Friday, 30 March 2012

Spiritual Hunger -- healing the psyche in the modern world

How do we make meaning in modern life, and what happens to us when we don't?

There’s a book called ‘On the Nature of Spiritual Hunger’ that might be worth a look for anyone who has suffered from depression, or from finding a lack of meaning in their lives. This book it seems, determines that much of the cause for depression is linked with our lack of rituals, and our lack of connection with the Source, or with God. For me, I deeply believe this to be true.  I think we tend to fight problems mainly by treating the symptoms and not the cause, and this is certainly true of depression.  We are given pills, signed off work for a week or two, and then forgotten about.  We tend to bury our sadness’s deep within, and then continue our shallow rituals of work or drowning our sorrows until we become relatively ‘normal’ again.  But how much grief has been simply pushed under a layer or two of consciousness?  So many people are only aware of the material world around them, and as they see people they care about become ill or die, or they have problems themselves, it is all too-easy to become enveloped in deep suffering of the self, believing life to be a 'dog-eat-dog' existence and that in order to survive you need to develop a hard and impenetrable, shell.  Existence can become a well of sorrows which eventually might entomb the heart.  

Some people never seem to become fully healed after suffering a deep psychic wound.  A death of a parent is a good example.  How often do you see people deeply rocked by grief but then unable to move on?  It can take years sometimes before people can begin to patch up the deep and shattering wounds to their psyche.  And others never do.  We tend to consider this normal behaviour, but I think it is anything but.  I believe we have just become split from old ways of deep healing and spiritual nourishment, which may include rituals in which we can honour the dead, mourn, and then release our feelings, rather than holding onto them.  I believe if we are prepared to do the healing work properly that it needn't take us that long at all.  (A healer whose book I came across recently, Brandon Bays, is someone who holds this view and illustrates why in 'The Journey'. This is a practical guide to some powerful healing work.  Brandon believes that all grief can be healed in a very short amount of time, if the healing work is carried out correctly.  She also believes that grief can stay in the cells of the body if it isn't properly dealt with, where it can cause disease.)

This quote I came across illustrates this constant struggle of how to live a life well, from Paolo Coelho's summary of Carlos Castaneda's work:  "The world is unfathomable and mysterious, just as we all are. The art of the warrior consists of reconciling the terror of being a man with the wonder of being a man."  Modern life still contains much to be in awe of.  But the age we live in is rife with disconnection from ourselves, from each other and also the natural world.  Just taking some time to allow wonder back into our lives would in itself, be quite a powerful healing tool.  

The important thing is that we do need to quest for our own spiritual experiences ourselves.  It isn't enough to simply read about others' experiences.  We need to go within and listen to what the soul is trying to tell us -- the magic and mystery of life cannot be sated purely by reading books when often the beauty is beyond words.  We may find the soul often doesn't care a damn for our ego-led ambitions and perhaps a compromise may have to be reached.  But to ignore the signs of a restless soul I believe, is to fall into a pit of feelings of emptiness, or despair and sometimes, mental illness. The difficulty is often in allowing ourselves to shed years of conditioning in order that we take a risk.   

Letting go of old beliefs can't happen on blind faith and nor should it, and beginning to believe in something greater and a magic or mystery to life often won't happen without opening up a little to life first.  Breaking down the armour and learning to trust a little.  Allowing your soul full expression, rather than trying to neutralise pain through Prozac.  In order to touch the depths of who we really are, we have to allow the fullest expression of our experiences to inform and enrich us where possible.  This is not always easy work, but it is necessary for healing to begin.

If you find the world you live in has started to to cause you dissatisfaction, then perhaps it's time to take a bit of a leap of faith.  And if you could use a little encouragement and inspiration, perhaps this book might help.  It's called 'Tales of a Nomad' and (from Amazon): "is the story of Rita Golden Gelman, an ordinary woman who is living an extraordinary existence. At the age of forty-eight, on the verge of a divorce, Rita left an elegant life in L.A. to follow her dream of connecting with people in cultures all over the world. In 1986 she sold her possessions and became a nomad, living in a Zapotec village in Mexico, sleeping with sea lions on the Galapagos Islands, and residing everywhere from thatched huts to regal palaces. She has observed orangutans in the rain forest of Borneo, visited trance healers and dens of black magic, and cooked with women on fires all over the world. Rita’s example encourages us all to dust off our dreams and rediscover the joy, the exuberance, and the hidden spirit that so many of us bury when we become adults."  

She says:  “I move throughout the world without a plan, guided by instinct, connecting through trust, and constantly watching for serendipitous opportunities.” 

In other words, her whole life has become a leap of faith.  Perhaps if more of us were willing to dance with uncertainty, we might have a better relationship with life and death and everything in-between.

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