Saturday, December 25, 2021

How well did I love?

It is so easy to take for granted that tomorrow will come, that another opportunity will be given to bear witness to a sunset, take a walk in the forest, listen to the birds, or share a moment of connection with the one in front of us. But another part knows how fragile it truly is here, how tenuous, and the reality that this opening into life will not be here for much longer.

Before we realize it, we can so easily fall into the trance of postponement. The spell of tomorrow looms large in the personal and collective psyche.

At the end of this life – which is sure to come much sooner than we think – it is unlikely we'll be caught up in whether we accomplished all the tasks on our to-do lists, played it safe, healed all the wounds from our past, or wrapped up our self-improvement project.

Inside these hearts there may be only one burning question: how well did I love?

One day we will no longer be able to look at, touch, or share a simple moment with those we love. When we turn to them, they will be gone. One moment will be our last to encounter the immensity of one more breath, experience awe at a color or fragrance or blooming of a violet, or to enter into union with the vastness of the sea.

It will be our last chance to see a universe in a drop of rain, to have a moment of communion with a friend, or weep as the light yields to the night sky.

One last moment to imagine, to feel an emotion, fall in love, or listen to a piece of music. To know heartbreak, joy, sorrow, and peace – to behold the outrageous mystery of what it truly means to be an open, sensitive human being. To know firsthand the preciousness and rare, unique opportunity to have a human body and nervous system.

What if today is that last day? Or tomorrow? Or later this week?

Knowing that death will come, how will we respond to the sacred and brief appearance of life?

Perhaps our “life's purpose” has nothing to do with what job we find, what new thing we will manifest or attract for ourselves, or what new belief system we take on. But to fully live, to touch each here and now moment with our presence and with the gift of our one, wild heart.

And do whatever we can to help others: to hold them when they are hurting, to attune carefully to the ways they are making sense of a world that has gone a bit mad; to meet them with empathy and kindness, and listen to what keeps them up at night and what brings them alive.

To speak kind words and not forget the erupting miracle of the other as it appears in front of us. To companion them and be an open, warm, spacious vessel through which love can come into this world.

Perhaps this is the most radical gift we can give.

Photo by Joe Plenio

Visit here to learn about free videos and the latest self-guided home-study online courses from Matt Licata 

Saturday, December 18, 2021

The encoding of new circuitry

The path of opening the heart is not the same as becoming an unboundaried, leaky vessel for the unloading of another’s unlived life. It is to the degree that we are attuned to our own grief, sadness, shame, and rage that we will most skillfully navigate within the we-space of the relational field.

Most of us were not trained in the art of embodied attunement as we live in an increasingly disembodied world, where the capacity to hold unfolding emotional experience was not encoded into a tender developing nervous system.

But despite early relational trauma, inconsistent empathic mirroring, and transgenerational narratives of dysregulation and insecurity, you can embody and practice this now. You can experience reunion with the disavowed inner other and play with him or her, weaving together emotion in the body, story and image in the mind, resting and exploring in unstructured states of being.

While appearing “compassionate” on the outside, being an emotional doormat involves the re-enacting of early, unconscious organization. We learned that devaluing ourselves was the most reliable route to get our needs met, fit in, receive attention and affection, and maintain a precarious tie to an unavailable attachment figure. This activity was not neurotic, but was lifesaving, creative, and intelligent from the perspective of a little one wired to connect.

But the inner passageways are luminous and ache for reorganization by way of the slower circuitries of empathy, curiosity, wonderment, and awe. Look carefully and see the ways you may habitually place others’ needs over your own – not out of true compassion for them, but as a re-enactment of early interactional fields of shame and unworthiness.

Inside, something is stirring, a longing being awakened to return home, for new circuitry to encode, for a new pathway to light up and come alive.

Slowly, one moment at a time. Safe. Connected. Open.

Raw. Tender. Sensitive. Embodied.

There is no urgency on the path of love.

Photo by Tamal Roy 

Visit here to learn about free videos and the latest self-guided home-study online courses from Matt Licata 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

The weaving of new cloth

At times, the wisest, most skillful, and most compassionate action is to establish a boundary with another person. To stand up and assertively say No. To move in an empowered and swift way to protect our own integrity. To privilege our own autonomy and interiority. To meet narcissism, abuse, and neglect with a fiery, fierce, and direct response.

This is not only the case with “external” others – other people in our lives – but also with the multitude of “internal” others who surge out of the psychic underworld and take form as voices and figures of the interior landscape.

