Tag Archives: Michael Neill

Pizza or Salad for Lunch?

wicked witch of the west

A while back, I listened to Michael Neill explaining “our personal guidance system” on his HayHouseRadio.com program, Supercoach: It’s the guidance system that tells us we want pizza for lunch today and we’ll want salad for lunch tomorrow.

Michael Neill often uses wonderful, improbable metaphors that completely nail the concept he’s illustrating. On another Supercoach radio program he addressed a caller’s fears about a career change. He asked us—the audience and the caller—to imagine a child drawing a fox and then starting to cry because the fox is hungry.

One way to calm the child, Michael pointed out, would be to suggest that she draw a couple of hens for the fox to eat. I actually prefer this solution to the alternative: Helping the child understand that the fox isn’t real… nor, by implication, did the caller’s job-related fears represent a genuine threat. The caller had essentially, Michael is saying, made up a story about the dangers of changing careers—dangers existing only in her thoughts—and had reacted with heart-stopping fear to the phalanx of imagined catastrophic outcomes.

This metaphor I understand, even though I favor the hens-as-supper scenario. But I could not possibly trust a personal guidance system that would lead me to pizza one day and salad the next. This PGS is supposed to be intuitive rather than logical. Michael Neill often reminds us that our inner wisdom is more reliable than our thinking. But no actual person in the actual world who intuitively selects pizza on Monday is going to intuitively opt for salad on Tuesday unless pizza has suddenly become unavailable in the western hemisphere.

If a woman—I’ll call her Maxine—who owns a scuba-diving shop goes out to lunch regularly, and equidistant from her shop are a pizza place and a salad bar, and she likes pizza, she’s never going to “prefer” salad. Maxine never says to herself, “Yeah, that pepperoni with its seductive sheen of animal fat on top of cheese bubbling in its own oils, throat-paralysis-inducing jalapeños, and the greasy onions that cause water buffalo to flee from my approach—that was magnificent; but today I’m in the mood for watercress.” Maxine chooses salad on Tuesday only because of guilt or logic, not intuition. Guilt says, “You pigged out on pepperoni yesterday, darling. You can redeem yourself only by choking down some locally grown dark-green leafy vegetables today, with a smattering of almonds and a soupcon of lemon juice.” Logic says much the same thing but without the snark.

What can we infer from this about our PGS? Does it operate on intuition or by logic? If we tune in to it, will it lead us to our bliss except for now and then to the obligatory kale and hummus?

My PGS leads me unfailingly to yogurt and granola; guilt garnishes it with a few fresh strawberries. I even make the yogurt and granola myself, but by the time I’m finished with them they contain roughly the same nutritional value as rocket fuel.

When I remove my batch of yogurt from the yogurt-maker, it’s pure as the driven snow and tastes terrible, like skim milk laced with vinegar. I empty the jars of pure yogurt into a mixing bowl and add a quarter of a cup of stevia; the yogurt is marginally tastier and still virtuous. Then the fun begins. One package of instant vanilla pudding mix plus a half-cup of Cool Whip later, most of the nutrients have been canceled out by sugar, dextrose (sugar), high-fructose corn syrup (really bad-for-you sugar), disodium phosphate (Na₂HPO₄), tetrasodium pyrophosphate (Na₄P₂O₇), mono– and diglycerides (E471), polysorbate 60 (polyoxyethylene [20] sorbitan monostearate), and titanium dioxide (CI 77891).

I don’t mind saying, the resultant “yogurt” product tastes great, but if you don’t like it, you can probably use it to unclog your drains or clean your oven.

