Sermon – God is Choosing You – June 18, 2017

Sermon – God is Choosing You
June 18, 2017, Second Sunday after Pentecost

Today is Father’s Day – what a wonderful coincidence given what I would like to share with you today!

We are living in an era obsessed with choice; we assume choice is our natural right and are allergic to any hints or ideas that seem to threaten it. In an interesting discussion on public radio on Tuesday about how theater is currently depicting the political situation in our country, a professor said that we seem to have entered a period of time in which we are seeing order being preferred to justice; in other words, we are on a collision course with our ideas about choice which is part and parcel of our cultural reverence for freedom.

But what if in fact we have never been free as we like to imagine nor had the choices we assume?

Really, how free are we?

What kind of choices do we actually have?

It is possible that you are going to feel resistance to what I have to say today because it is so countercultural and also not easy to understand. But I also want to reassure you that the One Who created us loves us beyond telling and desires that not a single one of us would be lost forever in the worlds of our own illusions and enslavements. Significant choice and true freedom are not merely political or social.

(Exodus 19:2-8)

But first, some history and context.

In the book of Exodus we read about our spiritual ancestors, the Israelites, not knowing where they were going, camping in the middle of nowhere, in a desert, the only apparent shelter or source of orientation being a nearby mountain, which must have seemed like a harsh comfort.

Moses, who had led them out of Egypt, felt drawn to climb that mountain, and there he heard from God, Who reiterated how it was by a miracle that they had been able to escape from Egypt, now to be there in God’s presence.

But having a relationship with God was going to have entailments; to start with, they would have to be obedient. They were going to have to do things. They would need to understand that they were God’s chosen people, and whether they liked it or not, whether it seemed fair to them or not, since the earth and everything in it belonged to God, they were going to need to pay attention. They were not choosing God – God was choosing them.

At first, the Israelites were blithe about this development; we might even say they were a bit gung-ho: “sure, we can say yes to this, yeah, whatever, just tell us what to do, it’s all good!”

Of course, we know what happened: they spent the next 40 years wandering around in that desert, resisting, complaining, fooling around, trying out their own schemes for getting out of the dependent situation they were in.

Does this sound at all familiar to you? Can you relate to this behavior?

And consider: Are we at all dependent?

Eventually, as we know, they created a nation which then split into two kingdoms, ostensibly governed on the basis of the revealed law of God that included the Ten Commandments, ritual sacrifice, and many statutes and judgments many of which were retained and then highly elaborated by the priests and Jewish synagogues until the birth of Christ. This period of human history has come to be called the Old Covenant: a relationship with God that had been based on human achievement.

(Romans 5:1-8)

But since the advent of Christ – His life in a visible form amongst human beings and His sacrifice of Himself for all humankind – our relationship to God no longer depends on our own will, efforts, or achievements. The astonishing and radical truth of our relationship to God in this era of history since the advent of Christ is that there is nothing we need do for salvation. That, indeed, there is nothing we can do because the lesson of the past is that human beings are incapable of keeping God’s law perfectly. This is why deeds regardless of how seemingly flawless – well-intended, beautifully executed – will never make us right with God.

Now this is a very humbling situation if you really sit with it and think about it. It is a hopeless cause to depend on ourselves for spiritual salvation. Even to attempt this is in error because it sets ourselves up as our own god.

At the same time, it was not and is not the case that God sets human beings up for failure; there are things we are supposed to learn from the law and our misguided attempts at our own righteousness, aspects of which have their place. (But that would be a message for another day.)

Today, it is through Christ we stand in grace – the grace of no longer being removed from God by our sinful nature, which is our inability to get anything right. If we did have anything to crow about, as the apostle Paul says, it would be that we can say with all joy and elation that now being admitted into the presence of God we can have real hope, just not in the way we are tempted to think.

The fact is, God hears us and wants to hear from us; have you said hello to your Father today? He is the Father that loves His children, that has always desired that our hearts would turn and be opened to him.

Today, we can also see our suffering in a new way, not as something to flee from by any means possible, but even as something to recognize as marking us as God’s children – we can even be glad for difficulty as an opportunity to learn and grow in faith and trust.

