Accidents & Synchronicity
I recommend it to anyone who is at the point in their lives where they wish to connect (or re-connect) with their soul and spiritual path.
Accidents & Synchronicity: Messages from the Soul
by Ashok Bedi, M.D.
The soul often whispers to us through synchronistic events. A synchronistic event occurs when we recognize that two or more causally unrelated events resemble each other and catch our attention. For example, you're trying to remember the name of a childhood classmate. In the course of conversation, somebody mentions the very name you had been searching for. Synchronistic events can be a powerful "heads-up", calling us to pay attention. Another example that many have experienced is the thunderclap that resounds just as we are making some very important statement. Of course, not all synchronistic events are so transparent, and sometimes we do not recognize a synchronistic series until we look back and see all the clues.
For example, one patient kept noticing advertisements for exercise cycles. Time and again, he opened the newspaper and there was a store advertising exercise equipment, including cycles. Then, he reported that his neighbor had an exercise cycle in his garage sale, but my patient did not buy it. For six months, he noticed no exercise cycle ads. Then he had a mild heart attack. As part of his rehabilitation program, his doctor prescribed exercise, specifically on an exercise cycle!
When we don't pay attention, the message has to be more powerful, perhaps in the form of an accident. Once, when I was on a radio talk show discussing dreams, a listener called in to report that, for several years, he had a recurring dream of falling off a roof, but never hitting the ground. Then he no longer had the dream. He asked me what I thought. To answer his question, I had to find out more about him -- how he lived, what sort of work he did. He told me that he worked as a roofer. He liked to live it up -- no challenge was too outrageous, no risk too great. "Doc, there's nothing I wouldn't try at least once!" he boasted. "Well," I said, "sounds as if, for you, the sky's the limit." "Oh, yeah! Try anything at least once." "So," I continued, "what was going on about the time you no longer had the falling dream?" "Well," he said, "I don't know. I was out of work for a while there. Seems as if I didn't have that dream after that." "Oh, you were out of work? How did that come about?" I asked.
"You see," he said, "I was up on this roof one day and just stepped off the edge. Dumbest thing I ever did! Hit the ground and broke my pelvis. Laid me up for months. Hurt, too."
"I think I understand," I replied. "Seems as if you took lots of risks without considering the consequences; always pushing the envelope. Dreams try to show us an image that balances and corrects our conscious view of things. Repeatedly, you had the falling dream. Then, when you fell, or stepped, off the roof, you no longer had the falling dream. It looks as if the dream were trying to show you how risky your lifestyle was. When you didn't get the message from the dream, the next step was the accident."
"Well, Doc," he said, now more thoughtfully, "I guess you're right. That fall sure did knock some sense into me."
Symptoms and Illnesses
What happens if we don't pay attention to dreams, collapsed projections, synchronistic events, or accidents? Often, we develop symptoms and fall ill (as did my patient who suffered the mild heart attack). Illnesses often develop over time, heralded by symptoms. We don't feel well, aren't as energetic as we are accustomed to be. Symptoms alert us that our body is not functioning properly, that we are not taking care of ourselves adequately, or that we have contracted something noxious. Of course, medical conditions call for medical diagnosis and appropriate medical treatment. But we also do well to consider that medical and psychiatric symptoms may be encoded messages from the soul. In other words, symptoms may also be symbols.
It is important to clarify what is and is not a symbol, and why a symptom may mean more than the medical condition to which it refers. As I use the term, a symbol is the best possible expression for something otherwise unknown to us. Something whose meaning or reference is fully known -- like the red octagon bearing the word "STOP" -- is not a symbol in my usage. An image becomes a symbol for us only when we still find the image fascinating and meaningful, even though we are at a loss to say what its unexpressed meaning is. In this sense, a person to whom we have a powerful emotional response or reaction that we cannot account for becomes a symbol. In other words, the carrier of our projection (of a part of ourselves we don't recognize) is, for us, the best possible representation of that unknown aspect of ourselves.
Likewise, a medical symptom can be symbolic. We have all heard someone say, "It's all in your head!" when the doctor has been unable to identify a medical condition even though we feel miserable. The term often applied to these sorts of complaints is "psychosomatic". Fortunately, medical practitioners are becoming more sensitive to the reality of "psychosomatic" complaints, although many people fear being labeled as crazy when no organic problem can be identified. While we should exhaust all the possibilities of medical diagnosis, we should also seriously consider these sorts of conditions as messages from our soul encoded in the body. The hard-driving executive (or middle-manager trying to survive) who has a heart attack at 40 or 45 is a classic example in our society.
