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The Spiritual Practice of Medicine: Overcoming Ego

Inherent in many spiritual traditions is the notion of evil; the notion that there is an aspect in each of us that doesn’t want to evolve, develop or have anything to do with the responsibility of being spiritual.  In our era, this has come to be termed the ego, though it must be stated that the ego’s meaning here goes beyond the traditional psychological definition.  In an enlightened perspective, the ego is the part of us that is not interested in enlightenment.  It is the part of us that wants only to be selfishly absorbed with itself, intensely attempting to attach us to addictions, inner-dramas that emotionally waste us and any mechanism projected by the mind that maintains a sense of separativity, blocking us from convergence with the greater spiritual reality of oneness.  In this vein, the ego is the number one impediment facing the planet right now in our attempt to collectively as a species become enlightened.

            The issue of the ego is significant in the practice of medicine because the health of the individual (and their subsequent life-force which they transmit to the environment, culture, world etc. around them) is often compromised by destructive choices made by a part of themselves that is only interested in being separate from the whole.  When the ego is given free reign in our lives, we often find ourselves in a downward spiral of self-destruction that leads to our life-force being constantly vitiated in misguidedly satisfying selfish desires rather than recognizing the need to cultivate and preserve what is within us so that we can relentless give more and more to the evolution of the world and culture around us.  No more is this clearer in the world than in the wasteful use of natural resources by our species on a grand scale.  This is the separate identity of the ego acting in immense magnitude, utterly choosing to ignore what we now know to be true: resources are connected to a whole ecological fabric and by drawing too much on them we put the global ecosystem out of balance.  In short, everything is connected.  When we begin to realize that the seemingly trivial issues and dramas in our own lives are contributing to massive issues and dramas in the world at large, we start to understand what the spiritual work is all about.  Our societies groom us to be individualistic and lose sight of the fact that on a bigger scale the whole human species is having an impact on the world, despite how wrapped up we are in our own lives.  The problem is our species on the whole is acting unethically and the wasted environment is testament. 

I remember a powerful teaching I received while “on the land” by one of my teachers in the indigenous way.  This teacher told me that to live the life of spirit requires that any action we partake in the world, from what we eat to what we say to others, should be prefaced by the inquiry: “Will this create or destroy me and/or others?”  In the same vein, we need to engage an assiduous vigilance or mindfulness that is ever-present in our daily lives so that we can properly judge and execute our powers of choice and even our power of thought.  As one of my esteemed teachers and Chinese Medicine vanguard Lonny Jarrett has imparted to me, the power of choice is one of the most powerful forces in the universe for it is truly the expression of creatorship which all humans have as their nature.  The appropriate use of our faculty of volition or free will to make choices is the fundamental level that is to be engaged in guiding someone on a healing path.  By illuminating to people that their lives are at the essential level an ever-changing construct created by their choices, we restore power and responsibility to lives, nullifying the victim complex that all too often compromises forward motion in life as people lose touch with the fact that it is essentially the choices they are making moment to moment that impacts the state of their health and, ultimately, the state of their lives. 

Eckhart Tolle describes in his great work The Power of Now, one of ego’s chief manifestations as what he calls the pain body.  The pain body is the aspect of our separate self that constantly wishes to be in pain, locking our attention to an obsessive degree on our inner-dramas.  This is portrayed in the world of pop culture as the obsessiveness tendency in reality shows to focus primarily on trivial characters whose most primary focus on life is gossiping about their emotional turmoil or psychological dramas.

By holding onto and embellishing our pain with the powers of the mind, we ensnare our life-force in perpetuating a broken identity of ourselves that wastes our energy.  By overcoming the attachment to the pain body, we liberate a substantial part of our attention so that more of ourselves can attend to more positive things.  Yet, overcoming attachment to the pain body does not mean we no longer experience pain but entails that we recognize that even if we are in intense pain (whether physical or emotional) we still have the freedom to choose how we deal with the pain.  Some of the most incredible individuals in history were exemplary in their ability even in the midst of tremendous turmoil in their personal lives to still maintain their focus on the greater work to the whole around them.  For me personally, I often think of Gandhi as an illustration and his countless incarcerations, fasts and other brutalities suffered in the name of liberating his people (and humanity at large) from the grips of fascism.  Even in his most tortured moments, Gandhi never erred from pushing forward his greater cause.  I’m certain all of us can find our own personal models for such integrity.  Ultimately, what is of significance here is that it fundamentally comes down to where we are putting our attention and that is a power we all control.  It is truly up to us to evolve or degenerate.

            In the clinical interaction between practitioner and patient, it becomes of the utmost importance to aid the patient in becoming aware of the parts of themselves that are acting out the ego’s desires and what is the more authentic part of themselves that acts from a place of greater sense and responsibility; the part that is ever-positive and undivided.  Ultimately, we want to help others realize that on a deep level we are divided; that there is part of ourselves (ego) that is constantly striving to create a gulf within and compromising a sense of wholeness or completeness within ourselves.  A prime example would be a health practitioner who smokes cigarettes.  On the one hand, this individual has diligently trained to be a guide on the pathway of health for others and yet they fundamentally are destroying themselves by engaging in the unhealthy activity of smoking.  One can see clearly how insane this is.  As a reformed smoker, I for one have experienced this insanity first hand but for a long time did nothing to close the gap because I felt in my cultural conditioning that no one had the right to judge me and, moreover, that my smoking was part of some deep, psychological complex that would someday be alleviated when I processed it enough.  My teacher, Lonny, challenged me by asserting that judgment is reasonable in the correct context and to hold a stance of absolute non-judgment is one of the major failings of our post-modern culture as it merely allows all kinds of destructive behaviour to continue.  Thus, he did not hesitate in calling out another in our class for smoking during a break from class, judging him as a health practitioner with no integrity. 
Moreover, process has no room in healing.  Ultimately, engaging the power of freewill and choice, we can liberate ourselves from any vice the moment we DECIDE to.  Process is too often used as a comforting excuse to delay.  When one truly realizes the power of choice, time becomes meaningless.  The best time to quit something is NOW.  Changing any aspect of our lives is a choice away.

            As we start to shine a light on the ego’s workings in ourselves and patients, it becomes quite obvious that there is an aspect of ourselves that truly doesn’t want us to move forward in life, to vertically develop ourselves or evolve and take responsibility for the world around us.  If one considers the shape of our world at large today with its incessant warfare, environmental devastation, untold poverty, absurdity of pop culture etc. one beholds the work of the ego macrocosmically in the world.  Ultimately, the ego is quickly leading the world to its demise, as evinced in the words of a famous Pearl Jam song Worldwide Suicide.  We must all ask ourselves if we wish to be part of this destructive insanity.  We are all participating in the rife devastation of the world whether we’d like to admit it or not.  It takes a brief contemplation to acknowledge that the culture we are a part of is quite psychopathic and we are citizens within it.  The responsibility lies upon each of us to create and become the cure.  To do so we must realize that, as another teacher of mine, Luiza Ormonde, declared, to cure means to change.  Thus, if we want to heal and evolve the state of things on the whole, things must be transformed, and it starts with ourselves.
      If it’s still not clear that the ego within us all is insane I invite you to take 30mins to sit still in meditation and behold the throng of voices, desires and endless chattering of the mind ruled by ego.  As Lonny often says, when one meditates, one realizes how outnumbered we are.  When one considers this endless instability of mind, one realizes the brokenness and conflicts of the world are within our interior.  There is much work to be done and what’s exhilarating is that changing and healing ourselves heals what is outside of us.  Each and every one of us can become a part of the extraordinary work of usurping the ego’s reign and reinstalling the heart as emperor, a central canon in Chinese Medicine.  With heart reigning over us, we seek to unite all oppositions within us, to do what we say and say what we do and to ever be on the lookout for the parts of ourselves that are divided, no longer hesitating to begin closing the gap with excuses or attachments to the drama.  As the Gnostic Samael Aun Weor noted, it entails being as vigilant as if a guard in a watchtower during wartime.  At any given moment, ego may attempt to invade us, taking control over our minds and leading us toward entanglements of selfish desire.  Subsequently in answer to a student’s query about demons, Lonny asserted: “Demons can only possess us if we choose to allow them to possess us.”

This work is of the most exhilarating kind for we start to truly feel part of the evolution of the cosmos itself that wants at its essence nothing more but more integration (love), complexity (beauty) and lightness of being/freedom (truth).  We become no longer individuals but universal...    

Darren Austin Hall (Dipl. Ac. Ba Hons) is an integrated health practitioner who specializes in Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, Sound Healing and inspired living. He is a graduate from the esteemed Institute of Traditional Medicine where he received his Diploma in Acupuncture. He also has a certificate in Creative Transformation Therapy that he received after completing a two-year intensive with eminent psychotherapist and 'American Shaman', Bradford Keeney, who imparted to him the powerful tradition of Shaking Medicine used by the Bushmen of the Kalahari, perhaps the most ancient healing practice in human history. Darren is passionate to serve all people in the realm of health and help them create lives of artful beauty. As he constantly decries: 'You are what you are searching for!'

Reference Sources
October 18, 2010


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