Double Take

'When you've seen beyond yourself, then you may find peace of mind is waiting there. And the time will come when you see we're all one, and life flows on within you and without you – George Harrison


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Double Take (published in the Society of Homeopaths Journal Spring 2017) by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley

Double Take
(Spring edition 2017, The Journal of the Society of Homeopaths)

Do you practise homeopathy only with your head – or does it involve your heart and soul too? Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley have differing views…

RJR: Practising homeopathy is quite a heady experience. Analysing cases, choosing methodologies, selecting rubrics, comparing repertorisation and differentiating remedies – these skills all involve the part of our brain that is rational. Our lucidity enables us to be the objective, grounded and clear-thinking unprejudiced observer that Hahnemann encouraged.

And we know that practising homeopathy is a very hearty experience too. Often it is the empathetic wounded soul within that awakens us to our purpose and journey as homeopath and healer in this lifetime. And our infinite compassion undoubtedly fuels our desire to help others in need.

But I wonder what ingredients of our inner being support us to remain consistently present throughout our years in practice, endlessly empowering us to stay motivated, open and willing to persist in service.

For me, my practice as a homeopath, is an extension of my practice as a human being. In life I am boundlessly curious to discover the keys to unlock the obstacles that stand in the way of my healthy journey forward. In our current era of mass deception by corporations and the media, coupled with the persistent myopic and mechanistic medical model, it takes an unbreakable kind of mindfulness for us not to be hoodwinked into dropping down into a hidden well of suppression and toxicity.

I perceive my trail ahead of me, and I am excited by the view. My journey so far has not exhausted or broken me, but has imbued me with a special kind of wisdom and understanding. And in the holding of that light, I am forever motivated to share it with others.

I see my life past as one of many lessons learned, and my future self as a vessel for that continued learning. Each heartbreak, trauma and loss brings to consciousness a part of me that I did not know existed, and I use that dynamism to carry me forward. I actively resist resistance, with the awareness that the more I evolve, the more I am able to empower myself – and guide and empower others.

To adapt Kahlil Gibran’s sentiment, the healing comes through you but not from you. I know when I sit with my patients that my intention to heal and transform, the potency of the words with which I choose to enquire and flow, the field in which I work, and the ability to perceive a person’s essence, comes through me, because I am open and receptive to embody a healing vehicle for them. I feel the support of the animals, minerals and plants from whom we have come, and with whom we share this planet. I feel their connection and energy, as I do that of the person with whom I sit, who has come to me for help.

And for myself and my life, and my practice as homeopath, Dylan Thomas’ words resonate: ‘Do not go gentle into that good night – rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ My dying I will accept in peace, but while living, I will let his words ignite me with endless fire to continue on my quest – and support others in theirs.

NS: I tend to be passionate about the things I feel are right – sometimes too passionate. But the passion in my approach to homeopathic practice was always cooled by a vision of being as down-to-earth as an old-fashioned family GP.

I wanted to employ the potential of homeopathic remedies to help with everything from babies with eczema, to adults with midlife crises, and the elderly with chronic ailments for which allopathic approaches seemed to have very little to offer.

I recognised that my desire to be part of an alternative healing process was born out of my own experiences (and those of many others) with conventional medicine, and was also (for good or ill) part of an anti-establishment attitude.

I did not and do not see it as part of some deeply spiritual journey – either for me or for the patients. People get ill – we all get ill – and there are natural ways to rebalance people’s health and get them closer to being whole again. Homeopathy is one of those ways, along with a number of other long-established non-allopathic therapies from all over the world.

If, as practitioners, we employ the wisdom of nature – herbs and minerals and nutrition or massage and bodywork systems or energetic medicine – it doesn’t necessarily make us mystics or shamans.

Hahnemann always stressed that homeopathy was a science, and by practising it according to the basic laws that he discovered and laid down for us to follow and possibly develop, we are – or should be – behaving like scientists.

Yes, homeopathy is also an art – but it may not be helpful if we lose the balance between science and art and sway too much towards the “creative” approach to homeopathy.

We have knowledge of and access to hundreds of healing remedies and these can be employed for the good of those who are suffering. This is a wonderful and at times seemingly miraculous thing – but maybe it is good to keep ourselves rooted in practicalities rather than float off into clouds of self-discovery and spiritual significance.

I am retired from practice now. But recently I took my first case in many months for a friend suffering with a chronic ailment that nothing else could help. Within days of taking the remedy, their symptoms had gone and they remain well. My passion for homeopathy – and my amazement at its effectiveness – has been reignited.

RJR/NS: Homeopathy is a serious business – for both practitioner and patient. Whether the homeopath’s natural tendency is to be either spiritual or earthly, they need to combine passion with practicality, and art with science. As long as we strive to be ourselves – with openness and honesty – we can do our best for others.