About high-fructose corn syrup

In a Huffington Post article titled “Why You Should Never Eat High Fructose Corn Syrup,” author Mark Hyman claims that “purging it from your diet is the single best thing you can do for your health!”[1] Because the way HFCS is made “allows the fructose to mainline directly into your liver,” it turns out that “high fructose corn syrup is the real driver of the current epidemic of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, dementia, and of course, Type 2 diabetes.” Add in the “dangerous chemicals and contaminants” used in making HFCS, and you’ve got a real toxic stew in your system. Mark Hyman doesn’t come right out and say that ingesting high-fructose corn syrup is worse than smoking cigarettes, but I have a feeling that if you lit a cigarette right after a hearty meal of HFCS with a side dish of tetrasodium pyrophosphate, you’d burst into flames or simply melt in place, like the Wicked Witch of the West after Dorothy doused her with water.

With my having this knowledge, you’d think my personal guidance system would steer me far, far away from the lethal “yogurt” concoction I cheerfully produce on a regular basis. Logically, if there’s “yogurt” in my refrigerator, my body should be in Zanzibar. Michael Neill underestimates the mind’s capacity for self-deception. After a week of such meals, if I’m troubled by guilt buildup, it doesn’t propel me to the salad bar. A sprig of parsley is usually enough to quell any regrets.

Either my PGS is on the fritz or Michael Neill—like the Wicked Witch of the West—is all wet.

[1] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/high-fructose-corn-syrup_b_4256220.html

On Second Thought…

A Renaissance Map of the New World, by Guillaume Le Testu, 1555

A Renaissance Map of the New World, by Guillaume Le Testu, 1555

Everything Old Is New-ish Again

In 2008, Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle and two million of their dearest friends met once a week for ten weeks, online, for the study of Tolle’s 2005 bestseller, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. The live interactive seminar was reportedly the first of its kind, with viewers hailing from at least six continents. The seventh, Antarctica, basically four million–plus square miles of mile-thick ice, houses numerous clumps of scientists year-round as well as penguins, seals, tardigrades, and other critters large and small. With at least a thousand humans on the continent at any given time, it seems logical to assume that a few of them, anyway, logged on to the Winfrey-Tolle program each week.

Tardigrades, also called "water bears," are small (growing to only 1.5 mm) but tough. They're known to survive extremes of cold and heat ranging from -450F to 300F. Doesn't this guy remind you of an Ewok who's maybe been gagged to keep him from spilling the beans? (Wired.com; click the photo for a fascinating feature on tardigrades in space)

In what had to be the planet’s largest-ever classroom, Tolle and Winfrey fielded comments and answered questions via Skype, E-mail, and telephone. The ten 90-minute sessions are available free on iTunes in large-screen, standard-screen, and audio-only formats.

A New Earth, Oprah CD version

A New Earth, Oprah CD version

Here’s the thing: A New Earth, stripped of its packaging, isn’t all that new. Guessing here, I’d say its message is three thousand to four thousand years old. Tolle certainly deserves credit for reviving this ancient wisdom, compiling it, and presenting it in a way that appeals to millions and keeps them off the street, at least for the length of time it takes to read 336 pages of rather dense prose. If he seems to suggest that A New Earthmight literally save the human race… well, who’s to say?

New Testament, New Thought, New Age, Old Story

In a similar (but not matching) genre, another publishing phenomenon, A Course in Miracles, appeared in 1976 but didn’t gain widespread attention until 1992 with the publication of A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, by Marianne Williamson. Tolle owes much to ACIM and Williamson and to dozens of other authors, including Wayne Dyer (whom I cautiously admire) and Deepak Chopra (who contributes a rich and ancient Hindumystical perspective), writing in the same vein but offering original approaches and ideas as well.

Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

Williamson's book gave ACIM its legs

A small book with big letters and lots of white space, Energy Ecstasy and Your Seven Vital Chakras appeared in 1978. Anticipating Tolle by decades, the author of Energy Ecstasy, Bernard Gunther, also wrote Sense Relaxation: Below Your Mind (1969), hailed as the first book of the human potential movement.

