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28 Jul

Applying Patanjali to Politics

Given the imminent presidential election and corresponding Party Convention politics, I felt it might be useful to examine the process of voting and national governance in light of spiritual principles; in this case the Yamas and Niyamas which Patanjali codified in his Yoga Sutras. The same kind of ethical application could be derived from any legitimate religion because Truth is universal, but, as a yogi I’m familiar with this material and present it accordingly.

First, it’s always important to live spiritual principles; not merely because they’re said to be right but because they represent alignment with eternal cosmic laws and their fruit, righteousness and harmony. To cooperate with Spirit is to foster good in every avenue of life. To fudge in this regard, or cherry pick when to do so, leads to imbalance in direct proportion to the breech made. That said, spiritual laws can be unrealistically applied so must be tempered with wisdom to be efficacious. As Paramhansa Yogananda stated, “If a lower duty conflicts with a higher duty, it ceases to be a duty.” Balance in life is necessary; wise discernment is required to exercise it correctly.

Secondly, we must recognize that there is a primary purpose in life: To realize God. Everything that brings us closer to this goal is movement in the right direction, both for personal soul evolution and larger societal benefit. Anything that opposes this is a misstep reinforcing delusive separation from Source which reduces people and nations to myopic, materialistic limitation. Keeping this in mind, we should analyze how politicians consider and apply High Precepts in action or intent. Bear in mind, we live in a complex world of diverse interests and global players that are not necessarily nice. All countries tend to be amoral with self-interest at heart. It would be foolish, then, to cuddle a wild tiger and not expect to get eaten. We must operate with eyes and heart wide open, and rationality fully engaged. If certain forms of perceived largess actually serve the greater good, bravo. If they merely sound poignant but cleverly veil attempts at managing perceptions or socially engineer agendas which twist facts or subvert national security, one must refrain from supporting such things. Impersonality in these matters – not emotionally untempered passion – becomes critical when weighing complex decisions and agendas. This is not heartlessness but, rather, clarity. It requires dispassion to remove egotistical preferences from situational analysis so that best practices may be realized and applied in any given context.

That said, I invite readers to review the following principles and ask themselves, “Does my candidate act on these virtues or strive to do so?” Weigh your assessment with impartial candor and, if uncertain, meditate. Seek guidance from the Universal Intelligence within. Become still in heart and mind and, when stable in quietude, present your quandary before the intuitive radar of the heart. Feel its response, heed its counsel, act accordingly, and you’ll be guided rightly.

Guiding Principles:

Non-Violence
Do not harm any living thing, physically, emotionally, or mentally. Overcome tendencies to even wish harm.

Non-Deceit
Be truthful; never falsify or intend to deceive. Accept things as they are, not as wished for. Exercise self-honesty and recognize that Truth is reality which may present itself through multiple lens.

Non-Stealing
Do not take, or even wish for, that which is not yours – materially or immaterially. See all creation as part of your Greater Self.

Non-Sensuality
Regulate sensory activity. Do not dissipate moral resources for faulty returns. Govern the senses to develop refined Self-awareness.

Non-Greed
Release attachments; act selflessly without fixation on personal acquisition or public recognition.

Cleanliness
Practice purity of body, mind, heart, speech, motive, consciousness, and environment.

Contentment
Accept things as they are and cultivate emotional serenity based on inner virtue.

Austerity
Practice purposeful self-discipline. Master likes, dislikes, and energy expenditure for highest attainment.

Self-Study
Practice objective self-assessment; eliminate delusive notions about oneself. Realize your, and everyone’s, smallness and greatness.

Surrender
Act to the best of your ability yet simultaneously acknowledge and surrender to the Divine; cultivate humility by eliminating self-importance.

We live in an era rife with upheaval as older-age consciousness clashes with realizations arising from evolving planetary unfoldment. Though some may wish to do so, we simply can’t turn back the wheels of time to periods when ignorance limited Truth to stifled expressions. Many world conflicts depict the death throes of those who reject Bigger Picture realties and clutch at what they see as singularly viable ways of being. But, fortunately, this too must pass. Do your part by praying for peace and acting peacefully. Cultivate understanding and make choices based on intelligence-guided compassionate insight. Remember Spirit in everything and engage politics accordingly.

