Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Archive for 'change your brain'

Last week I introduced a group of entrepreneurial Christ followers to the use of contemplative prayer as a means of self-care. I led a simple breathe and body awareness practice, inviting them to “just be” with themselves in God’s presence and notice their experience. What was it like to just stop, let their minds be still, notice their experience without “doing” anything in response to whatever thoughts, feelings or sensation came to mind?

A newbie to contemplative practices reported that for a brief moment, he felt his brain stop working and relax. A calm and bright smile spread across his face as he reflected on the rapid pace of his life and how his mind is always thinking about something. “It felt amazing to just stop and be quiet for a moment.”

Another participant noted a deep sense of gratitude flooding his awareness as he felt his breath and body move in rhythm with each other. He said he felt like God was breathing with him!

Contemplative prayer is a way of praying without words, or with very few words. It’s a way of paying attention to experience as we are held in God’s loving presence, letting our very presence become a prayer as we rest and trust in God’s love.

Miss Liberty Belle - 8 weeks old

Miss Liberty Belle – 8 weeks old

Recently, I’ve recommitted myself to daily centering prayer—a contemplative prayer practice popularized by the writing and teaching of Father Thomas Keating and the community at Contemplative Outreach. From 2007-2014 I had an almost daily practice. Then, a two-week vacation to Ireland and the arrival of Miss Liberty Belle two years ago threw me off my game. Some days, it takes an enormous amount of discipline to show up for my practice. But I know from my experience of both yoga and centering prayer that these simple tools are powerful resources for helping me be a better lover of God, my neighbors and myself. So, after two years of rather sporadic practice, I’ve renewed my commitment to daily centering prayer.

Perhaps you too could use some practical tools to support you in being more at peace with yourself, a kinder and gentler partner, a less reactive employee or boss…Whatever the change you seek, strengthening your capacity to just be with your experience in a loving, non-judgmental way, can be a powerful support in the slow work of becoming!

On September 24th I’ll be leading a women’s retreat on how contemplative practices support spiritual growth—especially in facing the disturbing and disquieting aspects of ourselves that we desperately long to change, but also greatly resist.

Transforming Beauty from Ashes – Saturday, September 24th Retreat

Miss Liberty Belle - 1.5 years old

Miss Liberty Belle – 1.5 years old

I’d love to have you join me and the Alive and Well Women team at the LA County Arboretum from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. for a day of opening up to the life that wants to be born in and through you as you rest and trust in God’s transforming love within compassionate community. The $60 registration fee includes admission to the 127 acre gardens, spacious time for individual reflection, experiential teaching on contemplative practice, facilitated small group and community conversations, and light refreshments. See more details and registration at the Alive and Well Women website.  I hope you can join us!

In case you were wondering, Liberty is flourishing. Thankfully, I’m not as easily distracted by her charming ways I as used to be!

I ran into an acquaintance last week at the dentist. A fitness instructor at a gym I used to attend, we’d had significant conversations about our shared health and wellness passions.

Several years have passed since I’d seen her, but we immediately recognized each other in the waiting room. We exchanged greetings and caught up briefly on where I’d gone and where she was teaching now.

Throughout the “conversation” she kept looking down at her cell phone, scrolling and looking back up. Sadly, it didn’t seem all that strange to me. A few years ago I might have been offended. But I guess like the proverbial frog in the kettle, I’ve grown accustomed to it. 

After I finished my business with the receptionist, I turned back to the waiting area. She was just a few feet away, sitting by the door. I walked to the door and bid farewell: “Hey___ it was good to see you…”

But, caught up in the digital world, she had totally blocked me out. She didn’t hear me or see me. She’d barely acknowledged my existence during our conversation, what made me think she’d hear my farewell greeting?

I didn’t take it personally. But as I walked to my car a flood of emotions and thoughts rose within me about how digital devices are altering human engagements. And concern about future generation’s capacity for empathy, vulnerability and authenticity.

Among other discoveries, psychologist Sherry Turkle’s research indicates that over-reliance on digital connection is diminishing our capacity for face-to-face engagement. In her latest book, Reclaiming Conversation: The power of talk in a digital age, she advocates for carving out “sacred” device free zones and embracing “unitasking”.

Digital Free at Lean-In Women's Retreat

Digital Free at Lean-In Women’s Retreat

Being more interested in our phones than the people in our presence is not good for the future of humanity. If we can’t invest time to be present with the real flesh and blood neighbors standing in line, sitting in a waiting room or at the dinner table, then how will we ever love our enemies?

