Saturday, April 22, 2017
I am often asked about this or that technique, powerful new method, or approach: does it work, should I try it, will it help to transform limited beliefs, deeply embedded trauma, unbearable emotions? Will it eliminate my vulnerability, increase my sense of self-worth, relieve the despair, soothe the anxiety?
In my experience, techniques do not heal. Relationship heals.
As nearly all of our somatic and emotional wounding arose in interpersonal contexts, it is best unwound, untangled, and metabolized within an attuned, empathic, relational container. This container is nonordinary, alchemical, and sacred, and weaved of strands of the heart.
The “technique” that the therapist, coach, practitioner, or counselor employs is much less important. There is nothing wrong of course with learning new techniques, but there is no activity that is more creative, wild, and revolutionary than attunement, presence, and love. These are not techniques, but are aspects of your true nature, luminous and longing to erupt and come alive here. They are already wired into the fabric and substance of what you are, uncaused and unproduced, and await recognition.
What you are is infinitely more powerful than any technique. You are the technique … each time you listen deeply, look at another with love in your eyes, speak words of kindness, allow them to matter to you, nourish and hold their experience, and attune to their inner world as it is …
… allow yourself to care about how they are making meaning of their lives, making sense of a crazy world; as you dare to see them not as an “object” arising in your experience—who might or might not be able to meet your needs or confirm your hopes and fears—but as an outrageously unique “subject” in their own right. And as you mirror back essence, offering cosmic permission for the ultimate discovery that who and what they are was never “unhealed.”
Based on their theoretical lens, different approaches will look to intervene at different levels of the spectrum, i.e. cognitive, affective, somatic, and behavioral. Each practitioner is going to have their bias. But when it’s all said and done, developmental trauma and other wounding arising out of an environment lacking in holding, mirroring, and empathic attunement is reorganized within an intersubjective field. Research in interpersonal neurobiology* has consistently shown us that neural circuitry is re-encoded within the context of such relational attunement.
While it is natural to become enamored with the latest “powerful” method, technique, and newly discovered strategy to catalyze healing, we can easily lose the forest for the trees, and forget that it is love that heals. Love is not a technique. What this “love” is must be uncovered within your own embodied field of presence, and inside the cells of your heart. It is unprecedented, unique, and relentlessly creative … just like you.
Your heart is not a technique. And love is the ultimate medicine.
*see the work of Schore, Siegel, Badenoch, Porges, Cozolino, van der Kolk and others in the Norton Series.
The Way of Rest summer retreat – registration open now
New book – The Path is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – to be released in June
Thursday, April 20, 2017
In a moment of activation, the emissaries arrive. When you find yourself overwhelmed by repetitive, habitual, ruminative thinking; when the thoughts are looping; when you are attacking yourself and falling down the rabbit hole of self-aggression … just stop.
With the power and fierceness of the warrior’s sword of compassion, cut the storyline. Slow way down and feel your feet on the ground. Breathe deeply into your lower belly and activate your senses. See what is around you with clear vision, enter into pure listening. Shift your sacred life energy out of the spinning and into the aliveness of the body.
It is an act of kindness to not fuel the dysregulating narrative, and takes practice, courage, curiosity, and imagination. Something is erupting under the surface, longing to be met and integrated, but it is raw, naked, and non-conceptual. Rather than turn into the center of the restless, claustrophobic, and sticky somatic aliveness, we default back into conditioned history—to the shame, the blame, the attack, and the aggression, anything to keep us out of the fire and the tender surging tingling core of the vulnerability at the center.
The invitation in these moments is into the shaky interior. Use your breath as your guide into the inner landscape. You are being asked to care for yourself in a new way. See what feeling state the very vivid and colorful storyline is attempting to take you out of, and slowly, with kindness drop underneath the conditioned history and into the hot, seething, pregnant life that is surging to be held.
In order to make this journey, that of the sacred return, we must set aside our agenda to understand, to change, to transform, even to heal … for a moment. We can return to transformation at a later time. For now, replace it with a fiery curiosity. To become more interested in our original primal experience than in our interpretations of it, turning our bodies into a crucible of open awareness, filled with the qualities of warmth, attunement, and revolutionary kindness.
And in doing this we call off the war. We dare to practice peace. To step off the battlefield and into the unknown mystery of the body, and the wisdom-field of the always blooming, awakened heart.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
It is important to realize that the path of opening the heart is not that of becoming a receptacle for the unloading of others’ unconscious, unresolved beliefs, unprocessed feelings, and unintegrated behaviors. It is to the degree that we are attuned to the alchemical “inner other” within us that we will be able to skillfully respond to the projections of the external other upon us.
As our perception is cleansed, we come to see that the “other” is not only those persons who appear in our lives, but the “inner other” that we have lost contact with along the way: the unmetabolized guests of the somatic landscape that we have turned from and sent into a dark, shadowy forest.
These ones will always and into eternity surge to be allowed back into the inner family, forever appearing as your intimate partners, children, and friends; as the colors, the moon, the sun, and the stars, taking infinite form to reach you. The sensual world is rich with hidden emissaries of wholeness and the heart. Slow way down, and see.
The only way to care for and integrate the “other” is by way of profound levels of self-compassion. For many, this holding does not come naturally as it was not encoded into the nervous system of a little one in an environment lacking in empathic attunement to the magic and brilliance of the unfolding emotional world. But despite the early relational trauma, the developmental wounding, and the disorganized narratives of attachment, you can learn and practice this now.
While appearing “compassionate” on the outside, being an emotional doormat involves the re-enacting of early, unconscious dynamics. We learned that devaluing ourselves, often in very subtle ways, was the best route to get our needs met, to fit in, to receive attention and affection, and to maintain a precarious tie to an unavailable attachment figure.
Because the pathways are luminous – neither solid nor fixed – they can be reorganized around empathy, kindness, and presence. But this possibility occurs only by way of self-compassion and the unconditional commitment to no longer abandon the inner other as it surges within you, in the form of feeling, sensation, and vulnerability of all kinds.
Look carefully and see the ways you habitually place others’ needs over your own… not out of true compassion for them, but as a re-enactment of an early environment of shame and unworthiness. With love, seed the surging somatic material with holding and attunement, receive the longing for update and integration, and step into the sacred world which is already here, wired into the stars and into the tender cells of your very own heart.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
No matter how many profound insights we have, how many amazingly powerful awakening experiences we collect, or how convinced we become that we have it all together, we will always be at risk of further heartbreak, deflation, and crushing revelation.
In the bedroom of the beloved, there is always more humbling to come, as we are all beginners there. No experts, no masters, and no final, resolved landing place where we are guaranteed a life without vulnerability and deepening exposure … for the beloved has no interest in all of that.
It is by way of the broken places that he or she is able to reach you, and to fill you from within with essence. In that crucible where the opposites are at play, the rug is being pulled out from underneath us in an ongoing way, with our personas falling away one by one as they burn up in the fire of pure seeing. Buried within the tension of these opposites is a nonordinary gold. See it. Feel it. Hear it. Hold it.
Out of this highly-charged and creative field, it is revealed once and for all that your shaky raw vulnerable heart is not weakness and your tender sensitive body is not something to be transcended or “healed,” but are portals through which the sacred materials can descend into the earth and come into form.
Though at times it may seem as if the world has gone mad – as the dreams of separation play out within the collective, things are not always as they seem. You are the vessel through which love can come alive here. Without you, it will not be possible.
Photo: from the holding field of the dark Horsehead Nebula, Orion
New book – The Path is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – to be released in June
Thursday, April 13, 2017
Just below the compelling storyline, beneath the colorful emotional landscape, there exists a rich, mysterious world of sensations: a somatically organized field of intelligence, creativity, and aliveness. It is dizzying here, awash with particles of the unknown.
Something is pulling you, but it can be disorienting to a mind longing for resolution. The urge to return to the known, to get hold of “my life,” and to renew the dream of control can appear as overwhelm in the nervous system.
Without pathologizing the movement back to ground, allow the mind the rest, even for just a moment. Dare to consider that nothing has gone wrong, nothing need urgently be resolved, and that no answers are coming … for now.
Open instead to the sacredness of the question and the mystery that you are, that which will never be contained by an answer. For what you are is wild and unprecedented … a firestorm of presence, of heart, and a ragingly unique form that love has taken here.
Please don’t forget what you are.
Please don’t forget what you are.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Many have heard the term holding environment, introduced by the British analyst Donald Winnicott, to describe a field of warm, attuned presence. Any effective holding environment consists of the essential qualities of good contact and an ideal amount of space. Through making close, empathic contact with another as they are, and offering a spacious home in which their experience can unfold, we become vehicles of love in action.
We are willing to allow the other to matter to us, to care deeply about them, and to take a risk in moving toward them while simultaneously offering ourselves these same qualities in a system of mutual interaction.
We seek intimacy with the other and their unfolding experience as it is, but without coming so close that we lose perspective and become emotionally fused with them. In this sacred middle territory—in between the extremes of cold, passive, disinterested witnessing and fused, sticky, unboundaried identification—we bestow the gift of empathic attunement.
Simultaneously, in addition to making good contact, we infuse the other and their subjective experience—as well as the relational field we are a part of with them—with the offering of pure space. In this context, space isn’t something that we “give” or “do”; it is what we are. By resting in the organic space of being, we plant the seeds of a cosmic trust that their experience is valid, that we do not need them to transform in order for us to stay close.
We commit to not flooding them with our requirements and agendas, but will honor their unique process and path by being there for them if (and only if) we are needed. We will not impinge upon their journey, we will allow them to fail and to succeed, and we will walk side by side with them into the dark and the light.
But we will not try to make the journey for them. We will not give them answers to questions that are theirs, nor will we protect them from falling apart when that is what love has in store for them. We will do whatever we can to support their unique and unprecedented path of individuation.
But we will allow them to walk it alone, to fall to the ground and get back up, to know the full spectrum of the opportunity they have been provided.
Art by Gustav Vigeland, c/o the Vigeland Park in Oslo
Friday, April 7, 2017
In a moment of activation, there is an urgent sense that we must find relief. And if we do not, that we will be overwhelmed, decompensate, fall apart, and lose ourselves in an avalanche of the emotional world. The ancient pathways of fight and flight come alive, and we move into action.
Let us honor this sense and perceptual organization, for it has been with us since our early moments in the holy womb. It was the accurate, embodied reality of a little brain and nervous system, wired for empathic attunement, and for the holding and mirroring of its erupting subjectivity.
But here we are now, as adults with capacities we once did not have, longing to enter into the mystery, into pure aliveness, and to know love as the organizing principle of this Milky Way home we have somehow found ourselves in. While there are billions of stars in billions of galaxies spread throughout infinite time and space, perhaps there is only one star of love.
The invitation is into intimate communion: to move closer, and even closer still, into the feelings, the emotions, and the sensations as they surge. To surround the surging material with curiosity, warmth, and most importantly with kindness, as an inner explorer of the galaxy of your own body, of which there is no temple more sacred.
While prioritizing relief was critical at an earlier time – and represented the best way you knew to care for yourself – another pathway is emerging, as the trance of self-abandonment is dissolved in open awareness. Listen carefully to the invitation as it makes itself known, through sensation, image, symbol, and guidance from inner and outer nature.
Yours is the path of direct revelation, and a second-hand life will never, ever satisfy the longing wired into you. Your appearance here is unprecedented, and love will never appear in the same way again.
Photo credit: into the holding field of the Milky Way at Fairyland Canyon, Adam Derewecki
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
There’s a fantasy that we’re supposed to know what to do with our lives. And if we do not then this is clear evidence that something is wrong with us, some cosmic error has occurred which must urgently be remedied.
Especially if this not-knowing is accompanied by waves of uncertainty, hopelessness, and confusion… more evidence that we have failed, fueled by further fantasy that feelings such as contradiction, doubt, and deflation are not very “spiritual.” What about the endless stream of “high” vibrations? The manifesting of more and more cool things for myself, that I’ve dreamed will make me happy? The unconscious belief that the role of my partner or my spiritual practice is to make me feel good?
Yes, at times it will appear that nothing is happening, that we are being asked to marinate in waves of the great ocean of nothing. Before we turn from the non-conventional allies of confusion and doubt, let us reimagine their purpose and their holy function. In a world that is fixated with doing, with answers, and with resolving the wildness of life, we must remember that death is required for new forms of love and creativity to take form. The death-rebirth journey is one that is non-negotiable and cuts through our preferences, hopes, and fears. While this reality is deflating to a mind seeking control and resolution, this cutting through is an emissary of wholeness, and is sacred.
As our center of gravity drops out of the density of the conditioned and into the wisdom of the body, we discover profound wisdom and creativity in the core of the not-knowing. We come to see that not-knowing is a perfectly valid, honorable, and authentic place to be, and not in need of transformation. It is a pure expression of transformation, in and of itself, exactly as it is.
As an experiment, you could say out loud, with the earth as your witness, “I don’t know.” And give yourself permission to not-know, for now, without any shame, judgment, or self-aggression. You need no longer pathologize the movement of not-knowing, but embrace and explore it with curiosity and a fiery tenderness.
Sink into the raw, ripe, pregnant, muddy glory and mess of your unique, unprecedented heart… and see what you are.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
We want love to feel safe, but love is not oriented around any particular feeling. It is just too wild for that. As a field of immense creativity, love will make use of any feeling state, including that of “unsafe,” to introduce us to the full spectrum of what it means to be an awake, alive, unprecedented human being, with a heart that is sometimes open, sometimes closed, sometimes in one piece, and sometimes shattered.
As the rich ground in which all feelings come and go, it is the nature of love to transform everything it comes in contact with, for this is its nature. This activity is not oriented in the preservation of the status quo or maintenance of the conventional, but in bringing forth new forms of itself into the world of time and space. At times, this can be disorienting.
Perhaps our deepest longing is not for consistent feelings of safety, security, and certainty, but to live from wholeness, in intimate communion with the full-spectrum nature of what it means to be an attuned, sensitive human being. To live in and as the totality of what we are, which very organically contains, infuses, and transmutes the opposites of safe and unsafe, self and other, known and unknown.
Rather than approaching this as mere philosophical inquiry, the invitation is into the intimacy of immediate, embodied experience, and to discover for ourselves what is most true. As we open into the reorganizing energies of love, we will simultaneously be attracted and terrified, as we sense the ending of one world so that another may begin. We can count on the contradictory nature of the journey of the heart, turn into the core of the contradiction, and attune to the wisdom that is found there.