In our weekly Psychological & Spiritual Therapy column, therapist Jack Surguy is offering professional advice to The Mindful Word readers for all those questions and problems you have wanted to discuss with someone qualified and caring.

If you would like Jack to assist you in any areas of your life and relationships, fill out this form. He will respond to your questions through this column, normally published every Tuesday.

QUESTION

My partner did seven Ayahuasca “trips” and still gets tears in his eyes when he talks about “Mother Ayahuasca” and the answers she gave. I believe that he always had the answers—all he needed to do was sit quietly and they would come to him.

I think that when we go to “special spaces” through the chanting of mantras, meditation, using crystals, drumming, praying, Ouija boards and the use of Ayahuasca and other mind-altering substances, we’re putting ourselves into a state of self-hypnosis. In “meeting”/”getting in touch with” angels, gods, spirits, guides, ancestors, aliens or whatever, we’re simply connecting with our subconscious, our deepest selves.

There is nothing “other.” It’s all just us. And that “special space” is, again, just us.

In other words, we have all the answers we need, all the time. Why do we choose (and I really mean “choose”) to ignore them, but look for—and supposedly find—the exact same answers in substances, chants, prayers, aliens, ancestors, therapists, drugs, gods and churches?

Why can’t we accept that this is us, and that any other place is still us, as is any other dimension, state of being, god or entity? Why are we so out of touch with ourselves?

This constant human need to find something alternative to what we already have deeply disturbs me. We seem to always be dissatisfied or in a perceived state of incompleteness until, as many religions, belief systems and common garden fraudsters tell us, “we become one with” whatever we’re supposed to join up with. All the while, we throw money at these “fraudsters.”

This is my opinion, anyway—am I completely on the wrong track?

Jennifer, 65,U.S.

ANSWER

Hello Jennifer,
Thank you so much for submitting your question. In trying to address the question (“Am I completely on the wrong track?”), I’ll begin by sharing a story.

Leo’s story

A young boy around six years of age was continuously having behavioural problems that had been going on for a long time. Leo was around two years old when his mother took him to their family doctor due to some issues Leo was having. The doctor checked young Leo out and found nothing medically significant. He assured the mother that Leo was fine and that he would grow out of the behavioural problems.

Leo was now six years old and his problems were getting worse. He often refused to leave the house, his language development was far behind where it should be and he was throwing frequent temper tantrums, as well as becoming aggressive with his older siblings. Leo’s mother was at a loss. She’d sought help, but was again told that Leo had behavioural issues.

One day, Leo’s mother noticed that he seemed to be experiencing vision problems; he sat too close to the TV and had to hold his toys and picture books close to his face. She decided to schedule an appointment with an optometrist (eye doctor) and have Leo’s vision tested. It was then discovered that Leo had extremely poor eyesight as well as a condition known as Optical Albinism, which causes a person’s eyes to be very sensitive to light.

Leo was prescribed a special pair of glasses to help him with his conditions. His mother described him receiving his glasses in the following way:

When Leo received his first pair of glasses a few days after his test, it was an emotional moment. He noticed things that he had not seen before and kept looking around at everything, studying faces and objects. He had the biggest smile and I did have a few tears in my eyes…. Life for Leo has been changed dramatically now he has his glasses…. once he got his glasses he showed an interest in books and playing with his brothers instead of the destructive behaviour that he showed before. His speech improved within the first few weeks and he was less frustrated as he began to listen and speak more and he started copying other children’s play.

Leo’s main issues were his inability to see things clearly and his eyes’ vulnerability to becoming overly sensitive to light. Now, Leo was behind in language development and reading, as well as having deficits in social skills and healthy interactions, but when he was provided with the means to see things clearly and was given the tools to prevent himself from overexposure to sunlight, he became much more interested in books, play and social interactions. He started to copy other children in order to learn more appropriate social skills and was able to put those skills into effect. The vast majority of us don’t see things perfectly clearly, either.

The human mind is a fascinating thing

It’s a well-known phenomenon that a person’s mind can block out or defend itself against information that may be too overwhelming for the person to process. Take a moment to really process that: A person’s mind can block out or defend itself against information that may be too overwhelming for the person to process.

