Sunday, 19 December 2010

Don't shout!

Often in life people shout at others for no apparent reason what so ever other than their own insecurities and frustrations. These could be anything from feelings of low self-esteem: “I’m not good enough”, “I’ll never make it” and so on; to a lack of a sense of personal and professional achievement and job satisfaction.

It can be particularly frustrating when both our professional and personal life are out of balance or when we feel others collide too much with our world.

I think we all take our frustrations out on someone near and dear to us at some point in life. We basically use someone else as an emotional punching bag. The sad thing is that most of the time, we don’t even know we’re doing it.

It’s only when we’re on the receiving end or when we take a step back and reflect on our behaviour, that we realise how it feels. By then the damage is done though.

Instead of getting to the point where we lash out at an innocent bystander in our life, we should analyse ourselves, what we think our shortcomings are and our behavioral responses.

First of all, we should learn to worry less about what people think about us. We don’t need to validate who we are in comparison to others. Everyone on this planet is an individual human being with a personality and character of their own. It's not always necessary to fit in. After all, if we were all the same there would be no diversity and, quite frankly, I think the world would be a boring place.

There are people in this world who are different, they don’t conform to social norm expectations and I believe they should remain different. Their differences are what separate them from generality and the masses. Also, there is no right or wrong way to be. The point of life is to be happy and that includes being comfortable with all our differences in comparison to others.  

I’m also a great believer that people should worry less about what they call their
shortcomings and what they think they have, or do not have, to offer. As long as someone is alive, they certainly have something to offer. Perhaps, a shift in perspective is needed in order to appreciate one’s own qualities rather than one’s material possessions. This is where self-esteem and self-respect come into play.

Another fundamental issue to remember is that everything happens for a reason. So, whatever is happening in one’s life right now is there for a purpose. We just need to learn to see the purpose. We need to be able to appreciate the learning opportunity every challenge provides us with. We need to learn that lesson as quickly as possible and move on.

Most importantly, we need to learn to let go more. We need to let it all go; all the baggage and resentment from the past serves no purpose in our memories; except occupying good space that could be filled with positive change and an optimistic outlook towards the future. We need to keep moving forward with your eyes a little more open; our minds a little wiser and hearts filled with peace.
Nothing that we consider bad happens for a bad reason, but we need to see the positive side instead of persistently focusing on the negative aspects.

We need to forgive ourselves and others for whatever has gone before, and let go of the past. Built up guilt, anger, resentment and dare I say jealousy are all negative
qualities that hold us back in life. Generally, they spring from things we've done that we're not proud of or that we’re ashamed of. Instead of accepting them as an integrated part of who we are and regarding them as another opportunity to know and love ourselves; flaws included, we turn against ourselves.

We start a cycle of self-loathing and self-depreciation, which in turn, over a long period of time, turns into lack of self-esteem and lack of self-respect. We become our own worst enemy. We no longer have a good relationship with ourselves nor with others. Hence, from there on in, we begin to think that life is taking a downhill slide and that everything is going wrong. It’s not life though. It’s our attitude towards it.

Life and it’s journey are not consistent by nature. They are subject to change and many unstable factors. It may seem that it doesn’t always go the way we want it to, but the one thing we can do, is make it the way we want it to be. It takes determination, a series of choices, motivation, time, effort and the input and interconnection with others and the world around us.

So, before you shout at someone you hold dear. Stop yourself and analyse why you’re doing it. Is it really their fault or are you trying to compensate for something missing within yourself?

May you always have peace and love in your life. God Bless you all.


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

I pray for a world where there may be peace

Some of my thoughts coupled together with some of my photography.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Cyclothymia. What it is and how to deal with it.

When a friend contacted me; asking me to investigate Cyclothymia, I had no idea what to expect. I’d vaguely heard of the condition and knew it related to a mood disorder; comprising highs and lows, but I never appreciated the severity of its symptoms, nor that it could lead to suicide. Least of all did I appreciate that it can be a hereditary condition.

We live and learn. So, I’m here today with a new report about the condition called Cyclothymia for those who, like me, vaguely know about it, yet don’t know enough about it.

Cyclothymia apparently affects 0,4 to 1% of the population. It can affect men and women in equal proportions, and it generally starts in the teen years or the early twenties. There is evidence to suggest that genetics play a role in Cyclothymia. In fact, people with a family history of the bipolar condition, suicide, depression, alcohol or drug dependency are prime Cyclothymia candidates.

Just as with the bipolar condition, Cyclothymia sufferers have mood swings that go from hypomania to manic depression. These extremes in mood changes disrupt a person’s life, relationships, eating habits, sleeping patterns and put their safety at risk.

While a cyclothymic person is in a hypo-maniac mood they may be very cheerful and loving towards their partner, spouse, family etc. However, they can be very thoughtless because their actions become aggressive and rapid. They seem to move at a faster pace than the rest of the world. Hence, they get impatient and inconsiderate. They will barely sleep. They lose the ability to concentrate for too long and they become easily distracted.

At the opposite spectrum, while they’re in a manic depressive mood, they will reject all emotions and push away all loved ones. Most of the time they will even have a job to pull themselves out of bed in the morning. They will constantly feel sad, hopeless, helpless, apathetic and be irritable. They may even withdraw socially and have suicidal tendencies.

The problem for most sufferers is that even they don’t quite know what mood to expect on which day. I should say here that this condition isn’t diagnosed lightly.

To determine whether a person is cyclothymic or not, they have to have suffered definite mood swings, adhering to a specific set of guidelines, for two years with a symptom free period no greater than two months in between.

If a person didn’t meet the criteria outlined for determining Cyclothymia sufferers, they would just be considered bipolar in nature, and of course that’s a whole new discussion because there is bipolar I and bipolar II; depending on symptoms.

Apparently but probably not surprisingly, there is little research about treatments available for cyclothymic sufferers. I found general recommendations for mood stabilizers, (lithium based,) which I wouldn’t give my worst enemy; since lithium is toxic to the human body; antidepressants used for treating the bipolar I condition.

Personally, I would recommend psychotherapy, psychology, behavioural modification therapy, lifestyle and diet modification therapy. I would recommend giving up immediately any kind of alcohol or drug intake as these already cause alterations in moods and personality changes. Of course, these courses of action require more effort on the sufferer's part, but in the long run they educate the person, with the condition, to better manage it and catch each mood on the on-start. Antidepressants only suppress the symptoms. They don’t get to the root causes and anything that contains lithium or any abstract thereof is a poison in the human body, which causes more harm than the condition itself; if managed properly.

The other plus side to psychotherapy and suchlike is that it offers family and loved ones counselling sessions. Therefore, it provides a support system for and around the sufferer.

As a qualified Holistic Health Therapist, I would also suggest burning a few drops of lavender oil mixed with water in a burner, around the home; during times of hypomania - to soothe the sufferer’s senses. Lavender is very balancing and calming.

Similarly, during a time of manic depression, a few drops of essential lemon or tangerine or a similar citrus oil burnt in the same way, scenting the home, would be uplifting to the senses.

I would also be inclined to recommend a lighter dietary consumption during times of depression so that food metabolism requires less energy and all surplus energy can be redirected to the rest of the body.

Similarly, during times of hypomania, it is recommendable to eat slightly more to slow the rest of the body’s processes down by redirecting most of the energy to the digestive processes.

I hope this helps.

Further Reading:

Monday, 19 July 2010

A false claim to cure cancer

Just recently I was asked, by a very dear friend, to research the relationship between certain health products on the market and their benefits in healing or helping with the healing process of cancer.

The company in question, which shall remain nameless, is falsely making miraculous claims that it can heal cancer through the use of natural products. That doesn’t worry so much as the fact that it’s giving people false hope and emptying their wallet at the same time. Worse still, it could discourage people from following appropriate conventional treatments.

I’m a believer in integrated methods of medical intervention; a little of both - Conventional and Natural Methods of Healing.

Anyway, I looked up the products in question and decided to research the ingredients. There is nothing out of the ordinary and nothing that can’t be had from a more balanced every day diet. If our daily intake consisted of more pulses, grains, fibres, water, fresh fruit and vegetables, we wouldn’t need to resort to supplements such as these.

Here’s why. Here are just a few of the ingredients:

IP-6 (Inositol hexaphosphate) - Just as easily found in high fiber foods such as beans, pulses, grains etc.

ß-Sitosterol - Just as easily found in advocados, cumin, black pepper seeds, soya etc.

The one thing you should know about the above is that they are not easily synthesized. It’s also dubious how much is assimilated in the human body due to our digestive system process.

phytosterols Cordyceps sinensis mycelia extract Baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) extract Agaricus blazeii fruiting body extract Aloe (Aloe barbadensis) leaf gel extract Oat (Avena sativa) seed extract Olive (Olea europaea) - Courtesy of the “Product specific website” - who shall remain unnamed.

Everything seems to be natural.

One word of warning against yeast intake though. It is a well known fact that reducing the amount of yeast in one’s diet can: a) increase life expectancy by up to 50% and b) reduce infections in the body like candida.

Another ingredient that is contained in another product is Colostrum. Colostrum is a cow milk produced in very late pregnancy or even one day after giving birth.

When it’s fed to new born calves, it is known to have a mild laxative effect. It contains many beneficial antibodies that help to eliminate dead red blood cells and it contains a large amount of proteins that are all beneficial to the development of organs and body tissue.

