Sunday, November 19, 2017

When sitting with a friend in pain

At times, you may find yourself with a friend who is upset, falling apart, confused, hopeless, sad, and afraid. Nothing is making sense anymore, they are overwhelmed, and the emotions are unrelenting.

You are unsure how to help.

While their pain may trigger you, and bring alive an avalanche of urgent, anxious, fixing energy – activating the shadows of your own unlived life - an invitation has appeared.

Slow way down. Ground awareness in your body and listen. Not just to the words they are saying, but to the secret request that is emerging out of their heart. Perhaps they are not asking for you to fix, cure, or even heal them. Perhaps their deepest longing is not for advice or teachings or even being reassured that everything is okay. It is not okay, and that is okay.

While you may be burning with the need to talk them out of their experience – overflowing with solutions, techniques, and processes – return into spaciousness. Infuse the environment with pause, rest, and resonance. With the slow circuits of empathy and presence, step into the vessel and seal it with non-urgent loving kindness.

This may not be the moment for you to give your friend an answer, but to hold them as you confront the vastness of the question together.

Offer the gift of a soothed, calm, and regulated nervous system. Turn your heart into a temple and sanctuary where together you can validate their feelings, and provide safe passage for their process to unfold. Do what you can so that they feel felt, that they need not heal in this moment in order for you to stay near.

Never, ever underestimate the power of love. Even one moment of empathic, attuned, contact can change our lives forever. Please don’t forget that for many, they have never actually known this sort of holding – or have had it in only very small amounts.

You have tremendous power to be a vessel in which healing can come into this world, to help another make new meaning and find new breath. To slowly dissolve the trance of unworthiness and know their true nature. Please do whatever you can. And please never, ever give up on love.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Regulating with another

While one goal may be to regulate very intense feelings and emotions on our own, at times the most skillful and kind approach is to reach out to another for help, for a friend or partner or therapist to share their soothed, relaxed, grounded nervous system such that we may regulate with them.

Where, together, we can return into our window of tolerance and breathe deeply, bringing in new perspective, new levels of meaning, and to reorganize our experience in a new way.

This reaching out to another is not a sign of “codependence” or that we’re doing it wrong or that we’ve failed, but is the reality of a human nervous system, which is a miracle, really.

We are relational beings with open, sensitive, vulnerable hearts and mirror neurons and can offer one another so much. To listen to one another and attune deeply to what our brothers and sisters are feeling and how they are making meaning of their experience.

It can be difficult to truly reach out to another when we are struggling, when we are suffering, confused, or in pain. Many of us did not have a safe place to share our feelings, our fears, our trauma, and our confusion. Stepping into this sort of trust is sure to bring forward so much within us.

It can also be challenging to listen, to feel deeply, and to let ourselves be touched by the pain and the struggle of another, as doing so has a way of constellating any unresolved emotional material deep within us. To set aside any demand that the other change, shift, transform, or heal – just for a moment – so that we can make contact without any agenda except to listen with our hearts open.

Yes, it’s hard. And at times heart-wrenching. But perhaps it is worth it. To take that sort of risk, to push ourselves just a little, to share ourselves with our friends, family, co-workers, lovers, and counselors. To reach out when we need help and to truly be there when that same request is made of us. To explore the realities of self-regulation and also co-regulation, self-love and other-love, to dance in those opposites as we move deeper into the mystery.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

To bring light to the symptom

In a moment of activation, when our emotional world is on fire and we've fallen off center, an invitation arrives. An opportunity to choose something different, to encode new circuitry, and to replace the ancient pathway of self-abandonment with that of curiosity, awareness, and holding.

First, to slow way down and reaffirm an old vow to bring light to the symptom, to offer breath where there previously was none, and to care for ourselves in a way that was not possible until this very moment.

To drop into the body and feel our feelings, sense our sensations, and soothe our stimulated nervous system with compassion and presence. To send life into the belly, the heart, and the throat... and any other area which longs for our attention and kindness.

Once we have come back into our window of tolerance, with our feet resting in the earth - perhaps still a bit shaky, vulnerable, and open - from this more grounded aliveness in the here and now, we can begin to illuminate and reorganize the core beliefs that are looping with the emotional and somatic material. Engaging the path of neural integration, we bring together the various layers of our experience, explore their interrelations, and plant the seeds for future freedom.

