A Self-Help Guide to a Healthier, Happier, and Holier Life

-- by Clarence Anthony Skrovan, M.D.




I am a physician, and I have been practicing my Specialty of Preventive Medicine for almost 30 years now. At first, I was mainly interested in preventing infectious diseases - sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea, and aids; vaccine preventable diseases like small pox, measles, and polio; food-borne and water-borne outbreaks like salmonella, hepatitis, giardia, and cryptosporidia. For a couple of years, I concentrated solely on eradicating tuberculosis from the face of the earth.


The technology for preventing these diseases is pretty straightforward, based on widely accepted epidemiologic evidence, concepts, and strategies. At this point in my career, I did not yet worry about how whatever is going on in our minds might be affecting the state of our health. The thought of humans as souls and that somehow this is important to our health had not yet occurred to me. Humans were physical bodies, germs were physical agents of disease, and my challenge was to keep these two apart.


Later on, I also got interested in preventing chronic diseases like coronary artery disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. The prevention of these diseases is a little more complicated. The word, chronic, means that these diseases develop over a long period of time and stay with us for a long time. If you get hit on the head with a falling brick, it is okay to ask, "Why me?" However, if you get hit with a heart attack, the answer to why, is that you have been developing plaques and narrowing of your blood vessels for a number of years, depending, in part, on life-style choices such as poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and responses to stress. To prevent these diseases, I am having to counsel and motivate people to change some of their life-long habit patterns. This isn't easy and clearly brings into sharp focus the interaction of mind and body. I have had to learn and develop psychological techniques, practices, and life-change strategies to bring about the desired habit changes in my own life and in the life of those colleagues, friends, and clients who have asked for my advice.


The strategies that I have found most helpful, I have learned from the Intensive Journaling of Ira Progoff, the Psychosynthesis of Roberto Assagioli, and the Work of George Gurdjieff. Progoff's Steppingstones provide us with an outline of our life and help us to understand where we have been and where we might be heading. Assagioli's concept of Sub-personalities can help us to understand better our many (and often conflicting) drives, needs, and wants, and help us to understand why we behave as we do. Gurdjieff's notion of "waking sleep" and the technique of self-observation may just be the key to raising our awareness and attention to a whole new level of consciousness. If you are unfamiliar with these 20th century giants of psychological and spiritual growth and development, then this booklet can serve as a rather gentle introduction to some of their rather profound transformation strategies.


And transformation is what it will take if you wish to lose weight and keep it off, if you want to improve your eating habits, if you want to stop smoking and not re-start in six months, if you want to work more muscle and joint movement into your life, or if you want to respond more appropriately in stressful situations. Even if this were all that these strategies accomplished, it would be worth your while to learn them. But practiced over time, they will also bring more joy, enthusiasm, and love into your life.


These practices encourage a lot of self-observation and introspection, and in the process, awaken us to a heightened level of awareness. The joy, enthusiasm, and love that follow are the natural by-products of functioning at this more awake, more aware level of consciousness.


Once awakened, we can explore further, the farther reaches of human consciousness. We are now moving beyond identifying with only our bodies and our minds. We are beginning to get our first hints of what it means to experience soul and spirit.


At a recent conference in Tucson, entitled "Towards a Science of Consciousness", a group of philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, and neurosurgeons were struggling to communicate with one another their understanding of human consciousness. At one keynote session, Frances Vaughn was presenting her understanding from the perspective of a practicing psychotherapist and author in the field of Transpersonal Psychology. In her talk she used the words, soul and spirit, several times. During the question and answer session following her talk, she was asked rather critically, why, at such a conference, where everyone was honestly trying so hard to understand one another, she would use such words as soul and spirit, which obviously meant nothing to the questioner. Her response was brief and to the point, "There are certain experiences of human consciousness that can only be described by using such words as soul and spirit."


In my discussions later with some of the participants at the conference, it soon became obvious that there were many who were not comfortable using the words, soul and spirit. This book is designed to help you get the experiences that will enable you to understand the words, for it is difficult to define soul and spirit adequately to someone who has not had the experiences. It is the experience of soul and spirit that brings about the joy, enthusiasm, and love.


We all can remember or can imagine what life is like with an abundance of joy, enthusiasm, and love. You awake in the morning with lots of energy, eager to get on with the day's activities. You look forward to encounters with others as joyful opportunities to share your love. There never seems to be enough time to do all the things you want to do. And whatever pain, suffering, or drudgery there is in your life, seems somehow to be easier to bear.


Such attitudes and perspectives are naturally health enhancing and disease preventing. Many physicians are aware that such practices are available and helpful but simply do not have the time with their busy schedules to teach them to their patients. Hence this self-help guide. If you occasionally find yourself yearning for something more, something different in your life, this book will help. If your life experiences have caused you to outgrow the life story with which you have been enculturated, then through the exercises in this book you may discover a new story, a new story that may be easier to live with and to transmit to your children. You can do the exercises by yourself, in the privacy of your own home and as gradually as you wish.


I believe that it may help you with the exercises if I show you, as examples, how I have used them in my life. So, the whole book is quite autobiographical, and you will get to know very well who this is who is giving you this advice. You will come to know that it is my joy, enthusiasm, and love that are now encouraging me to share with you what I have learned. I sincerely hope that you will give these exercises a try. And that you will encourage others to do the same. There is a lot of pain, suffering, and drudgery in the world today, and I know of no better way to help alleviate this situation, other than to encourage each of us, one by one, to become more aware and awake. Then hopefully, together, we can bring about the cultural changes, which will be needed to bring more joy, enthusiasm, and love into the world we will pass on to our children and grandchildren. 

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