(However, let me say that this is not about masochism where we seek to suffer and take delight in pain itself; this would be a distortion. Rather, it means seeing pain and difficulty as an opportunity to draw closer to God. I think about this sometimes in terms of “breathe and trust” – being present to the problem, whatever it is, breathing gently and in my mind and heart turning it over to God in faith that the solution and the answer will present itself in God’s own good time.)

Difficulties become the path by which God shapes us and creates us to be what He has in mind. This is what it means to develop in character, not on the basis of our own strength of will and cleverness but by being precisely with the opportunities that life already gives us every day. In this way we can grow in the ability to see how God moves in the world and in our individual lives and then hope naturally follows as God’s Spirit joins with our human awareness and convinces us of His love and mercy.

For, what is so amazing – so counterintuitive to human reasoning and judgment – is that in fact Christ was willing to give away His life for us and all humankind before we, as a species, even knew who He was. While we were still busy slaving away using our own methods, for our own goals, and on the basis of our own supposed abilities, Christ got ready to assume the burden of our self-delusions and crimes against each other.

Now, however, our debt to God’s law having been fulfilled by Christ’s own blameless life and submission to death – death being the cost of sin – we can now come before God, ourselves also blameless. This is the greatest and most important event in human history; this is how and why we can now live freely before God, making a claim on Him as the Father whom we can now approach, the darkness of all our error and cruelty and lack of kindness no longer obscuring us from His presence.

Yes, people have been known to die for someone else, especially if that other person seemed to be somehow good or special, but God was willing to subject Himself in the form of Jesus to pay the ultimate price for every human being, regardless of how evil or how deluded. This is a love beyond human comprehension.

We can barely take this in; it is so difficult to accept that there is nothing we need do, right?

Our whole culture is about doing stuff – meriting, deserving – isn’t it?

I, for one, like to talk about surrender and the helpfulness, for example, of engaging in Centering Prayer, but we must be very careful with our attitude even to wonderful practices such as these in case we think that this is how and why God comes to us. God comes to us because He chooses us and has chosen us. There is not a single thing we can do to make this happen or to deserve it.

Why, then, do any practices such as these? Why engage in worship, prayer, charity? The answer is something like this: how can we not be filled with joy and want to be in God’s presence and give what we can when we realize how much we are loved by Him? When we catch even a glimpse of what we mean to Him? Surely this is what motivated David’s great expressions of joy in the Psalms!

David already understood that it is our sins that separate us from God but that God wants us. Today we can have an assurance that’s even greater than what David had: God chooses us, each and every one of us, and the only choice we have is whether or not we say yes to Him; we have no choice as to whether or not we mean anything to God. We mean everything to Him. This is Father’s day.

Circling the Wagons – January 16, 2017

AAUW Presentation
Martin Luther King Day, January 16, 2017
Grand Rapids, MN

Circling the Wagons:
Why We Protect Ourselves from Change and What to Do About It