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Talking About Our Emotions Guiding Us by Nigel Summerley and Rowena J Ronson

Talking About Our Emotions Guiding Us by Nigel Summerley and Rowena J Ronson
Image: Clarity by Rowena J Ronson

RJR: Have you ever thought why we actually have emotions, and how they actually might serve us? I am interested in exploring our primary emotions in this Double Take with you Nigel, and I also welcome our readers to contribute. What do you think our feelings of anxiety might be trying to tell us?

NS: We have given labels to all sorts of emotions, as if they were colours of the rainbow or different species of birds, but in reality perhaps there is only emotion and emotional responses. Anxiety or neurosis, or whatever we call it, does not come out of nowhere and take control of us. It is actually us. This is what we are. So what that feeling is telling us is this is what you are. But then we are capable of having – and being – what we call ‘mixed emotions’. So what meaning does that have for us?

RJR: I am wondering about the role of anxiety telling us there is something wrong in our lives that we need to put our attention to. What do you think about that?

NS: Yes, that must be right. The anxiety is a sign of our dis-ease and we need to attend to that. Sometimes our anxious state can be triggered by external events, for example, just out of the blue, suppose an idiot or a bigot became the head of state of a major power in the world – it would be quite understandable for us to be in an anxious state. We can attend to our internal imbalances, hopefully, but what do we do about being anxious for an arguably good reason?

RJR: What a great question. Well I think there is much we can do internally to keep our equilibrium when something external creates dis-ease in our emotions. I think the answer lies in how we choose to think about a situation. Do we allow ourselves to be influenced by the media, for example? Do we have the opinions of certain people whom we trust? Do we have our own self-reflection process to rely on to get us back into our own state of balance? Do we know how it feels to be balanced? For me Donald Trump, at this time, represents for people the issue of change. None of us are mind readers, but most of us resist change. And for those that resist, change brings about anxiety….

NS: Obviously, I don’t want to talk too much about Donald Trump, and I think that your answer spells out how to look at our anxious state when it is created by outside factors. But aren’t there times when it is completely the right thing to be in an anxious state? Or a state of fear? Suppose you are being attacked or having to confront a bully?

RJR: Absolutely! The oldest part of our brain – our reptilian brain – will hopefully save us from danger by triggering numerous chemical reactions in our bodies to enable us to either protect ourselves or move us swiftly out of danger, by way of our fight or flight response. But what happens if the danger is more chronic? Suppose we are doing something in our lives that is not sustainable? Perhaps we are in a relationship that we know is not good for us or we are living beyond our means? Perhaps we are not taking care of our health or forever procrastinating on something that we know we need to address? Do you think our system sending out anxiety is a good way to help us to focus in?

NS: Yes. In those ‘acute’ situations, fear or anxiety spur us to action – it’s all instantaneous. The ‘chronic’ situation you mention is different, of course. But I would argue that our system isn’t ‘sending out’ anxiety – we are that anxiety – it’s how we are and how we live – and we do everything in a constant state of anxiety. If that becomes our normal way of being, how can we get out of it?

RJR: Mindfulness teaches us that we are separate from our thoughts and our feelings to a certain extent, and by perceiving ourselves that way, we can calm ourselves out of anxiety. I am not sure that we all do live in a constant state of anxiety. So in answer to your question – mindfulness.

NS; How can the thinker be separate from the thought? Isn’t it only when there is awareness (or mindfulness, if you like) that there is no separation, that there may be clarity? I didn’t intend to suggest that we are all living in a state of constant anxiety – I was just referring to when we are in that state. The question remains: are our emotions useful or do they make life more difficult?

RJR: Mindfulness is a practice. If you see that you have control over your thoughts, then the result is that you have control over your thoughts. Your thoughts define how you feel, so you can influence both. The separation can lead to clarity, especially when we are overwhelmed by circling thoughts, and intense feelings. Our emotions guide us, I believe. They all serve a purpose somehow.

NS: If ‘you’ and ‘your thoughts’ are inseparable, I can’t see how the former can control the latter. We probably have to disagree here. But we may not act on thoughts, for example, we might feel like killing someone, but it’s unlikely that we will actually do it. Emotions are a guide, and maybe we need to embrace them. Maybe they are proof that we are alive. Could we live without emotions?

RJR: In my reflective process today, I have chosen to have different thoughts than I did yesterday, yet I am still me. I am so much more than my thoughts. I agree it is a great idea to embrace our feelings. That is why we experience them. If we are feeling sad, the best way through that sadness, however painful, is to experience it. What is life like for those who suppress anger? A life without feelings is a regular complaint of people on antidepressants. They come to my practice in order to find an alternative, and most say that they cannot feel their emotions, and they are suffering as a result.

