Friday, July 19, 2019

An ally of the depths

While it is common in spiritual teachings to “accept” and even “love” our deepest fears, shame, rage, vulnerabilities, and shortcomings, we cannot do so without first meeting the material as it is, without any further agenda to transform it into something else. We must experience it, digest it, touch it, allow it to touch us, making experiential contact with the life that it carries.

The invitation is into relationship with the thoughts, feelings, images, and sensations. Close, but not so close that we merge, become fused, or become flooded. An intimacy without fusion.

To feel and sense its textures, colors, qualities, and energies and how it comes to us in a moment of activation, genuinely curious as to how the visitor dances and plays and discloses itself within a sensitive, open, tender nervous system. To allow our perception to be reorganized within the aliveness and creativity of the interactive field. To see the visitor not as an enemy coming to harm, but an ally of the depths.

We cannot expect to move immediately from a triggered state into acceptance and love, for this would require that we circumvent the critical stages of getting to know the material first, to truly feel our feelings, sense our sensations, and practice embodiment to how soul is manifesting itself in one unprecedented here and now moment.

It is honorable to aspire toward acceptance and love as noble virtues, however these experiences can remain disembodied concepts until they arise organically as the result of tending to the uncertainty, confusion, pain, and emotional vulnerability existing just under the surface. As long as there is an unconscious motivation to work with the material solely so that it will be purged from our experience, it is unlikely we’ll be able to get close enough so that it can be thawed out and clarified by the warmth of the heart.

Initially, we must train ourselves to stay with the intensity for short periods of time, checking in for a few moments in a way that is a bit provocative, but not traumatizing. Pushing ourselves in a way that does not overwhelm but builds resource and resilience. An artistic surfing of our own unique windows of tolerance. To allow ourselves to touch in to those parts of ourselves that have felt unapproachable and unsafe in the past.

Here, slow is good, increasing our tolerance for emotional and somatic intensity bit by bit over time. No rush to the finish line or shaming ourselves because the process is taking “too long” or we’re not doing it right. There is no “too long” in the heart, in the soul, and in the nervous system, only just long enough. 

Photo by Peggy Choucair

The next retreat - The Deep Rest Retreat: Slowing Down and Befriending Yourself in Difficult Times - September 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado - registration open 

My online community, co-facilitated with Jeff Foster - Befriending Yourself: Meditative, Nondual, and Depth Psychological Perspectives - is currently closed to new members but will likely re-open later in the year. To be on the mailing list 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. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Deep Rest Retreat: Slowing Down and Befriending Yourself in Difficult Times

Dear Friend,

Registration is now open for The Deep Rest Retreat: Slowing Down and Befriending Yourself in Difficult Times, which will take place from 4-9 September at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado. Registrations will be taken in the order they are received. For more information or to register, please visit the retreat website.


For the last decade, JEFF FOSTER a spiritual teacher whose personal journey through suicidal shame and depression led him to the discovery of nonduality (wholeness), and MATT LICATA, a depth-oriented psychotherapist who has spent the last 25 years at the intersection of meditative awareness, emotional healing, and shadow integration, have been having a dynamic ongoing conversation about radically re-envisioning spirituality and the journey of healing: as a full and courageous embrace of our vulnerable humanness.

In meeting and working with thousands of seekers of truth all around the world at retreats and in private sessions, and through their personal conversations and life explorations, they have uncovered something very precious, a sacred jewel of inner peace and aliveness amidst the noise and mess of everyday life. They are inviting you to join them in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado for five days of rest, exploration, play, discovery, presence, and compassion.

Weaving together the wisdom of the meditative traditions and the emotionally-attuned and shadow-sensitive approaches of depth psychology, Matt and Jeff will share with you a simple yet radical and perhaps life-changing invitation, one of true friendship: with our thoughts and feelings, with our bodies and minds, with each other, with our joys and sorrows, with our deepest inner life.


Has your life become an endless ‘self-improvement project’? After years of working on yourself, meditation, therapy, spiritual seeking and trying to “quiet your mind” or “lose your ego”, do you still feel far from where you wanted to be? Do you long to slow down, rest, come out of repetitive and exhausting thinking, and be deeply embraced, exactly as you are?

The Deep Rest Retreat is an invitation to slowness, simplicity, kindness and profound self-exploration. Through mindful awareness, compassionate presence, and the therapeutic power of love, we will learn - moment by moment - to “end the inner war” with our thoughts and feelings and to wake up to the sacredness of our ordinary lives. With their trademark gentleness and humour, Matt and Jeff bring a powerful core teaching of Presence which lovingly dismantles shame at its very root and wakes us up to the miracle of being alive.


Each day on the retreat you will rest in Presence with author and spiritual teacher Jeff Foster, who will help you drop out of your busy mind and connect with the living moment, your body and your feelings in his own unique, playful, human way. Through heartfelt talks, restful guided mindfulness meditations, silence, personal stories and honest dialogues, he will remind you that you are perfect and whole, exactly as you are. He will help you stay present and connected with yourself, no matter what life throws at you.

You will also explore the alchemy of psychological and emotional integration with psychotherapist and author Matt Licata, PhD, who will guide you into the mysteries of the heart with playfulness, humor, and compassion. Drawing on contemplative spirituality, the latest psychological research, and the power of the poetic imagination, you will discover the inherent wisdom buried in even your deepest pain, confusion, and longing.

