Part Two presents this message in the form of a comic novel. Dr. Hans Off, a chiropractor meets tragedy when he is bitten by an aardvark and can no longer practice his profession. Instead of sinking into depression, he goes on a spiritual search to find new meaning in his life. He visits a variety of therapists including an analyst, an existentialist and a spiritual therapist. Dr. Off discovers that enlightenment requires lightening up.
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The Great Cosmic Lesson Plan
Healing Through Spirituality, Humor and Music
By Sam Menahem
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Sam Menahem, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
The Great Cosmic Lesson Plan
"Hey dad, what is life for anyway? It's not that much fun." This question was posed by my nine-year old daughter Lauren. We were riding in the car, on the way to a "biddy basketball" game (a children's league). I guess she wasn't enjoying the games too much. But I didn't know the exact reason for her question. Somehow, at that moment, she was wondering what life is all about and I had to respond. I replied with the first answer that popped into my head, "Life is about loving, as many people as you can ... as often as you can."
The second part of her statement about fun gave me a clue about how to continue. "You are right: nobody has fun all the time," I told her. "You do have fun sometimes don't you?" She admitted that was true. I continued. "But if you love people as much as you can, you will be happy. That is the most important thing in life, love people and you will be happy." We then went on to the game and the question was dropped. My daughter has grown up into a happy young woman, who has her share of fun, with occasional doses of negative events and issues. No more than anyone else, less than others. I sometimes wonder if she even remembers that conversation. My guess is no. But from my observations, she is a very loving person, so she followed my advice. She is learning her life lessons in her own way.
Still, is that enough of an answer to a question that has perplexed human beings since time immemorial? Maybe it sounds too trite or pat to an adult who is battling serious illness, financial ruin or a puzzling series of failures. Just love everyone. Some might be thinking: "Yeah right, I'm going to love my husband who just cheated on me and left me." Or, "Sure, I'll just love everyone while I die of cancer or heart disease." "Well, my house just floated away in a hurricane, but I'll just love everyone and it will be all right." In short, there is a lot of resistance to accepting a life that is full of problems, issues and seemingly negative events. People often get discouraged, depressed, and filled with self-pity and anger when things don't go their way. What is there to say without being banal or trite?
Bad Things, Good People
I give many speeches. During these talks, I often ask the audience two questions. First, "How many people here think they are a good person?" Everyone, of course, raises their hand. Then I ask, "How many people here have had at least one bad thing happen to them?" After a few snickers, of course, everyone raises their hand again. I then pronounce, "Now you know why Rabbi (Harold) Kushner sold so many copies of his book, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." Bad things happen to all people." The question we ask ourselves in times of distress shouldn't be, "Why me?" It should be:
"Why not me?"
Rabbi Kushner might even agree with that statement. However, we seem to have different concepts of God. He portrays God as a wonderful, but overworked parent, with many children, running around, putting out fires. God is very busy, says Rabbi Kushner, sometimes he slips up, and bad things happen. This is how the Rabbi counters the erroneous concept that bad things happen as a punishment for being bad. Indeed, bad things also happen to good, righteous people. However, I think he misses the mark with the overworked parent metaphor. There must be some other reason so many "bad" things happen to all people. Of course, people are not all bad or all good. Most of us try our best to live a good and righteous life. All of us, however, have the potential to do some hurtful things. Psychologically, this is called our "shadow." So are the bad events of our life the result of unknown bad deeds? Or repressed shadow emotions? Are we being punished for real or imagined thoughts and actions? I think not. The punishment metaphor just does not hold up for me. I just do not see God as a vengeful judge or a beleaguered parent. I will explore in more depth the differences between Rabbi Kushner's philosophy and mine in a later chapter.
