Tuesday, September 3, 2013

This vulnerability is the gateway into the wild mysteries of love

It can be terrifying to let another really matter: your new lover, your long-term partner, your old friend, your ex-wife or ex-husband, your therapist, your parents, your children, your siblings, your co-workers. It is so risky. What if you’re not met? What if you’re not really seen? Or what if you’re seen through? What if you’re fully exposed?

There is part of you that senses how unsafe this journey really is; it is written in your cells and raging alive throughout your body: If I truly open myself, if I allow myself to be that naked, that uncovered, that unprotected, I might not make it; this level of openness triggers a survival-level sort of anxiety. You wonder if something will actually have to die in order for you to take such a risk. You are on the right track. Something *will* be destroyed in this process. You can feel the protective structures which have formed around your heart starting to dissolve. The panic has returned.

But, friends, this is a sacred panic. Love has appeared yet again, this time in the form of panic, to show you something so precious. She will do anything and everything to find you!

When you open to another in this way, risking *everything* to know the majesty of love and her movement, every unresolved feeling and emotion will come raging to the surface. You want this reality to be negotiable; but you are loved too much. These ones are longing for the light of your awareness, to be allowed in along with the rest. They only want to be held and to be received into the wholeness that you are. Will you give them a home?

Yes, you will be asked to be unbearably vulnerable, and to stay there *forever.* You may even be asked to touch this vulnerable core each and every day for the rest of your life. But it is this vulnerability that is the gateway into the wild mysteries of love.


  1. Hi,

    I have discovered your writings since quite a good while and they touch me really deeply. Thank you so much for your gift and for sharing it!

    On your Facebook page, among the feedback to this particular text, you wrote (as an answer to Gwenn):

    "Ultimately, of course, at least in my experience, the ultimate holding environment is open awareness itself; a resting in primordial awareness as the ground of this entire world of time and space. There is no holding environment which is as vast, open, and healing as this. But until we have quite continual conscious contact with that dimension of experience, the dance between self and other will continue, the great dance between the relative and the absolute."

    Something in me definitely resonates with this and wanted to ask how then can we have a more continual conscious contact with this holding environment you mention? In challenging situations we do have the tendency of going into some sort of drama. Is there a way to find that state of acceptance with whatever happens in our lives?

    With best regards,

    1. Dear Nicoleta, it’s nice to hear from you and thank you for your kind words. Yes, there is a tendency to move away from our immediate, embodied, sensory-level experience and into drama and story; this is very natural, in a way, and is a very old strategy to avoid difficult feelings and emotions. When we were young children, we learned (very intelligently, in my opinion) to dissociate or split off from feeling and emotional states which we were developmentally not able to metabolize. The great thing about these early strategies is that they worked, to a degree anyway. The bad thing is, well, that they worked. These strategies, for most, have now become ingrained as (predominantly unconscious) character structure rather than in the moment adaptive strategies that we can use from time to time in more conscious ways.

      I think the most profound practice that you can engage in to cut into this early organization is to make a 100% commitment to your immediate, embodied experience, whatever it is. And to experiment going toward even the most disturbing feelings and emotions as they arise, to really finally allow yourself to meet what is there, to allow it into your experience as a part of you. Your feelings and emotions, in my experience, are profoundly intelligent, if you will allow yourself to meet them. Yes, they can be disturbing and uncomfortable, but you may find that much of this discomfort is in the moving away from them, believing they shouldn’t be there, and so forth, rather than in the raw sensory meeting of them.

      And to make a commitment to be as aware as you can of the habitual tendency to move away from immediate experience and into story, narrative, or drama, as you refer to it. As you notice yourself doing this, just gently return to your body, to the felt sense of what you are experiencing. There is a rich, very alive world underneath the narrative, but it can be a bit scary there as it is so unknown and we have been so conditioned to move away from that which is uncomfortable. In my experience, though, there is a field of intelligence that is your body that you can connect with. You can go slowly. It is great if you can do this sort of work with another person, also (a therapist, friend, spiritual teacher, etc.) – though it is not 100% necessary.

      Perhaps the most important thing, though, is to consider making the wildest commitment of all – to receiving whatever arises in your experience (including the habit to move into drama) with tremendous kindness. This sort of work is the work of a life time and is deeply counter-instinctual; it requires a real re-wiring of how we view and interact and dance with ourselves and the world. Go slow. Be kind. There is a wild intelligence there, which you can explore; which, in fact, you are.

      Take care, my friend!