  • In this presentation I hope to address some aspects of the biology, culture, and psycho-spirituality of our relationship to change in society, especially in regard to people different from ourselves.  I plan to talk about some of the myths that get in the way of living freely and heartily in a time of change and suggest ways to broaden the nature of our relationships to ourselves, others, and the world at large.
  • I think that we can agree that we appear to be living in an era of surprising and unusually fast-moving change.  Change is not new, of course, but people everywhere in the whole world are experiencing it at a breath-taking speed and in terms that they – we – were not predicting.
  • I say “breath-taking” because I noticed recently that my friends and I were increasingly talking in more incredulous tones:  a sort of breathless “did you hear what he said today?”   I don’t suppose I need to make that reference clearer.  Let me just say right now that I do not intend to talk directly about politics today, which may come as a relief to you.
  • No, we have bigger fish to fry given where our society and the world appears to be headed.  We need to seek a bigger view than mere politics.  I believe that what we need is to understand the human condition better, and we need bigger and better paradigms than social policies that include political correctness, for example, because clearly these are not working.
  • Something is afoot that is asking for an alternative perspective.  It can no longer be “business as usual.”
  • I do believe that the current rate of change has to do with the emerging communication technologies and their increasing availability even to very low-income peoples all over the world.  The effects include that now we know much more about people everywhere, how they are living and what they are experiencing, but I think more significantly what they are feeling and how they are motivated.
  • At the same time, it can be said that from the social science and psycho-spiritual perspective, what we are learning about people is not so much new as that the communication technologies are taking the lid off traditional social control mechanisms:  you can now tweet the world when you are about to be murdered by your own government or when you think a corporation should keep manufacturing jobs in your own country.
  • Lest I sound naïve at this point, let me acknowledge that this same capacity is also making it possible to disseminate socially and politically dangerous propaganda at an unprecedented depth of reach.  And, we might include advertising in that.
  • The new communication technologies, in the meantime, are also undermining skilled professional journalism, the ethics of which used to include a commitment to as unbiased a point of view as humanly possible, as well as to a sincere search for and representation of facts.
  • Yet, if you are a teacher, you will have heard that even university students can no longer define what a fact might be.  Is this perhaps why so many people in the United States today have so very little respect for science?
  • But I don’t want to talk directly about science today either, because it suffers from the same fatal flaw as politics and social policy – the view of human subjectivity and motivation as nothing more than a nuisance and confounding variable when in fact it drives the way we organize everything.  This is actually my topic today.

Biology (the not kid-friendly part of this talk)

  • Let me start with some biology as I build a human being for you (to put it a little overconfidently perhaps) from the ground up; what, after all, is a human being from this perspective?  Nineteenth century wags described us as “featherless bipeds.”  (Do you remember the 1960s’ expression for girls?  Birds!  And today in some circles people say “chicks.”  Somehow this description seems to keep hanging on.)
  • From a physical anthropology point of view, we are an ape, albeit the most adaptable and clever one.  We are not highly specialized biologically which is a big part of how it has been possible for our species to colonize the entire planet except Antarctica (and the only reason for that is that there are not enough animals to hunt for food there).
  • Many people are repulsed by the biological perspective because as human beings we privilege our intellectual and spiritual capacities; we simply don’t like thinking of ourselves as another animal, but this doesn’t make biology go away.  What are some significant adaptations and behaviors that we share with other animals including apes?
  • Here is a brief list:  we are born and we die; our bodies disintegrate (unless your bones are fossilized through extraordinary coincidence).  We are conceived on the basis of two opposite sex individuals coming together in an embrace that has often been preceded by courtship displays and sometimes coercion.
  • Courtship and procreation is based a lot on perceived compatibility of pheromones (modern petroleum-based perfumes not withstanding) and males’ innate ability to detect levels of fertility in females, which are indicated especially by hip dimensions (yes, “baby got back” . . . .)
  • The rearing of the young is largely up to the female of the species, in large part due to her ability to lactate.
  • Males tend to be violent with each other and territorial, and these behaviors increase exponentially when they are confronted by members of groups other than the one to which they belong.
  • There is a strong tendency to collect harems of females and monogamy is an exception among species, not a norm.  All the social species also organize themselves into “pecking orders” in terms of individual strength and aggression which is enforced ruthlessly, including by females.
  • Violence towards others, especially females, takes the form of rape.  And when one group of apes takes over another group, which happens in a bid for more territory, the violence often includes killing off all the young.
  • I’m sorry, but does any of this sound familiar?  Here’s a hint:  war crimes.  Our species carries out precisely all these same behaviors.
  • At the same time, note that all mammals, which of course includes the apes, also share all the same emotional capacities; that is, if the animal has a brain with a limbic system, then it can also feel exuberance, sadness, longing, and anger.  And their brains use all the same neurotransmitters.  How many of you have heard of oxytocin, the bonding hormone?  Dare I say it – they are like us, we are like them.
  • All animals learn and have awareness; they are not inanimate machines.  Animals exhibit intentionality; they are not mere stimulus/response mechanisms as we were still being taught only forty years ago.  These includes species that aren’t even mammals.
  • All animals also communicate, and this includes insects and plants; consider that plants are composed of living cells.  So, even in the case of plants, there is the ability to perceive danger, and they exhibit strategies to protect themselves.  We are in fact part of a massive web of life and biologically, we share its fate while fighting to the death to preserve ourselves.


