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In the Margins – Poem #9

| In the Margins – Poem #9 – From the pages of Mary Windermere’s Book of Exotic Fish (unpublished). -M.J. Heinrich |


…Come true

In the absence before your presence,

I called for your essence;

Permanence greeted me

Your entrance—alchemy—

Humans in the Garden of Eden

(We were singing—softly;

Silently conferring: 

Is it getting late to be falling in love—

in the holy beginning? 

Or is it nearly time 

to be rising in Love— 

and leaving this level of Heaven?)

Pondering these words on our island;

immersed in the crystal green water,

I open my eyes—smile and wonder— 

indigo orange fish

Remind me of a wish…


Feature photo by Marta Dzedyshko

Survival of the Most Adaptable

The German Sustainability Award, sponsored by the Federal Government of Germany, is the most comprehensive environmental award in Europe. Competition is focused in eight categories: architecture, companies, corporate partnerships, design, municipalities, NEA (next economy award), packaging, and research.

Research plays a significant role in all areas but merits its own category. A rich potentiality thrives in research and yet it can be daunting, as new ideas are cooled in theoretical frameworks, pooling deep in scientific journals and libraries—instead of focused, like a laser-beam, towards generating new dimensional realities.

How do we shift into applied research (pivoting away from what Greta Thunberg recently called the “blah, blah, blah” of politicians’ speeches) and turn the knowledge available to us into solutions and action—baby steps, if that’s what will get us started—immediately?

First, we recognize where we are.

The leitmotif in the research category this year is adaptation — adaptation to climate change and extreme weather events. In western Europe, as in other regions of the world, the extreme rainfall, flash floods, and intense heatwaves in recent years have made it clear that preparedness and proactive solutions are required right away. Adaptation now.

Three projects are vying for the award. The finalists are:  



I asked German real estate expert Carsten Heinrich which research project best captures the zeitgeist.

A.L.: All of these are excellent projects. Which one stands out for you, and why?

C.H.: The effects of climate change on communities are increasingly disruptive and destructive. People are facing tangible problems right now, but a lot of environmental policies can only be implemented in the long-term. So I think all the finalists in the research category are working to build vital bridges, but the HeatResilientCity project stands out for me in the way it demonstrates how climate adaptation measures can be implemented in the short term – immediately, actually — with smaller, achievable steps. And, as the jury noted, the team has been able to link data measurement to simulations with an innovative approach, which points to even greater relevance and reach.


The 14th German Sustainability Award ceremony will take place December 2 – 3, 2021 in Düsseldorf.


Feature photo by Andrés García

Caveat Meditator

| INT. – A bookstore in Rishikesh, India – Afternoon |

I am with a yoga teacher from the west. She is browsing the shelves for herself, but then remembers that I, her student, am present. She hands me a book. “Here, this is good. You should read this and practice the exercises.”

The book she has handed me is on advanced breathing techniques.

While it is a good book, it is not a good book for me at this stage. Curiously, she has not asked me essential questions about my previous training, interests, and goals; so how does she know that this is appropriate for me? Simple answer: she does not know. She has not asked me the questions because this retreat she has organized is not for me or other participants. It is for herself.

And this book is not for me—not yet. What little I do know about advanced breathing techniques: they are powerful. One must proceed with proper training, adequate knowledge, and competent guidance. Otherwise, it could be dangerous. This book requires far more than the one-week yoga retreat can deliver or my current schedule will allow. So I ask: “Isn’t this advanced? Isn’t it important to do the basic training first?” She smirks, then sighs and concedes, “Yeah…”


Whereas spiritual masters have been warning their disciples for thousands of years about the dangers of playing with mystical states, the contemporary spiritual scene is like a candy store, where any casual spiritual “tourist” can sample the “goodies” that promise a variety of mystical highs.

Mariana Caplan


Willoughby Britton Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University; she has researched and published papers on the “adverse effects” of mindfulness-related processes (MRPs). Focusing on the benefits and the drawbacks of mindfulness techniques, she teaches people “how to interact with spiritual or meditation systems.”

This is a vital role. Even as all kinds of meditation centers, yoga studios, spiritual retreats, and mindfulness apps have proliferated, at the same time inadequate guidance or even irresponsible, negligent, unethical, and harmful behaviors from those who are supposed to hold a safe space for students/clients has grown, often unchecked. And there is the glimmering idealism (in words and images) about the benefits of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness, mushrooming in media and pop culture, drawing more people in — while leaving out extremely important and sensitive aspects of these practices.

