Creative imagination, not memory, is the foundation

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In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Viktor Frankl shares his discovery from his experience in a Nazi concentration camp, that the main force behind those who survived was a strong sense or a vision of a future beyond the suffering. They envisioned a purpose for life not yet attained but meaningful beyond, and in spite of the present circumstances. The vision is the mission in life and the will to survive.

The scripted life we live has been handed down by family, school, society, friends and even enemies. We have been programmed in certain specific patterns with the notion that the result will be achievement, success, fulfillment and peace. And even as the results become illusive we continue with the same mindset.

The life principle at play here is that of life beyond oneself – the purpose of life for something higher than oneself. That is where joy and peace will be found, despite any circumstances, including the threat of death. Obviously this life purpose, or mission, is future oriented, it is not what lies in the past. It is creative imagination, not memory.

Spiritual resources to eliminate pain

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This blog’s mission is creating quality of life – what most people desire yet find to be elusive. We have demonstrated that one of the reasons for the illusion is the dichotomy between universal life principles and our quest to control or create our own realities or our own laws if you like. This is what we have learned and have developed mechanisms for its promotion.

The only way out of the illusion is to recognize and tap into what is internal. Know that  quality of life that ensures peace and joy is within each one of us.

Consider the following qualities that distinguish humans from other creatures: self-awareness, free will, conscience, and creative imagination. These make humans special and in them we find quality of life in accordance with the universal life principles.

Let’s look at each one individually, beginning with self-awareness. (We emphasize that they work together in unity, not in isolation). Self-awareness is the capacity and ability to look at yourself apart from your script. We have the past, we live in society and they influence us. Self-awareness helps us separate ourselves from the layers of life stories and societal influence.

When we practise separating ourselves from the script, we can then create the quality of life we desire, in alliance with conscience and free will. We will not see ourselves as victims of circumstances, or confined to sets of thinking and functionality but enabled to break free.

Let this year be a year of spiritual therapy

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So we are obsessed with physical appearance, or at least we would take action when the physical body informs us – through pain – that something is not as it should be. I have continued my physical therapy with diligence and a sense of purposefulness. I do the home routines prescribed and keep my twice-a-week appointments with my therapist. She has monitored my shoulder’s motion and flexibility and we found out that within a very short time, there is reason to rejoice and celebrate. The results are good.

But we are not stopping there. Each time I have a session, I leave with additional tips on next steps to add to what I am already practising.

The question I ask myself is this: How much effort or diligence am I investing in the other exercise – spiritual wellness? Pain and discomfort alert us when the physical well-being is off balance. Perhaps even society keeps us alert; that is why we worry about how we look (with wrinkles, teeth, hair, complexion and so on). I wonder how alert I am with spiritual development.

The problem lies in our oblivion to the essentiality of a balance between the physical and the spiritual. Yes, we are spiritual beings, whether we recognize it or not. We have overemphasized the physical to the detriment of the equally important spiritual life. In school, we want kids to excel in Maths and Science while we ridicule the humanities.

Recently I overheard two people in argument over some idea. One was adamant in dismissing the other’s point because “it was religion, not science”. He insisted that he would not listen to anything that was not supported by science. That is the sad road we have led ourselves, believing that the spiritual is at best superstition, a myth, or quasi-science, hence meriting no attention.

Do we experience “pain” because things are not alright on the spiritual level? Sure we do! Are we listening? Perhaps not. But the pain will not go away until we look into our spirituality, just as I am doing for my shoulder.

One important lesson Mount Tabor and the Transfiguration taught me

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Rising 420 meters (about 1400 feet) above the Jezreel Valley in Lower Galilee and 7 km east of Nazareth (about 4 miles) east of Nazareth is Mount Tabor, the traditional site of the Transfiguration as narrated in Matthew 17: 1-9; Mark 9: 2-8 and Luke 9: 28-36. None of these sources mention Mount Tabor. They talk of a high mountain where Jesus took his disciples James, John and Peter. It says further, that it was “after six days”. So, six days after what?

From Matthew 16:13 we learn that it was after Jesus and his disciples were in Caesarea Philippi where Peter made the confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”.

Again, scholars are not agreed as to the location of the Transfiguration but there is a solid tradition around Mount Tabor. In any case, the view of the Jezreel Valley from the top of Mount Tabor is spectacular – breathtaking. One has to agree with Peter, that “it is good for us to be here”. Like Peter, one would be tempted to make it a dwelling place with such a wonderful view of the world around.

