Teleology

As you read the title of this article, I am curious if you may have seen the word “theology” instead of “teleology?” (Feel free to go back and have another look. I’ll wait. 🙂 )

This is, in fact, what occurred for me the first time I encountered this word during my undergraduate studies. Once I caught the difference my next thought was that it must have been a typographical error, that is, a misspelling of the word “theology.”

I am thankful that my experience with this word did not end there, for I would have missed the opportunity to have discovered a word and concept that literally transformed, and dare I say, saved my life.

What I refer to here is a time in my life when Weltschmerz was beginning to take hold in my mind and was threatening to become my dominant worldview. Weltschmerz is a German word with no direct English equivalent that describes an experience of the world (Welt) that causes us to suffer pain (Schmerz). What it represents is a sense of dismay, and even despair over the condition of the world, and more specifically her human inhabitants.

Wars, greed, hunger, suffering, etc. can weigh quite heavily upon those of us who have permitted empathy to remain, and there are times when it can all become exceedingly overwhelming.

Enter TELEOLOGY:

This life altering word from the Greek is comprised of the root words telos (end, goal, purpose) and logos (reason, explanation). Combined, these words form a complex word that refers to the idea that there is “meaning and purpose” in the world and universe, that is, that something is evolving from the chaotic stream we often perceive, and significantly grieve.

Modern science is itself teleological in its method, and it is also proving the concept itself to be a reality. Astrophysicists now agree that our universe is expanding, and that our world, solar system, and galaxy are actually along for the ride. The biological concepts of vitalism and emergentism are also supportive of teleology.

Now, while all of this philosophy and science are well and good, the real value of any word and concept lies ultimately in its functionality in our lives. In this way Teleology does not disappoint.

In the midst of our current ideological duality, political turmoil, and social upheaval it is easy for pessimism to set in. Humanity seems to be on a crash course with imminent self-destruction, and it is no wonder that we see people all around us “checking out” with mind altering substances and technologies.

However, there is another way to view all that is currently taking place in our world.

What if everything is exactly how it needs to be right now? What if all that is happening is necessary to the teleological unfoldment of humanity in an ultimately positive direction? What if a “new consciousness” were to be individually and collectively evolving in response to the current delusions and insanity?

For a growing number of people living today these “what ifs” are actually “as ifs,” meaning that we do indeed believe these statements to constitute the reality of what we are experiencing in our modern world. While the picture is currently rather dark and grim, the destination and outcome is much brighter.

A friend of mine was complaining the other day about how social media now makes everything going on in our world immediately accessible. His argument was that people in the past did not know instantly about the various happenings across continents, and they were therefore much happier.

In that moment I thought of teleology, and I said, “You know, maybe we need to keep seeing it until we have finally seen enough, and decide collectively that it all needs to change – drastically!”

I pray that we might all continue to recognize all that is going wrong in our world, so that we might continue to work together to make it right. In the meantime, my hope is that we might be comforted by the concept of teleology, knowing that “all things work together for good,” and that victory lies ahead for those who will recognize that “LOVE is the true theory of everything.”

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

F.E.A.R.

As much as we may attempt to deny it, conceal it, self-medicate it, or distract ourselves from it, we might all do well to just admit it:

We are frightened and afraid.

This radical world of ours can sometimes be a very terrifying place to be, especially during times of severe unrest and upheaval. Random violence is fast becoming the norm, and places that were once recognized as “off limits” (schools, hospitals, places of worship) are no longer so. Our safety and security seem to now be capable of “turning on a dime” anytime; anywhere.

In psychology these times are being referred to as the “Age of Trauma,” and anxiety and depression are being diagnosed at an unprecedented rate. In an age of material advancements and comforts, minds are still suffering significantly, and humanity still has quite far to go before we transcend our still primitive and violent natures.

However, there is a “silver lining” here, dear Friends. I will tell you that what seems to be a direct collision course with disaster is actually a necessary transition towards a new human awakening. Conditions that are seeming deteriorations are actually setting the stage for a new consciousness where fear will reign no more.

