Holistic Health Practitioner
Integrated Classical Homeopathy with Therapeutic Massage & Yoga
Healing methods, in devotion to harmonies in nature, supporting interconnectedness of body, mind and spirit.
An ongoing series of informational & philosophical entries by Karen
A Commentary on the Works of Meir Schneider: Experiential Involvement of Movement, Breathing & Creative Visualization and the Impact Over a Lifespan
March 14, 2017
Taken together, movement, breathing and creative visualization are likened to the life essence of a person (Schneider, 1989). We can’t move without breath and we can’t breathe without moving and within us, is the consciousness or the ability to visualize, to observe, to conjure, to will. We do this all throughout our life, as we grow and develop our bodies and minds. Creative visualization can have links to the spirit; a way to assist in developing our soul, which in turn increases the developmental possibilities of the whole being in its lifespan. Since, I am now in my 50’s, this paper will be devoted to issues, as I age physically, emotionally & spiritually, using these three modalities to address things like stiffness, arthritis, dimming vision, including, maturing and developing. However, whatever helps us in old age, regarding diminished functioning, can help prevent similar things from happening too early in youth. Spiritual development can germinate at any age. Generally, psychological maturity, is happening all throughout our lives.
From my experience, visualization is conscious, unlike daydreaming, but like daydreaming, it uses imagination. It’s a positive form of imagination. Though it could turn into daydreaming, creative visualization’s ideal mechanism is more awake, as it’s purposeful with a specific aim in mind, all being more conscious. This ability can become greater and greater as we age, especially if linked to purposefulness and the greater good. Most of us aren’t born with higher consciousness, we wake up into this desire, as we mature inwardly. Meir’s work has enriched my ability to practice creative visualization on myself and my clients. When I want to form a new healthy habit, I need to visualize it, which can give me an affection for it, which helps me change. This works similarly when exercising…
Movement reflects life itself. When a single cell stops moving, it isn’t alive anymore. So, moving is more in line with things going, flowing and living. Exercise heals and develops us all throughout our life, whether we are learning to walk or trying to keep the stiffness in old age from taking over. Meir’s whole vivacity and practice, as described in his book, Movement for Self-Healing: An Essential Resource for Anyone Seeking Wellness, reflects this attitude that at any age, we can improve, so it’s not just about trying to stay alive, it’s a way to improve our life all throughout, including mind and spirit (Schneider, 1989). Meir is such a good example of how the formula of movement, breath and visualization all work together for this improvement of holistic health he talks about. One of his especially remarkable abilities is in his use of visualization. Creative visualization was integral in completing his healing capacity in actually seeing. Meir was legally blind, when he started his health quest journey, visualization was his launching pad, so to speak, to greater vision. In one instance, he had to imagine seeing the windows on a house and then he could really see them. In essence, creative visualization opened his eyes, along with his use of eye exercises (Schneider, 1989, p. 20).
Improving vision is welcomed at any age, but especially over 40, when even the healthiest eyes start to fade. The eye exercises I started to implement into my life were predominantly, “Palming,” in order to rest the eye muscles and nerves and “Sunning,” also to help rest the eyes, but also to stimulate the retina plus exercise the muscles of the iris” (Schneider, 1989, pp. 15 & 102). Palming helped me sleep, so I often did this in bed before drifting off. It was also interesting to learn about some new habits I could adopt to help preserve my eyes. One, to keep from spoiling my eyes, was to dispel from the unnecessary use of sunglasses, as being in the sun without them can help strengthen the iris, when not too glaring, which opens and closes the pupil letting light in and out when necessary, keeping vision stronger and less vulnerable to light sensitivity or night blindness (Schneider, 1989, p. 105). Secondly, to look into the distance often, while working on the computer or after reading or doing close work, will help to exercise the eye muscles, keeping them fit, while giving certain eye muscles a break, also aiding to preserve eyesight (Schneider, 1989, p. 103).