Working sixty to eighty hours a week leaves very little time for anything but eating, showering, commuting, and a little sleep. Usually, the overworked person in our society neglects personal health and "matters of the heart" -- meaningful relationships, compassion, empathy. Eventually, the heart protests against such mistreatment in the form of cardiac problems, sometimes preceded by noticeable symptoms. When people see their doctors about symptoms, we hope that they find one who knows that lifestyle has an effect on physical conditions, and who will listen to the symbols.
The Soul Speaks Through the Small
The Primal Soul often presents itself to us in seemingly insignificant events and experiences. It is the "still small voice", something we can easily overlook in the rush of modern life. It may speak to us in a dream, a chance encounter, a meaningful coincidence, or even an accident or illness. Yet if the Primal Soul is to help us, we must help it by listening carefully, by nurturing its message, and building a place for it in our conscious lives.
We do not travel the path to the soul by leaps and bounds. The path to the soul is a life's work made up mostly of seemingly trivial acts and events. The devil, as people say, is in the details. So also is the higher power. C. G. Jung tells the story of the person who asked the rabbi why it was that, although people used to hear the voice of God, now nobody does. The rabbi responded that perhaps they did not stoop low enough.
People usually manage the "big" events of life pretty well. It's the daily challenges that get many people down. The big events -- births, deaths, catastrophes, all of which are ancient experiences of the human race and are therefore appropriately called archetypal -- lift us out of the daily round. Big events, archetypal events, cut through our personal idiosyncrasies to our human core where archetypal responses to archetypal challenges take over. The seemingly "small stuff" of life challenges us because we have to learn to respond from our essence, from our soul. We all know how to manage "big" events in life, but how we spend time listening to a friend in need when we are preoccupied, or help a child with homework when we are tired, or play with a dog when we would rather watch the ball game are the times when our soul can speak the loudest.
When we look back over our life history, or when someone writes our brief obituary, the big stuff is often glossed over. What is recognized as important are the "small" encounters of life through which our soul spoke. A spiritual life honors the small, the seemingly insignificant, the undervalued, the marginal. As Jesus said, "I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me" (Matthew 25:45).
For most of us who are seeking the Primal Soul in the "big" events, in momentous enterprise or magnificent insights, it is worthwhile to remember that, often, the soul speaks through those aspects of our experiences and relationships that may be considered marginal, devalued, and insignificant. Many of us look for clues to the soul in the joys or tribulations of the past or seek a reflection of our individual soul in glorious events, experiences, and endeavors in the future. Yet, clinical experience and spiritual wisdom reiterates time and again that we discover the soul only here and now, or not at all.
This article is excepted from the book Path to the Soul © 2000, by Ashok Bedi, M.D. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Samuel Weiser Inc. www.weiserbooks.com
About The Author
Ashok Bedi, M.D., is a psychiatrist and Jungian analyst. He is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Wisconsin; a senior member of the oldest psychiatric group practice in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Psychiatric Physicians; and honorary psychiatrist at the Milwaukee Psychiatric Hospital and the Aurora Health Care Network. He is a frequent speaker on public radio and at other events. His lay articles appear in Midwest newspapers and his professional articles appear in national journals. Dr. Bedi regularly presents seminars in the United States, Great Britain, and India. He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is the author of Path to the Soul.
the soul's essentials: spirituality and psychology, January 30, 2002
"Path to the Soul" is an intriguing and informative book on the relationship and cohesion between Eastern spiritual philosophies and Western psychiatric knowledge. It offers insight to its readers on methods to traverse that path, and ways to enhance that journey. This book is spiritually based, with the emphasis on growth of individual spirit. Psychiatric analysis is brought in to show how spiritual and psychological principles correlate in the path to the soul. Dr. Bedi has taken a complex topic and presented it in a way that is inviting, informative and detailed, yet not overly burdened with vocabulary that might challenge the average reader.Path to the Soul is an enlightening, informative, and inspirational look at the necessity and ability of each of us to examine ourselves as physical, mental and spiritual beings. It invites us to honor each part of our journey as a step toward greater freedom and connection with our souls and our Higher Spirit.
