Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

A SHORT HISTORY OF LOVE

          As I get older, I have drastically changed my understanding of love. As I grew up, I was a big fan of Arthurian legends, chivalry, romantic love and happily ever after. As I got older (after two divorces) I started to understand that love has nothing to do with soul mates, life partners or mated couples. Love has nothing to do with how you relate to an individual; it is how you relate to yourself and the world. If you don’t love yourself, and you don’t love the world you live in, I guarantee that you will not find love in a relationship. Love is not a mutual exchange or based on what people can do for you. So many people feel attracted to someone and think “I am in love!” People go into relationships because they think that the object of their affection will reciprocate and then life will be perfect.

          I hear so many times that people are looking for that “soul mate” that will complete their lives. Unfortunately that is a fantasy that been perpetuated by novels and Hollywood and we eagerly believed this fantasy because it made life look so easy. The belief that someone could make us happy is a self-defeating lie, because happiness only comes from within our own psyche, our own belief systems (BS). I was trained by my parents to believe that happiness can only be found in a loving relationship (like theirs). The red flags should have gone up the flag pole, first because their relationship was not loving but an exercise of hanging on, and second because happiness will never be found in a relationship.

          The first thing we have to understand is love is a one-way street. Love is the desire that others be happy. It doesn’t require anything from anyone in order to exist. It is unconditional, in the sense that you don’t care what the other person is doing, you just wish the best for them. You don’t need anything from them and you don’t want anything from the person you love. The truth is we need to love all beings, not just a small circle of people who you feel obligated to or attracted to. The hardest task of all of the masters, prophets and gurus demand is to love those who seek to harm us. Turn the other cheek, in other words.

          We get bogged down in the sticky messes and dramas of relationships when we believe that we need something from the object of our “love”. The truth is that we do not love when we need. We do not love when we feel abandoned or rejected. We do not love when we get angry. We do not love when we lust. We do not love when we demand. We do not love when we are jealous. We do not love when we run away. My point is that there are a host of other emotions which occur in a relationship that have nothing to do with love, but are often confused with being “in love”. When we step back and analyze our feelings and desires, we can quickly see that love is a much higher emotion than lust, greed and possessiveness. Unfortunately, our culture has developed a model of love that is everything but love. The common message is that if someone loves another, then they will make each other happy. This is not love, it is co-dependency.

          If we carry traumas and issues from our parents we often time seek to mate with someone that will replace our parents and make our life enjoyable. We project our fantasy parent onto the object of our desire and believe that we have found our soul mate. This may last days, months or years but at some point the veneer we have surrounded our “loved” one with will wear off and we have to deal with someone we really don’t know even though we may have lived with them for quite a while. Then the lesson really begins. Do we have enough love for and in us to see that person as they truly are and then make a decision that is best for all concerned? Or do we go into fear and selfishness and become angry and resentful? We have the ability to love anyone and live with anyone (unless abuse or violence is concerned, then run). The question is can we separate the satisfaction of our needs and desires from the person we claim we love? This is one of the fundamental tests that we have to face on the path to enlightenment.

          Sometimes loving someone means not enabling unhealthy behavior. If someone is emotionally or physically abusing you, love requires that you leave or do whatever you need to do to keep yourself safe. This is the meaning of self-love. It is only then that the object of your love will be forced to look at their behavior and learn their lessons. If they love you, they will want you to be safe. If their needs and issues are more important than you, then you must let them go. The issue is do you love yourself?

          Fear and love cannot coexist at the same time. If we focus on love, fear will disappear. The mantra for love is “Let me be of service”. When we are focused on letting others find their happiness, we will be love. That is the only way it will happen.

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

SENTIMENTALITY

          I have learned that there are many sources of misery and suffering in this world. It seems that every belief system has its pet theory. Buddhists believe that desire causes all suffering. Other religions claim separation from God (sin) causes suffering. Others believe that rejection of what is happening at any given moment causes suffering. Yet still others claim that fear causes suffering.  I offer the case of sentimentality as a major cause of suffering.

          When I say suffering and misery, I am referring to mental and emotional suffering. Physical pain as the result of physical trauma is unavoidable and actually the sign of healing. Mental and emotional suffering is the result of emotional trauma. While mental and emotional suffering cannot be seen, it certainly can be felt and often causes physical symptoms such as depression, illness and chronic conditions.

          Sentimentality is the result of attachment. We can be sentimental about people, things and ideas. This is often confused with love, and causes all kinds of emotional trauma when the object of the sentimentality changes. When we become attached to something or someone, we do not want to lose it. When we do lose it, and we always will because that is the way of this world, we suffer. It requires a higher level of consciousness and enlightenment to understand that everything changes; including people, and what we once became attached to is only temporary.

          When we talk about sentimentality, the most obvious object of attachment is “our stuff”, especially money. We believe that our stuff brings us comfort, security and power. This is an illusion. Many times we learn in history that the wealthy and powerful die penniless and isolated. Lottery winners oftentimes lose their wealth and dreams of security. We can lose our most prized possessions and lose any hope of joy and happiness along with it. I once owned a large house that was fully furnished with valuable collectibles. A business colleague persuaded me to rent it to her daughter. The daughter was addicted to crack cocaine and stole every item of furniture and art to sell for her addiction. At first I was outraged, but later could realize that it was a tremendous gift to show me how I was sentimentally attached to “my stuff”. When I let go of the sentimentality, I stopped suffering.

          People are also a great source of suffering. I cannot begin to count the number of people I have met who pine for their “soul mate.”  Even others, thinking that they have found their soul mate, suffer tremendously when these objects of affection and sentimentality change or leave. Suffering is great when those we depend on for happiness and security do not behave like we want them to behave. Having been a divorce lawyer for many years, I have yet to meet someone who wants to divorce that “bitch” or “bastard” who did not attach some affection or sentimentality to the relationship. When someone we have sentimentally attached to dies, great is our grief and suffering. We do not understand that these are the rules and everyone dies. We attach great emotional pain to the fact that we have been abandoned by those we “loved.” Again, it takes a great deal of consciousness and enlightenment to accept the inevitable and rejoice when someone we love dies.

       Another object of sentimentality is our beliefs. What we believe in oftentimes is utter nonsense, but try to convince someone of that. I have often said to people that we can be right or we can be happy, it is difficult to be both. The great philosopher Bertrand Russell said “I will never die for my beliefs, I might be wrong.”  We attach to our beliefs and will defend them to the death, or at least until we are convinced that we are wrong. Unfortunately, the more we are attached to our beliefs, the more difficult it is to be happy. The great conundrum is whether this is true if we believe we are happy. That question really makes my head hurt.

          The key is to remember that happiness has nothing to do with any of the above. Happiness is the result of our connection to our higher self, our higher consciousness, spirit, source, creator, or God. It has nothing to do with what we own, our beliefs or our relationships. Happiness is a symptom of the ultimate realization that everything is an illusion so we might as well have fun. The way to happiness is to serve others, live simply, and be humble. If you have the bad karma to have lots of stuff, a relationship with your soul mate, or a set of well reasoned beliefs, best of luck with that. Sometimes it is our struggles, misery and suffering that brings us to the realization that it is all an illusion and distraction from our true purpose, which is to be of service.

          So the next time you are upset, miserable or suffering, look at what you may be sentimental about. Is it something you have lost or something you want and can’t have at this time? Fear is simply a symptom of being sentimental. Be aware of your sentimentality and it will change. Be aware of your beliefs and they will change. Be aware of who you are and you will change. What fun!

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

THE POWER OF KINDNESS

          We are social beings. Even though we strive to detach and be powerful individuals free of negative emotions, we still enjoy and thrive in a community of like-minded individuals. If you find yourself in a community of people who do not support you and criticize each other, it is time to find a new community. There are usually two things that may be present when you realize that the people you have surrounded yourself with are negative and critical. First, we have to realize that people who are in our lives mirror aspects of our self that we need to heal. If we have surrounded our self with critical, closed-minded people, we need to open our hearts and minds to understand that everything we experience is in divine order and exists to help us grow into enlightenment. While we may not engage in negativity on a regular basis, there is some reason that we experience this in our lives, and it usually is a signal that we have to shift to a higher plane of consciousness. Second, it is when we recognize that we no longer resonate with people who are negative it is a signal that we are ready to grow into a more loving and supportive role in our world.

          The larger issue is trust. We can’t make friends and shift our reality unless we are trustworthy and cultivate trust in others. We do this with kindness and compassion. Manipulating, lying and being out of integrity only serves to alienate people and we send signals to the world that we are untrustworthy. When we are behaving in a way that destroys trust, we will suffer and eventually realize that we do not even trust our self. When we can’t even trust our self, we lose confidence, self-worth and our moral compass. The only way to cultivate true friends and surround our self with support and love is to practice senseless acts of kindness. If we want to shift the planet, more people have to get on board with this simple principle. Self-confidence fosters honesty, truthfulness and integrity.

          When we practice kindness, honesty, truthfulness and integrity, we also become transparent. What that means is we don’t have to hide anything from any one. When we are in service and tell the truth, we also do not have to have a memory. Only people who lie have to remember what they said. The gift of transparency is peace, joy and abundance. When we let go of negativity and controlling others, we can relax and simply enjoy what we are receiving in the moment. When we are playing God, we are stressed and anxious and can’t relax. The ultimate reward for playing God is suffering. God is not on vacation and there are no job openings. When we practice kindness, we also shift our perspective from the head into the heart. Kindness does not exist in the ego, only control and fear exists in the ego. To access kindness, we have to go into the heart.

          When we live in the heart, we find our self. We do not have to be anyone other than our self because we don’t worry about how other people think about us. When we are in our hearts, we only seek to serve others, we do not want anything from them. If you are in a relationship crisis, simply repeat to yourself, “be kind”. Most people who have experienced fear and pain in relationship forget how to be kind because they are in survival mode. We have to shift out of survival mode and be compassionate, which leads to kindness. This is also known as getting out of your head and into your heart. The easiest way to get out of our heads and into our heart is to repeat the mantra mentioned above, “be kind”. We instinctively know how to be kind, but what is usually missing is we try to do it from our heads, and it doesn’t work. What we have to do is get quiet and simply repeat, “be kind” until we relax. And we will.

          Kindness is a virtue they say. It is a virtue because “virtue” means “moral excellence”. Interestingly enough a “virtue” is also the highest kind of angel. So those who believe in the power of angels, being kind is the highest form of angelic energy. If you want to be a living angel, practice kindness, for that is how you will be known. Instead of getting angry, send kindness to the person that cut you off in traffic. Instead of revenge, send kindness to the person that hurt you. Instead of resentment, send kindness to the person that doesn’t act the way you want. Kindness heals all wounds. Pour it liberally on each and every wound you have endured and watch them heal. If you want to be powerful, be kind.

 

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

NO MUD NO LOTUS

          There is a brilliant Buddhist saying: “no mud, no lotus.” What this means is that the greatest beauty often comes out of our greatest pain. This is because the lotus flower usually grows in water that has deep mud at the bottom and the lotus flower sends its roots deep into this mud that oftentimes is ill smelling and may contain the refuse of the civilization that lives along the banks of the body of water. Yet an entire consciousness has been described as being contained in a lotus flower. The flower looks exquisite and pure, especially in the backdrop of a filthy pond. Three separate spiritual mythologies have chosen the lotus to represent purity and beauty; Hinduism, Buddhism and the Egyptians.

          In each of these cultures, the blooming of the lotus blossom arising from the filth and murky waters each day was compared to spiritual awakening. Due to the fact that the flower closes each night and sinks below the surface to be reborn clean again in the morning, it also symbolizes enlightenment. Furthermore the reappearance of the beautiful flower out of the murky water every morning symbolizes the detachment from desire and reward, the goal of any spiritual aspirant. Probably the most relevant aspect of the lotus is that the effort that it takes to rise above the muck and mire of the waters of its birth to spread its petals as purity and cleanliness symbolizes the effort that the spiritual seeker must make to rise above the symbolic muck of existence. This not only means the physical challenges of life, but it also means the challenges of freeing ourselves from the illusions and delusions of our minds.

          The mud from which a lotus grows is compared to the struggle and suffering of humanity. However, we must accept the fact that suffering is an essential part of human existence that makes us strong enough to rise above that suffering to gain enlightenment. When we stop habitually thinking negative thoughts and accept our innate birthright of joy and happiness we rise above the muck and mire and open to the beauty of enlightenment. It is this struggle that defines who we are and trains us to choose the path of righteousness over easiness. There are many comparisons to this in nature, as if nature understands this principle much more than we do. Many plants have the ability to persevere and break through solid concrete and asphalt through sheer determination and will to live. They do not need prophets and gurus to teach them how to overcome their worldly condition; they just grow. We have that same genetic urge to grow, that is why so many of us want to understand and rise above what appears to be senseless waste around them.

          The lotus also symbolizes rebirth, whether being reborn into another lifetime or a symbolic rebirth that happens after great grief, loss or intense suffering. Humans have a great tenacity and resiliency to survive great odds. It seems that the more we have to suffer and overcome, the more wisdom and grace we can obtain. This is the message of the movie “Unbroken”, the story of an Olympic athlete who survived being a Japanese prisoner of war. His greatest triumph came in the afterwards of the film which stated that he suffered great PTSD until he let go of his pain and resentment and forgave his captors. He even went on to be one of the runners of the Olympic torch to the Olympics in Japan when he was 80 years old. It is this greatness of the human spirit that reminds us of the lotus flower that thrives best in the foulest of conditions to bring us such great beauty. We can be reborn simply by changing our mind and behavior and becoming a different person. We can bring peace and serenity where we once sowed conflict. We can offer a smile or a kind word where we may have sowed indifference. Each one of us is a lotus flower who must rise every day out of our circumstances, that may be quite tragic, to become a beautiful expression of the divine. When we are knee deep in alligators, it is difficult to remember our initial objective was to drain the swamp. It is also a human condition that we do not realize that our difficulties make us better people. While we don’t want to seek difficulty, we do not have to fear or be traumatized by difficulty either. It is like an exercise to make us more athletic or better looking. The crap sometimes makes us better.

 

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE

            I remember in art class the importance of learning how to draw or paint using perspective. It was necessary if I wanted my work to be “realistic” and look something like what I was painting. Converging lines, parallel lines, angles and other devices had to be used to make the portrait, landscape or other works look like real life. Photorealism was a whole different story, each work had to be sectioned off and a higher degree of attention had to be paid to each aspect of the work.

            I realized that perspective is the same whether we are talking about perceiving our world or creating art. There are some fundamental principles that apply if we are to fully understand the truth of what we perceive. These principles exist whether we acknowledge them or not, and if we don’t then what we may perceive may not be accurate. Accuracy of perception is critical if we are to fully appreciate our experience of life. Otherwise we will miss important information and knowledge that is available to make our life easier and abundant.

            The first principle is that our mind determines what we perceive. We look at the world through filters that are determined by our past. If we are unconscious of these filters, we will never see the world accurately and will continue to misunderstand what is happening in our life. It is like going into the funhouse at the carnival where mirrors are curved to distort how we see what is reflected back to us. If we don’t know that the mirrors are curved, and whether they are convex or concave, we will believe that what we see is real.  We will see things that aren’t there and will miss things that are.

            This is a large part of what we call consciousness or awareness. When we understand that what we perceive is distorted by our mind, we can start to detach from what we may perceive as threatening or unkind. We are not what we think and the world is not how we see it. Only beings with very advanced consciousness and awareness will see the world as it really is, and that is without emotion, assumption or prejudice. If we see someone struggling, most people would try to rescue that person. A more advanced being would see that person growing and learning valuable lessons that their experiences will teach them and not try to rescue them.

            I have talked with a number of very conscious beings and all of them talk about a perception of the world that I am only now beginning to understand. Their clarity and connection to the divine is remarkable. I would love to live in their world, a world without fear, a world that only is. I constantly catch my mind thinking in ways that make me suffer. I suffer because I fall back into old thinking habits based on events I incorrectly remember from the past. As I stop myself and take the emotion out of it, my perception of what is happening changes. It is amazing that the drama of any situation disappears when I let go of fear, lack or victimhood. When I simply sit back and observe what is happening, then someone’s behavior or what I perceive stops triggering me and I can relax.

            I can remember growing up that my father perceived his world in black and white, either what was happening was “the worst thing he had ever seen” or it was “the best thing he had ever seen”. I can report that my perception of what he was experiencing was far different. What was happening was simply life; it was neither “the best” or “the worst”. However, his reactions were mercurial and for most of my life, my happiness and equanimity were affected by his perceptions. It taught me that how we judge what we perceive will affect how we feel in any particular moment. The truth is how we judge what we perceive will also affect what we perceive. It is a vicious cycle. If we believe something is “bad”, we will only see the “bad” in the event. This makes what we see even more objectionable. Then we react to what we think we saw and on and on.

            Only beings with no judgment and open minds and hearts can experience life as it really is. Everything is perfect. Everything is peaceful; there is no reason to get emotional about anything. When we eliminate judgment and emotion, the only thing that is left is joy and bliss, which is our natural state of being. When we are in a state of bliss, there is no trauma, guilt, blame, right, wrong, good or bad. There simply is. The more we can detach from all of these filters, the more we can enjoy our life. It is not really a matter of positive thinking, it is a matter of not thinking. Then we can see things from heaven’s perspective.

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

DON’T YOU LOVE MERCURY RETROGRADE?

         There is a term in astrology that many people dread; mercury retrograde. It is that time when the planet Mercury appears to be going backwards in the sky due to the alignment of the planets as we go our merry way around the Sun. Anecdotally, it is a time when communications, electronics, plans, health, jobs and clarity simply breaks down. People experience noticeable miscalculations, misunderstandings, mistakes, disruptions, confusion, breakdowns, and sometimes chaos! Emails quit working, computers start doing weird stuff. Astrologers recommend that we not enter into any contracts or commitments during this time. The current mercury retrograde started four days ago and will last approximately two and a half more weeks. Personally I am having problems with my printer. It just won’t work when I want it to. I downloaded new drivers, rebooted, cursed and pulled my hair and nothing. Just when I was calling tech support everything in the queue started printing. Egad!

            Astrologers tell me that mercury retrograde is a very important time in the year when we are supposed to rethink, redo, recalibrate, reconnect and simply rest. Part of the problem of today’s society is that we don’t pace ourselves, we don’t take time to rest properly. We get sore, stiff, frustrated, stressed and ill because we don’t take time to contemplate our lives and simply relax. In many ways, mercury retrograde forces us to put the telephone down and go run in the grass.

            This time of the astrological calendar is also the perfect time to practice patience and non-reaction. When we have a feeling that something may not go the way we want, we can prepare ourselves to be patient and kind. Just because something isn’t happening the way we want right now, it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen later. All things come to those who don’t react. I have always said that the universe has a really crappy way of teaching patience. It usually means wading knee deep in a swamp of alligators. When alligators surround us, sometimes it is difficult to remember that our initial objective was to drain the swamp. So mercury retrograde is a time to remember what our original intentions were and how we may have lost the path to the life we want. Although it is best to put our past behind us, and to keep the future in front of us, sometimes it is good to contemplate and meditate on how we can improve our thoughts and behavior.

            Mercury retrograde also affects how we communicate with our self, how we talk to our self and how we think about our self. For the next two and one half weeks, we can be more aware of how we do all of those things and what we can do to be more positive, grateful and joyful. When we are marching full speed ahead, sometimes that is not possible. So when your laptop is doing amazingly stupid things or your printer isn’t working (really bad for a writer), it is a great time to look around and see how good we have it.

            It is a great time to get organized and clean up the clutter, not only in our minds but also in our closets, drawers and other storage areas. If you haven’t used it in a year, give it away. Clothing, computers, electronics and other possessions will block the flow of energy and abundance if you don’t keep things flowing. Go for a walk, take off your shoes, treat yourself to something fun and silly. Go outside your comfort zone. Mercury retrograde is a time of unexpected results and can be down right silly. So have fun! Laugh at your experiences and keep a journal. See how playful and joyful you can make this period. If you can find fun in mercury retrograde, you will find it everywhere. While everything is falling apart, contemplate how you can do and think in new ways with new results. If you have been doing something the same way forever, change it! If you haven’t heard from a friend, call them (if your telephone is working).

            Most importantly, don’t take anything personally for the next two and a half weeks (or the next two and one half lifetimes either). Many people will be having the same communications problems that you may be experiencing. You may find yourself asking yourself:  “did I say that out loud?” Well other people may be saying the same thing.  So if someone says something that may irritate or confuse, give them a break, it is mercury retrograde! Have fun, relax, and enjoy the new you!

            

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

MEMORIAL DAY

           Memorial Day is the federal holiday established to honor those who died fighting for the United States. It is not clear how the holiday originated (hard to believe in the modern age) with many cities claiming to have had the first celebration for the fallen. Tradition states that it began in Charleston, SC in 1865 with a celebration by newly freed slaves to honor those who died in the Civil War to free the slaves. Whether the national holiday grew from that or other memorials for the fallen soldiers, Memorial Day has grown to be one of the major holidays of the US, at least in part because it unofficially marks the beginning of the summer.

            The irony is that it would seem that we only pay this holiday lip service as we continue to lose soldiers in conflict all around the world. One would think that any intelligent life would recognize the effects of violence on itself and cease perpetuating death and violence. How many orphans does it take to stop war? How many PTSD cases does it take to stop violence? When will we stop the idea that violence is a solution for any problem?

            My father graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point) in 1945 and joined the occupational forces in Europe for three years following surrender by Germany. To this day he is apologetic about not being a part of the actual war against Germany. When he is asked if he served during World War II, he goes into a long story about not actually fighting Germans but he did have a violent incident with Russian troops. A more telling story is how kind and gentle he was before he went to West Point; and how angry and driven he was after that experience. Until the US Military Academy accepted women, graduates of West Point were quick to point out that the experience of going to West Point makes men out of boys. I am not sure what the tag line is now, but I shudder to think how many sweet, kind and gentle teenagers were transformed into killing machines and then unleashed upon an unsuspecting public without any deprogramming. This process continues unto this day.

            The affects of military service is overwhelming our VA hospitals and becoming more and more of a problem with PTSD and chemical warfare poisoning, not to mention the physical damage many wounded warriors have to live with. How much suffering do we have to experience before we stand up and cry “ENOUGH”! It is clear that we are losing the war against terrorism. A case in point is the Boston Marathon bombing. The lone surviving terrorist was sentenced to death several times over. One death will never repay the damage done to the victims of that day. Ironically enough, death is what the surviving terrorist wanted; now he gets to go to heaven and have 72 virgins. Somehow something is not computing.

            The truth is the wars that we are waging in other countries will likely bankrupt our country. We spend trillions of dollars in research every year on how to kill our enemies better. We could simply buy our enemies lock stock and barrel more cheaply. I am not suggesting that we do that, but I am questioning why we spend so much money on death and violence. Having the biggest and most deadly weapons in the world has not kept us safe.

            This Memorial Day we have to wake up and become more conscious about what we are doing as individuals and as a nation to perpetuate the fallen. We are the victims of our own device. There is too much money flowing into the hands of those that profit at war. There is too much disinformation being fed to us by politicians that want us to continue funding war and violence.

            I believe that we should honor our fallen and demand an end to war by whatever means are available. We have the resources, technology and intelligence to do so. We are funding both sides of every conflict currently waging in the world. We are so afraid that nations will turn on us if we don’t fund their violence that we have sold our grandchildren’s destiny to continue the fighting. We need to stop making weapons of mass destruction. We need to clean up our mess. We need to stop sending soldiers into harm’s way. We need to learn the lessons of our past so that we do not repeat them. The world will not support the status quo much longer. We either have to chose freedom or totalitarianism. We have to choose peace. 

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

PEELING THE ONION

            Anyone who has been on the spiritual path or seeking anything in this lifetime has probably heard the term “peeling the onion”. There are many possible interpretations to this metaphor. The onion is a vegetable that has layers of edible goodness that can be peeled, diced, sliced or julienned for baking, frying and sautéing. I happen to love onions. I digress, back to the metaphor. Getting to the root of our psyche and the causes for our emotional issues and mental traumas is often called “peeling the onion”. We peel away layer after layer of memories, perceptions and traumas to get to what mental health professionals call “core issues”. Core issues are thoughts, memories, or beliefs that color our perception of the world and create suffering. Often buried deep in our subconscious minds, we may not even be aware of these core issues. Many times they are only discoverable by the symptoms that surface into the conscious mind in the form of fears, phobias, prejudices and beliefs.

            There are as many different ways to peel the onion as there are therapists and patients. Peeling the onion can be specific to the person whose onion is being peeled, or it can be more general to help groups operate more efficiently and cohesively. Generally people start with what they know, and follow a path deeper into the core of their personality and belief systems until they find their core issues that are causing suffering in their lives. It could be a childhood event that took on distorted importance in their memories or a thought or belief that causes suffering.

            I want to suggest one way to peel the onion that can be beneficial to just about anyone that can be honest with themselves. We can lie to therapists and our friends because we don’t want to be rejected. We can’t lie to ourselves because we know at some point what the truth is. So as long as we don’t try the useless exercise of lying to ourselves, this works just fine.

            The first layer of the onion that needs to be peeled is the belief that we need someone to make us happy. A large part of the suffering I see among spiritual seekers is the angst of being with someone that is making them miserable or not being able to find that person that will “fulfill” them. We have to let go of the desire, the lust, or the need for someone else to make us happy. Let me be clear, this does not mean that we have to be a hermit or shun companionship and friends. It simply means that we need to let go of the feeling that something is wrong if that perfect “someone” isn’t living with us. Look at it this way, if we are peeling the onion to find out who we are, it is almost impossible to continue along this path if we are focused on people outside of us. To outsiders, they may not even know you have given up the need for a companion/soulmate. They may observe that you are a lot more relaxed and peaceful.

            The second layer of the onion that needs to be peeled is the belief that we are victims. We are not victims. Life does not happen to us. We are simply experiencing the end result of our decisions, thoughts and behavior prior to this moment. All we need to do is clean up our act and we will start enjoying life rather than suffer it.

            The next layer of the onion that needs to be peeled is our negative emotions. When negative emotions arise, and they will, we have to let go of them and not dwell on them. If we feel afraid, angry, jealous or other negative emotions, these are being caused by something deeper down and show us that we are on the right track. We have to sit with these emotions until we understand why we are feeling how we are feeling. The peeling process is simply the acknowledgement of the feeling and going deeper to the root cause. We do not resent the emotion; we do not fantasize about why we should feel this way, we simply say, “oh, I am angry. What is causing this?” and go look.

            The last layer to peel is judgment. Judgment causes most of our suffering. We judge something as good or bad, right or wrong, like or not like, and depending on how we judge it we either feel pain or pleasure. It is probably the hardest layer to peel, because it is the basis of who we are and how we perceive the world. If we let go of judgment, we don’t have to do anything, we just are. Once we let go of judgment, we will find ourselves in a very peaceful place. It is almost like we are floating on amrita and experiencing a joy we never thought possible. If you look at an onion, you will discover that when you peel away the last layer, there is nothing left. This is the perfect metaphor for your spiritual journey. When we let go of who we are, there is nothing left but the divine.

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

IS PSYCHOLOGY INSANE?

          I just read an article on the proliferation of new mental disorders classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), which is a resource tool used by mental health professionals to identify and diagnose mental disorders. In the last 50 years, the DSM-IV has gone from listing 130 to 357 mental illnesses. The doctors who are responsible for listing these disorders claim that science is simply better able to identify and classify disorders than ever before. However, you can decide whether some new classifications are really mental disorders or something entirely different: oppositional defiance disorder, arrogance, narcissism, above-average creativity, cynicism and antisocial behavior. The treatment for these new “disorders” includes medication, therapy (which can sometimes be indoctrination) and behavioral modification.

            It is a scary thought that someone is classifying “arrogance” and “above-average creativity” as a mental disease. The question is who is driving this bus? Is “creativity” a danger to society that needs to be medicated out of existence? Or is this another example of Big Pharma finding ways to sell more medications at $100 per tablet? I laughed when I saw commercials for a new drug to treat “restless leg syndrome” which does not exist. It is a phantom diagnosis created to sell drugs. You can include “lupis” and “lyme’s disease” as diagnoses that have no basis in reality but are simply default diagnoses for unexplained symptoms used to sell medication.

            It is also concerning that the medical-pharmaceutical industry wants to “cure” things like “above-average creativity”. That sounds like an attempt to dumb down society so it can be controlled. My son was diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder when he was 15. This was due more to the fact that he was acting out his angst and anger with his divorced parents than suffering a mental illness. This seriously “mentally ill” son went on to graduate from Episcopal High School with honors in Latin (winning a $1000 prize for academic excellence), from the University of Colorado at Boulder (a campus clearly known for its mental illness due to its pristine beauty) at the top of his class of 17,000 and at the top of his class from Wake Forest University Business School with an MBA. This child was either seriously misdiagnosed or placed in a fictional box labeled “medication required” so that his parents wouldn’t have to deal with him.

            My other son was also diagnosed with a mental disorder and classified as suicidal for repeatedly overdosing on drugs. Again, I suspect this was his way of dealing with the angst of divorced parents and anger at not being able to fit into his peer group. He was institutionalized for two years in a school reputedly specializing in helping children with behavior issues. After a great deal of money and lots of drama, I finally concluded that these people didn’t know what they were talking about. He finally got a grip on his life when he grew up. So I suppose “immaturity” will be the next category classified as a mental disease in the DSM-IV.

            I am deeply concerned that rather than find the cause of these behavioral problems, which obviously includes the parents, the medical community would rather medicate first and ask questions later. Once someone is (mis) diagnosed with a “mental disorder”, it is a stigma that can follow him/her for the rest of his/her life. I am also deeply concerned that we are medicating children simply because parents would rather not deal with a precocious, willful child. I surely recognize that there are individuals out there who are psychotic and dangers to themselves and others. These people need to be medicated because their brain chemistry for whatever reason isn’t functioning properly. That is far different from an individual that thinks outside the box, marches to the beat of different drummers and wishes to blaze their own trails. We can’t afford to medicate creativity; we need these people to lead us out of the mess we have made of the world.

            I wonder what will be the next group of “mental illnesses” to be classified in the DSM-IV. Will “over active imagination”, “above-average intelligence”, or “angst” be among the next group of behaviors to be medicated out of existence? At the very least people need to question whether their children are mentally ill or whether their children are just acting out against a world that has gone insane.

           

           

            

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING

            As I work on my issues, I wonder why I have to keep working on my issues. Jeez Louise, one would think that one meditation should be enough to clear all of the memories, traumas, triggers, bad feelings and fear which I have accumulated before I started down the spiritual path of letting go of all of these challenges to eternal bliss. I used to have a bumper sticker that said, “yes, I have baggage, but it all matches”. My path to enlightenment is littered with ejected baggage that was filled with the past wounds that I suffered in my past.

            Specifically, there are three childhood memories that I continue to wrestle with and any event that even remotely reminds me of those events causes me to react negatively, even when I know what is happening. It truly sucks to know that I am having a negative reaction to an unrelated event that has nothing to do with the memories that are trapped in my subconscious. Yet as I dig down to root out these memories it seems like “oh no, not this again!” As I understand it, there are basically two reasons why it sometimes takes years to heal from old traumas.

            First, people justify who they are based on their past. It is easier to make excuses for inappropriate behavior than to fully embrace the causes of that behavior. The truth is that we have to come to peace with our past, and any conscious or subconscious resistance to what happened will prevent the achievement of that peace. In other words, the irony is that when we refuse to accept what happened to us, we hang on to the emotions and feelings that we experienced during the original event. These negative emotions will surface when we are reminded of those events, directly or indirectly. So as long as we do not forgive, resent, feel victimized or wish our past was different, we can’t move on. We either have to embrace what happened to us as a gift or at least be neutral. When we don’t accept the gift of the trauma, the trauma continues to be the gift.

            Second, sometimes the trauma has gone so deep into our subconscious that it is like a growth that wraps around our hearts and sinks roots deep into our subconscious. When we try to remove those growths from our heart, and we don’t go deep enough to remove all of the roots and tendrils, like a dandelion the memories will come back and we will continue to react negatively to similar events. Neurologists and psychologists now believe that habitual thinking creates neural pathways and when we focus negatively on events that will cause repeated negative reactions. In other words we create our own suffering by obsessing on our past. What we need to do is to get help in rooting out the cause of our suffering.

            On my radio show, Get Real Radio, we have interviewed several practitioners of modalities which are helpful in going in deep and pulling out the roots of trauma that keep coming back. EMDR (Francine Shapiro), The Havening Technique (Rebecca Scott), The Reconnection Process (Eric Pearl) and other shows provide techniques that are very effective for removing the negative effects of traumatic memories. There is a Buddhist saying: “Dig deep, find water. Swim deep, find pearls”. The essence of this saying is that we have to fearlessly dig into our subconscious (water) to find the past trauma (pearls) that is causing us to suffer in the present. When we can find these pearls and embrace them for the gifts that they are, we will move past the trauma and subconscious memories that cause us to suffer. You no longer have to experience fear, abandonment and rejection in relationships. You no longer have to explode for no apparent reason. You no longer have to stare at the ceiling night after night wondering why you can’t sleep. You no longer have to experience anxiety and stress. Our internal gardening is an absolutely necessary and unending process. As I dig deeper, I find that I am exhausted as I go deeper into my subconscious to remove the infections that were created by traumatic events. However, I sleep better. So go find a practitioner that can help and start digging. You will be glad you got rid of the “gift that keeps on giving”.