INTEGRATIVE + ONLINE PSYCHIATRY + HOLISTIC HEALTH

Category: Spirituality & Health

Awakening to the wonderment of nature

Epilogue to COVID-19

The U.S. and all the other countries of the world lost the cherished and innocent beliefs of individuality, separateness, and independence.

There was no security from a devastating infectious pathogen, quickly crossing permeable national boundaries. The self-conceived bubble of safety and autonomy had burst into the reality of living in a global interconnected population. The impact of one individual potentially effects the health and wellbeing of all on the planet.

If you prefer to listen, a podcast version is available as you go to the full post article.

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Assessing risk at falling dominos by looking for where to stoop the reaction

COVID-19’s Vulnerable Hosts & Path Forward

Does COVID-19 have favorite human hosts that are its preferred place to infect, live, and thrive? If so, what will be the key to the prevention of future infection and recurrences of the sometimes deadly respiratory virus?

Control of such a highly contagious viral illness is unlikely, especially in the short term, as universal compliance with social distancing in our society appears to become more attenuated with time, partisan political ideas, and the degree of confusing information.

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Rooster crow morning wakeup

COVID-19 Wake Up Call

The current COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call to understand all the contributing factors, and steps needed to protect ourselves and future generations from recurrences and the devastation.

Hopefully, soon, COVID-19 will peak and subsides. Its rapid spread and lethality have had a devastating and tragic effect on the most vulnerable people and the vital infrastructure of our society. 

When the final analysis is done, what will be learned and taken away as practical ideas or as more profound wisdom? Some useful areas of interest and inquiry may focus on

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huge hurricane over florida - hurricanes, depression, and recovery

Hurricanes – Trauma – Recovery

Hurricanes, as the recent Florence, demonstrate the extremes of nature

with massive destruction and disruptions of lives. The full impact of the storm forced people and communities into survival mode.  The process of recovery, the rebuilding of homes and lives begins as the storm moves and resides. For some people, the aftermath of the storm is a time of reflection, self-assessment, prospect taking, and possibly personal transformation.

Mary* was a young a single mother, divorced, living just above the poverty line, with a thirteen-year-old daughter.

With her new waitress job, she was able to move into a small rental cottage near a scenic local river. It was the first time she felt some security. She now had a place to call her own, where she could store her meager belongings. Her daughter settled into a new school.

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Meditation, mindfulness, happiness - zen garden with massage stones and waterlily

Meditation – Mental Health Essential

Meditation, Mindfulness, or Introspective Practices

have well proven their value in holistic mental health work for mood, anxiety, addiction, and health issues. Meditation can be an essential tool for happiness and mental health. Enhancement of longevity and decrease in brain aging has also been demonstrated as an added benefit. In many other areas, there are proven benefits as in work, school, athletic performance, sleep, and creativity. The mere awareness in meditation – that thoughts and emotion are of a changing and transient nature – is enlightening for those felt imprisoned by harsh negative thoughts and emotions.

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huge hurricane over florida - hurricanes, depression, and recovery

Hurricanes, Depression, and Recovery

“Hurricanes, Depression, and Recovery” article is a story of one person’s tragedy from severe depression and hurricane losses. Experiencing a larger force of nature brought him not only to a deeper understanding of his life but to healing and recovery. The hurricane calamity also affected the multitude of people living in the same destructive path. The devastating hurricane or a storm can be compared to depressive illness: both need a path to recovery. A story presents one man’s journey of despair and loss, to redemption and healing.

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Steps to Health

Ten Holistic Steps for Mental Health

Ten Holistic Steps for Mental Health

by Ron Parks, MD & edited by Shan Parks

Steps to HealthTake the steps for your emotional, mental, and physical health.

The failure to get positive results can be from following an inappropriate program for your needs. Consider exploring some complementary or alternative options that can bring positive improvement. The goals of broadening your personal program would be for you to regain optimal health, fitness, and well-being.

The following 10 step can begin your journey:

  1. Review available information on holistic or integrative strategies for health improvement or illness recovery.

I encourage you to seek more information. Participate in making choices in any areas concerning your health, especially when there are needs for treatment or intervention. Being proactively involved is essential to improving your health.

Find educational materials or services that may be available from either your current health care providers or in your community. Other sources of information may be from trusted and reliable media sources as the Internet, blog sites, or from printed materials.

  1. Choose preferably Integrative Medicine, Psychology, Psychiatry, or Holistic Therapy Programs.

Get the help you need. Consultations with other medical or health care practitioners especially those with a more holistic and integrative orientation are recommended.

Rather than a narrow focus, addressing only a few symptoms or one aspect of the entire person— an active, validating, caring, and holistic approach helps the whole person. Selection of a broader, integrative program is essential, in my opinion, for optimal progress and improvement.  Click on the following:  Integrative psychiatry, medicine, and holistic therapies

refuge, journey to fullfilment, health

  1. Be open and receptive to integrative care that looks at underlying causes, triggers, and risk factors.

The goal would be to eliminate or reduce any contributors that interfere with you being successful with your health and well-being goals.

