Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sending breath into the core

When we talk about bringing awareness to our sadness, rage, fear, or shame, it's important to approach this inquiry with beginner's mind, to not assume, "Oh, I've done that. I am totally aware of my anger. Believe me! I've been angry for years."

We have to be willing to get more subtle and nuanced with this as what is appearing in any given moment is completely fresh, naked, and alive, arising for the first time and filled with information. There is intelligence inside our symptoms, buried in our feelings, but it requires us to slow down, and to momentarily replace the need for relief with that of curiosity.

Often it can appear that we are in touch with our emotional world, but if we look carefully, we might discover that in large part we are in touch with our interpretations about our emotions, in a way orbiting around them, staying clear of their energetic core. This is not evidence we have failed, but a reflection of the intelligence of an earlier time, when we did not have the capacity to infuse overwhelming emotion and anxiety with presence, holding, and space.

The next time you find yourself a bit thrown off center, triggered, activated, hooked, or caught in a loop, you could just consciously slow down. Pause. Recognize what has happened and clarify your intention to care for yourself in a new way. In this one moment of choosing an alternative pathway, new circuitry is encoded. In this one moment, end the trance of self-abandonment.

It can help to start in your body and make contact with the actual raw sensations that are there, often most alive in your belly, heart, or throat. To set aside all interpretation for now, including even the agenda to understand, change, shift, or heal. You can return to interpretation and explore meaning at a later time, from a more grounded, soothed place.

Notice the deeply rooted urge to leave your experience to go back into interpretation. It feels safer there, in some way, to turn from the fire and orbit around the aliveness. You have to discover for yourself if this is true, if abandoning your immediate, embodied experience is truly safe. Don’t take anyone’s word for this. Use your body as a crucible and send breath, life, awareness, and care inside the core of your feelings, and see.

But the first step is to slow down. Recognize you are caught and make the intention to care for yourself in what might be a new way, by coming closer. It may appear that these feelings and emotions are coming at you from the outside, to harm you, as obstacles along the way. Things are not always as they seem.

Art by Helen Klebesadel

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

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Private sessions with Matt

Dear friends, I'll be offering some private sessions via phone and Skype, which you can learn about here.

Sessions do tend to fill up quickly. If you do not see any available appointments, please check back as the calendar is updated regularly, sometimes even at the last moment.

Thank you. 

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

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

The doorways are infinite

Inside your body
are the sun
and the moon,
the stars,
the oceans,
and the entirety
of the seen
and unseen worlds.

Joy is here,
as is loneliness,
confusion, heartbreak,
and bliss.

The doorways
are infinite,
each a unique passageway
into the mystery.

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

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A third presence

It is so natural to want to share our joy, discoveries, insights, and perspectives with others, especially if they are struggling, having a hard time, or experiencing hopelessness and confusion. Our intention to help, to whatever degree it is oriented in true compassion, can be honored and held near.

One of the greatest gifts we can provide to the other is sanctuary and safe passage for the unmet within us. For it is out of profound self-attunement that the most skillful action and blessings will flow.

When we are in intimate, direct contact with our own not-knowing – our own grief, despair, anger, and confusion – we may become aware of a holding field emerging in the space between. Some unknown, third presence appears, transcending the sum of the parts and offering an invitation into something new.

As we open into and explore this field, tending to the darkness within us as it surges for light, the other is granted permission to contain, integrate, and practice compassion toward those unresolved qualities in themselves.

As the unwanted is cared for at perceptual, emotional, somatic, and transpersonal levels, we begin to make a journey with one another, making meaning together of what it’s like to be an open, sensitive, sometimes broken and sometimes whole human being.

It’s a precious journey, really, one oriented in the mysteries of self and other, separation and union, lover and beloved. At times asking everything of us, but capable of bearing a very rare and unique fruit within the heart.

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

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Approaching inner narcissism

The word "narcissist" and the topic of narcissism have come up a lot lately and are engaged in a variety of ways and contexts. The great pain, trauma, neglect, and abuse that are the result of narcissistic injury is an incredibly important (and heartbreaking) topic, including how to help our dear brothers and sisters who have fallen prey to the devastating effects of narcissistic behavior in all its forms. Let us each take a moment to send our blessings, thoughts, and love to all victims of narcissistic injury, and our prayers that they find the healing, wholeness, and the life that is their birthright.

