the underlying.

This underlying self really is a lot “smarter” which is why, if you can have a relationship with it and activate it, you become a much richer version of yourself.

Inner selves shouting for attention are related of course to younger subpersonalities and hence to parts of the mind shut out by the social realm. Clearing the walls that shut out those selves clears the tension and the blocks to those awarenesses, and that becomes a live relationship with the nonphysical. You interact with other forms of input. “Extra sensory perception” is a cliché, like all parapsychological terms once the public gets hold of them, but all it means is perception on the part of that aspect of you which is not directly hooked into the body. That turns out to be a lot.

The irony is that the hooking-in tends to leave a lot of energetic blockages, so a new and clearer relationship with the body is actually far better for the body itself as well. Normal egotistical relations with the body aren’t helpful to its health at all.

This goes all the way up to enlightenment which can create what some have called a “duplex personality”… more on that in the upcoming series.


Tao as Universal Unconscious Mind

Leafing through this great Havens book on Milton Erickson I was struck by this:

[W]hile on the Research Service of the Worcester State Hospital he interviewed a catatonic schizophrenic who manifested a variety of bizarre behaviours and beliefs which struck Erickson as familiar. Eventually he was able to relate them to those of several primitive tribes, a discovery which puzzled him greatly because the patient obviously was unfamiliar with the beliefs and rituals of any of these tribes. These and other observations of the spontaneous development of identical patterns of thought and behaviour among separate individuals throughout the world and throughout history led him to conclude that basic human thinking and emotion are very much the same from person to person in spite of individual and regional idiosyncrasies. In other words, he observed that the human mind has an incredibly wide but finite range of potential patterns available to it and that everyone has the capacity to function within any one of those patterns.

The particular patterns that any given individual adopts or manifests, he realized, are a result of limitations imposed upon this original pool of potentials by culture and by the individual’s unique experiential history.

This is just so it. Humanity is bounded but infinite — but cultural humanity is far more bounded. The schizophrenic was tapping into the underlying pool — who knows exactly how. But (as with Jung) the behaviour tipped Erickson off to the unlimited nature of human cognition free of the social. The need to have the social be “everything” is quite strong, but partly thanks to a weird childhood in which recovery from polio played a major role, and partly to his great natural oddness, Erickson never had that need and brought a very objective eye to human beings.

That eye is the eye of the unconscious itself. Havens:

Erickson’s fundamental orientation towards life, perhaps the central theme of his work, was that people must learn to recognize, to accept, and to utilize, what actually is in order to meet their needs, accomplish their goals, and satisfy their purposes. Rather than lamenting, distorting, or denying the unpleasant facts of life or fantasizing about an easier, more ideal reality, Erickson proposed that people must experience and acknowledge the realities of their situation and apply whatever capacities they have in order to cope as effectively or purposefully as possible with those realities.

That may seem obvious — it’s the classic wisdom and never outdated — but the point is that “we” are not merely what “we” think ourselves to be. Your consciousness begins your physical life far less local to your body. Much of the most interesting stuff in your mind is stuff you never really look at after you become localised. Hooking into the body you start to leave the non-bodily behind — and then you hook into a cultured body, and get caught in language. But just reach behind and unhook those, and you have things you had no “conscious” idea about, mental aspects that already understand life in a less biased way than you do, so you can lean on them. As Havens says:

His most general observation was that people have both a conscious mode of functioning and an unconscious mode of functioning. The conscious mind represents a prejudiced and limited perspective on reality which can result in various distortions and behavioral anomalies. The unconscious mind, on the other hand, is a flexible system of thought and awareness which perceives and responds to the literal or objective qualities of reality. It is relatively unprejudiced, is very intelligent, and contains a vast reservoir of previously acquired, experientially based knowledge and memories.

The relation of this to “spirituality” is for example: just think of everything as having an unconscious mind. You can learn to tap into it by these and all sorts of methods. In an STE you become conscious of it, including as a whole — hence “cosmic consciousness”.


The very definition of “relevant”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi recalling childhood experience of World War II:

As a child, I witnessed the dissolution of the smug world in which I had been comfortably ensconced. I noticed with surprise how many of the adults I had known as successful and self-confident became helpless and dispirited once the war removed their social supports. Without jobs, money, or status, they were reduced to empty shells. Yet there were a few who kept their integrity and purpose despite the surrounding chaos. Their serenity was a beacon that kept others from losing hope. And these were not the men and women one would have expected to emerge unscathed: they were not necessarily the most respected, better educated, or more skilled individuals. This experience set me thinking: what sources of strength were these people drawing on?

