Why am I so passionate about integrative mental health and how did I get to be an expert? It’s very personal, but it’s also about all of us, and the conditions of life today. It’s the reason I feel stable and deeply happy—and may be the reason you can reach that place as well.
When I was 24 years old in 1971, I began studying Hatha Yoga from followers of Iyengar, an East Indian master. I was already deeply involved with Zen Buddhist meditation and philosophy. I had spent 4 years under the guidance of Suzuki Roshi, an enlightened Japanese man. I’d had some childhood issues to work out, and was consulting a Neo-Reichian psychotherapist—who followed Wilhelm Reich, a brilliant German medical doctor.
This was the beginning of integrative mental health: drawing from the depths of wisdom of India, Japan and Europe while living in San Francisco in the late 1960’s. (No, I didn’t mix with drugs, was married, and not very attracted to rock music. Meditation was the source of my ecstasy.) California was one of the first to draw from many cultures and then attempt to integrate that wisdom with the science of optimal mental health.
When all Hell broke loose in my personal life starting that summer, 1971—with five deaths in my family in addition to my employer and my Zen master—I took refuge in the safety net of Buddhist philosophy, cathartic psychotherapy, and being a dedicated mother to my newborn. Loved ones had seemingly vanished from my life through suicides, car crashes, alcoholism, drug overdose, miscarriage, and cancer. Change was the only constant. I was asked to help people who had fallen into psychotic states. I likened my life to a war zone.
On the heels of this came incessant drama with my husband and the breakup of our marriage. I was awarded full custody of our son because of his father’s instability.
Kali: Sister and Mentor
Now what? I had my health and my baby. Most of the other players had been wiped off the field leaving us alone. I was drawn to Kali, a universal archetype originating in East India, the symbol of the great B.S. detector, who destroys everything but the barebones of TRUTH. I hung a large painting of her on my wall, and acknowledged her as part of the family—both wise older sister and mentor.
Kali is fierce. She confronts what seem to be insurmountable challenges, without hesitating or procrastinating. In the battle of life, she kills every demon—including the one that replicates itself each time a drop of its blood hits the ground. Kali is passionate, resourceful, persistent and victorious!
Somehow, I didn’t land in the mental ward—crazed with loss, anger and despair. Why? Lifestyle choices. My veggie garden. Great psychotherapy. Meditation. Community. Singing. Our dog. Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol or prescriptions of psychiatric drugs were not part of my routine.
We lived a simple life, close to nature, in a rural town in Northern California. I made friends: moms, musicians, midwives, artists, and ‘cultural creatives’. I took refuge in the Bodhisattva vow I had taken in Zen training. In a nutshell: Suffering sentient beings are numerous. I vow to assist them all through becoming enlightened, no matter how long that takes, along with social action. I meditated. This was an anchor and a safe harbor. I also studied all manner of things, including, “Where do people go when they die?” I wanted truth.
Fast forward. When my son was old enough, I returned to school and earned a doctorate in Transpersonal Psychology. My special interest: the crises and epiphanies of the spiritual path. I was licensed as a psychotherapist and dug into the life of private practice, writing books, and teaching. I’ve been at it more than 25 years. During this time I’ve deeply explored the resources for optimizing mental health in Brazil, and returned to Yoga philosophy as a base for my personal spiritual development.
Mental Health in 2013
As I look around in 2013, I see how fortunate I’ve been. Nowadays, insurance companies won’t help pay for long-term psychotherapy. People are leaving conventional religion in droves, without a moral anchor or philosophy to help guide their lives. Practicing Hatha Yoga for our physical health is “in”, but the ancient wisdom of yoga philosophy is typically not part of the program. In our computer age, almost everyone is focused on instant messaging, but hardly anyone has really close friends and community, even dinner with the family. Grocery stores increase the rows of chips and sodas, with fewer and fewer choices for quality fresh fruit and vegetables. There’s a huge buffet of alternative health practitioners—but few voices who determine which ones are effective.
How can a youngster, teen, young adult, or mature person find their way in such a world when times get tough? Where are the maps to sanity? Where is the community support?
Take the pulse: We have more people in prison than any other country. We have more anxiety than any other country. According to the CDC, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35–64 years increased 28.4% between 1999 and 2010 (from 13.7 suicides per 100,000 population in 1999 to 17.6 per 100,000 in 2010). In addition, “A total of 13%–20% of children living in the United States experience a mental disorder in a given year, and surveillance during 1994–2011 has shown the prevalence of these conditions to be increasing.” In 2007 the New York Times reported that the number of American children and adolescents treated for bipolar disorder had increased 40-fold between 1994 and 2003.
Enter Integrative Mental Health University
Integrative Mental Health University aims to be a resource for assistance. Take a breather. Ask yourself and get clear about, “What is my inner ideal, my life goal?” Your MD doesn’t take time to explain your options and only has time to give you a pill? Turn to us for online learning.. Scientific research now supports the value of everything I jumped into decades ago. Our faculty are experts Find out what is available to you for therapy, if you are in a psychological impasse. Learn how you can find peace in yourself if you are feeling anxious. Become aware of effective resources to assist you to optimize resilience, satisfy spiritual longing, and find what optimal mental health is for you.
That’s my story. Any comments you would like to share? Please use our comment box below.