Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The path is everywhere


There are times when the ground will fall out from underneath us, when an old dream dies… me and my life and the way I was so sure it would turn out. A person we thought would be with us forever, meaning in our work and art, even our deepest realizations… shattered into the vast.

The invitation is into the landscape of grief, into the purifying waters of lamentation, deep into a well which has become hidden in the caves of the soul. But this structure can be seen, if we look behind the veil. Once located, we can sit by that well and grieve the ending of one world so that another may begin.

The well is located in the very center of the mandala, which is paradoxically where we always, already are, but it can be so easy to lose track of our home base, whether imaged as the palace of the soul, the light of the spirit, or the ventral passageways of the holy human nervous system.

The path is everywhere but it can take slowing down and a cleansing of perception for this revelation to ground in our bodies. Our sensitivities, vulnerabilities, and eccentricities are not obstacles to our path, but are the very path itself.

Today may not be the day where we will find answers but to be taken into the vastness of the question.

In the language of alchemy, transmutation is a process where the lead of habitual consciousness is converted into the emerald, silver, and gold of aliveness, creativity, and new vision.

This unfolding evokes the image of the elusive philosopher’s stone, the ruby red doorway into the mystery and the majesty of inner and outer nature.

The stone is here now but is outside ordinary view, and longs in its own way to come here and share its qualities and fragrances. Hidden in the moon, in the sand, in the stars, and the heart-cells, it wants you as its vessel.


Photo by John Fowler

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The lost ones of psyche and soma


When we’re hurting, scared, and the wound is open and weeping, there is a deep longing to be companioned, for a safe soothed nervous system to resonate and co-regulate with.

The grief, the rage, the heartbreak, the panic… emerge not to harm, but to be felt and integrated, and allowed their rightful place in the larger ecology of being.

If we’re unable to process and provide a home for the lost ones of psyche and soma, they are held in limbic and bodily circuitry until conditions are ripe for metabolization.

While understanding and insight can be supportive, it is right-brain immersion in safety-fields which fosters cellular restructuring. The body will reorganize when it feels safe.

It is a reparative neural experience that unveils that sacred soothing, where the images, feelings, and orphans of the unlived life are able to be digested, taken into the sanctuary, and release their psychic nutrients.

It is as if the little one, left behind at the moment of traumatic impact, emerges into the here and now space, alive longing and burning and pleading, “Is it safe yet? Can I return home? “Can I play again?” Or will I be shamed, abandoned, rejected, and shattered as before?

While we’re wired to co-regulate with another, the nature of this “other” is oriented in the mystery and may be nearer than we’ve come to believe.

Just behind the veil, there are colors, fragrances, symbols, and visions, emanations of the Friend as it appears as shepherd into soul.

As the covering parts just a bit, we may discover that it’s more creative, merciful, and majestic than we expected.


Photo by Niklas Priddat



Monday, July 19, 2021

Free videos and new self-guided home study online courses


Dear friends, 

A few of you have asked where to find the free videos, "Trauma and the Wounded Healer," "Spirituality, Shadow, and the Figures of Light," and "An Invitation to Rest Your Nervous System." I have provided the links here.

And here are the links for the corresponding self-guided, online home study courses:

Resting Your Nervous System: Embodying a Trauma-Sensitive Spirituality and Discovering a Felt Sense of Safety

Embracing the Shadow and the Path of Light

The Path of the Wounded Healer

The next online course, The Path is Everywhere: A Five-Week Journey of Being and Belonging, into the Heart of Embodied Spirituality, Relational Neuroscience, and a Psychotherapy of the Soul, will start in October.

If you'd like to stay updated on all of my new free videos, courses, and new writing, you can sign up for my mailing list below.

>>Sign up for Matt's mailing list

I hope you're enjoying the summer (winter for my friends down under) and I look forward to being in touch over the weeks and months to come. 

Warmly, 
Matt


Image by Federico Bottos

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The body knows, the heart knows


So many of us feel shame related to our trauma, wounding, and sensitivities, as if they’re evidence that we’ve failed, it’s our fault, that something’s wrong with us, and that we’re broken and beyond repair.

Even if we “know” this isn’t accurate, that cortical knowing is no match for the subcortical fires in our limbic and bodily circuitry, where unmetabolized grief, sadness, and rage dwell as the shattered children of our unlived lives.

The emotional pain is tragic in and of itself, but underneath is a psychic homelessness and deep sense that we’re alone, which is really at the root of trauma. Here, we long and burn for the missing companion.

As human beings, we are wired to co-regulate - to rest, explore, and play within a relational field. We were not crafted to “do it all on our own” - the nervous system that goes with this particular star is one designed to flower in a relational vessel.

We can do so much for one another, to transmute personal, collective, and transgenerational trauma and trance: The words we use, the softness in our eyes, our presence when we listen, taking the time and the care to ensure that the other feels felt and understood.

So many of us are living in a way that has been toned toward a felt sense where it’s just not safe to be who and what we are.

If you want to help someone in your life, start by helping them to feel safe.

While the mind may conclude that a moment of safety is inconsequential, the body knows, the heart knows. If we look carefully, we may see just how that one moment ripples out into the neural circuitry of the world.


Photo by RitaE


Saturday, July 10, 2021

The Resting Your Nervous System self-guided home study course





Dear friend,

As a psychotherapist, mentor, and teacher, I’m often asked about the role of the nervous system in transformation and healing, and how things like trauma and relational wounding can affect our capacity to feel safe, intimate, and connected with life.

I’ve recently created an 18-hour self-guided home study course to explore all this, weaving together teachings and practices from the fields of depth and somatic psychologies, trauma studies, relational neuroscience, and the meditative traditions. You can learn about the course and how to register below.