Significant, “co-occurring” problems in your current life or from unresolved past issues, if unrecognized, may interfere with your health recovery or with your ability to make progress towards your health goals.Some areas that may be missed or ignored, in your health care evaluations or program, that may need attention, are:

  • interpersonal conflicts, recent divorce, or failed relationships
  • stress overload
  • lack of skills as with planning and time management
  • job, career loss, or a financial crisis
  • a move or loss of home
  • the death of a significant other or loved one
  • auto accidents, recent surgery, or hospitalization for a serious illness or injury history, history of other traumas, traumatic stress disorder symptoms, traumatic brain injuries
  • early life abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, rape
  • emotional or mental health issues as anxiety, panic, fatigue, depression, bipolarity, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive problems, developmental issues, Asperger’s
  • drug, alcohol abuse, or addictions
  • eating disorders and obesity
  • unrecognized health and illness related problems
  1. Choose natural alternatives and a healthier lifestyle, as this is often the better and safer choice for you to reach your goals.

Embracing a healthy lifestyle will decrease health problems and offers you the opportunity for improved health and longevity. Awareness and support of the mind, body and spiritual dimensions are essential for wellness, healing, and prevention of illness.

Receive the benefit of support from a holistic practitioner, a group, an educational program, a teacher, or a coach. You are entitled to have the guidance and services needed to feel better and to do better!

  1. Begin a healthy diet and nutrition. Choose:
  • more whole and plant-based foods
  • organic foods when possible
  • avoid process foods with sugar and chemical additives
  • eat vegetables, beans, whole grains (preferably gluten free), greens, fruits, nuts, healthy fats (as avocado, olive oil, fats in nuts and seeds)
  • if not vegetarian, when possible, choose organic, free range chicken, beef, or fish from a healthy ocean or natural unpolluted water source

Get advice from a holistically oriented nutritionist or health coach. Instead of using prescription and over-the-counter medications which are frequently used to treat symptoms – when drugs are not indicated (check with your holistic health care provider first) – consider natural alternatives and the taking of nutritional supplements such as vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and herbs. Research first and get good advice from a trusted resource or a holistic health care provider.

 

assorted vegables

  1. Exercise is crucial in maintaining health and promoting wellness and illness recovery.

Different types of exercise are encouraged per preferences and ability. Extensive research on exercise has confirmed its value in reducing risks of:

  • heart disease
  • hypertension
  • mood disturbance
  • cancer
  • dementia
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • stress and sleep related illness

Only exercise to your capacity. If you are just not sure where to start or if there is any potential for stroke, heart attack, or other adverse consequences — get an exercise prescription or advice from a health care provider or a personal trainer.

swimmer, exercise

A variety of exercises in your program will give you the best overall training effect and prevent boredom:

  • biking
  • walking, running, biking, and hiking
  • weight training
  • dancing, aerobic classes
  • swimming
  • yoga
  • qigong
  • tennis and other individual or team sports

Any active movement is helpful and beneficial. There are calming, stress reducing, focusing exercises — like meditation, which can be a fantastic addition to you and your program.

  1. Optimize and improve your poor sleep or insomnia.

Avoid getting into sleep debt or sleep deprivation (not getting enough sleep). Sleep disturbances have been associated with significant medical problems:

  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • accidents
  • poor work, and school performance
  • mood disturbances

Sleeping dogA good start is to reduce stress, over-stimulation, and activity overload. Do meditative or deep relaxation exercises. Improve moods, reduce anxiety and worry. If there is significant mood or anxiety problems, see an appropriate healthcare professional or therapist for assessment and treatment if indicated. See Dr. Parks’ articles at http://ronparksmd.com/ on related topics. If daytime sleepiness or history of loud snoring occurs, see a sleep specialist — as a sleep disorder as sleep apnea may need to be recognized and treated. See, Sleep Disorder article.

  1. Have a thorough evaluation by an integrative healthcare provider if there is any possibility of other hidden health issues.

These may compromise your recovery or interfere with reaching your health goals. Sometimes imbalances in the body can result in illness or health compromise. Lab work or testing may be indicated as diagnostic tests for:

  • allergies, anemia, diabetes, heart disease, infection
  • hormonal imbalances as found in thyroid, adrenal, ovarian, or testicular problems
  • auto-immune or inflammatory illness
  • early cancer
  • nutritional status tests for deficiencies in vitamins minerals
  • elimination diets or digestion function tests
  1. Check out for environmental factors that may play a role in health and disease.