The book easily transitions between psychological and spiritual discussions. Interspersed throughout are examples of patients to illustrate how he uses these foundations for his patient's well being. Dr. Bedi really connects the interlocking of the psychological and spiritual features present in each of us. He shows how they are not separate but cohesive; and how both need tending, particularly by those in the West, where we have been entrenched in a clinical, scientific frame of mind.
Reviewer: Dinshah D. Gagrat, M.D., Director of Adult Services, Milwaukee Psychiatric
In the wake of the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 I read, once again, a little gem of a book - "Path to the Soul" by my friend and colleague, Dr. Ashok Bedi.
Like almost every other American that day, I sat stunned, watching the horrifying images unfold on my TV screen. I experienced the entire gamut of emotions from anger and fear, to shocked helplessness and frustration.
As it has in the past, the book helped. I found myself wondering, however, how and why it helped and came to an obvious answer. Dr. Bedi's book is ultimately about restoring balance - the physical, psychological, and spiritual balance that is so important to help us actualize what Dr. Bedi refers to as our "Dharmic potential".
A psychopharmacologist by expertise, I often see challenging, seriously ill patients in whom I employ medications to correct imbalances of the neurochemical transmitters in their brains. At the same time, these patients rarely improve without an understanding of why they have developed these symptoms in the first place, and how imprudent or inappropriate choices have disconnected them from their ability to understand their emotions. Dr. Bedi explains in a way that is readily understandable and comprehensive, the ancient and ageless concepts of Maya, Karma, and Dharma. He explains how physical and psychological symptoms can be seen not only as symbols, but as "whispers from our souls" that actually point the way to a deeper understanding of ourselves, and ultimately, to Moksha or liberation.
What Dr. Bedi has done is unique. He has combined Jungian psychoanalytic insight with his own finely-honed clinical intuition. He has then added his own blend of Christian and Hindu spiritual wisdom to provide a truly integrated approach to treatment. He has described the seven Chakras of Kundalini Yoga and illustrated, with actual clinical vignettes, how Karmic complexes can obscure our pathway to the soul, and can be reconfigured towards Dharma.
The ultimate test of any meaningful art or science is whether it truly helps us to experience the world in a different way than we did before. In this endeavor, Dr. Bedi has succeeded admirably.
Every time I peruse those pages I look at my patients with a new insight and understanding. I also have increased understanding of my own fears, doubts, dreams and life events.
This book invites and facilitates the kind of simple but profound clarity of thought that helps us cope. It is the path to an island of peace in the turbulent, chaotic ocean of life, as we know it today.
Path to Soul - View from a Theoretical Physicist, February 7, 2001
Reviewer: Alkesh Punjabi, Professor of Mathematics and Physics & Director of Center for Nuclear Fusion Research, Hampton University, Hampton, VA (Yorktown, VA United States) -
I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist or a psychoanalyst. I am a theoretical physicist. I have read Ashok Bedi's book Path to Soul carefully and critically. First, let us be clear as to what this book in not: Path to Soul is not preachy, it is not New Age-ish, it is not a sermon of enlightened guru to his/her obedient disciples, it is not a chicken soup for ... book. Path to Soul is a labor of love. It is thoroughly rooted in experience of a long and highly successful practice of a working physician-psychiatrist. The writer is classically trained in Western medical, psychiatric and Jungian psychoanalytic sciences in USA, England and India. The book clearly betrays the writer's deep insight and vast experience in expertly applying these Western approaches to problems of mental and psychological health.
By the time I had read the third chapter, I realized that the author has unknowingly stumbled upon a fundamental truth - the complementarity principle of the being and becoming of human psyche. This is the exact psychological parallel of Neil Bohr's famous principle of complementarity in physics that wave and particle are two mutually exclusive manifestations of the one and same entity. However, in the realm of human psyche, this principle works with one crucial difference that the two aspects of our being and becoming are not only never mutually exclusive, but on the exact contrary they are inseparable just as clouds are inseparable from rain and sun is inseparable from light. The author, it appears from his book, in his years and years of long practice felt that "he was walking on one foot" and wondering "where is the other foot", and in his heart-felt search found the lost twin - the missing spiritual aspect of our souls, and hence the book.
