When Philosophy is Not Enough (and other journeys of self-discovery)

Sunrise over Coogee Beach, 18th July 2020. Photo by Michael de Percy.

Reclaiming your Inner Harmony: A Practical GuideReclaiming your Inner Harmony: A Practical Guide by Richard Marazita
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's sad that it's taken me this long to read another book. But it's clear there's light at the end of the tunnel, and reading this book has been inspirational. I've been working with the author of this book for the last few weeks looking at how to get all of my "parts" to work together, instead of having a free run, an experience that hasn't worked at all before.

Some four years of working on Stoic philosophy has been useful but there have been parts that don't work for me. I suspect that Stoicism's physics, stemming from Heraclitus, has an element of sadness in its resignation to fate. Epicureanism, on the other hand, with its focus on happiness, stems from Democritus' physics. Philosophical adversaries, to be sure, but even Seneca would accept the lessons of his rivals if the lessons are useful.

Journalling is my major vehicle for practising Stoicism. I wrote about the approach I have used in the past here. While reinforcing the foundational principle of Stoicism, best captured in the first page of Epictetus' Enchiridion, I also created a chronicle of evidence that continually "stacked up" with a clear message: I wasn't happy. Even though I was much calmer and more at peace with the world, I wasn't happy. The end result was a major crisis that disrupted my otherwise disciplined journalling ritual. 

I don't regret my experience of journalling and practising Stoicism over the last four years, but after the first three years it became a struggle. Only recently have I been able to get back into my journalling practice, but it is substantially different from my previous practice

Now, I am learning to incorporate other aspects of Eastern philosophy and religion, especially Buddhism, and more recently, Classical Indian Philosophy in the form of the Yoga and Siva Sutras. 

After a trip to Brunei in May last year the idea of the Chakras opened up a whole new world of healing, especially for my body which has long been neglected over the last twenty years while I pursued study and an academic career. Turning to Stoicism was the first step in a much broader awakening to life outside of the mind.

My first step was to do two Rapid Transformation Therapy (RTT) sessions and then a tarot reading. I had some Bowen, Reiki, and Kinesiology sessions, too. A key theme has been the relationship of the body to the mind. As a former soldier, the only real relationship these two parts of me have had was that my mind pushed my body as far as it could go.

The therapy I have been having with Richard has been useful in recognising the different parts of me that act and react on my behalf. A key part of the technique, known as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), has been enlightening and brought to light a number of issues I have buried for many years. 

The approach is similar to Napoleon Hill's concept of the Cabinet of Invisible Counselors, except that the counselors are different parts of me, rather than other individuals. I am hopeful that the approach will help me develop a better sense of self and to become better at establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries.

I stumbled upon Reclaiming your Inner Harmony: A Practical Guide while checking out Richard's website. I found the book easy to read and quite practical. The basic approach is that, to achieve inner harmony, one must balance the mind, body, feelings, and gut instinct. Disharmony is caused by one of these parts dominating the others. 

For me, gut instinct is something I have buried for a long time. I think that Stoicism, which is clearly a form of ancient psychotherapy, is much easier to subscribe to for a soldier-turned-scholar. But it doesn't make any connection to the body. In fact, it tends to dissociate the body from the mind, in that it is not something that one can control. This makes sense in terms of illness or injury, but it seems to ignore the fact that my mind exists because of my body. I must admit to a feeling of dissociation which has only recently begun to retreat.

I found this short book useful despite my first attempt at using the tools leading to my gut instinct going for an off-leash run. Like the EMDR therapy, the point is to enable all parts of oneself to "check in". 

Much like Stoic philosophy (and religions, but that's another story), it takes practice to reinforce the habit, through use of the chain method, if you will. And that is where my journalling has found a new purpose.

My journey, which began with my mind before finding practical application in the form of Stoic philosophy, neglected the feelings, body, and gut instinct that I have rediscovered. It has given me a perspective that I think I initially buried, inappropriately in hindsight, and then suppressed further with Stoicism. 

The last time I felt the connection with my body was in training before going to Duntroon. I was practising Tai Chi at the time. Like Seneca, I can choose to use whatever works for me rather than trying to be a purist in everything I do. Given the obvious health and wellbeing benefits, it makes sense. 

And while many things and people have assisted me on this latest stage of my journey, this book has given me a logical framework for connecting with my different parts while also guiding me to develop my own, unadulterated, sense of self.

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