However, while this is all underway we still have many casualties to attend to, and we need a current means of managing and healing worry, anxiety, and the stress response.

F.E.A.R. as an acronym has been defined as “Forget Everything And Run,” and this is actually a scientifically correct account of what actually happens during the human stress (fear) response. An area of the brain known as the amygdala activates, while the area involved in executive function (the pre-frontal cortex) becomes less active. The result is typically mental confusion and a “fight or flight” reaction.

An understanding of these dynamics leads to a different acronym for F.E.A.R., that being “Face Everything And Respond.” Here, we are capable of being trained to manage fear and the stress response differently. We learn to regulate amygdala dominance and keep our pre-frontal cortex engaged.

How we do this can be illustrated with another F.E.A.R. acronym. We master fear via:

Faith, Encouragement, Actualization, Resilience.

Faith can be applied as a reliance upon a higher source of power, as well as trust in our own innate capabilities.

Encouragement refers to the building up of ourselves and one another so as to foster confidence in the face of challenges.

Actualization considers how we can “come into our own” and emerge as  “forces to be reckoned with.”

Resilience is our ability to “dig deep” and “grit it out” through “thick and thin.”

I have combined these three acronym versions into a F.E.A.R. Matrix (see accompanying meme) to guide us in taking a new approach to fear in our lives and in our world. I pray we will consider it, memorize it, apply it, and live it in our daily lives.

I close with three sayings that address fear from a philosophical as well as practical perspective. I will leave the individual reader to decipher and apply them as each is inspired:

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” ~ Paul the Apostle

“I want nothing, I fear nothing, I am free.” ~ Nikos Kazantzakis

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

Radicalism

We are living in an age of extremes. Potent pharmaceuticals, rapid fire media, and polar ideologies now comprise a typical day on planet earth. The world is shrinking, and some might say it may quite possibly be collapsing in upon itself.

The once “big wide, world,” that is, once divided by distance and time, is now a single digital phenomenon. Everything is connected to everything else, instantly. We are therefore (if we choose to or allow it) constantly inundated with images and words that impact and affect us in ways we do not yet fully understand. Programming is the new determinism.

I am curious if the current polarization of thoughts and ideologies within individuals might be a reaction to this bombardment? With our minds constantly being overwhelmed and destabilized by information overload, is it possible that we are all just trying to figure out who we actually are, what we actually believe, and where we stand on the many issues that humanity faces currently?

I feel it is safe to say that MOST of us want the same for our lives; peace, safety, joy, love, prosperity, dignity, etc., and when these needs and desires are threatened, we experience fear and trepidation. Many people then seek to manage their worries and anxieties by seeking some kind of instant remedy. For some, this takes the form of denial, for others it can manifest as addiction, and for others it can become a motivating force towards the adoption of an extreme ideology.

Now folks, please don’t get me wrong here. There is no harm in having personal beliefs and preferences, in fact, it is absolutely encouraged. The problem emerges when one feels that her/his way is the only way and that others must either join them, or at least give them free-reign to demand special treatment or recognition at the expense of others.

Oh, and they would also like to be in charge: indefinitely.

This is where radicalism takes form and begins to evolve to the point that people are willing to suspend sound judgment and good will in order to be in control and have their own way. Truth is, they are as terrified as the rest of us, but rather than see and accept this, they project and externalize this fear under the guise of strength and resolve.

The current political polarization that is occurring around our world is based in FEAR. The more threatened one feels, the more extreme, radical, and irrational they seem to become. How quickly we forget the events of the early 20th century!

Solution One: HONESTY. We all would do well to sit with ourselves for a moment and wholeheartedly admit that we are frightened, and perhaps even terrified by the instability of this re-patterning world. The change we all intrinsically know is needed is underway, but before humanity can reach its highest and best, it needs to confront its lowest and worst. This is where I believe we are today, and it is surely a challenging time to be here.