Something traumatic can happen to someone, like abuse in childhood, and the person can literally go years without having any recollections or conscious memories of the event. Then, oftentimes out of nowhere, these memories will come flooding back in, often accompanied by a tremendous emotional reaction. One person with whom I worked described this process by saying, “I don’t know how I let myself forget those things. But it’s not really like I forgot it. It was there all along; I just didn’t want to see it.”

Another client with whom I worked had a somewhat similar experience, but it didn’t involve any memory loss. A woman in her mid-sixties came to see me for therapy because of depression. Though she’d started medications for the depression and was seeing me on a weekly basis, there was no evidence that she was getting better.

Her case perplexed me and I decided to really question her on almost all aspects of her life to try and discover where her increasing level of depression may have been coming from. After seeing her weekly for almost three months, she finally disclosed the fact that her husband had spent close to $100,000 on scratch-off lottery tickets. Their life savings were gone and she was now forced to return to work so that they wouldn’t lose their home.

I tried to discuss this with her, but she insisted that it was fine, as he’d promised to never purchase tickets again. After further questioning her, she then disclosed that he’d made that same promise on three previous occasions, only to later spend their last $30,000. She assured me, however, that she knew he was serious now and adamantly insisted that her depression had absolutely nothing to do with the lost money.

After several months of on-again, off-again therapy, she came into the office one day and vented for the entire hour, stating that she was absolutely furious with her husband and that she was probably going to file for divorce because she couldn’t forgive him for spending their entire life savings.

For both of these individuals, the reality of what occurred was simply too much for them to acknowledge or process. In an effort to protect itself, the mind blocked certain knowledge from consciousness.

It appears that when a person becomes more able to deal with certain information, the mind brings it back into conscious awareness. In a very real way, it can be said that we’re protecting ourselves from ourselves!

Various practices assist us in finding the “Aha!” moment

People, at times, may require a special “spiritual lens” to try and accurately perceive reality. I’m OK with this. I consider learning, understanding and wisdom to be things that are obtained and developed over a period of time.

A person may need to view things a certain way and for a certain length of time before they’re ready and able to, perhaps, move to a deeper understanding. In fact, the “self-hypnosis” you mentioned in reference to meditation, drumming, praying and the chanting of mantras may alter a person’s neurological make-up, thus making it more likely for them to have the “Aha!” moment in which they gain realization of, insight into or comprehension of a situation.

Many of us may be much like Leo in that we need to “copy” or model another’s spiritual experience in order to learn how to have healthy spiritual/emotional lives and experiences ourselves.

As the Dalai Lama XIV has stated, “Neither a space station nor an enlightened mind can be realized in a day.” I do believe that the vast majority of people, including myself, do need particular practices (such as drumming, prayer, mantra and meditation) to aid us in our spiritual/emotional development.

When children learn to walk, they engage in “cruising,” which involves a child pulling themselves up onto furniture and holding onto it in order to stabilize themselves as they learn to balance and strengthen their legs. This step is necessary for the child to later be able to walk of its own accord. I see the spiritual practices mentioned above as serving a similar purpose.

Buddha gave his disciples similar advice in saying,“When you know the Dharma to be similar to a raft, you should abandon even the teachings, how much more so things contrary to the teachings.” Here, the advice was to let go of even the Buddha’s teachings after realizing enlightenment.

The one caveat to letting go of the teachings is to fully realize, understand and experience the teachings. This, of course, is where most of us struggle. In this struggle, many have to “cruise” and use spiritual practices such as drumming, mantra, prayer and meditation.

So in answering your question, no, I wouldn’t say you’re completely on the wrong track. However, I’d guess that not all are able to walk that track, due to the many struggles and obscurations that most face. These prevent them from gaining full insight into the nature of emptiness, which you’re essentially describing.

The one piece of advice I’d suggest regarding your relationship and your response to your significant other would be to remember that encouragement and support is often most helpful when it comes to a person’s growth.

image via Pixabay