>>Learn more about the Resting Your Nervous System self-guided home study course

You can work through the course at a pace that is right for you, from the comfort of your own home. The course consists of 12, 90-minute video sessions, each of which include guided practices and exercises, talks and presentations, and responses to commonly asked questions. The material is also offered on audio as well as through written transcripts, which you can download.

Some of the topics covered in the course include:

  • The importance of resting the nervous system, especially in uncertain and transitional times
  • How any integral approach to our spiritual lives must include awareness of and sensitivity to trauma and relational wounding
  • How the felt sense of safety is the foundation for psychological growth and emotional healing
  • The essential role of the body in healing, especially in times of overwhelm and stress
  • A not-too-technical, experiential understanding of the nervous system and its role in paths of transformation and healing
  • A fresh look at what trauma is and how it is more common than we might think
  • The relationship between trauma and feeling unsafe, and how “safety” is the ultimate medicine when it comes to trauma recovery
  • Trauma, the nervous system, and the workings of implicit, emotional, and bodily memory
  • How and why we cannot “think” our way out of trauma and other types of relational wounding
  • The meaning of integration and how trauma is a dis-integrating experience, and the need for experiential process in healing the emotional brain
  • Neuroplasticity, caring for ourselves in a new way, and the encoding of new neural circuitry
  • The role of the “other” in healing - self-regulation and regulating with another
  • Neural integration and the importance of linking together the layers of our experience
  • The unconscious investment we may have in not healing and honoring the realities and implications of what true healing will always ask of us
  • Establishing a list of specific, individualized practices and exercises you can engage in the moment when you notice yourself activated and overwhelmed
  • The importance of understanding our own “window of tolerance” and learning to navigate and widen our window over time
  • The role of contemplative practices such as mindfulness, breathing, and yoga - and discerning when they are being used in healthy vs. less-than-healthy ways
  • How mindfulness- or meditation-based practice is not always the most wise, skillful, or compassion approach to working with trauma and other relational wounding
  • How spiritual beliefs and practices can overwhelm our nervous systems and can also serve as unconscious pathways of self-abandonment and even retraumatization
I find this material to be rich and multi-layered and essential for those of us interested in an embodied, contemporary, emotionally-attuned, trauma-sensitive approach to spirituality and healing, a spirituality that will really filter down into our bodies, relationships, and out into the neural circuitry of the world.

>>Learn more about the Resting Your Nervous System online course

I hope you find the course beneficial, if you do end up joining, and I look forward to staying in touch over the months to come.

Warmly,

Matt Licata

P.S. If you’ve not yet had a chance to watch the free video, An Invitation to Rest Your Nervous System, you can do so here.  

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

A child appears


Bring your attention to your feet as they touch the floor, your energy and awareness dropping downward, toward the ground, into the earth, into the womb.

Imagine sitting in a living room on a comfortable couch, at sunset with a warm fire in the fireplace, the smells and sounds of an early evening in the mountains, as you hear a soft knock at the door.

Hesitatingly you walk over to the door and open it… a child is there, a little one – shaky, frightened, alone, and tired from a long journey.

There is something familiar about them but you can’t quite place it… just see them now, receive them, sense them, open to them. Things are never quite as they appear.

At times they seem anxious, heartbroken, scared, and confused, unsure of why they have come, where God is, if they belong, if it’s safe enough to be here with all of their feeling, vulnerability, and sensitivity.

In the face of this anxiety, worry, panic, and shame, would you refuse entry to the little one? Would you first demand that his fear dissolve, her anxiety be healed, his confusion clarify, or her heart be mended?

In your most authoritative spiritual voice, would you urge the little one to first "get over it,” accept everything the way it is, urgently forgive those who have harmed them, or quickly “raise their vibration?”

Or would you provide sanctuary and safe passage for them to rest as they are? A safe, contained temple in which the stories, the feelings, and the images can emerge, unfold, and be held?

Inside the heart of this little one, the beloved is at work, spinning out worlds of experience which are soaked with intelligence, sacred data, and saturated with both sweet and fierce grace. Somehow, love is making its way here through the shattering, through the mercy of this one.

With your presence and your warmth, help them to feel felt and understood and that they are safe now, that you will be a companion through the dark night, and that they are no longer alone.

Look carefully at them and see who and what they are. If you want to help a little one – whether they are on the inside or outside – help them to feel safe.


Photo by Alexas_Photos


Friday, July 2, 2021

Free Video from Matt Licata - An Invitation to Rest Your Nervous System



Dear friend,

I hope this note finds you well as we move into the summer (winter for my friends down under). It’s been such an unprecedented year (or two) and I know many of us are just now starting to sense into the real possibility of rebirth and renewal. Some sort of new guidance or new way of being is beginning to emerge, but in some ways we’re still in that middle, liminal period.

I want to share a free video with you, a mini-webinar that I recorded entitled, An Invitation to Rest Your Nervous System, where I speak about slowing down and attuning to inner and outer nature as we move into the next phase. Along with the video, there is also a free pdf which explores the importance of listening to the nervous system as part of an embodied spirituality.

>>Access the free video and pdf on An Invitation to Rest Your Nervous System

The reality is that many of us have been shaken, thrown off, or even shattered by all of the transition over the last year or so, where our nervous systems have been or toned or cued away from an embodied, felt sense of safety, and have shifted into subtle - or not so subtle! - states of restlessness, fear, loneliness, and stress of all kinds.

Perhaps now, more than ever, it is essential to find ways to rest our nervous systems, a journey that will be unique for each of us, not only to manage traumatic stress and this core soul-level exhaustion and disorientation that many of us are experiencing, but to deepen our relationship with the earth and the natural world, with our hearts, and to reconnect with the sacredness of what it means to be a human being alive on the planet at this time.

In order to experience the deep healing, joy, and aliveness that so many of us are longing for, it’s essential to be able to have our baseline or our psychic center of gravity within a felt sense of safety, where safety is the “neural scaffolding” you could say, or the experiential foundation from which we’re able to open, explore, play, connect, and create with one another. To really live.