Although not mentioned in the New Testament, Mount Tabor is first mentioned in Joshua 19:22 as a border post between Zebulun, Issachar and Naphtali, and again in Judges 4:6 when Deborah summoned Barak to lead the children of Zebulun and Naphtali in battle against Sisera and the Canaanites. Other references to Tabor can be found in 1 Chronicles 6:77; 1 Samuel 10:3; Psalm 89:12 and Jeremiah 46:18.

Tabor is also the name of the building that houses the Swedish Theological Institute on Rehov Haneviim.

The story of the Transfiguration and Peter’s reaction remind me of John and his pictures. The disciples saw Jesus transfigured and the appearance of Moses and Elijah. That is what a photograph or a postcard would show. But there is far more to the picture than the objects. What about the voice from heaven? It cannot be shown in a photograph.

And a lot more that Peter missed, hence his limited reaction in a wish to pitch tents there so that they could make the site a dwelling place.

The lesson here is that there is more to the picture than what the eye sees. It is not only a lesson with Mount Tabor and the Transfiguration but in all of life. But how often do we remember that?

What I wish everyone knew about therapy

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Because of pain in my left shoulder, my doctor referred me to physical therapy after X-ray images revealed symptoms of osteoporosis. I have never had physical therapy before, so during registration and orientation at the outpatient rehabilitation center, I found myself reflecting on this new development and the whole concept of therapy.

It was busy at the center, patients coming in for registration (first-timers like me) or reporting for continuing appointments. There was a lot of coming and going, sitting in the waiting area for a few minutes, then being called into therapy, out into the elevator and so on. I wondered what can be learned by keeping track of a patient. Well, I kept track and will continue to monitor my own progress.

We, patients, represented all age groups – adults, I mean: young, middle age and elderly. Some were on walkers and crutches, others, like me, you couldn’t tell what the problem was by just observing movement. I didn’t see any who had a guardian or help; it appeared like – on this day anyway –  most must have driven themselves to the center.

I was summoned into what looked like an exercise room where patients were performing all kinds of body movements. I had an assessment done by two young girls and then briefed on what we will be doing. I did the exercises, which I will continue to do everyday at home and twice a week at the center. At the end of the session they gave me diagrams of what I had just done for guidance with my home routine.

As I reflected, I realized that I will have to keep to the routine for as long as it takes in order to get rid of the pain. I could see the same determination in the other patients. And judging from the information I got when setting up the appointment and how busy the place looked with all the coming and going, it appeared to me that everybody takes the physical therapy seriously.

Perhaps you have been, or are, on the physical therapy route. If not, well, keep living. Still you have probably observed people’s determination with physical exercise. I used to go to the gym every morning and in fact the pain in my shoulder – according to one doctor – may have been an injury in the gym more than ten years ago even though I never noticed it. And what about dieting and losing weight, appearance and staying young and so on? Most people on any of those routes pay attention, stay committed (or would like to) and look forward to results.

This brings me to the other therapy – spiritual therapy – which follows next.

Is it at all possible to find joy and peace NOW?

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In the course of the past several weeks, our focus has been how to live a joyful and peaceful life in the present – actually, NOW. It is a falsity, the notion that joy and peace are futuristic achievements we work for – very hard – plan for, and prepare for, now, only to be realized in the future. It is equally false that past situations and circumstances could have led to joy and peace now. Although some decisions and choices may have contributed to some dissatisfactions and even pain in the present, there is no guarantee that had those decisions been different, the outcome would necessarily and automatically have been joy and peace today. Furthermore, we stress that, if we were honest, the decisions made were guided by what was known then, and human knowledge is never complete. That is why living in regret or shame because of the past is not healthy.

What is true is that joy and peace are a present reality NOW – they come from within and the reservoir is within everyone of us and is accessible NOW.

I sounds easy but the reality of it can – and is, often not easily achieved. For one, no one is an island by themselves. Number two, and consequently, a lot of time is devoted to personality development and social acceptance – viewed as success – rather than inner development. Appearance, sadly external, receives more attention that spiritual development.

Similarly, closure with the past is a spiritual endeavor between an individual and the spiritual Supreme primarily and then with society. Christians, for example, talk of forgiveness – forgiving others and accepting forgiveness, including self-forgiveness. As Dostoevsky writes, “Anything that makes me feel discomfort with God’s forgiving love is also a cruel deception”. Christians of course affirm that in Paul’s words to the Romans, “There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Paradoxically, Christians – or “church people” – are the most condemning, revisiting the past, again and again, and making closure almost impossible.

For more on this, read my excerpt from my forthcoming book.