Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Running on Empty

by Jim Nelson

The book Running on Empty--Transcending the Economic Culture's Seduction of Our Youth comes from observations during my forty years as a teacher and psychologist working with young people and watching their growing emotional pain. It offers the ideas of the Himalayan Tradition for relieving their growing suffering and alienation. This book is meant to bring our tradition into the mainstream to help teachers, therapists, parents, and other caregivers who work with and support youth understand tools that can help youth build more purposeful lives. It was my blessing to have felt guided by Swami Rama throughout the writing process.  It was a Sadhana of discipline, attempting to maintain a mental freshness throughout long hours at the keyboard.  I fell in love all over again with my wife Candice, as I marveled at her unfailing intuition, editing skills, and constant support and encouragement.  My prayer is the book might have some efficacious effect, God and Guru willing, on decreasing youth’s suffering while sharing the beauty of our tradition with parents, therapists, teachers, and contemplative young people.

Running on Empty’s foundation is built on the critical importance of our four basic urges of hunger, sex, sleep, and self-preservation (ego-preservation), for emotional regulation and harmony.  Humans, because of their unique imagination, have an almost infinite array of choices to satisfy each of these urges.  Some choices create emotional balance, but many create mental/emotional imbalance and pain.  This book articulates, clearly and in depth, how all painful mental/emotional pain is caused by imbalances in one or more of these four primitive urges.  It makes the case that these urges are more imbalanced than at any time in human history due to the penetrating effects of, what I call in the book, the “Economic Culture”.  The practices and values of the corporate world have penetrated our lives and minds causing a growing malaise and increased emotional pain, particularly for our youth.  Without understanding the link between these urges to our painful emotions, the suggestions, treatments, and interventions we offer as therapists and caregivers to hurting clients, students, and children are not as holistic or efficacious.  

Currently this paradigm, which is at the core of yoga psychology, is not well understood among lay people or by most mental health professionals.  The book provides an additional and complimentary psychological lens for understanding people’s suffering.  Borderline Personality Disorder, bullying, anxiety, anger, depression, fear, suicide, and many other issues increasingly manifesting in our society are more comprehensively understood if we grasp the pivotal role these four primitive urges play in regulating our emotional life.  This understanding naturally suggests clear and effective interventions for relieving youth’s and our emotional pain.  Causality suggests cure.

Many of the imbalances in youth’s primitive urges, that spawn their painful emotions, are triggered by dramatic societal changes that have taken place over the last few decades.  Most of these changes are the result of the destructive influences and values of the Economic Culture.  Sophisticated psychological manipulation of the four primitive urges by the best psychologists on the planet, ad agencies, has resulted in more people, particularly youth, suffering from fear, anxiety, anger, depression, suicidal ideation, and a deep loneliness and alienation.  Many of youth’s values have been unconsciously shaped by the Economic Culture, that emphasizes hyper-competitiveness, extreme individualism, hedonism, and a rampant materialism as the path to happiness.  Not quite understanding the source for their pain, young people have been blind-sided by an epidemic of emotionally painful psychological symptoms.

The messages of the corporate world and their implicit values, suggest that happiness is found outside ourselves and that each individuals happiness is paramount.  The traditional values of cooperation, charity, service to others, and education as a means for character development have been drowned by a Tsunami of self-centeredness and greed.  This is the only world most youth have known, and it is no wonder many are experiencing an existential depression and a deep penetrating malaise.  The signals of conscience and intuition that helps us chart a course for meaningful and purposeful living are muffled by the constant din and sense bombardment that is the hallmark of the Economic Culture.  Running on Empty clearly establishes the link between the growing influences of the Economic Culture and the historically unprecedented imbalances this has created in our four primitive urges.

The good news is that the urge for transcendence, what Swami Veda calls the “fifth human urge”, also operates within all human beings.  When we quiet the drumbeat of externally focused desires, this urge, which speaks to us through conscience and intuition, can help guide youth to a purpose-filled, contented, and joyful life.  This quiet clarion call, whispered by the spiritual Self, can most easily be discerned through training our minds in the art of relaxed and focused concentration.  With this training, we navigate life’s challenges with joy, love, and skillful discrimination.  It is then that we truly become the architects of our lives.

This book offers numerous mindfulness and self-awareness experiments that provide direct experiential feedback as to their efficacy.  Experiments are the hallmark of science and yoga, and the book’s themes, though grounded in ancient spiritual wisdom traditions, are supported by the latest scientific research.  Thousands of students and clients have benefited from these experiments.  Their trans-formative effects are shared in youth’s own heartwarming and often humorous words, adding a personal quality that enlivens the book.  Running on Empty—Transcending the Economic Culture’s Seduction of Our Youth attempts to build a bridge between the practices of the Himalayan Yoga Tradition, the collaborative insights of modern scientific research, and the needs and emotional struggles of growing numbers of youth and their families.  The book offers a paradigm and blueprint to decrease ours and youth’s suffering, which can help all of us chart a course for a lifetime of service and joy.

The Guru has already opened many doors, including several opportunities I have had to speak on the themes of the book at regional and statewide conferences.  I enjoy participating in forums with adolescents, young adults, and their caregivers, to glean what I can from their life experiences relative to my observations about growing youth struggles.  I want to encourage and nurture a growing commitment to a purpose driven life that I see increasingly taking place in our youth. Over half of all profits, if there are any, will go to Swami Veda, which he can direct for humanities greatest benefit, perhaps targeted to supporting our youth’s spiritual growth and sadhana.

Editor’s Note:

Running on Empty—Transcending the Economic Culture’s Seduction of Our Youth can be purchased at the links below:

It is available on eight different e-readers including Kindle, Nook, I-pad, Sony, and several others.

Jim Nelson graduated magna cum laude in psychology from the University of Minnesota.  He has two master’s degrees and worked as a licensed psychologist for fifteen years at the Family Life Mental Health Center.  He also served on the Anoka County Mental Health Advisory Board as an advocate for the mentally ill.  He taught a high school psychology class for over twenty years in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, spending the last twelve years as a clinical psychologist for the district.  He also worked as a Resource Teacher mentoring other teachers in the district.  He was the recipient of Medtronic’s Outstanding Teacher Award, and was a member of the Who’s Who of American Teachers.  He served five terms on a local city council championing environmental issues.  He sat on the Board of Directors of the Meditation Center in Minneapolis for over twenty-five years, serving as Chairman and Board President.  He has taught meditation for over thirty years and currently serves as vice-president of AHYMSA, AHYMSIN’s region in the Americas.  He also teaches for HYT-TTP.

Jim is a speaker who travels nationally and internationally speaking on a variety of topics including “The Art of Joyful Living”, “The Power of Forgiveness,” “The Sources of Emotional Pain,” and “On Becoming Your Own Psychologist.”  He recently retired, but his business, “Nelson’s Interactive Seminars” keeps him busy traveling and speaking.  He is willing to speak at centers and conferences within the AHYMSIN family and has already spoken at The Meditation Center in Minneapolis, The Yoga Society in Milwaukee, and The Awakening Center in California.  Jim has been invited to participate in the Nurturing Spirituality in the Family Conference at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama 20th – 25th February 2013.  He lives just north of Minneapolis with his wife Candice and their dog Desi.

For more about the Nurturing Spirituality in the Family Conference, please use this link: http://www.ahymsin.org/main/index.php/India-Events/nurturing-spirituality-in-the-family.html