Overload, sensitivities, or reactivity, to or with toxic environmental substances and chemicals can impair health or hinder recovery. These may be present in air, chemical fumes (perfumes, pesticides, industrial chemicals), soil contamination, or in use of certain pesticides or food additives. There is a growing concern about the use of genetically modified foods.  Visit American Academy of Environmental Medicine.

landscape, fullfilment, completion, wellbeingToxicity in the environment can include “toxic” or irritating relationships, excessive noise, intrusiveness, or disruptions by others as in your workplace or where you live.

Other toxic situations may be the lack of a quiet sleep or rest place, excessive electronic or radio-frequency disturbances and exposure (TV, radios, cell phones, microwave).

Consult with reliable sources of information and with an integrative health care provider who has expertise in the areas of environmental health.

  1. Recognize the importance of spirituality in your life.

Study, reflect and apply the wisdom from the great world spiritual, religious philosophies, and practices. Allow your personal faith to be an important part of your transformation into a more positive state of health, well-being, and illness recovery.

Water Lilly SpiritualityWhen stuck, for example, in states of depression or despondency — when traditional mental health service used alone have not helped — surrounding oneself with an inspirational support group can bring about a release from stifling patterns of personal thoughts and beliefs. Shifts can occur towards a better emotional and spiritual attunement and adjustment to life’s demands and conflicts.

Positive outcomes happen in many different types of religious or spiritually oriented support or practice groups. Finding healthy activities – that bring joy, purpose, fulfillment, meaning, and gratification to your daily lives – can open the doors of the spirit and promote health.

QUESTION – COMMENTS:

What would your first step be to improve your health or recovery?

Pondering a Pond, saltwater flotation

The Saltwater Flotation Experience

Pondering a Pond

Are you unhappy with the results of your current too narrow focused physical or mental health care program? The failure to resolve your problems or to get optimal results might be from a program that has a too narrow or conventional focus. Considering exploring some complementary or alternative options that may help or enlarge your current healthcare work. The goals of doing so would be for regaining optimal health and well-being. The following is an article, looking at one of the potentially beneficial interventions or therapies that could support you in reaching your health and wellness goals.

The Invitation for Saltwater Flotation

A friend and colleague invited me to experience saltwater flotation in his Asheville program called Still Point Wellness. “Still Point” not only has a saltwater flotation tank but highly skilled massage therapists, which includes Esalen Massage, yoga therapy, massage workshops and a Somatic Psychologist. I had experienced a saltwater flotation tank session many years ago when visiting a yoga retreat center earlier in my career as an integrative internist and psychiatrist. My memory of it was pleasant and very relaxing. I was eager to give it another try, especially with my interest in integrative strategies for health and well-being.

Over the years I have had rich experiences in many different integrative approaches to mind, body and spiritual therapies like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. Water has always conveyed to me a meaning of cleansing, flow, flexibility, and consciousness. In Taoism – the Way – the represented symbol is water (see Existence – A Story, by David Hinton).  In yoga, both in prayer and song, the representation of consciousness is often the ocean. When I was nine years old and hospitalized with post-polio meningitis, I was treated with soaks in a hot tub and hyperthermia treatments (being wrapped in warm wet blankets). Years later, my father had come to visit after he had broken several ribs; he hadn’t slept well for weeks. When he rested on the waterbed I had at the time, his pain was relieved, and he slept like a “baby.” I was in the water a lot growing up as I had learned to swim with the “dead man’s float,” which is floating stretched out on my stomach. I even got to float in the Dead Sea during a visit to Israel.  I know now as an ardent swimmer that swimming is about being one with the water, learning the art of flow, technique, breath control, and streamlining. So, when I got the chance, I gladly accepted the invitation to return to a salt water float experience.

Saltwater Flotation Tank Details

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered, and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons (benefits) on his (her) fellow (people).”  — Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1949, p. 30.

Before I take you on my “Hero’s Journey” – as I describe my three 90-minute float session experience –  in the salt water flotation tank, there are some interesting details about flotation.

Saltwater flotation tank sessions typically are either 60 or 90 minutes.  The flotation space is like a sacred sanctuary with minimal noise, darkness, and a marked reduction in the usual bombardment of stressful stimulation emanating from the outside world. The body floats on top of the comfortable, warm water that is supersaturated with Epsom Salt. The nervous system and brain settle down from its more active brain waves – from beta to the more relaxed Alpha – as it then drifts to the even more relaxed Theta, which appears near sleep or when coming out of sleep.  Enhancement of creativity, learning, problem solving, spiritual attunement and the gaining of a more enlightened perspective have been associated with these more relaxed brain states. Flotation research came to public attention through the research work of John Lilly and others who were interested in the effect of sensory deprivation on people’s bodies, brains, and nervous systems. Studies in the States and worldwide have supported the positive benefits of sensory deprivation and use of float tanks for various mental and physical health benefits: as pain reduction, stress reduction, anxiety and mood improvement.

