Sunday, November 17, 2019

Both separate and connected


In close personal relationships, it is important to emphasize a secure attachment bond and the co-regulation of challenging emotional states. To practice kindness toward our lovers and friends, listen to the way they are making sense of their experience, attune to what they are feeling, and hold them during difficult times. To take the risk to allow them to matter and share our vulnerability, prioritizing connection and its value in our lives.

It is also essential to be on the lookout for unhealthy fusion, honoring the reality that we are not only connected, but also separate. Any secure attachment must include healthy differentiation, where at times the most skillful activity will be to establish firm boundaries, assert our independence, emphasize our own personal integrity, and allow the other to struggle with feelings of aloneness, uncertainty, and confusion.

At times we will disappoint those we love, and this will activate our historic core vulnerabilities. For many of us, disappointing another is not okay. It’s just not safe. The consequences could be devastating. There is an urgent impulse to do whatever possible to prevent the shattering of their heart and the achy confrontation with their own unlived life. But we must see if this is really the activity of love or if it is something else. To allow the other to meet the reality of their own heart is an act of profound mercy and compassion.

While from a transpersonal perspective, we can speak about unity and oneness, within the relative we are also distinct, each with our own unique histories and ways of organizing our experience. Each with our own fate and relationship with the divine. With our own path to travel. To dissolve these differences into some homogenized spiritual middle does not honor the sacredness of form.

If we do not consciously explore the reality of our separateness, it will inevitably express itself in less than conscious ways – in tangled, looping, and unproductive conflict – unleashing unmetabolized shadow into the relational field. Like all work of depth, this art form evolves slowly, as it marinates and cooks in the alchemical vessel of the body.

May we be kind to our partners as we navigate this territory together, honoring the vehicle of intimacy as one of the most transformative, sacred, and challenging that we have in our modern world.



Photo by Manfred Richter



Our annual spring retreat will take place April 22-27, 2020 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado, with myself and Jeff Foster. Please stay tuned to our websites, Facebook pages, and this blog for additional information. Tickets will go on sale on January 1. 

My online community, co-facilitated with Jeff Foster - Befriending Yourself: Meditative, Nondual, and Depth Psychological Perspectives - is currently closed to new members. To learn about the program and put your name on the mailing list for future re-opens, please visit the site here


My most recent book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. 

My next book, A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times, will be published by Sounds True in 2020. 



Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The mystery of the "Other"


It is so natural to long for deep relationship with another, a fellow traveler with whom to navigate the twists and turns, to explore the uncharted lands of the heart and wild terrain of the body. To enter the dark and light places and seed them together with shared essence.

In our own unique ways, we call out for union, to no longer postpone entry into the temple. This yearning is pure, valid, and can be honored for its authenticity. While it may seem that we are forsaken, the return message is always given. It is found inside the longing, within the core of the burning and not in its resolution.

Alas, the prayer is heard. In response, the “other” appears. But is it the one we imagined? The holy other does not always appear in external form, but often as shards and pieces of soul, and luminous light-fragments of the heart.

Sadness rushes onto the scene: “When will you practice intimacy with me?” Loneliness is next, pleading for a moment of your undistracted attention. Shame, rage, despair, grief, jealousy, fear: “We are here too. Do not abandon us and turn away for some other lover.”

When we make the call for the other to return, the ancient ones will always respond, spinning and shifting the forms of the phenomenal world, arranging meetings and encounters with the emanations in all their glory and mess.

These ones arrive not as enemy to disrupt, but as the most true, faithful lover, never able to truly abandon you. Not to harm but to illuminate. Not to fragment but to seed wholeness.

In that encounter, we are reminded that we will never be able to be more intimate with another than we are with the unwanted lovers within. If we do not provide sanctuary and safe passage for the unmet inside, how will we ever truly recognize, breathe, and play with the beloved in external form?



Photo by Bettina Güber



My online community, co-facilitated with Jeff Foster - Befriending Yourself: Meditative, Nondual, and Depth Psychological Perspectives - is currently closed to new members. To learn about the program and put your name on the mailing list for future re-opens, please visit the site here


My most recent book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. 

My next book, A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times, will be published by Sounds True in 2020. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The purity of sadness


It's okay to feel sad, to be uncertain about it all, to be melancholic, to lament, and to grieve.

Despite the madness of our world and a collective disembodiment to the blue shades of the spectrum, these states are not evidence that something is wrong with you, that you have failed, that you need to meditate more, pray harder, become better at staying in the present moment, manifest the opposite of sadness, or that you are lost or beyond redemption.

It is high-voltage evidence that you are alive, with a tender beating heart, subtle and perceptive mirror neurons, and senses that are open to the chaotic glory of being a human being who is simultaneously broken and whole.

Just in this one moment, be sad. Fully. Not partially. Go inside the sadness. Find the sad one there. Speak with her, listen to him, feel what she is feeling, see what he is seeing, stay embodied to the reality that you are a vessel, a temple where the lost orphans of psyche and soma can come to rest.

Separate a bit from the visitors so you do not fuse with them. Dare to go close, but not too close. Intimacy without fusion. Relationship without merging, honoring your own integrity and perspective. Find the boundary which is provocative, but not flooding. Enter the middle. Provide sanctuary and safe passage for the broken pieces to unfold and illuminate. For they, too, are filled with light.

Sadness is not something you need to fix, cure, or transform. It need not be healed but held. You need not shift sadness into some “higher” state or apply teachings so that it will yield into something else. For it is complete and pure on its own.

With the fire of awareness and the ally of your breath, descend into your belly, touch your heart, tend to your throat. Go on a journey into the core of the feeling, the sensations, images, and the raw, shaky life that is longing to be held. And listen.

It is by way of this journey that sadness will be revealed to be what it is, a secret wisdom-guide and bridge into the universal heart, a messenger of power, mercy, and fierce compassion that wants you as its midwife.



Photo by Anemone123/ Österreich



My online community, co-facilitated with Jeff Foster - Befriending Yourself: Meditative, Nondual, and Depth Psychological Perspectives - is currently closed to new members. To learn about the program and put your name on the mailing list for future re-opens, please visit the site here



My most recent book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. 

My next book, A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times, will be published by Sounds True in 2020. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Slowly, one moment at a time


It is important to realize that the path of opening the heart is not the same as becoming an open, leaky vessel for the unloading of another’s unconscious shadow. It is to the degree that we are attuned to the “inner other” within that we will be able to skillfully respond to the projections of the external other upon us.

Most of us we were not trained in this embodied attunement and this level of holding was not encoded into the nervous system of a little one longing for a field ripe enough to contain the magic and brilliance of a unique, unfolding emotional world.

Despite early relational trauma, inconsistent empathic mirroring, and disorganized narratives of attachment, you can learn and practice this now. You can experience reunion with the disavowed inner other and play with him or her, re-embodying to the flow of pure feeling, vision, and imagination.

While appearing “compassionate” on the outside, being an emotional doormat involves the re-enacting of early, unconscious organization. We learned that devaluing ourselves was the most reliable 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. This activity was not neurotic, but was lifesaving, creative, and intelligent from the perspective of a little one longing for life.

But the pathways within you are luminous and ache for reorganization by way of the slower circuitries of empathy, curiosity, wonderment, and awe. More than anything it requires a new commitment and vow to dissolve the trance of self-abandonment, especially in a moment of emotional activation.

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 your inner and outer breath, seed the somatic field with holding and attunement, receive the longing for an update to your holy nervous system, and lay down a new pathway.

Slowly, one moment at a time. There is no longer any urgency. There is no urgency on the path of love.




My online community, co-facilitated with Jeff Foster - Befriending Yourself: Meditative, Nondual, and Depth Psychological Perspectives - is currently closed to new members. To learn about the program and put your name on the mailing list for future re-opens, please visit the site here


My most recent book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. 

My next book, A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times, will be published by Sounds True in 2020. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Anger as portal


At times, the visitor of rage, of blazing anger, will push its way into conscious awareness. An ancient companion that was split off at an earlier time, a valid and sane response to terror, abuse, neglect, and boundary violation... the natural reaction to narcissistic injury and a deeply misattuned world. While it may feel like this one has come to harm or take you down, things are not always as they seem.

In just this one moment, receive and touch this anger. Be touched by it, for just one second, or two. Fully. Not partially. Speak with the angry one, listen to them. At a pace that is provocative, yet safe-enough, feel what he is feeling, see what she is seeing, imagine what they have come to imagine; be a vessel where this one can find sanctuary and safe passage from an exhausting journey. Open a dialogue into relationship with this forgotten soul-part who has returned, longing to be allowed back home.

We all know the tragic effects of disavowing our anger and our rage, denying this one a seat at the table of Being. But sending it into the underworld does not purge or heal. Pretending we’re never angry, discharging it in unconscious behaviors, or engaging a fantasy that it’s not “spiritual” to have feelings of rage only allows it to gain energy like a psychic tornado, spinning and gathering force within shadow where it will eventually surge, often in ways that can be incredibly destructive.

Separate a bit from the anger so you do not fuse with it. The invitation is to move close, but not too close. Intimacy without fusion, honoring your own integrity as you enter the interactional field. “I will enter relationship with you but will not merge with you. I am listening. I will no longer deny you, but nor will I be flooded and taken over by you. I will meet you in the middle.”

Find the boundary which is provocative, but not overwhelming. In this liminal, in-between state, we neither deny, repress, dissociate, or split, but nor do we fall in, drown, and act out in unhealthy, habitual, and addictive ways. In the alchemical middle, anger and rage are not toxins which we must expunge from what we are, but intense and wrathful energies that are an organic part of the human psyche and only long to be integrated and provided their rightful home. They are life itself, wanting to be known, here to serve a vital function, but they must be understood, digested, touched, and metabolized in order for their intelligence to flow.

In this sense, anger is not something that needs to be fixed, cured, or even healed. It is not a sin nor is its wavelike appearance evidence that you have failed, fallen short, are not “spiritual,” or have fallen into a pathological state. It is evidence that you are alive, that you have a human nervous system, that you are in touch with sacred life energy, albeit an energy that is often misunderstood. It is not the anger or the rage that is the problem, but its repression, dissociation, and the unhealthy acting out of these energies in an unconscious, disembodied way that can be so devastating.

With the fire of curiosity, deep care, and the commitment to no longer abandon yourself—and with the ally of the breath as your guide—descend into your belly, touch your heart, open a portal to your throat. Find the anger lodged into your somatic being, hiding out and pleading for reunion, buried in the old stories and in the unfelt emotions. Make a journey into the core of the rage and feel the feelings, sense the sensations, and touch the raw, shaky life that is longing to be held. Dare to see this one not as enemy, but a wrathful ally and harbinger of integration.

It is by way of this journey that anger will be revealed to be what it is, a secret wisdom-guide and bridge into the universal heart, a messenger of power, clarity, and fierce compassion that wants you as its midwife. In ways that seem contradictory and paradoxical, befriending this anger opens a portal into connection with others—others external to us as well as lost figures and pieces of soul within—so that we may live and move and dance with them in ways that are skillful, wise, sensitive, and compassionate.



Image of the Tibetan female protector, Palden Lhamo



Learn more about Befriending Yourself, my online community co-facilitated with Jeff Foster here


My most recent book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. 

My next book, A Healing Space: Befriending Yourself in Difficult Times, will be published by Sounds True in 2020. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Befriending Yourself online community - registration closes 16 October


Dear friends,

A reminder that my online community, Befriending Yourself: Discovering the Beauty in the Wounded and Broken Places, is open to new members through Wednesday, 16 October, upon which time it will close for the remainder of 2019. 

Each month, members receive teaching videos, guided meditations, live interactive sessions, and a private Facebook group where we explore together a contemporary, embodied, emotionally-attuned, and shadow-sensitive approach to spirituality and healing, from the comfort and convenience of your own home. 

To learn more about the the community or to register, please visit the program page here

Sending love,
Matt

P.S. If you were unable to attend our recent free live webinar - The Courage to Be Broken: Discovering the Beauty in Our Vulnerable and Wounded Places - you can watch the replay here






Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Life hidden in the shadow


Usually when we speak about parts of ourselves that we have disowned and placed into the shadow, we're referring to less desirable material such as jealousy, rage, selfishness, and shame. Usually, the shadow is seen as the dark repository for all the so-called negative aspects of ourselves, i.e. our unhealthy dependency, unacknowledged narcissism, unmet hopelessness, and the entirety of our unlived lives.

But it is not only negative aspects of self that we dissociate, split off from, and locate onto others. Many of us have lost the capacity to access and embody more “positive” experiences such as contentment, pleasure, creativity, empathy, and intimacy.

Some of us have even disconnected from the simple experience of joy, a spontaneous sense of elation at being alive. I’ll never forget the first time I realized that we could split off from the experience of joy, in the course of some work I was doing with a man who was suffering from depression.

What we discovered during our time together was how unsafe it was for him to express joy, how the experience of simple delight became tangled in his nervous system with danger and the likelihood of incredibly painful rupture with critical attachment figures in his life.

During our sessions, there were times we would become aware of this very simple, childlike, causeless joy coming to the surface as he was speaking about some experience he had, and how inevitably some (subtle) panic or anxiety would be cultivated in response: he would quickly change the subject, generate some sort of conflict between us, “leave” the room and go back into a prior conversation, bail out of his body into some seemingly unrelated fantasy, or even just close his eyes and start to meditate.

After this happened a few times, we became curious about what was going on and were able to explore it together. As he was able to go back in and access and articulate the thoughts and associated emotions and somatic material, he remembered early experiences of how his father reacted to his joy and excitement, becoming aggressive and enraged, demanding that he “grow up” and stop acting like “a baby.” And how in response to all that, his mother shut down and turned away from him to avoid the conflict. He felt so lost, unseen, unheld, and utterly confused.

He came to see how he had equated feeling full of life and natural states of delight, interest, and enthusiasm with being judged and rejected. Over the course of our time together he began to unwind this organization and was able to slowly re-embody to this spectrum of experience and touch the natural joy he had disconnected from at an earlier time in his life.

While the term has a negative, darkened connotation and imagery, it is not only “negative” experience that we place in the shadow, but any material that has not found a home within the relational field. To retrieve the lost joyous little boy and girl is an act of love, really, not only for one’s self but for all of life.



Photo by Besi/ Podujevë/Kosovo


My online community, co-facilitated with Jeff Foster - Befriending Yourself: Meditative, Nondual, and Depth Psychological Perspectives - is currently re-open for new members. To learn about the program, please visit the site here


My most recent book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. 

My next book, A Healing Space: Befriending Yourself in Difficult Times, will be published by Sounds True in 2020.