Throughout this kaleidoscopic whirlwind of a cosmic color world, the possibilities that surround us are unlimited. Powers such as religion, political systems, science, and public education; when projected through the lenses and filters of cultural and family traditions; train our minds to believe what we believe. From an early age we are conditioned to accept what is true, good, or possible; and what is not. We are taught to conform to the beliefs of those holding the power. If we fail to do so, then we are usually punished in some way. So we grow up believing what we are told to believe, with pain as the prompt to remembrance. Like a gentle, intuitive Doberman puppy trained with a shock collar, we meet suffering if we step across the line. So many of us don’t. And even if we try to, our conditioned fear may put the brakes on such expansion. When the opinions or beliefs of people or systems are imposed as truth, to the exclusion of the non-conforming views; and when dissenters are harshly sanctioned for being different; we wind up accepting an egoic illusion instead of truth. Take Jesus as an example. He was outcast and ultimately killed for going against the prevailing religious and political views of his era (what they called truth). And then his followers, through the organization they created in his name, began doing what was done to him. The illusion lies in the belief that what an individual or organization identifies as “Truth” is all there is. There is so much more. At some level we all know this.
Another such illusion lies in our ubiquitous acceptance of the value of western medicine. With blind faith, we follow the gods in white coats, often to our death. Since medical treatment is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and pharmaceuticals the fourth, I believe it is time for us to take responsibility for our own healthcare. Although some have begun doing so, the lobbies of the business and political systems do their best to silence, confuse, or discredit the evolutionary consumer and their non-traditional sources, because of their desire for money and power. Such greed is reinforcing the illusion, impeding evolutionary progress, and costing healthful living and precious lives. This trend occurs in both mental and physical healthcare systems.
Traditional treatments for mental and emotional challenges offer many useful tools, techniques, and remedies; as do the various other approaches to health and healing. If we think about it, what is currently considered traditional would have been thought of as alternative, or new age, not so long ago. But the egoic grip of money and power can slow our progress to a snail’s pace, while satisfying the greed and need for temporary gratification of the select few in possession of the power. Imagine how quickly and effectively we could heal and grow if money and power were removed from the mix; if remedies were considered solely based on their effectiveness; and if people instead of symptoms were being treated. However, since our current zeitgeist is organized around categories, let’s take a look, from other angles, into the box.
Whether seen through the eyes of a shaman, Ayurvedic healer, naturopathic doctor, gem-light practitioner, or orthomolecular psychiatrist; or any of the countless other approaches to healing; there is value in the substance of their view. For some experiencing what could be classified as mental illness, alternative approaches may be significantly more effective than traditional methods, and the alternative approach may not create another problem. For some, a combination of multiple methods may do the trick (e.g. shamanic, orthomolecular, and traditional medleys). This would, of course, begin with how the “condition” is understood. For example, if that which is diagnosed as schizophrenia in the West is instead seen as the awakening of a healer, a blockage in the pranic sheath, an adrenopituitary issue, disturbance in the vibrational frequencies of the cells, or a vitamin deficiency; then its healing would provoke a different path. If it was seen solely as a psychotic disorder, as classified within the ICD or DSM, then, in most cases, it would be considered incurable; and the “patient” would be treated with maintenance doses of harmful medications while being confined to a hospital or board and care facility.
A Shamanic Prism
So let’s turn our gaze to a shamanic perspective. Just as natural light, when unpacked by a prism, becomes the seven primary colors of the rainbow, as well as the infinite range of other colors along the gradient scale; so too does “mental illness” emerge as a vast array of other possibilities when shining through the spectrum of natural healing. “In the shamanic view, mental illness signals ‘the birth of a healer,’” explains Malidoma Patrice Somé. Such conditions are seen as spiritual emergencies, and must be regarded as such to aid the healer in being born. That which Western traditionalists label mental illness is understood by the Dagara people as a gift from the other world. The individual experiencing the crisis has been selected as a medium to deliver a needed message to the community. The presentation of what traditionalists would call mental illness is a signal that two incompatible energies have merged into the same field. Such disturbances occur when the person in crisis does not receive or accept assistance in dealing with the presence of that conflicting energy coming from the spirit realm. If their struggle is aided by a professional, and if they accept the situation; their emergency can be transmuted into the awakening of a healer. If not assisted or accepted; then the emergency could continue (in the form of what could be labeled mental illness). When Dr. Somé attended a university in the U.S., one of his fellow classmates became depressed. When he visited him in the hospital, he was shocked to discover people in straight jackets, medicated into zombies, and screaming out in pain. He observed to himself, “So this is how the healers who are attempting to be born are treated in this culture. What a loss! What a loss that a person who is finally being aligned with a power from the other world is just being wasted.”
