Meet Dr. Susan B. Lord
We are thrilled to announce the launch of our 10 session introductory course, Connecting with the Higher Self: The Art & Science of Joyful Living, taught by the distinguished Dr. Susan B. Lord beginning Tuesday, November 27th, 2018!
Dr. Susan B. Lord is the Executive Director of the Center for Peace through Culture, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people flourish through integrative experiential education. With her extensive background in curriculum development and teaching, she specializes in the intersection of western science and eastern philosophy to develop new models of education and public health. She enjoys writing and has lectured in a variety of public and professional forums throughout the country. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, she resides in Housatonic, MA, with her teenage daughter, and continues to be inspired by the creative arts and the beauty of the Berkshires.
Dr. Lord has created a consultative medical practice in holistic lifestyle medicine and psychospiritual counseling to inspire and empower people to live healthy, meaningful livest. Read on to learn more about her mindfulness approach to life, using the Higher Self, which integrates the mind, body, heart and spirit.
What is relevance of the Higher Self and Higher Self Yoga to science/psychosynthesis/psychology, in your own words?
Many people with diverse backgrounds are struggling in our present culture of overwhelming stress. We have too much of what we don’t need and not enough of what we really do need to thrive. All aspects of life are affected: our mental and emotional health, family and friends, our work life, our relationship with nature. The result is a lack of positive energy and health, happiness, fulfillment, connection, community, meaning and purpose.
I find that most people look outside themselves for these things- more money, more things, a soul mate, the perfect job, power, status to name a few and eventually people figure out these things don’t bring happiness. There is a great deal of science now that documents this phenomenon.
This is where the wisdom of ancient cultures has much to teach us. These cultures going back thousands of years emphasize the crucial importance of developing an inner life, to nurture higher human qualities of integrity, empathy, honesty, altruism, emotional intelligence, intuition, etc. They teach us that meditation, mindfulness, psychology, and proper use of the heart are tools to nurture our inner life.
Through turning inward with honesty and compassion, we get in touch with a deep, wise part of ourselves that guides us toward a new understanding of life; personal growth, living life according to our deepest values becomes a way of life that leads to fulfillment, meaning and a sense of being at home in ourselves and in the world.
This wise guide within us is what we refer to as our Higher Self and the concepts that teach us how to live in accordance with the Higher Self is called Higher Self Yoga. The science of yoga is based on thousands of years of observing humans living their life and learning what leads to suffering and what leads to a meaningful life. Interestingly, modern western science is now establishing the validity of this eastern yogic tradition.
Psychosynthesis is a psychotherapeutic approach to personal growth founded on the belief that we have the capacity to find our answers by turning inside. It is a transpersonal psychology that facilitates the experience of some energy that is bigger than us- some might call it an experience of the divine. Experiencing this expansive energy is freeing and gives us a new perspective of who we are and changes the stories we tell ourself and others. Through studying our own psychology, we begin to step out of the usual ways we define ourselves toward something more eternal: the Higher Self.
What are some of the concepts of Higher Self Yoga that you will be integrating into the curriculum of the program?
There are many concepts and i haven’t yet determined what we will focus on for beginners- but it will be a combination of science and experience.
- How to contact and nurture the Higher Self
- How western science explains how living a yogic life changes and heals us, moving from stress toward relaxation so we live more thoughtfully and less reactively.
- What is meditation and how to establish a practice
- Increasing self-awareness, self-knowledge
- What is self love
- Techniques to understand your psychology
What do you feel are the benefits of small group learning?
Mind- Body-Spirit Skills Groups
Working in small groups with people negatively impacted by stress, whether from work, chronic pain, life-threatening illness, overwhelming life challenges, disasters or trauma is a powerful model for healing and change.
This experiential model provides education about the physiological and psychological effects of stress and teaches mind-body skills to mitigate symptoms, promote relaxation and engage people in their life with a new perspective and new lifestyle skills to enhance physical and emotional resilience.
Mind-Body-Spirit Skills Groups consist of 8-12 members, meeting together over time. The curriculum includes instruction and practice in techniques of psychological self-care: meditation, relaxation techniques, guided imagery, autogenic training, biofeedback, journaling and narrative writing, movement/yoga, genograms, drawing exercises and nutrition. The goals are increased self-awareness, self-expression and self- regulation. Group support provides the opportunity to explore meaning and purpose in life.
These groups are supportive, therapeutic and educational. Each session highlights a healing modality and includes a discussion of the underlying science. There is an opportunity to practice the modality and to share insights with group members. The healing power of sharing a common experience in the context of a facilitated group has been well documented to relieve stress, decrease physical and emotional pain, restore function and thus enhance quality of life. Practicing the modality at home between sessions is crucial for integration.
An important goal of these groups is to inspire and empower people to make lifestyle changes including eating a healthy whole food diet, doing regular exercise and learning to manage stress through mindful living practices.
Most importantly, it is the mindful practices which train the mind and shape the brain that hold the promise of living life fully with more equanimity and less stress, more meaning and less disconnect. The ultimate goal is to live a more peaceful, resilient and loving life, both at home and at work.
What do you enjoy about mentorship/facilitating workshops?
As a scientist and a spiritual person, I love exploring and integrating these 2 ways of describing life. And I love sharing what I learn with other people. I have found that as people experiment with meditation, mindfulness and compassionate self-care, they begin to heal; they begin to change in beautiful ways. It is an honor for me to witness this mysterious process of human evolution. One of the most compelling results is watching people connect with each other once they connect deeply to themselves. I believe that by building these communities of people working to fully blossom, we can change our world.
What are your thoughts on integrating eastern philosophy with western science? How can other practitioners utilize eastern thought within standard medical practice?
I think integrating eastern philosophy and western science is crucial and powerful. As westerners, we rely on and trust our intellectual left brain’s understanding of the world and western science has excelled by looking through a microscope to understand the smallest units of life. Eastern philosophy has focused on looking through a telescope to understand the big picture. Both points of view are valuable and together they give us the answers to living life moment to moment within a context of expansive consciousness. Interestingly, i think both approaches end up exploring the nature of energy which is a game changer- a total paradigm shift in the most personal way.
What common misconceptions do you feel the public has about holistic health/eastern philosophy/functional medicine?
I think conventional western medicine has promised us magic bullets to get what we want without working for it. This idea combined with companies who design these magic bullets has really led people astray- away from personal responsibility and indeed often away from true science. For instance, we now know that the lifestyle choices we make are the most powerful factors that determine our health and happiness. Though there is certainly a valid place for pharmaceuticals, for most modern diseases, lifestyle choices are crucial. Lifestyle choice is by definition an holistic approach: it involves nutrition, exercise and mindful ways of managing stress of any kind. Ancient healing systems understand this. An Ayurvedic or Chinese doctor will take into consideration what you’re eating, how and whether you move your body, your state of mind and your spiritual journey. He or she will give you a special diet, specific yogic postures or QiGong practices, herbs, energy medicine, detoxification, and give advice about any emotional imbalances in your life. This leads to real healing. An agitated mind can undermine the possibility of healing no matter what you eat. And eating a poor diet can undermine your peace of mind.
You have worked in war zones training staff on treating the mental health of victims of war trauma, such as child soldiers. Specifically during your time in South Africa and Mozambique, you worked with traditional healers. What can the West learn from how traditional healing can benefit victims of trauma and abuse?
One of the most interesting concepts i was exposed to, is a belief that if an individual is suffering from a mental or physical illness, that is an expression of an imbalance in the larger community. The community then comes together to determine what the imbalance is and to restore harmony to the community which then may heal the individual. This is based on the belief that we are all one- that what affects me, affects you. Modern physicists would agree with this!
In the context of the child soldiers, these children were kidnapped by terrorists and forced to commit atrocities, including killing their own parents. These children were hostile, aggressive, shamed and devastated. Western medicine has little to offer these children, who are so damaged and isolated by what they have done. Traditional healers see these children as exiled from their families and communities causing a rift in the fabric of the community. So healing consists of bringing them back into the community and doing rituals of accepting them and the things that they have done. They are given a safe place to go through a process of healing with the elders, culminating in a ritual of forgiveness that allows them to rejoin the community, which in turn heals the community itself.
What is mind-body medicine, and how do you incorporate the concepts of HSY and the HS into your approach?
Mind-Body-Spirit medicine is based on an understanding that the mind and body are not separate, but are in actuality so intertwined as to be considered one. I think of it as a mobile, where a breeze cannot move one part without instantaneously moving all the other parts. Dr. Candace Pert, while doing research at Georgetown University years ago, wrote a book called Molecules of Emotion. Her research documented how a thought or emotion actually causes a molecular cascade within cells of the body. This is a profound change in thought for western medicine. Psychiatry and Internal medicine are separate disciplines and their practitioners don’t understand each other’s specialty. I recently went to doctors’ appointments with a friend who was suffering from an undiagnosed illness. The lung doctor said she couldn’t comment on the heart symptoms and the heart doctor couldn’t determine if the heart symptoms were influenced by the lung symptoms and suggested we see an infectious specialist. These silos of expertise limit our ability to see the whole picture and understand how all these organ systems are affecting each other, just like a mobile.
How can we encourage the intersection of western science and eastern philosophy, especially in an increasingly fast-paced and cortisol-driven world?
Higher Self Yoga encourages us to take a fresh look at our beliefs about who we are physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. As you meditate and ask your HS for understanding – as you mindfully experiment with the decisions you make, noticing how they impact you, you learn the truth through direct experience.
We only have to recognize the experiment western society is doing now- living life that is too much, too fast, too overwhelming, to realize that we are on the wrong track. Mental and physical illness is epidemic. Opioid addiction is rampant. We are destroying the earth. Our children are committing suicide, and we are senselessly shooting each other. There is no appreciative gain to the way we are living. So let’s change the experiment. Let’s look to India where in the midst of poverty, one can find joy.
What is one thing we can all do to be more mindful?
Breath has the capacity to transform us. Several times a day, close your eyes, and actually sense what is happening in your body as you breath. The adventure isn’t out there, it’s in here. So breath and explore this inner territory. You’ll be amazed at what happens.