In the evening there will usually be a dialogue on stage between Matt and Jeff, where, through poetry, humor, conversation and personal stories, they will explore the ground of a loving, embodied, nondual Presence – the place where spirituality and therapy come together, the Home we never left - and how the Divine expresses itself in the chaotic, sweet, glorious, sacred mess of our ordinary lives. Usually, during one or two nights on retreat, we will have an evening of movement and music, which many find deeply nurturing and supportive in the integration of the teaching.

In the space between meetings, you are free to walk, rest and play in the holding field of the Rocky Mountains, and enjoy delicious and nourishing food prepared by expert chefs at Sunrise Ranch, using ingredients grown locally using sustainable methods, and served with love. You may spend time alone and in silence, or connect and share with your fellow retreatants… however your heart guides you. We look forward to meeting you in Colorado!

Learn more about the retreat here

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sanctuary and safe passage

At times, you may be asked to sit with another who has been touched by the darkness. To allow them to fall apart in your arms, unravel, be without hope, and feel lost. You may sense there is some sort of wisdom unfolding, but it is chaotic, uncertain, and not easy to stay with.

While it is natural to want to do whatever you can to help them feel better, listen carefully to what it is they are truly asking for. Extend to them a calm, regulated nervous system where their experience can be validated and held, exactly as it is. Ensure them – with words and with your presence – that they need not ‘get over it,’ ‘accept everything as it is,’ shift into a ‘higher vibration,’ ‘stay in the present,’ be cured, transformed, or ‘healed’ in order for you to stay close.

To provide such an environment for another, you must first offer safe passage for the unmetabolized in yourself: the unmet sadness, abandoned shame, discarded grief, disavowed hopelessness, and deserted aloneness. If not, you may find yourself rushing to talk the other out of their experience, urgently spinning to relieve them of their feelings as a way to cut into your own anxiety and discomfort. All the while subtly and unconsciously disavowing the raging intelligence buried within the dark.

Together with them, make the commitment to not pathologize their experience. Pain is not pathology. Hopelessness is not pathology. Grief is not pathology. Shame and rage are not pathology. They are path. Seed this wisdom into the relational field and watch in awe as a new world unfolds.

As you attune to the ‘other’ in front of you – as well as to the alchemical ‘other’ within – feel the creative flow of love as it fills the space between, crafting you both as vessels of sanctuary for the pieces of the broken world, for the shards of confusion, and for the crumbled hopes and dreams that have dissolved in front of your eyes. Honor the holy truth that the forms that love take will always fall apart – for this is their nature – in order that they may come back together in more integrated and cohesive ways.

Within the aliveness of the relational field – despite the pain of the present, the traumas of the past, and the broken dreams of the future – you may see that it was only love after all, taking whatever form it must so that it may unfold itself into this world, in ways the mind may never understand.

Please do whatever you can to help others in whatever way you are able: attune to their emotional experience such that they feel felt, listen carefully to what they are saying, and how they are making meaning of their lives.

Slow way down, bracket your favorite psychological and spiritual jargon and theories, and allow yourself to be curious about how they are making sense of their experience. Feed them, hold them, speak kindly to them, provide sanctuary and safe passage for soul to disclose its mysteries. And remind them that love is here and is alive.

Photographer unknown

The next retreat - The Deep Rest Retreat: Slowing Down and Befriending Yourself in Difficult Times - September 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado - registration open 

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, July 6, 2019

Slowing way down

The next time you notice that you’re attacking yourself, caught in a looping storyline about how you’ve failed, how you’ll never get it right, how there is something just fundamentally wrong with you …

When you’ve become lost in a repetitive narrative about how someone has misunderstood you, how you are not being seen in the way you’d like, or when find yourself complaining about your life or another person …

When you find yourself under a waterfall, sinking into quicksand, in a cascading of claustrophobia, urgent, hot, sticky, out of control emotions...

Slow way down.

Before you abandon yourself and leave your immediate experience, parachuting into the unstable waters of rumination, shame, and blame, just slow way down. For this is no ordinary moment. You are being asked to care for yourself in a new way, to cleanse your perception with space, with kindness, with compassion – to pause and to encode a new pathway.

With the ally of the breath, shift your awareness out of the overwhelming narrative, for it is no longer safe there. It is not serving you to travel down the conditioned rabbit hole of unworthiness and self-abandonment any longer. These are the leftover grooves of an earlier time, and ache to be reorganized by way of empathy, attunement, and embodied presence.

Conserve your precious life energy, remove it from that which is no longer working in your best interest, and direct it into your belly, your heart, your throat. And ask: what feeling is wanting to be met now? In what way am I being asked to care for the vulnerable, the tender, and the shaky within me, to no longer project it outward in the movement of self-abandonment and self-aggression? How am I being asked to tend to myself in a new way? To touch the erupting, raw, achy life that is surging now for holding.

Look carefully, with curiosity, patience, kindness, and compassion and see the ways you leave the embodied world of pure feeling, bailing on your vulnerability as you escape back into the conditioned narrative of complaint, resentment, shame, blame, and self-attack. Return home.

While it may seem you are longing for something outside you, in these moments you are only longing for your own presence. For you need yourself now more than ever. This world needs you now more than ever.

Photo by Ester Marie Doysabas

The next retreat - The Deep Rest Retreat: Slowing Down and Befriending Yourself in Difficult Times - September 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado - registration open 

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.