Healing is one neuron away

There is a huge shift under way in psychotherapy and that is the recognition that mindfulness and the mind-body unity are crucial to a person’s healing. Since decades pioneers in the field of therapy have been experimenting successfully with various new methods to promote healing and wholeness in their clients. Jon Eisman advances the art of psychotherapy by integrating knowledge from the most current scientific research with the fact that true well-being arises from a healthy mind-body-spirit connection. As a founding member of the Hakomi Institute he studied Body-Centered Psychotherapy closely with Ron Kurtz who created the Hakomi Method. He went on to develop The Recreation of Self (R-CS) as a map for people to understand and pursue their potential, and as a unique and highly effective approach to therapeutic change. Both are integral paths to a holistic and sustained healing.

For over 35 years Jon Eisman has been an internationally acclaimed teacher and therapist. The underlying premise of his practice is that all of us have an intrinsic orientation to our own wholeness, called our Organic Self. Eisman offers tools for immediately shifting our consciousness and emerging from the swamp of our own perceptions of woundedness and re-align with our authentic self. When working with clients it is crucial for Eisman to start with what occurs in the present experience of the moment. For him the defining aspect of our lives is the quality of experiences that we have. These experiences can be known, evaluated, evolved and chosen through the application of self-awareness known as mindfulness.

Following is a short excerpt from my interview with Jon Eisman from my upcoming book The New Now – Dispatches from Pioneers of Change.

MG: Jon, you coined a term I really appreciate. You talk about the “organic self”. This refers to the absence of a distorted and fragmented self-image, and the presence of the whole and authentic self. When we are in touch with this organic self, we know what is true for us at any given moment. How do you help people to get in touch with the organic self?

JE: The biggest thing is to inspire in the client a commitment to their own self-hood. For them to recognize the place within, where they no longer tolerate – even for a second – anything less than feeling whole. That’s the organic self! Once they’re in touch with the organic self, they’ve tasted paradise. The more they pay attention to that, the more they get that sense of, “Wow, this is me! This is my actual life happening! This is the next moment of my life and I could spend it with my hand on a hot stove or I could spend it dancing. What do I actually want?”

MG: What brings our hand back in touch with the hot stove are old patterns and habits that keep surfacing in our lives. Is it fair to say that by guiding clients to recover their whole selves, they will awaken from their trances and habitual patterns?

JE: Yes, patterns of self-image, patterns of behavior, patterns of perception: the idea is to get clients out of the trance states they’ve gotten into. Habits have to be slowly dissipated. So it’s going to take some time for people to be experiencing in an everyday, moment-to-moment way that state of wholeness and not go into that well-worn habit of flipping into the old states. I developed a method called “ Re-creation of the Self” or R-CS, which is based on the idea that the client is already holding an innate state of wholeness in them, but that they have, over time, put themselves into a variety of trances. These were functional necessities to deal with the stress of the world, but they don’t actually represent the wholeness of the self. R-CS says, that the wholeness of the self co-exists with the woundedness. So my job as a therapist is not so much to work on the content or the history of the woundedness, but to get the clients to shift states so that they’re in that more expansive state of self-identified wholeness.

MG: Once people have discovered that state of wholeness for themselves, what are the tools or methods for sustaining that attention and awareness. What allows them to stay centered in their wholeness?

JE: First of all, it’s mindfulness. People have to be aware of what’s happening. They have to notice, “Oh, I’m in a bad mood again.” Or, “I’m contracting.” Or, “I’m getting anxious about this speech I have to give,” whatever it might be. So it’s really about learning to recognize when you’ve popped back into those trances, when you’re back in old habits. Then you begin to recognize that, not just as an idea, but by tracking the felt state that you are in. “I feel good. If I had to spend the rest of my life feeling like this, would that be ok with me?”

Another part of it is educating people about specific techniques for helping them shift. One of them would be anchoring in certain thoughts or bodily experiences. A lot of it is tracking the state that you’re in and then noticing, “Do I like it or don’t I like it? Is it preferred or not?” And if it’s not, then you allow yourself to focus on, “I don’t like feeling this way, I really want it to be different.” Most people, without paying attention, would just slide back to the “but” part which would go like, “Yeah, but I’m still feeling bad and I have to give this speech or whatever it is.” We can train ourselves to say, “Okay, let me sort that out. The “but” part, that’s the half-empty part. Let me stay with, “I want something better for myself.” What’s the implication of that? Well, if I want something better for myself, then I must be valuable, I must be worth that tension, I must be worth asking for that.” And then, as soon as I start feeling that sense of self-worth – not the idea, but the feeling – I can also feel that I deserve to have something better. All of a sudden, you’re already in a different state and you recognize, “Oh yeah, how does it feel to be someone who believes he deserves this?” You’ve already changed states. Mindfulness itself changes states. You’re not so identified with the habit – you’re looking at the habit instead of looking from the habit.

MG: What is the specific quality of our human experience? What does it mean to be a human being?

JE: We’re given this gift of consciousness and it seems to co-exist with the gift of aliveness. Those gifts of aliveness and consciousness grant us access to the whole realm of experience. This is a central part of the work that I do: it all comes down to experience. There’s nothing else happening here except you having this experience. In this moment you’re having this experience. So, to me, being human has to do with the on-going pursuit of experience, and doing that gracefully, with a sense of wholeness – both internal wholeness and environmental wholeness, in relationship with everything. The crown of creation is the ability to have a sense of, “Wow, this is an on-going miracle.” And to experience that within all the realms of creation – our feelings, our sensations, our creativity, our spirituality, our thought. We don’t have to put any sort of bigness on that, it’s important to see the ordinariness of the miracle. Look at the colors in this room. The sunshine’s coming in through the window, that’s amazing.  To be human is to be able to celebrate. To be able to keep going in the ongoing flow of experience, and the celebration of that. To be able to adjust as necessary when things are difficult.

MG: How does this relate to sacredness? What is sacred to you?

JE: That stuff is what I think of as sacred: the celebration of the ongoing flow of things, of consciousness, of the aliveness that’s within and all around us. Sacredness is to perceive the miracle of life. I’m very egalitarian about it; I don’t think that meditating in a temple in Tibet is more sacred than playing field hockey. Sacredness is the perception that we are all one. It’s all sacred. The profane is when we forget that and when we operate outside of that.