One can experience saltwater flotation for relaxation as this can be a clearing for the mind and senses from outside stresses. Floating can help one go deeper into a more meditative and spiritual state of mindfulness, awareness, and being. In the state of deep relaxation and heightened receptivity, techniques or programs to foster change as self-hypnosis, other self-improvements or educational programs can be utilized. Floating in the Saltwater Flotation Tank allows better brain learning as this reinforces the integration of new learning material, which can improve performance skills for artists and athletes. Flotation also complements other therapy work, body work, and other healing methods. There are now flotation centers offering flotation therapy around the world with a continuing growth since the 1980’s. Several professional athletic teams utilize float tanks in their training facilities.

In Frank Lawson’s book, Psychoneuroplasticity Protocol for Addiction, he discusses the use of sensory deprivation in his addiction treatment program.  As stimuli, can have an addictive nature, whether drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, or any of the other readily available stimuli that our minds seek for entertainment, gratification, escape or stimulation. And it is easy to become not only addicted but a slave to the stimuli of choice, which can take over one’s life. This can lead to a loss of spontaneity, awareness, responsiveness, creativity, and focus on what is important or essential. Some flotation sessions in a therapy context may be a helpful tool for “stimulation addiction.” See Neuroplasticity article.

Flowing River, saltwater flotationStudies have shown that saltwater flotation sessions reduce elevated levels of stress hormones and increase beneficial hormones like dopamine and endorphin levels. Some of the benefits reported are lowering blood pressure, and aiding in the reduction of stress-driven illnesses and degenerative diseases, as well as improvement in day to day performance, longevity, memory, awareness, and well-being (see Awareness article) .

The positive effects of saltwater flotation can be achieved in other ways, but this could take longer periods of dedicated training, practice, and skill development just as it does with the Zen Monks in their years of monastery training. The use of meditation, yoga or other ways of gaining sensory deprivation and isolation, can also bring some of the similar benefits as floating.  Salt Water Flotation is ultimately a unique experience for each person and has the potential to have positive benefits for each and every one according to their needs.

For more detail and discussion about the salt water flotation tank, see the Still Point website and blog and an article there by Michael Hutchison who wrote a comprehensive book about salt water flotation. I enjoyed reading Hutchison’s excellent detailed book about floating and all the facts, history, scientific research, etc., The Book of Floating.

My experience in the Saltwater Flotation Tank

My float experience is similar to the Hero’s Journey, (see an article by William B. Hart – Hero’s Journey)  a theme Joseph Campbell develops in his book, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”  The hero’s journey per Campbell has three stages as typically found in mythology – the departure, the initiation, and the return. As I had scheduled three floats, I felt the number three rang true for my anticipated “hero’s journey”.

“The Cave you Fear to enter Holds the Treasure you Seek” – Joseph Campbell – found on the wall of Asheville’s fabulous Elements restaurant.

The “Hero’s Departure” stage

according to Campbell, is the preliminary period before actually going into a new adventure. In my situation, this stage would be the planning and preparation for my anticipated salt water flotation. I become enticed or beckoned by a trusted friend and the call for adventure – to explore the unknown, expand personal growth and spirituality. I had the willingness to enter the portal into another world or space (the Float Tank) as the hero of myth goes on a quest. This departure period for me also was a time of recall of prior experiences with flotation and water-related experiences (some pleasant and some traumatic). My anxiety and ambivalence had to be overcome to follow through with the planned float.  A friend and an owner of Still Point Wellness helped to get me past any personal fears and reluctance. He gave me an overview of what to expect with Salt Water Flotation and some practical tips on participating in the process.

The final step in the initial departure stage of the “hero’s journey” is to pass the “thresh-hold guardian,” which enabled me to enter (the door into the float tank) the unknown entry way into the unfamiliar experience and the darkness. Still Point made all this pleasant with its well-trained staff. Complete guidance was given on how to enter, use the flotation tank, and about how the session would run: as the knock you would hear on the outside of the tank when your time was up, how to use the showers, ear plugs, towels if you got salt water in your eyes, how to exit the tank when needed, and of course much more.

The “Hero’s Initiation” stage

is the second of the three stages in the “Hero’s Journey” per Campbell. My initiation began at the point I entered the flotation tank for the first time and closed the door into the silent darkness, and pleasant softness of floating in the warm (near body temperature) Epsom salt saturated water. Rapidly, the unfamiliar becomes familiar with the onset of a soothing deep relaxation. My inquisitive mind became more and more active with general wonderment about the physical experience. I focused on some discomfort in my body, which led to some experimentation with body position. I then began to wonder about how much time had passed or when the session would be over. My general awareness then shifted toward observing just how active my mind had become out of the depth of silence. Specific residues of the content of my prior day’s activity and thoughts or worries came up. I found my mind looking for purposeful mental activities to do during the float, such as doing some periods of meditation and mantra, or observing for visual images to come out of my mind or from the darkness.
Swimming Hole, saltwater flotation

In my second float, I was much more relaxed with less mental activity as well as having some periods of being in and out of light sleep, which is called in the literature the “hypnogogic state.”  This is where deeper states of learning or the potential for making deep change in habits can occur. Awareness of time seemed to disappear. As I was preparing for a swimming competition, I spent a little time reviewing or rehearsing the sequence of events I would be doing. Flotation is used by performers and athletes and is reported to be helpful. After the float, I improved my swimming time in all five events in which I had participated.

