Perhaps the most useful object for suggesting the spiritual path is the mountain. Here are a few typical responses:
Monica L. "Can you visualize a mountain?" "Yes, it is a long way off and snow-covered." "Would you like to go toward the mountain?" "No."
This patient obviously is not ready to make the spiritual journey. The country of the spirit appears cold (snow) and uninteresting to her at this point.
James T. "Can you visualize a mountain?" "Yes." "Would you like to climb it?" "Yes. There is no path, so I must make my own way. There are many rocks and the way is steep. I must go step by step. The footing at times is quite insecure. I am tired now and will sit down for awhile." "Would you care to go on?" "No, I think not. I will go down now." Here we have a man ready to make a start, and in subsequent dreams he may go on toward the summit and a spiritual experience, but certain aspects of his life must be put in order first.
Margaret S. is being prepared for a hysterectomy for an early cancer, and she is facing the question "What is life teaching you through this experience?" "Can you visualize a mountain?" "Yes, it is far away and somehow I get the feeling that it is made of tissue paper."
On searching further into her background, we discover that her spiritual world was quite lacking in any real sense of significance. It was quite shocking to her to see this, and this area of discovery started her on a very meaningful journey into herself. If one is to make a true recovery from cancer or any other chronic illness, it is essential to find a meaning for life, and this type of experience carries with it such a sense of meaning.
Edward P. "Can you visualize a mountain?" "Yes." "Would you like to climb it?" "Yes. There is a good path and it bears around the right side winding toward the top. There are many flowers along the path and a rich loam beneath my feet. As I get higher there are fewer plants. It is interesting that I do not seem to tire, and the cool fresh air seems to really invigorate me. I am nearing the top. I can see off to great distances. Now I find myself immersed in a great white light and what's more, I am that Light. My body seems to fade away and everything is one. There is no separation anymore."
After awhile the descent is made back to the house setting where the dream took place. This type of experience is always accompanied by real changes in life-style and a new sense of values. The dream, of course, has been much abbreviated, to bring out just the essentials.
Birth into a new level of consciousness is life-shaking and life-renewing. The one who has experienced it will never again be the same person. There is a new glow in his eyes, a new lightness in his step, and life takes on a new dimension.
This type of healing is far more effective than can be accomplished by the surgical removal of a diseased organ, the restoration of a blood pressure to normal through drug control, the disappearance of a stomach ulcer through a medical program, or the so-called five-year cure of a cancer. The latter cures are mere suppressions of a certain manifestation of a disease process, but the physician cannot honestly feel that anything has really been done that has restored the homeostatic process, the disturbance of which was responsible for the illness.
The Role of Art
I cannot conceive of the practice of medicine of the Whole Person without art. Man acting from his brain alone without the symbolic function of heart and his feeling nature is cold, isolated, and sick. Each organ of the body with its related endocrine gland and its corresponding chakra has a deep symbolic meaning, which if investigated in the doctor-patient relationship will enhance the growth experience as the result of having gone through the illness. The heart is referred to here in much the same sense that the writer of the Book of Proverbs intended in these lines:
"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7). We are referring of course to man's capacity to love. Recalling the discussion of chakras in the second chapter, the reader will note that the center in the heart area of the chest is the love center.
In the total healing of man there is probably nothing more important than the awakening of an all-inclusive ability to love. I may know something very well with my intellect, which operates through the mediation of the portion of the brain known as the cerebral cortex. This center, however, does not affect the brain centers that control my body functions. To do this, it must first be transmitted into my feeling levels (symbolically referred to as the heart area).
The brain by itself cuts others out of its world. It needs the warmth of the heart. Very helpful in this process of the discovery of the self is the employment of some of the free nonstructured forms of art, including the use, under direction, of pastel colors or a lump of clay and music and body movement.
In the Meadowlark program, we think of the visual-art techniques as "heart-to-hand" therapy. Deep within the human heart there is buried a secret center of knowing, always ready to guide and instruct the person. The teacher merely sets an atmosphere or background, makes a few suggestions to initiate the process, or puts on a suitable phonograph record to set a mood for reflection.
Then the colors the individual has a feeling for at the moment are picked, and he allows his hands to move across a sheet of paper (usually about two by three feet on a hard backing) guided by his heart (or feeling nature) rather than by the mind. Colors express predominant feelings; sharp lines may depict the saw-tooth edges of anger; ovals may be tear drops; dark borders around the pictures may depict enclosures that would seem to be confining life. Human figures represent individuals who, by their relative positions and sizes, signify personal relationships and suppressed feelings.
In the ensuing days of art classes, we usually see the softening of lines, new and brighter colors, the disappearance of enclosures, fresh flowing streams of life, young green plants, and other signs of the new life that the guest is beginning to feel in his own being.
Along with these changes there are always significant indications of renewed physical, psychological, and spiritual health. Very frequently there will be pictures of graveyards, burial caskets, and other symbols signifying the death of the old person and paving the way for the new. The new may be signified by symbols of springtime, of the female uterus with the new fetus, or of a baby held in the arms of a madonna.
