Friday, October 23, 2009

Spiritual Balance: A Dynamic, Precarious Dance

Thanks to cartoonist Leigh Rubin for so whimsically illustrating a common human struggle! "Maintaining Spiritual Balance" can be serious business, but laughter eases the journey.

Many hunger for spiritual connection and balance. Some find this through religious activities; others don't. Additional avenues include attending expensive seminars, reading spiritual books, taking online courses, and seeking advice from others who might seem more spiritually advanced than we are. Often, the training seminars come in packages and "levels" -- intimating that the higher the level, the farther along or more enlightened one is.

In recent years especially, I've questioned this. It seems our longing for spiritual balance can at times get us very UNbalanced.

I'm a veteran of many personal development trainings. My own search for self-understanding, growth, and spiritual communion has led me into all sorts of experiences, including standing atop telephone poles, doing ropes courses, and "bashing" old angers and behavior patterns. Most of this has served me well; especially sweat lodges and vision quests with Native American healers. Their attitudes have always been respectful and compassionate.

Some trainers, however, might borrow traditions from other cultures and -- possibly through misunderstanding their intended focus -- turn them into competitive events. Twisted in this way, the process becomes less about spiritual communion than exhibiting something to others.

Coming out of a sweat lodge "early", for instance, can be judged as a sign of weakness. People can be exhorted to continue despite individual needs for water or fresh air; desire to be part of the group (or to demonstrate stamina) can drive them past their own inner knowing.

Why? What is our need to prove ourselves to others, to have multiple "levels" under our belts, or to be designated "Masters" of this or that spiritual discipline? I'm sure there are many drivers for this, and that my understanding is limited.

Questions have been raised about some very tragic deaths at a recent sweat lodge in Sedona. I wasn't there, but some survivors' comments are alarming. How far do we need to go, in order to grow? To discover peace within? To become more solid, loving people? I'm grateful that Chief Arvol Looking Horse has written to educate those who might not understand the nature of Lakota "inikaga", or "life within" ceremonies. This has been misinterpreted as "sweat lodge," a term which does not encompass the entire [purification] rite. Chief Looking Horse describes the sacred manner in which this is traditionally carried out, differentiating it from the Sedona event.

My heart goes out to those who died, to their families, and all who experienced these events directly. In the tradition of Ho'oponopono, I offer indigo, emerald green, ice blue, and white.

I've always appreciated the fact that there are no "levels" in Ho'oponopono. There are no "better" cleaners, only possibly more consistent ones. There is room -- even encouragment -- to simply be what one is. Early on, I wondered about so-called "Advanced" Ho'oponopono trainings. Framed by my experiences elsewhere, I automatically expected additional trainings beyond "Basic" ones. But there weren't any, which initially seemed confusing.

And then it became a great relief! It meant that, after learning some basics from Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len and others, we could simply practice with ourselves -- not requiring a guru in order to develop further.

In fact, the whole Ho'oponopono training process involves connecting with our own inner child and Divinity within. Of course, there are helpful meditations and tools we can learn to use. Basic training seminars are available to share these. Also, long-time practitioners such as Dr. Hew Len, Mabel Katz, and Kamaile Rafaelovich do answer questions when asked. But they repeatedly point us back to ourselves, and Divinity within which inspires us.

I have grown to appreciate this more and more. It's a breath of fresh air amidst trainings that focus on achieving "personal power," or other things. Though we can always learn more, Ho'oponopono is more about consistent practice than additional techniques or knowledge. It helps us rely less on our conscious mind alone, because that part of us is so unaware of the depth and breadth of things. Instead we surrender to our spiritual nature, realizing that Divinity encompasses whole universes more than our human egos or minds ever can.

Ho'oponopono is one way of learning to appreciate who we already are, and to give thanks for all. Well-grounded in this, we are stable and balanced for whatever comes.

Peace begins with me,

Friday, October 16, 2009

Inspiration: What Does It Call Us to Do?

For the next several days, I'm in Vancouver BC studying classical homeopathy with Dr. Rajan Sankaran and other colleagues from all over the world. Practicing in Mumbai, India for almost 30 years now, he is well-known for being a keen observer, original thinker, and dedicated physician.

