I believe that medicine’s potential is much more than the version we see in the world today. A doctor should be an educator with the goal of bringing patients to a place of deeper understanding of who they are in the world. To me, medicine is ultimately about self-empowerment through self-knowledge and growth.
We’re all like knights breaking camp every morning, setting out to meet our destiny, wandering the dangerous countryside. And we all have an intensely vulnerable side, gravely in need of assistance, like the damsel in distress. It’s all playing out inside us. The landscape is our headspace. The dragons are in our consciousness, and the damsel is our developing inner self.
It’s best to be trained, armed, and oriented, don’t you think?
First of all, certain ideas can be yourorientation. Here is a hugely important guiding principle as important as a map to the Grail castle itself:
You are not your thoughts
Thoughts come from all sorts of places. Thoughts come from your ancestors. They come from experiences in your youth, like the way your parents used to speak to you; or your siblings or other past relations. Thoughts come from the media you watch, the music you listen to.
Your thoughts are arbitrary and often irrelevant. They actually lie to you all the time. Just because you have a thought it doesn’t mean there’s any truth to them (credit to Dr Daniel Amen, psychiatrist). Getting oriented to your thoughts is like becoming an expert on dragons. You have to know their movements well if you want to slay them.
Second of all, exercises to develop an observer state are like training with your weapon.
The idea here is to practice a relationship with your thoughts where you can become an independent observer of them. You separate from them. Kindness and curiosity are huge keys. In one very useful exercise you imagine you are a person on a hillside watching a train go by. The train cars are the different thoughts. Judgement is not helpful. Any content to the thoughts is workable, just stay calmly detached from them. Stay on the hillside. Let a focussed observation of your breath movement be an anchor to you to keep you in the present and on task. Stay removed from your thoughts and on your breath. Let’s the thoughts drift by like a train car. Your focus inevitably drifts away from your breath to a thought. Realize it, and re-focus on your breath. Start process from the top. Repeat. Focus, drift, realize you’ve drifted, refocus. Repeat again. There’s no other way than to practice. It’s dazzling how the power behind the neutrality of the observer state grows and builds. (Further reading: Gradual Awakening by Stephen Levine)
Furthermore, you’re going to need a shield:
Silence is your shield. You have to be alone with your thoughts if you want to learn to develop the observer state. Being in silence is a necessity. Once you start to practice having silence in your life, cut back the media at other times of the day to give yourself a chance. Its always amazing to me that fearful people are often watching terrifying programs and don’t connect the two. Despondent people are listening to the news and not connecting the two. Until you have skills to fight back and defend yourself, limit engagement with media mind-battery.
And, finally, if you want to cover some ground you have to learn to get comfortable in the saddle:
Life confronts us with crisis after crisis, war after war… election after election. It keep us from feeling settled. What’s the opposite of settling in? It’s when we emotionally hold our breath or when we are waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s like visiting a friends house and keeping your jacket on and not sitting down. We don’t want to wait for the outer world to meet some criteria to allow us sink into the moment. We have to learn to control it ourselves.
Being in silence, separating from your thoughts and developing the observer state will gain you access to an attainable and reproducible state of mind that is like sitting in the saddle: feeling at home. Many people only get there when a life situation is really accommodating, or when a drug or a desire being met delivers them there. So they end up depending on an external fix or not finding contentment very often because life is not so accommodating. The idea is to learn to be your own fix. Be the medication yourself.
It’s being able to find a home in any circumstance. Surrender is a key. It comes as a result of your own inner activity, your own enthusiasm. It’s as satisfying as rescuing the fair maiden who had been locked in a tower.
Being the hero of your own life contains universal truth. Everything else flows from there. Controlling the inner landscape leads to a healthy habit life which leads to good physical health. And that’s always the point of the bulletin: to do the most with what we’ve got, in the place where we are.
I’ll conclude with a favorite prayer (from the Buddhist tradition) which acknowledges the eternity in every moment and offers a nice cap to today’s discussion. You might have heard this one before.
I have arrived I am home In the here In the now I am solid I am free In the Ultimate, I do dwell
(Further reading: The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Naht Hanh)