 

 

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31 May

Foundations of Yoga, and, the Spiritual Life – Part Four

The forth step toward achieving divine union according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is Pranayama.

Pranayama, aka pranayam, in Sanskrit means ‘life force (prana) control (yama).’ Most people familiar with the term believe it refers to yogic breathing exercises and, since life force and breath are intimately related, breath techniques are used to cultivate energy control – but only until it can be governed by mind alone. Paramahansa Yogananda explained that “pranayama is a condition, not a technique.” Its purpose is to establish complete mastery over life force because the only way to unite with God is through such control. That is the true meaning and purpose of pranayama.

What does life energy control have to do with uniting with God? Yogananda said:

God answers all prayers, but restless prayers He answers only a little bit. If you try to give someone something that doesn’t belong to you, your gift won’t mean much to him, will it? However touching the gesture, it will be lacking in substance! So is it when your mind is not your own. You may want to give it to God, but you can’t. Your prayers, then, are hardly more than a gesture. Get control over your mind. When you can pray with concentration, the Lord will know that you mean what you are saying. He will answer you, then, in wonderful ways.

An adept practitioner of a scientific pranayama technique – such as Kriya yoga – learns to control their life force such that it can be withdrawn from the body, sensations, thoughts, memories, desires, and be focused singularly upon centers of higher perception that reveal spiritual realities and, ultimately, lead to divine-union in samadhi meditation.

Yet breathing techniques aren’t the only means to control energy. Thoughts and actions guided by Patanjali’s first two steps, Yama and Niyama (spiritual dos and don’ts), help dictate whether energies are dissipated in worldly distractions or raised toward spiritual realization. That is why his 8 steps are progressively inter-related. Each is distinct but subtly bound to others such that none can be teased apart and made inherently viable without the supportive foundation of the rest. It is an integrated system derived from realizing how soul and consciousness descend from Spirit into bodily manifestation and how, in turn, they can be raised back to Source again. This is the nature of the spiritual path and why the counsel of sages like Patanjali are universal in nature and timeless in scope.

 

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20 May

Foundations of Yoga, and, the Spiritual Life – Part Three

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras outline eight steps which collectively foster spiritual illumination or the state of divine union otherwise known as Yoga. Having addressed the first two steps in preceding posts, I turn to the third one which is simply called ‘Asana.’ It does not imply various hatha yoga postures commonly deemed “Yoga” these days but, rather, references what hatha yoga was meant to cultivate: the capacity to sit completely immobile in a comfortable, straight-backed but relaxed position for 3 hours.

This might seem strange, especially when so many haven’t the foggiest idea what yoga is actually about. The concept of postures and flexibility exercises practiced to enhance psychological and physical functioning is far too shallow. The body is a vessel for the Spirit that dwells within it. Those who focus on physical practices without broader understanding only reinforce gross identification and fail to use the body for its greater purpose, going beyond the body. Hatha yoga was formulated to create a healthy bio-energetic system that allowed for the unimpeded flow of subtle energy and consciousness towards realization of one’s essence of being or soul. Physical practices were never meant to be ends unto themselves but, instead, to prepare the body/mind for knowledge revealed solely by meditatively-acquired direct intuitive perception.

To achieve Asana requires unhindered withdrawal of life force from the body plus fully focused attention. The mind must be emptied of restless conflicts and the body freed from inharmonious energy patterns or dis-ease. This attainment is far from simple since we automatically engage in worldly affairs via reactive, like-and-dislike ways. Such patterns override receptive stillness and compromise perception of subtle realities. They must be neutralized by gaining awareness of and becoming anchored in soul-based insights that reveal truths about ourselves and the world. When we experience our essence as Spirit we simultaneously recognize that only Spirit can provide the lasting happiness everyone seeks. This is an incremental process that builds upon itself so must be cultivated with patience.

Everyone who successfully concludes a quality session of hatha yoga will feel a body/mind ease arising from such practice. Such is the basis for Asana and foundation of right posture that leads to deep meditation. This is when the ‘party’ just begins.