This is also frequently seen in sessions with clay. The instructor of the class may be talking about life or there may be a musical background while each guest, with a lump of clay in his hands, allows his hands to identify with the clay, just allowing the fingers to work in it, scarcely noticing what they are doing. Figures appear, other symbols take form, and as they are taken back into the guest's room at night and reworked, their significance begins to emerge and speak meaningfully to their creators. Literally, before one's eyes, the meaning of Jesus' statement, "You must be born again," is revealed.
When it comes to body movement with music, the average person coming into this type of therapeutic program is frequently frozen, whether it be by a marital problem and divorce, by an increasingly impossible job situation, or by the overwhelming grief from the death of a loved one. He cannot move but can only stand or sit at the edge of the group.
After a few days, possibly the fingers or the toes will start to move to the music. Finally he gets up and lets go, becoming a part of the group. I recall one of our guests, quite schizoid, who just couldn't relate to anyone, but when she danced, she was an angel out of this world. Another guest, not able to function in ordinary life, was an entirely different person in the swimming pool and was the life of the whole group. Thus, the beginning of depth therapy is that initial risk and venturing out of the tight enclosure by the imprisoned self.
TEACHER: (following relaxation class or yoga). Now that we are so relaxed let's carry this feeling with us as we listen to the following music and just become one with the music. Now choose colors you like and draw your attention to the heart center. Let the colors flow from what you feel there out to your hand. Move the colors over your paper without a thought of drawing a thing. Be willing to let it happen. Let your deeper feelings move in color rhythms onto the paper.
TEACHER: What do those sharp points represent?
GUEST: I am angry!
TEACHER: Are you rebelling because your life seems to be at a standstill?
GUEST: It certainly is!
TEACHER: Do you feel like crying?
GUEST: Yes, but I never could cry.
TEACHER: But why do you hold back your tears?
GUEST: As a child my father would never allow us to cry.
TEACHER: Do you feel hemmed in by life situations?
GUEST : Oh, yes. (Tears break through.)
TEACHER: How do you feel as you look at the pictures?
GUEST: I feel bound and held back.
TEACHER: Let's turn your picture sideways and look at it.
GUEST: Why it looks like a new birth!
TEACHER: (to a class working with clay). You have in your hands a shapeless ball of clay. As you listen to the music identify with the clay and allow your fingers to play with it and let happen what will.... Why do you have a glove on your hand?
GUEST: I guess I am reaching. I want more from life. I guess the glove is my protection.
TEACHER: How do you really feel as you look at this gloved hand?
GUEST: Like my hands are bound. I want to take off the glove and use my hands more creatively. I want to give as well as receive.
Having had a glimpse of one's Real Self, the seeker for true health, or the achievement of Wholeness, is increasingly dependent upon himself, since the search cannot be made for him. Discipline will become increasingly a part of his life. This has already been touched upon in the chapters on exercise and proper nutrition. Now we must consider the all-important discipline of the mind through concentration, meditation, and contemplation. In concentration there is a gathering together of the mental processes to focus on a single point; in meditation, there is a holding of the mind to that point and allowing one thought to develop. In contemplation there is something akin to an actual union of the person and the object he is beholding in the mind's eye.
To start with, the mind is something like a herd of wild horses being broken in by a cowboy; in the beginning of his training, he finds it is difficult to exert control over them. The same situation exists with the untrained mind that flits about from one subject to another and is distracted by bodily sensations, passing emotions, sleepiness, and an attachment to certain life situations or persons.
There can be no progress without concentration. In his book Concentration and Approach to Meditation, Ernest Wood describes a fourfold path to concentration.10 During the first week it is suggested that one pick an object for concentration and hold the mind on that object until the mind wanders. At that point he notes on a watch with a second hand how long a period of uninterrupted concentration was possible. This should be done daily and a log kept, indicating the object of concentration and the distracting thought.
During the second, third, and fourth weeks, Wood suggests that the subject for concentration should be a series of objects observed in a glance around a room. On closing the eyes, the objects should be seen in their ordered positions. If the mind wanders, one uses the will to bring it back. The number of interruptions should be noted.
During the fifth week one opens a book and notes the first name of an object upon which his eyes fall, then turns to another page and notes a second one. The period of concentration is then spent taking a mental trip from the first object to the second one. This exercise in "word bridges" might go something like this: "Millionaire" and "soul" are picked in that order. Millionaire-money-collection plate (in church)preacher-sermon-saving souls.
For the next three months a very good exercise is a full study of some categorical noun such as wood, cat, book, paint, education, or tree. This exercise comprises the centering of the mind on the object for fifteen minutes and thinking of the various thoughts that the object suggests in the following manner. First, how might the noun be classified and what other things fall into the same classification? Second, of what parts is it made up? Third, what is its purpose and what qualities does it suggest? Last, what familiar experiences have you had with it?