You might recognize them by their predictable refrain: “There is something wrong with you. You have failed. No one will ever love you unless you change and become someone different. You are not okay. You have fallen short. You have done life wrong. You are no good. You are uninteresting. You do not belong. Your sensitivities and eccentricities are not welcome here.”

These are the voices of the past, the shadow of a culture of materialism and greed, of the lineages of transgenerational trauma and trance. The voices of disembodiment, insensitivity, of a societal and global ego that has fallen out of communion with the natural world, the body, and the imaginal realms.

These internal visitors to an open, sensitive nervous system must also be met with the boundaries of discernment. To realize those moments when we fall out of the wisdom-presence of the here and now and into the time machine of the “there and then.”

To engage in dialogue with these figures and to proclaim our own basic goodness. To stand on the rooftops and declare that sensitivity is not pathology, that the shaky tenderness is not pathology… but path.

To not merely accept their conclusions, reality tunnels, and the lenses through which they have come to see things. But to cleanse perception with clear-seeing and the wildness of love.

To take the risk of telling a new story, dreaming a new dream, spinning out a new tale, weaving new cloth. And to allow ourselves to be turned by the great Weaver Herself… as new vision is revealed, as we become that vessel in which she can come alive here again.

Photo by James Wheeler

Visit here to learn about free videos and the latest self-guided home-study online courses from Matt Licata 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

If you want to help someone, help them to feel safe

So many of us feel shame about our trauma and wounding, as if it is evidence that we’ve failed, it’s our fault, and that we should be able to “get over” it and heal on our own.

Even if we “know” that these conclusions are not accurate, these schemas live implicitly in our sensitive bodies and nervous systems, where they remain open for neural revisioning when (relational) conditions are ripe.

These heartbreaking lenses of perception are reflected back to us by an increasingly disembodied and left-brain dominant culture, giving rise to the contemporary fantasy that I “should” be able to do it all on my own.

The tribe has broken down, replaced by the device and the slow cortisol drip of a sympathetically aroused collective. And we wonder why it’s all falling apart.

The emotional pain is tragic in and of itself, but underneath it is the underlying shame and deep sense of being alone, which is really at the root of trauma.

At times, it can be overwhelming to hold and metabolize fear and anxiety on our own. But with another nervous system, our windows of tolerance expand as they come together. This alchemical blending allows us to integrate experience that outside the relational field would otherwise send us into unworkable states of fight, flight, or collapse.

As relational mammals, we are wired to co-regulate. We are not meant to “do it all on our own” and it is not an indication that something is “wrong” with us if we cannot always contain our own wounding.

Rather, it is evidence we are alive, with an open, sensitive, majestic, and sometimes achy human nervous system.

We can do so much for one another, to help hold and transmute both transgenerational, biographical, and collective trauma. To slow down, with our presence and miracle mirror neurons, listen deeply, and be with another in a way that they feel felt and understood. Our world so desperately this needs right now.

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

Instead of “I am alone” with this fear, pain, and grief, “We are here together, and healing is possible.”

And then transmit this embodied realization into the neural circuitry of the world.

Photo by RitaE

Visit here to learn about free videos and the latest self-guided home-study online courses from Matt Licata 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Relationship as path

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 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Take a few deep breaths

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.

Image by Kieu Truong

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The body will reorganize when it feels safe

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

In addition to this shattering of information processing, there is the lived reality of the missing Friend, resulting in an unendurable sense of aloneness.

Not only do we experience a flooding of unbearable images, feelings, and sensations, but at some basic level we’re alone with all that.

In my experience, it is this aloneness, in the end, that is so devastating to us as sensitive, relational human beings, with a nervous system that has been crafted for companionship.

As an act of mercy and compassion, we make the journey inside the neural network holding our unmetabolized shame, rage, terror, and grief. For it is within the center of that mandala where we will find the frozen, confused, and scared one who has become stuck in the time machine of trauma and lost in the disorganizing fields of implicit memory.

To behold the lost orphans of psyche and soma and listen, hold, feed, surround, and love them, so that they feel felt and understood, and more than anything help them to know that they are safe now, perhaps for the first time ever.

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 allowed to be. You are no longer alone. It is okay now. You are safe. Even if you continue to shatter, I will collect the pieces within a holy vase.”

It is a reparative neural experience that unveils that sacred soothing, where the unmetabolized images, feelings, and sensations are taken into the sanctuary and placed on the altar in front of us. This holding allows the secret nutrients to be disclosed and for the scattered pieces to return to their rightful place within the larger ecology of being.

While understanding and insight can be supportive, it is right-brain immersion in fields of safety which fosters cellular restructuring.

The psyche will reassemble when it feels safe.