For general exercises for the body and stiff joints, I tried and taught my clients ones that do the opposite of our habitual movement patterns and those that help work on the whole joint articulation. For example, rotational or circular movements for joint mobility and walking backwards and sideways; rolling the whole body; bending sideways etc., all are very helpful in addressing muscles that are not being used well or enough. In other words, I affirmed Meir’s philosophy, which is also mine, if you bend forwards a lot; bend backwards, for example (Schneider, 1989, pp. 121-122). I came up with a variation for walking sideways (Schneider, 1989, p. 122). It goes like this: step, step, and step to the right side, then kick sideways to the left, keeping foot parallel. Then, step, step, step to the left, kick sideways to the right; continuing this back and forth 5-10 times on each side. It can increase heart rate, act as a warm-up and stimulate the hip crease, on the sides of the hip that don’t get enough attention.
It’s more demanding to do these postures or movements which I somehow skip over in my natural mobility, or the ones I am averse to do when exercising, but I experience a sense of liberation, when I work at these underused muscles. My body has changed by using this approach, since my thirties. And, this is a perfect place to practice creative visualization, as mentioned before, and even massage, to help loosen the jams, so to speak, in the body, but also in the mind and spirit, which really completes the process for me. Additionally, “expanding on inhale and shrinking on exhale” is beneficial to throw into the mix, when needing to create more movement and space within an exercise, such as these, as well (Schneider, 1989, pp. 131-156).
Attention to shallow breathing, as we age is a real consideration. Shallow breathing can create circulatory difficulties at any age, but can really have a discernable bad effect on the aging body. Our bodies do regulate our breathing naturally, but with chronic shallow breathing, the body can start to adapt to a less-than-optimal habit, sacrificing some of its full capacity of the operation. Continued unrelenting stress or the inability to release stress, is the greatest contributor to a shallow breath pattern. Sometimes, we go from stressful situation to stressful situation, following a downtime, which is not sufficient enough to expel the residual physical accumulation of stress chemicals (Schneider, Larkin & Schneider, 1994). As for me, my unconscious holding of my breath and shallow breathing has remained for years, even after my stressful lifestyle had been changed for the most part. My breathe pattern didn’t automatically go back to optimal on its own, with the reduction of stress.
Taking time to breathe daily, and space to recover, which may well include breathing exercises, will not only bring about this replenishment and nourishment that is needed, it will help bring about balance in our nervous system. It can put us back in touch with what full relaxation feels like and when we especially need to help ourselves recover after a bout of stress. The necessity to learn to synthesize stress is part of everyone’s life at all ages. The earlier we learn, the better in avoiding chronic diseases later on in life like, heart disease and arthritis (Schneider, Larkin & Schneider, 1994). I have personally felt more energy, since connecting more with my breathing patterns in this course and doing the breathing exercises. I have also sensed my emotions riding with my body and soul, a sort of wholeness-connection with a sense of freedom.
Some other symptoms of poor breathing even include, cold extremities, fatigue, and foggy brain or cognition difficulties (Schneider, Larkin & Schneider, 1994, p. 4). I can see how better breathing could help someone with memory loss, often occurring at retirement age, for example. But, again, at any age, this can improve, possibly by breathing better. Also, the aged need to maintain strength and balance. The only way to build tissue is through nutritive blood, which is circulated more abundantly, by proper breathing. This fact threads throughout most all common chronic disease conditions (Schneider, Larkin & Schneider, 1994, p. 4).
Implementing a breathing program has turned out to be one of the most important things I have learned I need to do in my life, and for the rest of my life. My program of exercises to achieve better breathing is taken from The Handbook of Self-Healing: Your Personal Program for Better Health and Increased Vitality. The first part of my program will include exercising the parts of the body that are housing and near the mechanism of breathing, helping increase my air capacity, by loosening and opening them up (Schneider, Larkin & Schneider, 1994, pp. 9-10). Then, I will add actual deep breathing exercises to create a “demand for oxygen” because I need to begin to reteach myself to breath more fully and in this way, I can break old patterns of holding my breath, which I have already felt the benefit of recently (Schneider, Larkin & Schneider, 1994, pp. 13-15). I am also realizing perhaps the pain and stiffness in my nearly 52 year-old body may be related to poor breathing.
