Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Rest in the sacred middle

When a feeling or emotion surges within you, it does so longing for two responses.

First, to be met with your presence. To be seen and held as valid, as worthy of your curiosity, openness, and warmth. You don’t have to pretend to ‘like’ the feeling, but you honor it in any case, as the way reality is appearing in this moment. Knowing that arguing with what is, is the root essence of all suffering.

The sad one, the raging one, the shamed one, the unworthy one, the scared one – though they can be quite intense, they are not obstacles on your path. They just want to be heard, to be felt, to be cared for, to be re-parented, to be allowed to share their experience, which until now perhaps they have not felt safe enough to do.

Please listen – not just with your ears, but with your heart. Each carries sacred data, but this information is released only into a field of kindness… not aggression. See that it is the abandonment of these ones that only reinforces their centrality in your tender inner circuitry.

Next, see that the feeling is not who you are. It is not fused with you and does not in fact carry any information about your worth as a person. I ‘feel’ bad does not equal I ‘am’ bad. Just because a negative thought or image, or a painful feeling or emotion appears does not mean this is who you are. You must slow way, way down and discover this for yourself. For it is the key to a new world.

Pull back slightly and come into relationship with your feelings. Separate a bit from them, but not so much that you dissociate and disembody. You may discover there is so much space around your emotions. You can practice intimacy while not fusing. This is a holy art that you can learn.

You are the warm, open field of awareness in which all feelings and emotions can come into being for a short while, dance within your nervous system, and then dissolve back into the vast, safe ground from which they arose.

Find the sacred middle and rest there, in between the ancient pathways of denial and fusion. It is here in which the great process of metabolization by love will unfold and illuminate.

The old way is that of a triggered and inflamed limbic system, spinning out its strategies of numbing, denying, indulging, and acting out, as a way to get you away from your vulnerability as fast as possible. These strategies saved your life as a little one and were the best ways you knew to care for yourself at an earlier time. But something else is calling now. Listen carefully and you will hear the invitation – early in the morning, late at night, and as you wander through the day. Come closer. Open into. Breathe with.

The new way is alive now and rippling inside you. The pathways are revealing their flexibility and their longing to be reorganized. Soothe the fire with your presence and a fiery compassion. Open your heart to your vulnerability and meet it with just one moment of awareness and with kindness. And then slow way, way down, and see what you are.

Art by Evgeniia Litovchenko

Monday, March 28, 2016


In each moment, the archetypal journey of the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the transfiguration is being illuminated within you.

While the forms that love will take – as certain relationships, life circumstances, and the way you thought it would be – will inevitably be crucified and resurrected, this is the way of form, and is evidence of wholeness. But love itself is that which is beyond birth and death, and is eternally transfiguring into greater levels of integration.

On this day of resurrection, the invitation is into the depth of your ripening vulnerability. Inside your body is a temple greater than even the sun and the moon.

In the inner sanctum, there are petals unfolding with new information for the way ahead. Look carefully. Listen closely. And feel what has been longing to be felt for so long. Provide a sanctuary for the unmet, the unheld, and the unintegrated to return home.

Honor the forms of love as they appear, but allow them to depart so that they may continue their long journey. Yes, your heart may break as they dissolve in front of your very eyes, but it is by way of this breaking that you may be resurrected once again.

Photo credit: “So long for this moment” – on the BC/ Alaska border, by Marc Adamus

Sunday, March 27, 2016

An untold story

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. 

–Maya Angelou

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Midwives of integration

At times, you may find yourself with a friend who is upset, falling apart, confused, hopeless, sad, and afraid. Nothing is making sense anymore, they are overwhelmed, and the emotions are unrelenting.

You are unsure how to help.

While their pain may trigger you, and bring alive an avalanche of urgent, anxious, fixing energy – activating the shadows of your own unlived life… a doorway has appeared.

Slow way down. Ground awareness in your body and listen. Not just to the words they are saying, but to the secret request that is emerging out of their heart. Perhaps they are not asking for you to fix, cure, or even ‘heal’ them. For they are not broken.

Join together with them, get on their side, as you proclaim together that pain is not pathology. That sadness, grief, anxiety, depression, fear, and confusion are utterly valid and not evidence that they have failed and are unworthy of love.

This may not be the moment for you to give them an answer, but rather to hold them as you confront the vastness of the question together.

While you may be burning with the need to talk them out of their experience – overflowing with solutions, techniques, and processes – return into spaciousness. Infuse the environment with pause, rest, and resonance. With the slow circuits of empathy and presence, walk together into the aliveness of now.

Give them the gift of a regulated, calm, soothing nervous system. Provide a permission field where they can come to be, exactly as they are, without needing to be something different in order for you to stay close. Together, you will be midwives of integration, a holding space for the unfolding of what is longing to be met within them.

Never, ever underestimate the power of love. Even one moment of empathic, attuned, contact can change a person forever. Please don’t forget that for many, they have never actually known this – or have had it in only very small amounts. For it is rare in this sweet, tender, fragile, weary star in which we find ourselves.

As you wander on this new day, look at those you meet, into their eyes so that they feel seen. Receive them not as just another object in your awareness, as someone who may be able to meet one of your needs, but as a raging subject in their own right. Just like you, longing for love, intimacy, aliveness, and connection, and making meaning of a world that is often gone mad.

Listen to what they have to say and hold their experience with your presence, ensuring that they feel felt. Offer a home for their pain, their confusion, their fragility, their joy, and their fear… validate their feelings as you simultaneously invite them into their true nature, as that of love itself. They are not broken and have never been unhealed.

You have tremendous power to help another to see this, and to re-author the story of their lives. To dissolve the trance of unworthiness, and to return home. Please do whatever you can. And please never, ever give up on love. It will never, ever give up on you.

Photo credit: Friends comfort each other outside the residence of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, shortly after his death. Photo c/o Thomson Reuters.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

An integrated spirituality

Like any activity, our engagement with spirituality can provide a very rich pathway into the unfolding and illumination of the sacred world, and into the unending depth of the human heart. It can also be used to avoid emotional pain, as a buffer against unresolved feelings, and as a way to stay safe from the very alive, out of control, untamed landscape of our embodied vulnerability.

This is not to suggest that we turn from our most precious beliefs and practices, but to engage in them with eyes wide open. There are an infinite number of ways that ego can co-opt even the most sacred teachings to fortify itself, in the attempt to remedy early developmental failure, attachment wounding, chronic misattunement, and unresolved trauma of all kinds. Believing we are becoming more intimate with our experience, we can find ourselves unconsciously distancing ourselves from the actual intimacy and aliveness we are longing for.

As spiritual practitioners, many of us can come to dismiss the relational and somatic worlds altogether, believing we are manifesting some sort of pure, transcendent, ‘awakened,’ and unconditioned reality, which is somehow free from our own unresolved wounding. In the rush to the transpersonal, the personal and interpersonal are trampled and abandoned.

As a result, what is then downloaded through us and to others (all in the name, of course, of ‘resting in the Self,’ ‘awakening’ and ‘enlightenment’) is simply more traumatic and unintegrated organization, and a realization that is anything but whole. As Ken Wilber reminded me in a conversation about this, “…absolute, always already enlightenment can never be properly transmitted through a broken relative vehicle.”

It is not that difficult to look out into the contemporary spiritual landscape to see these dynamics in full force. The spiritual path has become a commodity, bought and sold on the open marketplace, with its endless fantastical promises and alluring siren songs of specialness, a life of permanent happy feelings, and an escape from the muddy realities of intimacy, the body, money, sexuality, family dynamics, and so on. It’s much sexier (and less threatening) to focus on the bliss, the positive, and the high vibrations, and how I can wiggle myself into groovy (and safe) spiritual states. The chaotic, messy, unresolvable, organic darkness becomes covered over which, as many of us have seen, does not really end that well. By doing so, we bury and disavow those jewels that are only findable in the shadowy soil.

Making use of spirituality to avoid certain aspects of ourselves is not ‘bad,’ neurotic, pathological, or inherently problematic. Nor is it something that needs to be judged or shamed, or that we need to become aggressive toward. Like any defensive or avoidant activity, it is often serving a protective function and can be honored as such. And then from a clear, spacious, non-urgent seeing, it can be held and explored with compassion, care, and an open curiosity – fueled by the call to know what is true and what is real, more than *anything*. We can start to see what perceptions, emotions, sensations, and behaviors our practices may be helping us to avoid, and explore if we are ready to turn back toward them and provide a home for their metabolization and integration. No shame, no blame… just awareness, presence, and kindness.

Of course, what I’m suggesting here is not new. Many of the great siddhas, yogis, teachers, and clinicians have reported on this phenomenon for many years. I’ll leave you with the words of Chogyam Trungpa, from a few decades ago, guidance I believe worthy of frequent re-consideration, and in his ever-poetic style:

“As long as we follow a spiritual approach promising salvation, miracles, liberation, then we are bound by the ‘golden chain of spirituality.’ Such a chain might be beautiful to wear, with its inlaid jewels and intricate carvings, but nevertheless, it imprisons us. People think they can wear the golden chain for decoration without being imprisoned by it, but they are deceiving themselves. As long as one’s approach to spirituality is based upon enriching ego, then it is spiritual materialism, a suicidal process rather than a creative one.”