Category: Health & Healing

Tools for Cultivating Supportive Friendships & Re...

Tools for Cultivating Supportive Friendships & Relationships:

CHRISTOPHE ANDRÉ:

For this toolbox I’d like to put forward a little bit of theory about how we are supported by relationships — that is, to offer an overall look at what we receive from our relationships with others.

The five benefits of relationships. Studies show that social support can be broken down into several families of benefits:

  1. Material support: Others can help us in concrete ways. If I’ve broken my leg, I will be glad if somebody will do my shopping for me. If I have to move, I will be happy to have my friends help me transport the boxes.
  2. Informational support: Others can advise us, give us useful infor- mation, and play the role of human search engines — as intelligent as Google but alive and compassionate — and they won’t resell our personal information afterward.
  3. Emotional support: Others are the source of positive emotions; they give us affection, love, friendship, trust, admiration.
  4. The support of esteem. Others can remind us of our value and good qualities, tell us what they like about us, and sustain our self-esteem at moments of uncertainty.
  5. The inspiration of their example: This is more difficult to evaluate scientifically, but it’s quite real, as we have indicated.

The four varieties of relationships. Another important point is that it is helpful to cultivate varied social relationships, just as it is important to have a varied diet. There are four families of relationships, distributed in four concentric circles:

  1. Our intimates: the people we live with, whom we touch and embrace practically every day. This means mostly our family and best friends.
  2. Our close relations: our friends and colleagues, people with whom we regularly have close and regular exchanges.
  3. Our acquaintances: the whole network of people with whom we have a connection, even occasional, and who we keep track of and who keep track of us.
  4. Unknowns: those who we might also have relationships with, depending on our character. This includes people we might speak to on the street, on public transport, in stores. They can also be sources of help or information for us, as we can for them.

Specialists in social relations remind us that it is important to draw sup- port from these four circles — not only from our intimate and close relations—and to sustain our connections with these four relational spheres by giving and receiving help, information, support, eye contact, advice, and smiles. Because the idea is not only to receive but also to give, by speaking to unknowns and maintaining warm relations with our acquaintances, neighbors, and shopkeepers, we do ourselves good. And we embellish the world, improve it, and make it more human!

 

MATTHIEU RICARD:

The importance of social connection. We should choose to live in an environment where people are warm, altruistic, and compassionate. If this isn’t the case in all areas of our living space, we should progressively try to establish these values or, if it’s possible, we should leave the toxic environment.

In this connection, I like to cite the case of a community on the Japanese island of Okinawa, which claims to have one of the world’s highest concentrations of people aged a hundred or over. It appears that the main factor in this exceptional longevity is not the climate or the food, but the power of this community, where people maintain particularly rich social relationships. From cradle to grave, they relate very closely with one another. The elderly people in particular get together several times a week to sing, dance, and have a good time. Almost every day they go to schools to greet the children (whether they have familial links with them or not) at the end of the school day. The elders take the children in their arms and give them treats.

Draw inspiration from the righteous, from people who, in our eyes, embody the values of impartiality, tolerance, compassion, love, and kindness. In these times of the migratory crisis, I think of all those who have taken great risks, and I remember those who protected Jewish people during the Nazi persecutions of World War II, particularly those who hid Jews in their homes. These people have since come to be called “The Righteous.” The only common point that emerges from their many accounts is a view of others based on recognition of their common human- ity. All human beings deserved to be treated with kindness. Where we saw a stranger, they saw a human being.

Meditate on altruistic love. Studies in psychology have shown that meditating on altruistic love increases people’s feelings of belonging to a community; it enhances the quality of social connections and compassionate attitudes toward unknown people, while at the same reduc- ing discrimination toward particular groups, like people of color, homeless people, and immigrants.

Draw inspiration from friends in the good and spiritual masters. I recommend that everyone see a historical documentary made in India by Arnaud Desjardins at the end of the 1960s, in which we are shown the most respected of the Tibetan masters who took refuge on the Indian slopes of the Himalayas following the Chinese invasion of their country. The film is called The Message of the Tibetans.

 

ALEXANDRE JOLLIEN:

The audacity to live. Existing, opening oneself to the other, is running a risk. It means dropping one’s armor, one’s protective coverings, and opening one’s eyes and daring to give oneself to the other and to the entire world. There’s no way you can invest in a relationship, so throw out your logic of profit and loss! What if we were to embark on our day without any idea of gain or of using our fellow human beings? What if we stayed attentive to all the women and men it is given to us to encoun- ter on that day, looking to find among them masters in being human? 

Identify our profound aspirations. Helping others can often amount to imposing a view of the world on them without really paying any attention to what they really want in their hearts. A man bought an elephant without giving any thought in advance to how he was going to feed it. At a loss, he was obliged to turn for help to those around him, and what he got from them was, “You never should have bought such a big animal!” What does it mean to help others? Does it mean committing completely to being there for them? Does it mean going all the way with them?