    2. Dear Matt,

      Thank you so much for your generous answer! It is unbelievable to become aware of our childhood protection patterns and to acknowledge our intelligence as children while realising that those patterns are not working anylonger in our adult life.
      On my own self-unfolding path I have received a lot of hints into this direction of really feeling into my body. And your words here are bringing even more light towards what that could mean. I love how you put into words the three types of commitment. I am going to integrate this even more in my awareness. "There is a wild intelligence there, which you can explore; which, in fact, you are. " - so beautifully put, thank you!

      A question still arises at the moment. You say:

      "And to make a commitment to be as aware as you can of the habitual tendency to move away from immediate experience and into story, narrative, or drama, as you refer to it. As you notice yourself doing this, just gently return to your body, to the felt sense of what you are experiencing."

      So, in a particular tense situation, I would gently return into feeling the experience into my body. Now, the question that arises (and I felt it came in various real situations) what does this feeling mean practically? What happens next, what is that feeling trying to tell me? To go out of the tense situation, to choose differently for the next time? Or just to feel the feeling for what it is, not trying to give it a meaning whatsoever?

      With best regards,

    3. Dear Nicoleta,

      The process I’m describing here is a non-conceptual one, in large part which, unfortunately, makes it a bit challenging to go into with words. In my work as a therapist, there are times when exploring feelings and emotions can be very helpful, i.e. understanding their historical significance, gaining insight into our core vulnerabilities, and the various ways we make meaning of our emotional world. But what I am suggesting here is to let go of all that. And, even if for a moment, to set aside those questions of the meaning of the feeling, what it’s trying to tell you, how to choose differently, and so forth. To set aside tall of this and to go directly into the raw, felt sensation itself.

      We have been conditioned to overlay onto intense experience a tremendous amount of conceptual material. Again, there are times when exploring this can be helpful, but what I am pointing to is a field of intelligence, wisdom, and creativity which your feelings and emotions are, and is non-conceptual in nature – meaning, you cannot reach it through the conceptual/ analytical world. It is a direct apprehension of the sensation level of experience – and it is here where you can begin to metabolize those unwanted experiences that you were not able to go into as a little girl. At the sensation level of experience, it is very difficult to find a problem which must be solved; there is intense experience, yes, even uncomfortable sensations such as a racing heart or a nauseous sensation and so forth. But this can be entered into directly and what you might experience there is a certain sort of freedom, where your life is not seen as a problem which must be fixed, and that even the entire somatic-emotional world is one of intelligence.

      Again, this is very nonconceptual process which can only be known by direct experience. You could try this on your own or find a friend/ therapist who might be able to help you if you are interested.

      Take care…

    4. Dear Matt,

      Thank you very much for your reply. Your words really provided me with some more understanding about this process of staying with the feelings, especially the uncomfortable ones.

      In retrospect of some of my own experiences, I realize how I was even guided to stay with my feelings but couldn't quite completely grasp that (because it was too painful). And I see more and more the beauty and intelligence of this process, even if the feelings are not always easy to stay with.. And more and more I see how the feelings triggered by various life situations are actually coming up 'asking' to be integrated, to be accepted just the way they are...

      Does this non-conceptual type of process has a name? Are there some online resources available? Could you maybe recommend some therapists/workshops/groups? For instance in Switzerland where I'm presently living?

      Thank you once again for bringing light upon this very delicate subject!

      Take care as well!
      With gratitude,

    5. Hi Nicoletta, this entering directly into immediate, embodied experience is in large part alive in the various contemplative traditions moreso than in more conventional therapeutic approaches (with plenty of exceptions). For example, I have found the Tibetan Vajrayana understanding of body and emotion to be immensely helpful in this area. Here, you could certainly read and listen to Pema Chodron, an author/ teacher who you may have heard of. I'd also recommend the books and audio programs from Tara Brach, a Buddhist-oriented clinical psychologist - especially her RAIN process. Finally, I'd highly recommend the work of Bruce Tift, who has been one of the most important mentors of mine in this area. Bruce's audio program, Already Free, is one I recommend often - http://bit.ly/15AhEjF. You can hear a free audio dialogue with Bruce and my friend Tami Simon here http://bit.ly/11nAKRy.

      In the therapeutic literature, you could take a look at Eugene Gendlin's sensing approach, or any of the somatic-oriented psychotherapies.

      Hopefully this will point you in a useful and interesting direction. I really appreciate your sensitivity and your heart, my friend. Lots of love...

    6. Dear Matt,

      Great, thank you very much for the references and your kind appreciation. I am really touched by your generous sharing...

      Yes, I've heard of Pema Chödrön and I've came across Tara Brach just yesterday :) - I'm going to have a closer look at all the materials you've mentioned. I feel I'm stepping even more into the mystery of life...

      With deep gratitude,