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19 September, 2012

Opening your Heart to a Higher Self

       The experience of oneness-of feeling united with your concept of a higher force or with God is a common theme of most of the world's religions and many secular philosophies. In Judaism, for example, the Shemay, or central prayer, is translated from Hebrew to mean "The Lord is One." In Christianity, Jesus said, "I and my Father are One." Native Americans refer to the "Great Spirit." In Hinduism and Buddhism, the essence of God is to be found within "Tat Tvam Asi," which is Sanskrit for "Thou art That," or, "you are one with God." Atheists and agnostics can simply call it as peace.

We are not Separate from God

       In all of these religions, God is described as being omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent that is God is everywhere, all knowing and all-powerful. If God is everywhere, and if there is only one God, then we are not separate from God.

       What is it that keeps us from realizing this? Various religions and philosophies describe in different terms, but the essence is that our minds create separation and isolation between ourselves and others as well as between ourselves and God. Stated more accurately, our minds keep us from seeing that everyone and everything is simply God manifesting in different ways.

       This is not just philosophy or mysticism, for God or a higher force can be experienced. By quieting down and removing the disturbances in our mind, we can experience the underlying unity of all creation. And when we do, then we can fully enjoy the richness and diversity of life in all its manifestations.

       Most religions and cultural traditions describe people who have had a direct experience of a higher force or God. Abraham, the patriarch of both Christianity and Judaism as well as some of the non-Western traditions, is said to have experienced God differently. So did Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, and many others. These people are described as having realized God or enlightenment. that is, they did not get peace from the outside themselves, they realized that they already had it when they simply stopped disturbing it. They did not become one with a higher force; they realized that they already were. They had a direct experience that, in the final analysis, we only appear to be isolated.

       They realized that the higher force or God without is the same as the higher force or God within. So can we.

       Even modern physics is developing a remarkably similar view of the universe. Quantum physics is beginning to help us understand that underneath the diversity--the various names and forms--is an essential unity.

       Physics and metaphysics (and some physicians) are beginning to find a common ground. the language of physicists and the language to mystics begin to sound very similar. In trying to describe the experiences of oneness--"being, not becoming," "a timeless moment," everything and nothing"--the words sound full of paradox, even meaningless, as people try to describe something that is beyond the limitation of words.

       Einstein's famous equation--energy equals mass times the speed of light squared, or E=MC 2 -- demonstrated that energy and matter are inter-convertible. In other words, everything in the world is a manifestation of different forms of energy. the forms change, but the underlying essence does not.

       There is an intelligence of super consciousness behind this energy, as Einstein also recognized, "I shall never belief that God plays dice with the world," he once said, echoing the French philosopher Anatole France who wrote in 1894, "Chance is perhaps the pseudonym of God when He did not want to sign."

       Classical physics echoed the view of the world that philosopher Rene Descartes outlined in the seventeenth century. Descartes saw the mind as separate from both nature and one's own body. In his view, the body is simply a machine that functions according to mechanical laws--a view of medicine still shared by many doctors. Because of this way of looking at the world, most of modern medical research is focused on drugs or surgery to affect bodily processes, to the neglect of our mind and spirit.

       On one level, of course, we are limited by time and space; we are separate from each other. You are you, and I am me. Moreover, we can celebrate our differences. Though we are separate from each other, we are not only separate. On another level, there is higher force working through each of us, whatever name we give to that, and that force connects us all. We feel isolated only because we believe we are separate and only separate.

       By analogy, the light from a movie projector appears on the screen is different characters, situations and dramas. However, behind this diversity is the same light, which equally illuminates the hero and the villain, the powerful and the weak, the lover and the beloved.

       We first need well-defined personal boundaries and a strong sense of autonomy before we can transcend them. When we can maintain a "double vision"--enjoying the diversity and richness of life while remaining grounded on a higher force then we can begin to free themselves of self-destructive patterns. Then we can go out into the world without being so caught up by it; without being so knocked around by it; without being destroyed by it. We can enjoy the drama without forgetting who we are.

       In 1896, a spiritual teacher named Swami Vivekananda gave a series of lectures in London on these ideas:

In one word, this ideal is that you are divine, "Thou art That...." To many this is, no doubt, a terrible ideal, and most of us think that this ideal can never be reached, but it can be realized by everyone. One may be either man or woman or child; one may belong to any race--nothing will stand as a bar to the realization of this ideal, because it is realized already, it is already there. All the powers in the universe are already ours. It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark. Know that there is no darkness around you. Take your hands away there is the light which was from the beginning.

       This experience of oneness, of an expanded Self, has implications on both a cellular level and on a global level. In this context, "Love your neighbors as yourself" is a description of truth, not simply a command. All religions, all forms of worship, all types of prayer and meditation are equally valid--there are many paths to the same ultimate truth. Our higher Self is limited only by our capacity to experience it.

       When we realize that, everything is our Self in different forms, in that moment we experience that there is nothing to fear, including death. When Ramana Maharishi developed cancer (even saints and sages can get cancer and heart disease), he was surrounded by his students who pleaded, Please do not die, please do not leave us." And he replied, "Where would I go?"

       More recently, a cardiologist conducted an interesting research study giving more evidence of our interconnectedness and prayer's influences.  Dr. Randy Byrd conducted a double-blind randomized study of 393 patients at San Francisco General Hospital who were admitted to the coronary care unit during a ten-month period.  He arranged for people to pray for 192 of the patients but not for the 201 others.  These two groups were comparable in terms of age and disease severity.

       Dr. Byrd recruited people from around the country to pray for each of the 192 patients.  He asked each person to pray everyday in whatever form he or she wished.  Each patient in the experimental group received daily prayers from five to seven people, although these patients were unaware of this.

       He found that the prayed-for patients suffered fewer complications in three areas.  First, only three required antibiotics, compared to sixteen in the control group.  Second, only six had pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), compared to eighteen in the control group.  Finally, none of the prayed-for patients required intubation (artificial respiration), while twelve of the others did.  While this study is small (and twenty-three other disease measures showed no response to prayer), it suggest that we may be more interconnected than we often realize.

      In summary, then, your mind, body and spirit are all intimately interconnected.  Because of this, coronary heart disease occurs on emotional and spiritual levels as well as physical ones.  The Opening Your Heart program is designed to address all of these levels, not just the physical ones.

       If we limit our treatment only to the physical heart, then the disease tends to come back again and again--or the treatments may be worse than the illness.  If we also address the emotional and spiritual dimensions, then the physical heart often begins to heal as well.

       You can use the techniques in this book (the author's book, Dr Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease) to open your heart in emotional and spiritual ways that can help  transform your life for the better.  Although we have the technology to evaluate the physical improvements that result from this program, medical science has not yet found a way to objectively measure the emotional and spiritual healing that can occur on this program.  But you can experience it for yourself.  

Source: Dr Dean Ornish, from Dr Dean Ornish's Programme for Reversing Heart Diseases.

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