It made me grateful for the work I do. I help people develop empathy with themselves and others. I sit with individuals and groups without cell phones or laptops. We have real engagements that sometimes get complicated and messy. Sometimes there are tears, sometimes voices get loud. That’s how real conversations with real people work. And only real face-to-face conversations help us develop empathy.

May the change begin with me!

 

 

 

 

 

“To pray is not to hear oneself talk; it is rather to make oneself so still that God’s word can come through.” (Peter G. Van Breeman, SJ)

Stillness does not come naturally to me. Newton’s observation that an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless an external force is applied to it fits me to a tee. It’s equally applicable to my body and my mind. Once I start the day, my mental energy begins a steady climb, sometimes getting so amped up that by the end of my work day, I find it hard to stop. My body and executive self say “Enough.” But my too busy mind isn’t ready to downshift and let go.

I get so “full” of myself and what I think needs to be done that I can’t hear the still small voice of God, of goodness, love and kindness that tells me my value and worth aren’t measured by how much I produce.

Eight years ago I began a daily centering prayer practice that changed my life by changing my brain. There’s plenty of emerging research verifying the neurological changes evoked by meditative practices. I noticed changes within a few months.

Reflecting on my experience in my journal I wrote: “I wonder if immersion in meditation and spiritual practice in a community of support altered my brain chemistry? I wonder what neural pathways in my brain were shifted to affect this new level of consciousness and presence within myself, this sense of well being, of mental quiet, of emotional stability and unity?”

My experience verifies the research: when I practice daily, I’m less reactive, more focused and less distracted, and cope more effectively when things aren’t going according to my agenda!

Miss Liberty Belle - 8 weeks old

Miss Liberty Belle – 8 weeks old: a lovely disruption!

Our August trip to Ireland last year, followed by Miss Liberty Belle’s arrival in September, disrupted my rhythm. I have yet to get back to a daily 20 minute practice. And that’s exactly why I’m writing this blog – to remember and recommit to daily practice now that I’m not traveling and Liberty doesn’t need constant supervision.

In support of myself and participants in my mentor Joan’s PlantPlus Nutrition Webinar, I’m leading a free 15 minute mindful awareness conference call every Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. (PST). You are welcome to join us!  Contact me and I’ll send you the details for accessing our budding community of support.

I’m grateful to Joan, Jon Kabat-Zinn and other pioneers in the mind-body medicine field who valued the experiential data of their patients and persevered with their work in the 1980’s when the vast majority of the medical community discounted the power of ancient practices for bringing good health of body, mind and spirit!

If you’re suffering with stress-related physical or psychological symptoms (links to assessment tools on Joan’s website) meditation can help. And I’d love to support you in getting started.

I hope you’ll join us on Wednesday morning at 7 a.m.  I look forward to hearing from you.

(Photo of Miss Liberty Belle by Tracey Kuhlin Pet Photography)

This morning at my conditioning class one of the other students commented that for him exercise was a “necessary evil.” I immediately jumped into my cheerleader mode: “Just imagine how good you’ll feel afterwards.” He was friendly enough but clearly wasn’t buying into my attempt to re-frame of his view of reality.

It got me thinking about the destructive power of habituation and conditioning. We get stuck doing things the way we’ve always done them and  let our limited view of reality and ourselves create attitudes that undermine our efforts before we’ve even begun. We’ve all said things like: “That’s just the way I am…” or “I’m just not a person who…” or “I’ve never liked…” or “I’ve always…”  While there may be valid reasons for viewing exercise as a necessary evil, but it certainly isn’t contributing in a positive way to anyone’s life.

It also got me thinking about what emerging research reveals about identity. Historically Western philosophy, theology and psychology have tended toward a static view of the self: there is an “I” that I am becoming/finding/developing. Freud dubbed this the ego. But post-modern thinking and neuroscience studies on the brain and mind indicate that the “I” that I think I am is not as set in cement as many of us believe.

Circumstances change.

People change.

Change happens.

For many years I’ve struggle with getting things done in an orderly, systematic fashion. I tend to be random, intuitive, spontaneous, sometimes impulsive, and on a bad day tending toward chaotic movement in so many directions that I fall into an emotional tailspin which can end in an meltdown. And that is not a pretty sight. Just ask my poor husband!