Yet, its beneficial properties and its effects in human consumption are little known and very dubious because of the human digestive process; not to mention the fact that many people nowadays are lactose intolerant.

Colostrum had once been used as an alternative to the modern day antibiotic. In fact, it was one of the original ingredients in an early polio vaccine. Nowadays, there is talk of it being used once again as

Since Colostrum contains IGF-1, the lack of which is associated with malnutrition, dementia, obesity and lean body mass, it is reputed that a supplementation can help with these conditions. However, it seems to be that there is little scientific research and few clinical trials to back these claims.

However, one interesting fact is that within colostrum, scientists discovered Proline-rich Polypeptides (PRP) - These are molecules that transmit signals to the immune system. It was originally believed that these peptides had the capacity to transfer immunity from one immune system to another. However, this is not the case. What is more likely to happen is that the molecules send signals to the immune system to boost it in times of attack from foreign bodies, which means we can better deal with disease.

I did find some research regarding the use of PRP supplements and HIV, herpes, Hodgkins, prostrate cancer and Alzheimer’s. Now, while the research findings seem to stabilise 40% of the patients’ symptoms and condition in the short term, i.e. over a 15 week trial; there are no long term studies. So, we are far from knowing what the long terms effects.

So, please be warned this is not a long term solution for any of the above conditions nor can it claim to be a cure for cancer as this company is falsely promising.

Another warning for any of this company’s products containing Chicken egg yolks - Anyone who is dairy intolerant should avoid taking this ingredient.

In conclusion, this company cannot lay claim to finding a cure for cancer. They cannot lay claim to having a product for transferring one immune system to another. All they have is another marketable natural supplement.

Will it may you feel good? Well, if you’re not dairy intolerant, yes it might. Will it work? That depends on your own immune system and how your body responds to the products.

Please, however, before you part with your hard earned cash, do not think you are buying into a miracle cure.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Cancer and Massage or Aroma-Massage

Just recently there has been some controversy surrounding cancer and the pros and cons of massage and aromatherapy for oncology patients. Since this is an area I will, hopefully, be shortly moving into as a volunteer, I have been doing some research with the intent of designing new oncological therapy techniques; based on an original concept by a Holistic therapist in Australia. My new primary aroma-massage; designed especially for cancer patients is called “Compassionate Healing.” It’s not about healing the disease itself but about bringing peace in mind, body and soul to those who are going through this terrible suffering.

We all know someone who has had cancer and if we don’t, chances are we will before our own time is up. Yet, what do we really know about this disease apart from the fact that it’s a silent killer for which there is still no known cure; although nowadays there are a lot of treatments that are proving to be effective in many cases.

Please let me add here that although alternative therapies such as Aromatherapy Massage, Reiki, Ayurveda, Reflexology, Indian Head Massage etc. may bring relief to patients who have cancer, they are by no means a cure. They are complimentary. They can and should only be used, in my opinion, as an integrative part of conventional medicine.

I could go on and on about the benefits of Holistic Therapies but I’m sure you’ve all heard them a million times before. What I will say is that “touch” is extremely important for any human being, but it’s probably more important to cancer patients, or any patient for that matter, who gets poked and prodded around all day by needles and is subjected to chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

An oncology patient’s body is subjected to such harsh procedures and conditions that it becomes almost abused by medical standards. Of course, it’s a necessary part of the medical healing process, yet it’s surprising how many times even relatives find it difficult to touch a body that changes beyond their own recognition of it; unless it’s to feed it, wash it or give it a kiss on the forehead. Sometimes, even the cancer patients themselves feel detached from their own ever-changing body.

A simple yet loving touch from another human being is sufficient to reconnect an oncology patient to his or her own body. A gentle caress, a soft massage, a kind stroke of the hand is enough to bring peace of mind, relaxation, appease fear and depression, create an atmosphere of positivity, create distraction, alleviate tiredness and, of course make them feel safe, secure and loved.

If a Holistic treatment is administered under the proper conditions, with maximum care and abiding by certain cautious guidelines, it can also help to alleviate the feelings of weakness, dizziness and/or sickness after medical treatments like chemotherapy.

Up until recently, in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, Oncology wards in mainstream hospitals used Holistic Health Therapies and Aromatherapy Massage as a means of bringing relief to cancer patients. Not to mention that Eastern cultures have been using Holistic concepts of Healing since time began.

Yet, the big question that has sparked controversy and that everyone is trying to answer is:

”Can massage and aroma-massage spread cancer?”

Well, my research leads me to the conclusion that scientifically, there is no evidence to prove that it can; not any more so than exercising anyway. By the same token, there is also no real evidence to prove that it can’t if it misused.
However, if massage or aroma-massage is conducted under appropriate circumstances, abiding by certain conditions and using specific techniques, then it is perfectly safe, but the therapist would have to have medical knowledge, specific oncological knowledge and a great deal of compassion and intuitive knowing.

Why? - Simple -

As we all know our bodies are made up of millions of different cells. Over time, these cells become damaged or old, due to the physical conditions they are subjected to, and they die. They are replaced with new cells. Only, sometimes, the new cells can be damaged to due their DNA content. This means they can mutate and develop abnormally. When this happens, we call the cells cancer cells. This abnormal development of cells may form a mass; a whole bunch of cells clustered together in what is known as a tumour.

When we think or hear the word tumour we automatically panic. However, not all tumours are necessarily harmful, nor are they necessarily cancerous in nature. Hence, we use the terms benign and malignant to determine the two different types of tumours.

If a tumour is benign it basically means the cells do not spread to another part of the body. According to medical research in current standing, benign tumours can be removed safely and upon removal, probably won’t come back. Personally, I think there is a lack of sufficient scientific evidence, in this area, for the latter part of this statement to be true. Reason being, I had a gentleman client who was prone to benign tumours. It seems that the more consultants surgically removed the benign tumours from his body, the more they appeared.

Without his complete medical history, I could not determine the exact locations nor prove or disprove any personal theories. However, this one individual case was enough to raise concern and doubt in my mind, and considering that there are always exceptions to all general theories in science, I think it is a noteworthy fact not to be dismissed.

On the contrary to its counterpart, when a tumour is malignant, something called metastasis occurs. This basically means the cells that have clustered together: start to break off. When these cells break away from the cluster, they travel through the blood system and/or the lymph system into other areas of the body; attacking it or invading it.

The one thing we need to understand about cancer is that there are over 100 different types. They do not all behave the same way. They do not all form tumours. They do not all start in the same areas or necessarily for the same reasons. Moreover, no two individuals will respond to cancer and subsequent cancer treatments in the same way either. Cancer may start in a singular cell in a major organ just as easily as it may start on the skin or in the in the bone marrow or the blood itself.

Some cancer patients may have lumps, others may have red swollen areas. Some may have very subtle signs of the disease. Some cancer patients may have cancer in one area of the body and suffer pain in a completely opposite area. This is where training in Kinesiology comes in very useful.

Anyone who wants to massage or touch a cancer patient should be very aware of any areas that are “off limits.” Any areas that are being treated, any areas that are bruised, swollen, red, or have broken skin are all off limits!

Also, common sense might dictate that directly and harshly massaging a tumour could potentially cause the cells to break away from the cluster and travel into the body. So, in this respect, one has to question whether there is potential danger of causing metastasis through massage. I can see, from this point of view, where the controversy might arise, but, directly massaging a tumour if off limits, so there is no reason for concern. You never massage a tumour!!!

The most important things are that there should be a) thorough communication between the therapist and the cancer patient in a prior interview; b) the therapist should be flexible and have the ability to design new techniques and methods of treatment around the patient’s needs and c) any touch should be loving and compassionate not of technique learnt in a school nor of the ego. The cancer patient and their body should be listened to and paid attention to at all times.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

My cage has been rattled!

Ok, my cage has been rattled and, as those of you who know me know, when my cage is rattled, I don’t get angry but I do start to kind of choke on sparkles of fire drops, and then I find it very difficult to be quiet. So, here I am with another article.

Everyday, everywhere we’re willing to look, if we open our eyes, we can see poverty and conditions that can be considered less than human by today’s living standards. Whether we choose to ignore them or not, the fact remains that there are starving human beings in the world; children, men and women. The fact also remains that there are people without a roof over their heads and without clean water to drink.

We may not know their faces and we may think the problem isn’t ours. We may even think the problem is so remote from where we live that it’s none of our concern, but that’s not the case.

There is no country in this world that doesn’t have poverty or sub-human conditions. There is no country in this world that doesn’t have someone living on a park bench or under a bridge or out in the desert or in a cardboard box. Most of the time, we don’t see it or we choose not to see it because we look the other way, and we all have our reasons for doing so.

Some of us think that by looking the other way, the problem will go away. Some of us think the person on the street should get a job like the rest of us. Some of us think that by giving a euro to someone, we’re only going to be feeding their drug habit. Some of us can’t even look at a person on the street because it brings feelings of guilt about the way we live and what we have in our lives. Instead of feeling grateful for what we have, in the face of the misfortune of another, we subconsciously feel guilty.

Some of us may even feel apathetic and so saturated by all the poverty and harsh conditions out there, that we turn our backs for that very reason. I find that even sadder than poverty itself.

Yet, what disturbs me and rattles my cage the most is when people just sit around talking about tragic conditions and poverty by saying: “how tragic, how sad, makes me cry,” yet they do little or nothing to lift a finger to help relieve some of the suffering out there in the world. Of course, I am not talking about everyone, and of course there are many many people who help. I am fortunate and blessed to know plenty of them.