  • The American philosopher Mortimer Adler wrote a book that captured my attention when I returned to college in my late twenties and continues to hold it:  The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes (1967).  After all these years and all my studies, I still find his essential argument valid:  although we are indeed a biological creature, it is not the only valid way to perceive our species and we do indeed bring something different to bear on the world.  What is that difference?
  • It is that we are also a meaning-making being, a symbolizing creature, a creature capable of creating systems of thought that helps us to adapt and to sustain ourselves.  Our capacity for this does seem to go beyond what our biology would indicate, the frontal lobes of our brains notwithstanding, which is to say that there really is no satisfactory biological explanation yet as to how we are able to do the things that we do with our brains.  The creativity of the human species transcends the biology, which is to say that it is a broader capacity.
  • Culture is a highly complex system of meanings and problem-solving strategies that must be taught; furthermore, we have become a creature that is now dependent on culture, right down to the cellular level.  That is, culture also organizes our biology.
  • And the latest and greatest findings along these lines indicate that even genetic expression is influenced by culture.  In fact, neither physical nor social science can draw lines as to where biology and culture begin or end; they are reciprocal and intertwined.
  • Meaning, therefore, is as significant as biology; there is therefore no longer any real nature-versus-nurture debate because we are recognizing that both are important.
  • Currently, we are witnessing a rise in political and religious fundamentalism in several major regions of the world including in this country, not unlike what happened in Europe between the world wars.  This is an example of cultural defensiveness, just as violence and territorialism are examples of biological defensiveness.
  • And indeed we find that the more abject the social condition of a human group is, which is to say suffering from lack of the most basic needs, the greater the odds are that people will be attracted to meaning systems that promise them what they lack.  This can include power and influence over their own lives.  Thus, poverty and also the perceived lack of a viable future are the single biggest risk factors in today’s world for dangerous fundamentalism because its adherents having nothing left to lose.

The psycho-spiritual dimension (also known as the personal and transpersonal)

  • Since World War II, most of the sciences and even much of modern philosophy has come to agree that we are not, after all, a primarily rational creature.  Rather, we use rationality to carry out our motivations and intentions.  That is, we can be described more accurately as a psychological creature.  So, instead of “I think, therefore I am,” we should be saying, “I want, therefore I do.”   Doing here includes thinking, which is a very powerful tool, no more or less.
  • Psychologically, then, it is well-known that people are generally unconsciously motivated in mainly one of only three ways:  security and survival, which tends to translate into fearfulness; power and control, which tends to play out against other people; and the search for affection and esteem, which tends to translate into extreme goal orientation and competitiveness.
  • Notice how there is a connection to biology here as these motivations assist in helping to ensure our place in relation to the social and physical environment in which we find ourselves.  The problem, however, is that without personal conscious awareness these motivations tend to result in personality distortion which is, once again, defensive.
  • At this point, are you noticing a theme?
  • When we encounter the new, the different, and the Other, we tend to react defensively – biologically, culturally, and psychologically.  This is human nature.  We can think of it as tribal. We circle the wagons and hunker down unless we are confronted directly, at which point we are quite ready to resort to violence.
  • This is why “civilization” can seem like such a thin veneer, because I believe in fact it is.    Nationalism and its milder cousin patriotism, for example, are simply dressed-up versions of biological, cultural, and psychological defensiveness and they can be very dangerous.  Think World War II.
  • (Is all this simply a curmudgeonly view of the human condition?  Let me reassure you that there is indeed more to the story.  The other day, I was in a stationery store at the check-out and a friend of mine comes up behind me and slaps a package of printer paper down on the counter and points at the description on the package, which says “no-jam paper” and then says, with mock outrage, “Look at that!  They’re selling the jam separately now!”)
  • There are indeed other human capacities related to the psychological and the creative and I hinted at it by using the verb transcend and by alluding to the transpersonal.  So, in art, literature, and the mystic dimensions of religion, for example, we can find described a certain something else which I would like to define as a deep intuition about the universe and reality not simply being a kind of shadow box in which we move the furniture around; rather, Reality – the Universe – is a vast, endless Whole of which we ourselves are an extension or manifestation and we also influence it.
  • There is nothing separate in this reality.  There is at base only a Oneness.  It is from this type of perception that we can cultivate a different relationship to ourselves, the environment, and each other.  Perhaps most significantly, from this type of perception we can transcend our limited animal reactivity.
  • This does not mean getting rid of it; it means coming into a different relationship to it and with it as part of what exists.
  • (I will be saying more about how to do this).
  • First, however, what are some of the myths that inhibit us from bothering with finding a broader perspective other than the tribal one?  Note that they are all somewhat related to each other.


  1. That we are “all the same”:  we are the same in terms of biological needs, but human beings are decidedly different in terms of cultural and personal meaning-making.  Thus, thinking in terms of “everybody just wants the same things” is simplistic; it can refer only to the most basic of creaturely needs which includes the well-being of one’s own children.
  1. That one particular religion, form of government or education could solve all human problems:  this is wishful thinking and could only be remotely plausible if all human beings had been raised in the same culture.  Even then only “remotely,” because there is still individual difference, which is both biological on the basis of temperament and psycho-spiritual.
  1. Someone or something “out there” has the solution:  again, this is wishful thinking and childlike.  The societal problems we have are largely our own creation, therefore it behooves us to create something different if we want a different outcome.  Goethe reputedly said that God gave us nuts to eat but we have to crack them open ourselves . . . .   And then there was Einstein who pointed out that we’d have to use a different kind of thinking than the kind we used that got us to where we find ourselves.
  1. Just wait it out and the problem will resolve itself:  this is a passive-aggressive stance towards life, aggressive because it is intentionally non-involved; it also caves into entropy, that downward dragging force inherent in every material thing including our physical bodies;
  1. “It’s not my problem”:  this attitude is famously captured in a “statement and poem [known as “First they came”] written by Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group” [Wikipedia]:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

  • I am not advocating activism today; as you will see, I am suggesting what I believe to be a more important and basic starting place, one which I think we are neglecting and are being called to remedy.  However, you may find yourself moved to activism but it won’t be sustainable without a deeply grounded personal foundation.
  • So, what can we do about our deep and pervasive defensive tendencies?
  • The single most important step is to cultivate a certain kind of awareness, and this must begin with ourselves.  If we begin with others – other people – we have only two recourses:  top-down analytic approaches which are precisely what do not appear to work over the long haul; and violent reform which by definition would be based on force and therefore questionable morality.
  • There you have the history of every revolution, all of which eventually fail.  Those of us in our 60s today, for example, have experienced the Berlin wall both go up and come down, and with it the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  • Furthermore, we tend to be no more aware of others and their needs than we are of our own; without the kind of awareness I am talking about, we are in fact only seeing ourselves in others – we are not seeing them.
  • I believe that we need cultural change but the solution will never be merely political because that is always about power, which creates its own resistance.  The anthropological record shows that culture changes when people’s needs are no longer being met.  Note, however, that human needs are not only biological.  As I have tried to show, they include creating coherent meaning at both the cultural and psycho-spiritual levels.
  • In other words, this is a deeply personal as well as cultural process, and neither personal psychology nor culture will change substantially if meanings are merely imposed.  Example:  “bringing democracy to Iraq.”  This, I believe, has also been the problem with “political correctness” – because you can’t mandate a change of heart.
  • So, the growth in awareness that all this entails, like happiness, is an “inside job” – it cannot be done for you; you have to seek it yourself – you have to be personally motivated – and you have to work on it.
  • Here are some questions to get you started:  Ask yourself,

What kinds of situations do I hate?

What kinds of people do I dislike extremely?

What kinds of change make me very nervous?

Now ask yourself, what do my answers tell me about myself and what I think I need?

  • What you are likely to discover is that there is a disconnect between your dislikes and your needs; in other words, for example, you may not like people who seem very different from yourself but that does not mean that your actual needs require that everyone around you appear just like yourself.  Our needs are actually quite simple; it is our meaning-making that introduces problems.
  • Becoming aware can be a harrowing journey as we stand to discover some not very pleasant things about ourselves.  However, it is only with personal awareness that we can make true and authentic choices.
  • So, here is a list of ways – actually practices – for beginning to take a broader, less defended view:
  1. Be curious; make fewer assumptions about other people and situations; talk to people; ask them sincere questions about their hopes, plans, and desires;
  1. Be the change you wish to see (Gandhi):  what does your own life demonstrate?  Is it actually a reflection of what you most deeply value?  Or do you just talk a lot?
  1. Most importantly, put your mind into your heart, meaning put your mind in the service of that much greater perceptive ability you already have, that of sympathetic resonance (as Cynthia Bourgeault outlines in her book, The Heart of Centering Prayer:  Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice, 2016.  Page 120).
  • This is not simply subordinating thinking to feeling; it is operating from your whole self instead of only the intellect which is by definition a very narrow thing not up to what John Kabbat-Zinn calls “full catastrophe living.”
  • Let me give you an example:  there was a Western photojournalist in Africa struggling with whether or not to interfere with an eagle about to attack a dying child as she stood there with her camera . . . .  (What was the nature of this struggle for her?)
  • Another very common example:  when trying to talk about the plight of hungry children in our society, for example, and the only responses you get are theoretical and ideological.
  • When one becomes adept at shifting one’s perception on the basis of practices like these, many issues become crystal clear intellectually, psychologically, and morally.
  • You will generally know what to do in the moment and you will be living much more freely and heartily, versus from some automatic and deeply unconscious script you yourself may not even have written!  You will also inflict far less violence on others.  (Consider how we do violence to one another by, for example, not even listening to each other.)
  • We then stand to become whole persons who can welcome and cooperate with others; we can be assertive when necessary because we are speaking and acting from integrity instead of social role; and we naturally become a force for good in our own circles of influence.
  • In conclusion, let me say I believe that the rationalist project of the West is failing.  We need a new kind of radical engagement predicated on an open-heartedness that responds to what life presents in the moment.  This is a call to living deliberately and fully with courage and spontaneity in the moment.  This is a different kind of fierceness that dares to confront the monolithic thinking that builds the walls and can take it down brick by brick.

Copyright Sylvia Olney 2017

November 14th, 2015 – retreat info

Mind-Body Integration:  Coming Home
With Sylvia Olney MA LMFT Ph.D.

Grand Rapids, MN
Saturday, November 14th, 2015

Sylvia Olney - Bemidji, MN, retreat happening on July 16th, 2015

Sylvia Olney - Bemidji, MN, retreat happening on July 16th, 2015

Life in the US today exacts a steep cost in terms of chronic stress which contributes to every form of illness as well as alienation from ourselves and others.  And yet, the knowledge for the creation of wellness, personal integration, and the experience of community and the sacred exists closer to ourselves than we might imagine!

Come spend a day with Dr. Sylvia Olney, Minnesota state licensed psychotherapist, healer, and author, in a country setting in rural Minnesota, and experience a healing day of instruction and practice in mindful awareness, stress reduction, and inspiration.  Come explore the relationship between personal mind-body integration and the sacred.

Located fifteen minutes outside of Grand Rapids on a small, quiet lake, the setting for this day of retreat, at the home of a friend of Sylvia’s, has all the features of a day retreat location:  gentle walking meditation paths in beautiful deciduous woods and around spacious lawns, as well as amenities to host a small group of up to ten people looking for a day of recovery from urban and other stresses.

DATE:  Saturday, November 14, 2015

GROUP SIZE:  Up to ten individuals.

SCHEDULE:  Arrival 8:30 a.m., morning session 9 a.m. through noon; lunch (provided) 12 noon; afternoon session 1-3p.m.

COST:  $100, which includes a light salad-style lunch, healthy snacks, water, and herbal teas.

ATTIRE:  Wear loose clothing, a warm jacket, and comfortable shoes you can walk in.

YOU MAY WANT TO BRING:  A notebook and pen.

You would also be asked to sign a hold-harmless form indicating your willingness to take personal responsibility for outdoor activity (weather permitting) that will involve walking on wooded, grassy paths, and exposure to the weather.  (In case of inclement weather, this retreat will take place indoors.)

CONTACT INFORMATION:  Comment on this post below, use the online contact form or call 218-259-3137 and leave a message!

About My Book

From Lexington Books:

The Medicalization of Psychotherapy: Practicing under the Influence is an ethnographic account of the practice of clinical psychology under the reductionist auspices of biomedicine. Using Peircean semiotic analysis focusing in particular on modes in meaning-making, Sylvia Olney proposes that consciousness should be accorded the same conceptual and value status as “nature” and the human body. This would resolve the psyche/soma split as mirrored both within and between the practice disciplines of medicine and psychotherapy, and could also free practitioners and client/patients from the idea of essential helplessness in the face of biology, a notion which happens to contribute to the vested interests of the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Given the advances of neuroscience and psychoneuroimmunology that support the recognition of force-like dimensions of mind and intention, The Medicalization of Psychotherapy helps to restore the practice of psychotherapy to the significant healing art it has actually been: the healing of consciousness.

“The conditions of psychotherapy have changed significantly in the biomedical era. This useful and thoughtful book explains how those changes work from the inside, and how they alter the moral climate of care itself.”   Tanya Luhrmann, Stanford University

“Dr. Olney has captured the fundamental contradictions within the system of capitalistic health care. The economic powerhouses of insurance and pharmacy companies now drive everything from diagnoses, to treatment plans, to the personal philosophies of the practitioners in the direction of profit rather than the direction of healthy patients/clients. The managed care and best practices required by insurance companies and supported by pharmaceutical companies selectively ignore large areas of psychological research while emphasizing brief and biologically based treatments. Interestingly, Olney’s deeply probing interviews with mental health practitioners suggest that in spite of these powerful economic influences, a humanistic undercurrent continues to thrive as a kind of underground opposition. Her interviewees reveal their willingness to play the CBT/medication game for insurance reimbursement while believing that empathy, human connection, and self-awareness carry tremendous power for healing. The book provides a fascinating view of cynical practice being undermined by humanist care.”   Marsha Driscoll, Bemidji State University

Click here to read the Lexington book release, and order the book with the form.  To order online, click the publisher icon on the right.  Save 30% with coupon code LEX30AUTH15 upon checkout!

What is nondual healing?

All of my new patients and students ask me, “What is nondual healing?”  It’s a good question, with a number of different answers!  Here are a few:

1.     “Nondual” healing refers to seeing or perceiving the whole; that is, perceiving reality as both embodied and energetic, dynamic, or spiritual.

2.     When our perception is not nondual, it is fragmented or split, and we see only the dynamic or spiritual, or only the physical, embodied dimensions of ourselves and the world around us.

3.     The nondual healer takes in – perceives – the whole of the person they are with; he or she takes in every dimension of their being.  They see their physical manifestation as well as the dynamic movement or state of their being – their shimmering spirit.

4.     For the healer to be able to perceive in this way requires him or her to have learned how to inhabit a place of clarity where, although his or her own unique historical personality still exists, he or she can see the Other – the person in front of them, unobscured by the healer’s own psychology.

5.     The presence of a true healer is an expression of certain states of consciousness that can function to influence the state of the client, and healing can begin to occur when the healer and the client come into alignment.

6.     Unlike the interventionism that characterizes much psychotherapy, nondual healing consists of deep intimacy with all that may arise in a session; the healer resists nothing and holds the space of awareness from a state of acceptance and deep integrity.

7.     In the presence of such a state, the client can discover for him- or herself an unwinding of the psychological and physical contractions that characterize most suffering.

8.     The right or necessary words, gestures, concepts or images can then also appear, within the awareness of both healer and client, and true healing can arise:  a return to original wholeness, a healing of split states of awareness.