A new mix is beginning to form between the evidence-based sciences and the experience grounded practices of positive psychology and meditation-oriented therapies. I am inspired and continued to work with highly individualized approaches to consultations and constant as well as collaborate in leading-edge science explorations to map out the enormous range of benefits and uses of meditation and exercise. I also collaborate on the exploration of the very nature of consciousness, the potential of human perception and how new discoveries in the worlds of complexity and foundational quantum mechanics expand the ways that we know who we are.
Traditionally many therapeutic approaches hope to give you an insight by finding the illness, classifying the problem, or knowing what is broken. It turns out this reasonable idea is often a framework that constrains us into a box that is difficult to break out of; difficult to feel the empowerment of our own human nature; and difficult to gain any and except a sense of cure or symptomatic change. We certainly want symptomatic change. But most of us want more than that.
James Hillman (1926-2011, see The Life and Ideas of James Hillman: Volume I & 2) looked at this dilemma straight in the face and developed what might be called the fourth branch or force of psychology in therapy in its early days. He had a strong Iconoclastic voice that could showcase the critical question in the missing perspective needed for profound change in healing. He memorably said, “we’ve had 100 years of analysis, and people are getting more and more sensitive, and the world is getting worse and worse. Maybe it’s time to look at that?” (Hillman and Ventura, 1992)
We learn, change, and grow through our willful action as well as insight. Conscious action and commitment open our perception and help us understand our self. They reveal a landscape of new possibilities- potentia that we can manifest in our self and relationships. We are rooted deeply in the present. But we are tempted and pulled forward by our own future, destiny and free will. The first act and sign of a healthy human being is a sense of robust and joyful commitment. It is when we can embody our own wholeness and feel our aliveness, freedom and ability to make a difference.
Action, awareness, and feedback are essential. Over 20 years of psychological testing to help us improve our self-esteem, confidence and success found that the best way is to take action. To act and learn to face both success and failure in a meaningful way as we continue to show up to the challenges fully, with an open heart, and whole.
From this perspective we do not need to distance or react to the challenges in the world in order to feel good in our self or to be well and succeed. In fact, it’s how we handle the test of who we are in the face of challenges both internal and external that is builds self esteem, self-trust and wellness. Taking this approach I found the best ways to create a capacity to shift our own state, recognize in a sensitive way the manner in which our energies and are held in our body and language and beliefs, and to engage in a timely and you shall useful dialogue with our self and the timeless dimensions of our spirit and being.
When we lose track of our own sense of uniqueness and our awareness of our purpose, we can feel trapped and forced by circumstance and fate. We can feel blunted in our ability to be who we are. Our voice can become buried under the noise of emotional storms, loss, and circumstance. When we gain an embodied, tangible sense of Self and open our heart we intuitively recognize our sense of uniqueness; we start to see the path of our destiny. That path, like a compass, guides us to take the next step that is just the right timing for the right action to fulfill our purpose. That can drive us in every cell of our body to feel and enjoy a sense of motivation, engagement, and aliveness. We not only keep up we wake up and show up. That is a goal of the consultations that I do and the practices that I also have in my personal life.
Now, more than half of all patients who seek traditional therapists, doctors and advisors also seek additional supportive or complementary approaches. The traditional focus on what is broken, what is ill and what is wrong doesn’t address certain key needs: people want to prevent problems not just alleviate symptoms, they need practical ways to make wise decisions and create balance and clarity in themselves through the confusion opportunities stress and conflicts in this increasingly fast-paced and globally connected world. They want to learn practices and even lifestyle habits so they can live a life imbued with meaning that fulfills their greatest needs for success, connection and a robust spiritual connection and consciousness. So, change has happened!
Psychology and its therapeutic branches strove to be a healing profession and a burgeoning scientific one toward three major goals: (Keyes and Haidt, 2003) cure mental illness; make individual lives happier and more productive after the Industrial Revolution; and identify and nurture individual talents, creativity and genius. Huge strides have been taken with many victories mixed with notable and often profound failures. In the pursuit of illness as a framework to engage people and in the commitment to be recognized as another science it neglected the second two goals. It did little to help people fulfill themselves; to develop their own authentic voice; and to lead a purposeful productive life that it even less to help people develop their creativity and personal genius. The most neglected goal was to cultivate the individual skill and capacity to awaken a conversation with their own consciousness and soul to guide themselves and fulfill their unique destiny. These most human of factors were deemphasized as having a significant impact on therapeutic outcomes and were relegated to philosophies or perhaps religions.
It is only recently that we fully recognize the incredible power of emotions to enhance our intelligence, our ability to think, and our capacity to have fulfilling interpersonal relations. Emotions well-directed create wellness and well-being that support both physical and mental health. Even more recently we have begun to accept the importance of dealing with consciousness itself. The many techniques of meditation, breath work, mindfulness practice and self-awareness are finding wide use and new acceptance. Enough people have used these techniques and developed their inner experience that scientific approaches that measure the effects of many of the processes that support these changes are exponentially growing in both number and quality. So “evidence-based” approaches are increasingly useful hand in hand with a meditative, exercise or positive lifestyle practice.
The practice of meditation and yoga is becoming mainstream. This is true in health organizations in the West as well as the East. Still it is seen mostly as a stress reducer. It is of course much more.
In my experience the best, most engaging and successful consultations and approaches to mentoring for growth are a mix of authentic connection, practical discernment, an individualized use of a wide range of cognitive and somatic techniques, and the cultivation of the ability for simple but profound experiences within each person. The techniques we learn, test, and incorporate form a resource base for your deeper transformational work to awaken resilience, caliber, clarity of character, purpose and awareness. In other words, a fulfilled, well lived life that elevates yourself and others.