The body will reorganize when it feels safe.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The golden scaffolding of a new world

It’s an act of mercy and compassion to step back and acknowledge how much we’ve been through over these last couple of years. 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.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The neural circuitry of 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.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The great friend

There are times in our lives when even our most precious beliefs and realizations fall apart and dissolve in front of our very eyes. What was so clear only days or weeks ago is transformed to dust.

Yellowed away by the alchemical putrefactio, me and my life and the way I was so sure it was supposed to turn out.

It’s tempting to conclude that something has gone wrong, some great cosmic error or mistake has occurred, we have failed, or we’ve been forsaken.

But this reassembling of our world is a sacred process and the path is everywhere. It is there in moments of holding it all together and it is equally there in moments when everything is falling apart.

In the fantasy that we have come to some resolution or “mastery” of the wildness and unending depths of the human heart, the beloved appears to turn the master into dust, which was precisely his or her role all along, a special arrow in her quiver. How tragic. What mercy.

The soul is always communicating to us. The great Friend is always looking for us, in the hope of drawing us nearer, but often in ways that are unexpected and even bewildering to the part of us that believes it is in control.

In order to get our attention, the soul must at times upset and dissolve the status quo, turning inside out the dreams and fantasies of me and the life I thought I was living… causing us to see that perhaps we have no idea who and what we are, what a relationship is, what healing is, what the Divine is, and where we will find meaning.

As we deepen in our inquiry, we might start to see this activity of somatic and psychic restructuring as the expression of a certain kind of grace… not the sweet, flowy, and expansive grace that is our favorite kind, but a grace that is fierce and wild and can have a certain disassembling energy to it.

It’s the grace of Kali, or that of the wrathful Tibetan goddesses or the moon, a raging grace, a creative and destructive reorganization of consciousness. But it is grace nonetheless.

Image by David Mark 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Matt's New Online Course: Soul-Tending in Times of Transition

Dear friend, 

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. We can help one another in so many ways and it is in this spirit that I have put together the upcoming online course - Tending to the Soul

>>Learn more about the Tending to the Soul online course

Over five weeks, we’ll make a journey together of being and belonging, into the heart of embodied spirituality, relational neuroscience, and a psychotherapy of the soul. Starting Thursday, October 21st, we’ll meet within a healing relational field and immerse ourselves in the teachings and practices which are such an essential part of my writing and clinical work, including:

  • Slowing down and replacing habitual consciousness and perception with that of curious, compassionate, empathic attunement

  • How the spiritual path will inevitably ask us to step into the unknown and how that isn’t always going to feel certain, clear, and safe

  • Simple, yet effective self-attunement and soul-tending practices you can engage daily, even if you don’t have hours of free time

  • The discovery of a natural trust and confidence in our immediate, embodied experience, even in difficult times

  • The organic process of things “falling apart” and coming back together again and how cycles of rupture and repair are the essence of deep soul work 

  • The relevance of alchemy in a contemporary, embodied, imaginative approach to transformation and healing

  • Becoming an alchemist of your own life and working the the minerals and materials of your own heart  

  • The alchemical yellowing, the sacredness of dissolution, and the holy invitation when things fall apart 

  • Unearthing the alchemical tincture and medicine hidden inside the wound

  • How difficult and challenging emotional experience - especially in relationship - is the prima materia for the alchemist to work with in the laboratory of the soul

  • How any integral path of spiritual transformation can benefit from psychological, emotional, somatic, and relational sensitivity

  • The metaphor of light and the importance of “making the darkness conscious” on the path of wholeness

  • How we can use our relationship with spirituality to avoid a direct confrontation with “the shadow,” unresolved relational trauma, and “the unlived life”

  • The importance of radical honesty with ourselves on the healing and spiritual paths and the capacity to practice kindness toward the unwanted parts and pieces of the psyche

  • Becoming an alchemist of the inner landscape and working consciously with the “metals” and “minerals” of our immediate, embodied experience 

  • The transformative potential of the “blue” range of the spectrum of consciousness

  • How grief is a portal and temple in which we can enter into with greater awareness and compassion

  • Opening to “the unlived life” and what remains unfelt and unintegrated within us 

  • Meeting and dialoguing with the lost orphans of psyche and soma 

  • What it means to experience our feelings all the way through without falling into the extremes of denial or fusion 

  • The courage to walk alone at times, leading with our eccentricities, vulnerabilities, and sensitivities, which requires going against the psychic status quo

  • How the cycles of reorganization and the alchemical putrefactio are the soil from which the phoenix of the heart can emerge 

  • The inherent messiness of the spiritual journey, and the chaos and glory of what it means to be fully here and to participate in the unfolding of the soul

  • Unshaming and depathologizing intense, unwanted, and uncomfortable emotional experience, and honoring times of unknowing and liminality 

  • Updating neural and soul-circuitry with empathic attunement and embodied kindness 

It’s not easy to do this sort of work and exploration on our own as the path can become blurry, hazy, and even a bit lonely. Anytime we open to the shadow, the lunar, and the descendent current, it can be so helpful to have one another to shine a lamp in the darkness. For it is within these more dimly lit dimensions of the spectrum of the heart that a luminosity appears, what the alchemists refer to as the scintilla, or the sparks of light. 