The book is thoroughly grounded in solid, practical experience in treating patients. The author clearly shows how the intuitive, innate and spiritual inseparably, intrinsically and integrally complements the intellectual, analytic and dialectical. The book respects the readers, it talks with them, not at them. The ideas, feelings and approaches are genuine, authentic and honest. The book is definitely a labor of love, and distillation of critical, hard-headed research, experience, insight and inner struggle. The deftness and clarity with which the author elucidates Yoga, Chakra, Mandala and other delicate Hindu concepts and their application to problems of our mental and psychological health and peace are truly remarkable. Though in all this the physician is never lost.
The author - again unknowingly - shows that the classical Hegelian pattern of thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis is not always valid. The author has genuinely synthesized the western and eastern in a seamless whole. For those who want to fully self-actualize, and are looking for a genuine, authentic, unpretentious canonical path, Path to Soul is it.
The Potential for Wholeness, February 4, 2001
Reviewer: Roxanne Morse, Ph.D. (Berkeley, CA USA) - See all my reviews
In Path to the soul Dr. Ashok Bedi has put together a marvelous companion for the person seeking a journey of self-discovery. Readers will immediately be drawn into the careful and thoughtful merging of eastern and western wisdom and they will experience the power this wisdom holds for healing. Using a Hindu template rich in philosophy and spiritual guidance Dr. Bedi sets forth a map for spiritual wholeness that resonates to the seeker in each of us. Employing the absolute best of what current western medicine and psychological thinking have to offer, he weaves a personal program that promises meaning, fulfillment and personal freedom.
Each Chapter is an introduction into a world of philosophies and ideas that call for individual action. At the end of each chapter Dr. Bedi challenges us to ask ourselves questions that will lead us deeper into our search or our "true self." He illuminates the connection between physical and emotional pain showing us how spiritual confusion and bankruptcy are part of the overall dis-ease we often feel at different points in our lives. His case illustrations are excellent examples of how ordinary people have sought to find themselves using the methods subscribed to in this text.
Path to the soul stretches beyond the confines of a self-help book. Self help books so often tell us what we need to do to be better, to get "fixed". They imply we are bad and need to "get good". Dr. Bedi's approach assumes that the reader is good and merely struggling, seeking, to get better, to find more, to connect in even deeper ways. To connect beyond themselves to others and to the community in which they live. He emphasizes the goodness of the unique soul into which we are born and then helps the reader construct an individualized program that develops their Karmic Self to it fullest possible potential. He offers a holistiac way of being in the new millenium. I recommend it highly.
Honoring the Sacred, January 15, 2001
Reviewer: Lynn Catlin "paginn" (Madison, WI USA) - See all my reviews
I'm reading this book for the second time at present, and am enjoying it just as much and getting even more from it this time around. The blend of Eastern spiritual wisdom and Western psychology results in a thoughtful and meaningful paradigm for individual use in exploring personal psychological troubles or for those helping others to explore such issues. I appreciate the authentic, "non-Westernized" view of Kundalini Yoga.
The terms were a bit difficult to familiarize myself with but the author does a great job of reminding the reader throughout the book, and a glossary is included. Noticeable is the respectfulness with which the reader is engaged and informed. Personally, "Path to the Soul" offered me this single, overriding message: Within each of us burns a spark of the divine; our individual soul. Our mission, as caretakers of ourselves and each individual we encounter, is to use the sacred breath of our life to gently blow on those embers in order to attend to and further ignite that flame. In this way we add to our own soul's purity and in our own individual way we honor the sacred in others. As Dr. Bedi closes his book, "Namaste"; meaning, I honor the sacred in you. Clearly he does and this is expressed in the content and attitude of his book.
Offers spiritual food for thought, January 7, 2001
Reviewer: "larendt" (Grafton, WI USA) - See all my reviews
While there are many books that attempt to bring Eastern thought into a Western framework, there are very few that are able to clearly bring the message through without becoming "New Age-ish" and rather esoteric. "Path to the Soul" avoids both.
Dr. Bedi appears to have created this book with the full knowledge that he is simply the messenger of a very timeless message. Much of this book is drawn from Hindu spiritual traditions, but is very easy to follow even if you have no knowledge at all of non-western beliefs. In all actuality, the topic of connecting with your soul and its intended path transcends any sort of organized religion.