Now that is a good question, as the unpleasantly squirting shits of a rotgut technoswill society continue to play havoc with smugness in their degenerative storms. Luckily there are quite a few good answers. The second Havens/Walters hypno book I just mentioned last post has an approach to this called psychological hardiness — good term — that comes from some research at the University of Chicago, a subset of the general question of psychological resilience which is as important to individuals as physical resilience is to communities. I’m not saying I particularly like their definition, which is business-orientated, but once you start fooling with it…

(And by the way, the singular lack of psychological resilience in many isn’t at all unrelated to the total non-resilience of the culture.)

What I cheer in that book is the encapsulation of hardiness in a hypnosis script. I love occasionally finding someone doing things like that; again, this is how it should work. Maybe as a hypnotherapist I’ll offer trance to help with adaptation to peak oil too.

I suspect formless soul isn’t part of that theory though. Ronald Havens was and remains a materialist, a very nice and intelligent chap indeed from a couple of interactions I’ve had with him — loves his motorbikes — but one who works with a “cosmic consciousness” he thinks is in our heads! Yeah. (He did a book on that too BTW, it’s very good for what it is.) Catherine Walters of the golden voice has I think gone the more reiki-and-ascension route since co-writing with Havens, and that’s hardly me either… But any particular biases don’t mean the work won’t be generally useful, since it can always be adjusted.

Those in Csikszentmihalyi’s example who were only happy with jobs/money/status were empty shells all along anyway. He must have sensed their nature wasn’t changed by their fall in circumstance, but revealed. See that is how it works!

Answer to question why develop my own transpersonal application of hypnosis? Because what I’ve seen is just not very interesting. I look at most of the books and courses around, and it’s all blah blah anchoring, blah blah EFT, subpersonalities, addiction, blah blah healing pain relief, spirit release, past lives, blah blah Jungian archetypes. It’s good stuff if you’ve never encountered it, but not what I’d call transpersonal.

I’ve hardly seen anything in hypnosis (with the possible exception of Bernard Aaronson’s famous script for inducing void from 1969 — different era!) that even tries to look at that, and it’s not surprising because what’s involved is rather different from hypnosis as normally understood. As for something like this, I only hope it’s harmless, that’s all. This is the problem with a spiritual free market.

What is nice to see is some people resurrecting Mesmer in terms of energy hypnosis…


Holotropic Spontaneity and Carl Rogers XIX

Final Thoughts

The way that I like begins, not with some creed, but with a possibility, to gradually discover and transform into something much more like one’s best self. (In a way this seems to involve healing all the damage done by creeds.) Rogers really has a great approach the human levels of this and gives a lovely modern guide into the process.

The atmosphere is one of complete supportive non-judgmentalism which creates a safety of thought and expression. So one moves from being trapped within feelings and attitudes to being able to notice and understand them, and frees oneself from habitual interpretations. One builds a new self-system and lives in it in a renewed context.

Quiet enables recovery from a hundred minor traumas and perhaps some major ones. The sweet rest of the parasympathetic comes to predominate in the nervous system. (Peace also turns out to be strongly linked with invigorating aliveness, whilst unpeacefulness inculcates deadness at rates which should be sobering but sadly rarely are.) No body is ungrateful for having its tendons transformed.

As Glenn says, the result of discovering meaning and meaningfulness is to exist in “calm connectedness”. This means normal life would otherwise be disconnected (estrangement). The recovery process thus leads somewhere one couldn’t consciously aim, therefore one gradually learns to trust it. Whoever one “is”, whatever the life one is entrained to, the process takes in all of its elements and begins to reveal the underlying connection between them, the person who is doing that living, who would be lost if focused on objects. One expresses this in one’s own way, learning to know where the ups and downs naturally come and when to push or relax. This is part of what Rogers called “being process”.

I don’t mean to imply in this series that seeing a therapist (or indeed a healer) isn’t a good idea. One might uncover difficulties emotionally, and whilst there are some people who find it possible to get over that by themselves, there are others who don’t. Follow your heart. But whether one sees a therapist or not, the process is the process, and it is your process. You be the judge of what is needed as you make your moves and allow spontaneous action/reaction. Success often lies in taking the highest promptings seriously.

Meditation actually improves the Rogerian formula even at the beginning. Silence, that ultimate answer to all earthly questions, is not usually used in a non-transpersonal therapy. When combined with Rogerian technique, it brings a deep balm, ease and peace to the person who has probably been without it for a long while.