Engaging in Meir’s program, has increased my understanding of the necessity to move, to breath deeper and to use the power of imagination, in creative visualization, for helping anyone to achieve a greater capacity for the whole-being approach to the healing process. This work has been very supportive, regarding my own body and what it may need to stay healthy throughout the rest of my life. I look forward to continuing to practice in this way and in sharing this refreshing perspective with others and my clients.
Schneider, M. (1989). Movement for self-healing: An essential resource for anyone seeking wellness. Novato, CA: H.J. Kramer Book & New World Library.
Schneider, M, Larkin, M. & Schneider, D. (1994). The Handbook of self-healing: Your personal program for better health and increased vitality. New York, NY: Penguin Books
Copyright © 2017, 2018 Karen M. Diefenbach. All rights reserved.
Humans are Culpable in Respecting Each Other
March 27, 2017
The law, unfortunately, doesn’t solve all issues in society, and probably never will. It is remarkably apparent to me, as I reflect upon the controversy of sexual harassment or other relationship-type struggles in history, like the notable McCarthyism era (Smithsonian Channel, 2016), the use of laws, which are used primarily to solve impassioned problems, can in turn, create crucially challenging circumstances or bigger more serious issues. When laws seem to be too black and white, in consideration of a very grey subject, as observed with these two particular examples, where all the facts and idiosyncrasies’ are not fully understood, it is especially true (McCarthy, 1991, pp. 718-719).
I remember when I was hired by a high-class hotel to put together a group of massage therapists to come into their hotel and give couples massage. It was a team effort for each couple. My job for the hotel was to come up with an improved business model for the massage team, as the hotel was getting complaints from their clientele about the behavior of the therapists and the quality of the work. The nature of the complaints were in regard to poor manners like, using the clientele’s bathroom; inappropriate chatting and as mentioned, low standards of massage skills. I was hired as a freelance vendor, so if I was successful, the hotel would keep calling.
Consequently, I set to work to find a team and train them using the information the hotel gave me, and, with my own background and expertise, I set up something very classy: higher work standards for the hotel. We did very well, and were there until the hotel sold to another company, which was nearly four years later. However, especially at the beginning, I did notice no matter what guidelines were in place, there would be a loop hole from time to time, so to speak, or a circumstance that would bring to light another issue, for which I needed to counter by putting another buffer in place. I used to laugh to myself that you can’t make this stuff up. No plan or rule was relatively solid until testing it out experientially, but even then, something could arise that I hadn’t thought of before.
Nonetheless, not only did I observed that the real workings of the program would reveal themselves only when working-on-the-job, I could see we all had to adjust and make changes accordingly, including me, which was a personal growth experience, as much as it was for the team. It was clear, success in keeping things positive and workable were attained by all involved, within this endeavor, if the parts were played well by everyone. In this way, the project and the team evolved. The point is, the creation of this went beyond the rules set in place. Besides guidelines, it was a matter of learning what really worked, maturity and taking in many more nuances than I could have imagined beforehand, as we went along in this journey together. In other words, we needed a form of education besides rules.
Unfortunately, the inclusion of education around this issue of sexual harassment seems as though it hasn’t been given much attention. Perhaps, the involvement of study ought to be visited with more cultivation. It may well help in bettering our understanding of sexual harassment in a far wider sense. I would like to suggest, when people are well informed about something of concern in society--the issue at hand may in part heal itself (McCarthy, 1991 pp. 718-719). I can strongly relate to this idea regarding the use of education in dealing with people and relationships in the workplace.
In my example above at my hotel gig, our group needed rules and guidelines, which could be viewed as laws in essence that we need in society, but we also needed flexible guidelines that could change easily. Besides this, as stated previously, we required the education and/or experience necessary to be completely successful. What kept my little network operative was my ability to be objective in gaining knowledge and relaying feedback, where needed, in order to make things function smoothly and as refined as required by the hotel. Had I not been skilled with a right measure of experience, tactfulness and training, and simply relied on rigid rules, I don’t think we would have been as successful.
The sexual harassment laws seem like they are virtually a one-size-fits all; not taking into account how work-relationships are formed, within the context of each differing work environment, causing cultural clashes, such as in the restaurant businesses, where some of the conduct that fall into the vague sexual category, may be part of the territory. Additionally, how these laws have been used predominantly and perhaps, recklessly, to solve this problem, has often caused further complications. For example, when companies have to pay exorbitant fines for something they have no part in, threatening the life of the business. Or, in creating a tone that inevitably begins to censor everything, which can give birth to another violation of our freedom of speech; and the propensity to use these laws exploitatively for self-gain (McCarthy, 1991 p. 719).
