The Endless Debate

Channel surfing the other day, I became aware of the controversy sparked by Tom Cruise and Brooke Shields. Brooke Shields has recently written a book on how pharmaceuticals saved her life from severe post-partum depression. She was at a point almost dangerous to the life of her child and her own life. Tom Cruise, on the other hand, is going on the circuit claiming that drugs are over-prescribed, that life style changes, nutrition and exercise are all that are necessary for the treatment of depression. Who is right?

It is obvious that they both are, but only partially. I think it is really important to understand that in our current understanding of reality, we have to really start going beyond dualistic thinking.

Is it nature or nurture?
Is it body or mind?
Is it biological organism or environment?
Is the universe particle like or wave like?

These endless debates should come to an end. A single reality differentiates into cognition (how we think), emotions and moods (how we feel), perception, behavior, biological function, environment, social interactions, interactions with natures forces, and personal relationships. They all simultaneously, interdependently co-create each other. More and more, people are understanding that that single reality is consciousness itself, the ground of being. Isn’t it time we made the study of consciousness a discipline in our academic institutions? This way we would not be bound with certitude to a fragmented perspective. We would recognize that there is a role for everything.

Drug treatment, behavioral and cognitive therapy, life style changes and everything that everybody elese is talking about. Why not integrate all these approaches.

Love to hear your thoughts.

Deepak

Why am I depressed?

Q. In the past year, I have been very depressed. I have a good family and job, but my energy is so low I have trouble getting out of bed. Outwardly, I seem fine, but inside I have lost my enthusiasm for life. Please help.

A: Depression is a complex condition with physical, biochemical, emotional and spiritual components. Although the conventional medical model tends to focus on imbalances in neurochemistry, we find that for many people, depression is the consequence of long-standing unresolved emotional issues, often from childhood, but also from later in life. The depletion of psychological energy used to repress accumulated painful feelings translates over time into depression. There are a number of things you can do to awaken your inner pharmacy and regain your enthusiasm and vitality.

First, I encourage you to learn and practice Primordial Sound Meditation. Meditation is one of the most effective ways to shift your inner reference point from the part of you that is depressed to the witnessing aspect of yourself that is beyond suffering and able to help you begin taking the steps to recovery.

This is an important time to eat in a healthy way by favoring a six tastes diet with fresh organic foods. Although you may not be in the mood for it, it is also helpful to begin some kind of exercise program, including yoga, cardiovascular and strength training activities. Getting your life energy moving will enhance the production of natural mood elevating chemicals.

Look at the emotional issues underlying your condition. Seek out a counselor who can help you see your personal issues from a more expanded framework. If your depression is interfering with your ability to function, a course of anti-depressants may be helpful and will not preclude you from exploring a more holistic approach to deeper emotional healing. We offer a program at the Chopra Center called Healing the Heart, which addresses depression from an Ayurvedic model. This process is designed to identify, mobilize, release, and replenish toxic, life-force inhibiting emoticons with nourishing life-celebrating ones.

There are a few Ayurvedic herbs which may be helpful in depression. I see these as part of a holistic program rather than as a substitute for anti-depressant medications. The most important Ayurvedic herbs to help improve the mind are Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) and Brahmi (Centella asiatica or Bacopa moniera.)

Cultivate conscious communication skills so that you are better able to identify and meet your core emotional needs. The confidence that you can cultivate healthy relationships from this point forward will help heal your heart and soul.

How to Approach Religion: Laugh and Laugh Again

The
inability of some religious people to laugh at themselves betrays, I
think, a great deal of insecurity. What if God was a two-year-old
toddler and you were his mother? You’d spend your day keeping close
watch and only find calm when your child was taking a nap. But God
isn’t two years old, and he /she doesn’t need taking care of. I wish
religious people took the analogy seriously, because they are
constantly rushing in to protect God, screaming in outrage when he /she
is surely laughing. God may very well see the universe as a divine
comedy. Every exploding nova could be an explosion of laughter. Nobody
knows. But when we look around us, Nature is at play. Every wild animal
— at least when young — spends its day playing, apparently in
innocent delight. A tiger cub and a human infant have that in common.
The difference is that the tiger grows up in peace with its ferocity.
Humans grow up to find themselves burdened with guilt, shame, and
anxiety.

To relieve these afflictions, we turn to religion but also to comedy. “The Love Guru” is a ridiculous farce, and it has offended some Hindus, but I’d wager
it will do more good for people than a week’s worth of sermons.
(Personal disclosure: I am lampooned in the movie much more than
Hinduism. You might catch me at a screening. I’m the man in the aisle
seat laughing loudly.) In an age obsessed with triviality, a silly,
light-hearted comedy arouses controversy while religion keeps fostering
an unending litany of war, intolerance, and violence.