To begin to unwind and infuse each level with new awareness, with understanding, with compassion, with attention. Untangling the wounds of the heart, the contractions of the body, and the conditioned narratives that have emerged in the attempt to make meaning of our lives. To send new life into the limited beliefs, painful feelings, and unskillful behaviors that have grown out of our response to trauma in all its forms - personal, cultural, intergenerational, and collective. To flood this material with breath, with spirit, and with soul.

To attend to each layer, in turn, bringing light into the darkness, in a way that is full spectrum. While awareness and insight are necessary and non-negotiable, perhaps even more important is the infusion of a new type of kindness and compassion. Mere insight is not enough. Conceptual awareness is not enough. Clarity is not enough. We have seen this. Rather, it is some activity of love that seems to be required, to give birth to a new world. But what this love is must be discovered by each of us, not as a concept, but as a movement of revelation within.

Photo: Colorado autumn glory

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Unconventional allies

As we learn to trust the wisdom contained in our immediate experience as it is, we step inside a larger vision of what we are.

In the core of the fear, the uncertainty, the confusion, and the despair there is something real attempting to break through. Feeling is not pathology but a forerunner to wholeness. While it may appear that we have been forsaken, the wildness and creativity of the heart is always present. There is no off switch.

There is intelligence inside the symptom, but the nature of this light is very rarely in accord with the way we thought it was all going to turn out. At times, we are invited into the realm of the dust, back into not-knowing, a liminal place that is simultaneously disorienting, yet outrageously alive.

We can begin to embrace the very radical possibility that even the confusion, hopelessness, darkness, and doubt are valid and unique portals into our true nature. They are unconventional allies, operate outside the status quo, but are radical emissaries of love, come to remind us of something vast and majestic.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The agony of an untold story

"Talk therapy" gets a bad rap these days, from caricatures of analysts and couches in cartoons to the shaming of "one's story" by certain forms of spirituality, quick to label any hint of narrative or subjectivity as evidence that a person has lost their way.

Clearly articulating our story, the way we have come to make meaning of our lives and experience, into a field of empathic, non-judgmental, attuned, right-brain to right-brain connection can be incredibly healing, reorganizing, and transformational.

While the reality of the power of a true I-Thou relationship has been known intuitively for a long time, the field of interpersonal neurobiology has discovered the mechanisms of what is actually happening during moments of empathic attunement, and the neural integration that is fostered within this field. This is not some sort of airy-fairy pseudoscience and positive thinking. Read the research and see. Or just open your heart and feel.

Often when I speak with someone who is deeply invested in their spiritual life, they will preface their communication with, "Well, I mean, not to get into my story or anything..." As if "having a story" was somehow evidence of not being spiritual. Something to be ashamed about. Some obstacle to transcend, "get over," or do away with, some clear manifestation of being "lost in the ego."

This is madness.

I love what Maya Angelou has to say on the matter, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I find this to be so true.

Of course, it is important that as friends, therapists, counselors, and healers we work at multiple bands of the spectrum, also including the emotional, somatic, and spiritual. That we send breath and life into each level, using whatever skillful means at our disposal to attune to what area might most need attention at any given time.

As many of us know all too well, it is easy to drown in our stories, to fuse with them, and be flooded or engulfed; to forget that no story will ever fully encompass the entire majesty of what we are. But that is not indication that story is impure or an obstacle to our healing and awakening. There is pure wisdom buried in the story if we will take the time to allow its meaning to unfold. It is the fusion that is the issue, not the story. We must make this discernment in the fire of our direct experience.

The appearance and navigation of story is not evidence of some spiritual failure or that you've fallen short. But evidence that you are a human being. Welcome. We human beings are storytellers. It is a very valid, creative, and honorable aspect of our holy brains and nervous systems, of our souls. Rather than shame and attack our storytelling capacity as error, let us embrace it as a gift from the Gods, and engage it with our hearts open.

Get to know in a really clear way the story you are telling about yourself, others, and the world. Get curious. Listen closely. Travel inside the story, with breath, into its very core and secret places. Illuminate it with awareness and with compassion. From this ground, you can then decide if you’d like to update the narrative, re-craft the story of your life, re-envision a new perspective, re-enchant the plot and cast of characters, bringing forth a more integrated view, perhaps one that is more up to date and a reflection of the deepest truths that you've discovered, not just inherited from an earlier time.

