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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Scaer’

One morning several years ago I was on a contemplative forest walk through the fall foliage around the Omega Institute in upstate New York. I was ambling mindfully along, just taking in the brilliant diversity of the morphing oak and maple trees, inhaling the air filled with peat and chill and doing my best to be fully present in the moment.

Suddenly, up ahead the figure of a man appeared from around a bend in the trail. A small jolt of adrenaline coursed through my body as my brain made a quick assessment that this was not some sociopath out for an early morning stroll while taking a break from the pursuit of enlightenment. But even if he was, my size and the walking stick in my hand would have most likely served as adequate protection. Wild Mind doing its best to protect me from a potential apocalyptic future.

As the distance between us closed and I began to make out the features of the man’s face, a sense of familiarity began to arise. We both slowed on approach, each moving to the right side of the path to allow the other to pass. Our eyes met for a brief moment as we intersected. His had a twinkly glint in them. They were the unmistakable eyes of someone I knew but had never previously met. Two or three steps later, his name flashed through my brain: Eckhart Tolle.

Shortly after his book, The Power of Now came out in 1999, I read it and liked it a lot. I found it simplified and reflected much of what Buddha, Christ, Mohammed and a whole host of other wisdom teachers advocated: life is best lived in the present moment. Simple and easy to say, not so easy to consistently enact. Until that inborn ability is conditioned out of us by anxious parents and a condemning culture, children frequently tend to have NOW mastered.

Trauma-Catapulting into the Present

One thing that’s interesting about Tolle’s journey is his description of how, after decades of depression, he came to be able to fully reside in … NOW. Here it is:

“I cannot live with myself any longer” This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. “Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the “I” and the “self” that “I” cannot live with. “Maybe,” I thought, “only one of them is real.”

I was so stunned by this strange realization that my mind stopped. I was fully conscious, but there were no more thoughts. Then I felt drawn into what seemed like a vortex of energy. It was a slow movement at first and then accelerated. I was gripped by an intense fear, and my body started to shake. I heard the words, “resist nothing,” as if spoken inside my chest. I could feel myself being sucked into a void. It felt as if the void was inside myself rather than outside. Suddenly there was no more fear, and I let myself fall into that void. I have no recollection of what happened after that.

Contrary to what the promotional copy says about it, I don’t quite find The Power of Now to be a “complete guide, a complete course in meditation and realization.” I don’t think any teaching solely consigned to print really has that capacity. The minute ideas are committed to print (or a blog post on a computer screen), they lose significant aspects of their vitality. They become … ideas. In part, it is for this reason, I think, that many wisdom teachings are best transmitted orally, not to mention repeatedly.

Network Upgrading

From my perspective as a brain educator, there’s one basic requirement to be able to live fully in the present moment: free up increasingly larger network bandwidth; this increasing capacity can then undergird the support scaffolding necessary to provide and sustain the energy required to observe and calm heart, brain, mind and body when distressing thoughts or experiences confront us. Oh, and one more thing: Wisdom teachers who have made this journey and built such foundations frequently claim that mental underpinnings can’t be sustained without the power of the heart infusing them – the heart apparently provides the rebar to keep the foundation all of a piece when placed under great stress loads.

Without the strength that the heart provides – without the refined, super subtle energy of love – the present moment becomes quite elusive in my experience. Neurologist Bob Scaer does a great job explaining why in his article, The Precarious Present. Tolle’s description above of his body-shaking and his mind going blank, would fit Bob’s theory of “freeze discharge” resulting in bringing back online a reservoir of neurons cordoned-off from earlier traumatic experiences. Harvard neuroanatomist, Jill Bolte Taylor further underscores Bob’s perspective in the piece I presented several weeks ago from her book, My Stroke of Insight. We each need an “energy presence,” an Executive Director overseeing the full catastrophe that continually unfolds between our ears. Healing personal embodied trauma and the strengthened network that often results seems to be an important essential step.

In future posts we’ll explore ways and means of recruiting that heart presence. Enlisting the heart to sustain the capacity to fully and fearlessly live in the NOW ranks as Job One for ourselves and our children.

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My friend Sean and his wife Jaimee took their six month old son Levi in to see a pediatric urologist last year. She’s a highly respected, well-known doctor on the San Franscisco Peninsula. Let’s call her Ursala.

“Your baby has this urinary tract infection because you didn’t have him circumcised,” Ursala authoritatively pronounced, as she looked at Levi’s chart on her computer screen. Sean and Jaimee just listened politely and didn’t defend or justify their circumcision decision. They suspected that his urinary infection was instead connected to a very difficult birth that went four weeks past term and included two stays in the NICU in rapid succession within the first month of life. “You’re also going to spoil him by constantly fussing over him the way you do.” This was Ursala’s next pronouncement. Again, Sean and Jaimee just listened politely. When it came time to actually examine Levi, Ursala’s next comment was surprisingly contradictory: “Hmm. He seems remarkably trusting and good-natured. He’s doing well, when you consider all he’s been through. You’re very lucky.” Nevertheless, Ursala continued to lobby hard for kidney surgery, another traumatically invasive procedure.

L. U. C. K.

Levi had indeed been through a lot. But in Sean and Jaimee’s mind, the only thing that luck had to do with it was the fact that they were Laboring Under Correct Knowledge. As parents they have worked hard to become their own pediatric authorities. The first bit of knowledge they have acquired is that baby’s brains are sufficiently developed before birth such that they can unquestionably feel pain and experience trauma. Thus – and this becomes suspiciously apparent to any parent who has attended a circumcision and didn’t dissociate during it – intentionally inflicting a large, painful laceration on a very sensitive area of a baby’s body represents a massive betrayal of trust. With circumcision, the Big Brain Question has NOT been answered “Yes.” The people whom a baby most needs to protect them and keep them safe and secure, have essentially failed in that responsibility.


The Unkindest Cut

Bob Scaer, a retired neurologist and long-time medical director of a health center in Colorado, claims that the trauma of circumcision has lifelong ramifications, none of them neurologically positive. In his outstanding book (the rewritten, second edition), The Body Bears the Burden, he makes a very strong, medically-based argument that the trauma of circumcision may lie at the root of such things as ADHD and excessive male aggression. Sean and Jaimee have thus made what they consider a very informed decision intended to optimize Levi’s brain development.

To the Spoils Go the Victory

On the audio program, The Neurobiology of Healing, contrary to Ursala’s negative judgment, Scaer also claims that it is simply impossible to spoil a child under three years old. I agree. The brain of a child under three is simply insufficiently developed and requires all the care and attentive nurturing parents are able to offer. This is yet more of the information and knowledge that are making Sean and Jaimee pediatric authorities.

Worldwide Knowledge Explosion

We’re in the midst of a worldwide research, knowledge and information explosion right now. This development is working to make any of us authorities on virtually any subject of deep interest to us. In a lecture at the Carnegie Foundation for Education last year, I heard John Seeley Brown, former director of Xerox PARC, announce that in five years, all the knowledge currently known in the world will be available online for free! The last estimate I heard is that 35000 new studies in neuroscience alone are published every year! No single person can be expected to keep current. That includes our professional healthcare providers. By the same token, it allows us to become our very own authority in any area where we have the desire and motivation to do research and make in-depth inquiry. And as parents, teachers and counselors, we can certainly seek and find information and knowledge that is particularly pertinent to us, our students, clients and the members of our family.

Caring for Natural Resources

The acquisition of knowledge about things child and parent-related has long been a prime parental responsibility, one that goes beyond simply saying “This is how my parents did it, and I turned out all right.” When I hear that rationale, my question in response is often: “Compared to what?” How might you have turned out if your parents had known more than they did?  Had addressed and healed more of their own wounding? How much pain and suffering might you have avoided had your parents had more information available to them, especially during the first three years of your life, which we’ve now discovered has lifelong impact on things like immune function and protein expression in genes. Nevertheless, we now have the tools, and we owe it to our children to make the time to do the work of becoming our own authorities in the areas that have the greatest heart and meaning for us in order to consciously care for our most precious natural resource.

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