Encountering Death

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness? —Mary Oliver

Death is utterly acceptable to consciousness and life. There has been endless time of numberless deaths, but neither consciousness nor life has ceased to arise. — Adi Da

Understandably, most people don’t like thinking about death until someone close to them dies or a disease intrudes and threatens their life. We try to keep death at bay, as if it were the “enemy”. Our culture doesn’t have much place for death, though so much of life revolves around it.

In the past year, several people close to me have died. It has me thinking again about death. What is death? Only the breakdown and disappearance of the body? The complete absence of awareness of being? Awareness of the possibility of our own absence may help in understanding death. The primary awareness of our existence is fundamental to being conscious and alive. This recognition appears independent of body. What happens to that feeling of “I exist” without a body? Does it persist? While philosophers and religious thinkers have spent ages talking about mortality, humans generally spend a lot of time and money avoiding it!

In childhood, I had a recurring dream: I had the sensation of a trapdoor opening beneath me, and I was being sucked downward fast, like the wind pulled out of a hole in a pressurize plane cabin. It felt as if I was dropping out of my body-mind, out of me. I felt I was disappearing. I would wake up in a panic, crying. And my mother would comfort me. I realized then what deep fear existed inside me, part of which was about losing control. Was it death that I was afraid of? The dream felt so real, indistinguishable from waking life.

Sometimes, as a child, I would lie in bed wondering what would happen if I did not exist. I would rack my brain trying to think of my own absence. I realized it was impossible. How could one imagine not being? That would be absurd. I knew my body could be lost, but I doubted “I” could cease to exist at all. With the body dead, it seemed possible that consciousness could continue. I didn’t know, but I wondered and had an intuitive “faith”. I still had no answer, though, as to what death was.

Once, as a boy, I almost drowned while playing in the ocean in Normandy. I was pulled under by a powerful undertow, as small rocks rained down on me. With no sight of the surface, I struggled in a panic to come up. At one point, I suddenly seemed to be calmly observing myself from outside my body. It only lasted a second, and then I was overwhelmed again in the struggle to get out. Luckily, I did. Needless to say, I didn’t go back in the water! Here was another example of how fear was associated with the body, but awareness could separate from the body.

Falling asleep serves as a good analogy for dying. When we fall asleep, we seem to disappear. It happens naturally, without effort or fear and without us knowing. We don’t control it. We do not resist; we even welcome it! In deep sleep, the brain is barely active.  (Neuroscience is making great strides in studying this topic.) Where does our awareness go? Unlike in death, we participate in sleep knowing we will return to the same body upon waking. Only then will we realize we are alive!

As a medical professional, I’ve worked with people struggling with health issues for most of my adult life. I’ve always desired to help others overcome suffering. Yet it still sometimes takes great effort to distance myself from the situation. I used to consider death the ultimate suffering, but that has been changing as I learn more about the experiences of the dying and consciousness.

When you look into a dying person’s eyes, you usually do not see fear—pain, yes, but not fear. You see love for those around them, but also a graceful letting go—surrendering. To me, it seems that thoughts of dying, and identifying exclusively with the body, cause more suffering than the moment of death itself. Those around the dying person are more afraid than the person dying. You can see their love for the dying person, but also a struggle to hold on to them. If we can let go, we can help the dying pass on easefully.

“Death” remains a mystery. But knowing that fear is only a part of the body-mind, and that awareness may not be dependent on the body, brings a non-theological faith that makes the mystery of life something to celebrate.

© 2017 Keyvan Golestaneh

Uncovering The Truth behind Medical Myths

Popular myths, outdated or wrong information can keep people from knowing the truth. In the age of the internet its easy to be mislead and to have personal a bias confirmed. Accurate up-to-day information is essential to finding solutions to health and medical problems. We’ve got to go beyond the surface and popular consensus to find answers. Here I continue to expose commonly accepted popular and medical myths.

