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With all the recent bad news, I thought this might be an appropriate counterbalance

I wonder how many violent or suicidal individuals would have turned out differently had their parents read and followed the advice in the above tweet.


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Mental Illness vs Terrorists – What’s Usually Left Unsaid

I normally don’t post mainstream stories because Earthpages is an alternative news source. We can switch on CNN and see the most visible stories any time of the day. But today I want to talk about something that has been nagging me for a while. And looking through the headlines, I thought I would say a few words about the concept of mental illness vs. that of terrorism.

“He wasn’t a terrorist, he was mentally ill” we’re now hearing. So… people belonging to terrorist organizations are not mentally ill?

What’s the difference between these two concepts?

The difference is that mental illness, the concept of mental illness that is, almost always targets the individual. The discussion on terrorism and heinous regimes like Nazism or Stalinism usually focuses on the group.

So what? you might say.

The point, as I see it, is that the idea of mental illness almost always overlooks the larger social and spiritual issues that contribute to someone behaving as if they have some particular medical illness.

To take a hypothetical example, consider organized crime wives who sit in church all day with a visible frown on their faces. Maybe they also see a psychiatrist and take antidepressants. Are these individuals mentally ill? Or does the fact that they’re all wrapped up in a system of violence, lies and, let’s not forget, cheating decent, qualified people out of work—might this not contribute to their angst?

Sure, these people can give to the charities of their choice to make themselves feel a bit better. But this is only a band-aid solution. They’re still complicit in swindling good, honest people out of their livelihoods (what has been called a white martyrdom). Not to mention killing anyone else who stands in the way (what has been called a red martyrdom).

As long as these people maintain a good cover and manage their connections to skirt the justice system, they’re not seen as mentally ill. In fact, some of these people are regarded as societal exemplars and treated accordingly. And let’s face it, organized crime isn’t just about the Hell’s Angels. White collar and clerical organized crime and corruption is just as prevalent. But we don’t hear about it so much because of what I’ve said in first line of this paragraph. So basically we have elements of the so-called upper classes bullying aspects of the so-called lower classes.

However, the lone individual who deviates from current social norms, even if she or he harms no one, is quickly given a label and viewed as mentally – that is, medically – ill. And all the “friends” of the so-called mentally person ill group together in organizations to support one another. In essence, society trumps the individual.

As one of my student friends once said, true individuals are often persecuted, and I would add, while groups can get away with murder.

The picture is far more complicated than what is outlined here. And it should be stressed that I’m not judging. But I think it’s time we peeled back the glossy veneer and started seeing our world as it really is. Ignorance is not always bliss. More often than not, it’s just ignorance. And that can do real harm.


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Chinese researchers conclude yoga benefits diabetes patients

Special to Earthpages.org

Researchers at China’s Binzhou Medical University, Xuzhou Central Hospital and Donghua University have concluded that yoga benefits adult patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM), said to be one of most frequently encountered metabolic syndromes worldwide.

An abstract of the article “Effects of Yoga in Adult Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Meta-Analysis” published online at Journal of Diabetes Investigation stated: “A meta-analysis was performed to evaluate the efficacy of yoga in adult patients with T2DM”.

Researchers (Jie Cui, Jun-Hong Yan, Li-Ming Yan, Lei Pan, Jia-Jin Le, Yong-Zhong Guo) summed up in this article accepted on June 29: Based on the evidence, yoga significantly reduces fasting blood glucose (FBG) levels and alters other significant clinical outcomes in patients with T2DM. These results support the idea that yoga-based training is a possible alternative exercise for T2DM management.

In this study, researchers performed a meta-analysis of 12 randomized controlled trials involving 864 patients in United Kingdom, India, Cuba and Iran to determine the effectiveness of yoga in patients with T2DM. The available evidence suggested that yoga can significantly decrease patient FBG, postprandial blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and increase their high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

Meanwhile, Hindu advocate Rajan Zed called the Chinese institutions looking into the efficacy of multi-faceted yoga among diabetic patients “a step in the positive direction”. Zed urged all major world universities to explore various benefits yoga offered.

Yoga, referred as “a living fossil”, was a mental and physical discipline, for everybody to share and benefit from, whose traces went back to around 2,000 BCE to Indus Valley civilization, Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, noted.

Mr. Zed further said that yoga, although introduced and nourished by Hinduism, was a world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilized by all. According to Patanjali who codified it in Yoga Sutra, yoga was a methodical effort to attain perfection, through the control of the different elements of human nature, physical and psychical.

According to US National Institutes of Health, yoga may help one to feel more relaxed, be more flexible, improve posture, breathe deeply, and get rid of stress. According to a recently released “2016 Yoga in America Study”, about 37 million Americans (which included many celebrities) now practice yoga; and yoga is strongly correlated with having a positive self image.  Yoga was the repository of something basic in the human soul and psyche, Zed added.


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Two Very Different Takes On Psychiatry

When I first found the website Mad in America I was quite enthused. I’d done my doctorate in psychology and religion. And one of the papers I wrote for a methodology course had to do with deconstructing different beliefs about the human self from a cross cultural perspective.

This involved stepping back and assessing the ideas of “truth,” a particular “personality disorder” as defined by the APA and the notion of “mysticism.” There seemed to be some overlap among psychology, society and mysticism. And I was keenly interested in exploring those sometimes contentious connections.

In doing so I never romanticized the plight of those who psychologically suffer. I know that these people really do have a tough and often confusing time. The question is why. And also, whether our culture and its classification and treatments are making this suffering better or worse.

Both of the following tweets address these questions but the slant is quite different for each.

Today, Mad in America seems like an overly biased web site in that it’s usually emphatically negative about psychiatry. I don’t think that’s balanced.

Having said that, Mad In America does play a role in alerting us to some of the abuses in psychiatry and the pitfalls of an uncritical acceptance of the psychiatric worldview. But again, I don’t think it tells the whole story. Life is complicated. And people do suffer and some are suicidal or violent. The latter two, especially, often need intervention not only for themselves but to safeguard the human rights of others.

This video, on the other hand, grew on me as I went through it. At first, I expected just another mouthpiece for the latest gee whiz stories about psychiatry which, in my opinion, are often deeply and unconsciously influenced by cultural assumptions and recent trends.

But that’s not what this video is about. I urge anyone interested to watch it. I think we’d be much better off as a species if more psychiatrists displayed this blend of optimism, an appreciation of history and, above all, scientific humility.


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Meds vs. Meditation – A Simple Answer Just Won’t Do

Today’s tweet links to a story that has some merit but also limitations. The conflict outlined here reminds me of related disagreements between Freudians and Jungians or, perhaps, artsy-literary folk and clinical psychologists.

After studying psychology, sociology and philosophy at the undergraduate level, philosophy and comparative religion for my masters, and then psychology and religious studies for my doctorate, I’ve formed my own opinions on the matter. But they’re not fixed nor dogmatic. I think each person’s unique answer to this conflict depends on

I suppose the last item could overlap with the first and second on the list. But for me, not all spirituality necessarily comes from or is on the same side as God. So the term “spirituality” itself demands some elaboration. This is not the place to do that. I discuss this idea throughout earthpages.ca. Entries relating to numinosity would be a good place to start if anyone wants to learn more.


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Time for “religion” and “spirituality” to bury the hatchet

When it comes to a God, religion speaks of a higher being that is distant from humanity, one that lives in what may be another world, such as heaven. Spirituality stresses that God is within all of us, and there is no separation between humanity and this greater being. (Source: Article in above tweet)

Every time I see this distinction I get the impression that the person making it doesn’t really know what they’re talking about.

For instance, during Catholic Mass it might seem that some people woodenly go through the motions. To an observer they might appear to mumble words and sit or stand from sheer force of habit.  But a mere observer has no idea what’s going on inside their souls.

Speaking for Catholics, some of my acquaintances tell me about their ongoing personal experiences with God, graces, and the spiritual intercession of saints. God is very close for these Catholic churchgoers. Also, the belief about the Eucharist, which many Catholics receive daily, is that the heavenly Christ appears in the flesh, right here on Earth. And for many, that is not just the belief but also the inner experience.

Sometimes when I’m going to Mass and see some unhappy looking passersby near the Church, I’m tempted to say, “Hey Jesus Christ is arriving here in about 10 minutes! Interested?” But I don’t, of course, because I have a pretty good idea what the answer would be.

I bet if a full person, replete with head, arms and legs were to appear out of nothing and broadcast his showtime later that day, the venue would be packed with crowds overflowing out on to the street.  But because the Eucharist is a miraculous and subtle transformation/presence of inner substance but not of gross outward form, only some appreciate it, for whatever reasons. And I get the impression that most non-Catholics, especially non-Christians, just think the whole idea is silly.

Anyhow, I digress. The point is, it does no good to make a black and white distinction between religion and spirituality. Not only is it theologically misinformed but from my experience and from talking with other believers, it is misinformed on an experiential level.


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Spirituality and Style – An oft overlooked dimension

Clothing in history

Clothing in history (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a college kid I didn’t take too much interest in clothes shopping. I mostly wore what was given to me. One day in a seminar everyone broke out laughing when I made a comment about “ivy league” types. I guess it was the colored cotton sweats and Lacoste (remember those alligators?) shirts that I used to wear. Pretty much all given to me.

Point is, I didn’t think about it too much. Sure, I knew they were “nice” shirts and that the poor didn’t wear them. (Let’s face it, clothes make all kinds of statements). But I also knew that I felt good in those clothes. That’s about as far as it went. I wasn’t consciously trying to elevate myself or put the less fortunate down.

As I got a little older I began to think about the connection between spiritual presence and clothes. Think of a judge, for instance, in all those elegant robes. Would she or he have the same effect if s/he just came to court wearing a pair of jeans? Well maybe, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

There clearly is some kind of spiritual connection between clothes and a person. I don’t think the presence is in the clothes, themselves. But it seems that wearing certain garments can bring on or be accompanied with a definite spiritual mark. And that can, as today’s tweet says, give us confidence or make us feel good.

So when the Bible says “care not what you wear” (paraphrase from the New Testament) I have to wonder just where that was coming from. And if it is entirely relevant to making it today. Also, it seems that women had more prohibitions than men.

Why am I not surprised? — MC

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