Here, I wanted to share a few thoughts about the nature of narcissism and how we can come to bring new light to our own narcissistic tendencies, with the intention to cut unhealthy narcissism off at its root and to do everything we can to reduce its effects and impact in our world. This is not a post about caring for those injured by way of narcissism (very important work that many of us will be asked to confront with as much wisdom, awareness, and compassion that we can bring forward), but how we might start to discover the seeds, roots, and branches of narcissism within ourselves. Just another angle on how each of us can begin to untangle the web of dynamics which can be so devastating for the human heart and soul. With the intention that somehow the intergenerational transmission of unhealthy narcissism be interrupted, de-potentiated, and ultimately ended.

One way of understanding what is meant by narcissism is that quality within each of us that is unable or unwilling to see the other as a subject in their own right. Rather, they are seen as a mere object in ours.

It is that inability to hold the other as an actual person with their own perceptions and ways of making sense of themselves and the world. As a person with their own, very valid feelings and emotions and ways of organizing and making meaning of their experience. As a person with their own hopes, fears, and dreams, longing to be happy, to be at peace, to be free, to love and be loved. Just like us.

In a narcissistic state, the other is beheld as a mere object in our own awareness. They are seen and related with solely in terms of whether they are capable of meeting our needs or not, or the degree to which they are able to reflect back to us who we think we are. They are valued according to their willingness and ability to conspire with us to maintain the status quo of our inflation and self-absorption, and their ability to do whatever possible to ensure that the raging sense of unworthiness lurking just under the surface never emerges.

In this sense, the other is merely serving a function in our own awareness, critical to keep the house of cards from crumbling and exposing the shame and unworthiness that long to re-emerge out of the shadows and into the light.

In this state - or developmental stage – we lose touch with the holy reality of the “other.” Oh my god, this is another person, a unique expression of life, not just someone sent to earth to mirror back my greatness, to reflect and buffer my self-image, and to care for the haunting ghosts of my unlived life.

It takes a lot of practice and discernment to navigate all this, to see how each of us participate from time to time in this way in our relationships with others. For many, it can be quite subtle, for others more overt. But to truly open the lenses of perception will require that we consciously engage the sacred energies of deflation, as to re-own this aspect of the psyche will inevitably require us to be humbled, and to tend to the disturbing feelings that this work can activate within us.

It is tempting (and much easier) to locate narcissism outside ourselves, in another, and of course at times it is important and honorable to do so. To call out the behavior of a narcissist and to care for yourself and this world in fierce, direct, and powerful ways. This, too, of course is so very important. But one other thing we can do is to cultivate the curiosity, the courage, and the compassion to meet the narcissistic one inside us. To illuminate this one, to bathe him or her in the light of awareness, and to finally enter into relationship with this one. To retrieve this one from the dark soil and the shadowy nether regions and out into conscious awareness, so that he or she is not running the show from behind the scenes, in ways that will inevitably generate further suffering for ourselves and others.

In this way, we can discover that the inner narcissist is not actually an enemy attacking from the outside, but an unmet part of us, in some crazy way one of love's children, requesting a moment of our presence, our kindness, and our care. He or she has been shamed, ridiculed, and exiled from the inner ecosystem for so long, and will continue to appear in limitless forms until allowed back home.

As we are able to more consciously carry the energies of narcissism – at personal, cultural, and transpersonal levels – we will be less prone to enact these qualities in our relationships with others. To the degree we are able to meet inner narcissism with curiosity, holding, empathy, and compassion – to integrate, metabolize, and work through the unmet images, feelings, beliefs, and projections – it is to this degree we will touch freedom, and will contribute to the lessening of suffering in this world.

Painting of Narcissus by Caravaggio

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

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A most devastating ally

The next time you feel abandoned, feel it fully. Let it all the way in this time. Not the story of abandonment, but the raw sensations that have been longing for your holding.

Embrace the shakiness, the brokenness, and the raw life that is moving through you. Don’t turn away, not this time. For you need yourself now more than ever.

There is a portal inside the abandoned one, buried in her heart, hidden in his body, and in the core of the emptiness. There is gold there, but it is hidden and requires new perception to unearth.

In the willingness to bring breath and to flood the feelings with the warmth of your presence, you will discover that which has never been abandoned. Take this one as your lover.

In the commitment to never turn from him or her again, everything will break open, revealing the erupting, tender aliveness at the core.

Even abandonment, when met, allowed, contained, and held, will reveal its purity, and clarify its role as a sacred, though devastating ally on the path.

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

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Intimacy without fusion

In the tantric and alchemical traditions, we’re invited into a direct, intimate relationship with our emotions. By doing so, we convert what might appear to be worthless, disturbing, or an apparent obstacle, into gold.

Unlike therapeutic work which seeks to unfold the inner meaning of our emotional experience (wonderful work), the process of transmutation involves a resting in the very core of the energy of the emotion, discovering its spacious, luminous nature.

For a moment, we set aside our need to understand, shift, transform, or heal it. We enter into relationship with it, intimately close, but not so close that we drown and lose perspective. In this way, the emotion reveals its essence as light, transparency, and warmth. We do this not instead of exploring the meaning of our experience, but in addition to it, so that we may touch the full-spectrum of life as a curious, emotional, embodied human being.

There is so much space around our feelings, our emotions, even our thoughts. They are not nearly as solid as they often appear, but of course we must discover this space for ourselves. Not a dead or empty or void-like space, but one filled with aliveness and qualities of compassion, of engagement, of skillful action, of helping others. In this realization, even disturbing emotions offer a pathway into the spaciousness of our own true nature. Even the most difficult emotions become allies and yield to the warmth of true friendship.

It does take some practice to see this, to rewire the old pathways of repression and dissociation, on the one hand, and becoming flooded and seeking relief from emotion on the other. But in the sacred middle, we practice a profound intimacy with our experience, while at the same time not fusing with it. It is more an art than a science, and the canvas is the temple of your very own body.

As we hold and explore within the tension of the opposites of fusion and repression, stay open and curious in the unresolvable nature of the center, rest and creativity are naturally generated, and a new freedom dawns. One that is alive with love, kindness, curiosity, and new vision. 

Photo: fall glory at Silver Jack Reservoir

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

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Safe passage for the disguised light

Paradoxically to the mind, but in ways the heart knows natively, inside the core of our vulnerability, our shakiness, our not-knowing, is a nonordinary gold, a jewel that is found only there. This gold is accessible all times, though it will often appear in unexpected forms as our life circumstances, feelings, symptoms, symbols, and the others who come into (and out of) our lives.

Through this appearance and disappearance of form, we come to discover that healing and awakening are not only processes of creativity, but are oriented in dissolution as well. While we may have a bias for the creative and the bright, the gods of wholeness will employ either energy equally in fulfilling their mission here. What that mission is, we can only know through primary experience, bearing witness to the numinous as it pours through us and into the relative world.

As we peer beyond the veil just a bit, we may sense something longing to emerge out of the mess and the chaos, surging up from the dark, rich soil of the psyche—right out of the core of our deeply embedded sense of unworthiness, disconnection, and loneliness. Even spinning out of moments of anxiety, hopelessness, confusion, and despair.

In the depths of the soil, the question isn’t how to stop this material from arising, for it is its nature to do so. But whether we will provide a home for it when it arrives. A sanctuary. Safe passage for the disguised light to emerge.

Will we receive it with curiosity, interest, compassion, and warmth? Or will we pathologize it, conclude it is evidence that something is wrong with us, that we have failed, that we are not okay?

Of course, it is an act of kindness to care for ourselves in whatever ways we are able, and to bring relief during difficult times. But there is another invitation that co-emerges with the one oriented in relief, one that is more alchemical in nature: to turn in to the symptom, the feeling, and the symbols as they appear, for they are carriers of profound wisdom and guidance.

As Rumi reminds us, it is inside the wound where the light is to be found, a light hidden inside the darkness, that when entered into, reveals itself to be brighter than a billion suns.

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

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

A re-envisioning of healing and integration

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. They have become worn-out, second-hand, and no longer filled with life. Additionally, for many they have become further tools of shame and blame, new ways to attack themselves when they (we) do not live up to the demands of a conceptual spirituality. We must breathe life back into these ideas in an imaginative, grounded, and creative way.

Often what is meant by “integrating” or “healing” unbearable experience 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. Or that somehow we are to blame for the feelings, the emotions, the raw sensations that have come; somehow, their mere presence is crystal clear evidence that we have failed, "attracted" the material, or are in urgent need of some "secret" to win an illusionary battle.

In my 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. Our vulnerability and our sensitivity is not something to "get over," but to enter into relationship with, to explore, to hold dearly as our link to the sacred world.

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. Otherwise, the project of self-improvement becomes yet another re-enactment of an early environment lacking in empathic attunement.

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 - with the help of our fellow travelers - to re-inhabit our bodies even in the face of profoundly disturbing perceptions, 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. This "love" is not merely some sort of sweet feeling, but is full-spectrum, at times fierce, creative, and alive.

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.

In this way, perhaps we can salvage these concepts such as "integration" and "healing," at least for today, re-envisioning and re-enchanting them with the force of an uncompromising and unapologetic compassion, soaked in the native wisdom of our true nature, as we open into the mystery together.

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

My next event will be a five-day retreat, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. Please stay tuned here for additional information/ registration.  

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Metabolizing our lived experience

Just as we must properly digest the food we eat to absorb its nutrients, we must also metabolize our experience, as it is received by way of our senses, our nervous systems, our minds, and our hearts. If our rage, grief, disappointment, shame, and pure joy remain partly processed, they become leaky and unable to provide the fuel required for a life of intimacy, connection, contentment, and aliveness.

While the longing for transformation is noble and can be honored, if we are not careful it can serve as yet another re-enactment of the painful realities of materialism and self-abandonment, a clear reflection of the ghosts of the unlived life. One of the shadow sides of spiritual seeking and the (seemingly) endless project of self-improvement is that we never slow down enough to digest what we have already been given… which is everything.

Not the “everything” the mind thinks it needs to be happy and fulfilled, found by way of some "secret" on a journey of internal and external consumerism. Not the “everything” that conforms to our hopes and fears, our dreams of power and control, and keeps us safe and invulnerable from the full-spectrum reality of what it means to have a human heart. But the “everything” that is already here as part of your true nature, the raw materials for a life of inner abundance, revealed by way of humility, not unconscious acquisition.

Just like with food - slowing down and choosing wisely, stopping before you are full, participating mindfully, and staying attuned to what is being assimilated - we can honor the validity, workability, and intelligence of our inner experience, even if it is difficult or disturbing. The willingness to fully digest our own vulnerability, tenderness, confusion, and suffering is an act of love and revolutionary kindness.

There are soul-nutrients buried in the food of our embodied experience that ache to be integrated, metabolized, and digested in the flame of the heart. But this digestion requires the enzymes of presence, compassion, embodiment, and open-heartedness.

So let us slow down and become mindful of the ways we seek to fill the empty hole in the center, whether it be with food when we’re not hungry or experience when we are already full. And in this way we can walk lightly together in this world, on this precious planet, not as hungry ghosts desperate to be fed, but as fellow travelers of interior wealth, richness, and meaning.

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

My next event will be a five-day retreat, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. Please stay tuned here for additional information/ registration.  

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The dance of the internal and external other

It can be fascinating (and disturbing) to see how we locate qualities in others that we long to be in touch with in ourselves, but for some reason have disowned.

It is no coincidence that we tend to attract and be attracted to (as well as repel and be repelled by) those who outwardly embody a particular quality that we've lost contact with in ourselves. This can be subtle and can take some practice and discernment to see.

At an earlier developmental time, for very good reasons we split off from certain aspects of ourselves, ways of being, feelings, native creativity, and qualities that were unique to us. While we yearn to reclaim these lost soul-parts, it is often too anxiety-provoking to allow them back in directly. By first finding them in another, we can begin to enter into relationship with these abandoned parts, in what appears to be a safer way, at a distance.

Whenever you find yourself surprised at how enraged you become toward a certain person, or activated by some way that they are – or infatuated with them in a way that seems irrational, or annoyed or irritated beyond what seems appropriate for the situation... slow down and pay careful attention.

Be kind to yourself. Be curious. No shame, blame, or judgment. Just slow. And kind. And curious. Again, look for responses that are irrational, overblown, and seem to occur on their own, out of the blue, in a surge of unexpected emotion. We’re not speaking about becoming angry and taking clear, boundaried action if someone is being unkind, abusive, or disrespectful to you – please do that – but about those situations where nothing like that is occurring.

Where in more neutral situations, before you know it, you're drowning in some sort of reaction, whether it be a flood of ruminative thinking or you are hooked into a painful (yet familiar) emotion or feeling. Or lashing out at them, critiquing, judging, attacking (or idolizing, turning them into a savior, irrationally falling in love with them) in a way that, on deeper reflection, just feels a bit overdone. It can feel like it’s coming at us from the outside, some energy which is autonomous and beyond our control.

What qualities in others (positive or negative) have an uncanny ability to throw you into a spin, constellate an avalanche of highly charged feeling, uncomfortable emotion, or surges of somatic disturbance in your body? Slowly, if you are called to do so, bring a person to mind who has a way of inducing these reactions in you...

For just a moment, set aside any interpretation of what might be happening and any details about the "other." Open and see if "internal other" is arising now to be held, to be known, to be contained, to be integrated.

What is being asked to be tended to here? What has the "external" other come to remind you of, not to harm or to seduce, but as an emissary of wholeness? As an invitation of integration.

Enter into relationship with this one, imagine and dialogue with them, provide sanctuary so that they may re-emerge into the light, and to take his or her rightful place back into the internal family. This one is you, longing for permission to return home.

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

My next event will be a five-day retreat, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. Please stay tuned here for additional information/ registration.  

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Into the inner sanctum

Hidden underneath the rich and textured narrative, erupting under the colorful flow of feeling and emotion, there exists a fertile, vibrating, mysterious world of sensations, of intuition, of imagery: a somatically-organized field of intelligence, creativity, and aliveness.

As we enter the body with breath and awareness – descending under the historic interpretations, and guided by new levels of curiosity, kindness, and care – we enter into uncharted territory. Here things are turned a bit upside down. In this new land, we may come to even appreciate our neurosis, our heartbreak, our confusion, our disappointment, our “failure,” our doubt, and our fragility. No longer viewing these forms as evidence of our lack of awakening or that we have fallen short… but as unique portals and invitations into the very alive reality that things are never really going to turn out the way we thought. It's just too creative here. You are just too wild, too unique, too unprecedented, too whole.

As the trance of shame, blame, and unworthiness burns up in the warmth of cleansed perception, we find ourselves at the threshold of the known and unknown, a liminal space where we can no longer find a familiar place or reference point around which to organize. It is exhilarating here inside the opposites, but simultaneously terrifying to a mind longing for resolution, certainty, and control. In the bardo, inside the vessel, there is no real place to land, other than where you already are.

As we become aware of the ways that we distract ourselves from the open, center-less, alive nature of immediate experience, we can then make a choice to re-embody. We can return to the life of the senses, to our uncompromised commitment to self-kindness, to no longer apologizing for what we are, and to fully participating here in an unfolding miracle... setting aside the dream of postponement until a future moment.

In this place of heart-centered, compassion-infused embodiment, we can no longer pretend we’re not feeling what we’re actually feeling; whatever guest arrives in the home of the heart is allowed, surrounded in warmth, and taken directly into the inner sanctum. Inside this secret chamber, your neurosis, your fear, the deep need to be special, the frenetic scramble to be seen, to be “awake” – all this begins to become dismantled, dissolved, and taken apart by love.

While this disassembling is sure to involve both sweet and fierce grace, it is a movement of wholeness, and evidence of the full-spectrum nature of the path of the heart.

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

The next event, The Magic of Being Fully Human, to be held in Ojai, CA on October 14-15. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A sacred deflation

Of course it's natural to have a bias for the experience of "success" over "failure," however we define those terms. But let us be conscious of this bias and not fall into fragmentation. Whether in the outer world of accomplishments or in the inner world of collecting experiences, learning to fail consciously opens us to the full-spectrum. Inside the opposites of success and failure is a doorway, a parting of the veil, revealing an unknown reality of immense creativity.

We live in a world that has lost contact with the evolutionary potential of conscious dissolution, deflation, and the inevitable crucifixion we will each face as we journey along the way. These experiences are not mistakes or errors to be "manifested" away or to throw "secrets" at, for they are too holy for all that. The art of allowing things to fall apart and to honor the death aspect of the death-rebirth journey is one known by alchemists, tantrikas, and wandering poets, but is not all that popular in a culture obsessed with persona and happiness at all costs.

It is the nature of all form to dissolve, so that new forms may emerge. This is the essence of creativity and is non-negotiable, as the energy that keeps the stars from falling out of the sky. We can try to fight against this, argue with it, and spin off into repression, shame, and blame, turning from the fires of reorganization. But the consequence is a life of partiality, splitting off from wholeness, and a heart that longs endlessly for aliveness.

If we will not consciously carry the energies of failure, deflation, and disappointment, they remain in seed form in the shadow and will erupt, usually in very unskillful ways that lead to greater suffering for ourselves and others. We only need look at the current landscape and see. This is true not only for individuals, but for couples, groups, cultures, countries, and societies.

It is by way of our willingness to contain, hold, and integrate the entirety of what we are that we will know the magic of the sacred world. To fully participate in success, to fully participate in failure, and to know that ineffable third thing that we experience in their union. And out of this embodied knowing we very naturally surround the ghosts of our unlived lives with our presence, hold them and provide sanctuary for their conscious integration, dissolving the trance of partiality and revealing essence.

It is not easy to dance and play in these fields until our perception is cleansed, as the dream is thick and deeply embedded. Fortunately, this work requires only one moment, this one, and cannot be completed in the past or future. Only now. No matter what is happening in the inner and outer landscape, we can all begin right now. And now. And now. And even now.

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

The next event, The Magic of Being Fully Human, to be held in Ojai, CA on October 14-15. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

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.

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

The next event, The Magic of Being Fully Human, to be held in Ojai, CA on October 14-15. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

A friend of the breath

Beyond all the theories, approaches, interventions, and strategies, for me therapeutic companionship is a process of bearing witness to the life of another as they come to befriend themselves in a way that was not possible until now. To excavate meaning where there was none, to find purpose in the core of the purposelessness, to somehow bear that which has previously been unbearable.

Interestingly, if we look at the etymology of the word "psychotherapy," "psyche" in Greek referred to "soul" or "breath." Therapeuin derives from the idea of caring for, accompanying, or tending to. So engaging in psychotherapy, in this sense - an outrageous act ultimately open to anyone with a human heart - is to tend to the soul or even care for the breath, the life force, the essence. A friend of the soul. A friend of the breath.

This befriending is not ordinary or passive, not always flowing and peaceful. It is fierce, on fire, and an act of revolution. It is the light shining out of the core of the dark night, the outrageousness of the human spirit, and the basic goodness of the human heart. It is standing on the rooftop and declaring that pain is not pathology, grief is not pathology, despair is not pathology, confusion is not pathology, that heartbreak is not pathology. Rather, that they are path.

At times, each of us will be invited to walk into the dark wood with another, into the disorienting and hopeless places, without knowing where the journey will lead, if we will make it out in one piece, or where new life will be found. We will be asked to make sense together of where they have been, who they see themselves to be, and what they are longing to become. To illuminate what matters most to them and cradle it in our shared heart. To help them gather the pieces of the broken world.

To proclaim their experience as valid, that their feelings are intelligent, that their vulnerability is whole, and that they are worthy of our care and presence as they are. That even if their pain constellates that which is unresolved within us, that we will remain close, and not place the burden of our unlived lives upon them. That despite the pain of the present, the traumas of the past, and the fragmented dreams of the future we will dare to reclaim the aspects, parts, and pieces of the soul that have been turned from, now longing to return home. That we will participate in the sacred assembly that is gathering before our very eyes, an assembly of the shattered. And open to the creativity of the light as it appears at times in darkened, disguised forms.

We will assert together that pain is not evidence that they have "failed," that something is fundamnetally "wrong" with them, or that they must first be "cured" in order for us to stay near. Rather, we will affirm that their suffering is authentic, that their hopelessness is well-founded, that it is honorable, that it is integral to the unfolding of their unique journey. That they are not a project to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.

And then, from that foundation of companionship and bearing witness to the sacredness of what a human being truly is—including the profound grief, despair, and moments of great joy—we are able to turn together into the unknown and bow before its immensity. In awe at the mystery, together.

It is awesome, in the truest sense of the word, to bear witness in this way. To fall to the ground in the beholding of the divine in action, of the unstoppable wild bravery of the human spirit, and the relentlessness and creativity of love as it makes its way into form.

It is easy and very natural at times to deflate as we look around at the tragedy of what happens when we forget, when we lose touch with what matters most, and fall into trance. But in any moment, no matter what is disintegrating around us, we can remember, we can open again, be a friend of the breath, and pray for whatever wisdom and skillful means are available here to help others. We can start wherever we are, right now, in this moment. In this holy moment. Together, we can encode new circuitry into a world that has understandably grown a bit weary.

Photo credit: James Estrin/ New York Times

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

The next event, The Magic of Being Fully Human, to be held in Ojai, CA on October 14-15. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"Ego" as a doorway to wholeness

Someone recently asked why I do not write about the "ego" and my understanding of that term. It’s not a word I use often as I have come to find it to be a pretty disembodied and experience-distant concept. Also, it is one of those words which usually carries with it an element of shame, often used as a way to attack our vulnerability and humanness. But mostly, I have looked long and hard and have never found such a thing in my immediate experience.

It might be helpful to see "ego" as a process or verb, rather than a noun, countering the idea that it is some reified entity that exists within us, surprisingly with a voice similar to early, misattuned attachment figures. The "ego" is often spoken about as some "thing" that takes us over – a nasty, ignorant little person inside who causes us to be really lame and unevolved. Above all else, it's super unspiritual, something we must work hard to "get rid of." If the ego is anything, it is likely those voices yelling at us to "get rid of it." But how do we get rid of something that isn’t actually there?

When we slow down and step outside the world of conceptual spirituality, attuning to our actual present experience, do we find an "ego" there? Or is the "ego" a disembodied concept that we learned one day? Please don't take my word for it. Turn inside and see.

One simple way of approaching "ego" is as any activity which leads us to turn from, abandon, deny, or practice aggression toward what is present in our immediate experience. If sadness, rage, a constricted throat, a heavy heart, an aroused nervous system, or cascade of critical, ruminative thoughts appear, ego would be that process whereby we move away from that experience rather than toward it, which would be a more embodied, yogic, or compassionate response.

This movement away, the essence of so much of our emotional suffering, takes place by denying what is there, on the one hand; or fusing with it as who we ultimately are on the other. Both strategies (corresponding to limbic fight-flight as well as anxious-avoidant attachment) inevitably trigger engagement with compensatory (addictive) behavior, designed to take us as quickly as possible out of our embodied vulnerability.

In other words, ego is a process of dissociation and splitting off, in the attempt to prevent overwhelming anxiety from spilling into conscious awareness. Or, in spiritual language, the attempt to protect us from just how open, unknown, and mysterious it really is here, where anything could happen at any time. We could lose our jobs, a loved one could die, a lover could leave us, our hearts could break, we could forget why we're here, and the meaning in our lives could dissolve in front of our very eyes.

If we want to know more about ego in an experiential way, we can start by getting really curious about those feelings we will do just about anything to avoid. We can make the commitment to notice when we are caught in habitual, addictive behavior, including complaining, blaming others (or ourselves), unconscious self-aggression, eating when not hungry, etc. - anything, really, to avoid feeling.

It can be icky to turn toward the panic, claustrophobia, restlessness, and sense that things are just not safe. But we do so in any case, slowly, not out of some masochistic compulsion, but out of curiosity, self-compassion, and a longing to love and care for ourselves in a new way.

What is it that I'm trying to avoid? What aspect of my vulnerability am I needing to bail out on? Would I, even for a second or two, be willing to shift the momentum and meet that which has been trying to reach me for so long? To invite that one home and see what he or she has to say? To end the cycle of abandonment.

In this way, we can use the surges of "ego" - whatever it is - as an invitation and reminder to infuse our experience with empathy, warmth, kindness, and breath. In this sense, ego is an invitation into presence, a special, wrathful sort of doorway into wholeness.

Love will do anything to reach us, even create concepts like "the ego," in the longing that we will use even those to return home. So I suppose in this way we can salvage the use of the term "ego," at least for today.

Image of Pangong Tso, near Ladakh, where I found myself wandering one summer

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

The next event, The Magic of Being Fully Human, to be held in Ojai, CA on October 14-15. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Weekend gathering in California with Matt Licata and Jeff Foster

Join me and Jeff Foster in Ojai October 14-15 for a weekend of meditation, rest, opening, and love. Happy to be returning to California! 

Learn more here.

I believe each day is around 80% sold out, but there are some tickets left for both Saturday and Sunday.

This will be our only gathering together (and my only public event) until next April. Looking forward to seeing everyone in beautiful Ojai.

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

The next event, The Magic of Being Fully Human, to be held in Ojai, CA on October 14-15.