If a child were to appear at your door: cold, scared, and tired from a long journey…
Saturday, May 27, 2017
If a child were to appear at your door: cold, scared, and tired from a long journey…
If he or she were anxious, in despair, full of rage, or confused…
Would you refuse entry to the little one? Would you tell him to come back once he dissolved his fear, replaced his anger with gratitude, and clarified his confusion? When she healed her anxiety, mended her broken heart, and transformed her deep feeling of unworthiness?
Would you require these things before you allowed the little one in, held him, and provided shelter for her raw vulnerability to rest from an ancient voyage of becoming?
In your most authoritative spiritual voice, would you urge the little one to "get over it,” scramble to accept everything the way it is, return immediately to the present moment, urgently forgive those who have harmed him, quickly rid herself of her “ego,” or manifest a “higher vibration?”
Or would you offer sanctuary and safe passage from a long passage? A warm home in which the stories, the emotions, and somatic trauma of the little one can be illuminated, contained, and held in a tender womb of care and loving kindness? A place of respite for the little one to find some new meaning in a world that has forgotten and let them down.
The Way of Rest summer retreat – registration open now (we're about 80% sold out as of 27 May)
New book – The Path is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – to be released in June
Thursday, May 25, 2017
Many I speak with have come to the conclusion that it is not okay for them to have a need. Or that it is certainly not very “spiritual.” As little ones in our families of origin, expressing a need wasn’t always very safe and often met with dysregulating empathic failure. We learned that having a need was the fast path to hopelessness, disappointment, and shame, watching as attunement, contact, and affection was removed from the field around us.
Because it was too anxiety-provoking to allow for the reality of any sort of limitation in our caregivers, we defaulted to the conclusion that there must something wrong with us and that we are not worthy of having a need. While that realization was painful, we could temporarily rest knowing that someone was there to protect us … all the while shifting the blame to ourselves, laying the foundation for the deep shame that so many experience later on, especially in intimate relationship.
As adults, often this core belief gets validated by teachings which confirm that having a need is a sign of lack of progress on the path, evidence of not enough faith or trust, too much attachment, failure to “stay in the now,” to understand the teachings on “no-self,” or that we are lost in the “ego.” The shame and blame continue, but with flowery spiritual language replacing the voices of the original bad other.
Let us stand on the rooftop and shout out together, with the sun, the moon, and the stars as our witnesses: There is nothing wrong with having a need. It’s so human, to have some yearning in the heart, some longing for connection, to be met in presence, to be seen, to be heard, to be touched, to be held. We are relational mammals. We will not be overriding millions of years of evolution anytime soon, in the wake of learning some new teachings.
While having a need is perfectly natural, the reality is that it is unlikely your needs are ever going to be fully met, especially by another. With your heart open, make requests to your lovers, your friends, and your family. Know that they will sometimes be able to meet you, to see you as you are, and provide what you are asking for. When they do, you can rejoice and give thanks. And when they do not, you can likewise rejoice and give thanks, for the opportunity to tend to yourself in a radically new way.
At times we will feel complete, resting in the wholeness that we are, and not in contact with any particular need or desire. At other times we will be drawn to assert a need, to ask for help, to enact a firm boundary, to honor a longing in the body or heart, to state very clearly what we want. We can stay committed to both of these experiences as perfectly valid and authentic expressions of our true nature, willing to be utterly chaotically gloriously human, without apology.
Please continue to make requests of your lovers and friends, in all of their forms, while simultaneously remaining committed to the empowered, alive realm of self-care, no longer willing to abandon yourself, even if you are abandoned by another. To dare to be your own best friend, to attend to your body and your heart and your soul in wild and wise ways, even when the other is nowhere to be found.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
It is not an error
that you have been born
a sensitive human being,
with a tender nervous system
and a heart that is sometimes
that you have been born
a sensitive human being,
with a tender nervous system
and a heart that is sometimes
Your vulnerability is not a mistake,
but a portal into aliveness.
but a portal into aliveness.
Sunday, May 21, 2017
There’s a lot of talk about “integrating” or “healing” traumatic experience which I believe has led to a lot of confusion.
It's important to re-envision words like “integration” and “healing," as they have lost their relevance, aliveness, and magic. Additionally, for many they have become further tools of shame, blame, and self-attack, re-enactments of an early environment lacking in empathic attunement. We must breathe life back into these ideas in an imaginative, grounded, and creative way.
