Otto Scharmer discusses the mind/body connection in Chapter 9 of Theory U, presenting an iceberg-shaped figure depicting four levels of the patient/physician relationship—–Level 2 – Behavior; Level 3 – Thought; Level 4 – Self-Transforming Presence. Each resonated with me as I now sit at home with my second bout of the shingles in the past two years.
According to Scharmer, Almost every health issue a person deals with is caused by behavior. The role of the doctor in Level 2 is to instruct the patient to change his or her behavior towards becoming healthy. Level 3 takes this approach to a deeper level by suggesting that behavior change sometimes works, but that what matters most is our assumptions and habits of thought. A heart attack may follow from certain assumptions about work and family that lead to putting one’s career first, leaving no time for family and friends, the people one is working so hard for. Ah….now the clarity is coming: Work and School. Work and School. Perhaps I’m dealing with the shingles for the second time because I, too, have given all of my energy, focus and time only to work and school. It’s not that work, and also school aren’t vitally imporant these aspects of my life, but maybe there’s a message in shingles that I’ve been ignoring.
I have been thinking a lot about Transcendental Meditation, about which I admittedly know very little except that it’s a breathing techniques support one to become aware of the present moment and the intensity of experiencing well-being. Those who know me well know that I’m a huge Howard Stern fan. Stern talks about how this form of mediation reduces stress and anxiety while often providing him with a full night of restful sleep. I’m inclined to say the majority of folks reading this have experienced sleepless, restless nights at some point. Just last night I had a discussion with my wife, blaming “lack of time” as the reason I’m not becoming involved in TM as a means of developing the balance in my life that clearly is lacking.
According to Scharmer, When you say you don’t have the time, time will be forced on you through illness. I am quite certain about this. What are my future plans? When you don’t care about those and you don’t consider life to be a gift, you become sick. Boom. Forced to think. Is that what is occurring in my life right now? Maybe I need to adjust my own priorities, caring about and being involved with those I love rather than constantly stressing over school and work all of the time.
Scharmer’s level four—Self-Transforming Presence goes beyond Levels 2 and 3. Issues of health are seen as raw material for a journey of personal development and inner cultivation. They invite us to access the full potential of one’s inner sources of creativity, to embark on a journey to who one really is. I confess that I struggle admitting when I’m sick—during my first go around with the shingles I refused to stop exercising until I was no longer physically able to do so. As symptoms increased this time around, I kept telling my wife, We caught it early. I’ll be fine tomorrow. I wasn’t fine that next morning, and I’m not fine now, but the realizations are enormous. Finally.
Maybe it’s time to admit that the mind/body connection isn’t removed from the small motions of my own life. I’m lucky to have the chance to prioritize differently and get a handle on the self-understanding that I clearly need to develop right now.
Check back in with me in two weeks. If I haven’t started to participate in regular Transcendental Meditation at my wife’s urging, you can say you warned me. The shingles did.