  • People generally believe medicine is a science that functions objectively. Biomedicine uses scientific research and technology, but it is not itself an exact or applied science like chemistry and engineering. It relies heavily on experience and subjectivity. There is a personal and creative component to practicing medicine that cannot be quantified and results cannot always be duplicated. Good medicine depends on the skills, experience and wisdom of practitioners. Medicine also is part of larger network of institutes, and an economic system which plays a key role in how health care is practiced. Medical research is frequently conducted by pharmaceutical companies, whose goal is the development of drug treatments of diseases. For them there is little incentive to looking for natural treatments. Biomedicine has become heavily reliant on corporate funded research.
  • Drugs work best. Not always and frequently not at all. For example clinical experience and research shows there is an insignificant difference between the effectiveness of antidepressant and placebo effect in treating depression (Prevention & Treatment, Vol. 5, 2002). Antidepressants and statins for high cholesterol, are not the best solution and have negative side effects like liver damage, that create new health problems like digestive disorders.
  • Healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy foods. From an economic perspective the money spent on health care due to illness and disease is much greater than the cost of buying healthy food. Diet-related diseases like heart disease and diabetes, are hidden costs that we don’t usually take into account.
  • Fad and weight lose diets work. They don’t (Public Health Rev. 2003). Some people may loose weight temporally, but people are generally not able to keep weight off and, some diets can create nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies don’t always show up immediately.
  • Bacteria are bad for your health. Not all. Microorganisms, like bacteria are essential to bodily functions. The whole body is a colony of trillions of bacteria called the microbiome, which work symbiotically with the body. The immune system would not exist without them, and needs microbial flora in order to function. They are also essential to digestion. Acquired immunity requires exposure to bacteria to create immunity and fight disease. In out sanitary-obsessed society we may be over-sterilizing our environment to the point that its is weaken our immune system.  The rise in auto-immune disease can be correlated to this.
  • Physicians only prescribe what is necessary. Physician commonly over-prescribe. Antibiotic resistance bacteria is a perfect example of the negative consequences of over-prescribing. Physicians often prescribe antibiotic for colds and flu even though they are not effective. As a result we now have crisis of super-bacteria that are immune to many antibiotics. Most shocking statistic of all is that Iatrogenic deaths due to the adverse effect of medication is the 3rd leading cause of death in developed countries (Jama, July 26, 2000).
  • Artificial sweeteners are a good safe substitute for sugar and helps prevent weight gain. False. Some studies (Yale J. Bio. Med. June 2010) show a link between weight gain, higher BMI (body mass index) and increased sugar cravings! You’re better off using a natural sweeteners. Research into whether artificial sweeteners cause specific diseases is still inconclusive at this time, but is it worth the risk?
  • Fructose and sugar don’t have a negative impact on your health. False. We know refined sugar can lead to weight gain, but it isn’t the only culprit when it comes to obesity and disease. Processed refined carbohydrates, like refined grains, are just as much a concern and should be a principle focus when it comes to health and prevention.
  • Weight is the best indicator of a person’s health risk. It is true that being over-weight is an important health risk, but “waist-to-height” ratio (WSR) is superior in determining risk then weight alone or waist circumference (BMI).
  • More spending on medicine and health-care increases health and well-being. False. The United States is a perfect example of how spending a lot of money does not produces a population of healthier people. The U.S. spends more per capita than any other country and is not ranked at the top. (U.S. Health in International Perspective, 2013, S. Woolf and L. Aron)
  • The same disease has the same cause for everybody. This is a common assumptions, but it is false. We often find that similar disease in different people have different causes and different diseases can have similar causes. That is why its important to look at each case individually.

© Keyvan Golestaneh

Health and the Body Politics

“If someone wants to see and experience the world as it ‘really’ is, he can do so only by understanding it as something that is shared by many people, lies between them, separates them, showing itself differently to each and comprehensible only to the extent that many people can talk about it and exchange their opinions and perspectives with one another, over against one another.”
~ Hannah 

Is it possible to examine the health of a group or society? Indeed we can, using the principles and theories of medicine, ecology, and anthropology. Evaluating what is “healthy” does not have to be subjective. The criteria used to evaluate biological systems are equally applicable to society; thus, we can judge the health of a social body the same way we judge the health of a human body.

The human body is a self-organizing collection of cells. Cells are fundamental to organic life. The body is healthiest when cells function in cooperation with each other and the whole system. The less healthy cells are, the more they begin to disconnect from their surroundings. Lack of cellular integrity and connections to other cells can lead to dysfunctions, and even disruption of the whole system. Non-functional cells eventually become toxic to the body. Dysfunction is the symptom—not the cause—of ill health. When the body can no longer regulate itself, autoimmune disorders develop. Autoimmune diseases are, essentially, the body at war with itself.

figure4dfThe stages of the process of breakdown in cell–body function also happen in society. Individuals, like cells, are key to a healthy social body. No matter their ideology or beliefs, if people do not feel connected, feel heard, and have their basic needs meet, societal disconnection and polarization increase. The more their self-expression and identities are repressed, the more toxic the environment becomes for people. Health is promoted not by suppressing ideas, but by strengthening the system so that it transforms out of its diseased condition.