Thanks be to God that the scenario has changed over the years. I’ve changed. Through mindful awareness, centering prayer, yoga and other mind-body practices I’m better able to regulate my energy and attention.  I rarely go into tailspins anymore and it’s been a very long time since I had a meltdown. I still tend toward randomness and spontaneity in accomplishing non-appointment related work. In fact this morning my calendar tells me I’m supposed to be clearing out my email in-boxes. But I had an inspiration to write and made an executive decision, spontaneous as seems to be part of my creative capacity, but not impulsive. I evaluated the decision in a mindful manner, aware that the in-box project remains to be tackled.

Consistently exercising the capacity to focus my attention and stay present through these practices has strengthened the connections between the executive brain (at the front of the head behind the forehead) and the emotional and survival centers in the middle and back of the brain. Neuroplasticity is the technical name for the brain’s capacity to develop these new neural pathways that are integral to our capacity for change.

It isn’t as much about my efforts to change as it is about opening to the Spirit of Grace that does for me what I can’t do for myself. It isn’t trying harder, but softening each time I fall short of my ideals and asking for help. Change happens when I am willing to be changed and engage in practices that make myself available to be changed.

Jesus asked a man who’d been an invalid for 38 years if he wanted to get well. The man responded with his static view of himself and his reality, reciting his scenario as to why change wasn’t possible. We all have our versions of this story: “It’s always been this way…”

In another story Jesus met a man whose son had suffered convulsions since childhood. His response to Jesus’ statement that everything is possible for one who believes is one of my favorite prayers: “I do believe, help my unbelief.”

Unbelief is the crack that opens us up to grace. God does for us what we can’t do for ourselves, not because we have 100% belief, but in the midst of our unbelief.

The first question to ask ourselves isn’t “Can I change?” but “Am I willing to be changed?”

Holding onto a static view of ourselves or reality not only is ineffective, it isn’t true! If you’re a person who “hates exercise…” or “doesn’t like to eat…” or “has always eaten…” or “never could imagine yourself….” then you’re in good company. Many of the people Jesus healed were in exactly the same position.

Will you choose to believe, in the midst of your unbelief?

Today I choose to move at a mindful pace in the unhurried rhythm of God’s grace. After posting this blog I’ll get back on schedule with gratitude that degree by degree I am being changed. And while one hoped for change is that I’ll continue to grow in getting things done in a systematic, orderly fashion, I trust that today’s version of that is good enough for today.

What version of who you think you are might you need to let go of in order to have the life your really want?

Are you willing to be changed?

I smashed the tender pad of my pinkie finger between the dumbbell and it’s home on the the rack during a workout last week. It was only 5 pounds. But squished between two pieces of metal, my poor pinkie didn’t have chance. It hurt like crazy for a few moments. A blood blister quickly formed–my body’s way of saying “Hey! Watch out. Don’t be so mindless.”

Mindlessness, also described as “spacing out,” “daydreaming,” or being “absent minded,” is a default setting we fall into as a way to conserve energy, avoid unpleasant thoughts and feelings, or soothe ourselves. Shut off from direct experience of our body and sensory capacities, we lose track of where we are and what is happening in the moment. Mindlessness can also result when attempting to multitask. How many times have burnt or cut yourself in the kitchen because you were trying to keep track of too many things at one time? Even something small, like the conversation I was having while putting the dumbbell back, can distract us enough to lead to injuries.

To further bring home the “pay attention to what you are doing” message, just the day before my friend Sally talked about how mindlessness contributed to falling and breaking her elbow: “I wasn’t paying attention as I walked down the stairs.”

Sally Evans - I want to be like her when I grow up!

A paragon of health in her 70’s, she spoke about how it drove home the importance of mindfulness, especially as we age and our bones become more fragile. Earlier in the week I’d learned about a former student who is bringing mindfulness to the Southern California Railroad company where he works. As we know from stories of railroad accidents, when a 200 ton locomotive is involved, one mindless move can be devastating.

Sally broke her elbow walking down stairs she’d traversed hundreds of time. I pinched my finger doing a task I’ve done hundreds, if not thousands of times over the past 30 years. Coincidentally, earlier in the workout my trainer pointed out that most gym injuries take place in the transition into and out of exercises, not during the actual working phase! The same is true in yoga. My shoulder injury 2 1/2 years ago came during a transition from one pose to another.