It would either seem that people just don’t realise how much of a difference they can actually make if they were truly willing to. Or, in the face of it all, they still do nothing. It is sad, I’m not saying it isn’t, but a starving human being doesn’t put food in his stomach with words or people sitting around feeling sympathetic. A freezing human being, living on the street, doesn’t warm up with people sitting around feeling sorry for him or turning away.

I can understand people’s apprehensions nowadays, but I’m sure if people had the choice, nobody would willing, freely or whole-heartedly opt to live in a cold, hostile or starving environment.

Yet, what we forget is that there are so many ways to help and it doesn’t always have to be with grand gestures. It doesn’t always have to be with money and it doesn’t always have to take up hours and hours of your time.

For example, if you don’t want to give the guy on the street a euro because you’re afraid he’ll go and buy drugs, go and buy him a sandwich. Think about whether it’s really about the euro and the drugs or whether it’s an excuse not to part with a possession that’s yours. Let me remind everyone that when we die, we can’t take any of it with us. Or, worse still, is it because we can’t bare the thought of being close to someone who is smelly and dirty -someone who reminds us of everything that we don’t ever want to become; our worst nightmare and the darkest side of life we couldn’t bare to face.

I can guarantee you this: when you give the guy that sandwich, if he’s hungry, he’ll be truly grateful and if you throw in a coffee, the look of gratitude he’ll give you will be priceless. It will warm your heart for years to come. In fact, you may never forget that look for as long as you live, and when he dies, you’ll remember him and know that you played your part in trying to keep him alive.

Yet, not everything is about money. The men and women sleeping on park benches and in cardboard boxes, they get cold too in winter. For those of you who like to have spring cleans and throw out old blankets, have you ever thought about asking any one of those human beings if they need a blanket, a jacket or a coat? The problem is, half the time, we’re afraid to talk to these people because most of the time we see them as less than human or even as simpletons.

Yet, less than human George may have a sad story. He may have lost his job and his wife. His children may have abandoned him. So, he feels he has nothing left to live for. He simply lives on the grass because he feels he’s at God’s mercy until death comes for him, and most of the time he wishes death would come for him. He’s grateful for any kind word anyone has to say to him in passing by the local bus stop.

The young girl, Helen, who everyone makes fun of, and who has been pushed from pillar to post between institutions, may have lost her mother and her husband prematurely to cancer and has nowhere to go. Her home may be possessed by someone who doesn’t really want her there. Her only child may have been taken away from her and she may not be allowed to see him. She too may feel like she has nothing much in life. She has food from a local shelter but what she really needs is someone to give her a kind word and put their arm around her and let her know that tomorrow will be ok.

Until we know why someone is where they are, we cannot second guess someone’s life or what they’ve been through, and trust me everyone has a story. Yet, the problem, I think, with our world is that not everyone has ears they’re willing to use. Sure, we all listen, but do we really listen?

There are so many ways to help others; distributing food to shelters; sponsoring (or adopting) children in their own countries, helping the elderly, visiting people in hospital through organisations, and the list could go on and on.

We can all donate some of our time, our love, our talent, our prayers and maybe some of our money - there are 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. The important thing is to realise that everyone can make a difference if they really want to. A tiny gesture to you may mean the world to another human being.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Love ...

Just lately I have read and heard so many negative and positive things about love, it reminded me of an article I wrote many years ago.

In the article, I described love as an abstract concept; something intangible - an emotion or a feeling we experience deep within our inner being. Yet, something we cannot physically touch; an idealistic state we all wish for - someone to love us.

We may experience emotional, chemical, psychological and physical symptoms as a consequence of the feeling of love like a racing heart, sweaty palms, desire, lust, a lack of hunger or sleepless nights. Yet, we cannot see or touch our emotions with our physical senses.

In that article, I said that most people everywhere aspired to it. Men, (and women), killed in its name. I said that we all daydreamed about it at some point; that children give it freely, whilst adults are cautious who they give it to.

I also said that some may delude themselves that they are feeling it or experiencing it, and that sadly some may never experience it at all in their life.

I mentioned that uttering this very simple four letter word “love” has the ability to make one person ecstatically happy, while making another person completely despair.

By saying “I love you” to someone, it’s possible to mend a broken relationship, it’s possible to heal wounds and break barriers between people. Love can also quite simply make right a whole load of wrongs.

In my article though I questioned whether love per se was enough nowadays, or whether our society has become so materialistic that many marriages are based more on interest than love. Or, whether there is so little love in the world, as we grow further and further apart as human beings, that many marry because they don’t want to be alone.

I questioned whether there would be fewer divorces in the world if there were more love.

I asked if the word “love” nowadays has just become a convenience; if the romanticised concept of love has become just another misconstrued reality based on false literary and media reality, or just another expression too quickly and falsely used for gaining physical pleasure with the opposite sex.

Whichever the case, I do not see that as love. It’s the illusion of love.

I’m no expert in love but I do know that unconditional love is when you never walk away; despite the odds. It’s never losing that faith and respect. It’s the strength to walk away from someone when they tell you to leave them alone and get on with their life. It’s knowing you would give your life to save the life of someone you love. It’s knowing you would give up your entire world if you had to. Even though, in love nobody makes demands and nothing is ever asked. Everything is freely given as a gift between people.

It’s knowing that if you ever deliberately harmed another it would hurt you more. It’s getting on a plane and travelling half way around the world just to hold someone or be there for someone just because you know they need you.

I feel there are many ways to love the different people in our lives, our families, our friends, our colleagues, but there is only one kind of love: the unconditional and eternal kind.

There is no I or ego in love. There is only love itself. It is what drives people to help others; showing kindness, love and compassion to perfect strangers.

No one person ever loves the same as another and no one individual ever experiences love the same as another, but sharing love brings people closer together.

Where love begins nobody knows. It’s a question philosophers and romanticists have been debating since the beginning of time. Where it will end nobody knows.

If you believe that death is only the end of the physical, and that love touches the very essence of who we are, then you must believe that love does not die. If we plant the seeds of love well during our life, they will continue to grow fruits until the hereafter and beyond... perhaps that is what makes love eternal.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Religious assassinations in Pakistan

I read today that 80 human beings; mainly men and children, were gunned down in two mosques in Pakistan during their time of worship. The news reported it was an attack caused by religious differences that prevail in the region in question.

Even though I don’t know these human beings, the news broke my heart. Tears filled my eyes as I watched mothers, wives, daughters and sisters bury their loved ones killed in the assassination.

Is there not enough suffering in the world that certain fractions of individuals feel they need to go and cause more? - and to kill peaceful people during a time of prayer in a holy place? How can this ever be in the name of any God? How can this be in the name of any religious purpose?

Quite simply - it isn’t!

There is no religion or religious text on this planet that says it’s ok to go out and kill someone just because they don’t have the same beliefs as you. Nowhere, in any religious text, is it written that it is ok to take the life of someone just because they worship a God who has a different name to your God.

Never, in any religious text did I ever read of a God who advocated ethnic cleansing based on any superior race. There is no such thing.

If anything, on the contrary, in every religious text I ever read, I only found words that promoted the brotherhood of man and loving thy neighbour; treating others like they were your own brother or sister.

Yet, since the beginning of time, man has insisted on using religion and religious texts as a pretext for wars and spreading hatred. There is no word of God that advocates that.

Truth be known it isn’t God or religion at all. It’s an egotistical one-sided viewpoint with lack of respect for other human beings’ beliefs. It’s an egocentric and extremist power struggle for marking out territory, of which I am sure there is plenty for everyone; and it’s also the multi-millionaire arms dealers’ paradise because they stand to make huge fortunes.

When it comes to outrageous assassinations of this kind, there is no God involved; just money, power and greed. All it takes is the right powerful, greedy people to whisper in the ears of the few excitable, “ignorant,” gullible, extremist fanatics and presto, there’s a cocktail for murder beyond proportions.

Instead of killing innocent children and men who are peacefully worshipping their God and doing no harm to others, why isn’t this aggressive energy creatively channelled and better employed in other pursuits that would be beneficial to the community at large; spanning all religions in the region?

Ignorance and greed that hide behind the facade of religion are the root of all evils, not religion per se and not any religion that is different from our own, but to understand that, you have to understand other religions within their contexts.

Regardless of what religion someone is, they should be free to worship peacefully without the lingering threat of death looming over them. My heart goes out to those in mourning.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Transpersonal Psychology

Transpersonal psychology is a relatively new science that emerged in the late 1960s. It emerged from the psychological schools of behaviourism, humanism and psychoanalysis in a bid to explain what couldn’t be explained by conventional means.

The foundation of Transpersonal Psychology is accredited to William James, Carl Jung and Abraham Maslow who used transpersonal methods of thinking in their psychology. In 1969, Stanislav Grof, Anthony Sutich and Abraham Maslow created the first issue of the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. In 1972, the first Association for Transpersonal Psychology was founded.

Maslow considered Transpersonal Psychology to be the fourth major wave in Psychology schools. He thought it was the most positive and truly complete psychology par excellence because it deals with human development in its entirety from scientific to transcendental; in mind, body and soul.