NS: Sorry to be argumentative, but isn’t choosing to have different thoughts… a thought? I think we agree about embracing emotions such as sadness – rather than go into denial about them or to spend our time wishing things were different to how they are. Emotions may be the best guide to what is going on with us, yes?

RJR: I would say it is more of a process than a thought. Emotions are our guide to finding out truth in any given situation. What do our readers think?

NS: Emotions are definitely a guide we should pay attention to in this complex area of thought, choice, decision and understanding. And sometimes perhaps doing nothing but paying attention – or even doing nothing – may lead to fresh insight. I think we definitely need some input from our readers on this.


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Talking About Food Addiction by Nigel Summerley and Rowena J Ronson

Talking About Food Addiction by Nigel Summerley and Rowena J Ronson

curvaceous

Image: Curvaceous by Rowena J Ronson

NS: Karen Carpenter was a beautiful young woman with a sublime singing voice – and she was a great drummer. You don’t get many combinations better than that. She should surely have had a happy and fulfilling life; but at the age of 32, she was dead from anorexia. Why would someone who appeared to have it all bring about, in effect, their own death? And why does our relationship with food seem to play such a large role in some mental and emotional dramas?

RJR: Your words bring up a lot of questions for me, including what does it mean to be happy? There is also a ‘should’ in what you are saying. Should Karen Carpenter have been happy and fulfilled, following her purpose in life. If only the human brain were that simple. If we were all content, would none of us have an eating disorder? What do you think?

NS: I was probably saying something naive to suggest that musical brilliance would equate to a happy life. How much great music has been created by troubled souls? And it may well be that contentment eludes almost all of us. But how does discontent become linked to food? Is this all about our image of ourselves? Or is there also something else going on?

RJR: It seems musical brilliance can often lead to the exact opposite of a happy life. Kurt Cobain, Nick Drake, Ian Curtis and Jimi Hendrix are examples of those troubled souls you mention. As for food, we derive such comfort from eating, don’t we? An unhealthy relationship with food is encouraged from when we are very young. Our parents control us by depriving us of or treating us with food. Young babies can take some control back by not eating and seeing the impact it has on the emotions of the caregivers. I think food issues such as anorexia go way deeper than image…

NS: Yes, food can be very comforting and very satisfying – and instantly. In this respect, it may be much more potent than the other things we seek to give us comfort and satisfaction. But if it fails to give sufficient comfort, do we then feel we have to have more of it? Is this one of the roads to obesity? Food also does seem to be tied up with reward and punishment – and that presumably can include punishing ourselves, either through giving ourselves too much or too little food. If food were not so readily available as it is in the so-called developed world, would it be the potential problem that it is? Have we lost sight of what food is actually for?

RJR: From working with a great many binge eaters, I hear that mostly the overeating leads to discomfort. On a basic level, though, we all overeat. We all put way too much focus on food. We need far less than we feel we do – and this obviously does not just relate to food. And our minds become very used to excess. What feels like a normal portion one day, can subtly be expanded to a whole new ‘normal’, and it goes on. I agree that reward and punishment play their part in our food story. Small children often feel they can take control of their parents by using food as leverage. And this of course stems from society where food is given as treats. From the patients that I have seen with anorexia, I don’t think that they believe that they are punishing themselves by not eating. And I am not sure it is about availability of food either. It goes a lot deeper than that.

NS: If food were not so readily available – and over-available – would food-related problems still exist? I’m sure you’re right that we all eat too much, putting our bodies under excessive strain through having to process it all. But if anorexia has very little to do with food, as seems likely, then what do you think is going on?

RJR: You ask good questions. I guess there are not many overeaters in Tanzania! But over here in the West, we are conditioned to base everything around eating. In terms of anorexia, each person tells their own story. What do you think might be a reason to start that level of control over oneself?

NS: It does seem to be about control in some way. But is it control taken to the point of self-harm? Discipline taken to a point where it is almost punishment? You have said that it is not about punishment and imply that it is more about self-control. We usually use the term self-control as a virtue. Does the anorexic see their behaviour as virtuous or good? Could it even be more than control? A sort of triumph of the mind over the body?

RJR: Good questions, and I am sure it is different for different people. The control and lack of control all seem part of it. Seeing it as a triumph would be a delusion anyway. All of this lies in the unconscious mind, so we can only guess what is going on for each individual, and they will not really know either….

NS: In that case, is it as far as we can go to say that somehow the outer reflects or exhibits the inner. That the physical appearance is indicative of the inner turmoil – just like a frown or a grimace but more extreme, and more “controlled”? Is it a form of wordless language – saying something like: “Look, this is what is going on inside me”?