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02 May

Foundations of Yoga, and, the Spiritual Life – Part Two

In my last post I summarized the Yamas or first “Limb” of Patanjali’s Eightfold Path of yoga, as specific forms of physical, mental and emotional self-control aligned with universal spiritual laws to facilitate manifestation of the soul’s innate divine virtue. In this follow-up entry I address Patanjali’s second “Limb,” Niyama, which pertains to spiritual observances. Not dogma associated with any particular creed, Niyama stresses – as did Yama – attitudes and actions that harmonize with and bring forth enduring soul realities. Its tenets foster a stable internalization of consciousness and perfect soul-centeredness versus faulty ego identification.

The 5 key practices which comprise Niyama are: Cleanliness, Contentment, Austerity, Self-Study, and Surrender. And, like Yama, these are highly complex esoteric matters most easily presented here through a simple overview.

Niyama (Observances)

Saucha or Cleanliness
Dominant: Purity of body and environment
Subtle: Purity of heart, motive, and consciousness
Perfected: Identification with Spirit fostering blissful indifference to bodily pleasures or exchange

Santosha or Contentment
Dominant: Capacity to accept things as they are
Subtle: Abiding emotional serenity
Perfected: Realization and experience of the enduring blissful nature of Self

Tapasya or Austerity
Dominant: Purposeful self-discipline
Subtle: Mastery over likes, dislikes, and control of life force
Perfected: Attainment of various psychic powers aka. Siddhis

Swadhyaya or Self-Study
Dominant: Objective self-assessment
Subtle: Elimination of delusive notions associated with egoism
Perfected: Power to commune with higher beings and receive their assistance

Isvara Pranidhana or Surrender
Dominant: Acknowledgement of and surrender to a Higher Power / the Divine
Subtle: Humility arising from elimination of ego
Perfected: Draws divine love, attracts liberating Grace, enables communion with Spirit

Context is critical and Niyama, like Yama, must be understood in its highest aspect. As repeatedly stated, the real purpose of yoga is to awaken soul consciousness from delusive body identification to its eternal unity with Spirit; and that can’t be done without incorporating these fundamentals. As a treasure map reveals hidden valuables if followed accurately, correct behaviors and attitudes are necessary guidelines which, along with scientific meditative practices, raise consciousness to states of divine perception. Such revelations are not poetic imaginings but actual expanded states of consciousness that shred associations with limiting mortality. Lest one forget, whenever each Yama and Niyama is perfected it provides proof of an inherent alignment with spiritual realities and, accordingly, should become an integral part of daily growth endeavors. Doing so will enrich your practice, be it hatha or meditation, and foster appreciation of the life-enhancing fruits these disciplines beget as attested to by saints and sages throughout history.

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21 Apr

Foundations of Yoga, and, the Spiritual Life

To fully comprehend the nature of yoga and advance meaningfully on the road to Self-Realization for which it was developed, one should become acquainted with, and adhere to, the Eight-fold or Eight-Limbed Path of Yoga expounded by Patanjali in his work, the Yoga Sutras. This masterful series of aphorisms or ‘wisdom nuggets’ are timeless directives for all who seek God scientifically – vs. blindly – regardless of faith affiliation. Not philosophic musings solely relegated to Hinduism, they codify universal principles that guide seekers of Awakening with precise esoteric rationale.

In this post I provide brief explanations for the first ’Limb” of Patanjali’s Eight-Fold path known as Yama. Referring to control or moral conduct, Yama implies exercising restraint of thought and deed through intentional self-regulation to achieve harmony with the innate virtue of the soul. Not artificial rules imposed for societal order, they are injunctions to manifest divine qualities dormant in all. Just as an orchard will provide nourishment to the body when its harvest ripens, so too will the qualities of Self-Control give rise to distinct fruits, or soul powers, when perfected. This is the reason why such principles can be said to be universal; they offer proof of their being regardless of culture or creed.