Often what is meant by “integrating” or “healing” trauma (loosely defined here as experience characterized by unbearable or overwhelming affect) is that one day we will “get over it,” “transcend” it, meditate or "manifest" it away, or otherwise purge it from our psychic-emotional-somatic being.
In my clinical experience (in sitting in the fire with many courageous men and women with the most heartbreaking histories), this view of trauma is in large part inaccurate, aggressive, misguided, and at times even dangerous and violent. There are some things that happen to us that we will never “get over” nor would this even be an appropriate goal or lens to use in approaching the sacredness of the human temple.
Let us set aside any spirituality or “healing” which is (unconsciously or subtly) rooted in self-abandonment, self-attack, and self-hatred and replace it with slowness, empathy, and a grounded, relentless compassion. We must re-enchant this entire area of inquiry with love.
But if what we mean by “integration” is discovering a place inside us where we can hold and contain our experience, make sense of what happened in new ways, and discover deeper meaning, then these concepts can come alive again. Slowly, over time, guided by new levels of kindness, clear-seeing, and multileveled awareness, we can begin to bear that which has been unbearable, providing sanctuary and safe passage for the pieces of the broken world to re-organize.
As we train ourselves to re-inhabit our bodies even in the face of profoundly disturbing cognitions, feelings, and sensations, we can begin to weave a more "integrated" narrative of our lives, re-authoring the sacred story of who we are, our purpose here, and what is most important to us. We can gather the pieces into a coherent whole and begin to trust in the validity of our experience again.
The goal then is not some fixed state where we have successfully purged an aspect of our self-experience from what we are, as if it were some wretched foreign substance, but rather to find a larger home for it within us. Slowly, we can allow what has become frozen and solidified to thaw and become flexible. Ultimately, it is love that will soften the wounds of the body and the heart, for they will never unwind in an environment of self-aggression. It's just not safe or majestic enough there.
Over time, beyond merely holding and containing the sacred wound, we are invited to practice intimacy with it, to come even closer than we imagined possible to the lost children of the psyche and soma … discovering that they have not come to harm, but only to return home, to resume their instinctive place in the inner family.
Friday, May 19, 2017
Use your breath to direct attention into the center of whatever feeling is arising. Send awareness inside your emotions and saturate them with light. Surround whatever appears with your presence, as a parent would cradle their shivering little one with a warm blanket.
For you are the parent to the orphans of the somatic world, as they emerge out of the unseen requesting safe passage in the vastness, one of love’s children on the journey of sacred return. Though their appearance can be disturbing and intense, they come not to harm … but to know themselves in form, as consciousness seeds matter with its qualities.
As you practice intimacy with the display of the embodied world, naturally attune to the breath as it passes in and out of your lungs. Take a moment to behold the miracle this truly is, to be given even one more breath on this new day. The implications of this alone are enough to take you to the ground and cut through the trance that something is missing.
As holy as the breath is, there is another substance passing through you. It is ﬂowing in and out of the center of your heart, is subtle, and is apprehended only through one of your nonordinary senses. It is untamed, creative, and out of control, and keeps the stars from falling out of the sky. It is the substance pure love.
Oxygenate your entire being with this sacred material, and allow it to wash and nourish you. Breathe it into your cells and allow it to recycle in the four directions. Be a vessel in which this substance can pour into a world that has forgotten.
Please do whatever you can to help others, and never forget that even one moment of empathic, attuned presence can change someone’s life forever. Listen to them. Really, listen to them. Slow way way down and look into their eyes. Hold them. Share your calm, regulated nervous system with them. Dare to allow them to matter. Care for them and how they are making meaning of their experience.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
To whatever degree we have not provided sanctuary for unmet feelings of abandonment, loneliness, shame, and rage, we can count on our partners, children, and close friends to continue to offer this opportunity to us in a seemingly endless number of ways.
How painful. How excruciating. What grace.
It is outrageous what love will do to reach us… the relentlessness of the symbols, signs, and guidance, shapeshifting and taking unexpected forms in order to open a portal into wholeness.