The stillness of meditation starts to manifest the deeper meaning of the person’s life which begins to be directly felt. This creates an atmosphere that forms the basis for realisation, for awareness of depth. It is totally natural and comes unsought. It simply needs to be allowed to come, needs the space in which to come. Although it may not have the mighty luminosity of transpersonal experience at first, the solidity, selfness, reality of the result still comes to be valued more than anything else which could disturb it, and thus life changes suggest themselves to preserve and deepen what one is becoming. There may be considerably less sayable in the new identity than in the old.

To my mind this all concatenates with chi kung. I should mention shen, a hard-to-translate word rendered variously as “spirit”, “mind”, “daimon”, “all-embracing love” or “awareness”. Shen as it first manifests in chi kung tends to give the feeling of a deep heart-peace and acceptance, intimately quiet and relieving, that gradually reveals an inner illumination which is the beginning of (re-)encountering the real. It also, in the Chinese conception, is the result of natural processes, which harmonise and unblock chi whilst jing, life essence, is allowed to build. Shen later is spirit or consciousness itself, and therefore the signal of realisation.

There are obviously many transformations after this, on the path I like, many things that reveal themselves beyond this initial stage. Spiritual truth is not “psychological” in the modern sense and the quest reveals itself on levels that (I believe) we all know, but in practical terms, have mostly forgotten if not for the promptings we all feel towards those levels. Gopi Krishna attributed those holotropic promptings to the Kundalini process making itself known on a quiet level to everyone, I think correctly. Our lives wish to deepen.

But as long as this initial understanding has been attained, it can be developed in daily life as well, and forms a sign of what is to come as well as a doorway to it. Everything that happens becomes part of its flow. One always has an awareness, a place to which to return. One is just oneself, after all.

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That’s the end of the series — many thanks for reading and welcome to all the new subscribers!

The reading lists all need a huge amount of redoing… I hope to get that done later on… I know I keep saying that…

The problem is that the next series has made for a huge amount of research, and I’d like to make as much of it available as I can. In fact that research is still ongoing, so there’s going to be a gap before the series begins, but fear not as I’ll be doing short posts on various other subjects as they take my fancy.

Answer to the question: do I still use hypnosis? Yes. Didn’t mean to imply otherwise at all. More on that in a sec. Does hypnosis tie in with this series? Absolutely can. The Ericksonian unconscious works by the same kind of spontaneity. (EDIT: Just saw this book combining Erickson and Rogers.)

More recent work in the vein of Maslow and Rogers has been done by Czikszentmihalyi and Seligman, and there are various other things out there of interest in the same direction. More on them as I fill in before the next series, but I won’t be writing about psychology in any depth for a while now as we need to venture into the wild.


Holotropic Spontaneity and Carl Rogers XV

— The “cognitive psychology” movement has overplayed its hand, but the addition of a rational element to Rogers can indeed also be useful in undoing mistaken or disadvantageous concepts, if interested in that line. Albert Ellis’s book can provide all that is needed, or one can try Pamela Butler, or indeed philosophical ethics of any desired kind, from Epicurus to Buddha to Spinoza.

To consider whether one’s disturbing thoughts and beliefs are based on demanding that life be other than what it is, whether there is a different way to look at things which makes them less bother, and whether something “bad” is actually as disturbing as we tend to make out, are really the core Ellis activities. Personally I don’t think “full acceptance” can occur with the rational mind only, but a certain amount of acceptance, probably varying for each of us, usually can.

Rogers tends to dispel “unacceptingness” over time simply by accepting (and positive regard), engaging a natural processing which I personally find far more spiritually useful than Ellis’s approach of “proving rationally” that the badness isn’t so bad. In addition, your stress levels tend to be a huge indicator of how “bad” you think things are. But a little grounding in common sense can certainly be useful for people fresh off some of the less steady New Age boats, and some people really do prefer to think it all through as their primary way.

— Certain people, or anyone at certain times, may on the other hand need to exit rationalism anyway, as dogmatic. Some subpersonalities communicate only in pictures or music. Impressions and intuitions want to surface, processing wants to happen that doesn’t feel like reaching for a dictionary. Mythic intuition can be valuable even before it is directly linked to the genuine mundus imaginalis. If wanting to use Jungian concepts (shadow and anima/animus are very helpful) a brief summary like Murray Stein’s may be better wading into the dilatory originals. The results of the non-rational can and probably should be rationally assessed later. One may need to feel one’s way into the underlying direction in a subtle manner.

— If the process seems slow or directionless, one can set a goal to transform some habit or attitude, although perhaps only when one has already had experience of clearing things spontaneously. One may include a definite self-promise or oath if necessary — but with care and, if inexperienced, a termination date at first, at which point one will compare the old self with the new. Many people have a “most important to fix” aspect of personality, and promising oneself to definitely get to the bottom of it, and remove it, can be incredibly productive, radically transforming the life. The system will start processing towards it. There will also be moments of needing to re-affirm the necessary dedication, but you may not recognise yourself when you succeed — or may recognise yourself for the first time in a while.

— At other junctures (or one could also say, under the influence other subpersonalities), of course, it’s natural to put aside “looking at feelings” or labelling them in any way as itself overly analytical and just experience oneself, which leads to meditation. Rogers-style awareness can in fact simply become a peaceful meditation in which any and all things arising are lovingly accepted; they will then tend to evanesce. Becoming skilled at communing in silence can generate such blissful peace that words become superfluous. You’re moving past psychology at that point, and the spontaneous process you’ve created will eventually transform even the toughest resistance at awakening proper.

[You can add hypnotherapy, but based on feedback I’ve come to recommend that be done with a hypnotherapist unless you really are willing to study — it’s just a little complex otherwise. And the Breakout Principle can produce the aha! effect by much easier means. However I myself have found the trance state very healing and have gone naturally into it at times in accordance with the unfolding of the process. If you are interested, it can be worth finding out about.]

That’s the end of the psychology — remember it all goes with the same basic idea, just taking regular time out from life to be peacefully and positively open to oneself, with the attitude described in the early parts of the series, and allowing the process that naturally follows from this. Next, a case example.


Holotropic Spontaneity and Carl Rogers XIV

— An outgrowth of Rogers’ work is that of his student Eugene Gendlin, whose ideas involve working in a Rogerian manner with bodily sensations — noticing, describing, coming to terms with the feelings and stories they naturally communicate. This can be very useful for people who do energy work and often tends to be part of the wider process anyway, but his book Focusing (1978), again written to be used without prior experience, whether alone or with a partner, is full of helpful detail and has been widely appreciated. It appears on Kundalini lists regularly.

— In case of strong or difficult stress of the kind we now call “traumatic”, I recommend a look at the work of Babette Rothschild or other trauma therapists. Since the physiology is very helpful for understanding Kundalini arousal too, it may be worth a look under any circumstances. The Body Remembers (2000) and The Body Remembers Casebook (2003) I found particularly good in their loose, physiologically-sound approach. This way teaches instantly accessible calm states with a variety of psychologies to clear traumatic ones. Knowledge of the physiology of trauma can come in handy even for things that appear quite minor. Rothschild has emphasised people are quite capable of getting over trauma by themselves.

Traumas are inevitably moments of full focus and strong awareness in our lives; they are also close to the Kundalini mechanism and can actually initiate it (see Kason). Meditation gradually brings these moments and their energetic/emotional/physiological results under control by being equally aware. Rothschild emphasises the all-important openness to process and describes very well the keys in the body and mind to getting out-of-control states back into harmony. This requires more care than the normal Gendlin Focusing as it involves knowing how to defuse mines without triggering them. Knowing the signs within the body can be very useful and will get put together with images, feelings, concepts, events, naturally by spontaneous Rogerian relationship.

— Stanislav Grof is very useful if you want to understand the nature of strange cognitions you’ve had, including ones in childhood. This was big for me and many people have some such memories or find them surfacing in meditation or self-enquiry. Getting a psychological handle on them makes them easier to process. See Realms of the Human Unconscious for example. Grof’s use of LSD proved there’s at least some value in it — more on exactly how much value in the next series. His ideas on what he calls COEX systems, too, in the same book, were very interesting and gave me some a-ha’s, although when it comes to dealing with them and the mind generally he is less interesting, as he doesn’t understand spiritual training. But that’s why we have chi kung.

If childhood was difficult and some parts of you seem permanently weird or irrational, another useful resource is the blog of Rodger Garrett, which shows the biology of this is now being understood quite clearly (limbic system inflammation plays a large role). The practices I’m giving here can heal this — his can too, he says. A great key is to understand just how much of this is physiology that can be resolved with work on the chi.