Dr. Sankaran's work has significantly deepened our case-taking in classical homeopathy, and our understanding of the medicines we use. His efforts have given us a more reliable system for tracing our patients' suffering down to its core. He argues for eliminating theory about patients, in favor of listening to them. If we do this, they show us directly what's out of balance and what can help.

What's more, Dr. Sankaran's video cases illustrate that we are complete beings whose parts are all connected (holism) -- even when we're ill. This is his method of teaching: direct from the patients themselves. And all this makes for much better treatment results.

Why mention this in a blog about Ho'oponopono?

I believe Dr. Sankaran is an inspired person.

But I don't mean that he arrived at all this by magic or fully-formed (many people's concept of "inspiration"). Instead his work has been a gradual process requiring years of hard work with thousands of patients. He also stands on the shoulders of his teachers who have guided him, plus over 200 years of homeopathic research and literature. He is always the first to acknowledge this.

Ho'oponopono teaches that by using the cleaning tools, we can let go of memories that prevent Divine Inspiration from coming through. This inspiration can come in all kinds of forms -- including ideas and work such as Dr. Sankaran's.

Making use of inspiration received doesn't happen automatically, though. How many of us have received original ideas but kept quiet about them -- possibly fearful of offending others, or maybe being criticized? Or maybe we thought following through would take too much work?

Dr. Sankaran articulates his understanding of classical homeopathy in a way that is very original, yet at the same time is firmly grounded in existing literature and clinical data. His daring to do this has challenged many who maintain that only certain homeopathic methods are worthy of study, and that any evolution in it is anathema.

So I asked Dr. Sankaran today what gave him the courage to break out and continue his work, when it has been so daunting? I seek courage myself, so I deeply wanted to hear from him.

He paused a long time before answering my question. But what he said sank into my heart. "I am not the only one who has brought this work forward," he said. "Many have been involved. And I have been used by something greater than me."

And how.

From his father (also a famous homeopath) on, he was always trained to do his work the very best he could -- and to always improve his results. A later mentor exhorted him to not merely read something in a book and accept it as true, but to PRACTICE it and see what is real in his own experience. Only then could he know he was on a useful path.

When he found his treatment results with previous methods so inconsistent, he could not accept this. He had to try to improve -- most of all, for his patients. So he and another colleague (Dr. Jayesh Shah) started examining the cases where people did not get well, as well as those who did. What was the difference? What were solid footholds, and what were not? They worked on this for years before uttering anything about it to the homeopathic community at large.

Testing revered theories can bring angry reactions from others, and this has happened in Dr. Sankaran's case. Some have even accused him of being paid by the allopathic medical community to create confusion in the homeopathic one.

So his has been a painful path at times. How driven -- burning, he said! -- one must be to keep on, in spite of this.

This led to the role of individualism in the human species: it is the way all real progress is made. A person discovers what s/he discovers, but the group usually resists the change. So the person moves away to investigate further, to test and refine whatever insights come. Then s/he brings the work back to the group, which may or may not carry it further. This is the theme of most tales of heroism in science, medicine, art, geography, literature, and more.

It is no different in homeopathy. And it means that any of us, if clear enough, can receive inspiration that is right and perfect for us. It could be concerning our individual fields of endeavor; our study and experience in these areas can prepare us to hear it. If we are courageous enough to move forward with it -- and to ACT on it -- this can advance things for everyone else too.

What is your area? What are you open to? Are you ready for the steps you might be inspired to take?

I've been on my own trajectory in this way, and it has not been easy. But through his example, Dr. Sankaran gives me hope.

I am grateful that he chose to work with his Inspiration, developing his insights as guided. He could have ignored it, but he didn't. Patients keep him honest: their results speak for his rigorousness or lack of it. His commitment to truth keeps him going, growing, testing, and being aware of what comes next. It seems to me Dr. Sankaran is cleaning in each moment, without calling it that.

May we all be worthy of whatever comes to us; if we are, good things come forward through us for all.

Peace begins with me,