RJR: And that is a great question with which to open up this discussion to our audience. I invite our readers to contribute.


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The Cancer Test by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley, photograph by Rowena J Ronson

The Cancer Test by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley

Tinkering by Rowena J Ronson

Photograph, Tinkering by Rowena J Ronson

RJR: There is a new test that is about to become available which can detect if you are going to ‘get’ cancer within the next thirteen years. So my question to Double Take readers, and to you Nigel my fellow dialoguer is, would you take the test?

NS: Why would anyone NOT take the test? I just took a test for bowel cancer – and have been told I’m OK. I recently had a check-up for skin cancer (because I’d had a skin cancer a couple of years ago) and have been told I’m OK. I think many medical tests give false positives and false negatives, but somehow they’re still kind of reassuring when they tell you that you are all right. There are, of course, other more complex answers to your question. But what would you do?

RJR: It was a question posed on LBC yesterday but unfortunately I did not get a chance to listen to the call-in, or contribute for that matter. I suspect that awareness and funding play a part. But you are right, I am looking for a dialogue that covers the wider and yet more personal aspects of the discussion. With new knowledge that only 1% of our susceptibility to disease is genetic according to modern epigenetic science, awareness that there is a probability that we might create malignant cancers in the future, could be a good thing for many. I guess it will depend if we are realists or relativists, and whether we feel by living our life differently we can create change. It could be possible that knowing would create a defeatist attitude, depression, and an inability to enjoy life in the now for fear of the future. Or it might be that we will be empowered to do everything we can to take care of our health in the hope that by doing so, we will change our susceptibility and not allow disease in the future to flourish.

NS: Isn’t it the case (statistically) that in the next 13 years we all (or at least the older ones among us) have a very good chance of “getting” cancer. Do we actually need a test to tell us this? I suppose if the test is foolproof, then it would be irresistible to know the result. But, as you seem to begin to suggest, whether we have cancer or not depends to a great extent on how we choose to live: what we eat, what we drink, what stresses we put ourselves under, what environment we live in etc. If a test could tell us that we are definitely going to have cancer, maybe that would make us look at all these things more closely. I wonder if we might benefit from regularly having an official letter through the front door confirming that we are definitely going to die. That might also make us change.

RJR: I couldn’t agree more. I realised, again from listening to LBC over the last few days, that most people do not take care of their health or take responsibility for it. Those that called in and took part in the discussions mostly said they knew their lifestyle was making them ill but had no time to do anything to change it. And those that called to say they were reading What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and taking magnesium to prevent strokes, or meditating and eating healthily, were told that they were in the minority and most people will not go to such great measures. I was quite stunned actually. Because I am so aware of what is healthy, and surround myself by those who also know and actively take care of themselves, I did not realise how the majority consider a healthy lifestyle totally unachievable.

NS: It takes a bit of effort to know what is a ‘healthy lifestyle’ and, I think, even more effort to put that knowledge into practice. I think I know quite a lot about ‘natural health’ but I can’t pretend that I live the healthiest of lives. Like a lot of people, I try to do it – but in many ways fall short. The same goes for exercise – I have always done quite a bit, but I know that I could do a lot more. And then there is mental/spiritual health… and the same shortcomings. We can blame the human world we live in (which conspires to push us into the unhealthiest of diets and lifestyles) but in the end it has to be down to us. Perhaps we need a shock (like the prediction of a future cancer) to make us change?

RJR: I guess the same issues arise in our own awareness and simultaneous denial of global warming. We know we are damaging our environment to irrevocable destruction, but we continue to partake in the same ‘unhealthy’ behaviours…..

NS: Exactly. Will we always behave like this? Or is there something that could make us change? Perhaps that last question is a wrong one. The ‘something’ that could make us change is already here – the reality of our own deterioration and the deterioration of the environment. Do we refuse to look at the situation completely because we are concerned only with ourselves and with the short term? Or are we too lazy to behave differently?

RJR: I wonder if it is the survival part of our brains that keeps us selfish and short-sighted. A paradox perhaps, as it this very aspect of us – our will to survive – that will lead to our destruction. I wish too that it were as simple as the fact that we are all too lazy. We have so much working against us – so many mixed messages. Doctors, for example, do not consider there to be a link between nutrition and chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cancer. Are you surprised?

NS: I know that up until relatively recently many doctors still did not recognise the link between what we eat and illness, but surely that has changed now, hasn’t it? I agree about the mixed messages – even on what is good for us to eat. One health guru tells us one thing, and one another. I think it’s still the case that many conventional medics don’t acknowledge the link between stress and cancer – with most resources put into drug research, into “cures for cancer” – when it seems likely that many cancers could be prevented by a stress-free, well-nourished lifestyle. We are conditioned to think there is going to be a fix for everything, rather than think about taking care of ourselves.