Holotropic Spontaneity and Carl Rogers XIII

In us humans the joy of being in nature brings us energy that enables seeing “into the heart of things” as Wordsworth says... "Three Worlds" by M.C. Escher, CLICK FOR LARGER VERSION

In us humans the joy of being in nature brings us energy that enables seeing “into the heart of things” as Wordsworth says… “Three Worlds” by M.C. Escher, CLICK FOR LARGER VERSION


Artistic expression can be very useful if worked as a personal therapy. A feeling of having understood experiences and feelings, of having re-understood or recontextualised them in a form that makes them compost, even of having been understood, follows naturally with spontaneous creativity, and engages non-social parts of the self. You never know, you may reveal beauty as well. Gradually one can move towards the inexpressible. A possible book is this, for example, but instructions are perhaps not necessary — just keep Rogerian principles in mind and see what comes. Doing this occasionally for a change, rather than regularly, is very good too. Professional artists may find it pays to jettison professionalism.

Kundalini is to me associated with nature itself, the creative movement of the Tao, moving us beyond appearances... "Peace" by Patrick Woodroffe, CLICK TO GO TO HIS PAGE

Kundalini is to me associated with nature itself, the creative movement of the Tao, moving us beyond appearances… “Peace” by Patrick Woodroffe, CLICK TO GO TO HIS PAGE

— Rogers’ approach comes very much into its own when working with subpersonalities. To discover parts that seem to be “not exactly oneself” is natural when one considers shatteredness. The trick in understanding them is often to realise how used to them you already are on a subliminal level, and bring that long-established relationship up to conscious listening, which will refresh it. Simply being with a part in a Rogerian way, truly understanding its point of view and resonating with it, is often what is really necessary for harmony. It may spontaneously transmute or join a whole that is deepening in meditation — a process described in Assagioli’s work by the way. One useful book derived from his methods is Firman & Gila’s Psychosynthesis. (2002)

Thus I’ve realised My own attraction to some kinds of artistic image comes from how they show nature as leading beyond its own surface to a profound heart... Leaf wrapped in red petals by Andy Goldsworthy CLICK FOR LARGER VERSION

Thus I’ve realised My own attraction to some kinds of artistic image comes from how they show nature as leading beyond its own surface to a profound heart… Leaf wrapped in red petals by Andy Goldsworthy CLICK FOR LARGER VERSION

— Actually, anything can be brought into this process. Stuff you are naturally good at or which seems linked to your Campbellian “bliss” can play into healing. Bad feelings and depression can be tremendously transformative when you know how to let go of the masks they are challenging. Even rather non-“blissful” boring/repetitive tasks can sometimes help with processing. It can be useful as well to have any artistic or other objects around in the meditation space that give you the right mood or bring you to what is important as you see it. Anything that reminds you of what is beautiful and important to you. Aim high. (What you contemplate, you imitate).

I’ll come back to art and culture in spirituality for upcoming series.


Holotropic Spontaneity and Carl Rogers XII

The Rogers ideas go very well with many further approaches to fine-tune.

Obviously the addition of moving chi kung or yoga, or both — anything that harmonises chi/prana/energy and promotes healthy strength/flexibility — is wise, and for someone planning on awakening Kundalini should go without saying. But one does not have to be too serious at first. I have always learned best by playing, as psychology predicts. Natural additions are acupressure, Jin Shin Jyutsu, 6 Healing Sounds etc. Sources are on the Reading Lists. I’ve always enjoyed a little Feldenkrais, a system with very interesting points to make on body-mind connection. Having someone else work on you now and then can be good too. This kind of purgation and harmonisation does on the energetic level precisely what Rogers-style awareness does on the identity level — allows flow and builds integrity.

A lot of people seem not to want to believe that something as simple as acupressure can profoundly relieve, say, depression. Find your points and they will make the point better than I can, especially if you’ve developed a little chi. This process is partly about pleasure, as the body becomes more comfortable in everyday life. Without getting into Epicureanism again, pleasure of this, let’s say, unproblematic kind can be a very important signal and guide. Happiness is no mere snare, and all of these methods do actually inculcate it in my experience, especially when one thinks in terms of regularly lowering stress over a period of time.

A Rogerian attitude emphasises not over-extending oneself and really listening to the body. Expanding to bigger challenges (which of course increase satisfaction) only after one is comfortable is the way of the person without much to prove, as opposed to he who attempts to scare death off with perfect asanas and ligament blowouts. (This was Glenn’s advice in the “thanatos” chapters of Martial Arts Madness, 1999.) A good diet and time spent in nature are valuable.