The goal is not to "not have a story," but to have a flexible relationship with story, playing and dancing and dreaming with the lens through which you see yourself and engage reality. As a creative, open, and luminous pathway in which you journey as the hero or heroine of your own life. And to use your story as a way to connect with others, to truly meet and touch and be touched by them, to love and be loved. To help them with everything you have within you.

Go ahead. Tell a story. Dream a new dream. Author a new poem of your life. The Gods are listening. Your heart is listening.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Updating the template

Painful feelings of shame and unworthiness have their origins in early empathic failure, chronic misattunement, and the reality of an inadequate holding environment. In order to make sense of this pain, we adopt a variety of limiting self-beliefs organized around the conclusion that “there is something wrong with me.” This primordial organization in a little nervous system sets off a template that can be very subtle, and can require tremendous levels of awareness and compassion to unwind.

Especially for those who were required to play the role of caretaker in early environments, where their entire sense of self came from abandoning their emotional world and attending to the other, they must go in as alchemists of the heart and the body and throw light into the dark places, for true compassion cannot arise from the activity of self-abandonment.

The invitation is to illuminate and update these beliefs (and their energetic resonances in the body), which have formed the lens though which we see ourselves and others, and the structure through which we engage in relationship. To begin to discover that these old compensatory beliefs are not true in any objective sense, but merely prior best efforts to make meaning of an earlier time, and carry absolutely no evidence whatsoever of your worth as a person.

To enter into relationship with the beliefs, the feelings, and raw sensations that long to be held. To enter into dialogue with the inner figures who seek just a moment of your attention – the scared little boy, the little girl full of rage, the ashamed and the forgotten, the lost and abandoned children of psyche and soma. To listen to her story, offer sanctuary and safe passage for his painful feelings, to flood him or her with a moment of pure empathy and compassion. To slowly begin to tend to that which could not be metabolized at an earlier time. To unburden the little one from the pain and trauma he or she has been carrying for so long.

When a painful feeling or sensation appears, slow way down and ask: what am I believing right now about myself that may be giving rise to this feeling? Flood the belief, the feeling, and the sensation with awareness, with warmth, with life, with breath. Start in the body and feel what is there, sense what is there, and then begin to uncover the limiting self-beliefs. And once they are out in open awareness, we can then begin our journey of re-authoring them into more integrated forms.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Pain is not pathology

At times, you may be asked to sit with another who has been touched by the darkness. To allow them to fall apart in your arms, to unravel, to be without hope, and to feel lost. You may sense there is some sort of wisdom unfolding, but it is chaotic, groundless, and not easy to stay with.

While it is natural to want to do whatever you can to help them feel better, listen carefully to what it is they are truly asking for. Extend to them a calm, regulated nervous system, where their experience can be validated and held, exactly as it is. Ensure them – with words and with your presence – that they need not ‘get over it,’ ‘accept everything as it is,’ shift into a ‘higher vibration,’ ‘stay in the present,’ be cured, transformed, or ‘healed’ in order for you to stay close, and to love them.

To provide such an environment for another, you must first offer safe passage for the unmetabolized in yourself: the unmet sadness, abandoned shame, discarded grief, disavowed hopelessness, and deserted aloneness. If not, you may find yourself rushing to talk the other out of their experience, urgently spinning to relieve them of their feelings as a way to cut into your own anxiety and discomfort. All the while subtly and unconsciously disavowing the raging intelligence buried within the dark.

Together with them, make the commitment to not pathologize their experience. Pain is not pathology. Hopelessness is not pathology. Grief is not pathology. Shame and rage are not pathology. They are path. Seed this wisdom into the relational field and watch in awe as a new world unfolds.

As you attune to the ‘other’ in front of you – as well as to the alchemical ‘other’ within – feel the creative flow of love as it fills the space between, crafting you both as vessels of sanctuary for the pieces of the broken world, for the shards of confusion, and for the crumbled hopes and dreams that have dissolved in front of your eyes. Honor the holy truth that the forms that love take will always fall apart – for this is their nature – in order that they may come back together in more integrated and cohesive ways.

Within the aliveness of the relational field – despite the pain of the present, the traumas of the past, and the broken dreams of the future – you may see that it was only love after all, taking whatever form it must so that it may unfold itself into this world, in ways the mind will never understand.

