MIND & HEART MATTERS: Struggles and ordeals
The recent Powerball thing had us all excited. I had three out of six numbers. Anyway my question is: Who is truly rich? The answer is he who has enough. In one study 95% of lottery winners, five years after winning, said it was the worst thing that ever happened to them. So find what enough means to you and enjoy your life.
My next question is how you define relationships and particularly marriage. Joseph Campbell called marriage an ordeal and my wife referred to it as a struggle when asked by a group of women what being married to me was like. I nodded in agreement to both their comments because relationships are not about the individuals but about the third entity, the relationship. So in a sense 1+1 =3 because the two are creating something new, a third entity, and it takes work to develop a relationship and move beyond personal needs and desires to the needs of a healthy relationship. So don’t give up on your relationship. Help it to grow and become a distinct entity you can all appreciate.
Now think about what alone and lonely mean to you. Loneliness can make you more susceptible to illness and other problems. While being alone is another experience and has a lot to do with how you feel about being with yourself and your feelings of self-worth and esteem. We see from this that the Sages understand that the word “alone” is a positive attribute and a form of emulating the Almighty. “Alone” means that you have an independent attitude and perspective. The Mishna (a teaching) in Pirke Avot 4:1 (Chapters of the Fathers — a compilation of Jewish wisdom) defines four key terms: “Who is the wise man? The one who learns from everyone. Who is the strong person? The one who conquers his negative impulses. Who is the wealthy person? The one who is happy with his portion. Who is the honorable person? The one who honors others.” So simple and true.
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz explained the Mishna in light of the positive attribute of being alone — that every person can only obtain the most important things in life independently of anyone else. The important things depend on your attitude and perspective. Wisdom is an approach to life, not a comparative contest. The wise man is the individual who does not compare his wisdom to that of others, but because of his love for wisdom he chooses to learn from everyone, for each person has wisdom to share. True strength is having the ability to overcome your negative tendencies and impulses. If it were dependent upon being victorious over others, as soon as someone else is stronger, you are no longer the strong man. True strength is only dependent upon yourself. Wealth is not dependent on how much money you have or the number of your possessions. If it were, then you could lose your entire wealth overnight. Rather, true wealth is feeling joy for what you do have. If honor were dependent on how others treat you, what are you supposed to do if others decide not to honor you? Woe to a person whose honor is dependent on the whim of others. True honor is up to you. You are honorable if you honor others regardless of how others treat you.
I know honoring yourself and others is a difficult choice and road to take when you have grown up with indifference, rejection and abuse but you are not the problem; those who mistreated you are and by honoring and loving them you will become a love warrior and change their lives too. Never forget you are a divine child and deserved to be honored by me and others even when we don’t like how you are behaving.
Erich Fromm said, “Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself.” I call life a labor pain of self-birth. The problem is when you let others inflict the pain upon you it is not truly helping you to create your unique and authentic self. A woman wrote a poem comparing nine months of pregnancy to twelve months of radiation and chemotherapy. The two paragraphs start with I watch my body change and finish with nine months pass I give birth to my child all the discomfort and pain is now justified and twelve months pass I give birth to myself all the discomfort and pain is now justified. So remember do not let others prescribe the labor pains you must endure. They are for you to choose and not others to prescribe and when you are empowered the side effects are greatly reduced.
As my friend Buddha said, “Everything is based on mind, is led by mind. If you speak and act with a polluted mind, suffering will follow you, as the wheels of the oxcart follow the footsteps of the ox. Everything is based on mind, is led by mind, is fashioned by mind. If you speak and act with pure mind, happiness will follow, as a shadow clings to a form.”
It is a good thing he was not a doctor because everyone would have criticized him, as they did me, for blaming his patients. When I discussed mind body relationships and the role of emotions in health I was criticized and on all the well-known talk shows with doctors happy to argue with me. Times have changed and this is not about guilt and doing it wrong but about doing it right, healing your life and seeing your body benefit too.
The following quotes by Albert Schweitzer remind me of the words I place before you life and death good and evil; choose life.
Late on the third day, at the very moment when, at sunset, we were making our way through a herd of hippopotamuses, there flashed upon my mind, unforeseen and unsought, the phrase, “Reverence for Life.”
Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.
If you want to find this place in your life start writing poetry. Write about what touches your heart and stirs your emotions and it does not have to rhyme I am talking about becoming aware of what you experience and recording it so it is not stored within you where it can damage your life and body. Also let me make it clear if something makes you happy or brings love into your life write about that to. We tend to focus on the pain we experience and not the joy. Also by writing you can say many words without opening your mouth. When the barn burns down we are very upset but when the absence of the barn allows us to see the full moon…..ah!
I will close with two stories; one of which happened to me when visiting the Bronx Zoo. I entered an area where a fence was missing and discovered it was the tiger area, I grabbed a vine and slid down the side of a cliff and started yelling for help. There was a tiger above and when I looked down another tiger was sniffing my feet. So I just hung on waiting for help and then a white and a black mouse showed up and started gnawing at the vine I was holding on to. I noticed a luscious strawberry and hanging on with one hand I grabbed the luscious strawberry and how sweet it tasted.
A CEO I know, after needing an amputation, fired one of his employees for constantly telling him, “Something good will come of this; God is redirecting you; It is a spiritual flat tire,” and more. He was fed up with his attitude in the midst of his physical and financial difficulties. He then went on a safari to a remote area in Africa to get away and relax. To make a long story short he was captured by a tribe of cannibals and they were about to cook and eat him when one of them examined him and noticed the artificial leg. He immediately untied and released him explaining they do not eat imperfect people as their imperfections could contaminate their tribe. When my friend got home he rehired and promoted the employee he had fired and apologized for what he had done. The employee said it was a good thing because if he hadn’t fired him he would have gone on the trip and been eaten. And I don’t make up any of these stories.
Peace, Love & Healing,
Bernie Siegel, MD
“I’d get pregnant if I could be assured I’d have a puppy.”
— Cynthia Nelms
“That married couples can live together day after day is a miracle the Vatican has overlooked.”
— Bill Cosby
I am ending my evening Simsbury group and will replace it with a mind, heart & health matters monthly support group in Woodbridge beginning the first Wednesday evening of the month at Coachman’s Square on Bradley Road. If interested contact Lucille Ranciato at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-288-2839; or myself email@example.com for details. My web site also has the information in more detail: www.berniesiegelmd.com.