Since this series will be my last featuring normal-level psychology in any major way, as I move into more mystical territory, I’ll give greater depth in these following posts on helpful psychological ideas to couple with Rogers on the journey. Various experiences (or whims) may arise which need a specialised approach, but I doubt most people will need everything on the list, and certainly not all at once! Apologies if it seems over-long, but I want to give as much as I can that I know has value. Something might jump out as interesting, now or later. All of this does connect to the Kundalini work and that will become very clear too. Meanwhile treat it as optional and remember it all works with Rogers. Room only for one this week with more to come over the next few posts.

— Herbert Benson, the discoverer of the Relaxation Response, later came up with the Breakout Principle (2004), which uses processes like meditation and other forms of awareness to trigger spontaneous inspirations and answers to just about anything, without conscious processing. Of all these approaches I highly recommend experimenting with this one at some point, since essentially it is holotropic spontaneity in action. Experiencing it in this context makes it very easy to trust that spontaneity as a general process. The method involves letting go. It triggers genuine and delightful moments of enlightenment which can even be peak experiences. It even has neurochemistry attached.

The book is suitable for complete beginners; see two previous posts here and here for more.

[It is interesting to contemplate, after having a few of these inspirations, that meeting with their source is a great goal of spiritual practice. But that deeper question must wait for future series.]


Holotropic Spontaneity and Carl Rogers XI

Moving to application now. We’re exiting the therapeutic context completely, and meditation of some kind becomes the basis. The initial stability and peace necessary can perhaps be achieved with the help of a class, workshop, teacher etc. I personally prefer a chi kung-style meditation as you won’t be surprised to hear. The instructions I like best for beginners come from the old medical chi kung books Glenn made use of. This one has been a favourite, but I recently noticed how ridiculously expensive it’s somehow become. This one, which he also recommended, has an even funkier 80s presentation and I like it a lot; it seems to be holding a lowish price for now. It has no moving chi kung to speak of but otherwise is the equal of the first.

I probably should do a post or two on the basics of this form of meditation at some point, but what I think makes it the best for a beginner is its effortlessness and dedication to making you feel good — it’s intended for self-healing after all. It dovetails perfectly with the Rogers ethos since the idea is to attain rujing (“entering into stillness”), which is a natural process. It operates in all of us, if allowed to do so, just like holotropic spontaneity, as an organismic inheritance. You attain an easy posture, breath pattern, focus, and your thoughts gradually start to slow down, a definite peace and clarity appearing as they become distant.

On the other hand, many different types of meditation might be useful for this process as there is no goal other than initial peace, acceptance and heightened awareness. Glenn’s initial instructions in Path Notes could be enough for many, and he also got things from Herbert Benson’s Relaxation Response initially, for example (now that is a cheap book). The varied emphases in the books can be revealing. Everyone is different and scientific research suggests that clicking with your way is the most important thing to begin with. I only recommend that there be nothing forceful, that it feel easy and natural, with no kind of competitive spirit or achievement agenda.

Rogers-style techniques examine whatever’s in the mind and heart at the moment, whatever occupies the consciousness. To start with it’s the emotions and beliefs that rise amidst or get triggered by life that get the attention, but with that peace, and the other resources, as a background. You don’t do this in meditation necessarily, but a regular meditation practice forms a foundation from which it can be done in time set aside. There’s no particular analyzing, especially not to begin with — accepting and describing and understanding and getting in tune with what one really feels and thinks and experiences is the process, which itself turns out to generate a number of stages of change — again, naturally and spontaneously. The only necessity is to become aware and then see what arises as a result.

It can be useful to start with a general atmosphere of lowering stress. Some may want to treat the whole thing as a break to begin with, a brief but regular/necessary time of rest with a smile on its face that gradually fills with realistic peace and honesty in an unhurried unfolding and noticing. It is the process itself that matters. This becomes subtle and creative and new views or layers can arise out of nowhere, along with unexpected transformations. Everyone will respond in a unique way, in fact this is exactly the idea.

Peace and/or neat resolution every single second is far from necessary or likely but if this process is established with some kind of positive regard behind it — even an imagined positivity is sufficient at first! — then continually re-established over time and seen as a way to understand, or perhaps better to say, an environment in which to understand, then the issues, stories, and beliefs will spontaneously link up and make a more global or unified or patterned sense. This however will not be stiff or over-categorised, but loose and alive and deepening as one goes, enabling confidence in one’s own judgment, solidity, viewpoint, openness, and perhaps most of all, acceptance of self-process.

Thus one ceases bracketing some aspects of self-experience as unthinkingly “bad”, meaning “not to be experienced”. Only then can something which is not as one would wish be changed.