RJR: I agree completely and welcome Double Takers to join the discussion.


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Talking About Guilt And Regret by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley

Talking About Guilt and Regret by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley

Inside Up by Rowena J Ronson

Photograph, Inside-Up by Rowena J Ronson

RJR: Other than for people who have committed terrible crimes, I am wondering about every day thoughts and feelings of guilt and regret and how these two very powerful dark forces shape our lives. I am curious to hear your initial reaction to this question…

NS: Did you see The Eichmann Show on TV recently? If so, it might be interesting to bring that into this discussion. That looked at guilt in relation to the most terrible crimes – but I think there is a connection between that guilt and the guilt/regret that may affect us all in our everyday lives. Either way, it seems to be bound up with dealing with, and accepting the reality of, the past – and not letting it poison the present (and future).

RJR: I haven’t seen it yet. But I will. But I am less interested in the obvious guilt that people who commit terrible crimes ‘should’ feel. I am more interested in how are lives are shaped by guilt and regret, and shame for that matter, and how you feel about that.

NS: I was just thinking of The Eichmann Show – or more correctly, the original footage from the Eichmann trial that was used in the film – because the focus was on Eichmann’s face as he was confronted with the evidence of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, for which he bore considerable responsibility, although his defence was largely that he was acting under orders, and according to his loyalty to the Nazi state. That face was almost constantly twisted in a lopsided grimace that seemed to me (but I could be wrong) a sign of painful suppression of acceptance of guilt for the awful suffering of thousands of men, women and children. When we suppress guilt or regret, then it so often manifests in some other way – physical, mental or emotional. On one or more levels we can become twisted or crippled. This seems to be a danger for all of us. Not on the level of Eichmann – although he was an “ordinary” human being, albeit tangled up in dreadful actions. Guilt and regret will cripple us, if we let it. So is the simple answer to accept our mistakes and wrongdoings, and see the stupidity of guilt and regret and let them go?

RJR: This is where I was coming from, yes. I would say acceptance is key to everything. Accepting our wrongdoings and those of others. Allowing the lessons we have learned to influence and create who we are, but not allow our guilt and regret to colour our landscape by tainting our present and future. Otherwise we live a life stuck in the past and we become disabled in our ability to fulfil our purpose in this lifetime…

NS: Many people would say that they can’t help feeling guilty or can’t help feeling regret. Why is that? And how do they get rid of these feelings? And do they really want to get rid of them? Acceptance may be difficult for them – for all sorts of reasons.

RJR: I would say because people can feel helpless to feel any different, or they can feel they deserve the guilt and regret they are feeling. And I guess for some, these feelings are not really in their awareness. Certainly I feel a lot of people think that once they think in a particular way, changing their thoughts and consequently how they feel, is beyond their control. What do you think?

NS: It’s odd – because it can feel beyond one’s control. But logically, actually, it all comes from within. That thing of deserving to feel guilty can be strong, as if imposed from outside, but again, it is self-imposed. Do parents, education, media and religion all play a part in setting down the framework for guilt and regret? Or is it purely a masochistic self-harm? It seems like it may not be a case of changing thoughts – but simply stopping thoughts that basically don’t make any sense.

RJR: Feeling guilt, shame and regret are certainly programmed into us as a result of our original conditioning. But they are also sustained by our ongoing self-conditioning. I counsel many people who have these kinds of thoughts and they can be very attached to them. I think they would argue that they do make sense, as they have become so proficient at viewing the world through that lens. CBT can be really helpful I find.

NS: Why are we programmed in this way? Is this a worldwide phenomenon or is it peculiar only to some cultures? And are we so deeply programmed that we can’t see that that is why we feel the way we do? How does CBT help? Is it really more effective than stopping and taking a deep look into oneself – seeing what has happened and accepting it and starting afresh?

RJR: Being a parent is not an easy task. It is not like we start with our own clean sheet. We have our individual conditioning, developed, perfected and passed on through our ancestry. We are complex human beings. And each and every interaction with our children, and all their interactions with their siblings – when we are exhausted, exasperated, when we are doing our best, when they are learning and pushing our boundaries – all of this goes into the picture of how they will then see the world and the stories they will tell themselves of who they are and how they fit in. Is it a worldwide phenomenon? I would say so. Are some cultures more susceptible than others? Yes. Are we deeply programmed, so much so that we cannot be objective? Yes. Are there many techniques to help us become more self aware? Absolutely. Is it an easy journey? No. Nigel, have you known many people who can just stop and perceive themselves objectively and then have the tools to see the world from a completely different perspective? CBT is a useful tool but there are others too. CBT helps us to question our beliefs about ourselves. But reading a good book or watching a thought provoking film can do the same, if we are open to self-reflection and change. And of course homeopathy is another tool for creating a shift in how we view the world and ourselves within it.