Authentic compassion. A will to power might enter into our move- ment toward the other—a thirst for recognition, a twisted attempt to redeem ourselves. Daring a true encounter means quitting the sphere of your neurosis and walking the path of freedom together. There’s no more “me,” no more “you,” but a coalescent “us,” a primordial solidarity.

Coming out of the bunker. As a result of having been burned in our relationship with another, the temptation is great to put on armor, to completely shut ourselves up in a bunker-like fortress, even to the point of suffocation. Don’t our passions, our griefs, our loves, and the fierce- ness of our desire remind us that we are essentially turned toward the other, in perpetual communication? Is there a way to live the thousand and one contacts of daily life without our ego appropriating them?

This is excerpted from the newest book from Matthieu Ricard, Christophe André, and Alexandre Jollien, Freedom For All Of Us: A Monk, A Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on Finding Inner Freedom.

Copy of MatthieuRicard-AlexandreJollien-ChristopheAndré©PhilippeDanais2017

 

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk, a photographer, and a molecular geneticist who has served as an interpreter for the Dalai Lama. 

Christophe André is a psychiatrist and one of the primary French specialists in the psychology of emotions and feelings.

 Alexandre Jollien is a philosopher and a writer whose work has been attracting an ever-growing readership. Together, they are the authors of In Search of Wisdom and Freedom For All of Us.

picture of the book titles Freedom for All of Us

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Matt Licata, PhD: The Alchemy of Befriending Ourselves...

Matt Licata is a practicing psychotherapist, a co-facilitator of a monthly online membership community called Befriending Yourself, and the author of The Path Is Everywhere. With Sounds True, he has written a new book titled, A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Matt about what it is to be a healing space, that is to hold space for ourselves and others, as well as how we can feel held by something greater than ourselves during challenging experiences. They also explore our inner wounds and self-abandonment, spiritual bypassing and the ways in which many practices allow us to gloss over the real healing needed, and how coming into an embodied state can open us to greater inner depths. Finally, Tami and Matt discuss becoming an alchemist of your own life, discovering the inner gold that each of us has within, and befriending all of ourselves.

Meet the author of . . . P.S. I Love You More Than Tun...

The Author

Sarah Chauncey is the coauthor of P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna along with illustrator, Francis Tremblay, coming October, 2020. She has written and edited for nearly every medium over the past three decades, from print to television to digital. Her writing has been featured on EckhartTolle.com and Modern Loss, as well as in Lion’s Roar and Canadian Living. She lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, where she divides her time between writing, editing nonfiction, and walking in nature. Learn more at sarahchauncey.com.

The Book

Book cover

Our cats occupy a unique space in our hearts. When they’re gone, the loss can be devastating, the grief profound.

 

P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna gives us an opportunity to give friends, loved ones, or ourselves tangible comfort during the grieving period, when so many of us feel isolated and misunderstood after a beloved pet dies.

 

 

Send us a photo of your sacred space.

sacred space

First Nation, Saysutshun Newcastle Island is an ancient forest and marine provincial park. Saysutshun, I’m told, means “training or preparation ground,” and indeed, for millennia before colonization, the Snuneymuxw brought healers to this small island to train “mentally, physically, and spiritually.” I knew none of this history when I first began walking long stretches of the uninhabited island’s 13.6 miles of trails. I only knew that the island seemed to lift away anything that wasn’t essential, easing my mind and making way for creative ideas to flow. I’d walk a bit, then sit and meditate, write for a while, then walk some more. This bench, under a circle of seven trees, became my favorite writing and meditation spot. The moss-covered trees became my friends, teaching me to stay rooted when things around me change. As I wrote in a 2016 essay about the island, “I have become a literal tree-hugger, and even—when nobody is looking—a tree-kisser.”

What was your favorite book as a child?

harold purple crayon

I was a total bookworm as a child. Instead of playing games at recess, I preferred to curl up under my desk and read. Of all the books I read—from every Encyclopedia Brown to Freaky Friday to The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (I was a precocious kid), the book with the most enduring impact was also the simplest: Harold and the Purple Crayon. I was enchanted by Harold’s adventures, amazed by his ability to draw his way out of every obstacle and ultimately find his way home. Long before I began seeing this as a metaphor for creativity (and life!), this story appealed to me. Fifty years later, I continue to find new layers of meaning in this little book. It’s a simple yet profound testament to the power of imagination and creativity.

What is one unexpected thing or habit that inspires your writing practice?

sarah chauncey forest new castle

Walking in nature is my creative “secret sauce” and the central practice to my writing. Several years ago, I realized that although my role in this world is as a writer, my job is to bring myself back into presence, over and over, to get into a place where words can flow through me. I walk to get out of my mind and into my body. I come into fierce presence by noticing the rain on my face, salal berries ripening into deep blue, or the texture of earth beneath my feet. When my body is occupied by walking, ideas bubble up from my subconscious. Whether I’m looking for ways to trim an over-long essay or searching for words to evoke a hard-to-articulate experience, as soon as my legs find their rhythm, ideas begin to flow.