The Yamas consist of 5 directives: Non-Violence, Non-Lying, Non-Stealing, Non-Sensuality (or continence), and Non-Covetousness (Non-Greed). Each is triune in nature with corresponding Dominant, Subtle, and Perfected aspects. Being exceedingly intricate matters, a treatise could be written about each element yet, for our purposes, a basic overview must suffice. The following rendering should provide readers an easily understood view of each Yama and its related aspects.

Ahimsa or Non-Violence
Dominant: To never harm any living thing, physically, emotionally, or mentally.
Subtle: To overcome all tendencies to even wish harm in any way.
Perfected: All creatures become rendered harmless in one’s presence.

Satya or Non-Deceit
Dominant: Always be truthful; never falsify or even intend to deceive.
Subtle: Accept things as they actually are; exercise complete self-honesty; adhere to Truth as reality.
Perfected: Whatever one says will come true.

Ashteya or Non-Stealing
Dominant: Don’t take what is not yours be it material or immaterial (love, reputation, etc.).
Subtle: Never desire what is not yours. Recognize that everything is part of your universal Self.
Perfected: Whatever is needed will come when it is needed.

Brahmacharya or Non-Sensuality
Dominant: Do not overindulge in any sensory activity or pleasure.
Subtle: Control energy and govern the senses to develop refined awareness of the indwelling Divine.
Perfected: Enhanced mental clarity, physical strength, health, & spiritual magnetism.

Aparigraha or Non-Greed
Dominant: Release all attachments, even to one’s rightful possessions.
Subtle: Withdraw attachment to one’s own body and ego-personality traits.
Perfected: Capacity to recall prior incarnations.

To reiterate, the value in perfecting each Yama – subtle principles evident in all genuine spiritual traditions – is to bring forth latent soul qualities. Restlessness, attachment, desire, anger, lust, etc. keep the incarnate divine essence body bound and blind to its true nature. By removing such delusions and tendencies associated with them, we cannot help but manifest the ever-perfect attributes of the indwelling Spirit. And why is that important? Because the purpose of yoga and all spiritual endeavor is to shred the lie of separation-from-the-Divine, to foster spiritual awakening and, accordingly, reveal the truth which sets all free; ‘ye too are Gods.’

 

 

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09 Apr

Yogic Meditation for Yoga Practice

Meditation is often included in modern hatha yoga classes in a relevant-but-not-essential way. Many who utilize meditative elements do so by drawing upon Buddhist Mindfulness practices without realizing that Buddhism arose out of yogic tradition and that the latter is steeped in vast meditative wisdom. A long-time disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda (author, Autobiography of a Yogi), I encourage hatha practitioners to re-investigate classical yogic meditation methods and start ‘bringing the pillow to the mat.’

Meaning and Purpose of Yoga

The root word for yoga, “yuj,” means to yoke and implies a state of union or uniting. This is not, as common understanding would have it, a reference to integrating physical and mental health. That stance is understandable in a culture where people are leery of religious dogma or faith-based language. The truth, however, is that yoga is a millennium-old, universal spiritual science that charts the way by which the soul descends from Spirit into bodily consciousness and how, by specific meditative practices, can be returned from a state of isolated embodiment to liberated oneness with Source. Classically speaking, then, yoga refers to yoking or reuniting the individualized divine, soul, with the infinite divine, Spirit. Again, yoga is not to be trivialized as a physical health system yielding flexibility and mental balance. It is about something much more, self-actualization or Self-Realization. And what is that? According to Yogananda, Self-Realization means, “the knowing — in body, mind, and soul – that we are one with the omnipresence of God; that we do not have to pray that it come to us, that we are not merely near it at all times, but that God’s omnipresence is our omnipresence; that we are just as much a part of Him now as we ever will be. All we have to do is improve our knowing.”

At the end of the day this commentary is not about turf, Yoga vs. Buddhism, but education. The role of yoga has always been spiritual and it behooves those enamored by its physical disciplines to understand and practice its meditative ones as well. Doing so will enhance overall benefits and in a way consistent with the core purpose of practice, optimal happiness and fulfillment.