Transpersonal Psychology aims to understand human nature, the world and the universe at large, in relationship to one another, in a holistic way; as a whole instead of segregate parts. It’s concerned with different states of consciousness individual’s experience and the highest potential humanity can attain through self-development, peak experiences, mystical and spiritual experiences and everything that goes beyond what is considered a physically tangible experience.

The transpersonal domain seeks to explain what conventional science has dubbed as “miraculous,” “extraordinary phenomena,” or simply “impossible to believe.” More importantly it is a psychology that seeks to understand what it means to be a spiritual being having a human experience.

Transpersonal Psychology integrates the principles of conventional psychology, philosophy, healing, spirituality and creativity in all its forms in order to research and understand the human experience of life and the cosmos as an interactive “oneness”.

The basis of Transpersonal ideology is that all life and the universe are one and form part of a higher consciousness that can operate through any individual who is capable, or aware enough, to tap into its infinite resources. It is within this infinite cosmos that it is believed all knowledge is stored, pre-existent and available for tapping into; for the good both of an individual and humanity at large.

Conventional science relies on tangibility of proving with facts and figures. Transpersonal science lacks somewhat in this area because there are no one set of specific rules or formulas that can be applied for comparative or investigative purposes. Transpersonal research is almost impossible to subject to rigorous scientific tests.

Transpersonal Psychology seeks to comprehend everything beyond physical and scientific reality; how this differs or is similar among different people within different cultures; how something beyond human comprehension can operate through an individual. It seeks to explain how the infinite works through the finite.

Within the realm of the transpersonal, everything has it’s own, particular, meaning. Nothing happens by chance and individuals can alter their life, or any part of it, by way of a shift in conscious awareness.

A simple alteration in the way an individual thinks, interacts with their environment and within the universe itself can bring about big changes.

The transpersonal world could be described as the independently conscious realm that lies beyond the realm of the physical senses. It is an independently explainable realm beyond the proven logical and scientific realm. It is the supreme infinite of “being” along with the eternal wisdom that has always been, is and always will be, which resides within, through and beyond all of us.

This infinity resides within each and every individual; only some are more in tune with its frequency than others. However, all of us have the potential to tap into it with the right guidance.

Venerina Conti

Creativity, Healing and Meditation

Creativity and Healing abilities can be a lifelong journey of discovery and a step by step progressive growth over the decades. They change with age and spiritual maturity.

Creativity and healing can only happen when a person is ready, open and wants it to happen. Nobody else can make it happen. We can all receive guidance from others, from books, from inspiring people but ultimately, we are the only ones who are responsible for ourselves. We need to find new ways of communicating with ourselves on all levels.

To move forward, we need to break old patterns of thinking; even if sometimes this means going against every belief structure we have. Most of the time, we are our own worst enemies. We hold ourselves back with the amount of junk we store in our minds. We recreate and exaggerate the bad things in our minds until they eat away at us. Sometimes, we give ourselves bad advice when we should just be sitting patiently and quietly to see how things play out naturally.

Somehow, from childhood to adulthood, we forget how to be creative. Sometimes because of a lack of encouragement or because the society we live in dictates a certain type of acceptable behavioural pattern. Sometimes we are forced to believe that maturity means being serious, taking responsibilities with a certain attitude, which makes for creativity being viewed as a childish whim.

Regardless of the reasons, the truth is we forget there are limitless boundaries of infinite possibilities. We confine and limit our thoughts, which consequently imprisons us by making us believe we can no longer be whoever or whatever. One day, we wake up and feel gloomy because we are resigned to never achieving whatever it was we use to dream of.

As a consequence of this imprisonment, we eventually lose our motivation to strive for the achievement of our dreams. We doubt or ignore our capabilities and we often settle for a “second best” way of living. Given time though, as I have discovered in my many friends, in later life this sense of second best living fills us with remorse and/or a sense of resignation. Remorse eventually eats away at us and before we know it we’re ill. We’re depressed. We don’t know how to cope with the world around us and we’ve forgotten who we are and how to live.

In contrast to popular belief, children do not look to adults for help in being creative or inventing their characters. They do not consult with them over decisions about how each character should be. Instead, children are totally independent in thinking. They quite happily go off, invent and explore without consulting anyone for anything. The only thing children do is look to adults for inspiration and approval. So, why do we become so reliant on others in adulthood?

If we look at it from the principle that children only look to adults for inspiration, comfort and/or approval; when these needs are not met or when the child is ridiculed, punished or reprimanded for their creative actions, they begin to form unrealistic opinions about themselves.

Self-doubts and fears begin to set in and slowly but surely the child starts to lose his/her creative and imaginative qualities.

As the child grows older, he/she begins to depend more and more on the opinions (judgments) of others because there is no longer enough self-confidence to trust their own. After long term dependency on this reliability of others, people become slowly drained of all enthusiasm. It then follows that in adulthood people need to look to others for motivation and validation. Some may even rely on others to tell them what their goals in life should be and what path they should take.

To try and clarify what I mean, here’s a perhaps extreme but simple example: A little girl, age 4, who I will call Sara, dresses up like a princess; long dress, crown, her mother’s shoes, make-up and feathers. She runs to her parents in the living room who respond with a critical and demeaning tone: “Don’t be stupid, you will never be a princess, get that stuff off, you look ridiculous.”

In that one sentence, Sara has been given such a negative view of herself that if it is persistently repeated over a period of time she will assimilate into her own perception of herself. She will accept is as her own concept of her reality.

What happens is:

Doubt sets in. Creativity is viewed as a negative quality and so is imagination. Sara would have a low amount of self-esteem. She’s thinking, “I’m stupid, my parents told me so,” “I’m not good enough to be a princess,” which in later life translates into: “Well, as I am stupid, I am never going to learn anyway, so why should I bother” or “I’m not good enough, so why should I bother aiming high?” Motivation and drive is gone. Desire to achieve has gone and the self-belief in her own capabilities has gone.

“You look ridiculous”, in Sara’s mind could equate to thoughts of: “I am not pretty.” In later years, no matter how good she may look to others, Sara will never think she is pretty enough.

I am not saying that we should run out and blame our parents or our teachers or others who have influenced our life. I am just outlining some possible causes for loss of creativity. As adults we cannot deny our own sense of self responsibility.

We all need to learn to become more self-reliant, more self-validating and more independently minded thinkers. The beauty is that as an adult we can make our own choices based on formulated opinions from information and experiences we have accumulated. We can choose to find a lesson and the positive in negative situations. We can choose who to surround ourselves with and what influences to take on board. We can choose what to believe and what to discard.

When I was younger my grandmother who couldn’t read or write (but was very wise) said to me once: “We are all born alone and we will all die alone, so we should never have to completely rely on others for anything. You make your bed, you lie in it.” As I get older, I begin to really appreciate how true this statement is. In fact, I have taken it one step further.

I believe that alone decide what goes through our mind daily, what thoughts we choose to have and whether they are negative or positive. We alone decide what types of internal dialogues to have with ourselves every waking minute we spend with ourselves.

Over the years working in luxury hotels around the globe, I have spent a considerable amount of time studying, observing and questioning successful people and their attitudes.

By successful I mean people who have achieved their dreams in life or who are happy. The conclusions I have drawn from my quest are always the same: He who really wants something, makes time. He who desires something, does everything in his power to make the circumstances right for things to happen and he who really craves change, works every hour God sends (even for free) in order to achieve it.

There is nothing that could stand in this type of person’s way. There is no mountain too high to climb. There is no obstacle that cannot be gotten over and there is no shame in failing time and time again until. The key is belief in one’s self regardless of others.

Here’s a classic example of not using Creative energy. Three years ago, I was sat in the staff area of a hotel when a barman came in complaining bitterly about his job. He went on and on about how much he hated working in a hotel bar, how much he wanted to do something else where he could earn more. He wanted to have enough money to go on nice holidays, stay in luxury hotels, buy a better car, have a nicer apartment etc. He went on about how much he felt he was unappreciated and how he felt stuck in a rut; like life was going nowhere.

After about twenty minutes of listening to him, I enquired as to what he thought he might like to do and how he planned to do it. More to the point, I asked him if he’d thought about an alternative career and how he planned to achieve it.

I must add here that this barman is a wonderfully, talented artist who has created some beautiful pieces. Art was never something he had ever tried to pursue. Despite encouragement from his mother, in his mind his talent would never earn him money.

I asked why he didn’t consider trying to pursue an artistic career. He replied that he wasn’t good enough. He had never tried and was obviously not really interested in trying.

So, I asked whether he had ever considered further education in order to acquire more qualifications.. His reply was that he didn’t have time, he didn’t have the money, he didn’t enjoy studying and couldn’t really be bothered. He even brought his girlfriend into the conversation saying that whatever time he had available was dedicated to her.

I would just like to point out here, his working times were between 3pm and midnight (roughly) five days a weeks. He had two days off a week and every night he went to bars with his friends. I am not going to judge him but he could have made time. He could have saved enough money by not going out so often. What distinguishes this type of person from one who succeeds is the conscious decision one makes not to be like it anymore. We all have a choice and the power to decide which choices to make in life.

When we learn we are not just the bodies we live; when we realise that life is far beyond our limiting physical abilities; when we realise that we can be as infinite as the Universe and when we learn that nothing is really THAT bad that it matters that much; when we learn that we alone are responsible for ourselves; only then can we truly begin a healing and creative process that goes beyond all imagination.

