Devastation

While life continues “as normal” for many of us in various locations in our world, there are others, MANY others, who are currently suffering from the DEVASTATION of recent natural and human disasters.

These events have a powerful impact upon the bodies, minds, and souls of those who experience them, and I think it important that we remain mindful of them and their suffering now, and for many months (and even years) to come. May our loving prayers, intentions, and actions go out to them as they move forward in recovery.

While these may seem like “worst of times,” there is something else that we observe during these times of crisis that can be quite encouraging. Often, crises and disasters can bring out the very best in humanity.

We witness this through the acts of bravery and kindness that people exemplify in these situations:

  • A rescue worker puts it all on the line to save someone in peril.
  • A man allows a woman who needs electricity more than he does to take the last generator at a store.
  • People unite in offering refuge and supplies to those in need.

We also witness the emergence of the strength and determination that exists within the human person during experiences such as these. People “dig deep” and actualize their faith and fortitude as they push through the challenges they face. They also display wisdom in the way they assess what truly matters in life, and how materials can be replaced and rebuilt, but persons and characters often cannot.

I wish to thank these “Victims who become Victors” for the fine example they have set for all of us, and for reminding us of the goodness that remains in humanity. One day, we can hope that the balance will shift, and that all of these very positive capabilities within humankind will overcome the negative as we unite in creating solutions to the perils to which we contribute, and often directly cause (i.e., pollution, wars).

One of my absolute favorite spiritual teachers, Saint Ignatius Loyola, used the terms “consolation” and “desolation” to describe the “ebb and flow” of life events, and the accompanying feelings we can experience within them. Life is full of times of consolation as well as desolation, and each ultimately informs the other. I can truly appreciate the warmth of the sun after it has been hidden for a time behind the dark clouds.

After each consolation, a desolation, and then another consolation, and so on. After years of experiencing these transitions, we learn to become less reactive to the changes, and we accept that “Grace and Love are sufficient” (see the Ignatian Suscipe Prayer). The really good news here is that one day this duality will yield to a unity, and we will know true and lasting consolation.

Until then, we persevere through the challenges being sure to find the deepest and most sincere BEST within us, knowing that we are not alone, and that others can also be their best selves when given the trust and opportunity.

Ultimately, we can never truly know any kind of permanent DEVASTATION, and we can continue to RENEW ourselves with each challenge and/or adversity we face, determined and insistent that each new transition will yield something better than before.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

Radical Acceptance

Have you ever had a particularly extraordinary day? The kind of day where everything seemed to just “fall into place?” A day that you might even go as far as to say was a “perfect day?”

I believe many of us can say that we have experienced days like this, and some of us may have found a way to have them more often, and still others “more often than not.”

But how do these days come about? Are they random, or could there be a key or method to manifesting such experiences?

I took some time to face these questions by analyzing the elements of one of my own “perfect days,” and what I discovered is quite paradoxical. Paradoxical because I discovered that the day itself was not actually “perfect” by scientific standards. The day contained a usual mix of positive and less positive occurrences. Hence, we cannot say that the quality of a day can be completely measured by the nature of its “happenings.”

What then accounts for the differences in days? What qualia can we isolate that contributes to the experience of a “perfect day?”

For me, the one element that emerges clearly from my analysis is something known as Radical Acceptance. This concept became a focus in humanistic psychology in the 1960’s, but it has existed within religious teachings for centuries. It is currently a well-known intervention in a modern system of psychotherapy known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

Radical Acceptance is a process through which we suspend our “critical mind” and simply allow what is to be as it currently is. Essentially, we release our ideas about how things ought to be, and allow them to be as they are. The result is often a deep sense of surrender, release, and PEACE. Many of you will see and recognize this as a kind of Mindfulness.

The algorithm would look like this:

Awareness – Judgment + Acceptance = PEACE

Now, it was not long before the “critical mind” stepped back into my analysis with a few strong (and salient) objections. “How can we just radically accept so many horrible things in our world?” “We cannot just escape into our own little words of bliss while the world continues to spin out of control.”

Here emerges a caveat: Radical Acceptance is not the condoning of things as they are, but the acknowledgement that they are as they are in the moment. It does not mean that we are called to just let everything be and continue, but it does mean that we do well to face what we can and cannot change.