Please do whatever you can to help others in whatever way you are able: attune to them, validate their feelings, listen carefully to what they are saying, and how they are making meaning of their lives. Feed them, hold them, speak kindly to them, allow them be what they are. And remind them that love is here and is alive.

Photographer unknown

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Vulnerability and aliveness are not two

While awakening carries with it a seed of rest and open flow, it will often break our hearts and shatter old dreams. This heartbreak is not evidence of error, but of wholeness, and just how full-spectrum the activity of love truly is. Not only does it introduce us to transfiguration, but to the chaotic glory of the crucifixion and resurrection as well.

Yes, the Kingdom is here, now, but in order to know this in the body we must be willing to fully participate in the opposites.

While it is natural to have a bias for resurrection, inside the crucible dark and light are one. Here, crucifixion is holy and disappointment is sacred, for they are forerunners of integration. Death and life are not two. Confusion and clarity are not two. Vulnerability and aliveness are not two.

While unresolvable to a mind longing for the reference point of what has come before, the contradictions are in union in the body, providing warmth in the tender core of your very own heart. 

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

The uniqueness of inner work for each person

In order to engage certain therapeutic and meditative practices, a certain degree of ego strength seems to be required, otherwise the practice can unconsciously be used in service of a more dissociative function. Where it may seem we are dissolving everything into open awareness, we must carefully discern whether we are actually engaging in splitting and repression.

We must use a lot of discernment and be careful not to confuse development of the self with “being lost in the ego” and all of the attending shame and attack that comes through that confusion. Doing so can generate a tremendous amount of additional suffering and struggle, as we become lost in disembodied spiritual jargon and half-baked ideas that developmental needs, emotional maturity, and the reality of relational trauma are “all in the mind,” “only a function of the ego” and all the rest of it.

Ironically, especially with methodologies that emphasize “no-self” or ego transcendence, it is easy to believe we are engaging these practices consciously while behind the scenes they are being used to unconsciously sidestep important developmental deficiencies and longings.

There seems to be a one-sized-fits-all mentality in the contemporary spiritual and self-help scene, but inner work is unique to the individual and may not always conform to collective norms. If a certain teaching or practice is not working for you, before you are led to conclude it is because you do not have enough “faith,” “discipline,” or “commitment,” or you are “stuck in a low vibration” or should be able to “just get over it,” you could pause in an act of kindness to consider deeply whether this practice or teacher or teaching is truly in service of your unique situation. Perhaps you are not “lost in your ego” but in touch with your heart, with your body, and with your innate intuition. Just perhaps.

In my experience, forcing a methodology or practice upon someone because we think it is the “best” or “most spiritual” one (and then subtly or not so subtly shaming them when they cannot “follow” it) - when they do not possess the actual developmental capacity (or individual resonance) to engage that practice - is tremendously unkind, needlessly aggressive, and even violent in certain situations.

It is one thing to honor the other’s innate higher capacities in our relationship with them - and to never forget the brilliance of their true nature - especially in the face of profound suffering. But it is another to force this realization upon a person in a way that does not in fact honor their inner intelligence, relative functioning, and current situation.

Let us truly love the others that we speak with and counsel, and push them a bit, if this is our agreement with them, but always remain aware of the tendency to send them spiraling outside their window of tolerance, into overwhelm, re-traumatization, and dissociation as a result of our own unresolved relationship with these energies.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Untangling the unworthy one

One of the most important aspects of inner work is to illuminate the unconscious beliefs that shape the way we see ourselves, others, and the world. We carry these beliefs in a narrative that originated as our brain and nervous system were developing, in our attempt to make meaning of early relational experiences and how they affected our emerging sense of self.

If our early environment did not provide adequate holding as well as sufficient space for us to rest in unstructured states of being - if our unique subjectivity, emotional experience, and basic goodness was not effectively mirrored back to us - we found ourselves in a very precarious place. Because it is just too psychically unsafe to see this lack of mirroring as resulting from a lack of capacity in those around us, we place the blame inside ourselves. We come to believe, in our attempt to make sense of our experience, that we're just not worthy of that sort of attention, affection, love, and attunement. As painful as this realization is, it provides a temporary refuge from overwhelming anxiety.

