To Care: Part 1
To care for self and other is a natural biological instinct. It forms the basis of empathy and compassion. To care exists on a spectrum that incorporates our most basic animal nature for healing when we are sick, all the way to a heartfelt desire to see the world completely free of pain and suffering. Thus to care is linked to moral development and the altruistic intention for the relief of all pain and suffering. The desire to be free of pain and suffering is the desire to heal, which means to become whole. This innate desire for the experience of such freedom also includes the necessity to know both at an embodied level and a wisdom (mind and cognition) level what the causes of pain and suffering are. Mind and body must function together as one unit of function to be free.
My wife was very sick the other day with an intestinal disorder and so we walked to the beach because she wanted to relate to nature. She was unable to determine what remedy to take or use at home. I suggested that while we were at the beach that she lie down on the hot sand and let the animal inside of her body tell her what she needed in order to return to normal. An hour after laying on the sand, she stood up and we went home. She directed herself immediately to the natural remedy of a warm water enema. Within several hours she was free of her physical pain. Our body is capable of informing us how to heal. Sometimes it is sand and water. That internal body messaging may frequently get drowned out in a great sea of advice from others.
The wild animal in us knows how to heal our body and its raw energy must be tempered with the wisdom of mental peacefulness. The body and mind must work together in order to heal those challenges that derive from an emotional imbalance or strong mental states that cloud judgement. The clarity necessary to navigate contemporary life is easily distorted. Such tempering involves effort and discipline that is not heavy handed but rather filled with kindness and humility. To care thus includes a whole spectrum of body-mind interactions in human development. To care is the basis for all sensation, feelings and emotions. Even hatred and rage at their core are expressions of caring.
I am reminded of a book that Salmon Rushdie wrote, first published in 1988 called Satanic Verses. It was around that time that the western world was introduced to the dark side of Islam. The book discussed Mohammed and the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran placed a death fatwa on Salmon Rushdie for such blasphemy and even raised $600,000 as a bounty to kill him. Ultimately, the death fatwa was removed and when Salmon Rushdie was interviewed about the episode, he said that for him, he simply looked upon it as, “An extreme form of literary criticism.”
On the other end of the spectrum of caring, is His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the author of over 80 books on creating happiness and well-being in self and society. He travels the world teaching these principles. So whether it’s the issuing of a death fatwa or the altruism of the Dalai Lama, both can be seen as having come from the instinct to care. The inability to care generates pain and suffering and is a blockage in the mind-body flow. The normal flow between body and mind, heaven and earth, spirit and matter is diverted in some way causing a blockage and as my wife frequently proclaims, a need for detoxification. The reality might be closer to an inability to self-regulate and thus transform sensations, feelings, emotions and cognitive states. Such an inability causes a loss of discernment of their significance of knowing what to accept and what to reject in the multitude of daily sensations and thoughts. By knowing the significance of personal experience we can self-regulate with loving kindness.
But at a deeper level, this no flow condition may also be indicative of some form of self-loathing, inner guilt or a feeling of being a deep mistake of some kind. It is commonly referred to as the mind-body split or Cartesian duality. Thus a loss of care is also a loss of trust in the most basic human nature of being inherently whole and complete. Wholeness is the original state.
Self-help practices especially mindfulness meditation are available in abundance in contemporary society. In general according to research, they do help develop a degree of stability in one’s personal dance with the inner critic or the inner flaw or the persistent body sensation that nags at one insisting on anesthetizing it. At the very least our neurosis becomes a little more domesticated and contained. It is repackaged so to speak with a prettier bow. Remember that mindfulness meditation in its traditional form arose out of a culture that trusted the basic sanity and healthy nature of the mind-body. In such cultures the mind-body complex is a unit of wholeness.
To feel like one is internally flawed or incomplete comes on top or is extra, like bonus material on a DVD. Trying to become embodied and free of mental and emotional conflicts with self-help practices might only encapsulate the inner flaw and keep it at bay without transforming it. The core of all human beings however is basically and inherently complete, whole and trustworthy. It might help to consider one’s mistakes and challenges that are natural in life with humor and seeing them more like them being the blooper real of deleted scenes shown at the end of a movie. We seem to be regularly breaking character so to speak and then have to reshoot the scene.
Consequently, to wake up (dare I say have faith in) the biological instinct to care, means to investigate the inner reality of our body-mind already being inherently complete and not flawed in the slightest. That is our essence or birth right. We are already whole. The challenges, mistakes and disorders that everyone experiences as part of life and its never ending mental and emotional hallucinations and other exotic fantasies are the actual bonus tracks or the director’s cut that includes all the deleted scenes in the movie of our life. There is no growth without resistance. Our biological origins are defined by resistance to growth as any embryologist can tell you. Consequently the polarity of hope and fear, problems and their antidotes is actually held in a preexisting matrix of wholeness and flawlessness.
Even though a psychological and self-help industry has been created to resolve one’s flaws or character problems with thousands of antidotes and self-help practices, the rub, so to speak, is that even the flaws in and of themselves must be seen as an expression of wholeness and completeness. In other words, the totality of being human is all part of the whole and all parts are considered to be equal since its foundation is whole and complete. Once one part of the body-mind is split off and unintegrated into the whole, our mental-emotional-sensory navigational system is compromised by hallucinations and fantasies which block the knowing of what to accept and what to reject that I mentioned earlier. The work of embodied wholeness becomes more and more work with more and more antidotes (some of which are less than optimal) being applied from Coca-Cola to OxyContin, physical abuse to emotional abuse, mindfulness meditation to gratitude training. Nowadays, many mental health and biomedical health conditions are said to be on a spectrum of more to less severity. Thus the mind-body is a spectrum of possibilities. Everyone has their own style of suffering and their own style of enlightenment.
Mindfulness is the perception and discernment of no flaw and is the ground of the biological instinct to care. The term mindfulness is frequently defined as the absence of judgment and interpretation. So there is a state of mindfulness inwardly that can hold the wholeness of the polarity of growth and resistance and the no flaw essence together as one thing. This is traditionally called the union of wisdom and compassion but really it is the union of body and mind as embodied wholeness. Once the essence of no flaw is understood as an embodied reality, it can be cultivated and allowed grow and flourish. Mindfulness thus enhances the possibility of an unlimited compassion that encompasses all living beings and the wisdom of discrimination to know how to engage with that possibility. This is the actual meaning of health from an embodied view. Thus health is a synonym for embodied wholeness and compassion. This is the human spectrum.
The cultivation of caring and the exploration of a constantly evolving embodied wholeness is a story, an origin mythology. Classically, an origin story looks at history and conception as the starting point of wholeness. However, the demands of contemporary society and its healing demands a different starting point. The starting point is right now. It is the story of nowness, of the present moment as experience continues to unfold seemingly without end. Many contemporary therapies are designed to evoke and then integrate one’s historical narrative which usually involves one’s stress and trauma which is the blockage of no flow as mentioned. This investigation of the no flow now goes back many generations, thanks to molecular biology and epigenetics, consequently an exact starting point for one’s narrative is actually impossible.