Although, as an alternative shrink, I do not subscribe completely to this view, my approach to understanding such things is similar. When I try to describe myself, as a healer, a long list of things pops up. I believe that all forms of true healing have their role and benefit. I am a traditional therapist, spiritual teacher, shaman, holistic health coach, Ayurvedic practitioner, gem-light vibrational healer, orthomolecular nutritionist, and more (from a human material world categorical perspective). I guess what this means is that I have studied, personally used and benefitted from these things; and helped others heal and grow through their use. I find them all valuable. I find the shamanic view described above most useful in understanding what we in the West call mental illness. I also believe that, from a universal perspective, we are all interconnected and one, that what flows through me flows through you, and that you are me and I am you. From this perspective, we simply want to awaken ourselves to a higher consciousness until we are consciously aware of our oneness with the universe. If our body, mind, and spirit are instruments through which we learn to play this cosmic song, then we need to keep them in tact, in tune, and strong.
I believe that those experiencing such conditions, in most cases, are more sensitive to the subtle vibrations of the universe than most others. I believe this is a gift. Since many either do not perceive these subtleties, or if they do, they don’t acknowledge them; those who pick up on them do not know what to do with them. They don’t know how to interpret them. Since there is little social context for them, and since what does exist is usually labelled negatively (e.g. crazy, dangerous, or evil); these gifted people with greater sensitivities are seen as mentally ill. They may, indeed, think, speak, or behave quite differently; and differences often cause discomfort. They may also need a more protected environment in order to thrive, since many parts of the world are not yet safe for those so sensitive.
I do believe that those experiencing such spiritual emergencies are, through their greater sensitivities, perceiving things from the spiritual world that others may not be aware of. I believe that what they are picking up on is somehow intended to help them heal and grow. I believe that, in some cases, such crises are also intended to, either through example or professional training, help others heal and grow. A friend and colleague of mine, now a highly successful and respected Naturopathic Doctor (ND), had been diagnosed as Paranoid Schizophrenic, was told this was a life sentence, and was turned into a zombie by drugs like stelazine. When despair pushed her to the edge, and prompted her to leave this world; she discovered, through a simple act, that her life had value. By helping another she found a reason to continue. She nurtured this realization. She has now been symptom free for more than 20 years and has aided thousands in their search for natural healing. As my external vision was insidiously stolen by the shadowy fingers of fortune, I experienced crippling stress, great fear, and profound anxiety. My blindness, and the conditions it created, offered opportunities for me to heal and grow. But it was up to me. I could either accept the truth and take responsibility for my life, or not. I did so, and gained a freedom and perspective beyond anything I had ever dreamed possible. I also discovered the healer within. I first had to focus this awareness into my own healing and growth, and then, after the clouds of my illusion cleared, it was naturally shining through me to nurture others.
A Matter of Choice
Whether or not we overcome such challenges is, to some degree, a matter of choice. When we become aware of our distress (whatever its cause), and if we know some things that we could do to deal with it; we may or may not choose to do so. Our culture clearly plays a role in our perception of problems and solutions; as well as our choices to turn such symptoms into an identity, crutch, or lifestyle. For example, many who suffer from any of the symptoms referenced above could feel like a victim, receive sympathy and attention, avoid facing their fears, avoid taking responsibility, withdraw from life, or countless other things; using their condition to justify doing so. If they resolved their symptoms, through acceptance, healing, and transformation; then they would no longer have a built-in rationale for their behavior. They would be confronted by more of the truth. They would be compelled to change.
In my next post I will apply another broad brush to our healing canvas to render the attributes of orthomolecular psychiatry, “the treatment of mental disease by the provision of the optimum molecular environment for the mind, especially the optimum concentrations of substances normally present in the body.” This approach commonly uses nutrients, such as megavitamins and enzymes, along with dietary and lifestyle changes; to heal the mind.
Which alternative approaches to mental health are you most familiar with? How have you managed to rise above the persuasive armed marketing of the media? What things have helped you be your healthiest and happiest?
Photo credit: Marcos Fernandez