An expert on kundalini yoga, the psychotherapist Gurucharan S. Khalsa, Ph.D. wrote: “Scattered through scriptural, historical, and political writings are warnings for those who practice kundalini yoga. There were several reasons for these warnings. The matrix of energies that compose our body and mind operates by laws and is highly complex. A technology that enhances and releases those energies must be precise, and precisely managed. So there is a need for a teacher to guide or certify the teachings and how to use them.”

According to the spiritual teacher Stuart Perrin, “meditation practitioners should be well rooted in the third chakra when a dormant kundalini awakens. This keeps them from being turned into cosmic ash by kundalini’s powerful force.”

Clearly, students are well advised to seek a qualified teacher or guide and to prepare for the more advanced techniques and practices – but even with simple techniques, students may show up in a vulnerable state of mind and require attentive, careful guidance.

Meanwhile—the qualified teacher offering their presence, deep listening, compassion, and skills—this teacher who has done the personal work and can hold a safe space for students—is extremely rare and invaluable.

Instead, what we find in most instances is a practitioner of a technique engaged in some form and degree of projection and some level of competition with other practitioners or even with their students.

The psychologist John Welwood coined the term “spiritual bypassing” to describe a process he witnessed in his community. In an interview with Tina Fossella, he explained: “I noticed a widespread tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks. When we are spiritually bypassing, we often use the goal of awakening or liberation to rationalize what I call premature transcendence: trying to rise above the raw and messy side of our humanness before we have fully faced and made peace with it.”


Dr. Britton founded Cheetah House, an organization “to offer support to meditators in distress.” Reportedly, they had more than 20,000 people contacting them just in 2020. These include individual meditators and also people who teach or guide others in mindfulness-related processes.

Dr. Britton and colleagues also offer a 3-Day Meditation Safety Training for MBSR/CT teachers: First Do No Harm: Foundational Competencies for Working Skillfully with Meditation-Related Challenges. As more of the people choosing to guide students gain the awareness to approach their role ethically, with greater understanding of the responsibilities involved, the “mindfulness space” will be safer for everyone.

At Cheetah House, Britton heard a question formulated by people in a support group: “Is my practice serving me, or am I serving my practice?”

We may also ask: Is my teacher really a teacher with the intention of serving me, or actually a wounded child/student playing a teacher—seeking their own growth and power, and looking to extract attention and other personal gains from the dynamic we are in?

If you have found a true teacher – sincere and heartfelt congratulations. If you are gaining awareness that it is the latter scenario that you are in, then muster up the courage to move away from the unsupportive or harmful dynamic, with compassion for others and yourself. Nevertheless, be heartened. Your current task may be to develop more self-responsibility or other valuable qualities.

There are paths for self-study that have been signposted by responsible teachers and guides, careful to inform us of dangerous areas along with useful directions for mindfulness-related practices. For example, in the online video course Embracing the Shadow, teacher Charlie Morley directs us to a pre-practice reflection: “Is now the right time to explore this…? Do I feel stable enough to explore this…? Is the kindest thing I can do for myself right now to explore this…? [and] If not, give yourself more time and come back to the practices later.”

Warnings and reflection exercises are not to dissuade us from engaging in mindfulness practices; rather they serve to strengthen our resolve in being prepared, committed, and clear on our objectives. Intentional.

Remember, too that there are myriad ways to achieve and sustain wellness — including mindfulness practices and activities such as walking in nature and reading uplifting poetry.

“Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite spaces, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

It is a well-blended combination and a variety of techniques, tools, and activities—customized—that deliver the more gentle, authentic, effective and joyful developmental journey.❂


The information, materials, and content in this post and on this website are for general educational purposes only and not intended to provide specific advice or to serve as a substitute for professional medical consultations, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare practitioners before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness routine or other wellness program.


Feature photo by cottonbro

Photos by Yan Krukov, and wendel moretti

Hygiene and Wellness

When it comes to hygiene – personal hygiene – the cleanliness of body, clothing, and home environment are typically the focus. And while these are important, hygiene is much more: it is about maintaining health and preventing disease – and so that includes physical and mental cleanliness. 