The trick is to learn to take small steps at a time. As Edgar Cayce said, we need to learn to have higher ideals, we need to set ourselves realistic goals, we need to find within ourselves love, compassion and brethren towards our fellow human beings. We need to learn to respect our environment and we need to break free from moulds society would have us confined to.

We will make some wrong choices along the way but we need to learn that that is ok. We need to find the lesson in the bad choices we make. Once we have learnt that lesson, we need to accept what we did as a natural process of growth. We need to forgive ourselves and move on.

If we never made mistakes, we would never learn. If we never learnt we would never grow, and it doesn’t matter how many times we make a mistake or the same mistake. No-one is perfect. Life is not a competition and everyone learns in their own time.

As long as we are moving forward we cannot fail. Failure is only a concept created in the mind of those who expect to climb Mount Everest without ever having walked more than a mile in their lives!

If we are going to heal, we need to learn to be our best friend.

Learning to recognise a peak experience or a spiritual moment is an excellent way to begin the healing process internally. Frequent meditation can restore inner peace and harmony. It’s an indispensable part of healing and re-connecting the mind, body and soul to create balance. It also has amazing effects on Creativity.

Meditation can put everything into perspective. Meditation is an excellent means to connecting with the self and making self discoveries that have previously been suppressed or ignored. When we stand outside the issue, we can see it more clearly. It also allows us to connect with our Higher self and the Universe.

Eastern philosophies such as: Buddhism, Vedanta and others similar that advocate that education for the intellect alone is insufficient and should be accompanied by education and training for what he refers to as the “eye of contemplation;” the opening up to knowledge that goes beyond the realm of the physical, rational, categorised and explainable.

Meditation, can help us to control our minds and emotions, although it requires patience, time and dedication in order to achieve a quietness within and around the mind.

Each human being is confined and delimited by way of that which they hold in their mind. Buddhism focuses on the need for man to be in control of his own mind and not vice versa.

More specifically, it mentions the need for “attention training and cultivation of concentration”, which are considered essential to stop the mind from wandering off on its own. It suggests that a well ordered mind will be capable of controlling and nurturing emotions, at will, such as: happiness, love, compassion etc. It will, also, be able to shift emotions from negative to positive; alleviating, or even eliminating sadness, fear and anxiety.

Recognising these destructive emotions is the first step to changing them and nurturing the positive ones, with the aid of a few transcendental practices.

Qijong, Taoism and Yogic practices teach us that by recognising every moment is precious and unique, and by gratitude for “what is”, by way of inner peace, an individual can be truly happy because nothing more than this moment will matter and every new moment will be a new experience.

Venerina Conti

Labels and Self-Descriptors

Labels reflect a person’s life, the way they’ve chosen to live it and the beliefs they have. They are born of a person’s history and experiences. They tell us something about who they were and who they’ve become today. They also give us clues as to why they are the way they are. Yet, they may still not be the true I of a person. So, you might be asking: Is there a true I of a person?

In 1936, Sicilian author and 1934 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Luigi Pirandello published Uno, Nessuno e Centomila; (One, Nobody and One Hundred Thousand). Vitangelo, the central character in the book becomes aware that everyone he knows has a different definition of who he is. He doesn’t identify himself with any of these definitions. He sees them as separate personas people have created in their minds about him.

In an attempt to destroy these personas, Vitangelo starts to act foolishly; in a way that almost borders on madness in the eyes of others. Yet, no matter how foolishly or madly he acts outwardly, he comes to realise that his spirit is definitely incapable of being mad or a fool.

The moral of Pirandello’s novel, as the title suggests, is that everyone is made up of one, none and one hundred thousand Is. Often, we each show the I we think is most appropriate at any given time. That I is then subject to others’ interpretation of us. It mulls around in their internal processes and resurfaces in the shape of a persona I they have just created for us.

The I we manifest and the way we choose to conduct ourselves are relative to the environment, the culture, the circumstances and the people we find ourselves in the presence of. They are relative to points in time throughout our lives, and they are built on the foundations of the ideals we have.

Although we manifest a few similar characteristics of our I all the time, we can potentially have as many I’s as we do circumstances in life. We can also potentially have as many persona I’s created for us as the number of people we know in the world. Everyone is unique in their way of thinking. They may share some common traits but, generally, their definitions of us will be different.

Whether we do it consciously or not, when we are in the presence of others, we assess who they are, how they might respond to us and we adjust ourselves accordingly. Of course this is not a general rule because there are those who cannot, have not or will not master this adjustment quality.

Those who can and do show a particular sensitivity towards others. They are demonstrating an ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and see a different perspective to their own. As we will see in the chapter on Neuro Linguistic Programming, one of the tricks to effective communication is being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see perspectives other than your own.

No matter what labels we choose to use in life, we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. We walk between the spiritual and the physical realms. We are an interconnectivity between energy and mass. We exchange this energy all day long with others and with our environment.

If using labels sometimes hold us back in life, then so do self-descriptors. When we say, I can’t because I am not that way inclined or It’s not in my nature, I’m not strong enough, I can’t help it, I’m too overweight to do that, I’ve never been able to, we’re:

Keeping ourselves from discovering new possibilities, taking risks and putting ourselves out there.
Stopping ourselves from acknowledging and implementing the positive qualities we do have.
Using descriptors as excuses for maintaining the status quo.
Attempting to manipulate other people’s behaviours.
Really saying “I have no intention of trying or changing.”

In his 1976 book, Your Erroneous Zones, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer explains descriptors at length. I am going to briefly give you an outline here. Dr. Dyer calls them our I’ms and places them under appropriate headings. I have placed them into the following categories:

Academic avoidance – I’m not good at science, maths etc. By using this descriptor, we never have to master a particular subject we’ve never found interesting enough. They’re excuses for expanding our knowledge.
Lack of skill – I’m no good at swimming, cooking, drawing etc. Not only do these descriptors justify our failure in the past, they also justify why we should never have to do them in the future.

I would add that in some cases, like cooking, cleaning or sewing, they’re excuses we make in order to get someone else to do something for us. Therefore, they can be manipulative.

Genetic/Personality excuses – I’m too shy, I’m quiet, I’m nervous etc. These descriptors are used as resigned self-acceptances. Using them does not challenge who we are nor force us to re-evaluate ourselves. They support the negative self-beliefs we hold onto about ourselves. Sometimes, they are just opinions others have expressed about us in the past, which we’ve woven into our idea of our I.

Ridicule avoidance – I’m clumsy, I’m uncoordinated etc. We use these when we avoid doing something, we might like to, for fear of being ridiculed. Particularly when it involves activities we don’t consider ourselves as skilled as someone else for.
Physiological – I’m too tall, I’m too short, I’m not pretty, I’m overweight etc. Dyer explains that we use these to avoid putting ourselves on the line with the opposite sex. He also says it’s our excuse for not having to work at being attractive to ourselves.

I will add that sometimes we use these descriptors as excuses for not mixing with other people in general. They’re a perfect excuse to barricade one’s self at home and not go out very much. Furthermore, I’ve heard these types of descriptors used to justify not getting a job, a role, a gig etc.
Of all the descriptors, I think the physiological ones are probably the worst. They are the ones that have the biggest impact on us. Not only can they socially disable us but they have serious long-term psychological effects on us as well.

In most case, these descriptors are the ones we worry about the most. The media has conditioned us into thinking there is a perfect physical type we should aspire to. Yet, if we look at nature, it comes with all kinds of faces, shapes and sizes.

The most important thing is being healthy. Yet, health isn’t always equated with a perfect physical type.

Behavioural – I’m untidy, I’m a perfectionist, I’m meticulous etc. These descriptors are somewhat manipulative. They justify certain behaviours of ours and kind of demand that others behave the same way around us. They act as rule makers.
Excuses for ineffective behaviour – I’m forgetful, I’m careless etc. When we do something that is less than effective, it is very convenient to use these as an excuse to validate our actions.

Ethnic – I’m Italian, I’m French, I’m Chinese etc. I explained these in terms of being labels; earlier in the chapter. Yet, Dyer is making a point here that we use our environmental and cultural background as excuses for many of our behaviours. If a behavior is too difficult to explain, if we plain don’t want to explain it, or if we don’t want like it but don’t want to confront it, we use our ethnicity as an excuse to pardon ourselves.

Excuses for hostile behaviour – I’m bossy, I’m the leader, I’m pushy etc. Instead of learning to control our tempers a little more, we react first and justify later with phrases such as these.

I think these types of descriptors are very dictatorial and manipulative. I find that their usage can be very emotionally stressful for the receiver. Sentences like, I’m the boss, you do it my way or you’re fired is a perfect example. The act of firing may be a heat of the moment idle threat, but the seed of insecurity has been planted in the receiver’s mind. As well as the obvious, there is also an element of emotional blackmail in that phrase. Trust and respect have been breached. They will be lost and unrecoverable.

Behaving in a rash way and then, in calm retrospect, justifying it with I’m sorry, that’s just me, I’m bossy by nature represents the detrimental mind games people play with each other, which can have more serious long term psychological implications.

Age – I’m too old, I’m tired, I’m Middle-aged etc. These are classic descriptors a person uses to justify not taking a chance on something new and moving any further forward in life; especially when there may be an element of risk involved.

We are not the labels or self-descriptors we use to place ourselves into categories. Nor are we the ones others would pigeon hole us with. They are the product of our lifetime’s journey. Labels and self-descriptors are ways of identifying ourselves with others. They are ways of justifying our shortcomings and validating our behaviours and actions.

