I was recently sent this poem by Mevlana Jal-al-ud-Din Muhammad Rumi, the Persian Sufi mystic, poet and founder of the Mevlevi Order, the Whirling Dervishes. Thanks to Dr Angela McKenzie, who works with Reverse Therapy in Melbourne, for finding it for us. The translation is by Coleman Barks.
Two Kinds of Intelligence
There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired, as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts from books and from what the teacher says, collecting information from the traditional sciences as well as from the new sciences.
With such intelligence you rise in the world. You get ranked ahead or behind others in regard to your competence in retaining information. You stroll with this intelligence in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more marks on your preserving tablets.
There is another kind of tablet, one already completed and preserved inside you. A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness in the center of the chest. This other intelligence does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid, and it doesn’t move from outside to inside through the conduits of plumbing-learning.
This second knowing is a fountainhead from within you, moving out.
This poem gets to the core of how we see the difference between cleverness and intelligence in Reverse Therapy. Cleverness is intellectual knowledge, which we acquire first in school and add to as we store information about the way things work in whatever we end up specializing in doing. Rumi says that personal intellect (Headmind) can take someone to the doctor but it can’t get him well. To get well, to be truly alive, to know God we must rely on another kind of intelligence. Rumi gives this a number of names – Love, Intelligence, the Angel, Wisdom, the Fountainhead – and he sees it working through the Heart, the Body, the Soul and personal Mind. It is fascinating to learn that Rumi was the founder of the Whirling Dervishes – a Sufi order which relies on music and dance in order to prepare for union with the divine. The intense, ecstatic, complicated dance rituals almost entirely drown out Headmind and leave the Dervish open to the Angel. Rumi spent most of his life combating the dry, academic, nit-picking approach to philosophy that was around in his day in the 13th century Ottoman empire. He was famous for his simple, direct, personal, grounded approach to enlightenment. And that is why his poetry is becoming increasingly popular in the West now.
You can read some more quotes from Rumi on this link here.
Reverse Therapy is part of a movement, bringing together neurology, the psychology of emotion, information science and therapy, in which are revising the very idea of what it means to be intelligent. We are showing that intelligence doesn’t show up very much in the head – but much more so in the body.
In a way we are only redressing a wrong turn that was taken with Descartes and other seventeenth century writers who argued that only Headmind, or ‘Reason’, can think. Intelligence, for most philosophers and scientists, means thinking logically, scientifically and rationally. A disembodied mind that deduces the cause of something and predicts what will happen next – and can decide on the right or wrong way to do something. Even funnier than this, some writers think that only Reason can decide between good and evil, right and wrong. Try asking a computer if it is better to risk your own life for the sake of a child!
Our new take on intelligence is something like this: An intelligent response occurs when a) one piece of information is translated into something else b) the information is evaluated c) a response is emitted d) the results are evaluated e) information about the result is stored f) learning takes place.
A single-cell organism like an amoeba can do a), b) and c) when it changes the direction it swims in according to the amount of protein that is available to it. But it can’t do d), e) and f) because it doesn’t have a body (more than one cell) or a brain. But a dolphin, for example, can do all of these. Plus – like most human beings it can also do g) communicate what it has learnt to other people.
The evaluation bit takes place because mammals are capable of having emotions, unlike computers. It is Bodymind that does the evaluation – deciding whether something is important/not-important, good/bad or right/wrong. And this is why, in many respects, Bodymind is more intelligent than Headmind.
Bodymind translates what it senses into energy, into emotion, into passion and into alarm signals of various kinds. Here are some examples of the way in which Bodymind ‘thinks’.
• The body can ‘read’ other people and simulate an emotion that person is having so that you or I can empathize with them. In that way a mother can quickly tell what mood her child is in. This is also the basis for the human quality of compassion for others, even animals. Our intuitions about other people work in a similar way. Using sensory information, the brain picks up signals from the other person’s body language and – using a process that works in less than a tenth of a second – pattern-matches those signals against information stored from past experiences. That is why we can have a gut feeling that someone is not trustworthy within two minutes of meeting her without knowing why. The body is using coded signals to alert us to a potential problem.