The astonishing Louise Hay wrote You Can Heal Your Life in 1984, a full thirteen years before Eckhart Tolle’s first book came out. As Hay was entering her seventh decade, she founded Hay House, whose authors today constitute a virtual Who’s Who of self-help and New Thought luminaries, not to mention the most credible psychics and intuitives on the planet.

I strongly recommend that you tune in to Hay House Radio every Wednesday at noon for Trust Your Vibes with Sonia Choquette (that’s SO-nya, with a long O). Then subscribe to her YouTube channel and breathe in a little of the imcomparable Choquette energy, wisdom, and joy. Imbibe a bit of her spirit. You’ll be the better for it. (Here’s a sample. Much more about Hay House Radio below.)

Christian Science Lite

My daughter refers to the more recent crop of New Age spiritual guides as “Christian Science Lite.” The authors’ debt to Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy and her remarkable explication of Christian Science, Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures (1875), is hard to ignore. Mrs. Eddy’s writings in turn reflect New England Transcendentalism, particularly the work of Emerson, perpetuating a metaphysical tradition articulated by the likes of Marcus Aurelius, Rumi, the Buddha, and the authors of the Torah and the Christian Bible.

Christian Science would have gained wider acceptance, I think, had it not been for the population’s reluctance to forgo medical treatment in favor of a strictly spiritual approach to healing, although my Christian Scientist friends tell me that they are by no means forbidden to seek medical attention. In any case, the New Thought movement emerged in the late nineteenth century making rather less noise about doctors and healing; today’s Unity Church is part of the New Thought legacy.

I have not included the much-loved classic The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale, as part of this tradition because Peale emphasizes faith, hope, resilience, and the miraculous intervention of a loving and very personal God, whereas authors and philosophers from Mrs. Eddy to Eckhart Tolle employ, to varying degrees, the vocabulary of science and math, using syllogistic reasoning. (Marianne Williamson is an anomaly; she combines old and new spiritual practices in a way that is graceful and lovely to behold. I’m a big MW fan.) I have found Dr. Peale’s work comforting at times, but it doesn’t deal much with the darker emotions. For that, God, in Its wisdom, gave us Carl Jung and beautiful Debbie Ford, another Hay House author. That said, Peale’s work brought hope to millions and his legacy is huge; it includes the phenomenal Guideposts organization and its many publications and ministries.

If you haven’t yet (I take that back — even if you have) found a guru who speaks your language (you might read something out of Chopra that resonates with you in a way Tolle’s writing does not), try Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings (2005), by Rob Brezsny. I have at least $10 worth of little sticky notes marking the pages of my copy of this book. In fact, there are probably more marked than unmarked pages, which kind of defeats the purpose, but, oh, well…. What does it say about the author that the seeds for Pronoia (more than a book; it’s a movement) were sown at Burning Man and that one of the more conventional synonyms he uses for God is the Divine Wow?  I’m just grateful that he’s on our side and that we are on everyone’s side.

You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise Hay

Christian Science ’round the clock

The numerous Christian Scientists of my acquaintance are blessed with great generosity of spirit. Even so, they tend to bristle, I’ve observed (and they have every reason to do so), when hearing Mrs. Eddy’s complex yet practical message reduced to mere “faith healing” or “positive thinking.” Visit the incredibly generous Christian Science website and sample the wealth of this woefully misunderstood body of wisdom.

People with sonorous voices and perfect pronunciation read from Science and Health 24/7 on streaming audio. If, when encountering the word unerring, the readers were to say un-AIR-ing rather than the preferred un-URR-ing, I wouldn’t be able to listen — the word comes up rather a lot. As it is, I believe I’m healthier for falling asleep to passages from Science and Health being read so expertly, and so is my computer. No joke. According to Christian Science (with apologies to realChristian Scientists where I might be getting it wrong),

  • God (“Divine Mind”), being perfect, creates only perfection
  • Human beings, as God’s divine ideas, are not susceptible to sickness, sin, or death
  • All reality reflects God’s attributes: It is loving, spiritual, eternal, intelligent, joyful, harmonious, and so forth
  • Matter is nothing but a manifestation of thought; it is insubstantial and illusory
  • It is “mortal mind” (“error”) that produces the appearance of anything other than well-being
  • Negative emotions proceed from the false beliefs of separation from God and the reality of  matter
  • Jesus had a perfect understanding of the divine nature, thus manifesting the “Christ principle”
  • You and I, attaining that level of understanding, would also manifest the Christ principle
  • Thus, poverty, cancer, and war are manifestations of the “lies” of lack, illness, and disharmony
Cover, The Secret Garden, 1911 edition

Cover, The Secret Garden, 1911 edition

Compare these tenets to the “mind-body” metaphysics of modern adherents; I think you’ll find more similarities than differences.

Recommended Reading Off the Beaten Path

Hay House Radio

Peggy Rometo

Peggy Rometo

You could think of it as thousands of dollars’ worth of therapy. Or you could get real confused. For the most part, the authors who host Hay House Radio programs sing in harmony. Then there’s the occasional discordant note. Louise Hay is the undisputed Empress of the Affirmation, but at least one host is openly skeptical of the benefits of chanting “Life Loves Me” day in and day out. There are authors who warn you away from sugar and caffeine, while others are unabashed chocolate-lovers. Some tiptoe around the word God and shun prayers of petition and intercession. Others offer spontaneous on-air prayers for callers particularly in need of miracles. Caroline Myss (pronounced CARE-oh-linn MACE) is in a category of her own. She’s probably best known for her work with archetypes, though she freely offers her opinion on everything from neighborhood gossip to the state of the planet (dire). She is controversial and at times abrasive. On her Hay House Radio program, callers love and fear her. She can be sharp-tongued one minute, gentle and comforting the next. I could be wrong, but I don’t see Caroline Myss doing a lot of mirror work, à la Louise Hay.

Peggy Rometo, on the other hand, is invariably charming but never saccharine. Her psychic skills are impressive without flash or fuss (like I’d know). She’s always well prepared with remarkably practical suggestions for listeners who want to sharpen their own intuition. With call-in visitors she is patient, perceptive, and respectful — and a better woman than I. After the fourth or fifth caller in a row complains that, despite having made superhuman efforts to move forward in the job or project or relationship at issue, he or (usually) she is “stuck” or is “being blocked,” I’m throwing paperback books at my computer monitor and yelling, “You’ve gotten to the swamp and you’re afraid of the snakes. Quit whining and soldier on. Twit!” And I’m way off the mark because I’m describing my own trepidation, but Peggy has been listening, and she gives thoughtful advice tailored to the caller, not a rehash of suggestions offered to Milksop #2 or #3. Listen to her program, Intuitive Insights, on Thursdays, 2 to 3 p.m. (PDT); and buy her book, The Little Book of Big Promises (2010), for a treasure chest of useful knowledge, guided meditations, and lively prose.

Hay House Radio offers the highest production values and the easiest accessibility I’ve found on the Internet, and I’m including the BBC and NPR in my comparison.  Here’s a partial list of hosts; the authors whose names appear in bold face have weekly call-in programs: Michael Bernard Beckwith Gabrielle Bernstein Joan Z. Borysenko, Ph.D. Gregg Braden Sonia Choquette, Ph.D. Alan Cohen Dr. Wayne W Dyer Debbie Ford Carmen Harra Esther and Jerry Hicks John Holland Barbara Marx Hubbard Mark Husson Deborah King Loral Langemeier Denise Linn Caroline Myss Michael Neill Dr. Christiane Northrup Robert Holden, Ph.D. Michelle Phillips Diane Ray Cheryl Richardson Peggy Rometo Mona Lisa Schulz, M.D., Ph.D. Eldon Taylor Sandra Anne Taylor Iyanla Vanzant Doreen Virtue Dr. Darren R. Weissman Marianne Williamson davidji