Second Order Prayers

We often pray, wish, plan for outside events to change for the better. I was taught by my teacher, of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD, so often mentioned on this page and in my thoughts as we come to his yarzheit (anniversary of death in Judaism) next week that our prayers should be “second order” prayers. Meaning that instead of prayer for things or events, we pray to have the strength, insight, creativity etc. to make those things happen.

To be sure, in the Hebraic tradition, there have been sages who have emphasized that we should pray for others that they should have all their material needs met according to what they are accustomed to, but for us, we should pray for our spiritual welfare.

Yesterday, I felt a great deal of sadness for a man I know and as I started to pray for him that he have the strength and insight to come through the challenges that he faces, it had reminded me that though I have people in my prayers all the time, I had not expanded that with “second order” prayers.

That prayers work is beyond question in my opinion. Those who regularly pray especially as part of community are healthier. And the remarkable studies on what the literature uses as intercessory prayer (IP) as the terminology, show numerous studies that even when people don’t know they are being prayed for, they get better.

The benefits of this for yourself are given a beautiful metaphor in ancient Hebraic teachings. It says that when you pray for another a channel from God is opened for that person but since you opened it, you become a channel for that light to be then given to that person. That, of course, means that you are receiving more Godly light into your life as a result of these prayers for others.

In our ever pessimistic world, we often resign ourselves to the fact that nothing will help given the immense problems we all face both in our lives and in our society. We are commanded in Western traditions not to ever give up hope. Classic Jewish tradition says that even if your enemies sword is upon your throat, you must never give up hope. Maybe now is exactly when we need to think “second order” thoughts and prayers that we and those around us should be strong enough, resilient enough, creative enough to make the changes required to improve our world for all of us. Start small and local and expand your vision outward. You can make a difference, it’s proven scientifically, if you need that proof. The remarkable thing is that in doing so, you end up helping yourself. And that is exactly where the seed of hope can find fertile soil. Nothing good happens in this world until a positive thought or intention finds a place in your mind to grow and reach outward. It can be a prayer that starts it all.

Photo by Carlos Cuesta

The Tyranny of Advanced Degrees and Wealth

One of things that stymies the pursuit of many of my clients and patients from becoming their own authorities in their health is the “putting on a pedestal” of people with advanced degrees and wealth.   My teacher of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD would say that is like erecting an idol for yourself.  Experts with degrees are important only to the extent that they serves as resources for information and in some cases to be teachers to help you along the way.   What I tend to see happen is people tend to make those people more valuable than they are themselves.

As far as wealth goes, have you noticed how if Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk say something completely unrelated to their realm of expertise, it makes headlines?   They have money because they know how to make money through a select business or businesses.  That’s it.   Of course, some businesses do provide real value to society, but that doesn’t make the person with great wealth any more valuable than you and certainly no more qualified to make pronouncements about anything anymore than anyone else.  For some wealthy people, they just have a very narrow skill, that just happens to correlate with more money and does not relate in anyway to the level of wisdom they have in anything else.   

Additionally, many people with great “success” don’t even have great insight into why they are “successful.”   Robert Ringer makes note in his bombastically titled book “Winning by Intimidation” which should really be called “How to Win by Avoiding Being Intimidated” (though that wouldn’t sell as well) explains that one of the reasons that books on “success” are often all over the place in terms of recommendations is not only because the hard truth of “success” is often not sellable but also because many people with great “success,”  don’t actually have a lot of insight into why they are successful.

Bringing this back to health, (which as the cliche says, is actually a form of wealth), is that the whole edifice of modern medicine is structured as such a rigid hierarchy that it can often feel imposing and intimidating to people coming into it and how we ordinarily would act.   Hierarchy is after all, needed, it is required for a standard of care to be enforced but as we have spoken about elsewhere, this is the man- made world which tends to depersonalize people. When it comes to the real world of human beings no two of which are alike, there is bound to be some conflict if you insist on maintaining your freedom..   My father is also a medical doctor and taught me that my job is to serve the patient and earn their trust and respect.  The word Doctor comes from the root to teach.  Doctors are there to advise, teach, and gain your trust that they can help you while you maintain your freedom always, which is your God-given responsibility.  