While we cling to our labels and descriptive qualities, we do not have to aspire to anything more. We don’t have to take any risks and we don’t have to put ourselves out there on the line. We don’t have to face our fears. We don’t have to leave our comfort zones. We can just stay exactly where we are; unchallenged, without judgment and set in the same old ways we’ve been accustomed to for years.

Life, however, is in the present. We can’t keep living in the past. What’s gone is gone. It should be blessed for having taken place, and we should be grateful for all of it. No matter how bad something may seem at the time, it always has something to teach us. Once the lessons have been learnt though, we need to let the events go.

Today is all that matters. We start building our tomorrows based on our thoughts and beliefs of today. If we choose, today, to stop using auto-defining labels and self-descriptions, we open ourselves up to tomorrow’s endless possibilities.

Venerina Conti

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Transpersonal Psychology and Crisis Intervention (Part 1)

“I’m going to die”

She cried compulsively as she buried her head into my shoulder; trying to remember the details of what happened the day she left all her belongings behind in her house. I put my arms around her and kissed her head in silence.

“There was mud coming in everywhere. I saw the wall coming down.” I didn’t know what to do. I heard someone shouting out to me; telling me to run. I ran as fast as I could but I’m an old lady. I thought I was going to die. I managed to escape just in time. When I turned around. I saw my house begin to collapse. I’d been there 40 years. All my photos are gone. All my clothes are gone. I’ve got nothing left. Where am I going to live? I’ve worked all my life. What am I going to do? I get 250 euros a month. I can’t afford to rebuild a new house or buy a new place. What’s going to happen to me?” she said almost in one breath, in a flood of tears. I continued to hold her in silence.

“Maybe it was better if I’d died. Why did I live to see this?”

This is just one of the many heart-breaking accounts I’ve heard since the 21st February 2010 and just a couple of the many questions people asked.

Everyone and their family had a story: Dnª Joana, Dnª Rosa, Dnª Ana, Helena, Dnª Ana (Nº 2), Dnª Graça, Sr. José, Sr. João, Dnª Maria, Dnª Edoarda, Dnª Leonora, Dnª Rosa, Dnª Helena (Nº 2), Fam. Silva, Fam. Fernandes, Fam. Teixeira, Fam. Camacho, Dnª Maria (Nº 2), Dnª Albertina, Dnª Idalina and all the people who are not mentioned here because the list is too long. They all have an account to share in some way, and this is just a partial list of people who were made homeless and came to stay in the army barracks with us for a while.

In the field, out in the countryside, there are hundreds of thousands more accounts. In my estimation, it’s fair to say that there are probably as many accounts as people living on the island. Everyone was affected in some way.

Although it was internationally publicised, on the 20th February 2010, Madeira island was hit by a “freak storm” that flooded the capital city of Funchal, isolated the towns of Tabua and Curral das Freiras; caused immeasurable damage in Ribeira Brava and Serra D’Água and provoked severe landslides in other areas of the island like: Jardim da Serra, Trapicho, Monte, Santo Antonio, Santa Cruz and many more. The disaster was of proportions nobody could have foretold.

Many, within a matter of hours, lost everything they possessed. They were barely saved from their homes with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing. Many lost more than that. They lost their loved ones; a husband, a child, a son, a daughter, a father, a brother, a wife.

One young man lost his entire family; eight people gone within minutes. One man, seeing the mud coming and trying to protect his family, told his wife and child to run out of the car to what he thought would be safety, as they were trapped in a shopping mall car park, but they died and he survived. One family took refuge in another family’s house, thinking it would be safer from the mud; only to have a crane fall on the house and kill all nine people.

Shopping malls and underground car-parks were filled meters high with mud. Thousands of cars were destroyed in the streets. Hundreds of video clips and photos circulated on the Internet. These living memories, and images, are just some of the traumas facing the collective conscience of the people who live in Madeira and those who are watching abroad. They need to be overcome effectively for the Madeiran community to have half a chance of any kind of re-establishment of “normality of life” in the future.

It has already been noted that people are afraid to park in underground car-parks. I have also already spoken to people who refuse to shop in certain shopping malls because they feel they are graveyards. During one rainfall, a friend of mine called her partner 28 times. He didn’t reply. When he eventually did, they ended up having an argument. When she phoned me, she was fully aware that although she thought she hadn’t been affected, she was suffering with a form of post-storm trauma. Her compulsive telephoning behaviour was due to her preoccupation with his welfare during the downpour.

These are just a few examples. The worst repercussions, in my opinion, are yet to come. At present, we are entering summertime. The rain is subsiding. People are quickly trying to forget and avoid the memories. Nightclubs have registered an all time high alcoholic consumption. At Easter, an incredibly high number of Madeirans opted to leave the island for their Easter break.

At present, people are planning their holidays; talking about their suntan; thinking about their next vacation but nobody is really thinking about next winter and what will happen when the next storm strikes. I’m not saying the next storm will cause the same physical damage as this one did, but psychologically people will be affected.

Presently, people are using avoidance techniques to sidestep dealing with the real issues that underlie the fear that was instilled this last February. Yet, when next winter comes and we have torrential downpours, the memories and the fear will come back. Panic will set in.

The truth is, when we don’t know how to deal with something, we run away because it’s the easier option. Not having to face a trauma means not having to deal with the pain associated with it. Yet, in not facing pain of any kind, at a later date we find ourselves less in a position of being able to disassociate from that pain.

A natural part of any healing process is to recognise, feel and acknowledge pain, along with any memories, in order to disassociate the emotional attachment we have to them.

Personally, I’ve been working as a volunteer since the 21st February. I was brought on board as part of the psychological support team. Here in Madeira, I am the only person, to the best of my knowledge, who is a Transpersonal Psychologist with experience in Emergency and Crisis intervention and a solid background in the Transpersonal field.

During my time in the army barracks, I was also assigned to Caritas as co-ordinator for one of the main distribution depots in the army base; where the homeless were being received and temporarily housed.

When I got there, the depot was a mess. Clothes, shoes, and bedding were thrown in piles all over the floor. People were climbing all over them to get items. They were tossed and juggled. It was chaos and a mess. The people who had lost everything came in to get something and, understandably, started crying.

One by one, I escorted them out for a walk around the courtyard and gave them a defusing and debriefing session; all rolled into one. Yet, clearly I knew that wasn’t the only solution. When I went back into the depot, I kindly asked the other volunteers to transform the depot into a shop front.

My argument was: “The people who come to us for item have lost everything. They have, more than likely, never had to ask for anything in their lives. They are people with pride, honour and self-worth. We’re not going to take those qualities away from them as well. They probably see this as a bad thing. They probably feel like beggars. We need to restore their self-worth, their dignity and their pride. We need to make them feel like nothing bad has happened. By transforming this depot into something that looks like a shop, we can modify their concept of needing something from us. We can give them back something of their self-worth. If they have their self-worth, their pride and their dignity restored, they can start to rebuild their lives again. They can build a new beginning on that. If we take away that too, they have nothing left to build on.”

The volunteers understood and within a day, we had a shop front we renamed Zara RG3. RG3 is the name of the army barracks. From that time on, instead of crying when they came into the depot, people started asking if we had matching items. Some volunteers complained people were becoming a little too demanding and arrogant. Yet, it was better to see that little touch of arrogance than unrecoverable depression from which recovery could take years. If improperly treated, some people never even recover over an entire lifetime; which is sadly what happened with some of the soldiers who took part in the Falklands war whom I met, and who never received adequate post war counselling.

In fact, one such soldier, when I met him, had suicidal tendencies due to sever depression he couldn’t explain. He admitted he had had difficulties reintegrating back into society after the war. Yet, he couldn’t explain his depression. After talking to him for a while, we came to the conclusion, and agreed that his depression and suicidal tendencies were due to the fact that his conscience weighed heavy at having killed other human beings.

Killing was against his very nature. His philosophy of living was to preserve life and not take it. He had carried out orders as a member of the Forces but it contradicted everything he was “spiritually” programmed to believe in. This contradiction caused him severe inner subconscious distress. Once he learned forgiveness and to make peace between the material world; what was demanded of him under “exceptional circumstances” and the spiritual world; restoring his “spiritual state of being”, he was able to let go and start again.

In the RG3 army barracks, many tears were shed by the people who all lost something, many hugs were given and a lot of time was spent slowly, day after day, helping to rebuild confidence, trust and a vision that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and the future will be brighter.

Each case was different and had to be treated in a different way.

For one woman, physical separation from her aunt meant emotional and affectionate separation. For her, that loss was traumatic; possibly worse than the loss of her house. It was the loss of her point of reference; her security, her comfort zone, her family nucleus and such a drastic change in life that she didn’t know how to face the future.

I met her when she came into the depot for a pair of shoes. She was looking through the boxes and found one of a pair that she liked, but she couldn’t find the other one. She was there compulsively looking for the other. Instantly, I recognised, the issue wasn’t the shoe. I casually approached and asked her to escort me for a walk. That’s when I discovered her aunt had been taken into an old people’s home when she’d been removed from their home.

I tried to explain that physical separation didn’t mean emotional separation but I could sense that my words were half falling on deaf ears; not through any fault of the lady’s nor as any criticism or judgement. When a person is suffering a trauma or a profound sense of distress, although all the senses are somewhat heightened, all cognitive processing capabilities are weakened. On a cognitive level, a person appears almost in a surreal or semi dreamlike state.