NS: Is there a danger that some of the tools for self-reflection and change – however well intentioned – may actually add to the “programming” and make it even more difficult for us to see straight (something which, as you say, is extremely difficult for just about all of us).

RJR: Can you say more about what you mean? Maybe give me an example?

NS: Say, one takes up some form of meditation or subscribes to some belief system or some therapy or method (all of which will have been devised by someone else), then might that only add to one’s inability to see clearly? The argument of “Have you known many people who can just stop and perceive themselves objectively?” (answer: no) does not necessarily mean that that is not a way to go.

RJR: I think the right method will help a person step out of their way of viewing themselves and encourage insights. When I use the process of journalling to work through an issue, I do so with the intention of challenging myself and finding more insights for a particular situation, for example. I think it is all about intention. If we have the paradigm that people do not change, we will create that as our reality. I am curious about your question and how you have phrased it. ‘`Stop’. Stop what? I think there needs to be a process someone goes through to perceive themselves differently. Can we ever see ourselves objectively? I don’t think so. Can we try and see things and ourselves from someone else’s point of view? In conversation, yes, if we are truly open to doing so. But it would be by no means easy….

NS: Stop going in the wrong direction? If we suddenly see we are going in the wrong direction, we stop – before going in the right direction. The question is whether insight comes in an instant or whether it is the result of some process. We have strayed away from guilt and regret… but perhaps not very much at all. Can we see – in an instant – that guilt and regret are destructive and pointless? Or do we need to go through a process to have that insight?

RJR: Yes, of course every moment we are capable of having a spontaneous insight, an epiphany, which can alter our perception. And in turn this can affect our thoughts and therefore our feelings of guilt and regret. I think patterns of feeling guilty can go back a long way though, and, as I said before, can be part of our conditioning. Guilt for one issue might shift in an instant with an insight, but an entire deep rooted pattern might take longer. But anything is possible 🙂

NS: That seems to be the essence of the problem. Some guilt/regret can be shifted in an instant. But we may not even be aware of how the deep guilt/regret is affecting us. If the instant insight works through seeing something completely clearly, can we somehow see the deeper problems just as clearly? As you say, anything seems possible… but are we frightened that if we do see things clearly, then we might be somebody different?

RJR: I am not sure Nigel.  I think people are generally acutely aware of how guilt can rule their lives. They can see that in an instant. But shifting a whole way of being in their world is not as easy as making a decision that you will. Much like regular doses of homeopathic remedies, there needs to be gentle, regular pushes to our unconscious to continue to remember to create change….

NS: Perhaps everyone has to tackle the problem of guilt and regret in their own way – with or without outside help. I think that one thing we can agree on is that neither guilt nor regret serve no useful purpose for us – and that we will live better lives (and behave better to those around us) if we are free of these negative and destructive feelings.

RJR: I couldn’t agree more. What do our readers think?


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Talking About Our Brains by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley, Photograph by Rowena J Ronson

Talking About Our Brains

by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley

Open Book by Rowena J Ronson

Photograph, Open Book by Rowena J Ronson

RJR: What does it mean to be strong emotionally? What does that actually feel like? I have been wondering about this more and more recently and I am exploring the idea that it comes about as a result of how we choose to actively wire our brain. On a spiritual level, if we consider that all our experiences are a gift in learning, then if we process them through that lens, our brain can hardwire those thoughts into our foundations. So when the going gets tough, as it often does in life, if our brain has stable, strong wiring, we can feel that in place to support us, like a chemical safety net. We actually are what we create in our brains from our choices of how we view our lives. And so I choose to learn and to take care of my brain so it takes care of me. And as a result I do feel the benefits of those strong foundations. I wonder what you think about all of this Nigel.

NS: If I cut a slice out of my finger, the body will repair even quite a deep wound. I don’t have to do anything for this to happen, except to let it happen, it seems. If the brain is also simply part of our physical body, is it not likely that its inherent tendency is to be strong in adversity and heal itself of any mental wounds? I wonder if it is not a case of us actively choosing to wire our brains in a certain way – is such a thing possible? – but rather, NOT choosing to interfere with the brain’s instinctive intelligence. The problem, of course, is that we use the brain to think – and our negative, confused and neurotic thoughts must make it very difficult for the brain to operate in the same way as a ‘simpler’ part of the body healing and regenerating itself.