For all these reasons, more comedies should cross the line between
vulgar lampoon and reckless disrespect. Let’s catch God with his pants
down — or more especially those who peddle faith in God so
self-righteously. Christianity has been mocked in Monty Python’s “Life
of Bryan,” Judaism in Adam Sandler’s “Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” and
Islam (very mildly) in Albert Brooks

Halcyon Interaction?

Dear Friends, the older we get the more it seems that the most
valuable time is the time spent with family… What to make of this
halcyon interaction?

Halcyon.jpg

Whilst it is fun to spend time with family it also requires
bravery to face up to the past, the present and the future
simultaneously.

Family time seems to be a microcosm of the whole world and
more, bringing out all our virtues and vices forward at the speed of
light.

Each halcyon moment of interaction becomes an indelible memory
as it happens — humorous, tense-in-unison or adverserial — as if in
slow motion! Why? Any answers…

The other aspect to family time is the feeling that it moves
slowly or moves too fast but never normally. Is it our love which
creates gravity which causes time to dilate in convex or concave
curvatures?

Is this just my feeling or have you felt something similar?

What is the most valuable time spent by you and when spending it, does time go fast, slow down, or cease to exist?

All artistic and scientific answers are equally welcome!

With love and warm wishes to you and family

DK with family

DK Matai

This Omnivore’s Dilemma

I consider myself a “foodie” in every sense of the word. I LOVE to
eat good food, fresh food, home cooked food, gourmet food, food that
I’ve tried from many different parts of the world, even fast food
(well, some of it…). One of my favorite activities is deciphering the
ingredients in a dish served at a restaurant. Was that lemongrass in my
curry? A little bit of dried coriander? Was it honey that made the dish
sweeter or brown sugar?

When my first daughter was born, I delighted in feeding her — each
time I offered her a new morsel, a new taste or texture, it was as if I
were eating that food for the first time myself. It was fascinating to
see how she interacted — and I mean this in every sense of the word —
with what we put in front of her. Grabbing, squishing, smelling,
smearing, stuffing it in her ears, her nose, even her mouth at times,
and covering her face, arms, legs, torso and clothing, of course, with
it as well. My husband and I, like many new parents, were also
fascinated with the end result of all of this eating — the output in
Aanya’s diapers. What food was digested, what remained intact and the
marvelous colors of her poo….not so much the smells.

Of course, I also made it a point to make as much baby food as
possible for my daughters and reveled in the fact that I was serving
them fresh, healthy, real food. I would buy mostly organic fruits and
vegetables and puree them in the blender, freezing the leftovers in
ice-cube trays for later. When it was time for stage 2 foods, the first
thing I fed the girls was a mixture of rice and dhal called kitcherie,
which my husband would turn his nose at since it is traditionally food
served up to sick children (our version of chicken soup.) To my
disappointment, eventually my daughters turned their noses at it as
well.

I have continued to cook well for my daughters and family — using
fresh and organic ingredients as much as possible, although they do
like to eat a lot of pasta. (I joke that they must have been Italian in
their past lives…) We have a range of pasta on hand at
home…everything from Annie’s organic, whole wheat shells and pasta,
to gourmet Italian made from Durum wheat and even pasta made from brown
rice. Believe me, it’s delicious!

Given that we socialize with other families with young children
quite a bit pizza is, of course, on the menu at least once a week. We
can give you a run-down on all of the joints in the neighborhood, as
well as many other places you’ll NEED to try next time you’re in NYC.
(Hint, if you don’t live in NYC, or even if you do and decide to stay
in, Trader Joe’s makes excellent pizza dough!)

We still eat Indian food several times a week and my children are
learning well to tolerate the spices I add to their food. Anything I
cook can be eaten by all of us — most of the time, my husband and I
eat the children’s food, but at times, if I’m a bit heavy handed with
the masalas, there is always plain yogurt around to cool down
everyone’s palates.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, I just finished reading The Omnivore

Suffering is Never Alone But Shared

I feel and see the flow of life and death inside and outside of me.
Sometimes I resist in despair, saying why should this be, all the
senseless misery? Tears are unleashed. Torrents of liquid stream from
me, dripping onto the sunlit ground.

At first a puddle, then a vast pool of tears—an ocean of sorrow
from all the suffering. Oh, the flesh cries out in bewilderment. My
little ego reels under the awesome sight; a breaking and tearing
asunder.

Life must be more than the struggle of birth, sickness and
suffering, old age, and fear of death. Some drown the pain in
distractions: with some it

A Perfect Circle, like a Ring

What do we understand about desire? Other than being led around most
of our life by desire, we have a hard time attempting to undestand it,
and harness it. A popular teacher has built an entire career around
explaining and analyzing it; students of all sorts gathered around him to perhaps get a handle on
“desire”, the “holy erotic”, etc, until this teacher himself entirely
self destructed (taking some victims along with him down an ugly path).
It is no wonder then, that Hassidic teachings on desire are found where
one might least expect them, perhaps its an area that must always be
approached by sneak attack. We too will begin with a classical teaching
and then move carefully towards a more direct encounter with the
subject, in two essays that grapple with the concept from different
angles. (In fact, a third essay on this thorny subject, is in
preparation, dealing with the line about Moshe being more humble, anav,
than all others).