The third float was very pleasant and seemed to go by quickly as I went into a deeper state of relaxation and meditation. There was an awakening of consciousness to the transient nature of thought and mind, from the silence and emptiness to the arising of a rich landscape of thoughts, ideas, and insights. The experience is as varied as individual differences and life experiences. There exists the potential benefit of new learning and perspective change.

The “Hero’s Return Stage”

is the third of the three stages in the “Hero’s Journey” per Campbell. When I exited the flotation tank, I began the task of integration of the float experience.  The difference in the body’s level of relaxation, the mind’s level of heightened awareness and sharper sensory acuity, and the new insights and learning – needed reflection and processing. Also, there was the new challenge of encountering the once familiar world through the changed mental, physical and spiritual perspective arising from the recent journey (float tank experiences). This process of reintegration is also helped by experienced helpers, teachers or mentors (as helpful staff at Still Point) and by reading and study with the books and the references noted in this article.

Water-lilly floatingAs floating is a process, there is a benefit to continuing the journey with more floats and processing, which is also true with other positive conventional and alternative learning, adventures, and therapies. If one becomes more aware, open, accepting, compassionate, restored, transformed, spiritually attuned, or enlightened, there is more potential not only to be helpful to one’s self but to others.

Ron Parks, MD, writer and Shan Parks, editor

Question/Comment:

Do you want to consider other strategies or options to gain improved health and wellness (comment below)?

If you are unhappy with the results of your current healthcare program, investigate some of the options discussed by Dr. Parks, join his email newsletter list by subscribing below, or consider a consultation with Dr. Parks by phone or an educational telemedicine session by VSee.

 

Spiritual Emergence, Recovery

Neuroplasticity – Recovery & Transformation

post 0716 pasque-flower-edited

Recovery and Transformation are often felt to be impossible for individuals with addictions or mental health problem as depression, anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and other stress or painful conditions.

There is new hope with the advances in neuroplasticity, neuroscience and its technology to identify, modify or change neuro-circuitry, behavior, responses and reactions. Progress in better understandings of the psychology of the human mind and behavior have contributed to greater success in overcoming what was known previously, which in the past was considered hopeless and beyond the reach of those who had been affected by unrelenting, disabling conditions. The study of other healing methods and traditions, as the 12-Step-Programs for addictions, also has led to more successful integrative treatment programs.

As in the first two steps of 12-Step-Programs, for addiction recovery, there must first be the acceptance of the disease as such, and realization of the impossibility of recovery without profound change. Pursuing treatment on a superficial level for an addiction or any other persistent or chronic illness often fails, such as making limited attempts to make cosmetic changes in one personal way, learned habits, or in the expectation that medication will help. To the person afflicted, life has become unmanageable, and the individual “me” admits to being powerless to make the deep changes needed for recovery. The nature of the illness often has led to feeling hopeless, helpless and powerlessness.

The reason for repeated failures or relapses is that a person unsuccessfully tries to use what was learned from earlier life as:

  • non-effective coping
  • use of manipulation and attempts to control others and the environment
  • efforts to rebuild failing relationships to fulfill unmet needs for nurturance, love, and acceptance
  • repeated ineffective efforts to feel sufficient, empowered and adequate

To recover and transform, one has to get beyond ego, personality, habits, reactions, and behaviors.

If there comes a realization of the powerlessness to change the existing status quo, the opportunity exists to embrace the insight that there are the greater potentiality and possibilities beyond a person’s individual ways and self-identity. When one can’t find any viable alternatives from the repertoire of prior failed actions and behaviors – one has “hit the wall” or “rock bottom” – survival is threatened, the need to tap into a greater “well of resourcefulness” hopefully becomes apparent. After running out of the “customary” choices for survival, there has to be a willingness to let go of the old and embrace options out of the larger sphere of positive possibilities – turning one’s life over to a “higher power.”

The idea for acceptance of a higher power is confusing to some that come to 12-Step-Programs, who may associate this with earlier life negative religious experiences or associations with an abusive authoritarian or dominating figure, especially if there has been traumatic abuse. Gaining flexibility to explore and invest in behaviors or practices to bring about recovery and transformation is what is needed. When stuck in an inflexible state of a rigid self, one needs to shift from an unproductive personal belief about power and control existing in the limitation of individual development and programming since birth, to the realization that there is much more: a greater potentiality, a higher resource beyond the personal limitations and rigid entrapments.

