Dear friend, I hope this note finds you well in the new year. I know that for many 2017 was one of great transition and transformation, internally as well as in our relationships and work in the world.
I want to thank you for continuing to share your lives and journeys with me. Turning toward our vulnerability - with empathy, curiosity, and compassion - is one of the essences of this path, replacing older pathways of self-abandonment with new circuitry of presence, attunement, and kindness.
How to stay close to the intensity of emotion, feeling, and uncertainty while not becoming overwhelmed by it all? How do we dance and play in that alive middle territory, practicing intimacy with our inner experience without falling down the rabbit hole of rumination, shame, and self-aggression? Intimacy without fusion - this is our invitation into the alchemy of the heart and ongoing discovery of the sacred world.
There is a wisdom and unique light located inside the darkness, wired into our emotions, and hidden in the core of the symptom, but new levels of insight, self-compassion, and clear-seeing are required to mine the jewels that we discover there. This is the call to an emotionally-sensitive, somatically-aware, and cognitively-flexible journey of wholeness, and the foundation of a grounded, mature spiritual realization.
I look forward to seeing many of you in the months to come! Registration is now open for The Place the Light Enters retreat with myself and Jeff Foster in Colorado in April. We will take registration in the order it is received and do expect the program to sell out. Learn more here.
In June 2018, I’ll be offering a weekend intensive (also in Colorado) - The Path is Everywhere - where we’ll spend a few days resting together, and exploring the nature of this emotionally-sensitive, somatically-grounded spirituality and what healing and awakening might look like in the context of our ordinary lives. Registration will open on February 1 and will likely be limited to a smaller group than usual. Learn more here.
At this time, I have no plans to offer any retreats or intensives outside Colorado.
My latest book, The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You, is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. If you’ve enjoyed my writing over the years – and found it helpful in your life and work – I’d really appreciate if you’d be so kind as to leave a review at the book’s Amazon page. You can read the foreword to the book here.
Finally, while my in-person therapy practice remains closed to new clients, I do offer periodic counseling and consulting via phone, Skype, and FaceTime. To learn more about these sessions - and to access the availability calendar - please visit my website.
Wishing you well in 2018 and sending my love from the sandy Florida beaches (via the deep winter of Finland)!
THE ERUPTION OF A CORE VULNERABILITY
When caught in the grip of an ancient, limiting belief; when you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of unworthiness, shame, and blame, convinced that something is wrong with you; or when a core vulnerability has erupted and is coloring perception… the outline of a new path appears.
It starts with the willingness to pause, to slow way down, to cut the momentum, and to allow the visitors safe passage, to provide sanctuary for the allies of wholeness, as they bring light to hidden places.
For just one moment, shift your sacred life force out of the repetitive thinking, for it has lost its freshness, spontaneity, and creativity. It can be re-enchanted at a later time, after you’ve tended to the raw life that has come from beyond.
Rather than trying to understand, transform, or heal the old voices (you’ve tried a million times), just this one time instead descend into the mystery and the non-conceptual aliveness of the body. Drop into the vastness of space. Use your breath to enter into that field of not-knowing and into pure imagination.
Open your senses and meet what has come, what has found you in the inner temple. Listen. See. Touch. Feel. Sense.
Attend to the fire as it blazes. Allow the slow, healing rains of kindness to soak your belly, your throat, and your heart. As awareness begins to drift back up into the old, vivid, compelling story of what has gone wrong, gently return it into the open field.
Attend to the flow of energy as it circulates. Hold yourself in a new way. At a later moment, from the ground of a calm, soothed, spacious nervous system, you can go back in and explore meaning. You can engage thinking from the spirit of play, re-authoring and re-enchanting the words, discovering a new story and new purpose.
In a moment of activation, you need not follow the ancient path of self-abandonment, shame, blame, and self-aggression, especially during times when you need yourself more than ever. Choose something different. Just this time. Even for one or two seconds, that is enough. A new world is born from that.
THE TRANSFORMATIVE ART OF RUPTURE AND REPAIR
It is no secret that, for many, intimate relationship is one of the great amplifiers of the unlived life. We can count on our partners to relentlessly illuminate everything that is longing for wholeness within us. Not because they have some agenda to do so, but simply by the nature of the crucible that forms when we allow another to truly matter to us.
We come to our relationships with an already-existing patterning that formed long ago, crafted of both personal and collective material. While this template can be updated and itself longs for reorganization into more integrated forms, until reconfiguration it has a way of looming over us and coloring our perception. It functions in large part by way of a time machine where, when activated, it is as if we have left the “here and now,” crossed the liminal, and found ourselves back in the “there and then.”
There are aspects of ourselves that are aching to come out of the shadows and into the warmth of holding awareness. Not to harm, but as forerunners and emissaries of wholeness. There is nothing like a close relationship to remind us of the orphaned emotions, feelings, and vulnerable parts of ourselves that have lost their way in the tangle of somatic and psychic pathways. They are exhausted from a long voyage to reach us, but have not given up.
The reminder of this truth by way of intimacy can at times be a bit agonizing, as the beloved may seem to have extraordinary powers to open the raw, tender, and naked dimensions of our being. But this achiness is sacred and its embodied exploration is holy. Inside the ache is a jewel. Go there.
Please be kind to your partners in response to the inevitable conflict that will arise as you make this journey together. Learning how to harness the energy of conflict – and to engage it directly, skillfully, and with an open heart – is essential on the path of intimacy, and requires the encoding of new circuitry.
The transformative art of rupture and repair is one that is endlessly profound, revealing that relationships of vast depth and meaning are not those which are free of conflict, but those where working through conflict is embraced as path, as a unique and transmutative vessel of purification, love, and healing.
This is a difficult and alchemical realization to come by, and one that is unfortunately not all that popular in a world that has forgotten the gold that has been buried in the dark. But here we are. It is up to us to bring these fruits into the collective.
SPIRIT BURIED INSIDE MATTER
The difficult emotions, the confusion, the struggle, and the heartbreak. The fear, the doubt, the ending of the relationship that was supposed to last forever. On any true path, we must confront and integrate the ending of dreams, the dissolution of one world so that another may emerge.
The hopelessness, the struggle, the devastation of the crushed longing. The disappointment that it was never going to turn out the way we thought. The painful wondering if we’ve done something wrong, if somehow we’ve failed.
These are the raw materials we have to work with on the path of the heart. Place them on the altar in front of you and bless them with safe passage. You need not transcend your vulnerability, problems, or neurosis to know this. For inside the broken is a wisdom found only there.
Sadness has something to show you that joy could never provide. Inside aloneness is a secret offering that can never be found in connection. Hopelessness, when entered, reveals meaning that hope is unable to reveal.
It is pure and creative inside the symptom, but remains unseen in the overemphasis on becoming and in the tragic loss of imagination. But the alchemists and tantrikas and the unseen ones and the moon, the sun, and the stars have come to remind us. To re-enchant the imaginal and pull back the curtain to reveal the gold behind the veil.
There is spirt buried inside matter. Multiplicity is just as holy as oneness. The dual and the nondual are not two. There is no separation between the raw tender feelings and the flow of wisdom essence. Each are made of the same substance.
“What about my passion?!” Rumi demands of God.
God says, “Keep it burning.”
“What about my heart?” asks Rumi.
“Tell me what you hold inside it,” says God.
“Pain and sorrow,” says Rumi.
God says, “Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
While the trance that there is something wrong with you is sticky and seductive, slow down, unplug from the unreal, and listen. Feel. Sense. We are conditioned to find a problem where there is an invitation. Place your hands on your heart. Attune to the aliveness of the inner body. Follow the breath back into essence.
UNTANGLING THE PATHWAYS
Some are put in the position of emotionally taking care of an adult early in their lives, at a time when they themselves need more than anything to have their own inner experience mirrored back to them. A template is formed which, until compassionately confronted with clear seeing, orients the way they see themselves and engage in close, intimate relationship.
In these early configurations, the little one’s sense of self becomes tangled up in the other’s moods, anxiety, dissatisfaction, and well-being. The job of the little one is shifted from unstructured play and discovery into attending to the unlived life of a caretaker, a task that is not designed for a young nervous system, nor for a tender little heart.
If we look carefully, we might see how this template continues to play out in our lives. In our phobias around having/ expressing needs, in fixation on whether we’ve disappointed someone and what that means about us as a person, in the shakiness around allowing another to matter. In the terror of relationship, on the one hand, and in the painful longing for it on the other. In the existential confusion about where we end and the other begins. In the ancient conclusion that caring for another requires a deeply rooted disavowal of our own psyche, body, and heart.
We come to see our own self-worth through the changing emotional states of those around us, on guard at all times: Have I disappointed someone? What can I do to make them feel better? Should I take more responsibility for the unfulfilled longing in their hearts? They are heartbroken, surely that is somehow traceable back to me, right? I’ve failed somehow, right? As a little one longing for any sort of empathic connection, we’d be willing to do just about anything to receive even a limited amount of holding.
Articulating, illuminating, and untangling the tentacles of this template can go a long way in healing chronic feelings of shame and unworthiness, where we begin to differentiate our worth as a person from the moods, suffering, struggle, and unlived life of others. The invitation is to withdraw the projection of our own worth from others and locate it inside ourselves. This withdrawal is a great act of kindness, both for ourselves and the world. And also for them.
For it is by way of this disentangling that we can love ourselves, and others, and act from the radical force of true compassion, not merely re-enact the old pathways of self-abandonment
My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available