Atheists have a different view of why things happen the way they do, randomness. My scientific, materialist friends might jump in and say, "Why are you trying to make sense out of meaningless events? Stuff just happens. Why not just accept your life and do the best you can? Why do you have to make up a supernatural God that punishes or saves? Just suck it up and make the best of your life before you die and are obliterated." Whew! To me, that is a very depressing pathway. In order to go down that path, you have to be very cynical. You have to ignore the many wonderful qualities of all being. You have to ignore all selfless acts of love, all beauty, chocolate, ice cream, wisdom, and baseball, the very essence of how life may have started in the first place. Was life started by a random big bang, followed by chaos? I don't think so.
I remember Dr. Victor Frankl (a holocaust survivor and psychiatrist) once said, vociferously, in our class, "Life must have some meaning." What could be the meaning of all the suffering we go through on Earth? Randomness obviates meaning. Thus, I long ago rejected the purely scientific, materialist, random, no God theory. But my search for meaning continued by studying philosophy. Was there anywhere else to look for meaning in the history of philosophy? That's when I discovered the doctrine of existentialism.
The Question of Why
Existentialist philosophers, such as John Paul Sartre and Soren Kierkegaard, try to determine why things happen as they do. Sartre, an atheist and communist, felt there was no God but there was meaning. He argued that man [humans?] must create his own meaning by taking responsibility for his own thoughts, feelings and behavior. This is an interesting amalgam of atheism and New Age thinking. I like the part about taking responsibility and creating your own reality. However, the atheist part denies any context for this meaning. He seems to be saying you just live, making the best of any bad things that happen to you. Then, you die and are obliterated. He recommends being courageous, responsible, and reasonable- all good ideas, then ... you die. When you are dead, you are completely gone — that is it.
Kierkegaard put existentialism in a religious (Christian) context. He felt that human beings go through three stages: pleasure seeking, ethical/moral standards and religious belief. In the first stage, we are purely pleasure seekers, narcissists (are you listening Freud?). Eventually, we realize that there is more to life than pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain. There is an ethical- moral dimension to life. We try to do the right thing, just because it is right. There is no supernatural reason for doing so. We just do it. Finally, there is the opening up of a religious dimension. Western religions assert that there is a God and we do the right things to please him. Also we fear his wrath if we are bad. That, of course, takes us back to the original problem with a monotheistic model of God, already discussed with Rabbi Kushner's philosophy. Thus, both atheistic and religious forms of existentialism still leave us floundering.
Personally, I was still looking for meaning at the time my daughter asked me that big question. My daughter's question was still not completely answered by existential thought. In the narcissistic stage of pure pleasure seeking (childhood-where most of our modern culture is), we develop self-pity when bad things happen. We see no meaning in ill fortune. Even in a monotheistic belief system we find only the idea that we are being punished or are not important enough for God to help us. There must be a better way of looking at life. I still had questions:
Could God be something other than a Santa Claus figure, punishing bad deeds and rewarding good deeds?
Could it be that the real God is not a comic book superhero supposed to rescue us, like Superman rescues Lois Lane?
Could the narcissistic idea that nothing bad should ever happen to us on Earth be mistaken?
Could it be that we have to learn something from our sufferings on the planet Earth?
Could it be that the real God is trying to teach us something that we can only learn by learning how to cope better with the difficulties of an Earthly life?
Yes, of course, to all of these questions. In fact, from these questions I had formulated an answer:
Life on Earth is a gigantic lesson plan from God! This is the great cosmic lesson plan.
Any teacher knows that each lesson must be taught through a lesson plan. This plan must have an aim and a method.
The aim of the great cosmic lesson plan is, (drum roll please) ...
To discover the true nature of Oneness with God, to become fully aware and experience the Oneness, preferably, while still ensconced in a human, physical body.
How will we know if we have succeeded? That is easy. Enlightened beings are kind, loving, forgiving, non-judgmental, happy, peaceful and humble. All they want to do while still in a body is to help others gain the same level of enlightenment. Think of the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Ghandi.