One of the barriers to change relates to deep held core beliefs of:

  1. not being safe
  2. not being loved
  3. not being enough
  4. not being worthy – burdened with guilt and shame

Arriving at a place of great despair, a “dark night of the soul,” there is a need of letting go of the established, old limiting “ego identity.” Embracing spiritual attunement becomes the only viable option, with an acceptance that there is a greater field of possibilities and potentialities, where love, acceptance, and inclusion prevail. Embracing the essence of being – the higher power – allows for profound empowerment and motivation for the steps required for transformation – restoration of “sanity” as identified in the 2nd of the 12 Steps.

Spiritual emergence

is the experience of personal awakening, beyond the constriction and restriction, set by the trained and programmed part of the mind (the ego) – to a higher level of perception, realization, and functioning. A new developing integrative addiction treatment program in Asheville, NC – Center for Spiritual Emergence (see their website) – describes spiritual emergence as a “natural opening and awakening that many people experience as a result of coming to terms with the difficulties of life, through an established faith tradition, as a result of systematic spiritual practices or through unexpected peak experiences.  Spiritual emergences gently allow one to experience and embrace their natural connection to the transcendent domain, forever changing their limiting self-concepts into a more integrative, awakened self”.

Psychoneuroplasticity (PNP)

as presented by Lawlis in his well-done book – Psychoneuroplasticity Protocols for Addictions (Lawlis et al. 2015) is portrayed as an evidence-based science with restorative, rehabilitation, and transformational tools and applications. PNP is founded on post 0716 edit mindset-developments in neuroscience, neural therapies, rehabilitation medicine, addiction and other integrative approaches to mental health treatments.  Though the book focuses on evidence-based treatment approaches for addiction, it is very applicable to the care of other mental health issues and problems and supports the value of integrative approaches and therapies. Brain plasticity is based on the understanding of brain activity, neuronal circuitry, and the ability for the stimulation, modification, retraining, and growth of nerve cells and their complex networks.

Positive brain plasticity can be helpful in many problematic areas as:

  • cognitive processing, worries, physical pain, migraines
  • emotions, depression, anger, reactiveness, stress
  • anxiety, fear, phobias, obsessiveness, distractibility
  • alertness, focus, arousal, ADHD, brain fog, fatigue
  • PTSD, sleep disturbance, addictions, cravings, over-weight

To set the stage for healing, recovery, transformation, and neuroplasticity, any difficulties in above noted areas, may need to be addressed early on. Several are discussed in greater detail below.

Anxiety and fear

can be a disabling condition and a major interference with life and productivity and can act as a barrier to recovery from other mental health condition, including addictions and other health problems. The following can contribute to anxiety or panic like conditions:

  1. unmanaged stress
  2. prior life losses and trauma
  3. lack of adequate parenting or an early life nurturing environment
  4. adverse effects from medication and drugs
  5. life-threatening physical illness

Resulting impairment can become chronic with only temporary relief, if any, from drugs or use of substances that could be harmful to one’s health and well-being. Studies of brain waves often will show high-frequency beta waves in localized regions of the brain suggesting increased activation and the need to retrain and repair the brain’s neural networks to more relaxed frequencies and a healthier state. Mental health professionals sometimes will label people as having other mental health conditions or personality disorders, like borderline personality disorders, because they have not been able to grow and mature emotionally. The behaviors and personality may be related to earlier life abuse, persistent severe anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed – resulting in resistance or the inability to resolve severe chronic anxiety that blocks healthy development around their families, social network, and peers.

Traumatic life events

can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can either be of a simple type where there has only been one major traumatic event or complex where there have been multiple accumulative traumas. A person’s life development can get stuck in a time-relation to an earlier trauma. Integrative type treatment protocols and therapies focusing on treatment of  trauma, as those presented by Lawlis (Lawlis et al. 2015) have the potential to bring relief by relieving the emotional connection to trauma memories and supporting positive brain changes and plasticity . The use of neurofeedback type treatments as the BAUD (bioacoustical utilization device) can disrupt the reconsolidation of traumatic memory and has been shown to relieve symptoms of PTSD (RESET Therapy). Relaxation or stress-reducing therapies, music, meditation practices, breathing techniques, nutritional diet, neuro-biofeedback and skill development can be a part of neuroplasticity enhancing protocols. Other sensory or trauma-focused therapies as EMDR, are also utilized to form new and healthy neuro-circuitry and response patterns.

Depression

can interfere with recovery and be due a multitude of factors including:

  • response to negative life events, chronic stress, trauma, and losses
  • low self-esteem
  • genetics, nutritional deficiencies, and medical illness
  • toxic environmental exposure including to drugs and alcohol

With depression there may be associated: ruminations and obsessional thought, as seen in OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder); anxiety; loss of productivity; feelings of loss of control; loss of interest in things; a downward spiral of increasing depression and development of suicidal thinking, which can lead to loss of life or complication with other medical illness. If suicidal thinking occurs, immediate help should be sought from mental health professionals.