I hope you enjoy the free video (and pdf) and find it interesting, helpful, and maybe even a bit provocative.

>>Access the free video and pdf An Invitation to Rest Your Nervous System

For those of you who are interested in deepening in this journey and exploration with me, I’ve recently released an 18-hour self-guided home study course entitled, “Resting Your Nervous System: Embodying a Trauma-Sensitive Spirituality and Discovering a Felt Sense of Safety.” You can learn more about the online training here.

Thank you, as always, for your interest in an embodied, shadow-sensitive, emotionally-attuned, and trauma-informed approach to psychological growth, emotional healing, and spiritual transformation, and I look forward to staying in touch over the weeks and months to come.

Warmly,

Matt Licata

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The mandala of the wounded healer


Much of our wounding has its origin in historical experience, what happened and what didn’t happen at an earlier time. But as we all know, the neural networks which hold our wounding can and do open in the here and now. In these moments, our wounds begin to weep and to make themselves available for new relationship.

As painful and difficult as this can be, this reality is one of tremendous hope and possibility and what makes transformative healing possible.

We can’t go back and change what happened to us, or undo failures in empathic mirroring, narcissistic injury, and the tragic effects of an inadequate holding environment.

But what we can transform is how our experience has come to be organized, and update the networks which hold our wounding.

As the emotional and somatic material is digested and revised, we’re able to tell a new story of integration and wholeness, dream a new dream, and be the artist of a new world.

As midwife of the achy, tender shakiness that was once unbearable and unendurable, we provide a sanctuary where metabolization can occur and where safety is restored.

This is the entryway into the mandala of the wounded healer.

Somehow, by some grace, the ripening has brought us to this point in our lives, in ways we may never fully understand. Somehow, by some unfolding of mercy, the resources and the allies appear.

There’s nothing more hopeful and unstoppable than that, than the majesty of this body-temple and holy nervous system, and the wild realities of neuroplasticity and the human heart to reorganize and heal.

There is a trust and a confidence that dawns slowly, over time, that we can do this, that we can hold and contain and digest the grief, the fear, the heartbreak, the shame, and the rage. That new cloth can be woven. That we can feel home again, with ourselves, others, with nature, with the divine.

Alchemically speaking, that we can transmute the lead and the tin and the rust into the emerald and the silver and the golden, safe and connected, no longer alone, but fully here and welcome and wanted, and knowing that we truly belong.



Art credit: wolf as ally and portal by Krista Marleena

Click here for free videos and new online courses

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Safety and the stars


The tragedy of relational trauma presents itself as a cellular fragmenting, more primordial than a mere cognitive dissonance, neurally-encoded and rooted in the soul.

In these fields of disorganization, we simultaneously long for and are terrified of “the Other,” not knowing whether to move toward or step away. This sort of essence-disorientation runs through the entire psychic and bodily circuitry.

For a young child, the attachment figure is God or Goddess, magician, and seer - without them the end is near. But when this figure is also the very source of terror for the little one – or are shocked and traumatized themselves – we find ourselves in uncharted waters.

It takes everything to sit in this field with a brother or sister who has been touched in this way, who has come to organize their experience around this sort of rupture and betrayal. At times, our hearts shatter and break in grief with them.

In addition to the chronic empathic failure and narcissistic injury which goes to the very core of our sense of self, what can be even more devastating is a deep knowing that “I’m alone in this.” The absence of companionship, of feeling felt and understood, is at the heart of trauma and devastating to a human being wired to rest within a relational field.

To provide even a sliver of hope, a moment of safety, where they can feel felt and understood, just one moment where they can re-link, re-associate, re-embody, and know a new world is possible.

To look up at you and see and feel and sense that you are there with them, that you honor who and what they are and the coherence and validity of their experience. That you will not demand they urgently transform or heal or be different in order for you to stay near.

Never underestimate the power of love and what we can do to help. A few kind words, listening to another and their story, holding them, offering shelter and refuge, helping them to feel safe, even if for only a few seconds.

To do this with just one person, one microsecond at a time, and then, together, allow this felt sense and knowing of safety to ripple out into the neural circuity of the stars. Always together.


Photo by John Lee

Click here for free videos and new online courses 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The purifying transmission of grief


Tending to grief is the essence of the wounded healer. Proving a sanctuary and safe passage for its unfolding – in the body, the psyche, and the nervous system – requires that we fall to the ground, at times, and weep.

Weep for the shattering, for the dying of an old dream, for the entirety of the unlived life. It was just never going to turn out the way we thought. It’s too shimmering, too majestic for all that. It is these tears that form the portal to connection.

Grief is not something we “get over” by way of stages and techniques, but an eternal and faithful partner we spin with as the cycles unfold, purifying us by way of lamentation.

We live in a world that has lost contact with the holy yellowing of the soul. But to marginalize or pathologize the experience of grief is to work against nature. The earth grieves by way of her seasons, the rotting of leaves, and by way of the ache in her rain drop. Each evening as the sun yields to the stars we can know and commune with that longing.

There is no endpoint to this turning of the light, no final state of resolution where we land in some untouchable place, free from our embodied vulnerability, our somatic aliveness, and from the possibility of more burning.

Rather, we find ourselves in the procedure the alchemists called the rotatio, the holy spinning of vast cycles of rupture and repair that touch and open the human person.

The soul is endless and the visitors of grief may companion us for a lifetime. But the forgotten, brokenhearted orphans of psyche and soma come not to harm, but to reveal. And to open a doorway into mercy and wholeness.

Grief is not so much a process that we “make it through” and come out the other side fully intact, but a non-linear, purifying midwife of the unknown. It moves not by way of straight line, but by a shattering, involving circle and spiral.