 

 

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07 Mar

A Spiritual Perspective about Societal Issues

With social unrest percolating at a furious, oft-fanatical bubble these days, many pause to reflect on what is happening, why, and their potential culpability in creating, or contributing to, the issue array confronting them. Let there be no mistake, there is always value in becoming aware of and correcting societal or global injustices, of exercising compassion in the face of distress, and of seeking to mitigate the suffering of others. Yet there are subtle forces at play that factor into these situations such that having a spiritual perspective about them may have tonic value.

Cosmic laws operate mathematically and over the long-rhythm continuum of time. These can’t and should not be ignored. Our planet goes through evolutionary cycles – called Yugas in Vedic terms – which correspond to stages of ascending or declining spiritual awareness. Currently we’re in the early phase of an ascending era called Dwapara Yuga otherwise known as the Age of Energy. Without going into extensive details, a global shift is occurring transitioning us from a period of gross materiality to one of increasingly refined awareness. Initially this involves gaining insight into ourselves and the universe from an energetic platform. As less-enlightened paradigms wrestle with newer ones upheaval arises. Of course, the ‘newer ones’ aren’t new at all, merely reflections of more sophisticated levels of reality. The fact that someone only knows basic math doesn’t preclude the existence of advanced calculus: The latter co-exists at a strata of greater understanding. On the world stage, diverse ideological streams roil as they converge. Again, conflict during such intermingling is virtually inevitable. Planetary equilibrium shall stabilize as higher awareness continues to manifest yet, in the interim, prayers and actions for peace are helpful and, mayhap, necessary. We each can contribute, even in small ways, so don’t discount the value of personal prayer and meditation for the greater good.

On another level, much necessary attention is being given to long-standing racial, ethnic, and gender-based disparities. Again, any effort at correcting injustice is meritorious. That said, those who strive to effect change by blaming or shaming others in more ‘privileged’ life stations fail to realize that the laws of karma have a pivotal role in creating both fortunate and unfortunate life circumstances, plus, draw souls to corresponding situations according to the subtle realities of karmic affinity. This is a hard pill to swallow for it represents the ultimate platform for personal responsibility: “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” When confronted by adversity it is far easier to target society at large or those who are better off than it is to recognize the relevance of self-created karma. The truth is that each of us is responsible for our own lives and circumstances we’ve knowingly or unconsciously created. This is not meant to blame victims of dire straits nor hijack complex spiritual principles to buttress hard-hearted political agendas. Rather, I mention this solely to insert a necessary element of understanding: Cosmic laws factor into life scenarios. Those who may feel guilty for events or issues they had no hand in creating need to realize their existence is not a fault nor are they the problem. As Paramahansa Yogananda said, “Like attracts like. One’s karmic pattern draws him to incarnate in an advantaged or disadvantaged, good or evil, body and mentality, family, and environment that not only reflect the effects of one’s past actions, but provide the necessary challenges for learning from past errors.

It does not behoove anyone to feel better or worse than another. We are all souls created equally in the image of God and each of us has the privilege to exercise free will in alignment with or in opposition to divine law. The former manifests good, the latter; its opposite. When confronted by difficulties seek not to blame but to correct. Express expansive perspectives that serve to heal not alienate. Understand that multiple, simultaneously-accurate viewpoints can exist in any given situation, pray for guidance, then act in alignment with Higher Wisdom. When in doubt be kind, not caustic, love; don’t lambaste. Striving for peace with violence in one’s heart or seeking justice while being unjust or hateful is hypocritical and anathema to idealistic outcomes. Start with yourself and work outwardly. As we correct ourselves we become increasingly powerful forces to help change and uplift others. As Mahatma Gandhi wisely said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him…. We need not wait to see what others do.” Yes, healing planetary strife is needful yet, equally so, is the manner by which it is accomplished. Cultivating more enlightened societies or global order can’t be accomplished through repressive means or the exercise of ignorance masquerading as liberality. What we sow is what we get and it behooves us to act with kindness, clarity, and broad-spectrum discernment in order to reap a harvest worthy of nourishing ourselves and many generations to come.