The social body is a collective of individuals, self-organizing in a culture that is governed by the same processes as the biological body. The variety of cultures and societies around the world are a testimony to the creativity, adaptation, and diversity that is life. Like people, societies are unique, but function similarly to all organizations and living systems. Societies, like physical bodies, sometimes must change due to internal or external pressures. Demographic and economic pressures, cultural change, and environmental necessities sometimes require difficult changes. History is filled with examples of societies that failed because they were unable to transform themselves. Cultural exchanges, migration, global economic integration, and especially the Internet are forces pressuring humanity to change. People naturally desire personal freedom, which creates diversity. Real democracy isn’t a preordained, ready-made unity imposed from above. It requires cooperation, organization, and finding consensus for what is possible as a collective, from the bottom up.

Politics is how people position themselves in a community of others. There are a variety of political ideologies used to govern, from militaristic dictatorships to grassroots participatory democracies. No matter the form of government or ideology, diversity and differences can threaten unity if they are not well represented. When the differences between the majority and the minority become too great, polarization leads to conflict and violence. Increasingly around the world, populations are rising up and asserting their identities and desires. Long-established governments and power structures that historically suppressed freedom and diversity are being challenged. People see what is possible and are willing to risk their lives for it. Inevitably, in an information-driven global economy, the free flow of ideas will be used to challenge those who seek to control populations and diversity. Deep democracy allows us all to speak and can facilitate creative solutions to societal problems, which in turn promotes both individual and social health.

Diversity is what gives us options to adapt creatively to changes in the environment. But the more diversity and differences in the population, the more difficult it is to agree on how to adapt. This is precisely why we need more tolerance and creativity. The suppression of diversity and ideas only limits society and exacerbates internal polarization. Lack of representation and participation are the seeds of disruption. The more disempowered people feel, the more potential conflict there is. The more disunity in a group, the more conflict increases and the more likely scapegoating will occur—hence bigotry and racism. Scapegoating is a way of temporarily unifying a particular group’s identity. This universal human response creates more polarization and disconnection within a society and prevents creative solutions and cooperation.

kandinskydf1The increased polarization we see in American and European politics is what happens when a system no longer serves an increasingly diverse society under pressure. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are ideologically very different, yet are similar in their opposition to the status quo and established power structures. Most of their support is from those who feel disenfranchised. Their popularity is an inevitable consequence of lack of representation in a system that does not respond to people’s needs. The same forces that created Le Pen in France and elected dictators like Mussolini and Hitler in the 1930s are at play now. If a way of bridging the polarization in society is not found, by increasing representation and cooperation, conflict and even violence are inevitable.

The best solution for creating a healthy social group is to bring back internal cooperation. This requires increasing participation and communication among all human beings. Unfortunately, it is easier to ignore these connections and base our actions on emotions instead; that is why politicians who appeal to emotions and engage in demagoguery and pandering garner support—even if people don’t agree with them! Facts are ignored; emotions and scapegoating rule. The solution is not to suppress or shut down opinions and free speech, even if we don’t agree with what’s being said, but to open up communication and freedom of expression. Tolerance creates a non-toxic environment where people feel they can be heard and represented. In this way, we can find creative solutions to the intractable problems we face today.

© Keyvan Golestaneh





What is natural and holistic medicine?

herbal_epigenome_alterNatural medicine has a very long history and does not represent one unified discipline or modality. The most developed traditions, Chinese medicine (which includes acupuncture) and Ayurveda from India, go back thousands of years. Naturopathic medicine is a Western system that is over 100 years old, and homeopathy was developed in the late 1700s. These are highly developed medical systems that differ from natural folk remedies because they’re based on a coherent theory and system of diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately these traditional approaches have been overshadowed by the development of modern Western medicine or biomedicine, and technology-based medicine. This is one reason natural medicine is often called alternative or complementary medicine and is not as well known in Western countries. However, since the 1970s, it has been steadily growing in popularity.

