About

‘We’re here to get each other through this thing, whatever it is.’

 

Mark Vonnegut to his father, Kurt.

 

 

 

 

 

Recent advances in Neuroscience and Psychology present us with an enhanced understanding of how our minds work, and offer us ways in which we can minimize our suffering, optimize our normal function, and help us to achieve our potential to flourish. Coupled with the wisdom of more than 2,500 years of traditional spiritual practices, we have an unprecedented opportunity to blossom individually and as a species. At the same time, we find ourselves at a crisis-point, and if we do not seize this opportunity very soon, we may not live to tell the tale.

 

 

From the age of about 14, and filled with teenage angst, my friend Padraic and I set about trying to find the ‘Golden Key’. Sometime later I was joined by my brother Finn on the journey, and over the years we’ve tried and tested various ways of finding ‘The Truth’, most of which were dead-ends, some of which were of value. Of course, some would say that the seeking itself is the problem, but for me to give up seeking just leads to apathy and torpor. So I’ve just had to keep on keeping on.

 

I was lucky enough to be clever in school, and the Christian Brothers in Colaiste Mhuire in Dublin educated me. In contrast to some others, they taught me well, and I am grateful to them. I was lucky to have the inspiration of a teacher named Joe Costello who saw some potential in me.

 

Unfortunately, this was never realised and I went to University College Dublin to study Medicine, which I found cloying and uninspiring. I graduated in 1981, and not knowing what to do I went to the wilds of Newfoundland, Canada to work as a General Practitioner. After a year and a half I went home to Ireland and drifted from one medical job to another. I eventually wound up in Psychiatry, which seemed the least worst, and I’ve been there ever since. I can’t say I ever a vocation to be a doctor or a psychiatrist. I got my Postgraduate Membership of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 1989.

 

In 1990 I immigrated to England, worked as a Clinical Lecturer in Psychiatry at the University of Leicester for three years, and as a Consultant Psychiatrist in the National Health Service in Scotland, where I met my wife. In 2000 we moved to the south of England, to the beautiful New Forest where we’ve been ever since. I worked in another NHS job until 2007. I then moved to private practice at the Priory Hospital Southampton.

 

We have two children, Donal, aged 15, and Rachel, aged 13.

 

From a very early age I had a fascination with science and I had read Children’s Britannica from cover to cover by the aged of 12. I then became interested in Chemistry and did many dangerous experiments in my room, causing explosions and filling the house with toxic fumes on many occasions. I wanted to pursue a career in Nuclear Physics, but I didn’t have the maths brain to pull that off. I was also attracted to Astronomy, but the same thing applied. So I ended up as a physician.

 

Throughout those formative years, and ever since, the same burning desire to known ‘The Answer’ to Life, Death and the Universe has continued unabated. In my early twenties I discovered Zen and I’ve read everything I could my hands on. I’ve explored Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, a bit of Sufism and every weird and wacky therapy, idea, and philosophy available- all the usual suspects, in fact. Over the years I dabbled in meditation, but it is only recently that I have begun to put my head (and body!) on it.

 

In the past few years I have discovered Neuroscience, and how its discoveries have informed the age-old quest for self-discovery and realisation.

 

Happily for me, I have never seen any conflict between science and spirituality, and both sit comfortably side-by-side in my understanding. In fact, I find it hard to see what all the fuss is about, and why, in general, modern scientists seem feel the need to deny their spiritual selves in favour of some impoverished and primitive cosmogony. I’ll have more to say about that later, but for now I think it’s important to say that I believe that the healing of that fracture is one of the biggest tasks confronting us today.

 

 

I cannot possibly do justice to the wealth of information out there, but I would like to share with you some of the ideas, practices and therapies that I have discovered and found useful in negotiating the adventure we find ourselves sharing.

 

This is by no means exhaustive, and merely represents a sample of the things I have come across and found of interest.

 

In addition, I will describe some of the pit-falls and wrong-turnings we have made in getting to where we are, which need to be urgently addressed if we are not to lose our way.

 

Above all, I propose to suggest practices and techniques, which you can explore for yourself, which may be of use along the way.

 

Many times I have retreated from sharing these ideas, believing that I ‘need to sort myself out first’.  But I am now coming to the understanding that we are all wounded, and will always be so. If we are until we are perfect before we can live, I think we will, to paraphrase Hubert Benoit, ‘wait in vain until our death’.

 

The following pages are roughly organised around the these themes:

Rewire your Brain: Attention and Neuroplasticity

The Autonomic Nervous System

The Body and the Brain

The Limbic System

The Vagus Nerves

The Frontal Lobes

Science and Religion

Talking Therapies

Developmental Stages

Beliefs

Religion and Spirituality

Worldviews and Philosophy

Non-duality

The Law of Attraction

Meaning and Purpose in life

Practices and Techniques

Meditation

Resources

Links

 

 

Consider it a work in progress…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “About

  1. I have found a Truth and it has come about by feeling rather than thinking or doing. Unfortunately it has been at the cost of mental breakdown and suffering. Perhaps that is what is required in order to de-clutter oneself from false beliefs and half shaped ideas, and thus enable a connection. When thinking and doing are suppressed the mind can be held open so that the Truth is intuited.

    Life afterwards goes on much as before and is not without pain, but there is a balm in this new comprehension, and a relief from the restlessness and relentlessness of seeking. The pursuit of greater knowledge becomes a fascination to be enjoyed and not a drug to satisfy a craving. I cannot articulate the Truth using language – which is why it is so resistant to rational thinking or seeking. It does not have narrative or meaning. It just is, (where even ‘is’ is too loaded with meaning). I experience it in a similar way to the connection made with abstract art. You only know it by its effects.

    • Dear Minerva,
      Thank you for your contribution. May your joy, and the causes for your joy, increase. Joe

  2. Great blog, Joseph. I’ve followed, and look forward to reading more. Although I don’t have the scientific education that you do, I am very interested in how science and spirituality inform each other.

    Regarding your line above: “Of course, some would say that the seeking itself is the problem, but for me to give up seeking just leads to apathy and torpor. So I’ve just had to keep on keeping on.” – In my experience when we discover our true nature, the desperate search for something that we imagined was lacking comes to an end. That does not mean that we become perfect individuals, so our spiritual development should continue. The problem with seeking is that it tends to reinforce the identity as a separate “I” – the one who is seeking, and hoping to ‘gain enlightenment’ for himself or herself. On the other hand, if a person sits in front of the TV all night drinking beer, they are likely never going to awaken. So it seems that we seek until the search is seen through, at which point it suddenly falls away, but our personal journey continues.

    (see my post http://thewondrousdharma.com/2012/06/29/the-path-is-endless/)

    • That’s encouraging. Guess I’ll just have to keep on truckin’. I can’t help it anyway- the search just goes on, until the treasure is found, I suppose. In the meantime we have to help each other. Actually I’m beginning to lose interest in the scientific underpinnings; I don’t think they help that much. Still, for secularly inclined people it’s a language they may understand better.
      Interestingly John Sherman thinks all spiritual traditions get in the way, and while I disagree with some of his stuff, he does have point.

    • Arjuna,
      I agree, although some people have been fortunate enough to awaken right in the midst of serious addiction. See Paula Hedderman’s zenbitchslap.com
      Joe

  3. Great blog, Joseph. I found our sessions very helpful and have continued to live more content and happily since. I realised the pointlessness of living in fear of what others may think, say or do following your own actions. Where there is fear there is never happiness and I see that now more than ever. Thanks to your sessions and insights I’ve managed to overcome my anxiety 100% and now live by doing what makes me happy. I didn’t realise it at the time but my bout of illness was a blessing in disguise. Thank you Joseph.

    • Dear Eymen,
      Great to hear from you and great to hear that you are doing well. I am only partially creditable for the blog-Fiona is doing a great job! Keep in touch and please comment as you see fit…
      Joe

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