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07 Feb

Commentary on Meditation

Meditation is my thing, plain and simple; teaching it, my ‘Calling.’ Fortunately I’ve been trained in a tradition empowered by an unparalleled lineage and body of wisdom. For years I’ve been steeped in these inner sciences and dedicated myself to helping people understand the deep significance and relevance of these matters. Fortunately, people in general are gradually beginning to “get” it. Yet, despite the steady proliferation of meditative activities, such skills are frequently diluted through Western filters of commercialism, religious skittishness, and metaphysical ignorance. For the record, I understand that ‘baby steps’ are better than none at all. However, I need to give voice to one of my premier ‘soap box’ subjects: Meditation is a sacred, spiritual practice, not a tool meant to induce calm, enhance creativity, promote health, or provide social / commercial benefits via mindful breath awareness. The latter is trendy poppycock hijacked from venerable methods that were originally developed and refined millennia ago to reveal Essential Being. Again, meditation is not a non-theistic band-aid to make people more centered and functional for worldly pursuits. It is an ancient spiritual science intended to reunite soul to Spirit. How? By reversing the flow of life force and consciousness from worldly engagement and redirecting it to the subtle centers of higher perception that free soul consciousness from bodily identification and facilitate its re-union with Source / Spirit.

‘Seeking the Kingdom’ within is not outdated verbiage but the essence of meditation. The ‘Kingdom’ refers to Divine Consciousness latent in the soul, a quality realized solely by experience, not intellect. Yet why is this is even important? Because we are all prodigal exiles in search of Home. Nothing material will ever satisfy the spiritual nature of what we truly are. Unfortunately, the fulfillment we seek is derailed by sensory-based change-intoxicated quests that manifest as pursuits of name, fame, power or drugs, sex, and rock n’roll. The truth is these are fools gold misdirection. The lasting happiness everyone seeks, consciously or unconsciously, can only be found in that which is Eternal, i.e. direct communion and union with the Divine. And while there are different meditative methods available to achieve this end, all must ultimately follow the same energetic pathways that lead consciousness to its Source. Bottom Line: The reason every great spiritual Master has come and taught about higher realities, plus how to attain them, is because such things are real. So too is the truth that “Ye too are Gods.” Yet, despite the harvest being plenteous, the laborers – those willing to do the work – are indeed few. ‘Home’ or Divine Unity exists but we must do our part to realize it or, rather, awaken from the delusive sleep that keeps us feeling separate. That is why meditation is so important: It is the key to lasting happiness. Meditation lets people experience the Eternal directly and gradually wean themselves from the lie of material allures. This is what meditation is meant for, not the cursory by-products so often touted in mainstream venues. Awake! The joy, completeness, and fulfillment everyone seeks is within. Meditation is the way to achieve it. So, meditate!

About Alan L. Pritz

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02 Feb

Meditation, Spirituality, and Mental Health

Until relatively recently, yoga, meditation, and non-traditional spirituality – as opposed to classical religious practices – were widely perceived in the West as esoteric pursuits with little to offer mainstream society. Now they are highly-valued, prominent fields of endeavor with massive cultural buy-in. Having dedicated 40+ years to this “questionable arena,” it is rewarding to note the positive shift in public opinion, and, the appreciable enhancement such activities have made on so many lives. In fact, writing an article like this is challenging because there is no longer a dearth of information on the topic but, rather, an exhaustive volume of research requiring extensive time to read, process, and apply. On the up side, an abundance of scientific literature now attests to a range of psycho-social and body/mind benefits resulting from meditation and Sacred practices, (i.e. pertaining to religion or spirituality). Fortunately, these positive outcomes are no longer points of anecdotal testimony subject to academic dispute, but, matters of established fact. For psychologists then, several especially relevant questions arise regarding how to include this domain within the scope of practice. Specifically, when is it appropriate to engage patients on topics pertaining to the Sacred, meditation, and related activities? When is it viable to suggest patients explore such in adjunctive alignment with on-going therapy? And, when should these topics or practices not be addressed?