gersdorff_t01In simple terms, we can define natural medicine as the use of natural means to treat and prevent illness. It includes a broad range of modalities and methods, ranging from manual manipulation (bodywork, massage, and chiropractic adjustments), diet, nutrition and herbal-botanical remedies to more subtle techniques like acupuncture and acupressure. We can also include exercise (like yoga, Qi Gong and aerobics), as well as mental or consciousness-altering practices like meditation. Because the body and mind are not separate, psychotherapy and somatic therapies can also play an important part in this approach. Stress, which is one of the major causes of health and life problems, is often emotionally based, and some forms of psychotherapy are very helpful in getting to the root causes. These modalities can be used individually or in conjunction with each other. Since every person’s system and condition is unique, it’s necessary to determine which approach or combination will be most effective. Lifestyle is considered central to the treatment and prevention of illness but is not often addressed by mainstream medicine.

Vitruvian_ManThese different approaches work on different levels and parts of the body, but they share some basic assumptions and a similar orientation. The most important is that the human body, as part of nature, possesses an innate intelligence with the ability to self-regulate. Science observes the results of this innate intelligence and calls it self-organizing systems. That is why the body can heal itself, and the goal of this approach is to facilitate that natural process rather than interfere with it. Systems always tend toward balance and harmony, even after they are interfered with or disrupted by illness or breakdown. Medicine is based on a practical understanding of the natural laws that govern life and the human body. These laws or principles are studied by ecology and physics and used by natural medical approaches even if the practitioners do not know it. When viewed from a holistic or integral perspective, all systems exhibit characteristics that are greater than the sum of the parts. They have the ability to self-correct themselves when imbalances and dysfunctions develop, if  the body is strong enough. That is why practitioners put emphasis in strengthening the body and avoiding internal and external stress. They consider the body, mind and emotions as aspects of one system in the context of lifestyle—they cannot practically be separated. They look at how the different parts work together as a whole, as an integral system, rather than how they act independently or separately. If illness or health problems develop, the principle question is how to intervene in the system and at what level in order to facilitate a return to balance and optimal functioning—health. According to this perspective, the less the body’s normal functions are interfered with, the less burdened it is, the more balanced it will become. The more we unburden the body-mind the faster it will return to health. Empirical evidence is steadily mounting that shows natural medical approaches are significantly more effective, less expensive and safer than biomedicine. Health is the harmonious, dynamic balance of body, mind and emotions.

miracleMainstream medicine focuses on disease itself, not the whole body or person. It identifies and defines a particular disease based on objective signs (skin rash, blood in stools, high blood pressure, etc.) and pays less attention to subjective symptoms, like fatigue, headaches and stomachaches. Once identified it usually treats the disease by using pharmaceutical drugs or surgery. For example, if you have a headache, you’re advised to take an aspirin or a prescribed medication; for a skin rash, like eczema, a steroid based-cream; high blood pressure or high cholesterol, various medications. Although these treatments bring significant relief, it is temporary, and the downside to our health is the side effects they produce. In most cases the medication ends up damaging, via toxification, the immune system and some vital organs, which are essential to healing, disease prevention and maintaining health. Biomedicine can diagnosis a disease very effectively but does not address the underlying cause of most illnesses. Surgery can remove a tumor or open a clogged artery but generally ignores causes. It does not explain the cause in the first place! That is because treatments only act on the objective signs of the disease, independent of the whole body system. The measure of success is based on whether the signs disappear or not. Unfortunately the elimination or suppression of disease signs ignores the root causes for why the symptoms developed in the first place. The different diagnoses by biomedicine can result from the same cause or underlying condition.

Another key distinguishing characteristic of the natural approaches to health is that they do not treat the disease, but the person. This may sounds like a contradiction because most believe that medicine always treats disease and illness. Natural medicine thinks about the body-mind, illness and health so differently from biomedicine, and this is a crucial point of difference. Disease is actually the body’s resistance to imbalances, which manifest as signs and symptoms—causing us to not feel well. As pointed out, the goal is to help the body return to balance, which cannot be achieved by fighting the disease alone. We have to change and aid the bodily system and natural functions rather than focus on the signs of the disease process.