The brain, if studied with EEG brain wave studies in identified areas of the brain, will show a pattern of under activation and low voltage waves. Neuroplasticity focused protocols look for healthy interventions to bring these areas of the nervous system back online and restore responsive feelings, energy, joy and happiness without the individual resorting to using potentially dangerous drugs or chemicals. Intervention may include therapies as noted above including:

  • neurofeedback or neuro-therapies, BAUD
  • psychotherapies including trauma-focused therapies as EMDR
  • exercise, nutritional diet, supplements
  • sound, rhythm, aroma, movement, and dance therapy
  • mindful meditation, breathing techniques
  • social network development with active peer support
  • coping, relapse prevention, and social skill development

Cyclic patterns of disturbed emotions and behavior

can interfere with recovery. These can present as periods of irritability, rage, heightened anxiety, obsessiveness, sleep disturbance, periods of dramatic increase in activity and hyper focus alternating with times of fatigue, depression, loss of motivation and loss of interest in things. These patterns are sometimes labeled as being in the Bipolar Spectrum (see Dr. Parks article) but can also be related to PTSD and prior accumulative trauma. Many of the above-noted treatments and others are considerations to correct altered behavioral pattern, skill deficits, dysfunctional brain patterns, and neuro-circuitry.

Consider broader integrative or neuroplasticity related approaches if you or a loved one has difficulties with any the above-discussed symptoms or conditions. Seek out competent and well-trained health care practitioners trained in these areas.

Written by Ron Parks, MD, edited by Shan Parks

Question:

What symptoms or conditions do you or a significant other have that may be helped by one of the above-discussed approaches? I would be interested in your comments or opinions. Please respond below.

Awareness is often ignored, which is one of the most significant of factors for healing - opening the door to healing

Awareness – The Core of Healing

awareness opening door

“Why do you stay in prison when the door is wide open?”

From Rumi the 13th Century Sufi mystic poet

Awareness is often ignored, which is one of the most significant of factors for healing.

Developing awareness, especially to constricting attachments, is an important step in the recovery from illness and pain.  Centuries ago, the Buddha realized the link between suffering and attachment. In sickness, the mind tends to hold tightly to a narrowed set of thoughts, interpretations, and feelings. The repetitive focus leads to entrapment in the mental activity defining the health threatening conditions. The mind is naturally drawn to what is considered a threat as it then gives immediate attention to what the body needs. For healing to occur, however, there needs to be a shift towards a greater awareness and openness for new opportunities, solutions, positive health behaviors, adaptations, and skill development.

Someone who has chronic pain, addictions, depression, cancer or any life-threatening illness – experiences different levels of suffering during the disease. As a result from the illness, the person may find their mind is locked into thoughts about their losses. Fears may begin to develop regarding future difficulties. An individual may worry about death, the loss of function, or the capacity to work or care for one’s self or others. An important aspect of the healers work is to provide a listening presence, wise guidance and education. Also needed, is the sharing of techniques that facilitate the release from unhealthy attachment – especially to rigid ideas, concepts, and unproductive worries. The hope is to help alleviated pain and suffering, and to enhance healing and well-being.

The healing arts have adopted fundamental ideas, which were derived from schools of spiritual philosophy, psychology, and religion.

The value of bringing awareness to the mind’s activity are emphasized for both healer and sufferer, which then counter tendencies towards fixed or rigid ideas as well as judgments and reactions. The so-called self-ego is our developed mental sphere of self-centered awareness, which contains our patterns of reactivity and response. Tight identity with the self-ego has a relative functional role for us as it aids us in adapting, interrelating and functioning in the everyday world. This developed self-ego has locked in perceptions and ideas of what different experiences mean in regards to rewards, nourishment or threat. Depending on the type of learning, parenting and earlier life experiences, the self-ego gets imprinted with adaptive or maladaptive learned patterns, reactive thoughts (judgments), concepts, images, and responses. In the case of early life trauma, for example, patterns and reactive thoughts may be maladaptive with less flexibility to adapt to changing circumstance, which gets perpetuated as pain and suffering.    see article on: Trauma – PTSD

dark cloud to awarenessWith illness or severe loss, the developed self-concept of one’s world is held more tightly.

The person then begins to be less adaptable to change and feels more vulnerable, which intensifies his or her fear and suffering. The degree of pain depends on the level of attachment to one’s developed worldview or biased perceptions, so the tighter the attachment, the greater the person’s inflexibility –  resulting in suffering. With greater rigidity comes a lessened ability to adapt, to change, to heal or transform. It is considered a healing crisis when an opportunity exists that moves along the natural developmental lines towards openness, acceptance, flexibility and spiritual growth. If you examine the healing process and spiritual growth, the essential ingredient in both is the ability to experience or recognize a “felt sense,” which is larger than one’s embedded cluster of ideas, reactivities, and repetitive pattern of responses to experienced situations. The degree of pain depends on the level of attachment to one’s developed worldview or biased perceptions, so the tighter the attachment, the greater the person’s inflexibility – resulting in suffering. With greater rigidity comes more significant pain and a lessened ability to adapt, to change, to heal or transform. It is considered a healing crisis when an opportunity exists which moves along natural developmental lines towards openness, acceptance, flexibility and spiritual growth. If you examine the healing process and spiritual growth, the essential ingredient in both is the ability to experience or recognize a “felt sense,” which is larger than one’s embedded cluster of ideas, reactivities, and repetitive pattern of responses to experienced situations.