I believe that a certain doctor coming into your life at a certain moment can often be a Divine intervention for your health but if anything that just means that you would be grateful to God for putting this person in your life to help you.   Your job during this process is to make sure you keep your freedom by reminding yourself that you know yourself better than anyone and not allow institutions even medical ones from taking away that uniqueness. 

In the immortal words of Hillel, which I think about often when this comes up and sums up how you should relate to yourself and others: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me, and if I am only for myself what am I, and if not now when.” 

Image above by Democracy Chronicles

American Institute for Mental Imagery (AIMI)

I am pleased to announce Rachel, the wife of my beloved teacher of blessed memory, Jerry Epstein, MD is continuing his work. You can find my recollection of learning with Jerry here.

As Rachel writes “Founded on the principles of love and truth, Dr. Jerry Epstein, M.D. created the American Institute of Mental Imagery in 1982. Through his work, Dr. Epstein sought to empower people to be their own authorities, teaching them to access their inner wisdom in order to find answers to their mental, physical, and emotional difficulties. Teaching people how to use their minds to heal, AIMI is dedicated to extending tools and techniques of self-healing and self-realization to anyone, of any age, at all times. All are welcome. Classes can generally be joined at anytime at a prorated rate.”

If the above is of interest, reach out to for a full catalog. Or visit the AIMI site here. I can’t overestimate the value of the resources you will discover.

Image from page 32 of “The sage’s key to character at sight; special student’s course” (1919)

The “Man-Made” World of Medicine

Drawing above by Jason and Mary Hunt of Orlando.

Dr. Robert “Rhondell” Gibson explains that the “real world” is a world where no two people are alike and no standards can be held against anyone. It is the free association of people without expectation, standards, fully accepting that each of us is unique.

The “Man-Made” world is the world of institutions and games with rules (even traffic is a game in this definition and I would say the rules are valuable here). I will go further in depth into this in another post but suffice it to say, that when I see someone in my office as a patient, they come in through the man-made world, but the second the exam door closes and we are interacting, it is my aim to make sure the real-world holds sway.

I don’t recall if I mentioned on this new blog but as of now, I still do free phone consultations for people. The conversations range from guidance on nutrition, fasting strategies, weight loss, psoriasis, lupus, and of late, conversations on the use of mental imagery for healing trauma of the past that was taught to me from my teacher of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD.

Yesterday, I spoke to a woman who contacted me on my FB page and set up a call with me. She was suffering from pain related to ovarian cysts. In the small town she lived in, she had very few consultations with specialists but she saw who was available.

In these situations, knowledge of the “man-made world” of modern medicine can help. After taking a full medical history, I explained to her a referral to the closest university hospital, about 80 miles from her, would be the next logical step. I explained to her why a university hospital setting could help her and gave her the exact wording to use to ask her doctor in such a way to elicit a referral. These words would tell him or her that she means business and understands fully her need for more opinions.

How often do we get caught up in the man-made world and forget the real world? There are so many things to remember to stay awake in our hypnotic society and here is another question to ask yourself as the day goes by : To what extent have I identified the man-made world I am working in and am I allowing it to dictate my behavior and thoughts? Am I capable of recognizing that the person in front of me is a real person of which no two are alike, completely unique?

It’s a cliche but nowhere is the following paraphrased quote more apropos that your aim might be “To be in the man-made world, but not of it” In other words, you might physically be in the man-made world most of the time, but your substance, your true essence is not of that world.

The path of Western spirituality is that we engage the man-made world fully but constantly remind ourselves to be awake and cognizant of who we really are. In this case, your knowledge of the man-made world can be of assistance to the people you associate with in the real world 🙂 Avoiding the man-made world for spiritual bliss and non-disturbance prevents you from making significant contributions to the lives of those around you and it is in those contributions that lies the greatest happiness.

In Memory of My Teacher, Gerald Epstein, MD

I posted this on FB in March, but wanted it here : In 2004, I had a life-threatening illness. It was during those times that each day I woke up seemed precious given the uncertainty of my future. I was so thankful to God for giving me another day. It was as Charles Dickens said, the best of times and the worst of times. Everything seemed to sparkle though, my dreams were otherworldly and filled with messages, and I was appreciative and expressive more than ever of the love of my family and those who cared for me. As I got through that illness by the grace of God, my life changed for the better, I had a better appreciation of illness, was more thankful for the love of those around me but as life came back to normal the sparkle of those days seemed to fade, where my connection to the Source of all Life was palpable.