The chronic sense of shame that so many experience seems in large part to have its origins in environments lacking in empathic attunement, where there was no adequate holding environment in which the sacred little nervous system could unfold, rest, and explore in a way that would foster true self-love.

The narrative of the unworthy one is deeply embedded and spans multiple levels: cognitive, emotional, neurobiological, somatic, and behavioral. We must send breath, awareness, and love into each of these areas in order to transform the compensatory identity structure and to untangle the wounds of the body and the heart.

While it may feel to be too much, this narrative can be re-authored. It can be re-written. It can be updated. A more cohesive, real-time, accurate, integrated story can be told. A new dream can be dreamed. New cloth can be woven. It is possible. I have been honored to witness this re-authoring in the lives of many courageous men and woman over the years. It is not easy work and asks everything of us.

It's important for all of us who have witnessed this as well as participated in it ourselves to remind those who are suffering that it is possible, that there is hope. That while this narrative of shame and unworthiness can feel so entrenched - and the corresponding feelings can be overwhelming as they are potent reminders of the dark night – the traumatic narrative can be re-crafted, new meaning can be discovered. New life can be found. New breath can be breathed. We can come to discover that even in the core of the most profound hopelessness, a small light of hope is buried there, the flame is still alive.

This is not some pollyanna or overly romantic, positivistic fantasy. Of course it is above my paygrade to know if everyone can heal, transform, and find a new way. The truth is I do not know. All I can do is report my own experience, which is that of the outrageous intelligence and bravery of the broken human heart. It is a force greater than exploding stars.

Together, we can continue to share our own journeys with our brothers and sisters, listening carefully to them, holding their experience as utterly valid, honorable, and intelligent, exactly as it is. Setting aside the need to fix and cure even as our own unlived lives are constellated in our interaction with them. And in some way – while fully honoring the pain and the devastation of the dark night – to also never forget the very unique light that is found only there.

Photo: another autumn morning is given, nearby at Maroon Bells, Colorado, by Jeremy Swanson

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Place the Light Enters - spring retreat with Matt Licata and Jeff Foster

Dear friends, I’ve included information here regarding my next retreat - The Place the Light Enters: A Five-Day Journey of Deep Rest, Radical Self-Compassion, and Returning Home - with Jeff Foster, April 4-9, 2018, at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado.

Learn more about the retreat here.

Registration will open January 1 and be taken in the order it is received. Looking forward to seeing everyone in the spring in the mountains!

These days, it’s clear that a full-spectrum path of spirituality and healing must address multiple dimensions of what it means to be an open, awake, and compassionate human being. Meditation, emotional healing, psychological work, relational maturity, and being grounded in the body are all required to live lives of freedom, connectedness, and presence. Even if we have a profound spiritual realization, but the fruits of that realization do not infuse the relative world of our body, emotions, relationships, and work in the world, we sense something is missing.

From April 4-9, we will gather in beautiful Loveland, Colorado,where we will engage an in-depth journey of nondual spirituality and meditation; guidance and support in shadow work, emotional healing, and discovering the tantra of everyday life; plus gentle movement and embodied mindfulness practices, all in the context of a grounded awareness which does not seek to "fix" us, but celebrates the mystery and sacredness that we already are. Together we will exlore the mysteries of both being and becoming, acceptance and change, deep rest and a full embrace of life.

During the course of the retreat, each morning you will rest in nondual spaciousness and presence with international author and spiritual teacher Jeff Foster; in the afternoon you will explore the alchemy of psychological and emotional integrationwith psychotherapist and author Matt Licata, PhD; and prior to the evening session, you will enjoy somatic-based mindfulness practices with author and mindfuless trainer to the United Nations and Google, Kelly Boys.

At the conclusion of each day, in the evening there will be a dialogue between Matt and Jeff, where they will explore the ground of a loving, embodied, nondual presence – the place where spirituality and therapy meet, the Home we never leave - and how the divine expresses itself in the chaotic, sweet, glorious mess of our ordinary lives.

With humour, playfulness, insight, and compassion, Jeff and Matt will make spirituality simple, reachable, and human again, questioning and exposing outdated myths of enlightenment and healing along the way!

Through the provocative and compassionate guidance of three experienced authors and teachers, you will be invited to a place of deep inner stillness and a full-spectrum embrace of your humanness. In the space between meetings, you can walk and rest in the holding field of the Rocky Mountains, and enjoy delicious and nourishing food prepared by expert chefs, using ingredients grown locally using sustainable methods, served with love.

With over five hours of teaching, support, and guidance each day, this retreat is open to anyone who is ready to discover their true nature and explore how this realization might infuse their daily life. From beginners to advanced meditators, from therapists to artists, businesspeople, healers and everyone in-between, if you have an interest in spirituality and healing, mindfulness, meditation, self-compassion, or you just long to live a life of rest, presence, grace, and creativity, we would love to meet you, here in the Heart.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sending breath into the core

When we talk about bringing awareness to our sadness, rage, fear, or shame, it's important to approach this inquiry with beginner's mind, to not assume, "Oh, I've done that. I am totally aware of my anger. Believe me! I've been angry for years."

We have to be willing to get more subtle and nuanced with this as what is appearing in any given moment is completely fresh, naked, and alive, arising for the first time and filled with information. There is intelligence inside our symptoms, buried in our feelings, but it requires us to slow down, and to momentarily replace the need for relief with that of curiosity.

Often it can appear that we are in touch with our emotional world, but if we look carefully, we might discover that in large part we are in touch with our interpretations about our emotions, in a way orbiting around them, staying clear of their energetic core. This is not evidence we have failed, but a reflection of the intelligence of an earlier time, when we did not have the capacity to infuse overwhelming emotion and anxiety with presence, holding, and space.

The next time you find yourself a bit thrown off center, triggered, activated, hooked, or caught in a loop, you could just consciously slow down. Pause. Recognize what has happened and clarify your intention to care for yourself in a new way. In this one moment of choosing an alternative pathway, new circuitry is encoded. In this one moment, end the trance of self-abandonment.

It can help to start in your body and make contact with the actual raw sensations that are there, often most alive in your belly, heart, or throat. To set aside all interpretation for now, including even the agenda to understand, change, shift, or heal. You can return to interpretation and explore meaning at a later time, from a more grounded, soothed place.

Notice the deeply rooted urge to leave your experience to go back into interpretation. It feels safer there, in some way, to turn from the fire and orbit around the aliveness. You have to discover for yourself if this is true, if abandoning your immediate, embodied experience is truly safe. Don’t take anyone’s word for this. Use your body as a crucible and send breath, life, awareness, and care inside the core of your feelings, and see.

But the first step is to slow down. Recognize you are caught and make the intention to care for yourself in what might be a new way, by coming closer. It may appear that these feelings and emotions are coming at you from the outside, to harm you, as obstacles along the way. Things are not always as they seem.

Art by Helen Klebesadel

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Private sessions with Matt

Dear friends, I'll be offering some private sessions via phone and Skype, which you can learn about here.

Sessions do tend to fill up quickly. If you do not see any available appointments, please check back as the calendar is updated regularly, sometimes even at the last moment.

Thank you. 

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

The doorways are infinite

Inside your body
are the sun
and the moon,
the stars,
the oceans,
and the entirety
of the seen
and unseen worlds.

Joy is here,
as is loneliness,
confusion, heartbreak,
and bliss.

The doorways
are infinite,
each a unique passageway
into the mystery.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A third presence

It is so natural to want to share our joy, discoveries, insights, and perspectives with others, especially if they are struggling, having a hard time, or experiencing hopelessness and confusion. Our intention to help, to whatever degree it is oriented in true compassion, can be honored and held near.

One of the greatest gifts we can provide to the other is sanctuary and safe passage for the unmet within us. For it is out of profound self-attunement that the most skillful action and blessings will flow.

When we are in intimate, direct contact with our own not-knowing – our own grief, despair, anger, and confusion – we may become aware of a holding field emerging in the space between. Some unknown, third presence appears, transcending the sum of the parts and offering an invitation into something new.

As we open into and explore this field, tending to the darkness within us as it surges for light, the other is granted permission to contain, integrate, and practice compassion toward those unresolved qualities in themselves.

As the unwanted is cared for at perceptual, emotional, somatic, and transpersonal levels, we begin to make a journey with one another, making meaning together of what it’s like to be an open, sensitive, sometimes broken and sometimes whole human being.

It’s a precious journey, really, one oriented in the mysteries of self and other, separation and union, lover and beloved. At times asking everything of us, but capable of bearing a very rare and unique fruit within the heart.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Approaching inner narcissism

The word "narcissist" and the topic of narcissism have come up a lot lately and are engaged in a variety of ways and contexts. The great pain, trauma, neglect, and abuse that are the result of narcissistic injury is an incredibly important (and heartbreaking) topic, including how to help our dear brothers and sisters who have fallen prey to the devastating effects of narcissistic behavior in all its forms. Let us each take a moment to send our blessings, thoughts, and love to all victims of narcissistic injury, and our prayers that they find the healing, wholeness, and the life that is their birthright.

Here, I wanted to share a few thoughts about the nature of narcissism and how we can come to bring new light to our own narcissistic tendencies, with the intention to cut unhealthy narcissism off at its root and to do everything we can to reduce its effects and impact in our world. This is not a post about caring for those injured by way of narcissism (very important work that many of us will be asked to confront with as much wisdom, awareness, and compassion that we can bring forward), but how we might start to discover the seeds, roots, and branches of narcissism within ourselves. Just another angle on how each of us can begin to untangle the web of dynamics which can be so devastating for the human heart and soul. With the intention that somehow the intergenerational transmission of unhealthy narcissism be interrupted, de-potentiated, and ultimately ended.

One way of understanding what is meant by narcissism is that quality within each of us that is unable or unwilling to see the other as a subject in their own right. Rather, they are seen as a mere object in ours.

It is that inability to hold the other as an actual person with their own perceptions and ways of making sense of themselves and the world. As a person with their own, very valid feelings and emotions and ways of organizing and making meaning of their experience. As a person with their own hopes, fears, and dreams, longing to be happy, to be at peace, to be free, to love and be loved. Just like us.

In a narcissistic state, the other is beheld as a mere object in our own awareness. They are seen and related with solely in terms of whether they are capable of meeting our needs or not, or the degree to which they are able to reflect back to us who we think we are. They are valued according to their willingness and ability to conspire with us to maintain the status quo of our inflation and self-absorption, and their ability to do whatever possible to ensure that the raging sense of unworthiness lurking just under the surface never emerges.

In this sense, the other is merely serving a function in our own awareness, critical to keep the house of cards from crumbling and exposing the shame and unworthiness that long to re-emerge out of the shadows and into the light.

In this state - or developmental stage – we lose touch with the holy reality of the “other.” Oh my god, this is another person, a unique expression of life, not just someone sent to earth to mirror back my greatness, to reflect and buffer my self-image, and to care for the haunting ghosts of my unlived life.

It takes a lot of practice and discernment to navigate all this, to see how each of us participate from time to time in this way in our relationships with others. For many, it can be quite subtle, for others more overt. But to truly open the lenses of perception will require that we consciously engage the sacred energies of deflation, as to re-own this aspect of the psyche will inevitably require us to be humbled, and to tend to the disturbing feelings that this work can activate within us.

It is tempting (and much easier) to locate narcissism outside ourselves, in another, and of course at times it is important and honorable to do so. To call out the behavior of a narcissist and to care for yourself and this world in fierce, direct, and powerful ways. This, too, of course is so very important. But one other thing we can do is to cultivate the curiosity, the courage, and the compassion to meet the narcissistic one inside us. To illuminate this one, to bathe him or her in the light of awareness, and to finally enter into relationship with this one. To retrieve this one from the dark soil and the shadowy nether regions and out into conscious awareness, so that he or she is not running the show from behind the scenes, in ways that will inevitably generate further suffering for ourselves and others.

In this way, we can discover that the inner narcissist is not actually an enemy attacking from the outside, but an unmet part of us, in some crazy way one of love's children, requesting a moment of our presence, our kindness, and our care. He or she has been shamed, ridiculed, and exiled from the inner ecosystem for so long, and will continue to appear in limitless forms until allowed back home.

As we are able to more consciously carry the energies of narcissism – at personal, cultural, and transpersonal levels – we will be less prone to enact these qualities in our relationships with others. To the degree we are able to meet inner narcissism with curiosity, holding, empathy, and compassion – to integrate, metabolize, and work through the unmet images, feelings, beliefs, and projections – it is to this degree we will touch freedom, and will contribute to the lessening of suffering in this world.

Painting of Narcissus by Caravaggio

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A most devastating ally

The next time you feel abandoned, feel it fully. Let it all the way in this time. Not the story of abandonment, but the raw sensations that have been longing for your holding.

Embrace the shakiness, the brokenness, and the raw life that is moving through you. Don’t turn away, not this time. For you need yourself now more than ever.

There is a portal inside the abandoned one, buried in her heart, hidden in his body, and in the core of the emptiness. There is gold there, but it is hidden and requires new perception to unearth.

In the willingness to bring breath and to flood the feelings with the warmth of your presence, you will discover that which has never been abandoned. Take this one as your lover.

In the commitment to never turn from him or her again, everything will break open, revealing the erupting, tender aliveness at the core.

Even abandonment, when met, allowed, contained, and held, will reveal its purity, and clarify its role as a sacred, though devastating ally on the path.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Intimacy without fusion

In the tantric and alchemical traditions, we’re invited into a direct, intimate relationship with our emotions. By doing so, we convert what might appear to be worthless, disturbing, or an apparent obstacle, into gold.

Unlike therapeutic work which seeks to unfold the inner meaning of our emotional experience (wonderful work), the process of transmutation involves a resting in the very core of the energy of the emotion, discovering its spacious, luminous nature.

For a moment, we set aside our need to understand, shift, transform, or heal it. We enter into relationship with it, intimately close, but not so close that we drown and lose perspective. In this way, the emotion reveals its essence as light, transparency, and warmth. We do this not instead of exploring the meaning of our experience, but in addition to it, so that we may touch the full-spectrum of life as a curious, emotional, embodied human being.

There is so much space around our feelings, our emotions, even our thoughts. They are not nearly as solid as they often appear, but of course we must discover this space for ourselves. Not a dead or empty or void-like space, but one filled with aliveness and qualities of compassion, of engagement, of skillful action, of helping others. In this realization, even disturbing emotions offer a pathway into the spaciousness of our own true nature. Even the most difficult emotions become allies and yield to the warmth of true friendship.

It does take some practice to see this, to rewire the old pathways of repression and dissociation, on the one hand, and becoming flooded and seeking relief from emotion on the other. But in the sacred middle, we practice a profound intimacy with our experience, while at the same time not fusing with it. It is more an art than a science, and the canvas is the temple of your very own body.

As we hold and explore within the tension of the opposites of fusion and repression, stay open and curious in the unresolvable nature of the center, rest and creativity are naturally generated, and a new freedom dawns. One that is alive with love, kindness, curiosity, and new vision. 

Photo: fall glory at Silver Jack Reservoir

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Safe passage for the disguised light

Paradoxically to the mind, but in ways the heart knows natively, inside the core of our vulnerability, our shakiness, our not-knowing, is a nonordinary gold, a jewel that is found only there. This gold is accessible all times, though it will often appear in unexpected forms as our life circumstances, feelings, symptoms, symbols, and the others who come into (and out of) our lives.

Through this appearance and disappearance of form, we come to discover that healing and awakening are not only processes of creativity, but are oriented in dissolution as well. While we may have a bias for the creative and the bright, the gods of wholeness will employ either energy equally in fulfilling their mission here. What that mission is, we can only know through primary experience, bearing witness to the numinous as it pours through us and into the relative world.

As we peer beyond the veil just a bit, we may sense something longing to emerge out of the mess and the chaos, surging up from the dark, rich soil of the psyche—right out of the core of our deeply embedded sense of unworthiness, disconnection, and loneliness. Even spinning out of moments of anxiety, hopelessness, confusion, and despair.

In the depths of the soil, the question isn’t how to stop this material from arising, for it is its nature to do so. But whether we will provide a home for it when it arrives. A sanctuary. Safe passage for the disguised light to emerge.

Will we receive it with curiosity, interest, compassion, and warmth? Or will we pathologize it, conclude it is evidence that something is wrong with us, that we have failed, that we are not okay?

Of course, it is an act of kindness to care for ourselves in whatever ways we are able, and to bring relief during difficult times. But there is another invitation that co-emerges with the one oriented in relief, one that is more alchemical in nature: to turn in to the symptom, the feeling, and the symbols as they appear, for they are carriers of profound wisdom and guidance.

As Rumi reminds us, it is inside the wound where the light is to be found, a light hidden inside the darkness, that when entered into, reveals itself to be brighter than a billion suns.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO.