The focus on wellness, particularly on the management of overeating, in therapy can be a double-edged sword. While clients often readily embrace the vector of self-care, goal-specific treatment planning and clinical homework can trigger the games of avoidance. Suddenly, the validating therapist is thrown into the role of a wellness expert and becomes an accountability check.
Before too long, mere inquiry into the client’s progress runs a discordant parallel to punitive supervision. With this actual or perceived change of hats, the process of the therapy changes, the wellness goals are eventually abandoned and the closet of therapy fills up with the skeletons of failed objectives. This – in my experience – has been an inherent complexity of problem-focused treatments such as behavioral medicine.
A moment before I sat down to write this blog, I poured myself a cup of lotus tea and yelled the following into the living room where my wife was watching Cesar help another fearful dog out of its phobic bind: “Hey, babe, as a naturalized citizen, I can’t run for president, right?”
“Right!” she yelled back and asked in return, with one of those are-you-crazy chuckles: “What, you were thinking about running?!” Hell no! I happen to enjoy that special brand of American citizenship that comes with a fail-proof ego-check: even if, for some reason, my ego were to blow up with a manic-grade delusion of grandeur I can never – thank god! – find myself in a position of telling three hundred million people how to live their lives.
The July/August issue of “Discover” reports: “Hurting? Get your hands on some cash: psychologists report that handling money diminishes the perception of physical pain. Even just counting someone else’s bills will do the trick.”
Hmm… This little bit of psychological “good news” is offered without any explanation. Could it be, perhaps, from all the coke that’s been snorted with the help of US currency?
After all, according to CNN, 90% of all US bills carry traces of cocaine, which happens to be an analgesic. Or are we just that turned on by sullied paper? What do you think?
Pay-day is a pain-free day, indeed.
“The Buddha lived in India five centuries before Jesus and almost two centuries before Aristotle. The first step in his belief system was to break through the black-and-white world of words, pierce the bivalent veil and see the world as it is, see it filled with ‘contradictions,’ with things and not-things, with roses that are both red and not-red, with A and not-A. You find this […] theme in Eastern belief systems old and new, from Lao-tze’s Taoism to the modern Zen in Japan. Either-or versus contradiction. A or not-A versus A and not-A. Aristotle versus the Buddha.” (B. Kosko)
Seeing yourself as either perfect or imperfect is black-and-white thinking. Time to update your understanding of perfection from the standard Western, psychologically toxic, dualistic view of perfection to a more self-accepting, psychologically healthier, nondual view of perfection: you are neither perfect nor imperfect or, if you prefer, you are perfectly imperfect. Same thingless thing!
“Reflection is, as the word indicates, the power acquired by a consciousness to turn in upon itself, to take possession of itself as of an object endowed with its own particular consistence and value: no longer merely to know, but to know oneself; no longer merely to know, but to know that one knows. By this individualization of [one]self in the depths of [one]self, the living element, which heretofore had been spread out and divided over a diffuse circle of perceptions and activities, [is] constituted for the first time as a centre in the form of a point at which all the impressions and experiences knit themselves together and fuse into a unity that is conscious of its own organization.”
This is one of the most sublime descriptions of mindfulness that I have come across.
A Koan is not a question of informational inquiry but a question of whether you are open to whatever is. With that in mind, here’s a Monday morning koan for you:
Can a lotus flower blossom without knowing why?
Tip: Expect confusion. Enjoy the clarity that follows.
The words “goal” and “intention/intent” are kin but not twins. The etymology of these words tells the story of their similarity and their difference.
Goal: “end point of a race,” from Old English word gal “obstacle, barrier,” related to the verb gælan “to hinder.” (etymonline.com).
Intent/Intention: from Old French entencion “stretching, intensity, will, thought,” from Latin verb intendere “stretch out, lean toward, strain” (etymonline.com).
As you see, the word “goal” is an outcome-word. You score a goal. You hit a target. The word “intent” (or “intention”) is a process-word. You aim your attention in the direction of a goal. You stretch the bowstring of your mind as you aim at a target.
The human body is a “treasure-trove” of vibrations (1). “After all, our hearts beat, our lungs oscillate, we shiver when we are cold, we sometimes snore, we can hear and speak because our eardrums and larynges vibrate. The light waves which permit us to see entail vibration. We move by oscillating our legs. We cannot even say “vibration” properly without the tip of the tongue oscillating… Even the atoms of which we are constituted vibrate.” (2).
In sum: no vibration, no communication.
But what is vibration? Vibration is a function of periodicity, a result of “a pattern […] that repeats itself over and over again.” (1).
As I look back at the periodicity of my own thoughts over the last five or so years, I see one and the same mind-pattern, the idea of “ordinary perfection,” the realization that perfection is not only attainable but is inevitable, the compassionate realization that everyone (without exception!) is doing the best that they can at any given point in time. This line of thought has been both personally sobering and professionally catalytic.