Solution Two: ACCEPTANCE of the fact that we are all collectively caught in the web of a defense mechanism known as “reaction-formation,” that is, an attempt to counter one extreme with another extreme in the opposite direction.

Solution Three: WILLINGNESS to embrace change, and first within ourselves. As individualistic as modern amenities are seeking to render us, we are not alone here, and it is not just about “me.” We share this planet with many others who do not think, feel, and believe as we do. THAT IS OKAY! There is room for diversity, and there can be progress in a unified acceptance of our differences.

Our goal is to co-exist in absolute peace and harmony where all are afforded the respect and opportunity to live peacefully and productively. Jew, Muslim, Christian, or WHATEVER, our blood is the same color, our Creator ONE, our world collectively our own, and our deepest desires ultimately the same.

Jung said, “Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.” Now is a time for humanity to be thinking very carefully about how selfish judgments are fostering destruction in our world. Now is the time for ALL INDIVIDUALS to become truly good and loving persons regardless of differences.

No more hate. No more absolutism. No more extremes. No more radicalism.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

Judging

I invite you to take a moment and sit with yourself pondering the following question:

“Am I a judgmental person?”

My best guess is that if we are truly honest with ourselves, we will have to accept and acknowledge that we are all forming judgments, nearly all of the time. We judge things like ice cream flavors, vacation choices, and/or clothing styles constantly, and there is nothing wrong with this when our judgments remain personal in scope and nature. In fact, I prefer to think of these behaviors as appraisals and/or preferences as opposed to judgments.

The problem emerges when we habitually project our appraisals and preferences upon others, and the truth is that people do this quite frequently. Consider these examples:

– An overweight person is immediately labeled a glutton.

– A person charged with a crime is automatically guilty.

– A more feminine male has to be gay.

– A minority person driving an expensive car has to be engaging in illegal activity.

This list could, unfortunately, go on and on.

These ways of thinking are not only unfair, they are actually rather delusional. You see:

– The overweight person barely eats anything and still cannot lose the weight due to a genetic disorder.

– The person charged with the crime is actually a victim of mistaken identity.

– The feminine male was closer to his mother and is in reality very heterosexual and married with children.

– The minority person in the expensive car is actually one of the top brain surgeons in the country.

How can we possibly claim to know another’s story until we have heard it? Who do we think we are to even make such judgments about others? And most importantly: Why do we even engage in this practice so habitually in the first place?

Psychologically, we know that the source of judgmental thinking is based in FEAR. Because we fear for our own safety and well-being, we project negatively upon others so as to “bring them down” to our level, or even below us. Another psychological aspect of judging is based in our own sense of disappointment with our own situations. We are reminded of our own conditions when we see others appearing to have it better than we do.

Spiritually, we discuss judgment as being the result of envy, but it can also be the result of something much deeper. Very often, we project our GUILT for our own misdeeds and misgivings upon others so as to not face the truth of our own fallen spiritual nature. We point out the flaws in others to as to not have to reconcile the flaws within ourselves. As Jesus said, “we are focused upon the splinter in someone else’s eye when we have an entire log in our own.”

Okay, so here is what I propose:

Let’s make a sincere and enduring vow to begin addressing our judgmental nature, and to ultimately transform it into a positive and affirming posture towards our fellow human beings. Here are some steps to accomplishing this:

1) Start by being aware of your tendency to judge. Be honest with yourself about how and why this is a problem (but be careful to not be too hard (judgmental) on yourself).

2) Begin intervening with the tendency by first acknowledging when you have done it. Just say to yourself, “That was very judgmental of me.”

3) Now start catching yourself in the midst of judging, and when you do, switch over to thinking and/or saying positive things instead.

4) Proceed with giving everyone the “benefit of the doubt” towards the positive.

5) Train yourself to think and speak only positive and affirming things about others. When there is something clearly negative, practice empathy, and consider the circumstances.