Mindfulness is being where you are, doing what you’re doing–mind and body together in time, space and activity. Research indicates immense mental and emotional benefits, including stress reduction, decreased emotional reactivity and increased ability to focus attention. Whether it’s in the gym, at work, in the kitchen or anywhere else, mindfulness is good medicine!

For more on mindfulness check out my past blog or visit the website of UCLA Mindsight Institute founder Dan Siegel who offers free MP3s of simple practices. It will be good for your health.

I woke up today feeling unmotivated to get out of bed, uninspired by the day ahead of me, pondering what it would be like “if only…” I got up anyway.

As I made my tea and prepared breakfast, I looked out the window at the clear blue, crisp Southern California morning, heard the sparrows chirping and the doves cooing and decided to change my attitude. Just because I woke up feeling discouraged doesn’t mean I need to spend the rest of the day there.

Legend wants to know: What will you choose today?

Attitude is largely a matter of choice–especially for those without psychological conditions. But even those who suffer from mood disorders benefit from learning to shift their focus from what feels most natural (discouragement, sadness, suffering) towards something more life-giving. Our attitude impacts everyone around us, including our pets. When I’m in a grumpy mood, my dogs stay away. When I’m lighthearted they draw near. Same with my husband. The energy I communicate through my attitude changes the way others experience me and will reinforce whatever state I’m in.

Thoughts and feelings come and go. To a large extent we don’t have a lot of choice about the content that appears on the screen of mental awareness. But we do have choices about what we will do with what shows up.

Attention is the mental process that enables us to selectively concentrate on one thing to the exclusion of others. It is like a spotlight energizing whatever it shines upon. Deficits in attentional capacity contribute to all sorts of psychological, academic, occupational and life problems. It’s an essential skill for navigating the details of daily life, managing resources like time and money, and making health behavior changes. Without a strong capacity to focus attention on what is life-giving, we are prone to dysregulation of all sorts.

The apostle Paul knew about the power of choice and attention regulation. From a Roman prison he wrote these words of encouragement to his brothers and sisters in Christ who lived in the city of Philippi: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence or anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Powerful words from a man in prison. Like Nelson Mandela and other inspirational leaders throughout history, Paul didn’t let feelings evoked by unpleasant circumstances dictate his mood. He chose to set his mind on something bigger than his own miserable condition–specifically his faith in the God who radically interrupted his previous life as a persecutor of the Christian communities and called him to serve the very people whom he’d previously sought to destroy.

Twenty years ago I wanted desperately to do what Paul wrote about, but didn’t have the mental muscles to do so. I’d read biblical instructions telling me to choose to think differently, but couldn’t actualize it in my own daily life. I was largely subject to whatever thoughts and feelings rose to the front of my mind. In those days, “uninspired and unmotivated” might have set the tone for my day.

Like many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I needed more than just good information and the power of the Holy Spirit within me to live out the transformation Paul describes in his letters. I needed mental muscles to access the power of the Spirit and mind of Christ.

The good news is that attention is trainable. Consistent use of mental and spiritual practices that work the aim and sustain part of our brains can strengthen attentional capacity. Over time the effort of intentional exercise of those neuronal pathways leads to what interpersonal neurobiologist Dan Siegel calls “effortlesss traits of living…” which make setting our minds on what is life-giving possible.

Fifteen plus years of exercising my aim and sustain muscles through yoga, centering prayer and mindful awareness of all sorts, have enabled me to practice what Paul wrote about to the Philippians. If I’d stayed in bed with discouragement this morning, I might still be there.  Instead, I chose to get up and into action, to set my mind on what I really want–to be inspired and motivated. That got me moving in the right direction. Then I chose to notice the beauty of the day. That shifted me a few degrees more toward a positive mindset. Then I chose to show up to my blog and share my experience, strength and hope with others. That leaves me feeling inspired and motivated for the day ahead.

If you struggle with choice and attention regulation, instead of suffering through another day of “trying to get focused” or “trying to change your mindset” I encourage you to invest 20 minutes exercising the attentional muscles of your brain through a guided practice. Transformation is possible when you have the mental muscles needed to access the power of the Spirit of life within you.

Join me for weekly Christ-centered yoga classes at Fuller Seminary and Glendale Presbyterian Church or come to my June 21st “Self-Care through Self-Compassion” workshop.

For online resources, Dan Siegel shares downloadable audio practices as well as lots of other resources on his website. His Mindsight book is a wonderful introduction to both theory and practice related to mindful awareness.

The quiet stillness of centering prayer opens my ears to hear the birds sing outside my window and the tiny ticks of the clock on my desk. Calm peace fills my body as I remember that my value is not in what I produce. No need to hurry up and finish prayer so I can get to work. My prayer is my work and my work is a prayer.

At least that is how I want it to be.

I am choosing to fast from media overload as my lenten practice this year. Not because media is bad, but because too much of it keeps me from aligning my mind with my soul and my daily actions with the wisdom of the Spirit.

Every email I view demands a decision: open and attend, delete, or delay decision. Every decision to click open an email or link leads to a series of decisions about how to take in that information. In that process I must determine how beneficial it is to me and decide how much time and energy I will devote to it.

Listen from Within

Someone else always has an alternative view of reality or a supposedly better plan for my life. Each external engagement demands I consider yet another perspective on something. Too much of that pulls me away from my own inner guidance, from the quiet, hidden place within where God’s wisdom guides me (Psalm 51.6).

Lenten fasting invites us to turn toward God, to deepen our connection to the voice of the Spirit within as we abide in the love of God in Christ. It’s not just about sacrifice, giving up something or turning away from worldly pleasures.

We fast from bodily pleasures or temporal things not because they are bad, but because they can never fully satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. We let go of sensory overload because it dulls our capacity to listen from within. We let go of pleasures so we can access a felt sense of Spirit’s embodied guidance whose sweetness and satisfaction is much more subtle than that which comes from wine, chocolate and rich foods.

My Great Uncle Solanus Casey said that human greatness lies in faithfulness to the present moment–to be fully present with myself, God and whomever or whatever is before me. I’m not very adept at that. Lent gives me a chance to acknowledge what keeps me from being fully present and experiment with a new way of being. I’m choosing to regulate what information I take in from the internet and focus on staying connected to God in each moment, listen from within, and let go of an old pattern of being easily distracted.

What keeps you from hearing the birds sing and the clock tick? What so fully fills your mind  that you forget to attend to your soul? What so completely satiates your bodily desires that you neglect listening for the wisdom of your innermost being?

More than turning away from something, fasting aligns us more fully with what makes us fully human. Then our prayer is our work and our work is our prayer.

If you told me 25 years ago that one day I’d be teaching yoga at the upcoming Big Bear Yoga Festival–I’d have said you were crazy!

Raised Catholic, I stopped attending mass in junior high school and became a “born again” Christian within the year. God’s timing was perfect. I desperately needed someone or something to “save” me from the disease and dysfunction growing within me and around me in my family system.

I spent the next 15 years involved in evangelical church and para-church organizations and attended evangelical undergrad and graduate school.  The personal relationship I developed with God and the people that surrounded me during those years really did “save” me. I made plenty of poor choices as it was–I can only imagine the trouble I might have gotten into otherwise. I’m grateful for the love and support of all those who came alongside me, loved me, and prayed for me. I also learned how to study the Bible and think critically about spiritual and theological matters. All of this laid a foundation for my faith in a God who so loved the world that he became flesh and blood, lived among us and revealed the way of love through the life of Christ Jesus.

And, I needed more than any of that provided.

I needed to embody my faith.

I needed to experience that love in my flesh and blood, in my female body. But the things about “flesh” and “body” I learned in church contexts didn’t take me deeper into my body.  Confusing messages reinforced an already shame-based body image: you are intricately and wonderfully made, but your desires, instincts, feelings and thoughts can’t be trusted; your sexuality is a gift from God, but don’t act too sexy or show too much of your body lest you cause your brother to lust. For Christian eating disorder patients I’ve worked with those same messages were life threatening–creating distorted views of “flesh/fat” and appetite that reinforced destructive body related thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

My bout with breast cancer in 1992 activated an interest in alternative approaches to health. I attended my first yoga class in 1993 with cautious interest. I prayed before I entered the room, asking God to give me discernment about participating in what my earlier training had told me was “of the devil”. Twenty years later I can’t imagine life without yoga. It’s the spiritual discipline God has used to heal my relationship with my body–to learn to listen to, respect, appreciate and be grateful for the glory of God’s image revealed in my body, in my flesh, in my blood. To experience Christ in me — the hope of glory dwelling in the sacred temple of my body.

I keep coming back because the practice takes me into my body in a transformative way, deepening my knowing of God’s love in the depths of my innermost self. My movements on the mat are prayers: my body speaks what my heart longs to express but words fall short of conveying.

Yoga for Every Body

I teach Christ-centered yoga because I want to share the transformative power of moving prayers with my communities of faith. While I mostly practice the physical postures (known as “asana” and one of the eight limbs of yoga), I have a deep respect and appreciation for other aspects as well.

That’s why I’ll be teaching a Christ-centered yoga workshop at the festival this month. I love sharing the immeasurable riches of God’s love in Christ through the yoga postures. I love guiding others into a deeper connection to the goodness and sacredness of their bodies. I love being at home in my body and inviting others to more fully inhabit their own homes.

I’d love to have you join me!

August 23-25, 2013

Yesterday a client came to session stating that she didn’t think she was a good fit for coaching. She hates paperwork, forms, filling things in and writing things down. “I’m not a journaling kind of person.”

Welcome to My South Pasadena Office

It was awesome!  I love the way she took charge of what she wants and needs. She spoke her truth and started a conversation about adapting the tools and process of coaching to fit her needs and personality, not the other way around.

Women are biologically wired and socially conditioned to adaptation–to fit ourselves into other’s versions of reality rather than listen within and find our own way. This “substantial female preference to affiliate under stress” underlies the people pleasing dynamic that leads us to be silent when we want to speak up, say “yes” when we want to say “no” and compliantly fill out forms that we want to tear up and throw into the trash can!

The personalized health planning model I’m training in at Duke Integrative Medicine is a medical model. Paperwork, quantitative tools for assessing where you are now and where you’d like to be and creating measurable goals to guide behavior change are part of the package. It’s an excellent model with some solid initial research demonstrating positive health outcomes.

But, it’s just a model, not a magic formula.

I’m reminded of the scripture that says, “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12.2).

Lasting change doesn’t come from the paperwork, the diets or the programs that the world has devised–many with good intentions and great benefits for some people. Transformation comes from renewing your mind, learning to attend to and  listen for your own truth, not by trying to adapt yourself to fit my model or anyone else’s.

From a Christ-centered perspective, transformation comes from deepening your connection to the mind of Christ within. To strengthen your awareness of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control that come from the Spirit of Christ within you.  It is within you, not in a book, a pill, or  a new routine.

Wired to attend and adapt externally, even after all these years of healing work, I still excel in people pleasing.  A big part of my on-going transformation comes from mindful awareness and centering prayer practices. Turning my attention within and just being aware of what is going on within and around me, without responding, has taught me a new way of being in my body and my life. When I neglect my daily practice of twenty minutes, I notice a significant difference in my ability to hold onto myself, take a stance and not fall into social adaptation patterns that don’t benefit me or others.

Like other helping professionals, I offer services, programs and information to support transformation. But the bottom-line of what I offer is meant to help you listen to yourself, trust yourself and live from within. That is the new way of being in your body and your life.

Listen to yourself, listen to your body, know yourself and be a discriminating consumer of services, information and programs.

I loved sitting with my client yesterday. The internal listening and honesty she exhibited in our conversation about the model and her health goals will guide her toward authentic, sustainable new ways of exercising, eating and living–because she’s living from within!

In a N.Y. Times opinion piece titled “Diagnosis: Human” ethicist Ted Gup points out how pharmaceutical companies and medical providers collude with our human tendency to look for quick fixes and easy answers to life’s messiness.

The author takes responsibility for his own culpability in the tragic death of his son: “I had unknowingly colluded with a system that devalues talking therapy and rushes to medicate, inadvertently sending a message that self-medication, too, is perfectly acceptable.”

He goes on to point out a number of the ways that human experiences–like the  “excessive” energy of little boys or the grief of a broken heart–get pathologized, then medicated, rather than worked through as expected parts of the developmental cycle.

In earlier times, spirituality was the remedy for troubled souls. Prayer, meditation, and other practices were the “medication” people used to regulate the dissonant energies of life. Today, with increasing interest in holistic approaches to healing, studies indicate that mediation can be as effective as medication for a number of mental and physical symptoms.

Certainly for some folks, like those I wrote about in my blog yesterday, medications are essential for stability and functioning. But for many, like the author’s son who died at 21 from abuse of alcohol and drugs, learned dependence on medications may do more harm than good.