Recently 60 minutes aired a piece on the mental health crisis in the U.S. in response to the recent wave of mass shootings by individuals with severe mental disturbance.  They stated that half of the 7 million people in the country with schizophrenia and severe mental illness are not being treated at all. In the 70’s and 80’s the mental institutions were closed and the patients were released, hopefully, to go to residential treatment centers.  Unfortunately, due to insufficient funding many ended up on the streets fending for themselves.  The 60 minutes report showed how todays jails and prisons have become the new “insane asylums”.

Today the common treatment of choice is pharmaceuticals for symptomatic relief.  Although an improvement over some of the treatments that came before, the people taking these medications complain of feeling emotionally numb, listless and groggy.   At one point after his ‘psychotic break’ Adam was taking 15 pills a day. His side effects included daily headaches, vomiting and debilitating anxiety.  Thomas Insel, director of the National Institutes of Mental Health, recently acknowledged that although anti-psychotics can “safely and effectively help people through the crisis of acute psychosis,” the drugs might “worsen prospects for recovery over the long-term.”

Obviously the issues surrounding our current mental health crisis are multifaceted and it’s not likely the solution will be simple. For this project we have interviewed professionals in a variety of fields who offer alternate ways of looking at specific aspects of this extremely complex subject.

Here Angeles Arrien, a well known author and lecturer who received her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology, shares with us some of her insights gathered from her study of indigenous cultures.

Angeles mentions how, as in Adam’s case, unitive experiences can be incomprehensible and quite frightening at first.  She states how some ‘breaks with reality’ do have the potential to be spiritual awakenings and says that from an indigenous point of view, if there is a safe environment created for the opening to occur, a natural rebalancing can take place.

Do you think this approach found in many indigenous cultures could have some relevance for us today?

10 Responses to “Interview with Angeles Arrien: ‘Openings’ can be Great Blessings”

  1. Inigo

    Hi Phil,

    It happened that yesterday I was in the house where Mahatma Gandhi lived in Mumbai (Bombay). After visiting the house, I bought a book on Gandhi’s quotes about different issues. This is his comment about “Doctors”: “The fact remains that the doctors induce us to indulge, and the result is that we have become deprived of self-control and have become effeminate. My quarrel with the medical profession in general is that it ignores the soul altogether and strains at nothing in seeking merely to repair such a fragile instrument as the body. Thus ignoring the soul, the profession puts men at its mercy and contributes to the diminution of human dignity and self-control. I note with thankfulness that, in the West, a school of thought is rising slowly but surely which takes count of the soul in trying to repair a diseased body and which, therefore, relies less on drugs and more on nature as a powerful healing agent.”

    Take care, Inigo

      • Inigo

        Here another quote from the same book about the “Inner Voice” that I think is relevant to the changes Adam is experiencing:

        “There come to us moments in life when about some things we need no proof from without. A little voice within us tells us: ‘You are on the right track, move neither to your left nor right, but keep to the straight and narrow way.’
        There are moments in your life when you must act, even though you cannot carry your best friends with you. The ‘still small voice’ within you must always be the final arbiter when there is a conflict of duty.
        Having made a ceaseless effort to attain self-purification, I have developed some little capacity to hear correctly and clearly the ‘still small voice within.’
        I shall lose my usefulness the moment I stifle the still small voice within.”

  2. Marina

    I agree completely that if there is a safe environment created for the opening to occur, a natural rebalancing can take place. In my experience-my intense spiritual opening was surrounded with fear and shock…and untill I opened myself to see that and alowed the fear to get me I was completely safe and sane. during my experience I had inner guidance that asked me (in some way-not the voices) if I want to continue with visions and lessons…I felt endless love and gentleness and perfection of a whole universe. As I was walking around the woods (I was in a camp) I saw and felt little heart shaped stones beneath my feet and it was mother Earts way of showing her love to me, and I knew that everyone can feel the same if he openes himself to that state. It felt actually that that is normal state that god planned for us but we get lost somehow. It was amazing experience. But I was not so much interested in physical reality around me during that time (three days and night)…and was following my inner guidance, I knew i can stop this any time or at least that this process with end eventually with natural rhythm, but unfortunatelly people aroud me have seen only outer manifestations of my behaviour, and it frightened them. They took me to the hospital and they decided that I had a psycotic break, gave me strong pills after which I became very depressed. Even suicidal. It was like I fell from the stars onto concrete wall. It felt terrible. I beleived in everything that they said. I beleived that I am sick, and it took me 8 years to get my inner power back.Today I have diagnosed as Bipolar, and I play along (taking pills) but I have learned in a hard way that I can stay on my own feet again. I will use every available tool that can help me to gain iner and outer balance.I am thankfull for that whole experience. I learned from Will Hall that I can use this to help others and I am doing it with peer groups here in my country. Fragility is a hidden power. When you realise that it can blossom 🙂
    I use, meditation, prayer, hagiotherapy, group support and group therapy, dance, psychotherapy, writing, paintinig, singing, playing with my child, runing with my dog, enjoying the nature, poetry, books, company of positive and inspiring people, friends, artists…

  3. Marina

    I strongly believe that in the future this wont be perceived as a disease, but until then we have to make inner changes and regain our inner wisdom and trust our intuition…and thats a tough goal for someone who cant trust his mind or racio anymore…but sometimes its the gift cause in the darkness of mind your heart beat feels stronger 🙂

    • Phil Borges

      We hope that, one day, non-ordinary states of consciousness, will be viewed differently too Marina. Thank you again for sharing your story!

      • Brent Williams

        Your interest in non-ordinary states of consciousness is a blessing to all seekers . I am 67 years old & am still awakening. Alan Watts’s book ” The Book” the taboo against knowing who you really are helped start my awakening. I loved Angeles comment about openings being a sneak preview of being unlimited. I have felt that! In my study of enlightenment the 7th state of consciousness is that state in which you realize “I am That , Thou art That & All of this is nothing but That” The problem for me and I assume many others is where did me( my ego) go? At that level of c’ness & really starting at the 4th state of c’ness one realizes their is no ego self. What all this means to me is the Taboo exists to keep everyone from going too far in or out. I love Einstein’s view that there are two ways to view the universe, 1. non of it is a miracle or 2. all of it’s a miracle! I have learned that knowledge is structured in consciousness & if we wish to understand the deepest meaning of this universe we must achieve the deepest state of consciousness or at least enjoy the now! I am in my on process of awakening & I so wish I had a shaman along with me many times. I have followed your blog on Adam( interesting that he has that name) I can relate & have been too far out & still coming back! There is a great awakening awaiting! I see it on the www & more relevant to me feel it. Please keep going in this seeking! I live in Santa Cruz, CA & will seek more from here. Have you heard of MAPS they are seeking too. We are all one & This is a miracle! I hope this is comprehensible.

  4. Nicki Glasser

    Hi Phil, I love this clip from Angeles!! Thank you. To me she touches on everything that is needed to transition out of the dark ages of current mental health assumptions and practices, and it is so well and simply spoken. Besides professionals I hope you also plan to interview and include people with personal experience of “extreme states” or these openings and how we find our way through these experiences, or are prevented from this. You don’t have to look far. Check out Mad in America website. I am writing a memoir of my healing journey at Thank you and best of luck on your project!!

  5. Claire P

    Phil. I don’t know you but I do love you. Thank you just isn’t enough but thank you anyway. This site is one of the most heartening and beautiful things I have ever found. All these wonderful people with so much understanding, generosity and kindness.
    It gives me hope and some leads to follow and I just had no idea they were there.
    THANK YOU so so so SOOOOOO much, Claire xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    • Phil Borges

      Thank you for your kind words Claire! I’m glad you have found the site useful! We have been posting the latest interview for CRAZYWISE on Be sure to check those out too and stay in touch by joining our newsletter (also on the CRAZYWISE site). Warm regards!


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