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John Ruskan's Emotional Clearing

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Emotional Clearing
by John Ruskan reviewed by:

Derek Cameron for Yoga Journal
Boz Martyn

Reviewed by Derek Cameron for Yoga Journal

The Mat and the Couch

From his own hands-on experience with both Eastern and Western traditions, New York psychotherapist John Ruskan has come up with a pragmatic synthesis of Eastern spiritual practices and Western psychotherapy.

In addition to his formal academic training in psychology, Ruskan undertook practical training in, yoga, first with Yogi S.A. Ramiaah and later with Yogi Amrit Desai, founder of the Kripalu ashram. Ruskan's principal conclusion from his extended period of practice is that spiritual endeavors will succeed only if they are firmly based on the nitty-gritty work of dealing with suppressed emotions. Ruskan believes-as do proponents of Arthur Janov's primal therapy movement and the many contemporary breathwork and rebirthing schools-that the essence of inner work consists of freeing suppressed, painful emotions. In order for full healing to take place, these difficult feelings must first be brought into awareness, then accepted and loved, and finally integrated into the individual's consciousness.

For Ruskan, an important technique for achieving this integration is a form of connected breathing that he learned, under the name kriya yoga, from his teacher S.A. Ramiaah. In Ruskan's approach to psychotherapy, this conscious, connected breathing is continued until a cathartic, healing release takes place. Ruskan's book gives detailed instructions for carrying out this breathwork, together with instructions for a few key visualization exercises.

Ruskan further recommends the use of certain yoga asanas as tools for investigating and releasing emotional holding patterns. A few simple postures-such as Seated Forward Bend and Headstand-are each held for a period of one to five minutes, during which time the student breathes easily and focuses on the feelings that come up. Ruskan selects the recommended postures based on their connection with the chakras-- the energy "wheels" or centers within the body.

As in some forms of Buddhist vipassana meditation, Ruskan also advises that the healthiest approach to dealing with emotions such as fear or anger is simply to "be with" them. In particular, he counsels his clients to beware of their own attempts to intellectualize away these difficult emotions. Even affirmations must be used with care, since these, too, can become a further attempt to suppress difficult and unwanted feelings.

Ruskan's book is full of useful insights into emotional healing, and he deserves a wide audience among both psychotherapists and yogis alike.

Derek Cameron has practiced yoga for almost three decades and is a regular reviewer of books on psychological and religious subjects.

Reviewed by Boz Martyn

In the last few decades, thousands of books have been published under the banner of "Self-help/ Psychology." They are of widely varying quality. Some are expressions of inspired guidance, such as the works of Joan Borysenko, Jacqueline Small, and John Bradshaw. Others are little more than oversimplified pastiches of pop psychology that are useful only to a limited degree---Men Are From Mars, Women are From Venus by John Gray springs readily to mind. Still others are blatantly overhyped pieces of pure crappolla whose entire publication run is not worth the death of single twig-please fill in your own favorite in this category. Emotional Clearing definitely falls, or ascends, into the realm of inspired guidance.

At first glance, however, there doesn't really seem to be anything special about this book. After all, transpersonal psychologists have been exploring the interface between psyche and spirit for some time, influenced by the insights of pioneers such as Jung, James, Aggassoli, and Houston. Can there really be a fresh approach to the subject?

The answer is "Absolutely!"John Ruskan covers a lot of the same territory as earlier works, but he stakes his own indisputable claim along the border between Eastern spirituality and Western psychology. Ruskan's clarity in revealing the topography of this border to us shows that it really is a path leading to self-understanding, transformation, and spiritual growth.

"I can do this!" was the thought that sprang to mind as I read the first chapter. A little further along I found that I was no longer simply reading a book for the purpose of reviewing it for this magazine. I was enrolled in its wonderfully holistic approach and totally committed to the powerful and clearly defined model of self-healing it presented.

The basic premise of Emotional Clearing is a simple truth: feelings are to be felt. This may seem obvious, but it isn't always so. We suppress many of our emotions and feelings--especially, but not exclusively those considered negative. Not feeling them in the emotional centers of our body is destructive to ourselves, and by extension, to the world. To heal ourselves and the planet, we must learn to feel what we feel. Ruskan explains that the subconscious is not just a place where feelings "go." We actually create the field of subconscious energies by suppressing powerful feelings, both negative and positive. These are the psychological equivalent of karma.

In this subconscious form, these feelings can act like toxic waste that poisons our mental processes, manifests illness in the body, and blocks the highest expression of our true spiritual selves. By extension, we see that the ills of the world are caused, in large measure, by our not being who we really are.

The section dealing with projection is particularly enlightening. According to Ruskan's model, we tend to see the energies we have suppressed in other people, groups, or institutions. A person who has suppressed sexual desires (potential energy seeking expression) may for example, interpret an innocent touch from a sexually vital person as an uncalled-for advance. An individual who has suppressed a need to control others may see an effective and decisive leader as a "control freak."

The result is that our view of reality is skewed. We see the projected energies as powers outside ourselves. The wisdom of The East reaches us, however, that this is an illusion, albeit a very persuasive one. In Ruskan's words, "You will appear to be entirely justified in your blame. Even an impartial outside observer might agree that you are contending with an outside force. The truth is that there is no outside force."

In other words, as individualized focal points for the creative energies of the Universe, we create our world, by projecting it outward from individual consciousness onto the field of possibilities "outside." This field, which Deepak Chopra calls a "quantum soup," takes on the apparently solid forms of whatever we see into it. So projection goes on all the time, each of us cocreating our own localized version of our shared reality. And for each of us, at least until we gain deeper understanding of this process, the reality we perceive is the only game in town.

Much information in this book concerns the chakras, auras, karma, past lives, breathwork, yoga, and affirmations. All of these are presented in a format that reveals progressive steps for recognizing our emotions, feeling them in the body, observing their energy patterns, and then processing and integrating them as parts of the whole that is our true self. In the process, the negative psychic toxins are released, along with the addictions and delusional perceptions that they have fed into.

This healing modality is called Integrative Processing Therapy. Ruskan began to develop it after a profound experience that occurred during a Yoga exercise.While holding a particularly difficult posture, The Mountain, he found that intense energies were moving in his body. After releasing the pose, he began to move around the room. In his words: "As I moved, I suddenly began to sense the energy in my body. The energy was taking the form of classical ballet positions I could not name...drawing my body into as close a correspondence as possible. The inner seeing and feeling of the energy taking the archetypal ballet position, the realization that the positions were indeed archetypal, and the ecstasy from the inner perception were all overwhelming. I was taken through a beautiful and moving artistic experience."

Ruskan was a musician. Though he had a natural aptitude for dance, he had no formal training. He had assumed that he might have been a dancer in a past life, but had never done any work around that intellectual assumption. Prior to this experience, he had been grappling with the sorts of issues that many artists face, primarily centered around the dichotomy between the need to be creatively expressed and the need for acceptance--a need that seems to necessitate tailoring your work to the perceived demands of the marketplace.

By yielding to this impulse, Ruskan entered into a destructive cycle that did not allow his true self to be expressed in his art, and he was suppressing his true creative energies. These energies were then projected into in their most negative form onto a world that in turn seemed to be growing increasingly cold and hostile. He became very bitter and isolated, from others as well as his own creative center. The experience of the spontaneous ballet postures was a major catharsis for him, and he was able to understand that it was the release of suppressed energies-apparently from a past life also filled with the pain and frustration of thwarted potential--and that it signaled the beginning of true healing.

He began to see the dualistic nature of his artistic expression: the ecstasy of the creative process and the agony of the isolation and emptiness brought about by depleted energies. He saw that they were, like all dualities on this plane of being, complementary parts of a whole experience. He was then able to fully experience his pain directly, in his body, and to integrate the poles of his artistic expression. In the process, he removed the negative charge from his projections into the world of forms and individualities. He was also able to move beyond self-rejection, to learn to love and accept himself and others, and to experience unconditional happiness. The healing that resulted led to his further development of this process, as set forth In Emotional Clearing.

In addition to being an artist and spiritual seeker, Ruskan is a psychotherapist. He brings these callings to bear in this work to produce a highly creative synthesis of healing processes for mind, body, and spirit. Helpful charts in the book illustrate techniques for strengthening the aura and entering the "Witness Consciousness" through meditation. A table shows the correspondences of the chakras to the planetary bodies, and the book has helpful advice on using astrology, not as a system of divination, but as a kind of psychic road map, showing the routes that our energies are likely to take. This book succeeds brilliantly in its stated intention of integrating these concepts with the language and methodology of western psychology. The clarity of focus and the sheer practicality of its approach make this a work deserving of a wide audience.

I would recommend Emotional Clearing for anyone committed to true healing-for yourself, for others, and for the planet. It presents a holistic model of human consciousness and a workable plan for eliminating impediments to optimal mental health and a heightened quality of life. Its implementation should not conflict with professional therapy and would likely be approved by any therapist or counselor who is open to a transpersonal approach. Their numbers are growing steadily as we approach the New Millennium.

Those of us who undertake this work will surely gain new insights into the way that we cocreate our reality and the curious deceptions that we are capable of perpetrating upon ourselves when we block our feeling nature. That alone would make it worthwhile. But John Ruskan goes much further, showing us a sure way out of the grotesque funhouse minor-maze of projected illusion. And the way out is also the way in-through the feeling nature to the heart of peace, the wondrous divine beingness that is our true Self.

Boz Martyn is co-director,with his wife Sunny Hepler-Martyn, of Light of Creation, Inc. And, he adds, "Namaste, Y'all"