A sunrise, a tree, an unknown longing that appears early in the morning. The moon, a deer, the water, the clouds… the flow of emotion within you. While these ones may appear as ordinary visitors on an ordinary day on an ordinary star… look again. Listen. Feel. Taste. Touch. As they dance their way into being, they pull back the veil so you can peer into the infinite, astonished by what is happening behind the scenes. It is anything but ordinary inside the crucible of your heart.
As we descend into the muddy earth and ascend into the heavens, we reclaim our birthright as embodied, tender, vulnerable human beings. Willing to fall apart, to be a mess, to not know how it will all turn out, to forget and remember, and to return over and over again into the mind of the beginner. Willing to participate fully in the chaotic glory and rare opportunity that has been provided here, to bear witness to the activity of love as it makes its way into form.
There are no experts and no masters on the path of love, only her humble servants. Ever at the feet of the beloved as she pours her body into the world of time and space… standing in awe at the miracle, at the luminous play of dark and light, and the unfolding union of spirit and matter.
Sunday, May 14, 2017
May we hold all mothers in our hearts today, beholding the infinite forms that Mother will take in her journey to seed matter with her darkness and her light. Though it may appear otherwise, she has never given up on you, and never will. In this way, Mother is not only a person, but is the activity of love itself.
Through the offering of her essence and womb, she becomes a vessel through which life is made possible. By way of her form, the most outrageous opportunity is given to make the embodied human journey in a world where love is alive.
Whether or not you are able to thank mother for this offering, you can thank life everywhere by no longer postponing your participation here. By not waiting for another moment to remember what is most important or to give yourself to a world that needs you now more than ever.
The great Mother is alive within you, weaving a field of containment and holding for beings everywhere… as you slow down in the presence of another, stay close to their heartbreak, take the risk of allowing them to matter, and honor the way they are making meaning of their experience, even if it does not conform to your beliefs and ways of perception…
… as you listen carefully to their stories and their joy and their pain, speak kind words to them, and mirror back their wholeness and majesty even when they have forgotten… and as you provide a sanctuary of presence where they can come to rest from a long journey of becoming.
No matter your relationship with mom in the physical world, you can connect with Mother now through an umbilical cord of pure light, for the bond with her transcends time and space. Just beyond the veil, the heart of the Mother and your little heart are one.
As the Tibetans believe, every being has at one time been our Mother, and has shown us the most profound kindness, care, and compassion, willing to give her life so that we may come into being. Let us remember this kindness and return it to others in infinite ways.
May all Mother-beings everywhere receive an outpouring of blessings on this day. May their hearts and their bodies be washed in grace, and may they come to know directly, even for a moment, how loved they truly are.
Friday, May 12, 2017
Falling apart, holding it all together. Then falling apart, then coming back together again. Cycles of clarity and confusion. Hopelessness and hope. Heartbreak and bliss. As the seasons of the natural world unfold, so do the creative and destructive aspects of love as it makes its way into matter.
Inside the opposites it is relentlessly creative, but there is no solid ground from which to orient. Some sort of death has occurred, and we know that things cannot stay the same. Something is calling, reaching back into the present from a future that is marinating in the womb of Now. But what will be reborn from the ashes is not yet known.
Rather than scramble out of death and into rebirth prematurely, stay in the fire. It is unknown here, naked and fresh, and pregnant with essence. See that death does not need to be “healed” or “transformed,” for it is outrageous, wild, and utterly pure on its own. Enter inside the broken and discover the raw life that is found only here.
If you remain too identified with “falling apart,” you lose contact with innate radiance, and become misattuned to the flow of embodied experience as it is. You disconnect with the magic of presence, with the wisdom of the earth, and the realization that nothing is wrong with you. You forget that the darkness, when provided sanctuary, is brighter than a thousand suns.
But if you remain too identified with “holding it all together,” you disconnect from natural vulnerability and the spontaneous mystery as it appears, turning from the surging reality that things could fall apart and reorganize at any moment. It is true that raw, tender heartbreak could approach at any time, requesting safe passage inside you. But it is through this broken aliveness that the poetry of your life will flow.
Right in the middle of “falling apart” and “holding it together” is the secret place. Stay there. It is here where you will find the rest you are longing for, the remedy to the exhaustion of becoming. It is here where the light and the dark are in union, where integration and disintegration emerge as one in love, and where lunar and solar weave together particles of the sacred world.