The positive side of a modern medicine is that it is extremely effective at diagnosis, lifesaving emergency care, inoculation, surgery and the sophisticated technologies it uses. But it does very poorly with chronic health issues, mental illness, stress and the most common health concerns in Western countries: heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, lung disease and autoimmune diseases like M.S., Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Biomedicine does very well at extending life by suppressing the disease process. However, in many cases “healthcare” has become “sick-care.” Empirical and anecdotal evidence show that these health problems can be successfully prevented by lifestyle changes and treated by using 100 percent natural means. The most powerful tools are diet, exercise and stress management—the central components of lifestyle and preventive medicine. This is where traditional and natural approaches truly excel. Preventive medicine holds the keys to wellbeing and health. These approaches together collectively possess the practical knowledge needed to strengthen the body and increase wellness so we know what to do to create health, not just cure or manage sickness.

8686686679_a0a3a2edd2_bNatural medicine focuses on the whole person and on getting the body itself back in balance so that its innate self-healing abilities are able to correct the imbalance which manifest as ill health. As the body rebalances itself, the signs and symptoms disappear naturally, not through repression (what drugs do), but because the body overcomes the disorder(s) that produce them.

We now have the possible integral or holistic approach based on a new paradigm that would help people create the conditions for health and wellbeing. Natural medicine becomes truly holistic when it treats the whole person, when the body, mind, emotions and lifestyle are included as part of our health considerations. Increasing wellness is much more effective than treating illness. By changing and strengthen the system, it will naturally overcome disease and we can thrive again.

© Keyvan Golestaneh 21o16

Keyvan Golestaneh M.A., L.Ac. is a natural and Chinese medical practitioner, herbalist, bodyworker, psychotherapist and writer with 30 years experience in Yoga, meditation and Qi Gong, and a degree in Anthropology. He is the director of the Conscious Health Institute. www.NewWorldMedicine.net & www.ConsciousHealthInstitute.org

The Future is here: Technology and Medicine in a “New Age”

   DNAThose that are most adaptable to change survive
~ Charles Darwin
“What is now proved was once only imagined” ~ William Blake

Ever since humans had tools, the idea of controlling our environment (probably?) ignited our imagination. Basic technology, fire and language accelerated cooperation and started a series of revolutions that are coming to a head in our time. Humankind’s ability to organize creatively through culture and commerce has fueled consumption and created an interdependent global socio-economic system, an “anthroposphere” in the biosphere.

changetagThe great advantage the human species has is our plasticity, the ability to change and adapt because of culture and technology. That power makes it possible to intentionally and quickly intervene in the normally slow evolutionary process, through direct manipulation of the body and environment. Change is speeding up everywhere and everything moves faster. The global explosion and availability of information, technology and “big data” give people the opportunity to take personal control of their health. Genetics makes it possible to see what health conditions you are predisposed to, before they develop. Some common medical procedures like check-ups, no longer require office visits. Health professionals can videoconference with patients in their own home. In some cases surgeon’s using advanced robotics and nanotechnology, can conduct operations remotely, even if you’re in the Antarctic-its already happened!

Ffrankensteinrom the story of Frankenstein to the Star Trek cult classic “Borg” episode, we find a (recurring) fantasy of creating life and a fear of being taken over by our own creations-“machines”. Thanks to advances in genetics, digital and biotechnology, we can materialize, “make concrete” what we imagine-something only dreamed of in the past! What was once fantasy or science fiction is becoming a routine part of life. Now its even possible to grow body parts in a laboratory. The boundary between fiction and life is more fluid then ever. Star Trek: The Next Generation 365 (Star Trek 365)The human-made environment we’ve created brings the biosphere into the “noosphere”  (“mind-sphere”). Humans create the context of their own existence and are no longer completely (100%?) subjected to the capriciousness of non-human nature. Creativity and imagination, coupled with consumerism are the driving force in the emerging global village. Whether we have the wisdom to manage that power is perhaps the greatest question of our time. (Remember the story of Faust?) The two wild cards are: earth’s weather patterns and human violence (conflict?). Both could easily destroy (undo?) our creations. 

watchactivityappThe release of the Apple iWatch was more than just another consumer event or a regular watch. With it you can monitor your own bodily states and share that information instantaneously. Physicians can remotely monitory vital signs 24/7 from any location. By objectively monitoring emotional and mental states, its possible to micro-manage and change behavior and vital states via awareness and physical exercises. Stress is one of the principle causes of disease. If you are not aware of being stressed your watch can tell you! The potential impact is revolutionary, because it gives objective feedback instantaneously. By correlating vital signs to life-style you can makes changes and verify the results. This technology enables people to connect to a computerized living environment in such a way that it automatically changes (lights, climate, music, etc.) to fit your mood.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death. A revolutionary biomedical procedure now exists which can destroy a previously incurable cancerous brain tumor called glioblastoma. The procedure takes a polio virus, modifies its DNA, so it cannot survive outside a tumor, and injects it directly into the tumor. The virus triggers the body’s immune system and destroys the tumor from the inside. Clinical tests trails, conducted at Duke University in United States, show unprecedented results. It may soon be possible to use similar procedures for other forms of cancer. 

What’s unique about this procedure is using a living organism, a virus, to fight another living organism. It is not drug therapy or radiation but closer to biological warfare, without the negative side effects.virus This procedure moves biomedicine closer to natural medicine, which bases much of its success on using the body’s (own?) immune system to heal itself. This is called immunotherapy. In this case it could never have happened without advances in biotechnology and genetics. A truly new era in medicine is emerging.

The countless benefits of applied science and technology like the Internet and computers are obvious, but how will this transform humankind and society? The power of creation gives us the illusion of control, but in reality it is the unintended consequences that hold the most danger. We cannot control everything nor include the all consequences in our calculus.

HABITUS-9-medium-1024x682Humans are the first earth species to achieve this kind of power and worldwide dominance. How we use it will determine our fate. We are moving into a “new age”, not the clichéd spiritual one but the age of Anthropocene. It’s a new earth epoch, where humanity is a global force like the weather and geology. For good or bad, we are now driving the future of biospheric evolution. Have we created a monster (that we cannot control?)? Time will tell.

© Keyvan Golestaneh

Critic of the Contemporary

Beyond East & West

Changing your perspective on health – and social and personal transformation

Something is desperately wrong. People in Western countries spend billions dollars and euros on healthcare, therapy and drugs. France and the U.S. have the highest rate of antidepressant consumption. They spend even more on entertainment. The principle option in life seems to now be entertainment-games, television, movies, etc. If entertainment isn’t enough, and social and emotional supports prove insufficient, people look for consolation and escape by other means. Current consumer trends and medical statistics draw a clear picture. Our consumptive activities reveal the state of our being.

The dominant cultural message, which is now institutionalized, is to seek financial and/or professional success. Many people manage to maintain an illusion of satisfaction for much of their life while others tumble into darkness and turmoil. Those that are lucky enough to find their passion channel their life-energy into “money-making” or some creative endeavor seem to fare much better than others. But even for these people, the reality of their life eventually intrudes. That reality often turns out to be empty and is managed through outer dependence, distractions and whatever it take to avoid feeling. For example, there are many of successful creative people in the arts and entertainment who seemingly have it all, but who end up in despair and even dead by there own hands. How and why does the model of success end so badly? Perhaps the cultural myths re-enforced by media, of dream life is an illusion with life numbing results. Medical and health professional have a window into the state of the contemporary soul even if they don’t understand what it means. Unfortunately they also contribute to its perpetuation.

There are many therapeutic and self-help systems available on the market today. In addition to legal intoxicants, illegal drugs and overeating, people look to Western psychotherapeutic disciplines like psychoanalysis and psychotherapy for solutions. They look for what they don’t know but want, they’re looking for themselves. happinessIt is a secularized version of what formally was a religious function. Workshops offering every type of solution and promise are readily available, popular and profitable. There is a large and growing self-help industry to meet everyone’s personal, spiritual and professional needs. Answers to a multitude of emotional problems and spiritual solutions are seemingly easily obtainable with little effort and that’s the way it’s marketed! But as our personal obsessions grow and our minds search, our economic and ecological problems increasingly intrude on our insulated existence. These intrusions clash with our dreams of personal fulfillment in a human-made world free from biology and nature’s perturbations. People are discovering that they not an island, and avoiding or escaping reality is not possible. The social world and biological imperatives eventually impinge on all our plans. Even those with millions and billions in currency can no longer escape the eyes of public scrutiny, and certainly not the realities of their inner life. In actuality neither the social or biological world can practically be separated.

iStock_000052103170_SmallThe emerging picture of the contemporary world is of obvious inter-connectedness. But we have not caught up with that reality! Interconnectedness, an idea recognized in traditional societies, indigenous cultures and the developed philosophies of the East emerging again but this time with stark implication. Global history exposes our past in the present as different levels and speeds of development, distribution, opportunities, outmoded ideologies and incompatible worldviews. Economic, cultural, and geographic differences create increasing tensions and confrontations because of the interconnectedness caused by expanding global exchange and migration.

After 100’s of years of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, utopian social movements, and economic dreams, people are still searching for answer, cures, and happiness. The search for happiness sometimes happens explicitly or is hidden beneath the frenzy of distraction and consumption. The spread of consumerism (which is what now completely drive our economic and social systems), commercialism and non-stop entertainment hide the underside of addiction, self-obsession, and narcissism. This is all happening in the midst of the growth of non-denominational religions and a spiritual revivals and eclecticism. The clash and dependence between the personal and social, the individual and the corporations grows more pronounced everyday. The death of the individual is insidiously crafted without any intentionality, by societal and techno-economic forces. High teach modern medicine extents life, and saves lives in ways beyond anything witnessed in history, but it offers little in terms of quality of life. Health-care costs are astronomical and presently limited to only a small sector of humanity. Our social systems, institutions and offer little in terms of solutions to growing social problems and individual dis-ease. Personal health and wellbeing cannot be separated for society. Yet the obvious fact that people are still searching for mean medicine keeps reducing people to biology doesn’t get addressed. The medical disciplines only refer to “mental health” as if we were only a mind-based brain on top of a body to be treated separately. The majority people have come to accept the authority (and final say) of the scientific and its reinforced by the mainstream media. It is what is considered valid even if unproven. The scientific materialist method has become the philosophical validator of society worse tendencies.   

magritteWestern philosophy and intellectual traditions although worthy, have become a kind of intellectual play, an isolated enclave of discourses offering little appeal to the general public and very little practical import. Traditional religious institutes are loosing followers in increasing numbers and the discrepancy between theology, ideals and action become more and more pronounced or obvious.  People turn to psychiatry and psychotherapy, but problems related to what used to be called the “soul” are now medicalized and mostly medicated. Traditional psychotherapy and counseling when available focus on readapting people to an unhealthy society and media propaganda culture. And for those who can afford it, therapy becomes a perpetual problem oriented form of seeking for an imagined solution to filling a void at our core, whether a recognized or not. Then there are those who reject the psychological profession completely and turn to spiritual solutions or merge the two in a new age composite. Self-help plans and groups proliferate as people serve themselves up to a smorgasbord of alternatives from a depthless new age eclecticism to indigenous revivals at weekend workshops. An economic boom created by well intention people on a cultural merry-go-round circling a prize that may never be won.

EmergeAre there positive aspects these trends? Yes! There are currents that go in very different directions. These are of course generalizations of trends that do not discredit the many exceptions and simultaneous positive development in our midst. It’s the very conditions that produced these trends in the first place that also offer the potential for a vey different future. The dissolution of the present is necessary for the emergence of the new—the seeds of that new are already present. So what CAN emerge?

Are there any alternatives? I believe there is, but those alternatives involves and a radical understanding of what “human” actually are in their totality as a biological, social, cultural and spiritual being embedded in an evolving and non-separate dynamic world. It involves bringing together disparate fields of knowledge, scientific developments and age old wisdom and reframing them all into a new paradigm that was only implicate in past. This requires a new perspective.

The West promises fulfillment through material acquisition, personal identity and bodily perfection. It embraced the world through technology and economic means, which are pushing humanity to our biological, personal and social limits. The higher ideals of the East rejected the outer and material world and turned inward, in search of spiritual transcendence-an escape form morality and death. But now the West and East are inverting and we can traverse a Mobius strip from one to the other. Western ideas and economic models have disseminated and transformed the East. Eastern philosophies and practices have rooted in the West and are now growing. The separation and metamorphosis of the two hemispheres is almost complete. The global division is dissolving.

Tearth001When we go beyond East and West, we find the WHOLE – world – not the two half’s with separate ways. A new paradigm can encompass the material-body and mind, both the inner and outer world, the ecology of life without seeking to strategically escape via spiritual transcendence. This perspective includes the invisible but felt, non-material transcendental dimension of existence from which our visible world continuously emerges. Human knowledge and development is at a precipice (and “event horizon” a point of no return) and a great convergence. From this point a new perspective with very practical alternatives exists for understand the state of individual and societal health and how to proceed.

Based on basic long established Eastern spiritual traditions and awareness practices and Western psychological traditions and scientific insights we can now draw a picture of a new paradigm that supersedes and encompasses the many different paradigms of the past without excluding them. In other words giving them their rightful place in a greater space.

© Keyvan Golestaneh