This to me does seem unfair and wrong and does reflect clearly the fine line between regulation and reason, as I am trying to illustrate with my hotel story. At the same time, I do think sexual harassment is a real issue in all of its degrees, and I do believe there are needs for growth in the attitudes around this argument, because people fall prey to this enough times and may not know what it is exactly that is bothering them, either. Contrarily, some people may just be clueless to the effects of their sexual misconduct and need to be educated. From my point of view, except for unattached-light-hearted flirting that can be let go easily, by both parties; any form of sexualizing that falls under the codes of sexual harassment, is not useful in my work environment whatsoever! I find it to be a drag. It seems it doesn’t belong there in any regard. I can feel my energy being drained right out of me. It’s like an aura that infiltrates and stinks up the atmosphere. I am not the only one who regards sexual harassment as a real stumbling block but, is most of it a real crime? What about those people who are negative drains? In some circumstances they have a similar effect, but we don’t fine them for being passive aggressive, for example.
General guidelines for sexual harassment in universities say that sexual harassment on any level, whether it be simply, “persistent unwanted requests for dates,” or out and out extortion, through asking for sexual favors, is damaging to concentration and one’s academic performance and self-esteem. Conjointly, a college could languish, if they lose a student or get the reputation of having an unhealthy environment that binds the ability to learn. Similarly, sexual harassment is damaging to businesses. For example, if the employee is hampered in doing their job, due to anxiety from sexual harassment; the company suffers from their lowered performance (Barnet & Bedau 2011. pp. 705 & 707). I really agree with this point of view and believe people are capable of living into a higher standard, evolving into a more conscious and thoughtful way of acting. No matter where we end up working, it’s good for society to become sensitive to the issues around sexual harassment. At the same time, laws alone don’t seem to be the solution.
Finding the right answer doesn’t look easy, but a combination of some of the things already discussed may help. I agree with lightening up on the laws in this regard, reserving laws for very clearly defined injurious acts like extortion, rape or attempted assault (Paul, 1991, pp. 711-716). Then, somehow bring in programs through social workers to create policies, not laws, in all our businesses and academic arenas, addressing all the facets of sexual harassment, with more education and psychological counseling. Part of this path ought to include ways for society to develop “empathy”, as a vehicle to understand the issues around sexual harassment. This advancing appreciation for others, along with promoting discernment for the professional and intellectual world, whether it be a garbage collector or a lawyer, is very necessary in creating conditions relatively free of sexual harassment (Goodman, 1991, p. 710). In this way, it may also be possible to do studies, such as I did in a way, in order to change policy to fit needs more astutely and maybe even more easily and quickly.
I don’t know exactly all the ins and outs to accomplish creating this kind of social reform nor how long it would take in comparison to what we have now. Perhaps, approaching it in a less arbitrary way, using experiential and instructive means; it could take even less time than the ordinary means to find ways of dealing with sexual harassment, appropriately, for all involved. I believe most humans are culpable in respecting each other and ought to be given a chance to become educated and live without superfluous dangers of losing their livelihoods or basic rights, like freedom of speech; and the expression of culture within the context of their work environment.
Barnet, S & Bedau, H (2011). Sexual harassment: Is there any doubt about what it is? In S. Barnet & H. Bedau (Eds.), Current issues and enduring questions: A guide to critical thinking and argument with readings. (pp. 704-707). Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.
Goodman, E. (1991). The reasonable woman standard. In S. Barnet & H. Bedau (Eds.), Current issues and enduring questions: A guide to critical thinking and argument with readings. (pp. 708-710). Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s. Retrieved from Boston Globe, 1991, October.
McCarthy, S. J. (1991). Cultural Fascism. In S. Barnet & H. Bedau (Eds.), Current issues and enduring questions: A guide to critical thinking and argument with readings. (pp. 718- 720). Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s. Retrieved from Forbes magazine, 1991, December 9.
