Monday, March 30, 2020

Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times

Dear friend, 

I hope this note finds you healthy and safe, and doing okay in this time of groundlessness and uncertainty. I wanted to share some of my recent writing with you and to let you know that we'll be re-opening our online community, Befriending Yourself, to new registration as of today.

While we may be asked to practice social distancing for now, which is wise and also kind, this does not mean we must be distant to one another’s hearts.

I know that many of you - in addition to trying to keep yourself and your family safe physically - are also confronting feelings of loneliness, fear, and even hopelessness. Having a community to gather with regularly (online) can help us to bear the unbearable together and open to the opportunity that these difficult times offer to us at deeper emotional and spiritual levels.

As some of you know, we open our online community, Befriending Yourself, a few times per year to new members, with the next open planned for the summer. However, in light of the present circumstances, we have re-opened to new registration today and will stay open for the foreseeable future.

Four times each month (once per week except in the cases where a month has five Thursdays) Jeff Foster and I will come online live (twice together and once, each, individually) for meditation, conversation, and connection. These sessions will take place on the first four Thursdays of the month, at 11am Pacific Time (Los Angeles). For those unable to attend live, audio and video recordings will be sent out shortly after the session ends, as well as a downloadable written transcript.

>>> Learn more about Befriending Yourself and how to join

These are the times in our lives when we need ourselves and others more than ever, when we need an infusion of presence, empathy, attunement, perspective, and compassion.

Whether or not we connect with one another online at this time, I wish you the very best and look forward to staying in touch over these coming weeks and months.

Together, we will get through this.

Sending my love,


We may be asked to practice social distancing for now, which is wise and also kind, but this does not mean we must be distant to one another’s hearts. For the bridge between hearts is crafted of the scintillae of light.

There are times when the ground will fall away, and there are no longer any reference points from which to make sense of what is happening. The rug has been pulled from under the life we thought was here, and were counting on to provide stability, solidity, and sense.

The narratives are conflicting, the feelings are contradictory, and the path forward is hazy. It’s as if we can’t access what was so clear from even a few days ago. Even “a few days ago” feels so far away.

All of the work we’ve done – the surrendering, the healing, the insights, the discoveries, the realizations… for some reason, it’s no longer in reach. It’s as if we’re being asked to start over.

There is a sense that some sort of veil is parting, but what is coming next has not yet been given. At times it feels so alive in the unknown, but at other times it is disorienting, and we burn for resolution.

Rather than struggle against the uncertainty, we can give ourselves permission to enter inside it. There is a refuge here, though it is hidden and may not be accessible via ordinary means. We don’t live in a world that honors the wisdom in confusion and doubt, but we were never designed to live someone else’s journey anyway.

Stay close to what is here now, even if what is here is uncertainty, confusion, hopelessness, and just being a bit scared. These, too, are the path, but we must move out of the status quo, habitual perception, and collective trance to remember.

No, today may not be a day for answers, but to let our hearts break open together to the vastness of the question. To take the risk to love one another in a new way. To speak kind words, to listen and hold another’s grief, to stay near.

To use this time in solitude to remember how dear, precious, fragile, and precarious it truly is here.

During uncertain times – where the personal, cultural, and collective status quo is shaken – listening and attuning to the manifestations of the unconscious can be an important way to stay connected with ourselves, with the soul, and with what matters most deeply to us.

Of course, many of us will be spending a lot of time and energy taking care of ourselves and our families, ensuring the safety of those around us, staying up to date on reports from organizations and agencies we trust, and following guidelines designed to protect as many of us as possible. It is both wise and kind to engage in all of this with a sharp, creative mind and open, flexible heart.

But in those moments when we find ourselves alone, social-distancing, and unable to distract ourselves in our ordinary ways, we may find ourselves in a unique situation to listen. Finally. To slow down. And listen to what it is the soul has been whispering to us.

The soul is always reaching out to us, by way of our dreams and fantasy-images, unexpected sensations in the body, irrational moods, and unexplainable “symptoms” of all kinds.

But usually we are too busy to listen, to feel, to sense, to enter into partnership with the voices, figures, and the lifeforce that is attempting to reach us.

For therapists (and everyone), you might pay careful attention to the counter-transference in these times, what emerges in your body and within the interactional field as you listen and attune to another, as they share their fears, fantasies, dreams, and images with you. For it is often through the body that the unconscious is able to find us.

I will not paint some Pollyannaish fantasy that there is always opportunity in times of uncertainty, fear, and challenge, for I do not believe it is that simple. For many, this situation will not be experienced as opportunity, but as tragedy. These ones could of course be me. And for these ones I pray.

For others, there is a unique invitation in times of isolation, where the rug is pulled away and the distractions are no longer there. Where the voices, images, and dreams have found a way in. The soul is not in us, but we are in the soul. And it is speaking.

There are times when things fall apart. When internal and external structures, references points, and the axis around which we spin is dissolved… not by ourselves, but by nature, by the great Other.

In the face of this dissolution, it is very natural to go through a process of disbelief, fear, and rage. What will happen to me? To my family? To this world? To sentient life?

It is essential that we turn into this dissolution, which is a wrathful, yet holy emanation of the soul, of the beloved as he or she or it makes its way into this world of time and space.

To take some moments to slow down, root into the earth, and to craft these bodies as vessels to contain, hold, and integrate the feelings, the images, the impulses, and the uncertainty. These experiences, though difficult and challenging to tend, are not obstacles to our path, but are the very essence of the path itself.

As we offer safe passage and sanctuary for the falling apart of me and my world and how I dreamed it would all turn out, we step into the realm of the warrior. Our heart is turned into a temple. Inside this temple, fearlessness does not mean never being afraid, or pathologizing fear, transcending, or shaming it. It means the profound, alive, creative, empowered willingness to meet fear, moment by moment, with the power and beauty of our brokenness.

As we turn this body into a vessel of presence, attunement, curiosity, and love – and as we metabolize and assimilate that which we’re being asked to hold now – we might discover a tenderness underneath it all, a soft spot, even a soreness, an ache. It is an ache of grief for this world, for how fragile, temporary, delicate, and tenuous it truly is here.

How precious it is, how rare, how outrageous, even, to be given another breath. This breath. And this one.

In this recognition, we see that whether things are falling apart or staying together, somehow it is workable, what we’re feeling is valid, and that our lifeline is that invisible bridge that connects one heart with another.