Photo by Karen Nadine

Click here for free videos and new online courses 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The wound as initiation


It’s important to honor that part of us that isn’t so sure about healing, about turning back toward the shakiness and the shattering, as at some deep level we sense what the implications of true healing really are: the ending of one world, without any solid knowing about the world that will replace it.

And while this may seem exhilarating or thrilling or “what we really want,” it is also disorienting and devastating to the psychic status quo, and there may always be an unconscious investment to avoid this sort of reorganization. This hesitation is not neurotic, but intelligent and human, and is deserved of mercy and understanding.

It’s natural to have some contradictory feelings about healing. While honoring that uncertainty, we can simultaneously have an aspiration to stay open to the ways our wounding may be a portal to deeper healing.

To stay open to the cry out from the heart of the wounded healer: This grief, rage, shame, melancholy, and sadness, these are not pathology, but path; with the invitation to stay open to the ways our wounding can serve an initiatory function.

The wounded healer isn’t only some myth that we can learn about: Chiron and his weeping wound and the Asklepian dream incubation temples in ancient Greece. But a living reality inside our very DNA, in our cells, buried in our neural pathways, and wired into what it means to be an open, sensitive, relational human being.

That Asklepian temple is alive within you now and its doors are open.

The medicine we’re longing for is not found in a wound that is already healed, but in one that is weeping and presenting itself to us, opening itself to be updated with new experience.

The medicine is inside the wound, not something we apply to the wound, a discovery of the alchemists and well as the neuroscientists of relational trauma. The wound has to open as well as the neural networks holding our wounding, so that we can go inside and seed those networks with new levels of holding, companionship, and safety.


Photo by nextvoyage

Click here for free videos and new online courses 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

An autonomic form of gaslighting


Much of our wounding occurs prior to the acquisition of language and is not able to be healed through the questioning and reorganization of patterns of thinking. In other words, we can’t think our way out of trauma.

When our capacity to process unbearable terror, panic, shame, and rage is overwhelmed, undigested pieces of experience are held subcortically and in our cellular circuitry, unreachable by thinking which is a layer removed from the fires of the alchemical body.

Encouragement to “just get over it, that’s totally irrational, you can’t really believe that, you know that’s not true” and so forth is experienced by an inflamed nervous system as the activity of violence and aggression.

It’s like an autonomic form of gaslighting and reflects a deep misunderstanding of trauma and the workings of implicit memory, and only contributes to re-traumatization, in personal, cultural, and collective networks.

In addition to shattering and unendurable experience – which is painful and terrifying enough – there is a profound sense of aloneness that goes with this, the sense that no one can understand, that there is no companionship into the dark night. I am alone in this. This is devastating to the soul.

When that raging alive little boy or aching little girl cries out longing to be held, to be known, to be felt, to be heard, to be remembered… peeking their little heads out as if to say, “Is it safe now? How about now? I’ve been waiting for so long for a companion and friend. How about now?”, they’re really not all that interested in our clear cognitive analysis, rational inquiry, powerful spiritual insight, and thoughts on the matter.

They’re yearning for something else… for you, for your heart, for your holding. To know that you will stay near, that you will not abandon or shame them, that you will do your best to provide sanctuary and safe passage for them to come Home, to be allowed to come out of that frozen state and live once again.

In this way they don’t even want or need to be healed, but to be held. And to feel safe.


Photo by Lisa Runnels

Click here for free videos and new online courses 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

A new sort of self care


No matter how things are going in your life, you can start right where you are. With mercy, grace, and a new sort of self-care.

The restlessness, the shakiness, the raw shattering, the grief; all valid responses to a sensitive, tender nervous system, in a world where it’s not always easy to have our center of gravity within a felt sense of safety.

We cannot tend to a future moment; it’s just not close enough, tactile enough, intimate enough. But we can surround and contain the achy life as it surges in a moment of here and now.

For just one second, shift your awareness out of the claustrophobia and spinning of conditioned thinking and into the soles of your feet as they make contact with the earth. Root there, into the mud and womb.

It’s not so safe in those old patterns of thinking – enactments of intergenerational trauma and trance. Allow your attention to come up out of the earth and infuse your belly, your heart, and your throat, with compassion, holding, and breath. Holy data.

Renew your vow: I will not turn from myself and abandon my embodied vulnerability. No, not this time. I will no longer pathologize my emotional experience, the somatic narrative, the story of my nervous system.

The lion’s roar: Grief is not pathology. Heartbreak is not pathology. Sensitivity is not pathology. Not pathology, but path.

Two seconds. Then rest. Then three. More rest. As we send breath into the broken shards, into the lost pieces of soul, a new groove is laid down, new circuity is encoded. As we turn the light around, a new pathway appears.

Ask the earth to hold you, to share her soothing water, shade, and safe haven, and stay near as you open.

Find a friend, therapist, lover, ocean, moon, star, or holy roaring lion to bear witness as you turn into the raw alive somatic world.

The seen and unseen ones are always here to help us, to reveal the way home. To illuminate the pathways of darkness and of light, each containing a particle of the mystery, a strand of love seeking you as a tender vessel through which it can come alive here.



Art by Krista Marleena – the emerging of the holy lion, as ally and guide, ceramic sculpture

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Receiving Matt's writing via email (update)

Dear friends, 

I hope this note finds you well as we move into the spring. I know that it's been a long winter for many of us. 

I'm writing to let you know that you can have my blog posts emailed to you by signing up here

If you're already signed up to receive my posts via email, please note that I have recently switched to follow.it to take care of this as the old feedburner service is being discontinued. The good news is that you have a lot more options with follow.it which is a more seamless (and modern) service. To review the options for receiving emails, please go here

I usually send out around 3-4 emails per month and many have shared that they enjoying receiving the writing in their email in-box rather than having to continually come back to the site. 

Thank you for reading my writing and for sharing some of your hearts and lives with me. 

Warmly, 

Matt

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Initiation into the soul


The truth is that for many of us, initiation into the soul occurs by way of transition, shattering, loss, and reorganization, where what we were so sure about and the way we thought things were going to turn out begins to fall away and dissolve.

This dissolution is not evidence of error or mistake, but is a core alchemical unfolding, a non-negotiable and holy process, actually, that our world has lost contact with and even pathologized. Not a movement upward, into the light, transcendent, solar, and clear; but one of descent, ground, dust, and lunar, of the earth and the mud.

The experience of dissolution is archetypal and wired into the human psyche and points to how our wounding can serve an initiatory function, revealing that there are pieces of the soul, of the spirit, and of the Divine that are knowable only by way of a falling apart, of a holy crumbling, that aren’t accessible in times of clarity, certainty, and status quo.

And, this is painful. Like I don’t want that. We can honor that part of us that just isn’t interested in that, in participating in that sort of death and rebirth. Well, we want the rebirth part, but not the death, not the restructuring. This longing for certainty, for flow, for transcendence, for upward, for light, for clarity, of course this need not be shamed, made wrong, or dishonored - it’s so very human.

But perhaps the invitation is to somehow hold both, to hold the tension of the opposites and to travel into the very heart of that paradox and contradiction, where the Beloved is alive and seeding out the worlds… to honor and hold the desire for that flow, and to also honor and hold the inevitable reality that the rug will be pulled out from underneath us as part of this path.

And that that too is holy, is also God, is also Life. It, too, is flow, but a reorganizing flow. Not a grace that is sweet, but one that is fierce. But grace nonetheless.


Photo by Jackie Matthews

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The achy path of close personal relationships


In any close relationship (where we take the risk of allowing another to matter) we open ourselves to the two primordial archetypal energies of abandonment and fusion. Sensing the potential for shattering reorganization, it makes sense that there is some hesitancy in stepping all the way in.

We come into relationship with a living template of past relational experiences: will I be safe? Can I be fully as I am? What about all of my eccentricities, sensitivities, vulnerabilities, and weeping wounds? Will I need to be someone different in order to be seen and held? Will I lose myself? Is this all going to be worth it?

Inevitably, ruptures will occur within the relational field, in that tender intersection between ourselves and another. But these ruptures are natural, organic, and quantum, and reveal themselves to be secret portals to wholeness.

A healthy relationship is not one where there is never any conflict, but where rupture is repaired, where repair is path, and where we honor our connectedness as well as our autonomy. The invitation is into the unresolvable mystery waters of separation and union, not unconscious merging into some homogenized leaky middle.

Each of us arrives into the emerging we-space with biographical, cultural, and archetypal patterning, schemas, and implicit worlds of meaning. These intertwine to weave the interactional field, along with the companionship, play, and shepherding of the mysterious Other, the third who also appears.

Through co-regulation, co-articulation, and making sense of our experience together, the templates reveal their transparency and become ripe for revisioning, open to be re-seeded with empathic circuits of resonance. But in the core of that ripening it is tender and sensitive, and will ask everything of us, dissolving the dream of the way we thought it was all going to turn out. That dissolution is neither error or mistake, but is of the holy.

This is why close personal relationships can be so achingly painful, on the one hand, while simultaneously being the most majestic and transmutative temple on the other.


Art credit: Owl, as sol and luna, clay sculpture by Krista Marleena

Monday, May 3, 2021

Trauma, safety, and companionship


Trauma occurs when our capacity to process emotional and somatic experience is overwhelmed.

One of the things we’ve learned about trauma is that it’s not so much what happens that causes an experience to be embodied as trauma, but how it comes to be organized in the nervous system.

What is most impactful is whether there is an empathic other who can help us to hold and metabolize what would otherwise be fragmenting. The nature of this “other” is of the mystery and can take inner and outer forms.

The journey is inside the neural network which is holding the unprocessed soul-material, and to infuse it with qualities and experiences not previously available: trust, courage, companionship, validation, love.

But more than anything, the network is updated by way of an embodied, felt sense of safety.

We might see trauma as involving two core components: overwhelming experience, on the one hand, and the felt experience of aloneness on the other. Not only do we have these very unworkable, terrifying flooding images, feelings, and sensations, but at some very basic level we’re alone with all that.

Perhaps it is the aloneness, in the end, that is so devastating to us as sensitive, relational human beings.

As an act of mercy and compassion, we are asked to take care of that frozen, confused one who has become stuck in the time machine of trauma and implicit memory, to ensure that he or she is not alone.

That we’ll listen to them, be there for them, and hold them so they’re able to feel felt and understood, and more than anything to know that they are safe now, perhaps for the first time ever. To invite the shattered one into a safe field where he or she can be seen and known.

To bear witness to their untold story as it unfolds across verbal, somatic, and autonomic narratives:

“Yes, I hear you, I see you, I want to know you, hold you, care for you, listen to you. I will not forget you. I will not forsake you. You are no longer alone. You are safe now.”


Photo by serenestarts

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Holding the orphans of psyche and soma


You don't have to fix anyone's problems. You don’t have to save them, heal them, or urgently get them to take on your favorite beliefs, theories, and techniques.

Just be there with them so that they feel felt and understood. When they look up at you, you are really there.

Listen, to the story they are telling you, of how they are making sense of their experience. Listen also to the somatic story, to the secret, sensitive language emerging from their body and their heart.

And also listen carefully to their story of safety and what makes them feel safe. This story is told in the language of the nervous system and will speak to you if you attune to it.

Momentarily bracket your beliefs, ideas, and systems of change. With the poetic beauty and power of your mirror neuron system, enter into the miracle we-space with them, where they can know for just one moment that they are not alone.

I'm with you. I'm here. I feel you. I understand you.

Extend to them a soothed nervous system, a sanctuary of holding, a field of permission where their experience can unfold without any pressure for it to shift, change, or heal. Remove the burden that they become someone or something else in order for you to stay close.

For just a few moments, resist the temptation to “teach” them, but instead “reach” them.

The mind will doubt if this is enough… but the body knows. The heart knows.

We are able to do this to the degree with are in touch with the orphans of soma and psyche that dance out our own unlived life – the unmet grief, the untouched sadness, the unmetabolized rage.

If we are not in conscious, embodied, and compassionate contact with these ones, we will not be able to recognize and hold them as they surge in the interactional field, and our friend will not feel safe to access, articulate, and integrate what is alive within them.

The Other – whether manifesting outside us or taking internal form – is not in need of new information, strategies, techniques, or beliefs, but longs and burns for you… your presence, your tenderness, your raw unfiltered being, your love.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Unfolding spirals of grief


Tending to grief is the essence of the alchemical wounded healer. Proving a sanctuary and safe passage for its unfolding – in the body, the psyche, and the nervous system – requires that we fall to the ground, at times, and weep.

Weep for the shattering, for the dying of a dream, for the entirety of the unlived life. For it is these tears that form the substance of the portal to joy.

Grief is not something we “get over,” but a partner we spin with, honor at times, argue with at others, and lament with as the cycles of our lives unfold.

We live in a world that has lost contact with the holy waters of reorganization. But to marginalize the experience of grief to work against nature. Out in the natural world, the earth grieves by way of her seasons. We can feel that grief in a rain drop, if we allow ourselves to be taken apart and put back together.

There is no endpoint to this restructuring, no final state of resolution where we land in some untouchable place, free from our embodied vulnerability, our somatic aliveness, and from more burning.

Rather, we find ourselves in what the alchemists called the rotatio, the holy rotation of vast cycles of rupture and repair that touch and open the human soul.

The soul is endless and the visitors of grief may companion us for a lifetime. But the grieving, orphaned ones of psyche and soma come not to harm, but to reveal. And to open a doorway into wholeness, mercy, and light.

Grief is not so much a process that we “make it through” and come out the other side fully intact, but a non-linear, purifying midwife of the unknown. It moves not by way of straight line, but by that of circle and spiral.



Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Matt Licata's new online course - Embracing the Shadow and the Path of Light


Dear friends, 

My new self-guided online course – Embracing the Shadow and the Path of Light – is now available. 

This is my most recent home study course, and one I recommend for those interested in a contemporary, embodied, trauma-sensitive approach to transformation and healing, weaving together therapeutic, meditative, and neuroscientific streams of insight and practice.

The course is over 13 hours in length and includes guided exercises, talks and lectures on important themes related to the shadow and depth psychological work, as well as responses to many of the most commonly asked questions that I receive. The course draws extensively on my personal and clinical experience over the last 30 years.

While embracing, integrating, and working with the shadow is emphasized in some circles, the truth is that it is left out of many of our spiritual, self-help, personal growth, and healing traditions.

As Jung noted, shadow work is “disagreeable” and therefore unlikely to ever be that popular. Yet here we are, the misfits, along with the mystics, alchemists, and wild women and men who came before us.

In my experience, we’re never going to be able to meet that longing we each have to feel fully alive, intimate, and connected with ourselves, others, the natural world, and the divine, if we are not in conscious, embodied, and compassionate relationship with the unfelt and unlived dimensions of our experience.

In this sense, embracing and working with the shadow is the foundation of all spirituality and healing, and is ultimately a path of love, a gift we give to ourselves and to all of life.

I hope you enjoy the course and find it interesting and meaningful.



Saturday, April 17, 2021

Free video on "Trauma and the Wounded Healer"


Dear friend, 

I wanted to share with you free access to a short webinar I recorded recently where I spoke about an embodied, trauma-sensitive path of spirituality and healing through the archetype of the wounded healer. 

>>Free access to the "Trauma and the Wounded Healer" video 

Many of us interested in things like spirituality, yoga, mindfulness, meditation, psychotherapy, and plant medicine have been wounded in our lives – physically, emotionally, or at a deeper soul level.

What is the relationship between our wounding and our healing? In what way might our wounding – whether it manifests as relational trauma, attachment insecurity, depression, a sense of meaninglessness, or a profound restlessness or exhaustion – not be an obstacle to our path, but the very path itself?

The great mystics, poets, and alchemists have suggested that our wounding serves an initiatory function in the psyche, but what does this mean and how does all of this fit into our modern understanding of trauma and its profound effects on our bodies and nervous systems?

On the webinar, I speak a bit about the nature of trauma, how trauma is healed through an “updating” of the neural networks which hold unprocessed material, and how a new relationship with our vulnerabilities, sensitivities, and eccentricities can be a portal into psychological growth, emotional healing, and spiritual transformation.

I hope you enjoy the video and find it interesting and helpful. 

Warmly,

Matt 




My online course - Embracing the Shadow and the Path of Light - is now available in a self-guided home study version

Thursday, April 15, 2021

A sliver of hope


The tragedy of relational trauma and disorganized attachment presents itself as a synaptic or cellular sort of fragmenting, which is much more primordial than a mere cognitive dissonance, as it is one that is both neural and rooted in the soul.

Where we simultaneously long for and are terrified of “the Other.” We don’t know whether to step toward or step away. That sort of essence-level confusion and shattering runs through the entire psychic system.

For a young child, the attachment figure is God or Goddess, magician, sage, and seer, and without this person the end is near. But when this figure is also the very source of terror for the little one – or where the other is terrified and traumatized him or herself – we find ourselves in uncharted waters.

It takes everything to sit in this field with a brother or sister who has been touched in this way, who has come to organize their experience around this sort of rupture and betrayal. But it’s important to remember that this response was coherent, adaptive, and creative at the time. In ways that may seem paradoxical, that it was lifesaving and prevented full scale fragmentation.

To provide even a sliver of hope, a moment of safety, where they can feel felt and understood, just one moment where they can re-link, re-associate, re-embody, and know that a new world is possible.

To look up at you and see and feel and sense that you are there with them. That you honor who and what they are and the validity of their experience. That you will not demand they quickly change or transform or heal or be different in order for you to stay near.

Never underestimate the power of love and what we can do to help. Just some kind words, listening to another and their story, holding them, offering shelter and refuge, helping them to feel safe, even if for only a few seconds.


Photo by Alexas_Fotos


Monday, April 12, 2021

The journey of the wounded healer


Many of us interested in spirituality and healing have been wounded in our lives – physically, emotionally, or at a soul level. Whether this wounding takes form by way of relational or attachment trauma, or through personal and archetypal betrayal, it has a way of coloring our perception and affecting our capacity to feel safe.

Our increasingly speedy and fragmented culture has come to pathologize valid human experience such as grief, melancholy, anger, and uncertainty, giving rise to a psychiatric and self-help community determined to “cure” or “transcend” dimensions of the psyche that contain important (and even holy) data for our unique paths of individuation, creativity, and meaning.

For some, initiation occurs only by way of transition, dissolution, and loss, through an embodied confrontation with the unconscious and the unlived life. These experiences are not signs of error or mistake, but calls to depth and evidence of how our wounding can serve an initiatory function.

At times, deeper healing will require that the wound disclose itself in more subtle ways within the psyche and the body, where it can seem like things are getting worse. Tending to this organic unfolding of the healing process requires newfound levels of courage, patience, and trust.

It is not an easy life, that of the wounded healer – one that we do not choose consciously – but is the honorable and noble inheritance of many who are called to the path.

It requires that we walk in this world against the grain and remain open to further wounding and revelation of shadow, and to dare to consider that radical possibility that the ally will appear in infinite ways. Not to harm, but to reveal.

Even though it may seem as if we are alone – and in part we must walk this path by ourselves – we are never truly alone, as unseen helpers, friends, and companions are always nearby. But at times will take forms that are not always immediately recognizable.


Art by Enrique Lopez Garre


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The portal to new life


We’ve been through so much over the last year, full-spectrum reorganization and the loss of our familiar reference points. A wearing away of the axis around which we’ve been spinning and orienting - personally, culturally, and collectively.

Not only external, but internal quarantine, where so much of what we thought we knew about ourselves, who we are and what matters most to us, what we’re doing here, and where we’re headed… has been called into question, dismantled, and fallen apart.

Who I am and the way things were supposed to unfold: the person who was supposed to be by my side, the work I was supposed to do, the body that was supposed to be healthy, a psyche where there was never going to be any restlessness, depression, loneliness, or anxiety.

It’s important to slow down, fall to the earth and the mud and the womb, to hold the broken pieces near, and to grieve. To mourn not only the loss of health and life, but also the dream of the way we thought it was all going to turn out.

The rebirth part of the death-rebirth cycle is embodied by way of our willingness and capacity to grieve. The portal to new life opens through conscious, embodied lamentation, to gather the shards of the heart and collect them in a holy vase.

And open to the possibility that this process of “falling apart” is not some great cosmic error or mistake we need to correct or repair, but an emissary of the archetype of wholeness, as we open to rebirth and what it is that will emerge from the ashes of dissolution.

It is love, of course, that will guide the reorganization and its unfolding. But it is love, too, that is the substance of the ashes, and also of the tears, the tears of grief and the tears of joy… the tears of the earth herself.


Photo of Yosemite Tunnel, Tuolumne Meadows by James Donovan


Friday, April 2, 2021

Free video from Matt Licata - Spiritual Bypassing, Shadow, and the Figures of Light


Dear friend, 

I’m writing to share with you a recent free video I recorded entitled, "Spiritual Bypassing, Shadow, and the Figures of Light,” which you can sign up to view at no cost. 

In this short webinar, I explore the phenomenon of spiritual bypassing and how through greater awareness, understanding, and kindness, we can engage our spiritual lives in a deeper, more heartfelt, and more embodied way.

We are wired as relational beings to attach and connect with others, and as little ones with open and sensitive hearts, brains, and nervous systems, we'll do whatever it takes to feel safe, seen, held, and included.

In order to be received and to feel that we truly belong, we inevitably disconnect from parts of ourselves, aspects of our personalities, and vulnerable pieces of our souls. These split off dimensions of what we are end up being "relocated" in what is referred to as "the shadow," where they remain, awaiting a time when it is safe to return.

"Spiritual bypassing" is one of many protective and avoidant strategies that we employ to keep us out of too much pain, fear, panic, overwhelm, and shame, from a direct confrontation with our own shadow, trauma and attachment wounding, and from the terror of rejection, blame, and abandonment.

By bringing curiosity and discernment to how this phenomenon may be expressing itself in our lives, we can discover the light and the gold that have been sent into the shadow, and what it would mean to allow and help it to return home, back into embodied, conscious awareness.

Also, there is now a self-guided, home study version of my online course, Embracing the Shadow and the Path of Light. This course was originally presented live online between December 2020 and February 2021. It is a 9-session course that you can take at your own pace and which explores an embodied, contemporary, trauma-sensitive approach to shadow work and healing. 

Please take care of yourself and I hope you enjoy the free video!



Monday, March 29, 2021

The wise activity of boundary


At times, the most wise, skillful, and soulful action is to establish a boundary with another. To stand up and assert what it is that we need and deserve. To move in an empowered and swift way to protect our own integrity.

To privilege our own autonomy. To meet narcissism, abuse, misattunement, and neglect with a fierce, embodied response.

This is not only the case with “external” others, but also with the multitude of “internal” others as they emerge as voices, figures, and images of the interior landscape.

As we wake in the morning, wander through the day, in liminal states and at the entryway to sleep and dream… we may notice their presence, arriving quietly in one moment and as firestorm in the next.

“There is something wrong with you. You have failed again. You have done life wrong. You are unworthy of mercy, of grace. You are beyond redemption. You are unlovable and unwanted. You do not belong here.”

The images and the voices of the past, shadow emanations of authorities, cultures, and lineages of intergenerational trauma and trance. The voices of a realm that has forgotten the holy, the sensitive, the eccentric, and raging uniqueness of one human heart.

But in a moment when perception is cleansed and a glimpse is given from behind the veil, it is seen that the visitors come not to harm, but to reveal.

But they, too, must be met with boundaries of clear seeing. To not accept what they say at face value, but to enter relationship, into dialogue and to find the way into what is most true.

To not merely accept their conclusions, proposed tunnels of reality, and the psychic lenses through which they have come to see and organize.

But to step into what you are. To live in and from that as your poetic offering to a weary world.

To take the risk of telling a new story, dreaming a new dream, and weaving new cloth. And to allow yourself to be toned and tuned by the great Weaver herself… breathing and sensing and listening as new vision is unearthed.


Photo by Jacub Gomez


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Feel your feet on the earth


The next time you notice you’ve turned against yourself, tangled in a looping storyline about how you’ve failed, how you’re not enough, how there is something wrong with you…
Slow way down. Allow your center of gravity to drop, directing your energy and awareness toward the ground. Feel your feet on the earth.

Before you abandon yourself and your embodied vulnerability – parachuting into the unstable waters of rumination, shame, and blame – sense the roots extending out of the bottom of your feet and into the mud and the womb and the holding field underneath you.

In just this one micro moment, you are being asked to care for yourself in a new way, to see behind the veil, to cleanse your perception, and with compassion, to encode a new pathway. To provide a home, a sanctuary for the emotional and somatic world to unfold and be held.

With the ally of the breath, shift your precious life energy out of the overwhelming narrative, for it is no longer safe there. It is neither nuanced, nor subtle, not majestic enough to honor what you are and the intelligence of the ally and Friend as it courses through you.

Open into your belly, your heart, your throat, and the holiness of your nervous system. Place your hand onto the rippling life and listen.

Taking a few deep breaths, ask: what is wanting to be met now? To be known? To be birthed and touched in this moment? What is the wisdom of the soul, in its creative unfolding, longing for me to feel and metabolize?

In what way am I being asked to care for the vulnerable, the tender, and the shaky within me?

With curiosity, patience, and mercy, see the ways you leave the embodied world of pure feeling, bailing on your vulnerability as you escape back into the conditioned, old, unsafe 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 safety where it was unsafe. Companionship where you were lonely. Reassurance where you were afraid.

For you need yourself now more than ever. This world needs you now more than ever.


Photo by Ervin Gjata

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Weeping and the secret tears


As I was preparing for a talk yesterday, a line from Rumi came to me - “There is a secret medicine given only to those who hurt so hard they can't hope. The hopers would feel slighted if they knew.”

So much of this work of the heart involves the unearthing of this “secret medicine” – the mystery of befriending and of the Friend. But the nature of what that substance is can only be revealed to us in that high-voltage laboratory of the body, by way of direct revelation.

Often hidden just outside conscious awareness, just beyond the veil, tucked away in our cell tissue and neural pathways – and in the images and moods and dreams and colors of the soul – it awaits discovery.

The alchemists had a vision of this “secret medicine,” the ruby red philosopher’s stone, that elusive jewel buried in the human heart and simultaneously in the womb of the earth.

It’s a tincture or restorative solution flowing within the psychic landscape, but also out in the natural world. It’s seeded in both locations simultaneously by way of a mysterious and invisible connection, unveiled at the intersection of spirit and matter.

This secret substance cannot be found in a wound that is already healed, but only in one that is weeping.

I know many are in touch with this “weeping” now, not only by way of personal tears, but in attunement with the tears of the culture, those of the collective, and those of the earth herself.

Even the stars and the galaxies have tears which we can sense in certain moments.

May we know this weeping in deeper and more intimate ways and may those tears wash and cleanse and open us, together, into the next phase. Tears of grief and tears of joy and secret tears which reorganize and reveal.


Image by Miriam Espacio

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The water of life


It’s compassionate and also merciful to step back and acknowledge how much we’ve been through this year. Just to be alive as a human being on the planet right now carries with it a certain tone of activation in the body and nervous system.

It’s like there’s been a continuous drip of a soul-level cortisol or adrenaline, on the one hand, and a collapse into hopelessness/helplessness on the other – an alternation between hypervigilance and a numbing or shutting down.

Each of these responses and the bodily felt arousal that accompanies them are coherent and make sense. In addition to our verbal narratives and stories, there are the stories of the body (somatic narrative) and also those of the nervous system (autonomic narrative) that weave together worlds of meaning.

Underneath it all, a deep longing to rest and to feel safe again in our bodies, to re-tune and enter consciously into the next phase. Something has fallen away that we will never be able to return to, but the exact nature of what’s coming next has yet to be given.

This not-knowing where we’re headed can generate that deep, even cosmic sort of restlessness that many are experiencing. We are in that period of liminality and transitional space, in between the way things used to be and the birth that is yet to come.

The temptation is to get out of the in-between and into the rebirth as quickly as possible. But if we bypass the reorganization prematurely, we will not be able to receive the gold that is found only within the core of that which is falling apart. This is the invitation into the rich, alchemical yellowing.

This is a difficult realm to navigate as it is not held as valid and honorable in our conventional world. But it is one of potential and creativity, a doorway to experience that is not always available in times of certainty and flow.

In the very center of the paradox and contradictory energies is the water of life. It is a courageous journey into that territory and one that will surprise us.

It may grind us into dust, but it is the particles that survive that initiation that form the golden neural and soul-scaffolding of a new world.