Also of vital importance in the practice of Radical Acceptance is the identification of and focus upon all that is good and beautiful within a given moment (or day). Even in winter there is a visitation of a “rogue flower” or “messenger bird.” Even in war there are acts of humanity. Our goal is to highlight these moments, and make them the “new norm.”

Our algorithm now becomes:

Awareness – Judgment + Acceptance(Beauty) = PEACE

Imagine if we could teach every human being on planet earth how to accept and focus upon the good that is present and continually possible in every moment of existence?

This, then, is our pathway to world peace and universal human wellbeing.

May it begin with each and every one of us as we think, feel, and do every “next good thing.”

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

A Life of Luxury

I would like to write to you today about a topic that has been presenting itself somewhat frequently in the treatment room in the form of repeated cases of individuals who have been either consciously or unconsciously seeking a Life of Luxury.

What I refer to here are individuals who believe that the highest goal in life is to have a life that is free of challenges and problems, and where all personal needs are immediately and fully gratified. Furthermore, many of these folks believe they should have this life now, without having to do anything to achieve it or pay any dues to get it.

Now, I will not go so far as to target any particular generation on this, but I do have to say that this dynamic seems to be becoming more common in recent times, and I have some ideas about its etiology.

Consider some of the details of modern life in an industrialized and technological society. There is a machine to wake us up, one that brews our coffee, one that gives us our news and entertainment, one that takes us places, and on and on. Going one step further, we now see that these individual machines are being combined so that one can do the work of several (i.e., cell phones with multiple apps, cars with computers, et al.). One could envision that future humans might need never leave a cubicle where the walls will be media screens, and controls will be biologically interfaced.

Some might question why this is not being accepted openly by all as the next evolutionary jump for humans? Isn’t all of this new technology making life easier for us?

And with these questions, we have our answers.

Nearly everything in modern society seems to be gearing itself towards the immediate fulfillment of human desire. Need something to eat, we have it fast. Want to hear a particular song? Speak to Alexa or Siri and it is played. Need a fact? “Google it.” Need to alter your brain chemistry? View some porn or play a violent video game.

Modern life has become the pursuit of a Life of Luxury, and if you are lucky you just might be discovered, win the lottery, or find a modern Guru who can guide you through the process.

We are fast becoming a society of addicts. The drug: instant gratification. The means: You name it!

Here is the sobering paradox: Getting everything we want makes us absolutely miserable! The insatiable nature of carnal desire means that there is never enough. Dial-up internet was once fast, but now cable is not even enough. The BMW was nice, but now I want the Bentley. Alcohol was a good start, but now I need some Oxy to get the same effect. The cycle goes on and on.

Friends, trust me when I tell you that it would NOT be a good thing if a Genie granted you three wishes, and having everything at your fingertips is NOT making life better. In fact, these trends are actually highly destructive to the human mind and soul, and they will eventually spell disaster for our collective society.

That said, let’s focus for a moment on what a Life of Luxury does to the individual:

First, when everything comes easy, the individual becomes complacent and isolates. Each day becomes a repeated cycle of craving and satiating as the amount needed for satiation remains ever elusive.

Second, this lifestyle causes one to lose focus of the fact that life is a challenge, a training ground of sorts, and that occasional suffering is part and parcel of character development. We thrive when we strive.

Third, having everything at one’s fingertips turns her or him into a spoiled brat who enters into a delusion of grandeur that leads them to believe they are actually entitled to a Life of Luxury.

Folks, these are the reasons why we have so many 20 and 30-year-olds living at home eating their parent’s food, utilizing their parent’s Wi-Fi, with a cell phone the parents are paying for, in a heated or air-conditioned space (paid for by parents), and a few bong-hits every few hours (that the parents tolerate) between levels of a video game (that the parents gifted at Christmas)!

Okay, the post is getting a bit long (and intense) :-), so I need to “cut the chase” to a discussion of some solutions:

First, we can learn to embrace life as a challenge, and occasional suffering as essential to our continued growth and understanding. We must rise out of the delusion of the material world and the deceptions of the physical body and remember that there are higher meanings and purposes to this training ground we inhabit.