6) Proceed with focusing less upon what others are doing, and more about what you are doing. Work on improving yourself and leave others to their own free will and Karma. “Live and let live.”

7) Let LOVE prevail in all that you think and do. Mother Theresa said, “If we judge others we have no time to love them.” Just keep striving to be as loving as you possibly can in all places and circumstances.

Please note that I am not advocating here for a “free for all” regarding ethics and/or morality. We still need laws that protect people from the misguided actions of others, and we do indeed have the right to appraise a situation as unlawful and/or in violation of the rights of others.

As always, balance and integration prevail in anything I write and/or (hopefully) do. Two words I try to avoid are “always” and “never.” Context surely matters.

I pray that this post might help us all with our tendencies to judge, and that we might become people who edify others rather than seeking to tear them down. I hope we can be honest with ourselves regarding the fact that judging reveals a problem within us, and not the other.

Imagine if every person on earth accepted these understandings and began to cease judgment in favor of behaving more lovingly towards one another? What kind of transformation might we see and experience in a world where this became the new norm?

Let it begin with each one of us . . .

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

Freedom

In my last post, I asked that we each take some time to allow ourselves to “be still” and “sit with” the space between winter and spring. I also offered a few focusing questions for us to ask ourselves in preparation for this transition. I pray these questions led us to deep reflection, insight, and readiness.

We now have the opportunity to free ourselves from the proverbial “bonds of winter,” as we step into the new life that is now springing forth all around us. We can open the windows, take an outdoor walk, rake leaves and pick up sticks, work in the flower beds, and breathe in the abundant life inherent within the air of spring.

In honor of this transition, I invite us all to try the following exercise:

As soon as the weather permits, let us go to an outdoor space that holds meaning for us, and where the beauty of God’s creation abounds. Let us stand in that space, feet shoulder’s width apart as we breathe deeply, filling our lungs from bottom to top as we intend and visualize the taking in of new life and vitality. We can hold that breath for a time, and then gently exhale as we intend and visualize the sending forth of peace and blessing. As we pause after the exhale, we can also be aware of the touch of the sun and all that we receive from its warming rays. If the sun is not shining, we can focus upon the sensation of the open space, and the magnitude of God’s magnificent creation.

We may find that a rhythm develops for these breaths, and in therapy we often teach a technique known as “square breathing,” which is 4 slow counts in, 4 slow counts hold, 4 slow counts out, and a slow 4-count pause before the next inhalation. We can also add a more structured thought to the inhalation and exhalation. My personal favorite is “Glory to God in the Highest” on the inhale and “Peace to God’s people on earth” on the exhale. We are all FREE to decide what works best for us individually.

HINT: This breathing exercise is also scientifically proven to help set us free from anxiety and panic in that it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the “fight of flight” response.

As we embrace the freedom this exercise affords us, may we also open our hearts and free our minds of limiting paradigms, systems, and associations that constrict us and separate us from one another. May we move past any over-reliance or hyper-attachment to any -ologies or -isms that may stand in the way of the perfect freedom our Creator built into our Universe, the freedom to be and do all that is beautiful, affirming, and life-giving. The freedom to do all that is right and just. The freedom to do every next good thing.

As we continue to grow in this positive freedom, we may find ourselves experiencing authentic peace and joy in our lives, even to the point that when winter comes around next time we may experience its effects less and less. We come to embrace the “ebb and flow” of the seasons with a new understanding that allows us to see the purpose and meaning of each transition, and every new chapter of our lives.

For now, however, let us be fully in spring, and receive all the gifts that come with it. May we embrace the “personal freedom” that is our birthright, and most importantly, may we seek always to . . .

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

New Life

I am not sure what might be taking place in your own “neck of woods,” but here in South-central Pennsylvania, spring is tarrying. Just as the buds start forming, and the perennials begin to show signs of blooming, the weather shifts back to winter once again.

We are trying our best to “hang in there.” 🙂

And yet, there is a lesson in this, just as there are nearly always lessons in every life experience. When a lingering winter and a tarrying spring are holding us in limbo, we are given a time to wait, reflect, and search for deeper purpose and meaning. When we embrace this opportunity, we are like the buds and bulbs waiting to spring into New Life.

Hence, as we (patiently?) wait, let us consider a few topics for contemplation:

What have I experienced this past winter? What has been hibernating within me, and what has needed to “die” from my old life?

Have I gotten “too comfortable” with any area in or aspect of my life that may need to change?

What do I truly desire for my life moving forward? How might I best experience renewal?

What will I do with this New Life that I am about to receive?

You see, “the best way to start over is to begin again.” Whatever the past, the seasons are always revolving, new opportunities constantly germinating. If we weed and water them, they will surely grow and prosper. It is a law of nature.

Winter closes one chapter, spring opens another. Summer and fall are the journeys we take between. This cycle flows all the days of our lives.

I pray that we might embrace the opportunity to wait, to anticipate, to dream, and to plan as spring lies on the horizon. Let us rest within the cocoon and shell that has protected and nurtured us for just a little while longer. However, know that if we stay in the cocoon or shell longer than we are intended, we cannot thrive. We may experience bondage, and our growth could be stagnated.

The goal is to breakthrough and leave the old cocoons, shells, and nests behind as we press forward in search of every new experience and opportunity that lies ahead. The eaglet and the new butterfly are compelled to fly. The human must survive and thrive.

I myself am joining you in this process, and many amazing new developments are underway even as I write to you today. Stay tuned.

In closing, I wish each and every one of you a very blessed spring season, and my prayer is that we might all do our very best to honor God’s “gift that keeps on giving:” the gift of New Life.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

New Age

Islam is not the only religion that contains a “right wing/extremist” faction. These kinds of sub-groups exist in most religions, to one degree or another.

It seems there are always those fundamentalist/literalist types who tend to need the safety of absolutist forms of dogma and doctrine in order to assuage their anxieties regarding the perceived ambiguity of noetic concepts. The problem is that these folks tend to want to make life miserable for those who are seeking to live and practice a balanced and rational approach to matters of Faith.

I recently had dealings with a local group of this nature who had accused me of being “New Age,” which is a term they use pejoratively to criticize anything they feel is too far out of their own doctrinal “comfort zone.” It seems these folks are happy to have a new member, or a new church building, but a “New Age” is far too frightening for them. I guess they are fully content with the current one where materialism and wars predominate?

This experience inspired me to reflect upon the person and ministry of Jesus the Nazarene, whom the aforementioned people claim to follow (except for the judge not, love others part). 🙂

The New “Testament” (Sign, Evidence) itself presents a scenario of an established religion (Judaism) that was challenged by the presence of a man (Jesus), claiming to teach something new and different from what their own doctrines promulgated. Consequently, Jesus was labeled a heretic by these “right wing” pompous Jewish “authorities.” It is interesting to note that these same kinds of arrogant self-righteous authorities exist to this day, but under a new name, and wearing slightly different uniforms.

If Jesus were here today, I posit that there would be many who would not even recognize him, and who would most likely dismiss him as a “New Ager.” The shocking reality here is that in his day and time, he actually was! Nearly everything Jesus ever taught referred to the ushering in of a “new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1) for humanity, where PEACE and LOVE would reign as the new paradigm.

So, if by “New Age” the previously mentioned group is accusing me of an “anything goes, white light and bunnies, unicorns and glitter” type theology and philosophy, then they are grossly mistaken, and are guilty of defamation (which they are).

However, if by “New Age” they (correctly) mean that I believe in a transformed and illumined (two words they despise, by the way) human race, devoted to GOD, full of PEACE and LOVE, and no longer prone to greed, hatred, manipulation, and war; then they are, as the British say, “spot-on.”

I learned it from Jesus.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik