May 25, 2017
An Interview with Forbes.com: Women Are Getting Ahead. Here’s How.
Jaqueline Lapa Sussman M.S., LPC
I was recently interviewed by Forbes.com about women in the workplace and how Eidetic Imagery can assist them in overcoming common challenges. Read the full article here.
April 25, 2016
An Imagery Tool To Reignite Passion In Relationships
Jaqueline Lapa Sussman M.S., LPC
Recently, a client complained to me about her husband…
“I am so irritated by Sam. When I talk to him he always interrupts and makes comments that don’t connect to what I am saying. He thinks he is being helpful, but he is not! I used to feel so in love with him that my heart would skip a beat every time he came into a room. Now I seem to be finding fault with everything he does, such as the way he talks to his mom on the phone and the way he does that little snort when he laughs—things I used to find so endearing. What happened?”My client’s experience is commonly felt by couples in long-term relationships. Even in the most loving and faithful partnerships, the pressures of daily life such as paying bills, cleaning the house, work stress, caring for the kids, etc., can cause that erotic desire for one’s partner to easily fade. What’s more, the emotional disagreements that naturally arise in close relationships often get in the way of sexual passion. In some sense, this loss is inevitable. As relationships progress, we begin to see the more unappealing sides of our partners. This can create misunderstandings, frustrations, and hurt feelings. When we feel criticized, not fully accepted, or when our needs are not being met, the partner we were once so crazy about suddenly looks so much more unappealing.
Falling in love is full of mystery. It is as if we suddenly see the person in a new and enticing light. Through the lens of that first “hit” of love, we see our partner’s pure essence—his or her most intrinsic positive traits, such as their generous heart, brilliance, amazing creativity, or their inner light. As we find ourselves inexorably drawn to them, we soften and feel happier, more resilient, and sometimes even giddy with love. Yet this magical time is only the first phase of love—at this stage, our partner is still mysterious, enigmatic and as yet not fully known. This very mystery about the object or our desire serves as a powerful erotic and magnetic force that compels us to merge more deeply with them and know their depths.
The Greek myth of Psyche and Cupid speaks to the mystery that accompanies falling in love.
When Cupid fell for Psyche, she was alone on a solitary rock. He struck her with his arrow, and immediately she felt herself lifted on the wind, which carried her to a magnificent palace. That night Cupid joined her, telling her that he was destined to be her husband, but that she could never see his face. Entranced, Psyche agreed to his request, but one day, while he was sleeping, she lit a lamp and brought it close to his face. As she did so, some of the lamp oil spilled and burnt his wing. Injured and furious at her lack of faith, Cupid fled and Psyche found herself once more on a lonely rock, terrifyingly desolate and alone. This tale describes our very human experience of the unavoidable loss of that first blissful feeling of being struck by love, when we get an up-close, realistic view of our partners’ faults and imperfections.
But as familiarity with our loved one sets in, we can actually learn to love in a deeper, wiser and more enduring way, which cultivates a long-lasting and sustaining bond. The knowledge that our partner isn’t perfect—but still totally lovable—is the key to a fulfilling and long lasting relationship. This is only possible when we accept all of who they are—both the beauty and the imperfections.
When the first sparks of love have been dampened by familiarity, responsibility or disagreements, we can re-experience in our minds the vision of that first moment when we were suddenly struck by love. This allows us to re-open our hearts and see his or her pure essence once more, and remember what we once loved so much.
Some couples spend time together away from the daily pressures of their lives to rediscover one another in order to renew their bond. When returning home to the demands of their normal lives, however, the good feelings between them can’t always be maintained.
The following powerful imagery exercise, “Cupid: The Idol Of Love,” can be used anytime when one has lost the passion and magic in her relationship.
It uses the power of the imagination to bring back one’s original feelings of love and passion, transforming the way one views their partner.
CUPID: THE IDOL OF LOVE IMAGE
Find a quiet spot. Read each instruction below and, with your eyes open or closed, allow the images to be formed in your mind’s eye. As you do so, notice any feelings, bodily sensations, and meanings that arise.
As you visualize the image of the first moment you were struck by love, and as you experience the feelings and bodily sensations of the initial attraction to your partner, you will naturally see them in a positive light. In this positive light of love, the problems between you can be more easily resolved, allowing closeness, intimacy and love to come forth.
Here is a story of how the image impacted Ellen, a woman who felt distant from her husband.
Ellen was hurt because her husband Jeff had stopped spending time with her, as they once used to. He had become obsessed with golf and was spending all his free time with his buddies at the course. Ellen spoke to him several times about it, but her words fell on deaf ears. Soon Ellen was finding fault with everything Jeff did. She began to nag him constantly, which only created more distance between them.
Frustrated, she took herself through the “Cupid: The Idol Of Love Image.” She reported: “As I see the image, I see the first time I fell in love with him. I see him walk into my office, lean over my desk, reach for my hand. This was the first touch. As I look into his eyes, I see this intensity, an aura of confidence and deep warmth. As I look more at the image, I melt inside and feel my heart beat faster. I am getting turned on by him.”
Once Ellen recalled what first drew her to Jeff—his confidence, the intensity that emanated from him, and his warmth—her attitude naturally shifted. She started seeing him through adoring eyes, just like when they first met. Ted naturally picked up on her attitude towards him and responded positively in kind. Suddenly, he wanted to spend more time with her, because he felt so good being around her.
By taking herself through the image instructions, Ellen was able to positively impact her marriage. She discovered that by changing her inner negative perceptions of Jeff, she naturally became a powerful agent of positive change in her relationship. This brought more joy and intimacy to them both.
February 29, 2016
Here is my latest article for the woman’s start up company Nuelle on sexuality and body image.
Imagery Exercise to Improve Your Self Body Image for a Better Sex Life
Sensuality is defined as the enjoyment and expression of sexual pleasure. Words associated with sensuality are sexiness, sensual attractiveness, sultriness and seductiveness. But, how many women today actually feel sexy, sultry or seductively confident? While giving a talk about sensuality to an audience of women, I asked the women to close their eyes and see a simple image in their minds, an image of an every day occurrence. “See that you are looking at yourself naked in front of a full length mirror. Look at your face and body. Are you happy with what you see? In an audience of over 60 women, only one raised her hand. I then asked, “How many of you dislike what you see? The rest of the women raised their hands. I was not surprised by their overwhelming negative response, even though I was looking out over a room of well groomed, attractive women in an affluent community. Women who obviously took the time to exercise and cared about how they looked. I then asked them to see another image. “Now see yourself naked in bed with your partner or lover? As you see this image in your mind, notice, how do you feel about yourself?” Again, the response was mostly negative. The women said things such as, “When we begin kissing, I am already thinking that I don’t want him to see my cellulite thighs.” “I feel totally self conscious about my fat.” “Ughh, my sagging breasts. Is he repulsed touching them?” These comments were reflective of the ongoing negative self-talk that goes on internally as a woman has sex. Rather than focusing on the pleasurable flow of erotic energy and love, feelings of inadequacy and self-rejection subtly play out in women’s minds leaving them feeling inadequate, at times depressed and thus, not alluring.
Sadly, women grow up in a culture that puts tremendous pressure on them, reinforcing the notion that their value is based on outer looks. There is little, if no emphasis, given to the power of her depths, the sensuality that emanates from her inner being, or of the beauty of her essence. Women are constantly bombarded with an incessant flow of media generated images that tell them that it is their youth, toned body and thinness, that are the measures of their worth. When simply going grocery shopping, women are surrounded by magazine covers telling them how to improve their make up, look better, thinner, younger, and get more in shape. TV ads selling toothpaste emphasize the need for a “sexy” smile rather than oral hygiene and of course, the ad features a beautiful young, thin woman—an image of the culture’s ideal. Is it any wonder that women constantly find fault with themselves and feel that they don’t measure up? This leaves them feeling hopeless and at a loss because no matter what they do, they cannot change their natural body’s shape or face to fit the culture’s ideal.
The field of psychoneuroimmunology studies the interaction of thoughts and emotions with the nervous, endocrine and immune systems. Extensive research on the hormonal and immune effects of chronic stress on women reveals that feelings of hopelessness, loss, and inadequacy causes dramatic changes in stress hormones and sex hormones. When a woman sexually interacts with her lover and feels that she is not attractive enough, her negative thoughts and feelings create stress chemicals such as, cortisol, oxytocin and vasopressin; chemicals associated with feeling hopelessness and loss, which directly inhibit the pleasurable flow of erotic love and passion. However, when a woman feels self-assured, she radiates an appealing aura of feminine assurance, thereby releasing euphoria inducing endorphins, self-esteem making serotonin, and oxytocin. These are known as the love chemicals and they enhance intimacy, trust and bonding. Clearly, the most important element in great love making is how a woman “feels” about herself—not what her body looks like.
In studying and working with countless men on what attracts them to a woman, it is interesting to note that it is not a woman’s breasts, buttocks or legs that first entices them to her; but instead, they are drawn by a ‘mysterious’ feminine force emanating from deep within her. This mystery in a woman is the embodiment of a compelling and confident sense of inner sensuality present within her. The most attractive women in the world are not those who have outer beauty only, but those that radiate an assurance about their femininity. Think of Sophia Loren, Tina Turner or Beyonce. They do have outer beauty, but it is their inner sensual radiance that magnetizes men to them. While outer beauty is compelling to men, if a beautiful woman is not in touch with her inner fullness, most men will not find her appealing. On the other hand, a woman who is less attractive outwardly, but who emits an inner confident knowingness about her appeal, is attractive to men and they experience her as beautiful.
The mating signals between men and women are based on the woman being the container of a deep sensual force of nature within her, as if a lush paradise exists within her inviting a man to both partake of her and rest in her. When couples make love and a man gets turned on when looking into the eyes of the woman, he sees her beauty. The woman gets turned on when she sees the man is seeing the beauty within her. She is the container of the desire. Yet, sadly in our culture, outer beauty is heavily promoted with no mention of the real source of attraction—a woman’s inner effulgent sensual being. Women who are in touch with this essence beautify themselves to express their inner fullness, whereas women who feel empty beautify their outer looks as compensation for an inner void. Thus, nature’s mating signals vastly differ from our culture’s erroneous notion that it is outer beauty that is the primary source of sexual attractiveness. Nothing could be further from the truth and this misinformation leaves women feeling unsure and insecure, which is precisely what turns men off.
For a pleasurable sexual life, it is crucial for women to shift from the self-perception that they are lacking, to a connection to their innate sensual lushness, which is naturally imbued with beauty, wisdom, strength and self worth. In order to facilitate this goal, I have utilized the work of Eidetic Image Psychology for over 35 years with countless women and found it extremely effective.
Eidetic Image psychology is a form of psychosomatic healing with a process that brings about emotional, physiological, and energetic positive change. It has been scientifically researched at universities around the world. It is a fast-moving, positive method that quickly identifies problem areas and generates shifts by using precise tools that promote insight and growth. Central to eidetic imagery theory is the concept of bio-latency. Bio-latency means that the complete genetic blueprint of our original nature is always available to us, encoded neurologically in our brains, and accessible through eidetic images. Thus, I have found that those who work with these images are often able to connect to the depth of their wholeness and essential sensual nature.
Below is an imagery instruction to help you connect to your untainted sensuality.
It will allow you to see how your negative body image gets in your way and gives you a tool to see your sensual wholeness. With your eyes closed or open, whichever feels more comfortable, allow the following images to be formed in your mind’s eye. Pay attention to the image that you see (do not worry if it is vague or vivid), to any sensations, feelings and meanings that come to you. Eidetic images can be seen as still, as in a photo, or animated, as in a movie, and can be re-examined for detail and for new emotional perspectives.
Discovering Your Sensual Self Exercise:
Love in the workplace: A new tool for productivity
“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” -Aristotle
The words “love” and “workplace” are not usually perceived as naturally co-existing. I am not talking about romantic love, but of the natural bonding love that can develop between people who spend hours of the day together in a mutual pursuit, with common goals, such as at work. These more personal feelings do naturally exist, and can often arise among people in the work place, yet there is no frame of reference for them nor, any accepted language to describe them. Nor, is there widespread understanding that such feelings can be productive in professional or workplace environments. Rather, these so called “softer” emotions are often thought of as, detrimental to one’s productivity and success. Indeed, they are usually assumed to cloud objectivity and judgment, or blunt hard edged competitiveness–traits historically thought of as the sure markers of success.
Nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. Feelings of warmth, affection, and even love, towards those in one’s workplace, whether towards one’s co-workers, bosses, employees, or clients, have been shown to increase inner states of well-being, which in turn enhances both creativity and productivity. The expression of genuine warmth, and natural affection amongst people working together facilitates a sense of bonding and belonging. These positive qualities enhance communication and trust, which then naturally spills over into the vision, project, or work at hand. Conversely, working in an environment focused on merely competing to achieve one’s goals, devoid of warmth and connection to others, can create feelings of isolation, paranoia and stress; the very things, which inhibit the free flow of one’s innate creativity and potential.
When people feel appreciated, they want to give more. They feel satisfaction in knowing their contribution to the whole is valued. They engage in work with a sense purpose connected to a larger whole than their own narrow self-interest–qualities known to fuel creative potential. Conversely, fear, paranoia, and distrust close people down, curtailing access to their inner giftedness.
Professional environments where love is cultivated offer a new and radical view of the workplace, which is very much the opposite of the currently held belief that striving to be one’s best inherently means competing against others in a zero-sum-game, where there is a winner who must always be “one up” over another. People flourish when they feel part of a whole, when their unique contribution to that whole is valued. Collaboration bred in love is a key that can unlock success for any business endeavor. What matters is the subtle intention of one’s effort. If what is in one’s consciousness is to outdo someone else in order to gain personal advantage, that hidden intention will be felt on some level and will color the outcome, bringing negativity into the culture. On the other hand, when a person strives to be his or her best because of a deeper purpose to serve the whole, borne out of feelings of love, the result will be greater accomplishment, while at the same time bringing positive energies to all.
Everyone flourishes in an atmosphere of love, as love is an energy that nurtures and satisfies one’s innermost being. It has its own innate wisdom, which always brings more positive outcomes and constructive results, even in the face of difficult decisions, projects or, interactions. People naturally respond positively when they feel its inclusive and reconciling presence, and in turn respond with increasing good will.
An article published in January 2014 in the Harvard Business Review titled, “Employees Who Feel Love Perform Better,” by Sigal Barsade and Olivia O’Neill states,
“Love is a not word you often hear uttered in office hallways or conference rooms. And yet, it has a strong influence on workplace outcomes. The more love coworkers feel at work, the more engaged they are. (Note: Here we’re talking about “companionate love” which is far less intense than romantic love. Companionate love is based on warmth, affection, and connection rather than passion.) It may not be surprising that those who perceive greater affection and caring from their colleagues perform better, but few managers focus on building an emotional culture. That’s a mistake.”
In addition, the article cited a study titled, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” in which emotional culture and its impact on productivity was examined. This study, which was conducted across seven industries, from health care to finance, showed that employees who worked in a warm and caring culture performed better. They found that employees’ feelings of happiness were directly correlated with greater personal productivity, which in turn also improved client satisfaction. “Employees who felt they worked in a loving, caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork. They showed up to work more often.”
Interestingly, the study also revealed that when allowed to express genuine loving feelings towards others, employees fared better at their jobs, “People who worked in a culture where they felt free to express affection, tenderness, caring, and compassion for one another, were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organization, and accountable for their performance.” Another survey, of more than 1,700 adults, conducted in 2012 by the American Psychological Association found similar results, concluding that employees who consistently feel valued and appreciated by their employers were found to put in more significant effort on their company’s behalf. “Employees who feel valued are more likely to report better physical and mental health, as well as higher levels of engagement, satisfaction and motivation, compared to those who do not feel valued by their employers.
The above studies accurately demonstrate how powerful the influence of love can be in the workplace, both in enhancing the well-being of employees, as well as in the concrete positive results that benefited their companies. However, in all cases, the burden for creating the culture of love was placed on the shoulders of the company itself. Yet no matter what work environment one finds oneself in, each person has the power to make dramatic positive changes by harnessing the power of love. Love changes the outcome of any interaction for the better, as it naturally reconciles disparate points of view, brings a deeper wisdom, and reveals enlightening new perspectives.
The method I use when working with people in business is that of Eidetic Imagery. Eidetic Imagery is a fast moving technique that uncovers the stored mental images of one’s life. Because it works directly with each person’s unique images, it identifies problem areas quickly, generates positive change, promotes insight, and brings forward the individual’s innate powers and genius. One example follows:
A man I was working with was having difficulties with his boss’s anxious moods, which left him feeling unsure of himself. He worried that it was affecting his job performance. I asked him to visualize the problem in his mind in order to see it more clearly. I then asked him to once again see the difficulty, but this time, to keep love in mind while doing so. This enabled him to gain insight about how to handle the situation. The conversation went something like this:
Q: John, see an image of your boss. What are you seeing?
A: Okay, let me think. The first image that comes to mind is of her rushing up the stairs to her office, and as she passes me she is very curt. She seems very stressed out.
Q: When you see that image, how do you feel?
A: I also feel stressed out. And it makes me anticipate that all my interactions with her will be stressful, because she is so stressed. Every time she is stressed out she gets curt, and she rushes me.
Q: Okay, now see her doing that to you. Tell me more about what happens in the image.
A: I start feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. When she rushes me like that it makes me lose my composure. I try to give her the information she wants as fast as possible, but under that pressure, when I feel so rushed, I kind of shut down and fumble. I can see that she is scattered because she is coming from a place of stress, but I can’t seem to help getting sucked into her negative energy.
Q: All right John, now place your awareness on your heart. Think for a minute about someone in your life who evokes feelings of love, who makes you feel warm in your heart. Now, keep that feeling of a warm heart in mind as you see the situation with your boss, take a moment and visualize the same situation again while keeping those warm heart feelings in your mind. What do you see in the image now?
A: My heart feels like it is rushed and beating fast.
Q: That’s fine. Now as you keep your heart in mind, see that you feel the love in it. Let yourself connect to the feeling of love within you, feelings in your heart. Keep those feelings in your mind as you see the image of your boss.
A: Well, as I do that, a shift comes over me. In the image I seem to feel more compassionate towards her when I see how stressed she is. I see myself interacting with her in a way that is gentler and calmer. When I responded to her stress from my own stressed place, she would get even more stressed. But when I keep the feeling of love in mind, I see in the image that she calms down, because I am more centered and I am coming from a place of compassion. It seems like she picks up on my loving energy and it calms her.
Q: How do you feel now seeing that?
A: More centered. If I am not reacting to her stress, if I deal with her in a way that is calm and reassuring, it has the effect of calming her down too, and I feel I can be more effective.
Q: That’s great. So what did going through this exercise do for you?
A: Well, I can see that I am very sensitive, and I react all too easily to her negative energy. And when I do that I make more mistakes. When I keep love in mind in the image, I instantly feel more centered, and I shift from reacting to her energy to feeling effective. It feels like the love in me has the power to calm her down. So instead of feeling victimized by her anxiety, I see that I have the ability to change the situation by influencing her in a positive way. As I think about it, keeping love in mind, I think it gives me more insight. For example, I see she over-cares about her job. She’s over-dedicated to it. I think that’s where a lot of her stress must be coming from, and that makes me feel compassion for her now instead of irritation.
When John’s intention towards his boss switched from fear to love, he reported back to me that the outcome of his interactions with her dramatically shifted for the better.
In every work environment, a person or group’s genuine intention has a powerful impact on outcomes, and so the use of this understanding can be highly effective. Thus, whether the goal is to enhance individual well-being, or provide a sense of purpose within a team or organization, keeping love in mind improves personal interactions and optimizes overall productivity. Love is like a magical elixir that can be applied to any situation because it brings forth its own innate wisdom, which overcomes any difficulty, because people long for what it offers—authenticity, purity and connection.
Here is an imagery exercise that you can explore within your own mind. It deals with a difficult situation you face at work and shows how keeping love in mind elicits fresh solutions:
The Inside Job: Healing The World by First Healing Ourselves
“The only hope for humankind is in the transformation of the individual” — Krishnamurti
A few years ago, I was quarreling over a trivial matter with my husband. Each entrenched in our own positions, neither one of us could see the other’s point of view. We were more invested in winning the argument than in healing the divide. As this battle of wills escalated, we found ourselves arguing late into the night. Unable to resolve the quarrel, we went to bed angry. In the morning, I woke up before he did, and with cup of coffee in hand, I sat looking out at the beautiful trees in my back yard. I dreaded his waking up, as I knew that our argument would continue — a pattern between us of talking a problem to death. Suddenly, out of the blue, as I gazed at the trees, something shifted within me: a feeling of love permeated my entire being. The presence of love powerfully coursed through my body and transformed me. It was not necessarily even directed towards him. Rather, I became filled with a love from deep within myself that radiated outward. With a frown on his face, my husband walked into the room where I sat, expecting the fight to continue. He looked at me and without a word passing, he instantaneously sensed my new state of being, and I saw his demeanor soften before my eyes. We both knew that the argument was over without needing further discussion. We were both enveloped in a powerful presence of love, which healed the divide. There was no resolution to the argument between us. The perceived issue no longer existed.
Although a fight with my husband might seem like an unusual catalyst, this experience allowed me to understand a powerful truth about how our inner feelings states project an energy that profoundly impacts those around us, and, on a larger level, even the world. In this way, I grasped the meaning of Gandhi’s words, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” What Gandhi was saying is this: if we want peace in our world, we must first be peaceful within ourselves. If we wish for love, we must first embody the presence and fullness of love in our very own hearts; only then can this love touch others. In this respect, our sheer presence serves to affect and influence our surroundings. People who carry an aura of light and peace automatically lift the spirit of those around them. In doing so, they create positive outcomes in any given situation. Others, who emit fear, paranoia, or hate, emit a dark energy that repels, instilling fear, mistrust, and discord.
I am not implying that the mere presence of love will always solve all disputes or altercations the way it did with my husband that day. It does, however, always color the outcome. Even if further discussion is needed to resolve a conflict, the conversation can take place in an atmosphere of cooperation and positivity, allowing a harmonious resolution to be achieved. As always, the key is the quality of inner presence that we bring to any situation, which affects those around us in profound ways.
Since that fight with my husband, I have applied this understanding to all my relationships. More and more, I realize that I can be a potent agent of positive change by the genuine presence that I embody. Earnestly cultivating my own ability to embody deepening qualities of the soul, such as love, harmony, peace, and compassion, has not only resulted in a sense of joy and inner confidence within myself, but it has enriched my relationships with my husband, children, friends and clients. This even applies to my everyday interactions with strangers, whether taxi drivers or waiters or sales clerks. Time and time again, I notice how the presence of my own state of being makes a direct difference in another person’s day, if even in a small way, by uplifting their spirit or making them feel good about themselves. In turn, their innate goodness flows back to me. The bible states it well: “For whatever a man sows he shall reap”.
Some believe that by changing our outer circumstances, our inner emotions and attitudes will improve. Only then, they believe, it is possible to achieve happiness and fulfillment. True fulfillment and happiness, however, always starts by making an inner shift. From there, it naturally can be expressed in the world. Our innermost feelings, thoughts and attitudes always create our outer reality.
There may be some small value in changing the outside; sometimes, an outer changes seeps into the inside and makes us temporarily happy. Most of the time, however, external changes — such as moving to a new city or finding a new partner — ultimately disappoint, because he remains the same person with the same fundamental consciousness. Ultimately, our mental states of unhappiness, depression, or anger return, because our deepest problem has not been healed from within.
As such, we usually recreate the exact circumstances we were trying to avoid. For example, when we carry unhealed anger, feel victimized, or fear rejection, we bring those same dynamics to our current situations and create the very same circumstances we were trying to flee from by making a superficial external change. When we are afraid to be hurt in an intimate relationship, we may think that a new partner is the answer. Yet we often carry this fear into the new relationship; in subtle and unconscious ways, we will push the new partner away with fears of being open, trusting, or vulnerable. To the contrary, lasting external changes most naturally occur after a significant inner shift has already taken place. In this way, inner change creates the conditions and circumstances for outer change to occur.
There is a direct correlation between our attitudes towards ourselves and how we perceive and treat others. As human beings, while growing up, we cannot help but internalize our parents’ disapproval and judgments. As a result, we all develop what can be called an “inner critic.” This refers to that small inner voice in the back of our minds that constantly reminds us of where we are lacking: “You are not successful enough, thin enough, good looking enough, as good as another person. You need to achieve more, try harder!’ Everyone has a negative inner critic, which gets projected outwardly unto others. If we are not okay with ourselves on an internal level, then we can’t be okay with someone else. In this way, judgments, whether loudly expressed or inwardly felt, become projected onto our family, friends, co-workers, and even extend more globally towards those of a differing race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or culture.
In order to change our world, then, whether in a small or large ways, we need to embody an ever-deepening sense of self-acceptance, self-love, and compassion. This is the most fundamental and important work we can do for the world: to love and accept our self just as we are, with all our flaws and imperfections. This softens our hearts and melts our divide from others. In this way, our sincere self-love affects those around us. It is like throwing a pebble into a pond of water: it ripples out far and wide, one person at a time.
I directly experienced how my growing sense of compassion unexpectedly shifted strangers around me while walking down a busy New York City street last year on a cold wintry night. I had stopped by a food cart in order to buy a hot drink to warm up. A homeless man stood near the cart. He was acting erratically and singing at the top of his lungs. As group of young people came and stood behind me in line they began to speak judgmentally about the man making disparaging comments about him. Even though his behavior frightened me, I could see by the way he looked at the food in the cart that he was hungry. Identifying with his feeling of hunger and cold, I felt compassion for him. Afraid to approach him myself, I asked the food cart operator to ask the man if he wanted to something eat and that I was happy to pay for it. When asked, he shouted, “A burger and I want it grilled just like I want to smash and grill your brain on the hot stove.” Shocked, no one uttered a word. The sense of being in the presence of madness and unpredictability permeated the air. After being given his hamburger, I asked the operator to ask him if he wanted a drink. In response, he bellowed, “Yes, a Coke. I am thirsty!” The operator then asked me for him a dollar for the drink. I fumbled in my purse and could only find a $100 dollar bill and my credit cards. I could not find a single dollar, nor any small change. I asked if I could pay with a credit card. Suddenly, the young people behind me chimed in, “We want to pay for his Coke” and handed me a dollar. Their attitude had shifted in witnessing my kindness and suddenly they too wanted to help. Then out of the blue, the homeless man turned to me and looking directly into my eyes with the most profound humility and unexpected clear presence of mind calmly said, “Thank you, lady.” He had registered the kind-heartedness and genuinely connected for a few moments with another human. A sudden feeling of benevolence permeated the air. I left the scene feeling a fullness of heart as if I had witnessed something like a miracle: how one person’s simple act of generosity could alter the negative attitudes of others.
As we change ourselves, we change the world. In doing so, each of us creates a more joyful and abundant life for ourselves, and at the same time, we build a world filled with an ever-increasing harmony and peace. Can you imagine everyone doing that? What a great place this world would be if it were possible for us all to live contentedly in the true spirit of being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.
Putting Your Best Self Forward: How Your Parents Influence Your Success
Early last year, my friend Julia was headed to a business meeting. As she entered the door to the conference room where the meeting would be held, she noticed that her secretary Rachel had not provided the room with all the equipment she needed for her presentation. Without thinking, she blew up at her secretary in front of everyone in the meeting. Later, facing a tearful Rachel, she felt ashamed by the outburst, but she could not pinpoint why she had reacted so violently.
Like Julia, we may occasionally become perplexed by the automatic ways we react to life situations and wish in retrospect that we had responded differently than we did. However, these automatic reactions that trouble us have been imprinted as neural pathways in our brains since childhood. Image Psychology research in the last half century has shown that our mother’s and father’s influence is wired into our brains and color our automatic knee jerk reactions to life. We may ponder why we react with particular habitual responses, such as fear or anger or dread, perhaps thinking they are due to some mysterious defect within us. In fact, most of the attitudes and emotions we spontaneously experience are the result of imprints stored in our brains from our early experience with our parents or primary caretakers.
Our childhood experiences determine not just our present and future emotional life, but also our physiology. NIH scientists Dorothy Lewis and Jonathan Pincus studied the effect of childhood abuse and neglect on the brain. They discovered that a person’s early relationship with his or her parents altered the size, shape, and chemical functions of the brain. This is a profound discovery because it reveals the deep impact of our developmental relationship with our parents in shaping the actual physical formation of our brain and its chemicals functions. Thus, Pincus and Lewis discovered that our environment is so powerful that it can override our inherent genetic tendencies and shape how our brains functions, impacting our perceptions, emotions, abilities, ways of reacting and how we experience life.
Think of the child of an athletic parent, who has the genetic capacity to excel, yet is critiqued by his father every time he throws a baseball. Absorbing his father’s criticisms, the child ends up afraid of making a mistake and begins to lack confidence in his natural ability to throw the ball. Although he may be genetically gifted by nature, the child’s delivery is now thwarted. The criticism of his father becomes imprinted in his brain in the form of a mental image, which not only impacts his ability to pitch the ball, but also hurts his confidence in general. As an adult, he may forget the youthful incidents of criticism from his father. Yet his brain remembers. Now, he finds that every time he has to prove himself, such as delivering a presentation at work, the negative image of his father is activated within him, igniting a neural signal that triggers the old familiar sense of self-doubt. On the other hand, a child who is given encouraging messages and positive feedback will trust his natural abilities in life and flourish.
We can gain profound insight into the automatic ways in which we react to the events in our life through utilizing the tools of Eidetic Image Psychology, which studies the images stored in our mind of our life experience. This allows us to consciously choose how we want to respond to life situations in order to create more positive outcomes. We do not have to be slaves to the unknown negative wiring of our pasts. We can consciously choose to bring forward more positive responses from the storehouse of images within us. Eidetic Imagery research has found that beneath the powerful socially conditioned layer of our historical influences, there resides a level of wholeness, where we are replete with natural potentials. Untainted by history, our original nature still remains, encoded within us. It can be brought to the fore so that the most beneficial outcomes for both, ourselves and others can occur.
An Eidetic Image is a bright, lively picture seen in the mind, much like a movie image or a filmstrip. It is different from other types of mental images in its unusual clarity and its ability to reproduce important life events with exact detail. These special images are neurologically recorded in the brain and systematically stored away for future reference. They contain information about our genetic wholeness, as well as the impact of our personal history upon it. The subject of much clinical research and study, Eidetic Images provide a great deal of information about our present abilities, potentials, behaviors and ways of acting in the world.
Crossing the Road Exercise:
Here is an Eidetic Imagery exercise that can help you become more aware of your conditioned reactions to many life-situations based on the influence of your parents. With your eyes open or closed, take a moment to allow the following images to form in your mind’s eye as you follow the instructions. In seeing these images, let the information they convey unfold and become clear to you.
What this imagery exercise reveals to you is that through keeping your different parents in mind, you can consciously see, viscerally experience, and ultimately understand how your habitual ways of responding to life situations is rooted in the relationship with each one of your parents.
You will notice that there is a difference in your feeling states in how you crossed the road with mother in mind than with father in mind. These responses are the automatic body-mind reactions that reveal the effect of your different parents upon your present psyche. This information, described in holographic pictures, has been neurologically imprinted within you and dictates many of your moods, behaviors, and reactions to the world. You may have noticed ease or tension in the images. Notice, which parent gave you more energy and ability or ease? Which parents made you feel more inhibited? With the knowledge of how these parental energies affect you, you can consciously use these parental images in other life situations.
You may find that one parent is negative and the other positive. Or, both can be negative, or both positive. The exact quality and tone of the positive or negative energy will emerge while doing the exercise and is a useful tool for mastering life experiences.
How does this help?
If, for example, you find one parent negative and the other positive while crossing the road, you can consciously alter your automatic responses by keeping the “positive” parent in mind as you do things in life. For example, the next time you are dealing with a difficult person, see an image of this person and keep the positive parent in mind. You will immediately notice your natural constructive abilities emerge in dealing with this person.
If both parents are positive, you can use the positive quality offered by each parent for different tasks. For example, one woman described that keeping her mother in mind gave her focusing ability, while keeping her father made her feel full of love. Each time that she had to focus on a work task, she kept her mother in mind and found her ability to stay focused came easily. When she found herself getting into a power struggle with her children to clean up their rooms, keeping her father in mind, allowed her to feel love and communicate with them in a manner that effectively made the children want to cooperate with her.
If both parents are negative, it is useful to see how your parents affected you, so you can become conscious of your habitual negative or self-defeating behaviors that get in your way. In this situation, simply keep in mind a significant person in your life who positively affected you as you cross the road. You may use a mentor, a relative, a therapist, a spiritual teacher, or a religious figure such as Buddha, Jesus, Mary or whomever deeply moves you. Using them as a filter will bring out your best abilities to deal with the many vicissitudes of life.
Other exercises using our parents as filters:
Overcoming Problems Exercise:
Overcoming Obstructions Exercise:
Applauded for Success Image:
Nancy had to give a presentation to her company’s CEO. Wanting to bring her best potentials forward she did the imagery exercise in preparation:
At first she saw herself giving the presentation and she felt scared and wanted to be approved of by the CEO. Keeping her mother in mind, as she saw herself presenting, her mother’s fear came over her and felt herself tense up and hesitate as she spoke. Switching to keeping her father in mind, she remembered his pride in her accomplishments as a child. He always attended her school plays and soccer events taking great pride in her abilities. Thus, with him in mind, she was overcome with a sense of optimism and confidence. Her body stood taller and experienced a shift from wanting approval to feeling as if she had something important to say. Utilizing the gift of this awareness, Nancy kept her father in mind as she presented and found that she spoke with poise, authority and grace.
Armed with the tools of eidetic knowledge we can gain insight into the ways we have been conditioned by our upbringing, allowing us to heal unresolved areas and bring our best potentials forward.
The Clash of Nature & Culture: Its Impact on Women
We are born into nature and are an inseparable part of it. Yet modern culture with its overemphasis on materialism and hyper-rationality has left us disconnected from the experience of our natural selves. Just as the natural world has been polluted and desecrated, so have we. The purity of our inner essential selves has been tainted and obscured with the thought forms of a superficial, consumer driven society.
The clash of culture with one’s inner nature can be particularly injurious to women, beginning most notably at the time girls enter puberty. The natural changes to both body and psyche signal the onset of the most sensitive time for the formation of a girl’s feminine identity. Nature tells her that she is moving toward adulthood, with the potential for bearing children, as she begins to hormonally embody the feminine qualities of nurturing, empathy, and the ability to merge with another; sensibilities that she first experiences internally, and will later express out in the world. Yet much about today’s culture carries the suggestion that her value is based primarily on her outer looks, with little or no emphasis given to the power, depth and wisdom of her inner essence.
The pressure to look outwardly beautiful, along with the prevalent lack of emphasis on a girl’s inner nature disempowers her at the core, and results in a multitude of emotional and physical symptoms, many of which can plague her for a lifetime. With a dearth of images of women exuding inner qualities of strength, courage, and the radiance that emanates from innate self confidence, rather than their outward appearance, where is a young girl to go in order to comprehend who she truly is, and how is she to learn about the depths that live within her?
As girls mature into womanhood, two events influence the unfolding of their feminine identity with unequaled impact. One is when a girl’s breasts first begin to develop. The other is the onset of her first menstrual period. These times are incredibly sensitive for her psychological and emotional development. The ways in which those around her react to her developing body powerfully influence her ultimate feelings about herself as a woman. Yet the world around her, and those closest to her, also suffer from a paucity of knowledge regarding the profound importance of those changes and their influence on her psyche, and may be less than alert to the nuances of the subtle, yet powerful and far reaching effects on her mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
The hormonal changes within a girl’s body at the onset of puberty mark the initiation of a process that will transform her from childhood into adulthood. During this time, her mind opens to a new vision of herself as she begins her journey towards womanhood. Not only her mother, female relatives, friends, and teachers, but also the media’s portrayal of women and womanhood provide her with a range of role models to emulate. It is a time when her mind is particularly open and susceptible to new impressions. The growing breasts contain genetic signals and hormones connected to the qualities of nurturing, sweetness, sustenance, love, healing, and empathy, so these emotions also begin to course within her. She becomes aware of her potential to mother a future child, or to give birth in another sense to something unique in the world that expresses her feminine essence. However, since our culture tends to ignore or undervalue the particular attributes intrinsically contained within those budding breasts, young girls can easily fail to then value those qualities in themselves. Thus, the powerful energies contained within her feminine being can be overlooked, and risk vanishing from her consciousness.
The advent of a girl’s first menstrual cycle is a highly significant event in her life because she is now biologically able to bear children. This marks profound changes both in her body and in her life’s purpose. The cycle of changing hormonal output begins to effect her physical, mental and emotional states on a monthly basis. The events surrounding the first menstrual cycle, and the input she receives from those around her, are critical to the development of her self-worth, and form impressions in her mind that leave a lasting impact on her sense of identity, as well as her emotional and physical states of being. Seen from a medical perspective, the onset of puberty is a natural biological change in a woman’s reproductive development. Yet, what is missing is an explanation of its deeper symbolic meaning and importance as she approaches womanhood.
Whether this momentous change is treated with sensitivity, affirmation, and pride, or neutrality, insensitivity, and derision, it lays the groundwork for the development of female related symptomatology later in life.
Body and mind are one continuous flow of neural and chemical signals. The negative feelings of self that a young girl experiences as she begins to develop trigger the release of cortisol and other stress hormones, which have been found to impact physical health, as well as emotional well-being, far into adulthood. The study of the interactions between mental processes and physical health is at the forefront of the current field of psychoneuroimmunology, or PNI, which examines precise links between one’s thoughts and emotions and their corresponding neurological and chemical impact on the formation of symptoms in the body.
Research by Ahkter Ahsen, Karl Pribram, and others who study the impact that negative cultural attitudes and influences have on the women’s symptomatology, have found that women who had negative experiences when they first developed breasts, or at the onset of their menstrual cycles, have stronger PMS symptoms such as cramping, bloating, irregular menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding, ovarian cysts, and increased moodiness, as well as more general symptoms such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, headaches, insomnia, and others. Most of these women were also shown to suffer increased difficulties as they entered menopause.
A great many women I have encountered in my practice report having experienced some form of emotional pain, rejection, or confusion as they began to develop. For example, the kind of jokes and disparaging comments about budding breasts, which are often made by the boys of their peer group, or even, occasionally, by other girls, bring many girls a deep shame and humiliation. Other women recall feelings of vulnerability and inadequacy when suddenly confronted with sexual attention from older boys, which at that age they were not equipped to handle. Some reported feeling inferior because they were the last in their class to develop. Deep isolation was experienced by many who felt alone and puzzled as to what was happening to them, since no one adequately explained to them what was going on with their bodies.
At one time or another, most girls experience some degree of self-contempt when comparing their natural bodies to the media images of the ideal feminine desirability. Feelings of fear, confusion and inadequacy were also experienced by women whose mothers treated their developing breasts and first menstrual cycles with indifference or insensitivity, or who failed to offer genuine praise in their process of becoming a woman. Ahsen and Pribram found that the origin many of the symptoms that women suffer from in their current lives originated in the events that occurred when their bodies were changing from girlhood to womanhood.
Typically, the first information a girl receives is through her mother, a school health class, or through friends. Within a girl’s peer group, friends generally lack sufficient experience and wisdom to discuss it correctly, and often pass on frightening or inaccurate information. In health classes the knowledge is often presented in a dry, impersonal manner, explaining the biology of ovulation and menstruation, while overlooking the associated emotional components. Mothers often find it difficult to discuss sexuality with their daughters, imparting discomfort along with the information, which the daughter will sense and internalize. Even mothers who are comfortable discussing their daughters’ physical and sexual development might talk about it in a practical and helpful manner, yet may not be enlightened about the deeper symbolic meaning of the event. Thus the knowledge passed on to girls about what is going on in their bodies is very often lacking in richness, depth or meaning. Conversely, in pretechnological societies the onset of puberty, and monthly menstruation, have often taken on almost mystical meanings, surrounded by rituals deeply embedded in the culture.
I recall working with one girl who was just beginning to develop breasts and was unaware that they were showing. She was in a physical education class, wearing a T-shirt and was instructed to do jumping jacks. As she was jumping up and down, a boy in the class began to make fun of her bouncing breasts, taunting her and ridiculing her. Thus the first awareness she had of her feminine self was associated with deep humiliation. When she went home and told her mother what had happened, her mother did not respond empathically, but told her that they would remedy the situation by going shopping for a bra. Without knowing it, the mother’s response left her daughter feeling confused and unimportant because she did not attend to her daughter’s embarrassment, nor did she explain with care what was going on in her daughter’s changing body.
Another patient, a 40-year-old woman, told me that her first menstrual period occurred while traveling by train with her mother and an aunt. She had not been prepared for it, and was frightened when she saw that she was bleeding. She thought that she was dying. When she told her mother and aunt about it they merely said, “Oh, you are now a woman.” She did not understand what that meant or how it related to her sudden bleeding. They told her to put some toilet paper in her underwear until they could get something more adequate for her. Not much more was disclosed about the event at the time. The insecurity and fear generated from that event was suppressed in her until, many years later, she began to discuss it in a therapeutic setting, and came to see that the headaches, cramping and bloating she experienced during each menstrual cycle originated from that event on the train.
It is a sad commentary on our society that our young women are desolately immersed in a culture that little understands the power of their feminine essence. The profound rite of passage that occurs as girls first make the transition from childhood towards becoming a woman is the optimal time to teach our girls to embody and honor the feminine within them. It is a time to impart to them factual information about the changes going on in their bodies, but also to convey the immensely potent and benevolent power they carry within themselves for a future world they will soon inhabit. For it is precisely the qualities inherent to her feminine nature—nurturance, empathy, love, which can bring about cohesive understanding of the unique role enlightened women can perform in healing a damaged world. Therefore it is imperative to fully understand and honor this time of transition in the young girls around us, as they contain within themselves the precise attributes necessary for a new and life affirming vision of life.
For more information on this topic read Dr. Akhter Ahsen’s book, “Menstruation and Menopause: Imagery Therapeutics In Social Context.”
Can the Feminine Rule the World?
“For my grandmother really had the gift of conducting the affairs of state.
—Anna Dalassena, Byzantine Empress (1025–1102)
Since the advent of feminism, women have come into more prominent positions of power and authority. In working with hundreds of women and men, however, both in my private practice as a psychotherapist and in the workshops and seminars I conduct, I’ve found that women typically don’t understand how to embody their natural “feminine” sensibilities as an effective force for the enlightened transformation of our world. Due to years of historical suppression, women do not recognize the deep wellspring of qualities residing with them, which can powerfully impact the course of history. The infusion of feminine potentials in all areas of life —Including politics, medicine, education, religious institutions, corporations, businesses, the family, or even one’s most intimate personal relationships— is crucial at this time for the evolution of life on this planet. Our most cutting-edge visionaries and thought leaders are calling out for a vibrant feminine participation in our world. The Dalai Lama states: “Women have a special capacity to lead us to a more peaceful world with compassion, affection and kindness. And there is no more important time for that than this very moment.” Llewellyn Vaughn Lee, a prominent Sufi teacher, mystic and author, writes: “Women also understand the connections between people and the connections within life; at this time women are needed to bring a seed of pure light into life where it can create new forms and new patterns of interrelationship that are essential to the healing and transformation of life.”
For centuries power has been viewed as a masculine attribute, and the feminine has been denigrated as too “weak” to direct and guide our world. These prejudiced views having been indoctrinated out of a false historical conditioning, which holds the masculine to be superior through its impulse towards taking control, conquering, and competing. However, now that these precise qualities have driven us to the edge of global extinction, depleted the earth of her resources, created massive hunger and poverty, inculcated global wars, endangered many species, and created nuclear weapons that can destroy massive areas of population, we need to find a new way forward. The masculine is not negative in itself as it contains many positive elements. It just needs to be balanced with the feminine side of life especially at this crucial time in history. We need compassionate understanding, tenderness for life, warmth, yielding, softness, nurturance, loving communication, intuitive knowing, emotional warmth, and responsiveness— to one another, to the earth, to her resources, and to all living creatures. We need to have a whole new paradigm from which we view life by placing the spiritual intelligence contained in feminine wisdom at the fore of our consciousness. The Tao Te Ching speaks to this power: “The softest things of the world override the hardest things of the world.”
Sadly, men have been taught to suppress the feminine within them, thereby cutting off a vital part of their own wholeness. They fear that embracing and expressing their feminine aspects, whether personally or professionally, renders them weak, vulnerable and unattractive. Similarly, when in positions of authority, women tend to emulate male styles of leadership, thereby suppressing their own inner emotional depths and intuitive knowing. They don’t trust their natural wisdom, as they have been trained to give over to the prevailing male model, which they feel is a prerequisite to gaining respect and acceptance. Sadly, most of the women with whom I’ve worked, no matter how successful, have doubted themselves, felt uncomfortable being powerful, and experienced an inner void or gap that has prevented them from accessing their primal ground of feminine knowledge. I have noted that men who incorporate their feminine side, become leaders who are deeply loved and who create a deep loyalty from those around them. Women leaders, who do not fear utilizing their feminine attributes, find others magnetically drawn to them, trusting of them, and following their guidance because their genuineness is sensed. Our fragmented way of valuing only the masculine side of life has failed to produce the cohesive solutions we need to heal our global dilemmas. Is it then any wonder that our world is in such dire straits? A new vision or paradigm lives within feminine consciousness. We need to first become whole within our very selves by embracing that which has been lost to us, the feminine. Only then, can we be the complete vessels, from which we can birth real and effective solutions to heal our broken world.
Clearly, both men and women need to reclaim the disowned feminine within their psyches and embody the power of the all-inclusive feminine understanding. However, women can more readily access this primordial feminine knowledge, since it is biologically encoded within them. A woman’s consciousness is more in tune with the instinctual urge towards nurturing, empathic connectedness, tenderness and fierce protectiveness towards innocence, which are precisely the energies that the world now needs. Llewellyn Vaughan Lee takes this understanding further in adding a spiritual component: “Women carry the instinctual knowing of the divine substance in matter and of how to bring this substance into life, because this knowledge is fundamental in the process of giving birth, in bringing a soul into human form.” Since women’s breasts give milk to feed her child, contained within her physiology resides the consciousness for sustaining life. Breasts are necessary for the perpetuation of life, yet they have become objects of desire, idealization, glorification, pornography, and titillation. Their exploitation is due to the deep yet suppressed longing for what is contained in a woman’s essence. Within each woman is a softness, a yielding, a compassionate love, an ability to become one with another and other essential attributes that nourishes and strengthens all life.
In order to illuminate how incorporating the feminine perspective positively alters one’s personal perception of the world, I have included an imagery exercise, which elucidates this understanding. This imagery experience takes the reader to the time in a young girl’s life when she first develops breasts. This is a time of visionary change in her body and mind; at the same time as this physical transition occurs, from being a child to being woman; she also comes to view the world differently mentally and emotionally. Please read the instructions below one by one, and allow images to be formed in your mind as you read.
A Visionary Start
A 45-year-old man responded:
When asked, “What kind of vision do you have of the world, when you keep your breasts in mind? A man said:
A 50-year-old woman responded:
When asked, “What kind of vision do you have of the world, when you keep your breasts in mind,” she said:
It is revelatory to note that the responses to the image instruction exposes the participant’s conditioned gender response to the world. When asked to, “keep a breast in mind” as they see the world, both the man and woman’s sense of self as well as, perception of the world is altered positively. The man, socially trained to suppress his feminine side, had become detached towards the suffering in the world. However, when he kept a breast in mind, he suddenly became more loving, connected to the earth, and with ideas erupting from within him to help the world in some manner. The woman felt hurt and discounted by the world and her inclination was to stay hidden. However, while “keeping a breast in mind,” the depth of her innate feminine force emerged in a powerful expression of illumined stewardship for the world.
These responses are typical of the many I have gathered from both men and women. It is clear that women are the healers of this age. It is urgent that women come into an understanding of their power and authority at this time in history for a necessary positive shift to occur in the world and for men to honor the feminine within them and around them.
Health through Embodying Oneness
“One love, one heart . . .
Let’s get together and
feel all right.”
The Indian word “Namaste” is an ancient Sanskrit greeting, which has become popularized in the West. It is often said at the beginning and ending of yoga and meditation classes, and even spin classes. More than a mere hello or goodbye, Namaste has a deeper meaning. Spoken as the hands are brought together at the heart center, bowing to the one being greeted, it expresses profound respect. Translated, Namaste means, “I bow to the God within you,” or “The spirit within me salutes the spirit within you.” It acknowledges that we are all made of the same One Divine Consciousness. It is recognition of the light, or divine spark, contained in the other, as it also is in us. We are all one. The meaning of Namaste was brought home to me recently when I visited my son and his girlfriend in Queens, a richly multicultural borough of New York. During an afternoon of visiting shops and restaurants, I began to notice that in this neighborhood Hindus, turbaned Sikhs, Muslim women in headscarves, Latinos, Whites, Blacks, and Hassidic Jews with scull caps were all shopping together in close proximity. I began thinking about how this diverse group of people, often living in fear and distrust of each other, were nonetheless all here shopping peacefully next to one another. Suddenly, this observation triggered a shift in my ordinary perception, and instead of noticing their obvious differences, I saw a radiant light emanating from each one. Although appearing outwardly different in garb and skin color, the very same light beamed from each one. Overcome by this insight and elated with emotion, I felt profoundly grateful for this awareness. It was a direct experience of the knowledge that we are all made of one and the same essence. The experience seemed to mirror what the great sage Swami Muktananda implored when he said, “See God in each other,” and what Jesus must have meant when he said, “I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you,” (John 14:20 KJV).
Stepping outside after purchasing a coat in one of the stores, I noticed that the city skyline appeared bleak and grey. Tall buildings obscured any visible sign of nature, the landscape seemed austere and cold. Yet, in the midst of the overcast skies, I discerned a beautiful heavenly light descending from above, illuminating and filtering through everything. I knew that my mind had opened in some manner so that I could perceive this light so palpably filtering down upon the grey city. I then saw it in the eyes of the Sikhs and the Muslims, in the faces of the Jews, the Blacks, the Whites. Everything, the light, the skies, the city and the people seemed to sparkle in a joyful dance of incredible illumination and joy. “We are all One,” I realized. We are all infused with the same divine spark, though most of us believe we are separate from each other. Thus, we are caught in a grand illusion. Oneness is the natural state of mind existing within us, yet often separated from our conscious awareness. It is the awareness in which we experience our unity, or sameness, with people, nature, the world around us. It is the understanding that, author and mystic Rasha describes as, “We are as a drop of water is to the ocean—bonded in Oneness to it, being of it and unto it, yet having identity and self perception.” When we embody Oneness, we automatically experience peace within us, a love filling us, and utter fulfillment within ourselves and the world.
Young children are wide open, and naturally live in the consciousness of unity with all living beings, such as their pets, the trees, the flowers, and the people in their lives. An example of this is when I was with a four-year-old boy in a park seeing a tree whose branches were being pruned. He pointed to the tree and said, “I feel sad. That tree is crying.” As we grow, we lose our innocent sense of oneness with the world around us. We close down due to our cultural conditioning, which constantly emphasizes our separate sense of self. This consciousness of separation from one another and the earth stems from the views and messages we receive from our parents, our culture, religious views, and educational institutions. We are taught to compete, get ahead of the pack, feel superior to others, and distrust those different from us. We learn to value materialism and to accumulate more and more “things” of this world while closing our eyes to all the other inhabitants we share this earth with who are in need, hungry or, suffering. We are driven by fear and scarcity and have not understood that only through a genuine and all inclusive love are we, ourselves made whole.
The barriers we build towards each other inevitably lead us to feel more isolated and insecure. This feeling of separateness is the cause of our inner suffering. It is the breeding ground for distrust, and has paved the way for countless wars, political battles, bloodshed, and incalculable examples of man’s inhumanity to man. To understand that we are all connected requires a shift in consciousness. Embodying this awareness at the very core of our beings imbues us with a deeply fulfilling love that nurtures and feeds our very soul. The source of this love is to truly know we are the other. Love unifies all that has become divided.
The Dalai Lama stated that “ME, ME, ME” people are the first to suffer heart attacks and that those who are empathetic, with “great open hearts,” swim in an oceanic connectedness of emotional and physical wellbeing. He is saying that the physical body does not break down at random, unaffected by the condition of one’s inner self. Health requires being in a state of wholeness, which means that our thoughts, feelings and actions, both within ourselves and towards others, are in harmony.
Mind and body act as one uninterrupted chemical and neural flow. When we think loving and harmonious thoughts, we release endorphins and other pleasurable, health inducing chemicals to our bodies. When we are mired in fear or hatred or paranoia, we release stress chemicals such as cortisol and epinephrine, which negatively impact our bodies and organs. Our attitudes, thoughts, and emotions are directly linked to our physical health.
Buddhists teach that the elimination of egoism and possessiveness heals the split at the core of the soul, resulting in peace and equanimity, both within ourselves and towards others. To live bathed in health-inducing harmonious chemicals means to live in a manner that we do not injure ourselves or others through divisive and self-serving thoughts, deeds or actions, and we recognize with love that we are One with every living being on the planet. The truth is that we are never separate from Oneness with all creation because we are already a part of it all. It is just our mind’s conditioning that makes us believe in this painful illusion.
To cultivate Oneness, begin to practice it by trying to see the divine spark or, essence in everyone you meet. Whether you are looking at the clerk in a grocery store or the president of a company, instead of seeing them as their roles, try to take a moment to look them in the eyes, and imagine the same spark of divine energy existing in them as resides within you, and in your mind silently greet them saying, “Namaste.”
As I practiced this myself, I found my heart softened and opened in a reverence for all of life, and a feeling of love arose and enveloped me from deep within. There right before me, was not a stranger but a real human being, someone I could know, love and care about. In this manner, everyone I met became part of my being and the sense of separation from them disappeared. The hardest, however, was feeling a sense of Oneness with those who had hurt me. Yet as I looked for the divine spark within them, I softened and was able to see their humanness. I was able to keep my heart open, without getting mired in hatred or resentment. I also noted that I stopped perceiving myself as a victim run by my ancient fears of life, constantly waiting for the “other shoe to drop.” And when trouble did appear, I navigated through it with increased centeredness and ease knowing the discomfort would pass as I embraced the fact even that was part of the Oneness of all that is.
Embodying the awareness of Oneness is a great healer of all that divides us and allows for a life of serenity, love and peace.
In interacting with others, our bodies, our minds, and our souls are involved in every transaction with every person we engage with. Every interaction has consequences of either increase or loss of health based on our attitude and behavior. We can enhance our health and wellbeing by feeling unity, or sense of Oneness with others, creating love and good feelings, and we lose it by seeing them as adversaries and creating discord and chaos.
As you read the instructions below, allow the images to form in your mind’s eye and notice how you feel. You can see anyone you choose in the image below.
The healing power of gratitude
“Acknowledging the good that you
already have in your life is the
foundation for all abundance.”
Recently, I was reminded of the power of gratitude by a synchronistic series of events that occurred when I reconnected with my closest childhood friend. We had been out of touch for forty years, and when, through a fortuitous set of circumstances, we found each other again she flew out to visit me at my home in Connecticut.
Sitting in a train bound for Manhattan one day during her visit, we began to reminisce about our parents. My friend told me that her mother, now in her late 80’s, had grown into a bitter and lonely woman. She described how her mother wrote in a journal every night about all the bad experiences she had throughout her life, and all the people who failed her. I responded, “Your mother is meditating on negativity, and so it will grow. She needs to shift her perspective and practice gratitude instead.”
I began to share with my friend how focusing on gratitude had opened my own heart and brought me a growing sense of joy. As I spoke, I happened to turn my head to look out the window of the moving train. There, to my left, just at that moment, we were passing an enormous billboard, which contained just a single word. The word, displayed in huge, bold letters, was “GRATITUDE.”
I nudged my friend and pointed out the sign to her, and we both couldn’t help feeling a little awestruck by the synchronicity of the moment.
Then, the next morning, while driving to an exercise class with my daughter, I shared with her the billboard story of the day before. Like all 20-year-olds, she was getting e-mails on her cell phone while listening. Suddenly, she interrupted me and said, “Mom, you won’t believe this. Listen to what Courtney just e-mailed me.”
She read, “In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” My daughter and I just looked at each other and smiled in amazement.
Later that same day, seated in my home office, a psychotherapy patient surprised me when he said, “I have been reading about gratitude and thinking how I need to use more of it in helping me deal with my wife. Can you help me?”
Synchronicity is defined as the simultaneous occurrence of events that seem related. Were all these things, I wondered, just a coincidence, or was the universe trying to tell me something?
What I have learned about gratitude, from my own heart-centered practice of it, is that cultivating this state of mind can dramatically change one’s life for the better. Often, it spontaneously elicits profound feelings of contentment, no matter what one’s outer circumstances may be. Through the practice of gratitude we can go from the experience of suffering, or feelings of emptiness, or a sense of longing for something that seems unattainable, to the experience of deep fulfillment, irrespective of any outer circumstance.
Gratitude can be experienced in the best or worst of times. It can be experienced whether one is living in abundance or scarcity. This is because it is not what we have accumulated, or how much we have achieved in life, that matters. In my private practice I have worked with wealthy and highly successful people who seem to have everything (family, great careers, opportunity, fame, position), and yet they feel empty, unsatisfied, or unhappy. I have also worked with those who have very little, but who are lit up with a palpable joy that seems to emanate from within. The secret of their happiness is that they are grateful for whatever they do have, no matter how small. For gratitude is rooted not in anything one can be, or have, but in a fullness of heart that suffuses one’s being. People who experience gratitude emanate a light and positive energy that is infectious to others.
Gratitude is a powerful vehicle for attaining inner peace and contentment. Whenever I find myself caught in the ongoing chatter of my mind, or engulfed in an ocean of concern, I try to remind myself that I am perceiving life’s situations from a narrow and negative point of view from which my body feels constricted, my emotions stuck, and the solutions to my dilemmas out of reach. At such times, if I stop, take a moment, and experience the gratitude I have for all things big and small, in an instant my perception shifts. My heart swells. Everything softens and opens. All things seem possible and I become very present. I become aware of what is all around me, such as the previously unnoticed blue skies, or the details of the way the light enters the room, or the singing of birds. It is like the parting of a dark cloud to admit a delicious bounty from within. Suddenly I feel good, and life seems blessed, rich and abundant.
What I am grateful for does not really matter. Sometimes I am grateful for my home, or my children, or the food I eat, or the friends I have, or the ability to help others in the work I do. At times, filled with this inexplicable happiness I find myself appreciating even the most mundane things. For example, once while driving in a car, consumed in thought, I suddenly noticed the new spring blades of grass emerging from the recently thawed earth. Upon seeing its freshness and vibrant color a joy overtook my being so intense that I burst into tears for the sheer beauty of it. I realized then that, in practicing gratitude, my capacity to experience pleasurable states of mind had grown. It felt as if I were touching a paradise existing within. Experiencing blissful states in the opening of the heart through gratitude can elicit an ecstatic love that fills one’s body, one’s being, with a sweetness and depth to which nothing in this world can compare.
Author and healer Tom Kenyon describes in his various books the importance of fostering positive states of mind, such as ecstasy, for physical health. He states, “The feeling of joy is felt through the heart center. The feeling of compassion is also felt through the heart center. However, the feeling of ecstasy is a cellular occurrence that permeates the entire body. When you are in ecstasy and bliss, the Ka (life energy as known in Chinese medicine as, the Chi or, in Vedic medicine as Prana) begins to vibrate at a very fast rate. The harmonics open in such a way as to stimulate the brain and central nervous system, especially, the neurotransmitters, which begin to stimulate the cells into a feeling of ecstasy and bliss. This then becomes a full body sensation and emanates throughout the body in every cell.” He adds, “It moves through one’s emotional and physical body activating a process of profound healing and balance.”
Even modern science has noted the correlation of positive states of mind and physical health. The field of psychoneuroimmunology studies the correlation between stress, negative thoughts, emotions, trauma, and physical illness. Body and mind function as one continuous, interrelated flow of chemicals and electrical signals. Extensive research has demonstrated that the brain responds to negative or conflicting thoughts by releasing stress chemicals. These, in turn, negatively affect the body and its organs, creating a host of mental and physical symptoms. Conversely, positive and harmonious thoughts release healing chemical responses that cascade throughout one’s body, its organs and systems. One is bathed in chemicals of happiness, pleasure and joy. The way to health, it would seem, is through cultivating love, gratitude and reverence for all life.
The patient I mentioned earlier, who wanted to improve his marriage, experienced a profound shift with his wife through practicing gratefulness. Frustrated in trying to get her attention and affection, which he felt she focused almost entirely on their children, he had expressed his anger by becoming increasing critical, which only drove them further apart. In an effort to turn things around, instead of focusing on her shortcomings and what he was not getting, he began to think of all he liked about her. He appreciated how her sensitivity to their children’s needs seemed to create security for them. He respected how much she genuinely cared about the clients in her law practice. He noticed the attention she gave her elderly parents, and what a loyal friend she was to others.
By focusing on what he was grateful for his positive regard for her grew, and thus he naturally began to shift his behavior towards her. When he arrived home, he approached her with a feeling of tenderness in his heart. He no longer hesitated at the door waiting to see if she would greet him warmly; instead, he would approach her with a hug or a kiss. He would ask how her day had gone and tried to remain fully present when she answered him. In turn, she began to look forward to his coming home and, unsurprisingly, greeted him warmly.
Through cultivating gratefulness for her, the good feelings between them continued to grow. He had filled himself with love, and his effulgence had brought them closer together. In this manner, through gratitude, he discovered the power that making a shift within himself could bring about.
The point of relating this story is to demonstrate that when we cultivate and embody positive states of mind such as peace or, love, or gratitude, we naturally emanate that very energy, and in that manner we positively affect others.
As you go through the exercise below it is important to feel the emotions of gratitude in the heart as you picture the things you are grateful for. It is through the feelings evoked within by gratitude that the experience of fullness, joy, wellbeing, and deep benevolence towards ourselves and others can begin to grow.
Empathy — The Bridge to Understanding
All the world’s religious teachings implore us to love one another: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” However, as we grow, and as the world deals us harsh and painful blows, our natural tendency is to close down, mistrust others, and become selfprotective. We develop attitudes that separate us from others, allowing us to perceive them as “other” and different from ourselves. This tendency to close our minds and hearts has serious consequences, not only to our personal health and well-being, but to the well-being of all those around us. When our inherent connection to others is lost, we are then able to hate, even to kill. Yet the capacity to live the world’s greatest teachings, to truly see others as ourselves, is found within each of us in the ability to experience empathy.
Empathy is the capacity to identify with and comprehend another person’s feelings and circumstances. It is the total experience of being shoulder to shoulder, eye to eye, heart to heart, and toe to toe with another human being. With empathy, we attain knowledge of others through direct personal awareness of their experience. Empathy penetrates deeper than reason, allowing us to acquire knowledge through the senses and the heart, not merely through the mind. Through empathic connection, deep and pure knowledge emerges about others.
We are all born with the natural capacity to empathize. When we watch a sad movie, we cry as we experience the emotions of the actors on the screen. We feel what they are feeling. When a friend shares their sorrow or their joy with us, we join with them in the moment, and our separate sense of self vanishes. We absorb what they are experiencing. This occurs because one of the central qualities of the self is its ability to extend itself into others and to take their experience into our own being. Through this psychical process, we break down any narcissistic isolation and can experience true compassion.
We may think that to empathize with another means to sacrifice our own self, as we put our own needs aside and become totally present for another, but this is not so. The ability to experience empathy is the secret to personal happiness. When we feel at one with another, our hearts automatically open and we become full. It is as much an act of self-fulfillment as it is an affirmation of another. Our minds and hearts widen and we experience a sense of deep unity and love. As a result, we feel less alone, less alienated, and more connected to others.
In contrast, if we constantly think of ourselves only, we become isolated and our own personal burdens seem greater to bear. Narcissistic people are emotionally disadvantaged and have lost their ability to connect with others. The depth of their narcissism, and their inability to experience empathy, indicates the intensity of their own unfulfilled need for understanding. In fact, narcissists are unconsciously looking for empathy from others. Those who are incapable of putting themselves in the shoes of others are damaged people, whose functioning in the world is impaired. They often have erroneous, self-centered views about themselves and others, and these views prevent them from developing nurturing relationships and from experiencing genuine love. In modern views, narcissism is described as a clinical illness needing psychological treatment, but it has long been described as a spiritual ailment as well. The wonderful sage, the Dalai Lama stated that “ME, ME, ME“ people are the first to suffer heart attacks. He said that those who are empathic with “great open hearts” swim in an oceanic connectedness of emotional and physical well-being. For those who are closed down, the ocean dries up, and they are destroyed.
At times empathy requires us to bear witness to deep and profound pain, and this may be difficult. However, avoidance or emotional flight from another’s suffering impoverishes our humanity, for we are denying ourselves a critical aspect of fully experiencing life. It creates a void of knowledge and emotional emptiness, as we close off from the painful reality of what we are witnessing. We are somehow saying, “No, we cannot accept this.” By refusing to accept all that life brings, we unconsciously admit our inner weakness. We are left impotent to take action in the world to effect positive change. We become self-protective and narrow. Being empathetic, able to fully accept and engage with all aspects of life—both good and bad—and act in accordance with it, defines a person of psychological, emotional and spiritual integrity.
Traditionally, the path to understanding has been through dialogue. However, dialogue has its limitations, as it does not allow us to experience another’s circumstance. We cannot step into their bodies or hearts, nor see through their eyes. True understanding is found only through the imagination. By imagining another’s situation, we are able to see, feel, and know that person in a profound manner. We can share their experience and dispel the separation that still remains after dialogue. In light of this, there is a new tool, Eidetic Imagery, which acts as a lightning rod for developing empathy. Dr. Akhter Ahsen, the leading theoretician in the field of Eidetic Image Psychology, developed a method for unlocking the storehouse of images in our minds. Eidetic Imagery is a scientifically based methodology that studies how images of our life experience, stored in the brain, affect our emotions, our minds and our bodies. These images are neurologically recorded in the brain and systematically stored away for future reference as concrete imprints of real and factual events. When recalled, the eidetic image recreates a vivid experience of the events in our life with drama, clarity and detail. From this enhanced perspective, obstructions are overcome and solutions, powers, and abilities are brought to the fore. Eidetic Imagery allows us to gain access to parts of our consciousness that otherwise would be locked away. It is a powerful technique for developing empathy among people of different faiths, genders, races, religions, or points of view.
Imaging is easy. Read the instructions below and allow an image to be formed in your mind’s eye. (Most people like to close their eyes, but you may keep them open if you prefer.) Do not worry if your image is vague or vivid. An Eidetic image has three parts: the image you see; subtle or overt body sensations or feelings that transpire while seeing the image; and meanings that may surface as you see the image. Relax and allow the images to unfold like a movie in your mind.
Below are two condensed responses:
Empathizing into a colleague
“I see a person who works with me. He does not follow directions, and I feel irritated. I feel I give him simple instructions, but he does not follow them and then comes back to me many times.
“I see us in the office. I am telling him something and he seems to be listening. I think he got it, yet somehow it does not get through. The instruction becomes complicated when it should be simple. I feel tight.
“Looking at his body and face, I see that his body seems tired and he has a defeated look on his face. Ha, the image of him is shifting. At first he looked defensive. Now, he looks defeated. It makes me feel sad for him. I don’t feel as annoyed anymore. I feel more relaxed towards him. And I feel there is something I can do to remedy the problem. If I am more relaxed and not irritated myself, there is more opportunity for better communication.”
Empathizing into prejudice
“I don’t understand prejudiced or racist people. I don’t like them. It is hard to believe how they can be so stupid. When I see the image of a racist, I see him taunting a dark skinned person. His face looks angry. His body is animated, filled with rage. As he sees the dark skin he just hates it. I have no understanding of his stupidity. I have no empathy for him. In fact, I hate him.
“As I do the image and see through his eyes, I see that he is seeing black people marching in protest. I see his hatred, but now it is turning into fear. He is terrified of their ‘otherness’. As I see his fear, he seems weaker to me. He actually looks terrified. Now, I don’t feel as angry towards him. I don’t feel compassion for him, but I have a deeper understanding of him. I also realize that my hatred of him is not so unlike his hatred!”