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Emotional and spiritual are in this same page, one category, because they belong together. Western psychology and Eastern philosophy (Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist) have tremendous overlap in the ways they point to cultivating peace of mind. Consider these examples:

  • When Freud discussed id impulses, he was discussing the same processes that in Hindu philosophy are called kundalini energy. When Freud discussed repression at various stages of development, which cause predictable fixations and complexes, these more or less match the blockages at various chakra levels and the predictable physical manifestations of the blockages.

  • Psychologists discuss that insight does not instantly end rumination about past (regret) and future (worry), but a “working through” is needed. This is similar to the instructions of meditation masters to allow thoughts to arise, by staying “centered” in the present, to feel the feelings but drop the story.

  • In cognitive therapy, we come to see that our beliefs and perceptions are full of blind spots, that we don’t have the whole picture. We realize that where others agree with us, it is because their cultural background created the same types of predictable limited perceptions, as opposed to the different limited perceptions and schemas that define another subculture. The spiritual counterpart is to maintain humility rather than insist on our rightness and completeness of understanding, so that we can allow ourselves to perceive rather than block out what doesn’t match our current worldview.

  • To reach a point of self-actualization, as conceptualized by Maslow, is to have met or to have made peace with a partial fulfillment of one’s needs for physical well-being and social approval, then to work to become the best version of oneself, expressing empathy, creativity, and acceptance of reality. Similarly, the spiritual practice of surrender is to accept the present as it is rather than resist it. To resist is to believe that it is not okay if we do not get what we want. To resist is to believe that we must figure out how to control our environment or other people so that we can get our perceived needs met. To give up resistance is a touchy recommendation, because our whole Western economic and cultural structures are based on controlling our situations according to logical analysis. Surrender does not mean giving up the desire for fulfillment. It means letting go of the idea of “I’ll be happy when,” and instead to focus on gratitude: “I’ll be happy now.” It means cultivating our intuition as a better guide, rather than relying on logic as it rationalizes our conditioned thought patterns and cultural norms. This requires seeing the cultural paradigm as partial and flawed, yet this does not require living as a renunciate. Oprah Winfrey and Micheal Singer are obvious examples of achieving worldly success while (and they say because of) following a spiritual path.

 

To some, spirituality is simply to take a larger perspective. A larger perspective might help us to be at peace with covid 19 as a correction to our societal excesses. Kari Hohne gives this description of a well-documented ecosystem out of balance:

Hunted to near extinction near Yellowstone National Park, wolves were reintroduced to control the exploding bison and elk populations that grew in their absence. A chain reaction ensued. Biologists recorded numerous scavengers, including animals, birds, and insects that fed on the new carcasses. They discovered a food chain impact not previously appreciated. Once the park reverted to a more natural environment, the elk were again prey. They moved more, and grazed less on the willows, which also began to thrive. The flourishing willows allowed beavers to build dams and transform small meadows into lakes, where fish, waterfowl and other insects began to thrive....This unnatural intervention [of humans killing off wolves] caused a chain reaction of stagnation. It denied sustenance to a myriad of creatures.

 

Certainly we will grieve for losses and suffering, while we can also recognize the extent to which humans have sought to control rather than harmonize with nature, sometimes in obviously dysfunctional ways. For example, many civilized governments have not legally allowed a way for those who wish to die to do so peacefully, even if they have lived a long life and now feel useless and in pain.