Attempts to define or describe the undefinable, this “felt sense” of the greater, larger, all-inclusive space of being, which can be considered the infinite space of potentiality — has led to confusion due too many concepts or terms generated from the many fields of human endeavor: as science, spirituality, religion, and mysticism.  see article on: Depression

One’s ability to gain freedom from mental or physical suffering and attachments is aided by:

  1.  realization of the healing space, which may be beyond one’s contrived limiting self-notions of what we believe
  2.  getting beyond personal rigid fixed ideas, concepts, and beliefs
  3. allowing for movement and release from repetitive thought, actions, and behaviors
  4. developing an openness to a sense of more possibilities, flexibility, fearlessness, peacefulness, and serenity

Awareness, openness, acceptance, and flexibility contributes to better life adaptation, recovery, and healing.

Being stuck in fixed behaviors or patterns may be part of the actual cause or the perpetuation of illness.

The ability to be flexible and to make a change contributes to healing. If caught in an inflexible self-ego, a clouded level of awareness, or a lack of spiritual insight, one truly is in the dance of suffering and decay; while one awaits a release to freedom, new expression, and new experiences.

Alba con cielo blu e nuvole

Most schools of spiritual development teach the importance of following some form of regular practice. Gradual movement is encouraged – from rational thoughts, feelings, emotions and body awareness, to the freeing experience of the profound silence and serenity – as in prayer, meditation or contemplation. The release into the peace of “open awareness” goes beyond the usual mental activity of interpretation and judgment.

Each tradition has teachings related to:

  • the care and nurture of the body, mind, and spirit
  • the achievement of greater happiness
  • the gaining of freedom from the bondage of entrapment in a shallow, unenlightened world of an inflexible self-ego.

With development and practice, the division of self-ego and the spiritual awareness melt away into an experience of oneness and unity.

The progression to enlightenment often follows a course of gradual awakening of awareness, along with total acceptance of change and impermanence, which allow one to experience the deep witnessing that is always eternally present. The experience of an enlightened consciousness can either happen as a sudden shift, or as a mere glimpse in the course of practices, or may occur after some catastrophic event or bout of severe suffering. Integrative psychiatry and nondual therapies support and nurture the development of a stronger, yet flexible sense of self, self-awareness and self-esteem as part of the healing process. The goal is to promote a better functioning and adaptability to everyday life stresses. At the same time, work is done to enhance the individual growth and development beyond the personal self –  as well as the entrapping experiences of everything being about me or mine, to the deeper and more expansive realm of spiritual realization.  This exists as the natural state of peace, happiness, well-being and release from suffering. See article on: The Secret

Some practices to consider, for integrative healing and joyful progress, which are along the different lines of personal, compassionate, and balanced development of a healthy body, mind, soul and spirit:

  • nondual oriented therapies
  • active, consistent exercise, along with a balanced program of rest and recreation
  • yoga, chi gong, and meditation
  • spiritual practices from either one’s background, or from other religious or spiritual traditions
  • addiction and substance abuse treatment – if needed
  • reducing exposure to harmful environmental toxins and allergens
  • correction of medical, metabolic or hormone issues
  • following a more nutritious, organic, plant-based diet with correction of deficiencies — vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids; and health enhancement with herbs and botanicals
  • massage, acupuncture, deep relaxation, and other body-based therapies
  • “other-serving,” volunteer and community service work; charitable and compassionate assistance to others in need; caring for a pet
  • communing with nature and caring for the environment (personal and outside).

Study with a credible, well-trained and trustworthy nondual therapists, a spiritual teacher or a mentor when the opportunity presents itself. Read and study – individually or in groups – the writings and teachings of the great spiritual teachers, as well as other philosophies, and traditions. Be compassionately present. Be who you are, fully aware, liberated and open to the all existing potentialities — not a “who” that is constricted by limiting mind programming, learning, or limiting sets of reactivity patterns as from trauma experiences.

written by Ron Parks, MD, edited by Shan Parks

Resources and References:

Website/Book – In Touch

Book – The Sacred Mirror

Book –  Listening from the Heart of Silence

Article –  The Fourth Wave of Behaviorism: ACT, DBT, and Nondual Wisdom

Website: Radiant Mind

Question:

Have you had a deep awareness or awakening experience that has brought a positive change in your personal healing or recovery? Please share if you wish or comment.

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