There is an often cited teaching of the Magid of Mezeritch, in
teaching 32 of the Magid Devarim L’Yaakov. Verse 10:2 presents a
command to Moshe, in which he should forge two horns, hatzoterot, made
of silver, for various communicative purposes, such as calling the
leadership together, or moving the camps, during the Israelite’s
sojourn in the desert. The Magid presents an entire teaching based on
three words in this verse that appear to be totally removed from any
connection to the actual narrative. He suggests that the term
hatzotzerot is derived from the phrase “hatzi tzurot”, which means
“half forms”- man alone, material man, is only half formed, only half
actualized, is only “dam”, blood, physicality. However, with the
introduction of Gd consciousness into one’s life, symbolized by the
Hebrew letter “aleph”, which is commonly read to stand for the term
“alufo shel olam”, meaning leader or teacher of the world, the word
adam is formed (as opposed to simply dam), thus formulating a fully
formed form. Thus, it is in the coming together of these two halves
(dam and aleph) in themselves lacking, that a much greater unity is
created. This, the Maggid explains, is achieved through “kesef”,
silver, (the hatzotzrot are made of silver), the word kessef being
derived from the term kissuf, desire; a properly directed desire
towards Gd leads to a union, a state of oneness and wholeness, a mutual
resolution of the yearning by both sides of the relationship.

This theme, of the unity being formed as the balanced encounter of
two disparate elements which need one another, is developed in another
section of the perasha by the Kedushat Levi in his discussion of the
manna (I adopt the anglicised form rather than the Hebrew term man, due
to its confusing homonymity). The manna is described in the text as
having the taste of the “Gad” seed, “Gad” to the Kedushat Levi being an
acrostic for Gomel Dalim (redeeming the poor): The manna is described
by Talmud in Yoma 75. as bearing any flavor the eater desired for,
thus, to the Kedushat Levi the manna was an meeting of a physical
object, the raw substrate of the manna, in encounter with the desire of
the Israelite eating it; one side provides the physical, one side the
spiritual, just like in the interaction of the rich man and the poor
man- the rich man gives a physical item, and receives spiritual quanta
in return. So the manna is like the redemption of the poor, which is
actually mutually constructive to all parties involved.

The problem is, that the awakening of desire can lead to unforseen
results- in English the phrase “awakening of desire” can be rephrased
using the term “arousal”, which suggests a whole other class of wants.
“Desire” is a central concept to Lacanian analysis, in which “desire”
is defined as a want that can never be fully satiated, as opposed to
a”need”. “Desire” is a complex phenomena which arises out of the
eternal insufficiency of post castration development, with the remnants
of the presymbolic Desire for the Mother manifesting themselves as
eternally unfulfilled desire, after the process Lacan labels “the Name
of the Father” has symbolized amorphous baby existence into the
construct and constraints associated with Language. The “symptom”, the
unfulfilled desire manifested, is to some degree a manifestation, an
overflow, of elements of this presymbolic desire, which can, by
definition, never be fulfilled. In other words, the early baby period,
in which the baby sees the world and the mother and food and itself all
as one big unseperated unit, is left behind once the infant learns to
see itself as an individuated autonomous entity, a process that
involves language and a recognition that being part of the world means
seeing one’s self as one might be seen in a mirror, from “without”
rather than “within”. Yearnings for the earlier predifferentiated state
are manifested as “desire”.

An interesting application of this concept of “desire” and its
relation to the realm of general culture is found in Zizek’s “The
Sublime Object of Ideology” . In his discussion of Lacan’s neologism
for the symptom, sinthome, (which is defined by Zizek as “a certain
signifying formation penetrated with enjoyment: it is a signifier as a
bearer of jouis-sense, enjoyment-in-sense”), Zizek discusses
antisemitism as being a result of the failure of society to live up to
the people’s desires. In other words, all sorts of people have all
sorts of demands on society, in terms of how it should function and
what it should accomplish. When “society” fails to provide that which
everyone wants from it, for the real can never adequately fulfill all
the contradictory demands that desire demands of it, then a “reason”
for this failure must be created, that reason historically frequently
being “the Jew”, guilty of whatever inadequacy causes the given society
to “not work”. Currently, we can see this in the ways that certain
failures in Israeli society are frequently blamed on the “Haredim”,
etc. ]

At any rate, the idea is that once desire was awakened within the
manna itself given that the manna could support any taste format
“desired”, this “desire” aroused all sorts of other more problematic
and eventually even lurid desires, as the BT Shabbat 130. and Yoma 75.
inform us- suddenly the people had (probably false) memories of fish as
described later in 11:5, which led, as derived by the Talmud from verse
11:10 describing the crying over families , to the people yearning for
incest! It was prescient of the Noam Elimelech to point to this latent
message in the otherwise straightforward sounding demand (in other
words, why would the Talmud insinuate a yearning for incest when the
text specifically tells us what it was the people seemed to be
clamoring for) as a trace evoked in Moshe’s prayer reflecting off their
demands, an early example of transference.