After the walk, I told her to go and relax somewhere and that we’d find the shoe. We did. When I gave her the pair, she clutched them as if they were gold dust. In an absurd kind of way, they became her new point of reference.

Meanwhile, a few days later, we found out in which old people’s home the lady’s aunt was. I, personally, drove the lady and her husband to the home so they could restore the bond with their aunt. After the visit, the lady, her husband were completely different people. The husband, who had barely spoken since he’d arrived at the barracks, didn’t stop talking. The lady was happy and talkative. That night, the shoes were stolen from her room in the army barracks but she didn’t care. She had restored her original point of reference. She had her family nucleus back and intact on a physical, mental and spiritual level.

Although this was the first time I had held an “official” emergency and crisis intervention post, this was not the first time I had been involved in situations where I was able to apply Transpersonal techniques and further study transpersonal approaches and their efficacy in Crisis and Emergency Intervention.

In 1996, I unofficially devised and studied the efficacy of transpersonal defusing and debriefing techniques with hotel clients and English speaking Cypriot citizens who endured the 6.8 earthquake that was followed by a hail stone storm, of great magnitude, the following day.

In 1997, in Cyprus, once again we lived in a state of Emergency as we became under direct threat of war with Turkey. Since Cyprus has no real army to speak of, my colleagues (the barmen) kept machine guns, hand grenades and gas masks on standby behind the bar; in case of attack. Early in the mornings, we would awake to the sound of Turkish jet fighters being chased by Greek ones.

Once again, it became an opportunity for me to unofficially test my own Transpersonal debriefing techniques. For a while, we all lived with the impending uncertainty of life or death. It was also a time when I re-evaluated my own personal beliefs and my own perspective on life.

In 1998, I unofficially experimented these Transpersonal techniques on US seals in Oman who had been employed in the Gulf war and were suffering post war trauma. The classical symptoms were nightmares, feelings of persecution, paranoias about their personal safety, avoidance and denial.

Furthermore, in 1998,1999 and the year 2000, I unofficially tested my theories further about transpersonal techniques and their intervention efficacy with US, Arabic and British Forces in Bahrain and Dubai, pre and post gulf assignments.

Prior to these dates, in 1995, I had worked on Forces bases in Germany in Minden, Osnabrück, Monchengladbach and Gütersloh. It was there, with the constant bomb checks and other safety procedures that I started to wonder what psychological repercussions arise in a person.

Using myself as a study subject, I slowly noticed how my awareness grew and my habitual carefree patterns of life and living began to change. I started taking my safety less for granted and from a psychological point of view; fear had crept in. My behaviour was changing by mere suggestion of what could be and not by what “actually” was.

Yet, my love for psychology really emerged from being a professional entertainer. As I performed night after night, my curiosity arose from how music had the ability to manipulate people’s moods and emotions and completely change the atmosphere in a venue; sometimes effortlessly and sometimes with a great deal of effort. So, in 1993 I embarked on my Psychology degree.

Yet, I was consciously aware that not all entertainers have the same ability to make this change in people nor touch the inner being of people in the same way. When I completed my degree, I still couldn’t find an explanation for this occurrence in conventional psychology and that’s when I realised its limitations and turned to the transpersonal approach.

In 2001, I tested my theories a little further about psychological transpersonal techniques and interconnectivity in Shanghai, China: 1) In cases of child/adult abuse and with young girls forced into prostitution as a means of survival, and 2) with police officers when I was arrested in the airport and spent a considerable amount of time in the chief of police’s office. The outcome was I made new friends in unimaginable places under unthinkable circumstances.

All my tests and experiments were unofficial, unwitting and for my own satisfaction. They were never officially recorded anywhere nor were they officially declared to any presiding psychological society. Yet, with a little push from a couple of very nice colleagues here in Madeira, I feel that the time is now right to start bringing my research out into the open little by little, making it official and perhaps make a little bit of a difference to someone somewhere; even if that be by helping another psychologist to help a client/patient.

The transpersonal models I have created are guidelines for swift simultaneous “attachment and detachment” methods in order to create instant bonds and safe environments between people in moments of Emergency and Crisis Intervention.

Until 2008, I didn’t even know the techniques I was using were determined “Transpersonal”. It was only when I came to study with Atlantic University that I was finally able to assign the label “Transpersonal” to the methods I’d been using. Until then, I’d just entitled them “Humanistic” psychological approaches.

Since 2007, I have been healing people online and offline using an integrative methods of Transpersonal Psychology and Natural Medicine. There are testimonials on my website.

In 2009, while debating whether I should continue with my Doctorate in Natural Medicine, pursue a Doctorate in Transpersonal Psychology, or start from the beginning and pursue a degree in Medicine, I visited Nepal. While I was there, I volunteered in a Tibetan Nunnery Clinic. I also visited a Tibetan refugee camp. It was there that I finally found self confidence in the craft I had turned into an art form - I finally realised my methods of Transpersonal approaches are completely cross-cultural.

Reflecting back on this, I can only award this very important factor to having worked with, interacted with, learnt from and assimilated something from all the people I have met in life. For that I am truly grateful. They were people literally from all over the world. I have lived among, worked with or met and learnt something from someone from just about every country on this planet.

They are people of all ages, from all walks of life, all socio-economical backgrounds, all traditions, cultures, beliefs and religions; and they have all left me with a new piece of knowledge.

I’ve always been of the opinion that conventional psychology is limiting. I wrote an article about the Psychology of Past lives and Reincarnation where I explicitly state the need for a more integrative approach to psychological intervention that falls outside the outdated models currently being used.

Now, as I sit and reflect upon the flood events in Madeira and my previous experience, I am resolute in my opinion that Clinical Psychology needs a shake up. If Psychologists of the future are to offer better services to their clients/patients then they need to have a more holistic training, more complete tools and a better approach; one that integrates mind, body and soul.

I believe that in situations like emergency and crisis, the least “clinically” said, the better. People just need to be heard, comforted and reassured. Emotional distresses need to defused and/or debriefed but not in a clinical way.

Formal clinical training is an essential part of training for psychologists, but there are no clinical models that can help in an emergency situation, and every human being will react and respond in a different way. It’s all a question of trial and error. What works with one person may not necessarily work with another. Assumptions should never be made and parrot fashion text book style approaches are useless.

One mistake many psychologists make, in an emergency and crisis situation, is saying: “I understand,” at the end of a “trauma” person’s sentence.

Unless we truly go through what people in this situation have been through, we cannot begin to understand. So, there is nothing we can inwardly draw upon to even begin to understand. A simple statement like this can make matters worse. It’s better to be honest and say: “I can’t begin to understand what you’re going through but ....” and offer reassurance or comfort.
Honesty is a must. If you are dishonest, trust will be broken and the person who has just lost everything will fall further into depression and harbour feelings of resentment; not just against you but also against fellow colleagues in support positions.

As psychologists working with Transpersonal methods, we need to learn to respect all beliefs, traditions and religious faiths. This is easier for me, since, as a Buddhist, part of our philosophy is just that.

One day, as I was walking through the dining hall, two women stopped me and asked me why God punished the “more humble” by destroying their houses; making them homeless and apparently never took anything away from the rich. My first question was: “Do you both believe in God?” They replied: “Yes.” So, I said: “Do you have faith in him?” “We don’t want to lose our faith” They replied.

So, I sat with them and began to explain the reasons Funchal flooded. I began to explain the physics of river length versus depth and width. I began to show them the potential architectural structural differences between the houses that were destroyed and those that weren’t. I made them think about geographic choice of locations for more humble abodes versus more upper market properties. I offered them scientific data for climatic changes and so on, until one of them said: “So, really it has nothing to do with God punishing anyone.” I simply smiled at her.

Then, the other lady hit with a question I wasn’t expecting. She said: “What about the people who died?” My reply was honest, I said: “I don’t know. I know it’s not a punishment because God is a God of love. Maybe, with all the disasters everywhere in the world at the moment, God can’t help us and protect us all at the same time. So, maybe he needed some extra Angels to help him watch over us from up there.”

In situations of Emergency and Crisis Intervention, a psychologist (or any individual in a support position) needs to be able to:

Attach and Detach simultaneously.
Show compassion and kindness.
Respect spiritual, traditional and cultural differences.
Be calm within themselves to project and instill calmness in others.
Be empathetic and sympathetic but not patronising.
Recognise their own limitations.
Be honest and open hearted.
Practice, teach and offer integrative alternatives to conventional methods of psychological treatment.
Recognise each case as an individual case.

Anyone, regardless of whether you’re a psychologist or not, can apply these few principles when helping someone to overcome a difficult situation in their life.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Tears reflected in someone else's eyes

Someone once wrote that God never gives us more pain than we can handle. I guess what is meant by that phrase is that, as human beings, we are so resilient, we adapt to our circumstances. We take the pain and we learn to deal with it in the best possible way. We may even learn from it and eventually start to slowly move forward again; recomposing the pieces in this jigsaw we call life - growing a little stronger each day.

We may be undoubtedly left with scars, some emotional, others psychological or physical but they serve as a living testimony to our strength in overcoming each challenge we found along our path. They’re a reminder of what was; a souvenir we gained from the challenges we faced and are almost like a sign of bravery for every hurdle we managed to overcome and survive.