I knew deep in my soul, that I had been given a precious gift, and that sparkle of life was there for each of us. In my case, God needed to get my attention with an illness to see it, for each us, we are given an opportunity just the same but as Winston Churchill said “Men occasionally stumble over truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” As this sparkle faded, I knew that I needed to find a teacher and mentor.

Along with this experience, in which I had decided to go against some of the suggestions of my doctors, I started learning more about natural healing. I came across a program called The Natural Laws of Self-Healing by Dr. Gerald Epstein, MD of blessed memory. After listening to this program, I reached out to Dr. Epstein, something I have never done with any book or program I have ever consumed. In a very brief call, he asked me very matter of factly, how he could help me, I said, I just came through an illness and the sparkle that I experienced seemed to fade, I thought maybe you could help me regain it. He said ”Not maybe, I can help you” just like you would expect from a confident guy who grew up tough on the streets of Brooklyn. I said I was going to be in NY and made an appointment to see him.

The day before seeing Dr. Epstein, I visited the burial site of holy saint, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, with one request to God, that I find a teacher to help me to grow spiritually, to find a teacher as it says in Ethics of the Fathers “ Make yourself a teacher, find yourself a friend, and judge everyone person on the positive side.” The next day I saw Dr. Epstein in his office. We discussed my experience with illness and that I felt a calling to grow spiritually and that this sparkle I experienced was directly associated with my connection to God. He re-affirmed this and led me through what is called a ‘waking dream’ that was meant to trigger a vivid dream which we would review the following day. As this was happening, I felt that I was being initiated into a tradition of healing and growth, and I felt deeply that I was in the right place. That night, I had an intensely vivid dream as he had said, and I returned to his office where I had another waking dream experience, going back into this dream and as I would learn, using imagination, as tool of perception to discover things about myself I never could in a strictly rational sense.

After the experience, which Jerry could tell was deeply profound for me and brought me to levels of consciousness I have never experienced before, Jerry invited me to sit into a class called “Becoming Your Own Authority.” That one class changed forever the way I interact with my patients. As a doctor, I learned it is my responsibility to teach my patients to become their own authorities over their illnesses. I am to be a guide and resource for peoples healing.

After the class, Jerry called me over and introduced me to Fran and handed me a book and said for the next 48 weeks Fran and I would be discussing this book with him week by week. Here I am, I just met Jerry the day before and now for the next 48 weeks without charging me a penny, I was instructed in a course that forever changed me for the better and helped me to regain that sparkle. In fact, the sparkle I was seeking, was really only the beginning. How do you thank someone who devoted this amount of time to you to help you to find both happiness and meaning in your life in ways that you never expected were even possible?

Fran and I both had a life changing year discussing these teachings with Jerry. Thus began my learning from Jerry which continued until his passing. Jerry was always there for me when I had a difficult decision to make that I couldn’t seem to find an answer for. I visited him from time to time in person when I was in NY and each time, I came away with a life-changing insight some of which weren’t pleasant but then truth, sometimes isn’t so pretty. He was blunt and to the point as a teacher who loves his students must be and you always knew his allegiance was to compassion and Truth with a capital T. It was clearing away illusions and unearthing the truth that leads to freedom.

Rachel, his wife, in an email I had with her shortly after his passing said to me “adaptability and bearing loss well was at the heart of his teachings.” I know that he would want us to re-affirm that it is the teachings that are important and not the container that held them even though he loved living and would want to be here. It doesn’t even need to be said that he would expect me to share what I have understood even though I feel like I only learned a small percentage of what was possible to have learned from him.

The last time I spoke to Jerry in depth was during a live class I attended around a year ago in NY. There was one part of the class that I was having trouble with and I stayed around after to discuss it further. He said to me, “Your job is to report the Truth, don’t interfere and try to correct others in their journey by placating or hiding the Truth, your job is to be awake to it and report it, don’t shy away from that.” Jerry got me back my sparkle and gave me a good shake to wake me up if that was required. What he taught me and continues to teach me from the volumes of audios and written material left behind will continue to inspire and guide me.

He was always available by phone if you needed him for everyone as I learned from interacting with his other students. Now it falls on all of his students and his family to continue onward. My thoughts go to his wife Rachel as she finishes editing his last magnum opus which will certainly be life changing and to his children who surely know that their father was a great light to his many students and patients. After I finished 48 weeks of study with him, I thanked him for what he did for me, not knowing at the time that that was only the beginning.

In one of the books that he often quoted it talked about how developing a spiritual life allows the transition from this life to the next to proceed smoothly like a gentle curve on a graph instead of a sharp abrupt, traumatic right angle for those immersed to heavily in the physical. In the Talmud it describes, the ease of transition for saintly individuals already attuned to the spiritual world as transition being as easy as a hair being plucked from a glass of milk. I know that his transition was easy and he is now immersed in the eternal reward he deserves for the intense light he shared with everyone. I miss him greatly.

Saints and Sages of the Healing World

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks  describes these so eloquently :  The sage follows the “golden mean,” the “middle way.” The moral life is a matter of moderation and balance, charting a course between too much and too little. Courage, for example, lies midway between cowardice and recklessness. Generosity lies between profligacy and miserliness. The saint, by contrast, does not follow the middle way. He or she tends to extremes, fasting rather than simply eating in moderation, embracing poverty rather than acquiring modest wealth, and so on.”  

Here you can see two version of living and two versions of recommendations for healing as well.   There are times when you need take on the both of these versions of living.   My teacher of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD (Jerry) would often recommend people adopt the complete opposite behavior for a period of time to correct a character trait, in this case, adopting an extreme in order to correct an extreme so that you can then become a sage for yourself.   There are also those, like Jordan Peterson who to heal his body has adopted the behavior of the saint in adopting an all meat diet.    I explained these extremes in another post where I discussed raw vegans and those who choose the 100% carnivore diet.    

What we have here are two ways of being for those embarking on a path of self-mastery, a life of your own making, where you become your own authority.   You can’t blame people who wish to gain control over their lives to choose the way of the saint, in a way it is the easiest to understand and is a bold way of proclaiming your intentions to the world and to yourself.    The sage, on the other hand, which is what I advocate for the long run is done by learning balance which is much harder, but as stated in a previous post is the “long shorter way.”  

Those who choose neither for themselves are constantly as my teacher Jerry used to say “laying themselves down on the alter of another’s desires or the desires of the man-made world.”   What I love about the distinction above is that it presents for the one that is looking to gain mastery of their life and health a very distinct and understandable choice, the choice between saint and sage.   The way of the saint might be worth it to correct excesses of the past but for your own health, it’s really the task of most of us to become our own sage, understanding the middle road.   

Giving Credit To Your Source

One thing you will find out about me pretty quickly is that hardly anything you find me write about is original 🙂 I also spend time giving credit to the knowledge I share. There are universal truths, expressed by many traditions around the world in different ways, which no human claims credit for, that is part and parcel of the very structure of our world.

For everything else, its important we give credit to our source. My teacher of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD (Jerry) used to say that one of the most important verses in the Bible was Esther 2:22 “And the matter became known to Mordecai, and he told [it] to Queen Esther, and Esther told [it] to the king in Mordecai’s name.

Why did Jerry think that this biblical attribution of giving credit to your source was so important? Because to not do so, violates many of the 10 Commandments. It violates the 6th, to not murder, as it murders someone’s name by not giving them credit. It violates the 8th, as you are quite literally stealing what belongs to them. It violates the 9th since you are lying at the expense of the originator and it probably violates the 10th because you are coveting what someone else created.

In our social media world, many of the popular shared ideas are not given their due credit in the effort to get ahead, in this case, at the expense of another. When this becomes habit and we do not give credit to our sources, it is unlikely we will then give credit to our other Source, the Source of all.

Next time you share that nice tidbit of knowledge, try sharing where you learned it from, it is in a very direct way, a way of honoring both yourself and is symbolic of our connection with the Source of All.