RJR: You actually do plenty for the healing of your finger to occur and a great deal of that healing is directed by the brain and the nervous system. I think what you are saying is that it is an unconscious process. The brain is not simply part of the physical body at all. Just as much as the physical body is not purely physical. But I digress. I don’t think we have an inherent tendency to be strong. We are how we are as a result of every single interaction we have while being nurtured by our parents throughout our young years. And of course what occurs in utero, in our genes and our karma play their part too. We are programmed to remember experiences when we are more fearful as a protection mechanism, so children who experience a great deal of trauma, for example, will create brains that a wired differently than those who feel safe and calm. So we can actually possess a traumatised brain from very young, and may not even know it. As for healing from mental wounds, our brain is being bombarded by neurotoxins all of the time. But we might have more control than we think….

NS: Phew… there’s a lot there… Yes that healing of the finger is definitely an unconscious process – “I” just let it happen. This automatic operation of the brain and the body is nothing short of miraculous. But how can you say that the brain is not simply part of the physical body – surely it is, isn’t it? But is the mind something different? And what do you mean by saying the physical body is not purely physical? If you could expand on this? Before I respond on the other things you have just said…

RJR: The brain is not simply part of the body, for many reasons including that the fact that it is evolving all of the time. It is very unique in that way. And we can influence its health uniquely too. Of course there are ways we can look after each of our bodily organs, and by doing so we can certainly change them. But how we look after and influence our brain is completely different. If we think different thoughts, our receptors alter and new pathways are created for use at other times. If we study, our brain responds by learning. Parts of our brain change in size depending on how we use them. And our physical body is also our energetic body but you know all of this Nigel, being a homeopath…..

NS: Well, a former homeopath! I take all those points about why the brain is different. But I would still wonder if the conditioning of the brain from outside sources – and also from within, ie through our use of it for thought – gets in the way of the brain’s natural inclinations and tendencies? I don’t know the answer to this. But there seems something logical in the question. We may think we have some control over the brain – but are we actually messing around with it? You also threw in ‘karma’ as if it were just as plainly evident as genetics and what happens in the womb…. Is there any evidence for inherited ‘karma’ being any different to genetic inheritance? And the question of physical body and energetic body… I don’t know for sure about this. All that seems to be clear is that everything physical is energy or the product of energy. Why differentiate between physical body and energetic body? I don’t want to get away from the discussion about the brain. Are you saying that if we can ‘toughen up’ the brain, then we can be emotionally stronger?

RJR: Once a homeopath, always a homeopath Nigel 🙂  From what I understand, the brain does not have natural inclinations and tendencies. Look to the field of epigenetics and you will see that our DNA is malleable and therefore affected by our environment, which is actually a really good thing and integral to our evolution. So if we take care of ourselves as much as we can in this lifetime, this can and will affect our DNA and consequently how we think and feel and how healthy we are. If we programme our brains to think in a more positive way, we create those connections through our receptors on our nerve cells, which in turn influence our brain chemistry, which makes us feel good. The more we programme our brain to positive thoughts, the easier it becomes because our brain remembers and makes those connections unconsciously. There is a great deal written on this subject now.

NS: From what I understand, the brain DOES have natural inclinations and tendencies. Take a look at sex and violence for starters. Of course, the brain is affected by its environment – which can be for good or ill. The problem that we come back to is: who is this ‘we’ that is taking care of the brain and who is this ‘we’ that is ‘programming’ the brain? Is the ‘we’ separate from the brain? There is a great deal written on this subject, perhaps, but that is also written by the ‘we’, isn’t it? Is it possible to disentangle the ‘we’ and the brain? Talk of programming the brain makes me feel slightly queazy and uneasy. Could it not be that the less we think – and the less we think that we can programme the brain – that the more likely the brain is to operate in its natural state and to find some natural equilibrium – and ultimately to evolve from its primitive state (eg the sex and violence stuff that I mentioned earlier). The brain has not evolved in any way for millennia – and I wonder if it may never do, if humans insist on thinking – and thinking that they can control the brain.

RJR: Not only has our brain continued to develop through the millennia, it develops throughout our lifetime. I am wondering what has made you think that it has stopped developing? And reproduction and survival are not the same as sex and violence Nigel, as you well know. Thinking in terms of ‘we’ and ‘I’ could be considered to be empowering. It is not like we are saying ‘they’. Surely it is a good thing to think that we can influence the health of our brain and therefore our mental and emotional wellbeing? Would you rather feel someone else has the answers, ‘they’ for example, have the answers for you?