Such questions require more time and space to address than this brief article allows. Accordingly, readers may find additional value and a more comprehensive understanding of these issues in the APA Handbook of Psychology, Religion, & Spirituality (2013: Kenneth I Pargament, PhD) However, to capsulize two key areas let me answer the last question first: Psychotic patients and those with too severe a character disorder are best served by not engaging in mystical or meditative pursuits as such activities could de-stabilize their mental coherence or trigger added psychiatric complications. However, many less severe patients confronting depression, anger, anxiety, stress, hypertension, addiction, insomnia, chronic pain, or, mild-to-moderate neuroses, defensiveness, compromised self-awareness, and self-destructive behaviors may benefit considerably from intelligently applied meditation if they are sufficiently motivated to practice. There is even related evidence suggesting that therapists who engage in meditative practices themselves, or hold to compassionate spiritual paradigms, may passively contribute to enhanced therapeutic outcomes.

The results of these findings is genuinely encouraging yet there is still no standardized body of information guiding psychologists to “best-practice” scenarios for different patient types and conditions. This can put a burden on therapists to learn about the functional impact of different meditative and spiritual practices, plus the brain-body changes arising from each. In short, it gets complicated quickly. From my experience, though, such detailed assessment is not always necessary or even useful. The bulk of real therapeutic value arises more simply in what I describe in Meditation as a Way of Life (Quest: 2014), as continued receptive spiritual attunement and what Herbert Benson, MD of the Mind/Body Medical Institute, Beth Israel-Deaconess Hospital, Boston similarly identifies as the Faith Factor. Simply put, potent healing progress can arise when a Relaxation-Response state is repeatedly cultivated through prayer or meditative techniques, and, when it is associated with deeply-held, affirmative philosophic, religious, or spiritual convictions. This cumulatively triggers top-down, nerve-cell-firing brain patterns linked to healthy states, aka “remembered wellness,” which, when infused with profound spiritual faith, helps catalyze internal transformations that significantly aid patients in disengaging from toxic thought patterns and related negative behaviors.

At the end of the day, the precise meditation technique or spiritual belief a patient practices may be less important than the fact that they repeatedly seek receptive attunement with the Sacred and, by doing so, invoke a faith factor and the subtle psycho-energetic dynamics associated with it to restore greater wholeness to the body/mind. The capacity of what I term “the deep self” to induce or accelerate healing through meditation and spiritual practice has been repeatedly demonstrated. The key challenge, then, is learning how to beneficially harness sacred skills and knowing when or where to refer patients when they might benefit by related assistance. Despite needing to locate viable resources, it is exciting to have a spectrum of integrative therapeutic tools which, though age old, have garnered modern respect through scientifically demonstrable beneficial outcomes.

 

Rev. Alan Pritz is an Interfaith Minister with a Minneapolis-based spiritual counseling/coaching, and consulting practice who’s trained in and taught meditation for 32+ years. Author of the award winning book, Meditation as a Way of Life: Philosophy & Practice (Quest: 2014) Reverend Pritz assists individuals and organizations with meditation, spirituality, and related themes to promote personal health, growth, and work/life balance. For information about his Minneapolis practice and services visit: www.awake-in-life.com.

Recommended Reading

  1. Beyond the Relaxation Response, by Herbert Benson M.D., Times Books: 1984
  2. Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine, by Larry Dossey, M.D., HarperCollins: 1993
  3. Full Catastrophe Living, by Jon Kabat-Zinn PhD, Bantam Books: 1990
  4. Meditation as a Way of Life: Philosophy & Practice, by Rev. Alan L. Pritz, Quest: 201
  5. Meditation and Psychiatry, Michael McGee, MD http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2719544/
  6. The Link between Religion and Health: Psychoneuroimmunology and the Faith Factor Edited by Harold G. Koenig and Harvey J. Cohen
  7. Meditation: What You Need To Know: NIH https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm
  8. 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/
  9. The Physical and Psychological Effect of Meditation: A Review of Contemporary Research by Michael Murphy, Steven Donovan, and Eugene Taylor http://www.noetic.org/sites/default/files/uploads/files/Meditation_Intro.pdf
  10. What Role Do Religion and Spirituality Play In Mental Health? Kenneth I. Pargament, PhD, http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2013/03/religion-spirituality.aspx

 

 *Article originally written for the February, 2016 edition of the Minnesota Psychological Association Newsletter

 

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