Methodology of the Lesson Plan
I have concluded that life is set up so that human ego consciousness will appear to be separate from God. Each individual will totally identify with the body and separate ego. Due to this universal error, God will be viewed as either a savior, enemy, dysfunctional parent or completely nonexistent. Death will be both feared and desired as a way out of suffering. The unconscious desire to die as an "escape hatch" will be repressed and denied by most people. Thus, most people will fear death except those few who are aware of desiring it as an escape from suffering.
This hellish period will continue until we realize that we need to experience God the way God really is. God is not a comic book superhero. God is not judging us. God does not get angry. God is a Spiritual Oneness characterized by love, peace, power and intelligence. God is just waiting for the "teachable moment" for each fragment of himself (humans) who have gotten lost in materialism, to realize and experience the Oneness that is all there is!
This "aha" experience may be accomplished by prayer, meditation or a simple "awakening" to the philosophy of Monism, aka the "Spirituality of Oneness." It is the answer to the question, "what is the meaning of life?" All events, especially the seemingly bad ones, are opportunities to turn to our real self or inner teacher and ask, "What is going on here? What do I have to learn from this so that I may become more peaceful, kind, loving and accepting, ultimately becoming a spiritual being?"
Chuck came into psychotherapy complaining of depression, inertia and marital dysfunction. His wife, a very successful sales person, continually complained about his passivity, low energy and refusal to do simple things like open the mail or take care of his body. He told me that he has a severe case of diabetes and needs insulin, as well as careful control of his diet. He was very lackadaisical about his need to manage his blood sugar. His wife got enraged over this. He just shrugged and became more withdrawn and depressed. I explained to Chuck that his passive-aggressive, resistant behavior served many functions for him. First, it enabled him to get his wife angry. Then she punished him by yelling at him. Thus, he had a guilty, victim, self-concept, which required punishment. This negative self-concept would be strengthened. He saw himself as a victim of everything from his disease to his wife's anger. He was suffering from victim thinking and unworthiness. His primary way of dealing with life was by being passive-aggressive. Passive- aggressive behavior is completely unconscious. Thus, the motto of the passive-aggressive person is, "what did I do to deserve this? (why should I be criticized and yelled at)."The unconscious passivity is designed to annoy the other person.
Chuck needed a context to understand what he was doing to bring on and exacerbate his suffering. I pointed out to him that diabetes is sometimes called "accelerated aging" by the medical community. Physically, the pancreas shuts down, there is no insulin, and cells age and die rapidly. Was he unconsciously hastening his own death? He admitted that he believed that when we die, there is nothing. Thus, to him, death was an "escape hatch" from the endless suffering caused by his physical condition and his unconscious, angry refusal to take responsibility for his life. Some people might say I am blaming the victim here. I think not. Even though he did not consciously order diabetes, he was conscious of welcoming death whenever it came. He was also aware that he did not manage his diabetes well, thus hastening the process of death, which would free him from having to face his responsibilities. If he decided to take responsibility for his life, manage his illness, open the mail, and make choices for happier thoughts, feelings and behaviors, he could live, longer, happier and better.
He was quite distressed at first, when I suggested that death might not be the end of everything. I told him I believed that life continues after physical death. If he died in a depressed state of mind, he might have to go through more suffering (the "life review" in which you feel all your feelings and those you induced in others) until he saw the light. Then he might have to reincarnate and try again to get the most from his new lesson plan. But, I stated enthusiastically, there is good news: If he took responsibility and became happier, he could be released from suffering now! Then, at physical death, he might see the light right away and become one with the higher power we call God. It is not physical death that brings us enlightenment. It is getting the point of the great cosmic lesson plan. Take responsibility for your life now. Be here now! Be loving now! Only love is real! (I hear Carol King singing in the background)
At first, he was angry at me for taking away his "escape hatch" of suicide if life was too difficult. But he is now taking steps toward fulfilling his lesson plan in his own way. He needs to express love for himself now. He is managing his illness better by exercising, opening his mail, making plans, traveling and doing interesting things. He is getting along better with his wife. He is looking at his life more humorously. He is no longer depressed or suicidal. He is cooperating with his version of the great cosmic lesson plan. Understanding and accepting Oneness with divinity is a big step for him to take. He is getting it, slowly. Death is not the answer. Love, humor and connecting with others and universal Oneness is the answer.
