I recently hosted a good friend of mine at my house for a week intensive. For the past 5 years he has been battling with the issue of addiction and its effects. He has been going through fairly intense treatment (Re-hab, AA meetings, other group meetings, counseling, incarceration, etc.) and has had success in the last 2 years abstaining from alcohol and his drug of choice. In designing my approach in working with my friend I decided that what we would attempt to do is make a kind of paradigm shift in how he viewed himself. My theory was that if this shift could be made it would loosen up some of the chains that were attaching him to his addiction. Specifically, I wanted to have him entertain, at first, the thought that perhaps the way he was seeing things might not be the only way. For any change to occur it is critical to start where one is so we discussed his present beliefs, assumptions, conclusions, judgments, prejudices, thoughts, opinions, etc. Then I presented to him several maps that offered a different way of looking at “The Territory.” The territory is one’s view. And one’s view is structured with the beliefs, assumptions, conclusions, judgments, prejudices, thoughts, opinions, etc. that one currently holds. I think we accomplished our goal. He did make a shift. But the work does not end with one week of work. It continues. Forever. As part of our agreement in working together I asked him to write about his experience. Here is what he wrote…………………………..
I recently spent a week down in Florida with Michael and experienced his “wholeness” workshop. He exposed me to a variety of readings, meditations, videos, exercise, diet, and pod casts. Prior to my week with Michael I had been feeling depressed and wallowing in self pity. I consider myself a well educated individual who has had many supportive people in my life. I had a typical childhood with loving parents who provided me with everything a child can be given growing up. I was very active in school, athletics, and surrounded myself with very giving and gifted friends. Of those friends, I consider Michael to be one of the most caring, giving and gifted.
My challenge with depression and self pity culminated in self destructive behavior that included drug and alcohol abuse. I was gainfully employed for many years but about 5 years ago found myself attracted to an unhealthy lifestyle that involved people with similar self destructive behaviors. I look back and can see that misery does love company. I was going through a failed marriage and everything that comes with that and I found this time to be one of seeking artificial happiness and escape with the help of excessive drinking and drug use. Work, family, and a sense of self worth quickly took a back seat to looking for the next night out or artificial high. This shift in my life cost me a couple of good paying jobs and I was far from being the kind of father I wanted to be to my loving 11 year old son. Eventually concerned, family and friends coordinated an intervention through a local treatment facility which was my first eye opener to what was reality. I have never been through such an emotional meeting in which the participants confronted my addiction and shared how much they missed the “Real” me. The recommended plan of action with this intervention was an agreement on my part to go to an In-Patient program for 4 weeks out of town. I took a leave of absence from my job and left to do the necessary work. At first, I found myself somewhat relieved that I could solely work on myself and become educated as to the recommended plan of treatment. At the conclusion, I was convinced that I could “Right the Ship” with the tools I had been presented with and the perspective I was able to see. This was short lived and after a few months I found myself making the same selfish decisions to obtain the “High”. In hind sight I now believe the root of the problem to be self esteem issues. These thoughts of low self worth evolved into wanting and pursuing an artificial high to feel better. I would then feel shame and depression. It is a demonic and lethal cycle that is difficult to see, understand, and ultimately correct.
I will now attempt to share the enlightenment that Michael has imparted on me as it relates to my recent self awareness. Michael and I agreed for me to visit him in Florida and do some work on individual wellness. This work included a balance of Yoga, various books and readings, a series of Podcasts, movies, diet, and meditation.
I had experienced the benefits of Bikram Yoga during my past social visits to Florida with Michael. This exercise can be summed up as an intense work out. The various poses in 100 plus degree heat serves the body and mind in amazing ways. One can truly feel the effects of the body detoxing and being purified. Various poses are held within one’s limitations where form and posture is the emphasis and to challenge within to push and hold such postures while exploring one’s own edge. I have found one of the keys to fulfillment or at the least happiness is exercise. The physical activity that gets one’s endorphins flowing creates a feeling of accomplishment and mental well being that helps ward off the destructive behaviors that can sometimes exist in life.
The exposure to some of Michael’s books was also very enlightening during my visit. These books were mostly authored by Michael Berg who is a renowned Kabbalist. These books included: The Secret, Becoming Like God, and The Monster Is Real. I personally enjoyed the Monster Is Real because it addresses anxiety. I am diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and the books educated me on understanding the Kabbalah foundation of equanimity. The book talks about the concept of sharing, and understanding that fear is real, but through equanimity one can quell the anxious feelings. A summation that I have taken away from these readings is:
Restriction: One of the many keys to fulfillment is through restriction. One should not immediately react to others or situations immediately. The practice of restriction allows one to stop, think, and then validate or not. The key is to take the time to understand all of the circumstances and elements to a certain situation.
Equanimity: Another key to fulfillment according to the Kabballahist is by giving without the expectation of reward.
I found these and many other principles that are practiced by Kabbalah to be basic but often misunderstood or ignored. They basically seem to be elements of the Golden Rule. Which is: “Do onto others as you would wish them do unto you.” Along these lines, I believe there are many overlapping principles that most religions share. The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying, “Every religion emphasizes human improvement, love, respect for others, sharing other peoples suffering. On these lines every religion has more or less the same viewpoint and the same goal.”
Another helpful part of our week together included listening to some pod casts. These pod casts were by Bill Harris of Holosync. He discusses and outlines the different levels of cognitive behavior and awareness. It was interesting to hear how he describes these different attainable levels through basic exercises and understanding. The key to understanding these concepts is the ability to remove the self from the first person to that of the third and fourth person. In other words, mentally removing ones’ self from the being, to one that is more of an observer and contemplator resulting in clearer understanding as to what life really is and how we are connected to everything.
The videos that we watched were also enlightening. The Secret and What The Bleep Do We Know exposed me to a better understanding of Meta Physics. They were great tools in showing how everything in this Universe is connected. They illustrate how we sometimes go through life with blinders on and we tend to miss the true meaning of life and what is really important to us. The other video was The Big Mind which is hosted by Genpo Roshi. This taped seminar leads you through a series of exercises that completely exposes you to what potentially can lead you to a better life. It is a brilliant 3 hour exercise where, in the end, I found myself in the biggest AHA moment of my life.
Lastly, Michael shared some of his meditation techniques. He had experienced some meditation techniques known as Vipassana Meditation. I found this useful as it helps me center and start the day with a clear head. I also find it useful when feeling stressed or anxious.
My week with Michael reinforced my belief that I am a very lucky person. I am lucky to have a second chance in life and to share with others the knowledge that I have been exposed to thanks to my good friend. It has been a long time that I have had consecutive days such as these where I wake up and go to sleep with optimism and pride. My relationship with my son and other family members has improved a great deal and I look forward to cultivating these special bonds. Thanks again Michael for being who you are and sharing your wisdom. There is a special place for you hopefully in this life and the ones to come. Good work..