Thursday, November 29, 2018

A small light of hope


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 failed 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 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 wilder, more vast, more imaginative, accurate, integrated story can be told in the here and now, replacing the time machine of the “there and then.” A new dream can be dreamed. New cloth can be woven. It is possible. I have been honored to witness this reorganization in the lives of many courageous women and men over the years. It is not easy work and asks everything of us.

Let us remind one another of this revolutionary possibility, especially during times of profound suffering, that there is hope. That while the narrative of shame and unworthiness can feel so entrenched—and the corresponding feelings so overwhelming—it is possible to replace the pathways of abandonment and aggression with empathy and kindness. Over time the traumatic narrative can be re-crafted, new meaning can be discovered, and new life can be found. New breath can be breathed. Even in the core of the most profound hopelessness, a small light of hope is buried there, the flame is still alive.


Art by Jonny Lindner


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

The next book, The Unfolding Heart, will be published by Sounds True in early 2020, details to come

The next event is The Healing Shame Retreat: Spiritual Awakening and Transforming the Core Wound of Unworthiness, April 24-29, 2019 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado, with co-facilitator Jeff Foster 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

On this new Thanksgiving day


On this new Thanksgiving day, it is so easy to take for granted that tomorrow will come – that another opportunity will be given to witness a sunrise, to spend a moment with those we love, to be astonished at the crystals in the newly fallen snow, to behold the majesty of the deer on our morning walk.

But another part knows it is so fragile here, so precarious, so outrageously precious, and that this opening into life will not be here forever. In a future moment, breath will no longer be given and we will be asked to say goodbye.

Remembering this, let us honor this new day by no longer postponing our lives, by not waiting any longer to participate, by living what truly matters, becoming a vessel in which love can come alive here.

Doing whatever we can to help others, so that they feel felt when we are together. To slow down, look at and listen to them and honor the validity of their inner experience, to bear witness to the sacredness of an unfolding human soul. To stay attuned to the ways they are longing to find meaning in a world that at times can seem so lost.

At the end of this life, it is unlikely we'll be asking if we accomplished all the tasks on our to-do lists, manifested all the things we dreamed we wanted, played it safe, perfected ourselves, or “mastered” life.

In that moment, there may be only one burning question left: how well did I love?

Did I pause each day to truly touch a moment and experience it all the way through, entering into communion with the unknown activity of the beloved as it emerges here? Was I willing to take a risk, to feel more, to care deeply about this life and to allow it all to matter?

What is it that remains unlived… for you? And what will you give to know this? To break the trance of postponement, end the spell of unworthiness, and illuminate the dream that tomorrow is always going to come.

The bounty and the harvest of thanksgiving is upon you, always already here, the true Kingdom, erupting in the here and now as the cells of your very own heart.

I hope I make it all the way through this sweetest of ever thanksgiving days, but if for some reason I do not, this would have been enough. I have been given so much more than enough.


Photo by Carl De Souza


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

The next book, The Unfolding Heart, will be published by Sounds True in early 2020, details to come

The next event is The Healing Shame Retreat: Spiritual Awakening and Transforming the Core Wound of Unworthiness, April 24-29, 2019 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado, with co-facilitator Jeff Foster 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

A more subtle inquiry


It is the activity of compassion to get subtler and more nuanced with the way we tend to our experience, especially during times of emotional activation. Often, it can seem that we are attuned while in some ways we are orbiting around it. If we assume “oh yes, I know what this is,” we lose touch with the mysterious unknown of this moment's thoughts, feelings, images, and sensations, which have never until now made their way here.

If “sitting with” our experience is oriented in the (often subtle) agenda to change, shift, understand, or even “heal” it, it sets up a condition where we may not be able to get too close, as we can unknowingly reinforce earlier conclusions that certain experience is not okay, unsafe, or otherwise evidence that something is wrong with us. Further, if we practice certain forms of psychological or spiritual inquiry which consciously (or otherwise) pathologize or shame certain emotional experience, we only entrench ourselves deeper into unconscious shadowlands through further dissociation and subtle attacking of our own vulnerability.

At some point in our developmental history the conclusion that certain experience is unworkable was of course accurate, as staying embodied to these feelings was overwhelming, dysregulating, or it disrupted a tie with an early attachment figure, releasing unbearable anxiety that we did not have the capacity to metabolize. In response, we learned to dissociate/ immobilize, on the one hand or to mobilize/ spin into action (via sympathetic fight/ flight) as the best ways we knew to care for ourselves. This was not an expression of neurosis, pathology, or error, but one of intelligence and creativity.


The invitation is to honor these protective strategies as they saved our lives, if not physically, then certainly psychically. And to slowly begin to discover if we still require this same level of protection. To what degree are these strategies serving (or an obstacle to) our longing to feel open, alive, intimate, and connected with life?

This wiring to get in there and resolve it all, change, shift, and transform, while perfectly natural can also be an expression of the old circuitry of self-aggression and self-abandonment, which is a reflection of how our emotional world was received and responded to an at earlier time. To not meet this discovery with further shame and attack, but to use this sacred data to encode a new way.

And at the end of the day to return to the mystery of this human heart and open tender body and brain as we navigate the territory of love.



Photo by annegru/ H├╝ttenberg via Pixabay

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

The next book, The Unfolding Heart, will be published by Sounds True in early 2020, details to come

The next event is The Healing Shame Retreat: Spiritual Awakening and Transforming the Core Wound of Unworthiness, April 24-29, 2019 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado, with co-facilitator Jeff Foster 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Shadow and the inner healer


At times, each of us is asked to carry the projection of another’s inner healer, which they have lost touch with, a part of themselves which is already whole, despite the confusion they may be experiencing. To bear witness to the struggle of a friend or stranger in a world that seems to have gone a bit mad.

It takes practice to tend to this projection without becoming identified with it. More than anything it requires us to be in touch with our own darkness and unconscious contents we will inevitably contribute to the relational field. Unfortunately, many are not aware of shadow or have the fantasy they have transcended it, the latter of which can be incredibly dangerous.

The goal is to return the projection back to them according to a timeline that is not premature while also not holding on for too long. Navigating this territory with the other is more art than science and often requires some messy experimentation.

It is an act of compassion to allow this projection when needed (and to cut through it when it is no longer serving) and to provide a relational container that can help the other relocate these qualities within themselves. To not shame them for this very ordinary activity, but to validate their genuine longing to reunite with qualities of hope, wisdom, mercy, and wholeness that they may (temporarily) have lost contact with within themselves.

There is often a negative connotation to projection, but we are all doing it all the time; such is the nature of the psyche. It’s so human, really. Without projection, it is difficult to work with the contents of the shadow as they, by definition, remain obscured. The goal is not to never project, but to bring more and more consciousness to the ways we locate subjective psychic states onto others, into the relational field, and into the collective.

It is by way of this increasing consciousness that over time we can withdraw the projection, re-own both positive and negative shadow so that we do not place the burden of its metabolization on another. Through doing so we can bring some relief to this world which seems to need it so badly.


Photo of Cathedral Cove by Pawel Papis

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

The next book, The Unfolding Heart, will be published by Sounds True in early 2020, details to come

The next event is The Healing Shame Retreat: Spiritual Awakening and Transforming the Core Wound of Unworthiness, April 24-29, 2019 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado, with co-facilitator Jeff Foster 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Untangling the early template of self-abandonment


Some are put in the position of emotionally caring for an adult early in their lives at a time they themselves need more than anything to have their own inner world mirrored back to them. To be seen as a subject with an interiority, not merely as a narcissistic reflection of the other. Until reorganized, this template orients the way we see ourselves and engage in close relationship.

In these early configurations, the little one’s sense of self becomes tangled up in the other’s moods, anxiety, and injured self-esteem. The job of the little one is shifted from unstructured play and discovery into tending 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 interested, we can explore how this template might be at play: in our phobias around having/ expressing needs, in the fear around disappointing someone, in the hesitation 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 primordial disavowal of our own psyche, body, and heart.

Having come to see our own self-worth through the changing psychic states of those around us, we find ourselves wondering: Have I disappointed them? What can I do to make them feel better? Should I take more responsibility for the unfulfilled longing in their hearts? They are upset, 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’ll do anything to receive even a limited amount of psychic (and physical) holding.

Accessing, 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, and unlived life of others. To withdraw the projection of our own basic goodness from others and locate it inside ourselves. This withdrawal is a great act of kindness – for ourselves, the other, and for the world.

It is by way of this disentangling that we can truly love ourselves and others and act from the radical force of true compassion, not merely re-enact the old pathways of self-abandonment and empathic failure.


Photo by Andreas/ adage via Pixabay


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

The next book, The Unfolding Heart, will be published by Sounds True in early 2020, details to come

The next event is The Healing Shame Retreat: Spiritual Awakening and Transforming the Core Wound of Unworthiness, April 24-29, 2019 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado, with co-facilitator Jeff Foster