Second, we can realize that we are not doing anyone a favor if we enable her or him to live a Life of Luxury. It is not an act of love to allow someone to deteriorate into a state of “spoiled rottenness” and loss of autonomy and self-sufficiency.

So, it is time to put down the gadgets and turn off the television and begin to use them wisely rather than allowing ourselves to be used by them. It is also time for Sally and Johnny to grow up and face the challenges and hardships life offers. Some are in need of a serious “wake-up call” to the realities of survival and self-sufficiency. If you truly love them, stop being their personal assistant and victim, serve them with a 3-month eviction notice, and work with them towards a plan to move forward in pursuit of their lives.

May we each work to find the balance that is crucial in managing the current technological and sociological trends as we are careful to not lose sight of certain traditional values that remain salient to our success. May we have the courage to resist the lure of the media and the modern Gurus who tell us we can have everything we want, and accept that it is enough to have what we need, including those challenges and hardships that will develop a strong mind and an evolved Soul within us.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik Ludwig

Election 2016

Several years ago I made a personal vow that I would no longer render any public political or religious opinions. Since that time of vowing to “hold my peace” I have indeed experienced a great deal of peace. 🙂 I especially enjoy no longer having to anxiously and repeatedly check my FaceBook to see what scathing comments may have been left in reply. 🙂

That said, I feel it prudent to offer a few thoughts concerning the current election as a means of addressing the very heightened anxiety and depression reactions that we Clinicians are seeing that are tied to current political events. This situation has reached such severity as to prompt the American Psychological Association (APA) to release a warning regarding this threat to the health and wellbeing of our citizens.

Therefore, I will “break-protocol” a bit and offer some thoughts regarding the current state of affairs in our country and world. Please note that I offer all of this merely as “food for thought” to be applied or discarded as each of you sees fit. This is, after all, still a Democratic Republic where thoughts and opinions are our own. Correct?

And with that you have my first thought: How far have we deviated from the original plan for this country that was laid out by very enlightened men and women who had themselves directly experienced the “plights of tyranny?” Imagine the fear and anxiety that these earlier Monarchies and Despotisms created within persons, and consider how they recycle again and again.

It really is “the same old story” repeating over and over. Self-appointed Elitists cloaked within false personas and motivated by depraved values prey upon a people who are managed En masse and limited to a certain range of success under a guise known as “equal opportunity.”

In the Old World this meant a daily struggle for survival, in the New World it means barely “getting by.” Old World Monarchies to New World Oligarchies. Same game, different players, similar results.

In America, Democrat and Republican are simply individual names for the contending oligarchies who are in a perpetual battle for power and control. For the everyday citizen, they are merely two sides of the same coin. Modern persons are now left to vote based upon the “lesser of two evils” as compared to their own personal values, needs, and desires.

And so the story has gone, and so it will continue to go . . . UNTIL . . .

I continue to hold fast to the idea that collective change begins with individual change. Only by appealing to individual consciences can we hope to manifest the collective consciousness that is needed to create a political environment based upon authentic equity and justice. This change will come when the minds of persons are set free from the primitive impulses of the past and the technologically induced delusions of the present so that we will be free to evolve from base animals who prey upon one another to fully enlightened humans who truly love and bless one another.

The good news is that we are well on our way. The less good news is that we still have quite a distance to go.

My encouragement rests in the fact that we have indeed come very far in this collective journey, and that we have indeed crossed a threshold that can carry us forward at a more accelerated pace. More minds are awakening and more Souls are enlightening in our world today, and we are therefore seeing the beginnings of a new consciousness taking form.

We can draw strength from holding the vision of the world to come – a world free of war, hunger, cruelty, greed, deception, and disease. We can also find peace in knowing that we are daily doing our part to bring this world into manifestation: A world where authentic justice, compassion, equity, and contentment rule from within the hearts of all. A world where persons will be regulated and guided from within and will therefore no longer need to be controlled and directed from without.

So, how to vote? According to your own HIGHER conscience regarding which candidate you DISCERN is most capable of taking us in the direction we truly need to go, and who will be capable of assisting the evolution of a truly free, just, and responsible nation and world.