So what we have here is an example of a poor balance or match
between the two hatzi tzurot, the twin aspects of reality and desire,
ruchani and gashmi, that need to be coordinated. Where can we see a
proper alignment to serve as a positive example? Right at the beginning
of the perasha.

The Meor Eynaim begins his exposition on the first verse of the
perasha, dealing with commandment to Aharon to light up the menorah, by
explaining the meaning of the teaching in Avot 4:2: The reward for
doing a mitzvah is a mitzvah. What this means, he explains, in
anticipation of Franz Rozenzweig, is that by perfoming any “mitzvah”
one achieves a state of “tzavta” (same root to the two words in
Hebrew), which means “communion” with Gd who commanded. In fact, the
word “mitzvah” itself, contains the last two letters of the name of Gd
overtly (vav, heh), and the first two letters (yud, heh) as well
covertly- if you flip the mem and tzadi of the word mitzvah, via the
gematria function called “atbash” (aleph= tav, bet= shin, etc), you get
yod and heh, which together with the vav and he originally at the end
of the word “mitzvah” spells out the Tetragrammaton. The need for this
message to be stated in a reading requiring an overt and a covert
deciphering is to teach us that true fulfillment of every action
requires this same linkage of overt action and covert intention. This
is linked to the opening statement of our perasha- Behaalotcha et
hanerot: When you light up the nerot, (mitzvot are called nerot in
Mishle 6:23), you must strive toward the pnei hamenorah, that is, to
the penimiyut, the inner essence of the mitzvah, which is ultimately
establishment of tzavta, of communion, between Gd and man. When praxis
and ideology are in proper alignment, then world transformation can be
effected. When desire is still subject to fantasy, the symptom is
unleashed. The Zera Kodesh (R. Naftali of Ropschitz) points out that
those who clamored for meat are labeled asafsuf, rabble. He explains
that these people griping must have been rabble and not good citizens,
because people of faith do not have false desires, as their faith they
would lead them to recognize the superfluity of unnecessary desires
(the man of faith would think “if I’m lacking something, it must be
part of a greater plan and I probably don’t have this now for a
reason”).

Once “desire” is aroused in an uncontrollable manner, then even the
leadership is at risk- the Tiferet Shelomo reads the final episode of
this perasha, wherein Miriam and Aharon accuse Moshe of improper family
life and are then punished, as also being a result of the awakening of
desires by the manna failure. According to his reading, the fact that
there was an awakening among the people of a desire for forbidden
sexual activity implies that there was an equivalent failure in Moshe’s
home life, for had Moshe, as the leader and tzaddik, had a perfected
home life then that desire would have been quarantined and deleted,
thus neutralizing the desire so that it would not be possible for the
people to yearn for it! Of interest, being a unique reading of the word
“anav”, humble, The Tiferet Shelomo reads into the Torah’s defense of
Moshe, which states that Moshe was “anav meod mekol ha’adam”, humble
beyond any person, was meant to suggest that Moshe’s home life was
correct with respect to “onah”, familial obligations, which contains
the same letters as anav’).

Perhaps, recognition of the theme of properly directed desire
running through several segments of this perasha, is involved in the
Zohar’s beginning its teachings on this perasha with the quote from
Psalm 19:6, describing the sun as being “like a bridegroom coming out
of his chamber”. The Zohar describes the sefira of Tiferet, core sefira
of the supernal worlds, as the “groom”, signified by the sun, as
emerging with enlightenment from transmitted from the higher sefira of
Binah. Having been elevated to this high spiritual state, Tiferet
brings about a correct alignment of all the divine emanations and thus
achieves unity with the lower worlds, the Shekhina, the “bride”. This
alignment of upper and lower, inner and outer, is the goal of the Cohen
when he lights the menorah in the proper conjunction of outer practice
and inner feeling. Properly channeled desire must be coupled with
transformative human practice, like the bride and groom. Perhaps this
is reflected in the verse’s astronomical image, of the perfect sphere
arced by the sun. The perfect sphere is the fulfillment of the coming
together of the two half spheres, creating a mathematically perfect
whole, a circle. Is this not, as well, the symbolism behind’ the
wedding ring?

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