Photo by Manuel Torres Garcia

In the 19th century, the poet Robert Browning dropped us into the secret inner world of a monk who is enraged at “Brother Lawrence”. What exactly did this Brother Lawrence do? You might wonder, if you haven’t already read the fiercely gnarled interior monologue known as the “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister”. Well, for one, Brother Lawrence grew melons to share with the order. (The effrontery! The virtue signaling!)

“Oh, those melons! if he’s able
   We’re to have a feast; so nice!
One goes to the Abbot’s table,
   All of us get each a slice.
How go on your flowers? None double?
   Not one fruit-sort can you spy?
Strange!–And I, too, at such trouble,
   Keep them close-nipped on the sly!”

This is a monk going through the motions of appearing pious, and while we witness his contaminated thoughts – we realize: he can hide them. They’re his thoughts. While some do cross over into actions, they are sly actions. Without the access provided by our esteemed poet, we probably would perceive him as the quiet, devoted monk that he presents himself as, deep in contemplation in a peaceful cloister.

We rise above the cloister and drift across the ocean…

Photo by Kayla Salisbury

…to Gilligan’s Island, about a hundred years later. Specifically, episode #55, “Seer Gilligan”.  

Photos by Karolina Grabowska and Nivedha S

Sunflower seeds that confer telepathic ability have been found. The delight of the castaways rapidly turns into resentment and acrimony.


“CUT TO: INT - GIRLS HUT - DAY
Mary Ann and Ginger are in the middle of an argument.
                                 MARY ANN
                    HAH! Is that so!?
                                 GINGER
                    Yes that's so! And not only that...
                    I'm a what!!?
                                 MARY ANN
                    I'm glad you can read my mind, I'm too much 
                    of a lady to say those things.
                                 GINGER
                    Well here's something for you!
                                 MARY ANN
                    OH!!!
                                 GINGER
                    OH!!!
 CUT TO: EXT - HOWELL'S HUT - DAY
 Mr. Howell comes out of his hut in a huff and slams the 
 door.
                                 MR HOWELL
                    And the same goes for your brother!
 Mr. Howell passes the professor who is sitting at a 
 table as Gilligan walks up to the professor.
                                 GILLIGAN
                    Hi professor can I talk to you?
                                 PROFESSOR
                    Wouldn't you prefer to think at me?
                                 GILLIGAN
                    NO it's the last thing I want to do.  I just 
                    had a terrible think fight with the skipper.  
                    You should have heard some of the terrible 
                    thoughts he thought at me.
                                 PROFESSOR
                    Well it's not just you and the skipper.  The 
                    girls aren't speaking to each other, and the 
                    Howells have just had a violent argument.  
                    Actually, considering all the months we've 
                    spent on this island, those are the first 
                    real fights we've had.
                                 GILLIGAN
                    I thought we'd just get along great if 
                    everybody could read each other's minds.
                                 PROFESSOR
                    So did I.  You know, I thought those seeds 
                    might even help world peace when we're 
                    rescued.  I thought that if all the countries 
                    in the world could only...
                    What do mean that's a stupid idea!?
                                 GILLIGAN
                    All I mean is if the seven of us taking the 
                    seeds just can't get along...
                                 PROFESSOR
                    I know what you mean, but that's no reason to 
                    be insulting!
 The professor gets up and storms off camera.
 CUT TO: Everyone is around the table looking upset and 
 arguing. Gilligan sees everyone arguing and walks off into the 
 jungle.

And there it was: an opportunity for the castaways to clean their thoughts and begin relating to each other with a higher level of mental hygiene. They would have had to acknowledge and work through their discomfort and release delusions. Instead, they became reactive and misplaced their personal responsibility.

Gilligan burns the bush and destroys the seeds, the telepathic abilities wear off, and they go back to their “normal” communications.

A missed opportunity, framed in a story as a smart way to avoid interpersonal conflict, but which actually reflected a profound lack of courage in “powerful” societies. Thus the 20th century continued and ended.

Then came “social media”…

Photo by Pixabay

I’m with a friend and her teenage daughter on a walk, and our conversation on mental health meanders to social media. The teenager has lots of questions. Why are people so stingy with likes? They’re free, aren’t they? Why do so many of her “friends” not like or comment on her posts — especially the ones where she has earned recognition or is just expressing happiness?

Photo by Cristian Dina

“It’s as if…” she reluctantly articulates, “they’re not happy for me.” We are learning more about harmful effects of social media — especially on young minds, and it is important to provide language, tools, and support for people to make healthy choices regarding online presence and participation.

We can also expand our concepts of what is instructive.

There’s an opportunity here. Instead of becoming reactive and misplacing our personal responsibility, we can acknowledge and work through our discomfort and release delusions. We can choose to not project our own shadow aspects onto others.

Perhaps, though, it is our only option now.

For ages, people could get away with hiding their less-than-generous feelings and thoughts about people in their social circles and beyond, but one consequence of social media has been connecting people in ways that reveal mental hygiene – yours as well as that of others.

So-called “unseen” private thoughts are beginning to show. Interior monologues are becoming unconscious soliloquies. Mental hygiene is becoming as accessible to the senses as physical hygiene.

Geteiltes Leid

ist halbes Leid;

Glück verdoppelt sich

wenn man es teilt.

(German saying)

Sorrow shared is reduced by half; happiness shared is doubled.

This is the natural order, but when people have poor mental hygiene, the personal sorrow you confide in them is either amplified or ignored — and the happiness you share is decimated.


With good personal mental hygiene: thoughts, words, and actions are in alignment. People are able to share in a boundless happiness and naturally reduce others’ sorrows. With poor hygiene, they can barely contain an inner gr-r-r at another’s happiness.

How can we develop good mental hygiene?

Let’s carefully consider the guidance of sage Patañjali:

Maitrī-karuṇā-muditā-upekṣāṇāṁ

sukha-duḥkha-puṇya-apuṇya-

viṣayāṇāṁ bhāvanātaḥ-citta-prasādanam

Yogasūtra I.33

There are four parts to this:

  1. Be friendly towards those who are happy;
  2. Be compassionate towards those who are unhappy;
  3. Take delight in those who are virtuous and benevolent;
  4. Cultivate non-judgmental equanimity regarding those who are malevolent.

It’s not easy, but it’s that simple. 

Life on earth gives us myriad chances to practice.  Each day brings opportunities to develop these, to improve personal hygiene and enhance holistic wellness.❂


Feature photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova

On the Waves of Thoughts

More than 14 million books

Published over a period of 125 years (1855 – 2019)

In 3 languages (English, German, Spanish)

Add machine learning and algorithms that tirelessly seek and identify textual markers of “cognitive distortions” — thinking patterns associated with anxiety and depression — for researchers to analyze.

And?

They analyzed.

And?

The interdisciplinary team of researchers found that the language records show a surge of cognitive distortions since the 1980s.

Suggesting?

In fact, entire societies may be getting more depressed — and this may correlate with new technologies and “social” media.

Aha.

Before you say, “I knew it; I just had a feeling” — just consider if that may indicate a cognitive distortion…

Find information on the cognitive distortion schemata used in the study here, and below a brief overview:


12 Cognitive Distortions

1. Catastrophizing

Exaggerating the importance of negative events

Examples: “will go wrong” and “will never end”

2. Dichotomous Reasoning

Thinking that an inherently continuous situation can only fall into two categories

Examples: “everything” and “nothing”

3. Disqualifying the Positive

Unreasonably discounting positive experiences

Examples: “good but” and “not that good”

4. Emotional Reasoning

Thinking that something is true based on how one feels, ignoring the evidence to the contrary

Examples: “because it feels” and “because I feel”

5. Fortune-telling

Making predictions, usually negative ones, about the future

Examples: “I will not” and “it will not”

6. Labeling and Mislabeling

Labeling yourself or others while discounting evidence that could lead to less disastrous conclusions

Examples: “I am a(n)…” and “They are a(n)…”

7. Magnification and Minimization

Magnifying negative aspects or minimizing positive aspects

Examples: “best” and “worst”

8. Mental Filtering

Paying too much attention to negative details instead of the whole picture

Examples: “all I can see” and “completely wrong”

9. Mindreading

Believing you know what others are thinking

Examples: “she thinks” and “he does not believe”

10. Overgeneralizing

Making sweeping negative conclusions based on a few examples

Examples: “always” and “nobody ever”

11. Personalizing

Believing others are behaving negatively because of oneself, without considering more plausible or external explanations for behavior

Examples: “because of me” and “because I”

12. Should Statements

Having a fixed idea on how you and/or others should behave

Examples: “should” and “has/have to”


Beyond books — which are typically composed, edited, and revised — let us recognize that in our hyperconnected worlds today, more and more individual consciousnesses are regularly dipping into or soaking in social media and other virtual spaces where cognitive distortions (from the subtle to the obvious) pop up rashly and run rife.

Studying these cognitive distortions, we can reflect with more precision on the many ways that we might mislead ourselves (or allow ourselves to be misled) into thinking patterns that diminish well-being and harm mental health.

The mind can flow in different directions.

Refreshingly, we may glimpse and then clearly see the many ways to improve the quality of thinking patterns for holistic wellness.

When ready to delve deeper (and be prepared; it is a deep dive), to get to the source and detach the distortions from their roots: we can learn how to clear up the kleśa (mental states that cause suffering), particularly: ignorance, aversion, and attachment.❂


The information, materials, and content in this post and on this website are for general educational purposes only and not intended to provide specific advice or to serve as a substitute for professional medical consultations, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare practitioners before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness routine or other wellness program.


Feature photo by George Milton

In the Margins – Poem #3

| In the Margins – Poem #3 – From the pages of Mary Windermere’s Book of Healing Plants (unpublished). -M.J. Heinrich |


Ginger is healing…

The feeling of heat

Heart aligned coherently

To respect those we meet.

There is danger in rage:

From exclusion and lies,

The gatekeeper and cage;

Incoherent petty hate,

And the “Just wait…”

Weight.

Wait — weight?

Till beauty and strength fade?

Till that original voice is erased?

Yet there is danger in the rage.

Who guides you, to free you-

From those who clutch and fake you?

Now this is the hour of the Sage.



| Feature photo by Klaudia Ekert |

Kneipp*

Water always finds a way

Have you ever wondered at how certain books seem to choose you, sliding into your life just when there is a specific longing and space for them, binding with threads of your destiny from the moment you choose them, too? 

That’s how the young Sebastian Kneipp must have felt that evening when he returned from the library in Munich. It was at the end of the 1840s and he was trying to get through his university studies while suffering from a lung disease he couldn’t shake off. From a poor family, he had to rely on knowledge flowing to him from various, perhaps unexpected sources. Knowledge discovered. Knowledge earned by intellectual curiosity. And so one day in the library (was he trying to suppress his coughs in the studied silence of the reading room? Did he wander off into the stacks where nobody was, where he could cough into a handkerchief and not bother anybody?) he found a book by one Dr. Johann Siegmund Hahn — written a hundred years before — on the healing powers of water. 

The author was a physician and pioneer of Wasserheilkunde, of naturopathic and scientific hydrotherapy in Germany; Hahn was comfortably positioned in a family of doctors and supported personally and professionally. Thankfully he was also generous and inspired to share his experience and knowledge. That book, with the rather windy title: “Unterricht von Krafft und Würckung des frischen Wassers in die Leiber der Menschen, besonders der Krancken, bey dessen innerlichen und äusserlichen Gebrauch (…)” rested then in the hands of Sebastian Kneipp.

“Physician, heal thyself”

While this may be a warning to those practicing medicine who seek to diagnose illnesses in people and/or project onto others rather than first acknowledging and clearing up their own health issues, it is also an earnest path for some – who, by healing themselves first, become powerful healers.

Photo by Maria Geller

After taking plunges into the cold waters of the Danube River (amongst the methods he discovered in the book and experimented with), Kneipp cured himself of what was considered an incurable illness and went on to develop a healing system that included hydrotherapy, phytotherapy, exercise, nutrition, and a balanced lifestyle. In 1887, he published his book, “Meine Wasserkur” (My Water Cure).

The town of Bad Wörishofen in southern Germany (130 km/81 miles from the München-Erding airport/Munich and 160 km/99 miles from the airport in Stuttgart), which became home to the priest and healer Sebastian Kneipp and his “water cure”, is celebrating Kneipp’s 200th birthday in 2021.

Though Kneippism is part of Germany’s intangible cultural heritage, his system, water cure and holistic approach have inspired and influenced healers and wellness spas worldwide.❀


Interview with Kneipp expert Jochen Reisberger | Dornbracht Healthness network


*We get to pronounce the K in “Kneipp” (rhymes with ripe).


“Rien n’est plus puissant qu’une idée dont l’heure est venue.”

(Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.)

Victor Hugo

Feature Photo by Todd Trapani