• In collaboration with the thinking centers the brain can decide what is important or not important. If something is important to us we might get an adrenalin rush. If it is not we will feel nothing at all. Research into people with damage to the frontal areas of the brain (which decode emotion) show that they are unable to make decisions because they don’t have a good or bad feeling that tells them the right decision to make. Knowing what is important also helps Bodymind conserve energy. We can go without sleep if we are trying to achieve something really important. Conversely, if there is little for us to do, Bodymind can send us to sleep early. Or it could turn on the emotion of boredom to signal that it’s time to do something more interesting.
• The body can strengthen a relationship by creating emotions connected to love. Sometimes this is automatic, as when a a child is born. Sometimes it comes with time as we learn more about the other person. The emotions of love are, as almost all of us know, powerful and sometimes overwhelming.
• The brain uses sleep time to organize memories from the day just gone. It stores what is important and deletes the rest. It also creates dreaming states in order to work through the emotions that come with different experiences. This is one reason why insomniacs have poor concentration – they are overloaded with undigested experiences.
• Bodymind grounds us to life. It does this firstly through our moods. At any given moment the body is monitoring where we are, who we are with and what we are doing, and providing us with a running commentary on our relationship with the environment. Moods aren’t emotions but they are feeling states which work closely with our thoughts. The most well-known mood is the depressed state, which goes with discouragement and sadness. But others include exhilaration, calm, determination, discontent and the feeling of being ‘under pressure’. Most often, moods are hardly noticeable and form a kind of background hum which is constantly shifting as we go through the flow of the day.
• Another way the body grounds us to life is through the sense of awe: we are connected to nature, to the divine, and to life itself by the unspeakable sense that we are serving a purpose higher than ourselves. In that way Bodymind intelligently motivates us to make the best we can of our abilities and to serve others.
I actually found it hard to write something about this topic….nothing I ever wrote seemed quite right so I had to keep re-working what I wrote until it sounded ok…again and again…and it still isn’t right…..Seriously, the real reason I found it hard to write about this subject was that it takes me into an area in which it becomes hard to distinguish between Bodymind-generated emotions and Headmind-generated obsessions. So, thanks to one of my readers for suggesting this subject, you have stimulated me to work harder at making these distinctions clearer. And the result will be that I am going to write a series of blogs about pseudo-emotions like:
The first thing to get clear about is the difference between an emotion and an obssession.An emotion is a signal sent by Bodymind to let us know that it is time for action, in the moment, on something that is bothering us. So, for example, fear signals come up when we are in danger or are vulnerable in some way. Typically, fear is a powerful, visceral emotion that prompts us for immediate action.An obsession is not an emotion although like a lot of other states (resentment, despair, worry) it can feel like one. Partly this is because obsessions are mixed up with emotions created by Bodymind, partly also because they tend to come with the state of anxiety.An obsession comes about because Headmind is worried about something. In the case of perfectionism the worry is that the person can never get it right and will therefore be criticised, rejected and hurt. The basis for this problem is conditioning. Somewhere along the way the child’s Headmind picked up the script ‘No matter how hard you try you will never be good enough’. A lot of people blame the Parents for scripts like these although, in my experience, Teachers and Priests are often the real culprits.The pity of it all is that there is absolutely no need for anyone to worry about having to get it all right. If you are out of your depth on something then Bodymind will trigger the fear signal to tell you to go and ask a few questions or get some help. But this is precisely what is disallowed by Headmind – the Perfectionist cannot ask for help because that would be to admit failure – imperfection. So he has to do it all by himself.In later life Headmind keeps playing these scripts every time a new challenge comes up. So each time the person settles down to do some work Headmind triggers the worry first, and then the obsession with ‘getting it all perfect’. With the sub-script – ‘work harder, you miserable failure’. That can get very scary. But each time Fear is created to remind us to get some help that is interpreted by Headmind as fresh evidence that the person is ‘imperfect’ triggering the script all over again.Now, if you spend too long doing the same thing over and over again then Bodymind is going to create the emotion known as frustration. That will be prompting you to give yourself a break. But when Headmind notices frustration coming up, it misinterprets that as fresh evidence of failure. So the script gets triggered again, and again and again.I will write more about the solution to perfectionism and other obsessional states in a later blog. But the first step towards breaking free of the trap is to disobey the script, own up to being ‘a failure’ and go and have some fun instead.
When I was a child Death terrified me. When the elderly next-door neighbor who used to give me sweets died I asked my father what had happened to her. Reluctantly he mumbled that she had gone and wouldn’t be coming back.
‘Well, where is she now?”.
‘Up there’ he said, his finger pointing to the ceiling.
Even at six years old I was smart enough to realise that living in the clouds couldn’t be much fun. So I persisted with the interrogation.
‘Does everyone die, Daddy?’.
‘Yes – everyone. Everyone.’
From then, for quite a few years, I thought about it a lot. How could people just vanish? It seemed ridiculous. I would walk home from school and look at all the grave-stones in the cemetery. Here so-and-so had died in 1887. There a child had died in 1909. Over there, her grave surmounted by a huge, sorrowing angel, someone else had gone in 1956 – the year I was born. Once they had lived and breathed and loved – now nothing.
I mention this experience because it sums up the common dread of death: that we shall be nothing at all at some point in the future.
Let us leave aside whether or not there is an after-life. As it happens I believe there is an after-life, although not the one some people imagine, where we carry on as somehow the same person. But that is irrelevant. Because even the after-life, too, will have to come to an end at some point in the future. And then we – that is the person we are now – will most definitely come to an end
This problem is in fact entirely created by Headmind and the Ego. The worry is that this unique, ‘special’, person that I am will cease to be. That the world should not and must not continue without me.
The cemeteries are full of indispensable people – many of whom got there earlier than they needed to by trying to prove that the world could not do without them.
The solution lies in grasping that our terror of death only exists through a hallucination. The fiction is that we will go from life to death, from something to nothingness.
But when we are truly alive – right now – we know that we are a part of everything and that something lives through us that can never die. You can call that God, or the Divine, or Spirit but those are only names. You have to experience it to know it. And you experience it in moments of love, joy, awe, ecstasy and excitement.
Here are some examples from my own experience:
- Watching my children being born
- Kindness from a friend when I was at my lowest ebb
- Diving off the rocks into the Aegean sea at sunset
- Looking at Giotto’s paintings of the life of Christ in Padua
- Realising that Reverse Therapy was ‘my mission’
- Watching a healer at work in Brazil
In such experiences we know – through Bodymind – that something very powerful works in, and for, and through, us. And that something never dies. Only Headmind, and the ego, dies.
‘Nothing burns in hell except self-will.’
1. Stop looking for ‘cures’. The more you look for cures which fail the more focused you will be on your illness. The solution for Chronic Fatigue syndrome is right here on the Reverse Therapy website and it contains all the information you will ever need on how to be well.
2. Stop pacing. There is no evidence that pacing works. The reason it seems to work is because people are changing activities, not reducing them. Bodymind likes change so it turns down the symptoms when more variety is introduced. That’s especially true if what you were doing before was a chore.
3. Stop talking about symptoms. The more you talk about the symptoms the more trapped you will get in the illness loop. Bodymind wants you to talk about getting well, not staying ill!
4. Stop using M.E. Chat Forums and M.E. Support Groups. All you will ever meet are other people who are focused on illness. What’s more, some users are so trapped in suffering that they create negative energy which gets passed on to you. If you have made friends in a forum or a group then meet them elsewhere.
5. Stop withdrawing from people close to you. Your Body doesn’t create symptoms because it wants you to give up your life. It uses them to signal that its time to create a better way of life. And that includes spending more time with your friends and those you love.
6. Stop listening to medical doctors. With some exceptions (such as the wonderful medics we have on the Reverse Therapy team!) most medical doctors do not understand M.E. Either they don’t believe it exists or – if they do treat it as a real illness – they don’t know what to do about it. Either way you will just get frustrated.
7. Stop thinking ‘I will never get well’ and, instead, focus on what you need to do to in order to become just that. If you don’t know what to do then try doing anything that raises endorphins if you notice symptoms on the increase.
8. Stop waiting for the symptoms to go. Many of our clients have fallen into the trap of thinking ‘once these horrible symptoms go I can get my life back’. In fact the reverse is true: once you go back to an emotionally rewarding life, Bodymind can switch off the symptoms.
9. Stop living in the past, dwelling on all the times you have been miserable, ill and depressed. Instead, learn to live in the moment, being directed by what your personal Bodymind wants you to do right now.
10. Stop worrying about the future. The future is simply something people imagine. You can learn to imagine a future in which you are healthy and living the life you want. But better still, you can be guided by your symptoms and start creating your future in this very moment.
As Gordon Gekko once famously quoted Ayn Rand – in ‘Wall Street’ – ‘Greed is good‘.
Well, both Ayn and Gordon got it wrong. Greed isn’t good. Passion is good. And Greed is a Headmind distortion of passion.
What goes on here is that Headmind (or Ego, if you prefer) substitutes Being for Having, and Emotion for acquisitiveness.
Now some people have a passion for making money. It’s not one of my attractions but I can understand why some people get that way. And if they are living that passion then they may well be doing other people a favour by giving them something they want – or making jobs for them. But when passion is distorted by acquisitiveness then they get greedy – and obsessive – and lonely – and sad. They may even end up in the Penitentiary like Gordon did.
When you live in Bodymind (as I try to do) you realise that Passion is its own reward. Work, Love, Telling the truth and being Creative are exciting things to do. Its not a guarantee that you will be rich, famous, loved or powerful. That’s Headmind telling us that we are unworthy if we are not in one of those categories.
As it happens I recently made up a list of emotions (passions) which get distorted by Headmind’s need to have something rather than to be something.
Joy – Addictions (Headmind has to possess happiness rather than just being with it and then letting it go). The addiction can be to sex, drugs, love or even money.
Anger – Revenge (Headmind has to control the offender rather than just express and forgive)
Fear – Dependency (Headmind has to collect helpers rather than accept personal responsibility)
Awe – Religious mania (Headmind has to impose the truth on others rather than admit that Life is too tremendous to be understood completely)
Sadness - Grief (Headmind refuses to live without the lost friend, father, mother or child) and lives in the past, holding on to memories.
Love – it isn’t really an emotion but it is a passion based on joy. But its distortion by Headmind is interesting because when the Ego tries to control it, then it becomes jealousy or possessiveness.
Last week, while I was doing some Reverse Therapy with a client, he asked: ‘Are emotions ever wrong?’ Meaning, is it possible to be angry, scared, sad, etc. over nothing all?
To answer this question we have to understand what an emotion is. Bodymind produces an emotion through cellular communication. Cells in the brain (mostly in the limbic system) pick up information from the environment and trigger other cells to send signals through to the nervous system. The resulting changes in the gut, skin, muscles, lungs and circulation are experienced as a feeling.
An emotion is not a thought (which can be wrong). But neither are emotions irrational – they are what Antonio Damasio calls ‘somatic markers’. That means they mark something out for your attention. In that way they serve the same function as the pain in your foot that tells you your shoes are too tight or the rumbling in your stomach that tells you it is time to eat.
So emotions are cues to action. Now this is where some people can misunderstand emotion – they mistake the inappropriate expression of the emotion (which comes out of wrong work of Headmind) for the emotion itself.
Contrary to common belief your Bodymind does not want you to shout or scream at someone when you notice anger. A quiet assertion of your rights is quite sufficient. Nor does your Body want you to run away (another Headmind cop-out) when you notice fear. Getting your facts straight about the situation you are in, talking to others about your options, and taking one small step to raise confidence is all that is required.
Too often – as with my client – we are conditioned into seeing emotions as ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ because we have watched other people do destructive things when they get emotional. But emotions don’t encourage us to be destructive – just honest.
In my last post I mentioned that Zen has been a strong influence on Reverse Therapy and here’s how.
When I first started teaching people Reverse Therapy it wasn’t called that then. Instead it was called ‘Anti-therapy’. The idea was that it would be the complete opposite of traditional therapy. It wouldn’t waste time on analysis or belief-checking, or your ‘relationship’ with the therapist, or working out what happened to you at age four-and-a-half.
The other thing that made it anti-therapy was that we made friends with symptoms (or rather, with the Bodymind that produced them). If we could find out what made symptoms necessary we had a good chance of helping clients find a healthier way to deal with the situations in which symptoms came up.
All this was inspired, in part, by Zen. The Zen attitude to problems is to exercise awareness on them. Becoming fully aware – in the moment – of what is happening, without pre-judging anything enables you to see what is going on. So when you see why symptoms are necessary you are on the symptom path to enlightenment.
There is a story told by the Buddha (Gautama) meant as an analogy for the human condition. It concerns a man who is shot by an arrow who, instead of seeing his pain and doing something about it in the moment, insists on talking about the arrow – where it came from, who shot it, why it had to be him of all people, etc etc. This is what traditional therapy does. Gautama was himself anti-religion, seeing it as another obstacle to enlightenment.
Another thing we learnt from Zen is that Headmind gets in the way of enlightenment. Thinking doesn’t make you aware (in some cases it can just make you stupid – which is what Buddha is partly getting at). Zen exercises are designed to help people bypass Headmind. When you see that there is no answer to the absurd question ‘What is the sound of one hand clapping’ you are enlightened in that moment (although not necessarily in other moments). You have realised that thinking gets in the way of your experience, your awareness and your direct access to the way things are.
It is for that reason that Reverse Therapy teaches people to practice quietly sitting and sensing the way the way things are for them in each and every moment.
I have to admit that what also attracted me to Zen was its irreverence. It believes in no final wisdom, or teachers or even in the Buddha. There’s no better saying for that than the provocative Zen slogan: ‘If you meet the Buddha on the road – kill him’.
This is Part 1 of a video interview recorded by Chris Jefferson-Jones, introducing Reverse Therapy.
One of the daftest things you will ever hear is the statement that someone is looking for ‘peace of mind’. In fact some people spend their lives looking for it – and paying other people to help them find it.
By definition, Headmind cannot be at peace. Its function and purpose is to question everything we do and keep us looking for the answers. It wants us to be ‘right’ when Bodymind just wants us to be ok.
Headmind (what some people call ‘Consciousness’) goes about promoting your survival in the wrong way.
Bodymind keeps you alive by running the different systems – sensory, endocrine, immune, nervous, muscular-skeletal, digestive, excetory – in good repair. It also uses emotions to signal changes of action needed on your part in order to be loved, safe and happy.
Headmind is only concerned with its own survival – by making you into something you are not – your ego. And all the ego is, is the sum total of all the things everybody else ever wanted you to be or thought you should be. Your Head installed all these injunctions and plays the same scripts over and over again.
This keeps us running around like a ghost in a machine, forever trying to catch up with the person we think we ought to be. Yet it is the Body that creates the real self – our passion, our emotional truth, our desire to just be who we are without any conditions. We can see this in young children before the adults get to work on them. A child is blissfully unaware of having to pretend to be someone she is not. A child just is.
In Reverse Therapy we teach that people can reverse out of Headmind and find genuine peace by learning to live in the body, in awareness, in the moment.
One very strong influence on Reverse Therapy was Zen Buddhism. In my next post I will say more about this.
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