Photo by Donnchadh Murphy
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
When sitting with a friend in pain, it may not be the moment to provide answers, but to hold them as you confront the vastness of the question together. They are not a project to be solved, but a mystery of love unfolding into form. At times, there is no apparent solution, but only raw, naked life, as it erupts in a sensitive nervous system. Care for them, hold their hand, make them some tea… walk with them into the fire of their immediate experience, trusting in its validity and intelligence. They are vast and contain multitudes.
The invitation is to stay in the complexity, the contradictions, and the energy of the opposites, for it is alive here and overflowing with a nonordinary wisdom. Dare to affirm with the earth as your witness: Pain is not pathology. Confusion is not pathology. Heartbreak is not pathology. Only path, this time appearing in a fierce and wrathful form. In ways the mind may always struggle to understand, at times grace will appear as darkness… but it is still grace nonetheless, come to re-order and seed meaning.
At these times, it is not usually answers that are most helpful, or strategies, techniques, and teachings. Give them the gift of a regulated, soothed nervous system, one that is not urgently scrambling for a cure. For it is your presence that will relieve them of the burden that they must transform, “get over it,” or “heal” in order for you to stay close.
Yes, something is attempting to break through, but just what that is cannot be known in a field of urgency, which is very unsafe, for it is not able to circle and provide sanctuary for the sensitivity, the vulnerability, and the tender unfolding of a heart in pain.
Slowly accompany them as they return into their window of tolerance. Contain the fire with the cooling rain of nonjudgmental, empathic attunement. Once some calm has returned, listen carefully as they attempt to make meaning of their experience, explore together the purpose of their symptoms, and stay close as they attempt to make sense of their life. Construct a crucible together in which the feelings, thoughts, and sensations can be held and integrated, weaved into a larger vision of who they are and honoring what is most important to them.
Within this sanctuary, which is alchemical by its nature, even pain, hopelessness, and confusion are revealed to be harbingers of integration, disguised messengers of soma and psyche who have come to herald new life. As your perception is cleansed, the purity of these ones will clarify, and their purpose will become known.
Photo by Johnny Franzen
Monday, May 8, 2017
It is so alive in the forest today, the light losing and finding itself: the yin, the moist, and the receptive, overflowing with Shakti and the golden wet essence. It is ripe and the moon is here… the unseen ones have gathered for an extraordinary meeting.
The honored guests are hidden members of the inner family: the achy, confused, and vulnerable ones, and the one who is uncertain about what is coming next. The one who has lost hope, unsure about why she is here, unable to fit into a world that has become lost in the trance of becoming.
It is pregnant here and so open, but too wild and imaginative to conform to your hopes, fears, and the way you thought it was all going to turn out. Here the grand project of self-improvement has no meaning, for the crucible is enchanted with love, no longer any possibility for the perception of an “incomplete moment.”
Yes, it can seem the guests are obstacles along the way, clouding your path and interfering with your longing for intimacy and aliveness. But in one moment of embodiment and clear seeing, it is revealed that the path is everywhere, and that the nature of any obstacle, when metabolized in luminous awareness, is pure wisdom, none other than the direct way home.
Something is being reorganized, but it’s not possible to know who you will be on the other side. It’s just too unprecedented. The activity of love is relentless, sending its high-voltage emissaries of deflation, shakiness, and melancholy to reveal wholeness and the unfolding reality of the natural great perfection.
Drop into the muddy earth by way of the descendent current and into the sacredness and purity of matter. Here, the seemingly solid dividing line between awareness and the forms which arise within it falls away and dissolves into the holding of the stars.
Love will continue to appear in new and ever-creative configurations, so that it may seed new forms in the majesty of the here and now. And in the union of inner and outer nature, form and formless are revealed to be one, of the same substance.
What you are is magic. Your heart is magic. Please don’t forget what you are.
Photo: deep in the light-forest of Karnaistenkorpi, Finland
Saturday, May 6, 2017
On the path of the heart you will never be asked to “get rid of your story,” as if it were some defilement to cleansed perception. At times you will wear it as an ornament and at other times you can set it down, allowing it to rest from a long journey, picking it up again and playing with its textures, colors, and fragrances, dancing in the contradictions as you open into the mystery.
We human beings are storytellers. Go ahead, tell one. Then listen carefully as the characters, plots, and settings share their wish to be authored in more integrated forms. Practice intimacy with your story, touching the beauty, the pain, the joy, and the heartbreak of your life as it has unfolded over the months and years. Hold it close, but not so close that you become engulfed and lose perspective. What you are is pure imagination, as the great tantric master Willy Wonka reminds us.
What story are you telling? It is a kind one? Does it represent the deepest truths you have discovered about your experience? It is alive? Is it whole? Does it embrace you as you fall into the mystery? Is it rooted in the actuality and raging creativity of the here and now, or is it a remnant of an outdated there and then?
Hold your stories close and allow them to breathe and share their soul. There’s no need to be afraid. You will not be tainted, or lose your way, or fall from grace, or lose your “powerful” nondual realization. Come into the playground of the relative world, with all its richness and color. You need not fuse with it or become lost, but enter inside as a courageous archeologist of the heart. Because you care about this place, about how you and your sisters and brothers are making meaning of a crazy world, a world that has forgotten, and fallen into trance.
Go ahead, get messy, get gooey, send your awareness into the untidy, the chaotic, and into the muddy earth that is your glorious body and imagination, for there is no greater temple. End the spirituality of disembodiment and aggression, and dare to care for form as much as formlessness. For it is equally sacred. Cradle the form in your arms as you would a newborn baby, as it aches to come alive here and share its essence.
We’re all storytellers. This seems to be a unique expression of being human, of interacting with our world and exploring its meaning, its purpose, and its contours. We don’t know if a rose tells a story about itself, or a deer, or the moon, or an owl. In any event, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about or to think of as lesser than other modes of being and expression.
Even your story is pure when met with eyes wide open, a luminous and irreplaceable expression of the mystery that you are. What you are is pure imagination.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
When our embodied, subjective experience is empathically held by another, our nervous systems down-regulate, our minds soften, our hearts open, and we come into a primordial sort of rest.
While our true nature as open, luminous awareness is the ultimate holding environment, as relational beings we are wired to rest within a relational matrix. To enter into this field with another, woven and constructed by the alchemical substances of presence and of space, is one of the great mysteries of the play of formlessness and form.
As we dance in the contradictions of self- and other- holding, we become a vessel through which the opposites of separation and union can unfold here. While the mind will spin to resolve the mystery, it was placed inside you by love itself, which by its nature is unresolvable, untamable, outrageous, and wild.
Never forget the transformative power of just one moment of pure kindness and what it can do in a person’s life … that person including yourself. It is wide awake, in perfect balance, and is the activity of revolution.
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
It is so natural to long for deep relationship with another, a fellow traveler with whom to explore the mysteries of intimacy. Someone with whom you can walk into the uncharted lands of the heart, unsure where the journey will lead but pulled by the call to union.
“I want to share the burning,” you cry out! The tenderness, the joy, and the aliveness of what it means to enter into partnership with the holy other. To no longer hold back, to give everything to remove the remaining shreds of separation, and no longer postpone what you know is possible. This yearning is pure and can be honored for its authenticity and power.
In response to this primordial call, the “other” appears. Sadness rushes onto the scene: “But when will you practice intimacy with me?” Loneliness is next, pleading for a moment of your undistracted attention. Anger, despair, grief, self-loathing, jealousy, fear, and shame: “Us too! Please do not abandon us, and turn away for some projected lover! We are here and long to share our essence. Your prayer for true intimacy has been answered!”
Um … okay, but this is not what you expected. This response simply does not conform to your fantasies of the way you thought it would be. Where is the soul mate? The twin flame? The “good other” come to remove the existential flatness, the unbearable loneliness, the penetrating emptiness, and to confirm who it is you think you are.
Out of your genuine yearning, the ancient companions will always respond, as an embodied confrontation with the unconscious is required in order to realize intimate union. The lost soul pieces come not as enemies but as true, faithful lovers, seeking just one moment of your presence, attunement, and the light of your holding. While they remember being rejected in the past, they come nonetheless, never losing faith in the undivided condition of your true nature.
As you go deeper, you will encounter a profound truth along the way: you will never be able to be more intimate with another than you are with the unwanted lovers within. If you have not provided shelter for the unmet within you, how will you ever contain the wholeness that is the beloved?
Art by Cameron Gray