By Beth Netter MD
The world is experiencing an epidemic of stress, burnout and pain. And who are the “patients” suffering from this dis-ease? You might be surprised to discover that this group includes not only the general public, but a rapidly growing segment of the physician and healthcare provider population as well. As a physician I have experienced this dis-ease myself and have seen it in my colleagues since medical school. Increased academic loan debts, mountains of information to learn, patient loads and computer technology demands have led healthcare providers into their own stress-induced health crisis. Fortunately, the teachings and practical methods of Yoga Science as holistic mind/body medicine taught at The American Meditation Institute, have helped many of us not only to recuperate but to live happier and healthier lives. The great sages (and now physicists) tell us that we are pure consciousness––in body, mind and spirit––with unlimited potential for re-creation and health. We are comprised of the same wisdom and growth capacities of the Source energy that forms and re-forms us each day. Both body and mind can renew into greater wellness and equanimity. Homeostasis and strengthened resilience can return even in life’s most challenging circumstances. Part of the prescription for actualizing this healing is the contemplation of one simple question: “Who Am I?” To discover the answer let’s step back into “anatomy lab” where we will dissect our anatomy from the gross to the subtle: We know our organs are made of cells, cells are made of molecules, molecules are made of atoms, atoms are made of energy, and according to Yoga Science, energy is unconditioned consciousness. Consciousness is the underlying eternal reality of every individual form. It is the nature of consciousness to endlessly manifest from the One, nondual Source.
So who am I? Just like you, I am a citizen of two worlds. At our essence we are all consciousness, wisdom and bliss having human experiences in time and space through individual mind-body-sense complexes. Yoga Science provides a scientific and philosophical template for realizing the union of these two worlds. Yet, many of us suffer stress, anxiety and burnout because of the limitations in our thought patterns and the constant demands of everyday life. We’re hypnotized into identifying with the body and the mind while disregarding the core of our being. So whose life is it? Is it my life? My relationships? My history? My feelings, actions, thoughts? I once believed so, but now know that, at a deeper level, I am unconditioned consciousness––manifesting as “Beth.” As such, I have the option of dropping the baggage of roles and memories, likes and dislikes, even thoughts and strong emotions the personality had considered to be mine. These temporary conditions are not who I am, and I have the capacity to change. How freeing! Positive growth, a new experience, is possible when I can align concepts and perspectives in more accurate and lifeaffirming ways.
Experimenting with Yoga Science
I began to experiment with this idea by sacrificing the concept of: “I” am Beth Netter. I realized that by acknowledging “I am not Beth,” and adopting a higher level view, the mind could more easily detach from habit patterns of fear, worry, anger, and guilt. The next step in the experiment came when my teacher, Leonard Perlmutter, appeared in one of his recent Facebook Live video lectures wearing aviator sunglasses. He was making the point that we see a skewed version of the world through our inaccurate lenses: concepts that shape our perceptions. I suddenly saw how my habits have been distorting my view of life, injecting negativity into benign situations and bringing pain and suffering to Beth––and to others with whom I have interacted. This opened my eyes and created a space for greater clarity. Through my practice of AMI Meditation and other tools in the Yoga Science toolbag, I was able to identify erroneous, unconscious concepts like: I am not good enough, and I am wrong or potentially wrong. Like many of you, I had respected “teachers,” in my life who often told me I was wrong or not good enough, and because I was so young, impressionable and eager for approval, I accepted their judgments. Now I am aware that much of what they taught me was simply their own mis-perceptions, seen through their own faulty conceptual lenses. Because I had not yet discovered and exercised my own discriminative faculty (buddhi), I innocently adopted their view while erroneously associating being “right” or “perfect” with my self-preservation. The messages motivated me to work hard, but also ensured my underlying and deeply exhausting stress and anxiety. Thus I became a good anesthesiologist who burned out trying to be “right” and “perfect” when simply giving my best effort would have served me (and others) better. The positive, stress-reducing insights resulted from my experimentation as a Yoga scientist. The process is fairly simple, so I’d like to ask you to try an experiment of your own. At some point during your day enter the detached, witnessing state of a curious scientist and simply observe your mind and body––including your thoughts, desires, emotions and reactions as you think, speak, or engage in each of your relationships. What is your perspective? Is there a habit of the mind to fear and worry, feel guilt, blame, to recall your mistakes or apparently “poor outcomes/failures” (or successes and “highs” in order to feel better), feel ashamed or embarrassed, be angry at yourself for choices you have made, keep working or pushing yourself even when you are exhausted or in pain? If you resonated with any of these reactions, you are not alone––simply human. These are unconscious patterns and beliefs based on wrong concepts that skew our actions. Unfortunately, they’re stored in the unconscious mind as “fact.” The ego, always trying to assure self-preservation, holds onto being right or good and avoids what its limited perspective judges to be wrong or bad––regardless of the actual situation. We then take action based on those faulty perceptions, opinions or expectations of our families, culture and patients––not on our own intuitive Inner Wisdom.
Unmasking the Truth
This condition is often the cause of the masks we wear. According to modern psychologists these debilitating identifications include: The Savior, who rescues others from pain and disease and is responsible for fixing them; The Saint, who must do everything perfectly and flawlessly; and The Martyr, who suffers and puts his or her own self-care aside by giving all their time and energy to everyone else––even if they’re exhausted and in pain. And if we don’t live in one of these three personas, we don’t really feel safe. Can you feel the weight of this? One of the great fallacies of duality is that “I am the doer,” the source of thoughts, words and actions. Accepting that limited perspective, the ego believes it is in charge, and every misstep becomes a burden, every success an opportunity for inflated pride. In the end, only suffering can result. Through AMI-based contemplation practices I learned that those beliefs only deplete my energy, elicit guilt and pain, and inhibit self-confidence, self-reliance and creativity. They are barriers to peace, happiness, loving relationships and skillful service. They limit my capacity to know, actualize and share my full potential.
A Moment of Grace
The moment Leonard appeared on Facebook Live wearing dark sunglasses I immediately could see the personality’s old, faulty habit patterns I had been wearing since childhood. What followed was very positive. As I began mentally sacrificing perspectives that were obviously false, I became more calm and life got easier. I was increasingly able to see how others were also habituated to wearing similar dark glasses of illusion and distortion. Relieved of old, false perceptions I began to experience a completely different state of being. I was able to let go of “being what Beth thought she was.” Instead, I could experience myself and everyone else more objectively and compassionately. People were just present and in their own worlds. This awareness and detachment created a space between stimulus and response. There was less reactivity. I relaxed and felt freer to engage. Fear, guilt, anger, self-deprecation and insecurity could still appear yet couldn’t maintain their hold. The energies (pranas) that bring us strength, health and well-being could flow more freely. Since then, life has been kinder and gentler, with less attachment to highs and lows. I feel more clarity, even-mindedness and focus. This Higher Self-awareness, which is reinforced in a daily AMI Meditation practice, helps me remember I am not bound to the stories or actions of the past. This has allowed for greater authenticity and skill in serving the Higher Self and humanity. It brings expanded energy to live, love and give. So now I have experienced a truth that I can remember when the dark lenses, the old veils of illusion, obscure my vision––which occasionally they still can do. This change in perspective has shown me that many of those old conceptions have not been real. Every person I have met who practices medicine has, on some level, chosen this work in order to serve in a caring and loving way. And the truth is we are all very sensitive people doing our best. As you evolve in this process of transformation, life can be lived without previously limiting beliefs, and free of old burdens that have led to stress and burnout. The empowering self-care medicine of AMI Meditation and the allied disciplines of Yoga Science have been a prescription for my healing. If you are ready to experiment as a Yoga scientist/physician, a happier, healthier, and more joyful life awaits you.