Chuck's life is clearly improving as he follows the lesson plan of his life. We all need to let go of fear, anger and guilt that come from accepting our separated (from divinity) material life as all there is. As we gradually let go of the painful emotions of fear, anger and guilt our life improves. That does not mean that we just sail smoothly through the rest of our life, it just means that we perceive things differently. We accept the good and bad events of our life as part of our unique lesson plan, leading us to self and God realization.
Excerpted from The Great Cosmic Lesson Plan by Sam Menahem. Copyright © 2015 Sam Menahem, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Great Cosmic Lesson Plan, 1,
Chapter 2 The Only Answer There Is, 11,
Chapter 3 We Have Everything Backwards, 15,
Chapter 4 Guilty? Me?, 21,
Chapter 5 Guilt, Anger and the Human Condition, 25,
Chapter 6 What Does God Want From Us?, 34,
Chapter 7 Forgiveness: The Key to Successful Psychotherapy, 38,
Chapter 8 The Culture of Narcissism: Are we Putting Descartes before the Horse?, 49,
Chapter 9 Loneliness: Is it the human condition? Can it be healed?, 51,
Chapter 10 Meaning, Spirituality and Rock and Roll, 54,
Chapter 11 Taking the "Self" out of Self-pity, 62,
Chapter 12 What is Happiness?, 71,
Chapter 13 What is Spiritual Reality? Get Real!, 74,
Chapter 14 Do We Create Our Own Reality?, 77,
Chapter 15 Freud Meets Jesus, 81,
Chapter 16 What I think Jesus Really Meant, 86,
Chapter 17 The Secret behind The Secret, 90,
Chapter 18 You Are a Money Magnet, 94,
Chapter 19 Can We Really Change? Or Are We Just Stuck The Way We Are?, 97,
Chapter 20 Can We Heal Ourselves?, 100,
Chapter 21 Reincarnation and Karma in Psychotherapy, 102,
Chapter 22 The Power of Prayer Revisited, 109,
Chapter 23 When Bad Things Happen ... A Response to Rabbi Harold Kushner, 114,
Chapter 24 Non-Judgmental Awareness-Is it Possible or Desirable?, 125,
Chapter 25 I Will Not Fear, 129,
Chapter 26 A Poem to Heal By, 131,
Chapter 27 Guided and Unguided Meditation, 133,
Chapter 28 The Great Cosmic Chuckle, 135,
PART TWO HANS OFF: THE PSYCHOLOGIST,
Chapter 1 Hans Off Begins his Great Cosmic Lesson Plan, 147,
Chapter 2 Hans and Otto, 156,
Chapter 3 Studley Megabucks, 161,
Chapter 4 By George, 165,
Chapter 5 Whatever Lola Wants Lola Getz, 169,
Chapter 6 Hey Wild Bill, 173,
Chapter 7 The Dream, 176,
Chapter 8 The Chase, 182,
Chapter 9 The Funny Farm, 186,
Chapter 10 Anal's Analysis, 189,
Chapter 11 The Cosmic Chuckle, 193,
Chapter 12 Benny Oldman, 195,
Chapter 13 Lola Returns, 200,
Chapter 14 Xavier Istential Ph.D., 202,
Chapter 15 The Holy Laughatron, 204,
Chapter 16 The Denial of Death, 209,
Chapter 17 Hans Takes Off, 212,
Chapter 18 The Big Bang Theory, 216,
Chapter 19 Hans Off Accepts Life As It Is, 219,
Author Bio, 221,
Appendix: Some techniques for self-healing, 229,