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Meet the Author of . . . A Healing Space

The Author

Matt Licata, PhD, is the author of A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times, coming out in November, 2020. In addition to being an author, he is a practicing psychotherapist and hosts in-person retreats. His work incorporates developmental, psychoanalytic, and depth psychologies, as well as contemplative, meditative, and mindfulness-based approaches for transformation and healing. He co-facilitates a monthly online membership community called Befriending Yourself, is author of The Path Is Everywhere, and is the creator of the blog A Healing Space. He lives in Boulder, Colorado. For more, visit mattlicataphd.com.

Healing Space Book Cover

The Book

Is healing a matter of solving a problem, curing a sickness, or making our wounds disappear? “In my experience,” writes depth psychotherapist and meditation teacher Matt Licata, “true healing is not a state where we become liberated from uncomfortable feelings, but one in which we are free and flexible to welcome our complete experience—whether happy or difficult—more fully.” With A Healing Space, Dr. Licata invites us to explore a more vital sense of wellness—one that does not put us in opposition to life’s hardship, but instead welcomes all experience as part of the soul’s majestic vastness.

 

 

Are you learning any new tricks or skills during this time (COVID)? Has your book taken on a new meaning in the world’s current circumstances? Is there anything you would have included in your book if you were writing it now?

One thing I’ve been struck by in this time of COVID is just how formative, powerful, and challenging solitude can be for each of us, and how through confronting our aloneness we will inevitably meet parts of ourselves that we had lost contact with in times of status quo. As relational beings, wired to connect and co-regulate with one another, it can be so counter-instinctive to be alone, for there to be an absence of “good others” in our lives, and how much we take this for granted.

What has become a lot clearer to me is how we can call on these “internal others” who, through many moments of kindness, attunement, empathy, and compassion, reside as an “internal network” within us, and how important this can be in times of physical separation—and how truly available they are, even from afar, in ways that might surprise us. 

I’m happy that A Healing Space is coming out during this time as it is centered around the art and practice of “befriending” and what that might mean in our contemporary world. Had I known that we would be sheltering in place and social distancing as we are, I would have more explicitly addressed the unique ways that isolation, solitude, and even loneliness can serve as actual allies on the path of awakening and healing, portals or doorways to a more merciful, wise, and compassionate relationship with ourselves and others.

What is one unexpected thing or habit that inspires your writing practice? 

So much of my writing comes out of conversations I have with others—friends, family, students, clients, and even strangers. I often find myself deeply curious and even in awe at how others find meaning in their experience, make sense of it, and organize it in ways that are similar—and also at times quite different—to my own. 

There’s something about being in conversation that opens me to another person’s heart, to their soul, to their psyche, and I often leave a conversation with new ideas, lenses, or reality tunnels, which I tend to explore via image and language. 

It’s sometimes not easy for me to “sit down and write” in a general and abstract way. It requires live interaction with another human being or with the natural world in order to flow. It’s almost like I wait to hear a certain whisper or inner song that arises from conversation and quickly scramble to be the scribe for that to come into the world.

If there is a book that started your spiritual journey, what was it? How old were you, and how did you discover it? How would you describe its impact?

The Razor's Edge

The first overt “spiritual” book I remember reading was in my senior year of high school: The Razor’s Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham. I would have been 17 at the time and had always been a bit of a dreamer with a vivid imagination and deep curiosity and wonder as to whether I really belonged in this place. 

It was an identification with the protagonist, Larry Darrell, that catalyzed a certain longing in me, a knowing that there was more to this life than it appeared. To this day, I can return to some of those feelings I felt at the time, an opening or crack in reality, you might say, that invited me into a life of deeper meaning, magic, and aliveness. 

I reread the book while traveling in India in my early 20s and continued my connection with Maugham and with Darrell, especially with Larry’s journeys in India himself. I had a kindred spirit out there somewhere and I remember that meaning a lot to me at the time, that there was at least one other person who wondered and wandered in the same way that I did.

Healing Space Book Cover

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Meet a Coauthor of . . . Freedom for All of Us

The Author

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk, humanitarian, and one of three authors of Freedom for All of Us: A Monk, a Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on Finding Inner Peace, available in November, 2020. He is also the author of several other books, including The Monk and the Philosopher, Happiness, and Altruism. He is a major participant in research collaboration between cognitive scientists and Buddhist practitioners. Ricard is a noted translator and photographer, and has founded humanitarian projects in India, Tibet, and Nepal. For more information, visit karuna-shechen.org.

Freedom for All of Us Cover

The Book

With their acclaimed book In Search of Wisdom, three gifted friends—a monk, a philosopher, and a psychiatrist—shed light on our universal quest for meaning, purpose, and understanding. Now, in this new in-depth offering, they invite us to tend to the garden of our true nature: freedom.

Filled with unexpected insights and specific strategies, Freedom for All of Us presents an inspiring guide for breaking free of the unconscious walls that confine us.

 

Send us a photo of your sacred space.

[Pictured here is the] Shechen Monastery in Nepal, where I live a good part of the year:

 

Monastery

 

[And] the views from my hermitage in Nepal:

 

vieew 1

 

 

view 2

 

If you could invite any three transformational leaders or spiritual teachers (throughout time) to dinner, who would they be and why?

I do not have dinner and he does not either, but if I had to choose to spend an hour quietly with someone alive today, it would be His Holiness the Dalai Lama. [He is] someone of boundless compassion and wisdom, who treats every sentient being—from the person who cleans the floor at the hotel when he travels, to a head of state—with the same kindness, respect, and attention.

As for [two people] who [are no longer] in this world, I would give everything to spend another hour in the presence of my two main spiritual teachers: Kangyur Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, who inspire every instant of my life.

Has your book taken on a new meaning in the world’s current circumstances? Is there anything you would have included in your book if you were writing it now?

Many people have indeed faced great hardship; being sick, left alone, and having lost a dear one. But for those who simply had to be with themselves and a few kin, I was quite surprised to see how difficult they found [it] to just be with their own minds for extended periods of time. It seemed that it was such a new situation and they had few tools to deal with it.

As a contemplative, I value tremendously [the] time spent alone in my hermitage in the Himalaya[s], cultivating fundamental human qualities that allow me to slowly become a better human being. I believe that among those qualities, inner freedom and compassion are two key factors and that, therefore, our dialogue [in Freedom for All of Us] is quite timely. Most of the subjects that we reflect upon seem very relevant [during] these troubled times and I hope that they will be useful!

Freedom for All of Us Cover

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Meet a Coauthor of . . . Freedom for All of Us

The Author

Alexandre Jollien is a philosopher and writer who spent 17 years in a home for the physically disabled. His books include In Praise of Weakness. He lives in Switzerland. For more, visit alexandre-jollien.ch.

Freedom for All of Us Cover

The Book

With their acclaimed book In Search of Wisdom, three gifted friends—a monk, a philosopher, and a psychiatrist—shed light on our universal quest for meaning, purpose, and understanding. Now, in this new in-depth offering, they invite us to tend to the garden of our true nature: freedom.

Filled with unexpected insights and specific strategies, Freedom for All of Us presents an inspiring guide for breaking free of the unconscious walls that confine us.

 

Translated from the original responses in French.

What is one unexpected thing or habit that inspires your writing practice? Is there a

playlist or album you listen to?

Sils Maria

Meditation really opens me up to write. Walking too. Above is a photo of me walking in Sils Maria, Switzerland, where Friedrich Nietzsche lived at one time. However, in my eyes, writing is never systematic [or methodical]. It’s not a [mere] technique. A writer has to render themself available to messages that come—in some sense—from beyond. Conversations with friends, explorations into the mundane, family life, the readings of the great thinkers, the practice of Zazen … all these things feed my desire to pick up my pen again. I write, or rather I dictate my writings, in silence. However, sometimes I do enjoy techno music, which keeps me going and wards off anything that could poison an idea I have; “the sad passions” as the philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, called them.

Send us a photo of you and your pet (and let us know if your pet had any role in helping you write your book)!

Grisette

We have a little hamster at home, Grisette, who is our children’s little darling. For me, he embodies peace and a certain serenity. When I look at him, I see a being that isn’t deep in denial and agitated. [Although] sometimes, when he frolics on his hamster wheel, I have the impression that he’s reminding me that my mind, too, can often run in [unnecessary] circles …

 

 

 

If there is a book that started your spiritual journey, what was it? How old were you, and

how did you discover it? How would you describe its impact?

When I was a child, I didn’t enjoy reading and I thought that wisdom was reserved for the elite. I considered culture to be so far removed from everyday problems that I avoided it completely. One day, I accompanied a friend into a bookstore. While I was waiting for her, I flipped through pages from books by Plato and Aristotle. The book [that made an impact] was L’étonnement philosophique [“Philosophic Wonder”] by Jeanne Hersch, which traces the history of Western thought. In my adolescence, that book gave me a great foundation, a benchmark, a marker, a starting point. It’s an admirable book. Afterwards, I really fell into reading the greats, like Plato, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Epictetus, all of which still inspire me today. I was 14 years old then, and reading had changed my life.

Below are portraits [of some of my favorite philosophers and spiritual teachers] painted by my son, Augustin.

portraits

 

 

 

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