We can also continue to pray and intend for more evolved and enlightened candidates in the future, and that we will one day break out of the duality of the Two Party System in order to have more options and better choices. Until then, we must continue to do our absolute best with where we are and what we have.

And there you have it, my first and only Blog on the topic of “Election 2016.” My prayer is that we remain focused, optimistic, and determined to bring about the highest and best in humanity as soon as possible. May we each do our part by first being, then sharing the change our world so desperately needs. In the mean-time, let us continue to pray and work to make the best of each and every situation until such a time when our current best reaches its true “highest and best.”

May God bless America, and may she be restored to and remain the Beacon of Light she was and is intended to be in our world.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

Encouragement

My inspiration for this entry originated with a recent Facebook post from a modern composer that I greatly admire named Eric Whitacre. If you wish to have a mystical experience I encourage you to listen to his work, especially two pieces entitled Lux Arumque and Nox Arumque respectively.

Eric shared a story of a Choir Director who sat the choir in a circle with a chair in the center of the circle. One-by-One, each singer was asked to sit in the center chair while the other singers randomly showered her/him with compliments and praises about her/his characteristics and talents. The experience was incredibly moving for many of the participants, and from the standpoint of psychology I have some ideas about what this ultimately contributed to the personal wellbeing of each singer and the Choir as a whole.

This train of thought led to the conclusion upon which this post is based: There just isn’t enough ENCOURAGEMENT going around these days. Instead, we are bombarded with images of depravity and violence, false advertisements, and campaigns of lies and deceit. Speaking of Facebook, I remember a recent meme that was based on the “Be Calm” concept that stated “Do not be calm! Do something! Our world is being destroyed by psychopaths!”

I realize that this is not at all encouraging, but it is unfortunately true. Here is the “something” that each of us can do about it:

We can become imbued with and radiate ENCOURAGEMENT in our lives. We can learn how to adopt it as a new mindset, and establish it as a new norm! Think about it for a moment: Imagine if you could begin to orient your daily thoughts and feelings towards all that is good and positive. Now imagine if you took this new internal state and externalized it to others. Now, take it one step further and imagine hundreds, then thousands of other people doing the same.

This is our path to Transformation, and its basis is ENCOURAGEMENT. Through the power of LOVE, we can take on a new courage, and we can inspire this same courage in others. In time, we can create a world of truly brave people, brave enough to release the fear and put down the weapons. Strong enough to be gentle with one another. Bold enough to LOVE authentically and unconditionally.

The exercise:

Begin by “self-observing” your internal dialogue. Do you tend to be critical of others? Are you prone to finding flaws and identifying weaknesses? Are you yourself discouraged?

No worries, friends, I believe it is safe to say that we have all been a bit tainted by the current collective consciousness (and unconscious) that surrounds us. What matters most  is that we can identify it and change it.

Now, begin to intervene with these tendencies via redirection and substitution. Whenever you start down the road of criticism, purposefully go the other direction (redirection) by finding the positive, and thinking/feeling/giving praise and encouragement (substitution).

Over time (and believe me when I tell you that it does take a little time), you will find that this once “practiced” (and sometimes “forced”) behavior has become your new norm, and the world will seemingly transform around you! 🙂 Of course the truth of the matter is that it is YOU who has changed. Ah, but herein lies the magic! When we change (individually), our world does indeed change (collectively).

Imagine what a league of one million ENCOURAGERS could accomplish!

Friend, I offer you this day the praise, recognition, and encouragement that you deserve. You are doing an amazing job, and you are, in your heart of hearts, a noble and caring person. I invite you to allow all of that goodness that you possess to increase and overflow to others.

Banish the negativity from your mind, refuse to stoop to the level of judgment, and declare your life a “drama free zone.” 🙂

Be encouraged, and exude ENCOURAGEMENT. It WILL transform your life.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

Brilliance

Some of you may recall a song that was popular several years ago called “Beautiful,” by James Blunt? I will never forget the first time I heard the song and his statement, “My life is brilliant . . .”. I will also never forget how my first reaction was, “Well, aren’t you special!” LOL

However, after sitting with this idea for a time I realized that the singer was truly “on to” something with this concept. I realized that he was not using the word brilliant in praise of his own intelligence or awesomeness, but that he was actually pointing to his realization of the beauty and radiance that was his life.

