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An Integral Story of Illness
20 March 2012
11:20 pm
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Mark Jack
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So one of the things I have found on a couple of other posts is ideas around taking in all factors (such as environment, family, emotional issues, etc.) into account when working with a client sometimes becomes a little abstract for me to grasp, so here I am going to try and create a little story around it to help it fit in my mind and crystallize more. This is just a little experiment, I am not sure if it will work and I may update it more or just leave it depending.

I will write it in the first person, whether or not it all applies to me.

 

My illness can be traced back to many moons ago, before even humans walked the earth, perhaps even before the first animals. Back then an important discovery was made: eat all you can, while you can, because tomorrow there may be no more food. This for our strain of animals became eat all you can, especially fatty, salty, or sweet foods, because these are the most rare and most valuable. Recently, because our culture has produced plenty of such foods, these two positives have become a negative, and so this is one cause of my illness.

Another cause of this illness is the separateness I feel, and this is a big one, with multiple factors. I feel isolated and I don’t know why. I sit at my computer and message with friends on facebook, but still I feel lonely. Work is fine, and I chat with colleagues, but they don’t really know me. At home my relationships are strained. Stress builds up within me, and it plays a part in my illness. Stress! If only I could go and walk in the forests! Then I feel my stress drain away, my spirit is nourished, I breathe again, I connect with life! But they have cut down all the forests here, a long time ago, to make way for sterile fields and rows of streets and factories, and so my spirit sinks and my body wanes. I reach for cake, to fill a hole, but I don’t think the hole is cake shaped.

Where does this separation come from that plagues me? Was it Descartes fault, all those years ago, or the churches fault for forcing that separation on him? Probably not but it was part of the movement that cut the spirit out of nature. Was it the breaking up of community or of family? Perhaps, but argh, I wanted to break away from my family and community, how repressive they were! Or was it all this technology, the vampire screen that sucks you in and drains you? Perhaps some of that too.

I would of course do something about these issues, have more self-control over my eating, sort out these issues, but really I am a little bit weak-willed, and I don’t have the support either. Rather I will watch TV, and even though I am tired, probably it will keep me awake ’til late.

I would eat well of course, and I hear that I should eat a couple of portions of fish a week, but those fish are swimming around in all the waste we pumped into the sea, and is that good? I would eat more fruit and vegetables, but I have to drive a fair distance to get them, and the fish and chip shop is just around the corner! Organic, can I afford it? This might all become a bit meaningless when the food shortages hit anyway!

Spiritual life, hah, somewhere between the church’s dogmatism and disgrace, and science’s reasoning, God seems to have died. Or seems a bit old fashioned and, if the bible is to be taken literally, not really the kind of person you would want to know. But I wish there was more to life than this, it seems a little dead, and so might I be soon.

 

Wow, okay, so I will leave it there for now. I find it much more easy to write than discussing something more abstractly, this rather flows. It creates a rather negative picture, but it seems good to explore. I will probably keep editing this original post rather than replying to it if I feel like it.

Feel free to think up your own paragraphs for inclusion, or suggest things for inclusion.

20 March 2012
11:26 pm
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Mark Jack
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I realize that this story could go many different ways. Of course a story of illness is different for everyone, although there can often be many similar themes.

The last paragraph about spiritual life for someone else could be more as follows:

My tribe just follows its gods and fights with the others and their gods. They all just want to be the biggest and the bravest. But I want a God that is greater than that, a God that is above all the rest, who gives us good rules to live by. Instead our leader laughs at this and tells me I will follow the god of the tribe who is the best god and will smash all the other gods!

21 March 2012
12:39 pm
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owenokie
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Yes, I think the story around illness is important, and certainly a large part of healing is around changing the story one holds about their illness (or depression, anxiety, food, etc…). My teachers at Tai always stressed the importance of reframing the story around food into that evolutionary perspective for people looking to lose weight as it can truly help loosen up the guilt/shame that builds up around the subject.

 

Immediately two resources come to mind:

The Yoga of Food and Transformational Weight Loss are both good books on that specific subject.

Also when it comes to storytelling check out Michael Meade a wonderful storyteller and mythologist in the vein of Joseph Campbell and a powerful healer working largely with the UL and LL. Probably has lots of clips on youtube. He drums while telling his stories. 

This is certainly another good thread to explore.

2 April 2012
8:58 pm
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Mark Jack
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Reframing the story around food is a great one, I wonder what other stories could be used to help clients and what stories herbalists currently use. Even things as simple as metaphors can be very powerful.

Actually I have heard it say that really we should not be called Homo sapiens (meaning wise man). We may or may not be wise, but one thing is for sure, we live inside stories and frame our lives in terms of stories. If it wasn’t for stories about the moon would we have ever gone to it? So instead it was suggested that we should be called Pan narrans, meaning storytelling chimpanzee!

5 April 2012
8:37 pm
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owenokie
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Terry Patten answered a question about craving that followed along the lines we’ve been exploring in one of his Q&A’s and I found it very compelling. I’m just posting this a reminder so I can extract that tidbit at a future date and attach an mp3.

 

Pan narrans is great. Certainly it captures the full spectrum of humans much more accurately than Homo sapiens. In fact from a buddhist psychology perspective most suffering originates in stories we tell ourselves or buy-into (ignorance,delusion, the belief in a reified self/ego separate from the rest of existence, Maya, etc). Wisdom is simply clear seeing, which is seeing past the story, resulting in liberation. So the only Homo sapiens would be buddhas and bodhisattvas. So we are Pan narrans practicing to become Homo sapiens. 

5 April 2012
9:00 pm
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Mark Jack
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I like it!

Though I wonder – perhaps wisdom is coming to the place where the stories are created: clear seeing of reality, but at the point of where the stories arise and including seeing the stories from that place. Perhaps that would be similar to Dogan’s emptiness is form and form is emptiness, or samsara within nivana and nirvana within samsara – the ultimate non-duality. Because clear seeing without any stories whatsoever would surely be the undifferentiated perception of a young infant?

11 April 2012
9:09 am
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owenokie
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Yes, I think your correct…Integral Spirituality is non-dual in its nature and fully engaged in the world. The beauty of the Integral approach is its ability to hold many stories as facets of or perspectives on manifestation. In Buddhist Psychology, as Im studying it, the process is largely about standing beside the client and looking at their world, seeing their world from their perspective, while of course keeping grounded in both your world (view of the manifest) and the ground of being, and by so doing helping the client broaden or shift their perspective slightly in a way that opens up their perceptions, their interpretations, loosens their assumptions, and introduces some freedom of choice (that was always present but that they weren’t aware of).

 

My son, at 18 months, is very busily involved in that process of differentiation! And the creation of nama-rupa, discovering objects, finding their names, and applying those names to other objects. Or perceptions: his hand gesture for hot is to bring his hand to his mouth (since he burnt himself on some hot food) but he also uses the same gesture for something pointy, like gorse. ; )

11 April 2012
8:26 pm
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Mark Jack
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It must be wonderful to watch what is going on while he develops! It is pretty cool seeing the levels people go through.

 

So I can see how the approach of Buddhist Psychology could be very useful for helping a client shift from the story associated with their illness to a new story, these stories that so shape our lives!

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