Paul, E. F. (1991). Bared buttocks and federal cases. In S. Barnet & H. Bedau (Eds.), Current issues and enduring questions: A guide to critical thinking and argument with readings. (pp. 711-716). Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s. Retrieved from Society, 1991.
Smithsonian Channel (2016, November 23) [Video file]. Enemies within: Joe McCarthy Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNtVm7rpLsU
Copyright © 2017, 2018 Karen M. Diefenbach. All rights reserved.
Love of Nature: Important for Our Well-being--We Still Need to Evolve
April 27, 2017
Okay, so we have managed to put a man on the moon, and split an atom. We have figured out how to heat our homes to a comfortable temperature, even in climates like Alaska and Canada. We have sewage and running water, globally, for the most part. We have invented all kinds of machines and computer devices, which are very handy, making our physical work lighter and more attainable. Inventions like the internet have many useful roles, like in making the world “smaller,” so to speak. We are able to exchange useful information worldwide now. People can learn from each other, from all over the world; many of us can now see what we are all doing; share, exchange and grow faster, with this increase in the ability to communicate. If I want a recipe for some kind of ethnic dish, I don’t have to find a friend somewhere in my town or city to help me, which could take a lot of time, or may never happen--all I have to do now is, Google it. The shared information possibilities within my lifetime have been very welcomed. Many areas in life like, education, business, weather forecasting, astronomy, and science…any interest one has perceived of, has become more accessible, by this ingenious human invention of the computer.
But, it’s also very clear to me how inadequately we have taken care of many other things in the world that seriously need our attention. One being, the care of the environment (Bloom, 2009, p. 677), and, the other, establishing peace among all nations, within our own country, and with all living creatures (Leopold, 2011, p.676). There are, probably, depending on who is reading this, many other subcategories to be covered that may come to mind, like our healthcare system and the non-accountability of the pharmaceutical companies or how our government is functioning, but I would like to focus on peace and the environment, as I am feeling that if we were to concentrate on solving just these two, in a sincere way, we might be able to, in turn, address many other things, automatically.
Fortunately, we do have scientists and social scientists who are interested in an orientation that can encompass both the ideology of peace and living sustainably within the environment. Such has been done by the providential work of Edward O. Wilson, as described in his The Biophilia Hypothesis: We as humans were formed through nature and have an indispensable connection to all of the planet’s living things, which includes, natural substances and whatever animates everything in the living world. Nature has not only sustained us, but it has helped us mature and develop our minds, bodies and souls. The stimulation within nature was and is part of our nurturance, whether “positive or negative,” it has made us what and who we are (Gullone, 2000, pp. 293-306). The more we spend time in nature, the more we can consciously realize this necessity, whereby, the absence of nature cuts us off, not only from the benefits, but to the inclination towards biophilia (Kellert, 2015, p. 289).
Fromm coined the term, biophilia, and included it in his system of thought, which was an approach to help remedy the ecological damage we have caused and continue to produce. Erich Fromm offers us some ideas on how to do this. His advice states that before a biophilia model for the world can be implemented, however, a certain kind of socioeconomic structure must be in place. It’s common knowledge, we have been warned about our destructive unsustainable patterns, since the 1970’s, and it is clear, today, we haven’t done enough to address these issues. If we were at a tipping point nearly 50 years ago, where must we be now? The question is, when will we pay more attention? What will eventually turn the tide? What can be done now? (Gunderson, 2014, pp.182-183).
We also have Kellert, who has opened up this idea of biophilia, in his own way, through his “Nine perspectives describing humans’ relationship with nature” (Gullone, 2000, p. 305) and his work in the field of biophilic architecture (Kellert, 2015). The diversity in nature is so very important for the support of the whole biosphere. All species have a reciprocal purpose together on the planet. We also wish for this affiliation within nature and require its beauty. It’s encoded within us, but the less we connect with nature, the more we keep forgetting; creating a wider and wider divide between us and natural phenomenon, which is a great loss to many aspects of being fully human. For the past 200 years or so, we have increased our isolation, from the natural world, through the era of our mechanized society. This has given us less ways to take-in natural impressions, which has been shown to deaden the human being. Humans are not able to fully express themselves through the many ways nature gives them, if they are not in a biophilic relationship to it (Gullone, 2000, pp. 293-305).
Continuing with Stephen Kellert’s observations, it is through exposure to nature that we get in touch with our creative side, whether it be through art, symbols, science, pleasure, emotions or sense of reverence (Gullone, 2000, pp. 304-305). For our survival, we have learned to use nature primarily for food, shelter, clothing, tools and medicines, focusing much of our inherited talents on conquering nature, but this is hardly our full endowment from living on the earth. Here is where the problem lies. We are not only disregarding nature, we are disparaging ourselves. Perhaps, we haven’t matured enough to partake in the full extent of our inheritance. Maybe, our minds are stuck in survival mode, and we haven’t been able to expand ourselves enough to see the bigger picture, somewhat like a child or a teenager (Gunderson, 2014, pp. 183-185).
Right now, in office, we have a president who is rolling back the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); he is putting executive orders into action to press the fracking business onward, in spite of the huge demonstrations against it, and the damage it has caused with earthquakes and water contamination, not to mention the new science now regarding “heat-absorbing” methane’s role in global warming (McKibben, 2016). He is corroborating in the slaughter of the endangered wolves and endorsing hunting of bear cubs in their dens, while they are hibernating…while doing nothing to invest in green energy sources…This is a person who builds skyscrapers and who lives in a big city. It’s conceivable, he is a perfect example of being totally out of touch with nature and, as a consequence, has no conscience about how to live along with nature. According to him, we need to extract every bit of coal out of our rocks and even says, global warming is a hoax! What about pollution? Anyone who has lived between 1950 and 1970 until now, can and has, most certainly, seen a huge shift in the climate, and a huge relief when the smog was finally controlled in NYC.
What is also very concerning, there is an increasing body of evidence showing a growing problem of mental illness in our world, which has been markedly rising for at least the last two generations, particularly, children born in the later part of the century have been more prone to depression (Gullone, 200, pp. 309-310). Also, severe changes in children’s free outdoor play has abruptly changed in the last generation from 4 hours a day to 30 minutes, due in part, to their parent’s fear of them being outside, alone; and, to our new mode of play, which is in computers and computerized devices (Kellert, 2015, pp. 288-289).
Sources of study, along the lines of biophilic thought, have shown a strong indication that the natural world has a vital importance in the development of our children. One study in Australia was done with children between the ages of 5-12. It found improvement in them, on many different psychological levels, when they were exposed to the outdoors in nature. The specific attributes that were found to improve were: “Self-confidence, ability to work with others, caring, peer relationships and interaction with adults.” Another study has shown that critical thinking and “creative” play has increased in children who are exposed to nature, or who are in “nature programs” (Kellert, 2015, p. 289).
Further, people diagnosed with schizophrenia have been shown to do better in establishing a more promising recovery; having an actual improvement, while living in a more “traditional lifestyle” or, what is considered a lifestyle of the “undeveloped world.” What do those lifestyles look like? They are less city-like and, generally, of a slower more direct pace, which includes a close-knit family and a supportive network of friends, built right into their community (Gullone, 2000, pp. 307-308).
Depression, another psychological ailment, associated with the “developed world,” is very prevalent now worldwide. The more affluent, the deeper the pathology and the less likely one is to recover. Depression has also been linked to physical ailments such as, fatigue, weight loss, and body aches and pains (Gullone, 2000, pp. 307-310).
Some schools of thought, outside conventional medicine, suggest there are, often times, associate physical symptom related to certain mental states, but in order to enumerate each and every connection that has been observed, this would take us outside the scope of this essay. Integral wellness thinking, however, is becoming more and more acknowledged, which is to say, the body, mindful and spiritual aspects of healthcare are beginning to become clearer, and more fully understood. This may be something useful to keep in the back of the mind, while reading this essay, as far as in considering another good reason why we may earnestly want a friendly relationship to the environment (air, water, earth) and all other living beings (humans, plants & animals), recognizing that a biophilia stance is really a vitally important attainment to both our physical and mental health and well-being.
As we understand, regarding the biophilia mode of thought, this new connected thinking has been unfolding for many years. How can we reach a greater understanding as a larger group, in order to turn the tide of our destructive ways of exploiting our environment and ourselves? Should we market it differently, as a product of “happiness” (Bloom, 2009, p. 679)? Or, should we make scary films like they do in defensive driving class? All kidding aside, this is what I would like to discuss in the next section. I do feel we are at a threshold, currently, in this quest of living peacefully among nature. Even among these times of waring between countries, which as I will be pointing out, may directly subside, if the majority of us become less alienated to nature. I see many organized green-movement groups becoming more and more active, but on the other hand, as stated before, lethal steps against nature have recently been made by our new president, Donald Trump, on top of an already toxic setting, not to mention Big Pharma’s contribution to pollution (Harvard Health Letter, 2011) and its anti-biophilic corruption (Rodwin, 2013).
What does biophilia really mean, besides, “love of life” (Gunderson, 2014, p. 183) and loving all living things and sensing our affiliation, connectedness and need for the aliveness nature endows? To my understanding, it also includes the love (fears antidote) of the natural development of all living things, in order to thrive and advance in their own way. A sense of tending to the growth and livelihoods of all, like what, in essence, nature does with us, whether human or other species. An attitude of allowing the swell of life. An appreciation for the diversity in nature, including the multiplicity within humans, which makes life the mysterious thing it is (Gunderson, 2014, pp. 187-188).
Can we embrace the enigma, instead of narrowly trying to control the world, as it seems we are doing now? When we turn to biophilia, we are finding our way into greater awareness, furthering our evolution, and “unity” anew (Gunderson, 2014, p. 186). So, in practical terms, it could be about scaling back our extracting modes, and becoming more giving in nature; finding our legitimate role in “creation” by replacing what we use, taking care of what there is and regarding other living things as equals, thus, living more supportably, within the biosphere (Jarman, 2017, p.679). To find our complete rightful place in the world, whether individually or as a whole global society, would take an expansion of our consciousness. I believe this is our next important and larger step in human evolution.
I can understand hearing the word “equals” in context to living among all living things sounding unnerving; for as I write it, I have to acknowledge my own sense of fear. However, some other words like, justly, correspondingly, impartially and equitably may sound more attainable for now…Can we ponder this? I am trying…I do sense this is the right direction. This subject touches the field of science and the realm of religion or spirituality. For many, it’s understood there are certain ways of looking at the world from either a religious side or a scientific side. Why can’t we consider both? Here is where humans may need to do their most growing, as there certainly is common ground (Wilson, 2011, p. 464).
Nature’s beauty corresponds to the miracles of life and faith. Science helps us further appreciate these miracles. Science is relatively finite in knowledge, as spirituality has an infinite—expanding quality. According to Stephen Kellert, people need both for their brains to continue to develop (Gullone, 2000, p. 305). Environmental scientists, obviously, love nature. Love is at the heart of all major religions (Fromm, 1964). Further, both science and religion can serve as powerful forces to help preserve our environment (Wilson, 2011, p. 465). Along these lines of uniting separate fields of thought, Fromm’s analysis on this subject, offers us much on this topic of attaining biophilia through bringing in, sociology, economics, environmentalism, “cooperative” humanism, psychology, religions of Judeo-Christian thought and Buddhism, into one conversation, in order for us to construct a new paradigm, in “human [to] nature relations” (Gunderson, 2014, pp. 183-185).
Fromm says, our division from nature is due to the kind of creatures we are (less instinctive and more reason oriented) and in turn, this causes us to feel a “powerful fear of isolation and meaninglessness.” All humans have this sort of desperation, which causes a sense of needing to overcome this feeling of nothingness (Gunderson, 2014, p. 186). This touches on Fromm’s interpretation of the Bible. He describes the myth of the fall as an expression of our roots in nature; then, our division from it, to our longing to find our place within it. This is very similar to a person’s process of breaking away from their parents to become a separate entity, with a destiny of their own; only to be reconciled when they have gained their selfhood or grow-up into self-differentiation or “Individuation.” Fromm posits, this design was to help us evolve into our full potential. However, human perfection cannot exist without alignment with nature; without nature, humans are disordered (Gunderson, 2014, pp. 193-196).
Fromm explains that later in the text of the Old Testament, it describes our “solution” through a “messianic concept of peace (shalom)” (Gunderson, 2014, pp. 193-194). Fromm also acknowledges other traditions who were compatible with his thinking, including Christianity and Buddhism (Fromm, 1964) and the philosophies of Karl Marx (a socialism and philosophy, differing from the common concept of communism). When humans feel united with each other, and all living creatures, they inherit a sense of “integrity and independence,” which is the current to help them come to terms with their innate sense of desolation, reclusiveness or confinement, in order to feel whole and related. But, this concept of biophilia needs the right setting, in order to come into its full expression, within the human race. (Gunderson, 2014, pp. 193-194). Be that as it may, that doesn’t mean we can’t still acquire some more of these attributes, than we have now, through our individual efforts.
Fromm continues: Humans need to feel they aren’t fighting for survival and that they are equal, which means no ranking or pecking order, and they need to have a sense they have an open access to their full capacity. Currently, the way our socioeconomic system is set up, it produces many job situations, where people have to work within limits, becoming like “automatons unable and unwilling to develop their humanity freely and responsively,” forestalling the human being’s ability of establishing in themselves the biophilic sensibilities. As stated previously, we have seen more of this happening since the industrialized revolution (Gunderson, 2014, pp. 192-193).
As far as Fromm’s emphasis on the environment, he says, if we aspire to his humanistic views of knowing ourselves by cultivating our “thoughts, emotions” and usefulness, we will connect to everything in nature. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we innately correspond to nature. “Cooperation” with nature will bring forth the vacancy of war and spoliation, but this cannot happen, according to Fromm, as stated above, without “humanity’s formation of biophilous social character,” which, again, is a new social structure based on equality, love of life and all creatures, with an affinity for the growth of all things living, and in regard to their natural development and evolution, including a protection of all of nature. Biophilia is a total way of being. A person or a nation has to be fully engaged with this sort of mechanism. It’s not just philosophy, it’s a picture of an evolved state. In order to help us evolve, in this way, we need to become aware of the shadow sides of our unconsciousness, so we can become integrated into a full-self of biophilic quality (Gunderson, 2014, pp. 191, 196-197).
As we can see, this is a tall order and would take our evolving or the elevating of our consciousness. This is a lot of intentional work and, as we can also see, we may not have it so easy, as regards to changing the political scene, as Fromm knew. But, we do have a consumer vote and still have the use of a free internet, which guides us and informs us globally. We now can communicate at the speed of light. We also have some control over our own lives to focus, intelligently, on what we can do, individually, to create more biophilic qualities, within ourselves, and in our world; the idea of the microcosm within the macrocosm. This can also serve as an effective way to attract others back into a harmonious relationship with the natural environment. We could do this by studying the living world, caring for and spending time in nature. Also, sharing nature, implementing biophilic principles into our zoos, educational, religious and artistic arenas’ or, even informally, as in caring for our pets.
While researching for this paper, and having learned how the beauty of nature supports me, I was struck, one evening, by a beautiful sunset, realizing in this simple pause, I am being loved, and decided to turn from my activity and honor the moment. It was a reminder to me that even to behold a sunset is, on some level, stimulating a higher essence within, reminding me of my affinity, and nurturance through the natural world.
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Fromm, E. (1964). [Biophily2] (2016, February 22). Erich Fromm- Psychology of Nationalism (1962). [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcX53MuX0ZI
Gullone, E. (2000). The biophilia hypothesis and life in the 21st century: increasing mental health or increasing pathology? Journal of Happiness Studies, 1(3), 293-322.
Gunderson, R. (2014). Erich Fromm’s Ecological Messianism: The First Biophilia Hypothesis as Humanistic Social Theory. Humanity & Society, 38(2), 182-204. doi:10.1177/0160597614529112
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Leopold, A. (2011) Thinking like a mountain. In S. Barnet & H. Bedau (Eds.), Current issues and enduring questions: A guide to critical thinking and argument with readings. (pp. 675-677). Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s. Retrieved from his collection of essays, a sand county almanac.
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Copyright © 2017, 2018 Karen M. Diefenbach. All rights reserved.
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