Each and every life is itself inherently brilliant.

Pray, Meditate, Think, and Feel (PMTF) for a moment upon the amazing privilege it is to be a Soul living within a body that has a mind. What a miracle it is to see, hear, taste, smell, feel, and sense (intuit). What an incredible gift it is to have been granted consciousness and the free will (personal responsibility) to command and direct your life according to conscience.

A brilliant Creator has placed its same brilliance within you.

There are times when we simply stand in awe of it, and no thoughts or words can capture the feeling of amazement and gratitude that are present within that moment that penetrates itself. I like to call it the “Zero-point” where time stands still and the “tension of opposites” ceases to exist.

It is within moments like these that we experience the deepest truth of our existence and the source of and extent of our power. Self-criticism yields to a glimpse of self-awareness, and Self-consciousness touches upon pure consciousness.

And then, we forget, again.

The GOAL, my friends, is to never again forget!

May we learn to “let our Lights shine” so that we might always remember who and what we truly are, where we come from, and where we can go if we will only have faith in the brilliance that moves around and within us. May each and every moment welcome the purest truth and experience of all that is good, wholesome, and beautiful.

Let us embrace and enact a Psychology of Brilliance, a Philosophy of Truth, and a Spirituality of Light & Love.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

Appreciative Inquiry

There is a story of a young adult male who was riding a train for what seemed like the first time. He appeared to be astounded by the experience and repeatedly commented to his father about how the trees were moving away from the train and the clouds were moving ahead of it. He did not seem to realize that it was the train (and therefore himself) that was actually moving.

A couple sitting next to the boy and his father watched for time, and eventually suggested to the father that he take the young man to a doctor. The father stated, “I just did, and we are on the way home from the hospital where my son received a new set of eyes. This is the first time he has ever seen in his 24 years of life.”

How often do we misjudge and arrive at erroneous conclusions due to a haughty sense of self-righteousness and flawless perception? How many stories like the one above could be told about each one of us, if every judgment and assumption were permitted to “play out” to a reveal?

I believe I have written before about a concept known as the “introspection error,” in which human beings tend to believe that their perception of time, place, people, and events are the most accurate and reliable. This phenomenon is depicted well within the movie Inception where the characters would utilize an object to “reality test” and determine if they were awake or dreaming.

The “token” that I would like to propose that we all learn to utilize in determining the accuracy of our assumptions and judgments is a practice known as Appreciative Inquiry.

Feel free to Google the term in order to learn about its origin, development, and application. For our purpose here I would like to consider the following “working definition”:

“A process of withholding conclusions about a phenomenon in favor of taking the time and making the effort to dig deeper into its more subtle nuances and essences so as to stand a greater chance of understanding said phenomenon in its most authentic and truest form.”

To accomplish this try the following:

Adopt a mindset of withholding judgments. Simply allow yourself to view and experience things as they are, without tainting them with your own projections and/or prejudices. When you find yourself not doing so well with this, offer yourself counter-hypothesis that could also be true:

Perhaps that homeless person actually holds a PhD and lost all his money due to a family tragedy?

Maybe that tattooed and pierced girl is an abuse survivor who is trying to gain back the autonomy that was stolen from her?

What if my feelings towards that guy with the Rolex and Hugo Boss suit actually stem from my own jealousy and envy?

These are just a few examples, and if we are all honest with ourselves we might find that we do a lot more judging and assuming than we would care to admit. May we learn to avoid such errors by offering love and the “benefit of the doubt” to others.

You may find that the more you practice appreciative inquiry as a counter-measure, you may also begin to apply it naturally in all areas of your life. An open heart and mind is available to experience life on an entirely new and beautiful level. Rather than see the weeds, you will focus upon the gorgeous flowers. Instead of the mole on the forehead, you will see the beautiful soul that lies within. An accused criminal could actually be quite innocent.

May our lives be blessed with the gift of appreciative inquiry as we learn to “dig deep” into the experiences life grants us. May we therefore come to embrace the positive aspects of each and every situation, thereby granting ourselves every opportunity to savor the essences of all that matters most.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik