Category Archives: healing

Assagioli’s Favorite Exercise Routine

J.P._MüllerJorgen Peter Muller (1866-1939) had a reputation for being everything from pornographic to a world famous hygienist and physical fitness guru. The Danish sportsman was, in fact, all-round champion athlete, Danish Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog, and author of the international best seller My System, published in 1904.

My System is a complete step-by-step guide to 18 daily exercises that nearly anyone can complete in 15-minutes. The book sold 2 million copies and was translated into 25 languages. Muller became famous for traveling around Europe and demonstrating his exercises while wearing only a loincloth and displaying his tanned, toned body. Shocking by all Victorian standards!

Muller also preached radical ideas for the time – like taking daily baths, opening windows for fresh air, breathing for relaxation, and sunbathing. And My System wasn’t only for men. He insisted that women needed to develop a “muscular corset” (that is, firm abdomen muscles) which would “bring about the conditions necessary for painless deliver in childbirth”(!) He would go on to write My System for Ladies and My System for Children.

My System for Children in Italian

My System for Children in Italian

One of his famous devotees was the writer Franz Kafka, who would preform Muller’s prescribed moments twice a day, naked in front of an open window. Once Muller moved to London, opened the Muller Institute and dropped the umlaut from his name, royalty also streamed in to learn his techniques. Followers included the Crown Princess Sophia of Greece, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Windsor.

Assagioli was also a great fan, describing Muller as “a living example of the miracle of training.” He said Muller’s approach as a “spiritual psychological method,” which he himself practiced. Assagioli recommended doing the gymnastics in My System for biological and psycho-therapeutic reasons: to maintain good hygiene and health and to train the will.

Like Assagioli, Muller was a fragile and weak child. While Assagioli was born with a club foot, Muller weighed only 3-1/2 pounds at birth and explained, “I could sleep in an ordinary cigar box.”

As a young man, Assagioli often went hiking with his father in the Alps, averaging 30 kilometers per day. “Hiking in the mountains strengthened me physically,” he said, “and also gave me a sense of the closeness to nature. Later I discovered the higher meaning, the symbolism of mountain climbing.”

20091 Muller from Archives

Assagioli’s note from his archives: Consigliare e prescrivere ai miei malati “Il mio sistema” di J.P. Müller. Far fare a tutti almeno qualche esercizio fisico. Grande valore medico e psicoterapico. (Recommend and prescribe “My System” by J.P. Müller for my patients. Have everyone do at least some physical exercise. Great medical and psycho-therapeutic value.)

By the age of 8, Muller was performing daily morning exercises for seven minutes, washing himself in cold water, and drying himself off with a towel. As a young man, he joined the Copenhagen Rowing Club and, by the age of 26, he had first prizes in Denmark for power-walking, javelin throwing, hammer throwing, the pentathlon and the Five Danish Mile Run. He was also a philosopher, having studied theology.

The beauty of Muller’s exercises is that they can be performed at home and without any type of apparatus. My System’s simplicity and economical advantage, in particular, was what attracted Assagioli. He wrote:

“It is not athletic, that is, it doesn’t tend to develop particular muscles, but it’s hygienic. It activates healing and circulation without causing fatigue. Therefore, it can help everyone and can even be followed by small children and elderly people who are 70-80 years old. It is particularly adapted to educating the will because it insists, above all, on precise, polished and rapid movements.”

Despite Muller’s wild popularity 100 years ago, he and his system has faded into obscurity. But I found him to be a fascinating figure (literally!) and have since downloaded his book, which is a great read. Chapter 1 starts out asking “Why be Weakly?” Why indeed? Whether in body or will, we could all use some daily exercise.


Click here to download My System by J.P. Muller.

Click here to view videos of Muller demonstrating “My System”

Imagine All the Healing

Finally I was able to let go of fear and found courage and trust. Marije Smits

“Finally I was able to let go of fear and found courage and trust.” (Marije Smits)

When Susan arrived for her first counseling session, I was struck by her almost fairy-like beauty. With dark hair, creamy fair skin, and crystal green eyes, she reminded me of Snow White. At the time of our meeting, Susan was a 28-year-old PhD student studying philosophy and ethics. Not long before, she had discovered a mole while taking a shower. Susan had been going to tanning salons since she was 20. By the time she was 23, she was addicted to looking and feeling “sun-kissed”. By then she was working at the tanning salon to help pay for her own treatments. For nearly two years, she was tanning every other day.

The mole turned out to be diagnosed as malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. “I didn’t even know what ‘melanoma’ meant,” she admitted to me. “When I found out the results, I was all alone at home and started to panic. I thought I was going to die.”

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An Imagined Apology

Apology - Street ArtNot long ago, I reflected on the process of forgiveness and how much time it can take. Recently, I heard a fascinating interview of the playwright and author Eve Ensler about her new book The Apology. Throughout her childhood, Ensler had been physically and sexually abused by her father. Decades after his death, she decided to write an apology for him – the apology that she had yearned to hear all her life. The book is written entirely from his perspective. In its “Introduction”, she talks about using her imagination to create the words she needed to hear her father say:

“My father is long dead. He will never say the words to me. He will not make the apology. So it must be imagined. For it is in our imagination that we can dream across boundaries, deepen the narrative, and design alternative outcomes.”

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Levels of Love

Fear Less Love More

Artwork by Mary Beth Volpini. See more at drawntocolor.com

Valentine’s Day feels like a good time to take a closer look at Love. February is also Black History Month in the US, and lately I have been reading and listening to sermons and speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin_Luther_King,_Jr in 1964.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1964

When you listen to Dr. King speak, his message is more powerful than ever before. As his deep baritone voice melodically rises and falls, you are swept across the tides of time into his eternal message of Love and Will. His gift was to help us touch the human heart and awaken our deeper transpersonal nature. He was a master teacher, leader, and poet – using his voice to conjure truth through the most familiar of images and the essence of everyday life. Continue reading

The Prodigal Daughter

1024px-Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_-_The_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Detail_Father_Son

Detail from Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal Son”.

I have always loved the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32), yet at the same time, struggle with it. The story seems so male in context. A young man returns home repentant and humbled after squandering his inheritance on a life of debauchery. His father is moved with pity, and runs to welcome his son home, clasping him in his arms and kissing him.

“Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. We will celebrate by having a feast, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.”

Meanwhile the elder son who always slaved in the fields and obeyed his father grows angry and refuses to enter the celebrations. But the father says:

“My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”

What would the story of the prodigal daughter be, and what would her return to the welcoming mother reveal? Continue reading

From Sexual Instinct to Channeled Love

Fear Less Love More

Artwork by Mary Beth Volpini. See more at drawntocolor.com

Let’s talk about sex. The sexual instinct that is… Lately, the media has been giving it a bad rap. Every day there is another report of a woman being assaulted by a Hollywood mongrel, fellow actor, news anchorman, US president, or fashion photographer. This is not new news. Nearly every woman has encountered this type of aggressive behavior (in various degrees) during her lifetime. I still do, even at the age of 62!

Come on guys, grow up! Sublimate and transmute already!

Let’s talk about sexual energy from a psychosynthesis point of view. Assagioli did more than 100 years ago in his article “The Transformation and Sublimation of Sexual Energy.” First, I want to say that this is mainly a male problem. For some mysterious reason, men have more difficulty holding sexual tension. This is a general fact. There are, of course, exceptions… Continue reading

Threshing our Lives Anew

But I shall sing of your strength; and in the morning I shall sing of your love. For you are my defender; and my refuge, in the days of my tribulations. (Psalm 59:16)

Since moving to Italy a year ago, I often hear the word ‘tribolazione’. While rarely used in English, this word ‘tribulation’ often poetically enters Italian conversation when my neighbors are talking about a very long, difficult, and grievous period in their or someone else’s life.

thresh and ox

Farmers in some parts of the world still use a tribulum to thresh their harvest.

Hearing this word more often, I started to wonder about its origins. I soon discovered that it derives from the Latin word tribulum. A tribulum is a threshing roller or sledge pulled by oxen that farmers have used for centuries to separate the corn from the husks, the wheat from the chaff.

How often I have felt trampled by oxen as they yanked sharp flints of cut stone over me. (Well, okay. I am dramatizing, but you know this feeling don’t you?) Something inside me is being purged and discarded allowing my truer self to be freed from its hidden form. Without the tribulum, the seed of new life cannot be beaten away from the wheat, the flail, or the corn. The new seed can only lay dormant and lost. Continue reading