NS: I think it has not developed for 5,000 years and maybe longer. (We have kicked this beer can around the yard before.) The evidence? How about the Islamic State beheading videos? How about Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria? How about the everyday gang rapes in India? How about the school massacre in Pakistan? How about the arms trade? Humans have made huge technological advances in the past few millennia, but we are as self-centred, short-sighted and appallingly violent as we always were. We have influenced our brains, but through our misuse of them. I feel that if we could ‘step aside’, maybe our brains would function more healthily. I know you mean something positive about ‘we’ and about ’empowering ourselves’ – but I’m not convinced about the pursuit of ‘power’, even over ourselves. Back to the original question of what it means to be strong emotionally… can we only be strong emotionally if we truly embrace the hopelessness of the state of humanity. Like someone facing death with acceptance and courage, can we face life knowing that the odds are almost completely against humans ever really changing?

RJR: Our collective knowledge is increasing and our brains are indeed changing and developing. This does not mean that our brains do not contain the original reptilian part that is responsible for survival and our impulse to fight or take flight. And yes of course we can be self-centered, short-sighted and violent, but that does not mean our brains have not evolved. Can we only be strong emotionally if we truly embrace the hopelessness of the state of humanity? No. I don’t think so. I feel that humans are changing but that we will always have a shadow. We will always be capable of 360 degrees’ worth of emotions and behaviours. But can we influence how we feel and personally evolve? I believe we can. And I would be interested to hear our readers opinions on this subject…..


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Talking About The Movie Click, And Gratitude by Rowena J Ronson

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Talking About The Movie Click, And Gratitude by Rowena J Ronson

Since discovering Shadow Work and stepping on to ‘the carpet’ to do a process last month during a wonderful workshop in the West Country, I have been much more aware of my shadow and have been welcoming its presence to create a healthier and more balanced emotional life. I remember joining a new therapy group a couple of years ago and when I first did some ‘work’ the group reflected that I seemed ‘very together’ despite a huge amount of stress in my life. And they questioned where my fear, anger and grief were being held, as they sat uncomfortably experiencing those emotions themselves, due to my lack of expression, as is common in group therapy work.

And now, visiting a darker place in myself, I am much more aware of those shadowy fears, resentments and dark broken pieces within.

So last night, in an unconscious attempt to bring these broken pieces into my awareness, I decided to revisit the 2006 Adam Sandler film Click. I had a clear space to watch the film on my own so I would not need to edit my response – so I could truly be present to experience whatever emotion it triggered for me.

The film is about a family man who is unable to prioritise time for his family due the pressures of work, ambition, earning money and a boss who clearly did not respect his boundaries. As a result he worked all hours and his wife and children experienced the rough and raw end of his irritation, anger and inability to commit to quality (or any) time with them. This had become their way of life and no one was happy as a result.

The Universe then offers him a vision of an alternative life where all his wishes could come true. He could skip the parts of his life that he doesn’t enjoy – to relieve impatience and monotony, ill health and arguments and instead selfishly do the things he thought he wanted to do instead. He manifests a remote control that can mute, skip, rewind and fast-forward his life whenever he choses. And as a result he isn’t ‘present’. The film describes this state as being on autopilot and I wondered how common this is in people’s lives today.

The modern day version sees families sharing a meal with each member wrapped up in their own little virtual world on their mobile telephones. People spend their lives looking forward to their next holiday, when they will earn enough to really start living, when they will find the perfect relationship so they will feel complete, when their kids will grow up and be less demanding. When, when, when. And all the while they will resist living in the present and truly appreciate what is real and available in their lives to be grateful for NOW.

So the film, as planned and predicted, did make me cry A LOT, and some unexpressed grief was released. It reminded me of the speed of time and how we are here for such a brief spell. Everyone and everything is always changing as we live in a dynamic ‘energetic’ world, which is good in some ways but really painful in others. Our parents are destined to not be with us forever and so with their inevitable parting, our times with them become more and more precious and significant. This button got readily pressed for me in the film as Sandler’s character’s father passed away while he was busy fast-forwarding his life. It brought home to us both, how no one wants to be left with unresolved issues with their parents that forever lie in the realm of regret. And how easy it is for us to take our relationships so much for granted, as if those around us will be here indefinitely and therefore each interaction holds less importance than it ‘should’.

Our children’s early years come with immense challenge and they can feel overwhelming, relentless and unrewarding especially when the going gets tough. These years, and the mirror our children hold up for us, offer huge opportunities for personal growth. And again, how easy is it for parents and children not to be actually present and in relationship with their family, themselves and their surroundings.

Our time here is precious. Every day is a blessing from the Universe. Gratitude for all we do have makes our life so much more rewarding. And being truly present creates unbeatable life learning and rewarding experiences. Be very careful what you wish for……. Click click.