The healing process for each pain is different and differs from individual to individual. There are those who need to share their pain by being surrounded by others who care. There are those who need to retreat into quiet solitude with their own inner being and there are those who need a little of both.

There are those who look for answers in signs and small miracles and there are those who never question anything at all. They just accept everything as a coincidental part of living. There are some who never heal at all from their pain. There are some who only partially heal and there are those for whom wounds just keep reopening.

Whichever the case, it would seem that pain, whatever kind, always leaves a void; a little hollow space where the depth of the sheer emptiness is such that it feels like a big black hole from outer space slowly taking over - engulfing us with all its almighty dark expanse. Most of the time, we may feel like nobody understands our pain. Yet, in all honesty, we probably never truly understand the personal consequences of the pain of others.

We can sympathise and we can empathise with each other but our pain is just that - ours. Even when we go through the same experiences, we all relate to them in different ways. Our processing means, rates and abilities are all different, our sensitivities are different and our emotional make-ups are different because the experiences we have and the lessons we’ve learnt in life have all been taken in differently.

Therefore our responses to pain and our healing processes are very different and as unique to us as our personalities. We all have different coping strategies in place that are the product of our life’s journey and what we’ve encountered along the way.

Yet, we all probably share one common trait when it comes to pain. Just as we think our suffering couldn’t get any worse, something happens to trigger the healing process. A sign arrives, a friend says something, someone hugs us, or one day we may just see our own tears reflected back at us in someone else’s eyes.

Suddenly, the darkness is banished by resplendent light and clarity. The void is replaced with sheer beauty and we feel that graceful, gentle, loving touch of another human being’s soul. There is no transpersonal connection or communication that is purer, more beautiful or more satisfying to the very inner being of who we really are.

That’s when the healing process begins and we silently, but consciously, know it. That’s when we know we can get through whatever it is we’re going through.

So maybe, in relation to: "God never gives us more pain that we can handle" - perhaps it more appropriate to say that when God thinks we're on the verge of not being able to handle it, he sends us someone or something to bail us out, to replenish our souls and lay a healing hand on us.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Natural Disasters and Nuclear Testing

Far be it from me to be a conspiracy theorist or even one to listen to conspiracy theories. Yet, last year in Nepal I met a very interesting man who, at his own request and for his own safety, shall remain anonymous. He told me that in former years he worked for the US government on top secret projects. At first, I thought he might just be another crack pot conspiracy theorist who’d spent too much time smoking something during the sixties.

Yet, in light of all the recent disasters taking place on a worldwide scale, the stories he told me are beginning to resonate somewhere down in the depth of my inner core. They’re stories that motivated me to question, research and investigate everything around me.

His stories were so vast and so far reaching that I didn’t even know where to begin. The truth of the matter is that, stories, by general consensus, are usually and generally considered fiction. In this particular case, his stories sparked my curiosity and my research findings are beginning to witness fiction as reality.

I now see what I thought was a crackpot conspiracy theorist account of governments and politics being reenacted in the very theatre we call “home” - “our world” - “our planet.” I find myself questioning if I have become yet another crackpot conspiracy theorist, or just someone who is touching on half of the truth we never hear because “the people behind the power” don’t want us to know and well, since we’re so wrapped up on our daily lives, we never really go looking for it.

Since January 2010, there have been earthquakes in Haiti, the Obi islands, Pico Rivera (Mexico - Near California), Turkey, Argentina, Chile, Indonesia and the Tibetan autonomous Region of Kyedudo. There have been flooding and mudslides in Sicily, Brasil, Madeira, Uganda and Eastern India, avalanches in Kohistan, British Colombia and Salang; not to mention the volcanic eruption in Iceland or the unusual climatic conditions the world has seen this year; particularly in Europe.

Is this all mother nature? Are all these events truly the result of natural disasters? Or, has Mother Nature had a helping hand?

We’ve all heard the theories and conspiracy theories about 2012 being the end of the world. Everywhere you look on the Internet, in book stores, on TV documentary channels there’s someone willing to tell you about the apocalypse coming our way. There’s the theory of planet X; otherwise known as Nibiru. There’s the theory of the planets’ alignment. There’s yet another theory of the dawning of the new age of Aquarius, which is linked to the expiration of the Mayan calendar. Nearly everyone who is anyone, or who is someone seeking fortune and fame, has a theory about how the world will come to an end in 2012.

I say quite blatantly and forgive my language if you’re a prude but, “Bullshit.”

Not one theory around today can be proven to be correct nor does any one of them hold up under scientific scrutiny. In my opinion, all the theories out there are quite simply an attempt to shock people, create sensationalism, disseminate fear and control people’s minds, which ultimately, wittingly and/or unwittingly, gives power and control over their behaviour.

We saw the same thing happen with the advent of the year 2000 when everyone said the world was going to end. Everyone was psychologically affected in some way by the Y2K syndrome. Everyone feared something. At the extreme end of the scale, people even died. Some committed suicide. Some religious sects used the Y2K as an excuse to purge people of their entire belongings.

Fear: - Such a small word with such huge consequences. It makes people behave in irrational ways. People filled with fear are people who are easy to control, manipulate and command at will. People who are filled with fear usually obey without a doubt because they forget to reason. Fear invades all rational cognitive processing power. Systems shut down and, like sheep, fear filled people do whatever is demanded of them; no questions asked.

So, perhaps I should reformulate my original question and ask whether Mother Nature has a helping hand in all these Natural disasters to disseminate fear? Or, perhaps the question should be: “Does someone somewhere want us to believe that the end of the world is really coming, by helping to cause these natural disasters?”

I don’t believe in a revengeful God. I’ve been closely monitoring climate changes for a few years now and I don’t believe they are so severe to cause everything that has happened in the last 3 and a half months.

However, something else I have been tracking has lead me to believe there is a new possible and very viable explanation for what has been happening lately: - Nuclear testing.

Many people aren’t aware of this but in 1963, in Moscow, a treaty was signed to ban all nuclear testing unless it was conducted underground. Between 1958 and 1962, the USSR and the US had already conducted at least a dozen nuclear tests in the earth’s upper atmosphere.

In 1996, seventy one nations signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which meant they banned testing in their own territories. However, since the last world war there have been 2000 or more nuclear tests above and below the surface; but predominantly under water.

I quote: -

Since the first nuclear weapons were exploded at the end of the Second World War, more than 2,000 nuclear tests have been carried out predominantly by the five “declared” Nuclear Weapons States, China, France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the former USSR. More than 500 of these were ‘atmospheric tests’ conducted above ground mostly in the ‘50s and ‘60s, after which more than 1,500 were carried out underground....

.... Between 1966 and 1974, France conducted nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere at the atolls, including 41 nuclear tests and five “safety trials”....

end quote -

Am I missing something here? I thought the treaty banned testing in the atmosphere! If France was in breach of the treaty, then, how many other countries were too?

Even if we wish to overlook this fact, there is one fact we cannot turn a blind eye to. Every nuclear detonation, whether conducted underground (on surface terrain) or under the sea is sufficiently devastating enough to cause of an earthquake. The strength of the earthquake will depend on the strength of the nuclear charge detonated. Worst of all, the earth tremour can be felt for distances up to thousands of miles away from the detonation point.

I quote: -

.... in 1997--that Russia, despite its commitments, conducted a test at Novaya Zemlya. Thus, on August 16, 1997 a seismic signal from the vicinity of Novaya Zemlya registered at 3.2 on the Richter scale--consistent with a very small blast of between 0.1 and 1.0 kiloton, which might indicate scaled-down tests of a warhead primary.

end quote -

My questions here are multiple. As scientists know so much about tectonic plates and seismic fault lines, and as most nuclear scientists are paid by governments, could it be that some earthquakes don’t “JUST” happen?

I’ve posted a link in the resources to a map that pinpoints all the nuclear test sites till 2008, or does it? I mean, we can really only believe half of what we’re told and assume the other half is classified or really not true at all. And, where are the nuclear test reports from 2008 till 2010? More to the point, where are the test sites and why aren’t we being informed about them?

With so much mystery, I’m beginning to wonder what kind of a nuclear charge detonation it would take to cause an Earthquake in Haiti or Obi islands or Tibet? I’m also wondering just how much influence nuclear atmospheric testing has on climate change around the globe?
We know from the tests carried out in French Polynesia that nuclear testing can provoke flooding and landslides. The extent of the damage caused will depend on the amount of radiation exposure from the charge detonated.

I’m not looking at this from a conspiracy point of view but from an economical point of view. Who stands to gain from all these earthquakes?

Will all these disasters serve as a means to reduce the population count? Are they intended to make us live in fear? Will they bring economic growth to the countries or regions that have been affected? After all, money is now travelling from country to country as financial aid is being sent here, there and everywhere.

Or, are they just another way for the few powerful rulers to grow and control even more. Just who stands to gain the most? Pharmaceutical companies, for sure, will benefit more than ever from sales of medicine on a global scale; where their H1N1 vaccine failed. Construction companies will be required to re-build properties. Banks will get a kick-start from interest rates on loans. Economies will change.

A friend of mine quoted a line from a movie to me recently. The line is: “Are you really that naive to think that we live in a democratic world?” - Of course, I don’t believe we do. The true essence of Democracy exists solely for debate among philosophers and Platonic idealists.

However, the very question made me stop and think about whether or not I’m naive enough to believe that all these natural disasters really are natural.

Resources and further reading: