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Living Out of Compassion

“The key to the Grail is compassion, ‘suffering with,’ feeling another’s sorrow as if it were your own. The one who finds the dynamo of compassion is the one who’s found the Grail.”

– Excerpt From: Campbell, Joseph. “A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living.” Joseph Campbell Foundation, 2011-08-01

Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD, FACS

I wanted to share a little note on living out of compassion in our everyday lives; it’s easy to talk about it, but it’s not always clear how to do it.

Whenever we welcome a new staff member to my medical practice, I sit with him or her and have a short – but important – conversation on what the most important thing is that defines our practice: “We Don’t Do This Merely for Money.”

We Don't Do This Merely for Money - We Live Out of Compassion.
We Don’t Do This Merely for Money – We Live Out of Compassion.

Our practice (which I call “Feeling Centered Medicine”) rests upon the foundation of building relationships with our patients out of a deep and abiding compassion for who they are, what they are experiencing and what they hope for in their lives. As the quote by the wonderful mythologist Joseph Campbell above explains, compassion is to feel another’s sorrow (or experience) as if it were your own.

We spend time with patients because they put their hopes and trust in us. To serve those in need, those who may be suffering or, at the very least, may be in anguish or distress, is to be given a rare opportunity to assist them in not only healing but attaining a measure of peace and contentment.

Attaining this is simply impossible if our aim was only to pad our bottom line.

I included the above quote to begin this post because Joseph Campbell has left an indelible mark upon my very soul; his gentleness, expertise and empathy have always distinguished his work and has always been inspirational to me. The Grail is essentially your own soul, your connection to something transcendent. The key to reconnecting with this elemental part of your being is to operate out of empathy, gratitude and compassion. I try to live this way every day – it is not only necessary but it is possible for all of us!

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Right Action

When you stand before God, you can’t say, “I was told by others to do this or that. That virtue was not convenient at the time.” Your Soul is in your keeping. What you decide to do every day will determine if you will be a good man or not.”

From the Movie, “Kingdom of Heaven”

Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD, FACS

Right Action embraces the highest spiritual values: compassion, love and loyalty.
Right Action embraces the highest spiritual values: compassion, love and loyalty.

It may be said that the mark of true spirituality is to choose to take “Right Action” in everything you do. “Right Action” is not a moral choice; it is not making a judgement characterized by “good” or “evil” – these are intellectual abstractions. “Right Action” comes from your heart, comes from your soul; it is not mediated by the intellect but, instead, springs forth spontaneously from your feelings – you simply know it to be right and true.

Right Action is the courage to act on behalf of those most vulnerable, it is the divinity within us; Right Action is centered in compassion, love and loyalty, the highest spiritual values. Being able to identity, to know, what Right Action is comes from a deep understanding of your own identity – not who you are in society, but who you are within the depths of your heart and soul.

Knowing this (and this is Gnostic knowledge at it highest), you know what your authentic and true desires are and how to act upon them. You know – without having to abstract or judge – how to act to serve the calling of your soul, because that authentic calling goes beyond you – it serves a transcendent purpose. Taking Right Action is a key component to living a powerful, fulfilling and meaningful life!

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Feeling Centered Medicine

The requirements for our evolution have changed. Survival is no longer sufficient. Our evolution now requires us to develop spiritually – to become emotionally aware and make responsible choices. It requires us to align ourselves with the values of the soul – harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for life.”

– Gary Zukav

Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD, FACS

Asclepius - Fragment of mosaics in the Public Bath of Kyustendil. Author: Nikolai Zikov
Asclepius – Fragment of mosaics in the Public Bath of Kyustendil. Author: Nikolai Zikov

In ancient Greek mythology, Asclepius was known as the God of Medicine. Removed from the womb of his dead mother by his father, Apollo (in what could be called the first Caesarian section), Asclepius was raised and tutored by the wise centaur Chiron who taught him the art of healing. Asclepius excelled in his studies and became a doctor and surgeon of unparalleled skill, not merely healing the sick but eventually mastering the ability to raise the dead!

This, however, raised the ire of Zeus, to whom his brother Hades complained as so few individuals were entering the underworld after death. In addition, many of the enemies struck down by Zeus’ thunderbolts returned to life, to his distinct consternation. Zeus therefore struck Asclepius down, fearing his growing power, and set forth the dictum that despite the ingenuity, genius and creativity of humanity in the practice of the medical arts, we would nevertheless be subject to mortality and death.

I find this myth to be quite illuminating when it comes to the practice of medicine. Certainly, Hippocrates, known as the Father of Western Medicine, understood this law of nature – and the meaning of this powerful myth. Medicine was about healing the body, mind and soul – not trying to compete with the gods in a vain effort to live forever.

The body, the palette of the medical arts, as it were, is truly a product of the soul. The soul is the organizing principle that gives rise to the physical manifestation we call the body. So, to promote good health and well-being, it is necessary to treat the whole person, mind, body and soul.

This philosophy forms the foundation of what I call “Feeling Centered Medicine,” which is, in fact, how I refer to my own medical practice. Feeling Centered Medicine (FCM) sees that the traditional Western model of viewing the body like a machine is a poor, outdated approach, for it drains from medicine – and from the very patients we serve – the art and divinity at its core.

A key to FCM – and, really, anything you may undertake in life – is to operate from the heart, out of compassion and love. The first thing that I tell any of my team, when they join my practice, is that we don’t work for money. We must have gratitude for this journey we’re on, and we allow our souls to manifest their joy, their gifts, through grateful service to others.

It has always been my philosophy that we don’t fix people – we seek to heal the whole person. We treat every person with the dignity deserving of the beautiful souls that we all truly are. We listen and pay careful attention to everything that a patient shares with us, and we treat them with reverence and respect. People’s pain is almost always a manifestation of something greater and deeper in their lives, something affecting not just the body but the mind and soul as well.

Feeling Centered Medicine is based upon a foundation of compassion (a word meaning “to suffer together”). In FCM, we seek to elicit from people what they feel, not merely what they think (this has its basis in the field of NLP, Neurolinguistic Programming, created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder). Through a blend of empathy and compassion with the best tools and practices of modern medicine, we are able to explore what a patient’s feelings are presenting to us, and we are able to work to heal the total person, mind, body and soul.

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The Pope Francis Encyclical Laudato si’: A New Relationship with the Transcendent

When people become self-centered and self-enclosed, their greed increases. The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume. It becomes almost impossible to accept the limits imposed by reality. In this horizon, a genuine sense of the common good also disappears.”

– Pope Francis, Laudato si’ (#204)

Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD, FACS

The recent visit of Pope Francis to Cuba and the United States has brought into focus something beautiful that is happening not only within the Church but with the unfolding of transcendent consciousness itself. There is a growing recognition of the interconnection of all life, of a divinity not separate from creation but one that infuses all life, all nature, all of creation.

The first page of St. Augustine's work, "City of God Against the Pagans"
The first page of St. Augustine’s work, “City of God Against the Pagans”

I am so pleased and inspired to see that the grievous error committed upon nature, the feminine and indeed all life reflected in more than a thousand years of orthodox doctrine has been addressed, corrected and transcended by this extraordinary Pope! Dating back to St. Augustine and his 5th Century AD work, “City of God Against the Pagans,” a document which codified the gulf between God and Man, the Divine and Nature, orthodox doctrine has held that, because of the idea of Original Sin, humanity is fallen and nature, and the feminine, were equally stained and corrupt. Nature was devoid of divinity (for the Divine was separate and beyond creation) and could therefore be subject to the dominion of man.

This mistaken philosophical idea has paved the way for terrible, destructive actions and attitudes toward our natural world, and each other, and allowed for an economic philosophy that sees nature, and all life, merely as resources to be exploited, devoid of divinity, compassion and consciousness.

Pope Francis during his visit with President Obama in 2014
Pope Francis during his visit with President Obama in 2014

In the May 24, 2015 Encyclical, “Laudato si, mi’ Signore” (“Praise be to you, my Lord”), Pope Francis lays out a radically different relationship with nature, each other and with the Divine (or, as I would call it, the transcendent energy consciousness). From the beginning of the document, the Pope reflects his humble nature, addressing the encyclical not to the hierarchy of the Church but instead to ALL PEOPLE; this humility and compassion seems to reflect the heart of Francis, and is what is needed for the continuing unfolding of consciousness.

The focus of this Encyclical is to enter into “new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation that includes everyone, since the environment challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” (Laudato si’, #14). With the heart of a poet, Francis goes on to say:

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

Nothing in this world is indifferent to us.”

Laudato si’ (#2)

While Pope Francis and the Church still see a doctrinal separation between God and Man, he recognizes that, in practice, such a schism can no longer be used to justify our treatment of nature and each other. As he states,

“we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures . . . This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature.”

Laudato si’ (#67)

Ultimately, the publishing of this Encyclical, and the recognition on the part of Pope Francis and, as a consequence, of the Church, of the need for a new relationship between humanity and nature is a reflection of a new, emerging relationship with transcendent consciousness. While Francis goes into great and noble detail about the destruction and exploitation we have and continue to visit upon nature, the act of publishing this work signifies something even greater at work: the gradual shift of human consciousness, from one focused upon power, control and domination to, instead, one that operates from the heart (the 4th Chakra).

Recognition of our obligation to “till and keep” nature begets recognition of the web of all life and creation. In the greater scheme of things, this will be seen as a small but firm step toward the recognition of the divinity in each of us, in all of life and in all of creation. We are the stuff of divinity, of transcendent energy consciousness, and it is heartening to me to see the growing awareness of this reflected in practical action by Pope Francis.

Please click on this link to read the “Laudato si, mi’ Signore” in full.

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Protecting the Vulnerable – True Spirituality

A King may move a man, a father may claim a son, but remember that even when those who move you be Kings, or men of power, your soul is in your keeping alone. When you stand before God, you cannot say, “But I was told by others to do thus.” Or that, “Virtue was not convenient at the time.” This will not suffice. Remember that.”

– King Baldwin IV, from the movie “Kingdom of Heaven,” 2005

Parzival and Condviramur from the illuminated manuscript of "Parzival" by Wolfram von Eschenbach
Parzival and Condviramur from the illuminated manuscript of “Parzival” by Wolfram von Eschenbach

Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD, FACS

For those who are awake and aware, for those who would operate at a level of consciousness in which loyalty, compassion and love are the uppermost spiritual values, protection and care of those most vulnerable among us is of critical importance . . . And those most vulnerable are not only our fellow human beings but all life, great and small – Nature, our very mother.

We must always strive to be our best – and our best selves are those in which we work to achieve alignment between our souls and our facades, the ego images we project out into this world. When we operate from our souls, we instinctively seek to serve something far greater than ourselves; we strive to protect and nurture those most fragile within our midst, whatever they may be. This is true, honest spirituality.

We must also strive to recognize and be aware of those who would appropriate religions or ideologies of any denomination in order to further their own unquenchable desire for power, control and domination. Fanatics of every stripe who claim to know the will of god, or who claim some illusory group superiority, know only their shallow yet unending desire to exercise dominion over those who would fall prey to their words.

True holiness, true spirituality, is in knowing deep within your soul what is right and in having the courage to act upon it. What the divine desires is right here in you, in your heart and soul; it cannot be found in the empty words of charlatans and zealots. Every choice YOU make determines whether you live from the highest spiritual values or merely from the basest desires of man.

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Helen Luke on Shakespeare’s Master Work, “The Tempest”

The shipwreck in The Tempest
The shipwreck in The Tempest

Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD, FACS

The venerable author Helen Luke, in her powerful book “Old Age,” touches on a wide variety of issues including aging, consciousness and letting go, through her deeply insightful analysis of some of the greatest works in literature. Her analysis of perhaps Shakespeare’s penultimate work, “The Tempest,” is thoughtful and brilliant.

Prospero, a magician (with an understanding of the “Occult”), the main character and once Duke of Milan, is removed from power by his scheming brother, Antonio (with the help of Alonso, the King of Naples) and set out onto a leaky boat with his three year old daughter, Miranda, presumably to sink and die. However, his friend Gonzalo (and Alonso’s counselor) fills the boat with supplies and Prospero’s books, to sustain them as they were set adrift. Prospero and Miranda survive and land on an enchanted island where, given his extraordinary powers of conjuring and magic, he frees a powerful spirit, Ariel, who was cruelly imprisoned within a tree by the presently dead witch Sycorax; Ariel is made to serve him with the promise of eventual release from his servitude. Prospero conjures up a great storm (the aforementioned tempest) to bring his scheming brother and the King of Naples to the island.

Helen Luke, herself an accomplished analyst, takes a Jungian approach to her study of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and gleans powerful insights into the work. The Tempest, she notes, is about Forgiveness, the Folly of Arrogance and Power, Redemption and the Necessity of Devotion to Something Greater Than Oneself.

Prospero, when he first arrives on the island, is full of his own pride and frees the spirit Ariel only to use her for his own selfish purposes. His arrogance kept him blind to what was truly necessary to redeem Miranda and himself – compassion. His arrogance and desire for power created resentment and anger, and is emblematic of someone who is unconscious of his own behavior.

Helen Luke notes that the necessity to forgive is a key to letting go of the hubris that hinders one’s development into wholeness. She notes also that despite Prospero’s arrogance, there was a greater redeeming quality to him that eventually allowed him to see his folly and to be saved: Devotion – in this case, Devotion to his daughter, Miranda.

By acting upon his love to serve something greater than himself, Prospero is redeemed and can now consciously approach his own mortality and enter into the last part of his life in wholeness. Devotion is to bring the sacred into one’s life, and is key to deflating the hubris of the Ego while simultaneously elevating the value of one’s soul.

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Evolution of Consciousness

The central idea of the purpose of human existence is the creation of consciousness. Our purpose, I think is to bring light into the darkness of being, to increase consciousness by becoming aware of what is hidden in the unconscious.

Carl Jung developed a new myth for modern man, one based around the idea that man is indispensable for the completion of creation. Existence is only real when it is conscious to someone and this, he argues, is why the divine needs conscious men – whoever knows the divine has a moderating and loving effect upon it. Once the union of opposites is attained, man and the divine are reconciled. In psychological terms, the Ego and Soul are finally aligned, an the creation of higher consciousness changes not only the individual but the nature of creation itself.

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The Mystery of the Coniunctio

The Coniunctio is a medieval, alchemical concept regarding the union of opposites, king and queen, male and female, to create a complete, whole entity. The historian Mircea Eliade and psychologist Carl Jung were both aware of the religious, symbolic and archetypal significance of this concept with respect to the union of ego and soul within the individual.

The urge to individuatioin, the process of becoming a whole and harmonious individual as expressed in depth psychology, requires that one undertake a dangerous – and glorious – journey to elevated consciousness, where one can simultaneously experience and accept the opposites in one’s life – good and bad, light and dark, male and female. The highest measure of an individual’s worth is the ability to carry the opposites, so that one will not damage the psyche but will carry one’s own shadow.

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The Three Metamorphoses

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche, in discussing the Three Metamorphoses of the human spirit, points out that we are in a constant state of becoming. That is, we are evolving in consciousness, as individuals and as a species. Nietzsche’s three stages are: Camel, Lion and finally Child.

As Camels, we take on the social burdens placed externally upon us from parents, religion, society, and the like. As Lions, we become noble, vicious creatures thirsty for truth, destined to defeat our own internal dragons of “Thou Shalt.” And upon the successful vanquishing, we return to the innocence of the Child. This is the goal of our Journey, to begin a new life free of preconceptions and the “Thou Shalts” of the Ego.