In gathering together over these five weeks, we’ll participate consciously in the power and poetic beauty of the relational field to support us in cleansing our perception, opening our hearts, and remembering what’s most important. 

>>Learn more about the Tending to the Soul online course here 

As a reminder, we’ll meet live for five consecutive Thursdays, starting October 21st, at 11am Pacific/ 7pm in London. The live sessions will last around 75-90 minutes and include experiential exercises, talks and curriculum, sharing personal experience, and live interaction where you can ask questions. 

Remember, it is not necessary to attend live in order to fully participate. Many are unable due to other commitments.  After each session, you’ll receive a link to the video replay as well as be able to download the audio and a written transcript, and work through the material from the comfort of your own home on a timeline that works for you. 

I’d love to have you join me this fall - as well as friends and fellow travelers from around the world - where together we can create a safe, warm, yet provocative and creative relational field - and explore some of the mysteries of the healing journey. 

Wishing you many blessings on your journey and I look forward to connecting with you this fall, or later at some point down the path in whatever way we’re brought together. 

With love and appreciation, 


Friday, October 15, 2021

REPLAY of Matt's free live webinar


Dear friends, 

Here is the link to the replay of the free live webinar I held yesterday on Being and Belonging: Keeping Your Heart Open When Things Fall Apart. We plan to leave this up for a few weeks if you were unable to attend and you'd like to watch it (at no cost). 

A quick reminder that my new live online course starts next week – Tending to the Soul: A 5-Week Journey of Being and Belonging, and a Spirituality of the Heart. You can find all the details here

Inside the course we’ll be meditating together and exploring the nature of an embodied, alchemical, trauma-informed approach to transformation and healing, diving deep into many of the themes I speak about in my writing and apply in my own life and clinical practice.

I look forward to making this journey with you where, together, we can step into a holding environment and into the mysteries of the body, the heart, and the sacred world.

If you're unable to join us inside the course, we'll be sure to find other ways to stay in touch over the weeks and months to come, including writing here at the blog and future free videos and webinars

Please take care of yourself! 

Sending love,


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Matt Licata's new live online course - Tending to the Soul

Dear friend,

I wanted to let you know that my new online course, Tending to the Soul: A 5-Week Journey of Being and Belonging, and a Spirituality of the Heart, is now open for registration for a limited time.

We live in an era of unprecedented change and transition, which we can see happening all around us. Simultaneously, the same process is occurring within the vessel of the human body.

At times, the sacred world can seem so near. But at other times it remains hidden behind the veil of conditioned perception.

We hear that “the path is everywhere,” but what does that mean in our embodied, lived experience? How do we see and unearth the silver, emerald, and gold that are sparkling and alive as an organic aspect of inner and outer nature?

Over the five weeks we’ll be together, we’ll dive deep into many of the topics and areas of inquiry which I discuss in my teaching, writing, and psychotherapeutic work, to help support you on your own unique path of individuation and healing.

You can get all the details about the course here:

[Now Open] Tending to the Soul: A 5-Week Journey with Matt Licata

I look forward to spending this time with you where we can come together in the exploration of an embodied, shadow-inclusive, trauma-sensitive approach to our paths of psychological growth, emotional attunement, and spiritual transformation.

Take care and I hope to see you inside the course later this month. 



P.S. I'm going to be offering a free webinar on keeping your heart open when things fall apart this Thursday (the 14th), which will serve as an introduction to the course. You can register at no cost here

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Free live webinar with Matt Licata on Thursday

Dear friend, 

I want to invite you to a free live webinar on Thursday, October 14 at 11am Pacific Time/ 7pm in London, entitled Being and Becoming: Keeping Your Heart Open When Things Fall Apart.

>>Register for the webinar at no cost here

During the call, I'll speak about tending to the soul in times of transition, the journey of the wounded healer, and the nature of an embodied, shadow-sensitive, trauma-informed approach to psychological inquiry, emotional healing, and spiritual transformation. 

I look forward to connecting with you on the 14th! 



Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Trauma and the sacred wound

Excerpted from my free video on “Trauma and the Wounded Healer” 

Many of us interested in things like spirituality, yoga, meditation have been wounded in our lives – whether that be physically, emotionally, or at a deeper soul level.

Whether this wounding manifests as trauma, disorganized attachment, depression, or through any manner of personal or archetypal betrayals, 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 experiences such as grief, melancholy, restlessness, and anger, giving rise to psychiatric and self-help communities determined to “cure” or “transcend” dimensions of our experience that contain essential data and information for our unique journeys.

The truth is that for some of us, initiation occurs by way of transition, dissolution, and loss. 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 requires that the wound disclose itself in more subtle ways, that it open and reveal, where it can seem like things are getting worse.

This is really hard to let in: why is it taking so long to feel better, to heal? What am I doing wrong? I’ve failed, yet again. To really start to trust this process and the timeline that is guiding it asks so much of us, as we don’t really live in a world that supports this idea of the wound as initiation.

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

To really embrace this invitation requires us to walk in this world against the grain - with our own sensitivities and eccentricities by our side - and remain open to deepening revelation of shadow, and to dare to consider the radical possibility that the ally will appear in infinite ways. Not to harm, but to reveal.

… I go more deeply into this in the free video and then more extensively in the 5-part self-guided online home study course, “The Path of the Wounded Healer

Image by Enrique Lopez Garre

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The mandala of the wounded healer

The wounded healer isn’t only a myth or historical figure we can learn about, but a living reality and atmosphere of the heart, with its own unique fragrance, signature, and color. A never-before-seen blue, an unknown red, an unexpected yellow.

The Asklepion healing dream temple isn’t only a literal structure in which pilgrims would enter seeking vision, but an interior place and landscape found within this miracle earthy body.

Inside the mandala, love is behind the scenes and spinning out the worlds – the messy, chaotic, and glorious dimensions of what it means to be a relational, sensitive, sometimes tenderized, sometimes shattered human being.

At times, we will ache and feel alone, crafted as we are to rest and explore in the arms of another, to dance with the Other within the strands of the scintilla of light.

But the nature of this “Other” is of the mystery and will shift shapes, taking infinite and unexpected forms to remind us of what is truly happening here, hidden just behind the veil of habitual networks and matrices of intergenerational trauma and trance.

The invitation from within the garden is to twirl, spin, and dance within the bounty that has been given, which requires that we peer behind the covering and see, and allow ourselves to be astonished.

Photo by Tabitha Turner

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Can I play again?

At times, the wound will open and weep. This is its way to invite us inside, into intimacy with the shattering, and into the infinite open nature of the human heart.

We’re not always going to be able to provide a home for the lost pieces of psyche and soma to be held on our own. This is not evidence of error, mistake, or failure, but of the sacred nature of being an open, sensitive relational mammal.

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

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

It is as if the little one, left behind at the moment of traumatic impact, emerges into the royal 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 other unforeseen emanations of the Friend and the Beloved as it presents as shepherd into soul.

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

Photo by Niklas Priddat

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Holding the lost one

Usually when we speak about the shadow, we're referring to less desirable experience such as disowned jealousy, rage, selfishness, and shame. Most often, the shadowy underworld is seen as the dark repository for “negative” aspects of ourselves, i.e., our phobia around intimacy, unacknowledged narcissism, and the full retinue of the ghosts of our unlived lives.

But it is not only negative aspects of the personality that we disavow, split from, and project. Many of us have lost the capacity to access and embody more “positive” experiences such as contentment, pleasure, creativity, sexuality, spontaneity, and awe.

Even the very organic, life-giving capacity to rest, to play, and to explore within the formless, less known areas of consciousness can come to be associated as risky and perilous in the psyche and nervous system, and therefore sequestered into the darkness of the psychic and somatic forests.

Especially tragic (and heartbreaking) is the reality that some of us have become disconnected from the simple experience of joy, cut off from a natural sense of elation at being alive.

I was once working with a man who was suffering from depression. Over time, we discovered together how unsafe it was for him to feel and express joy, how the experience of simple delight, spontaneity, and pleasure had become tangled in his nervous system with danger and threat, and the likelihood of unbearable, painful rupture with critical attachment figures in his life.

During our sessions, there would be times we would become aware of a very authentic, childlike, causeless joy coming to the surface, and how simultaneously some anxiety or even an annihilatory sense of panic would co-arise with the aliveness and the quantum, pregnant nature of what he was touching into.

In response, he would quickly change the subject, generate some sort of conflict between us, “leave” the room and go back into a prior conversation or nervously ask a question, or even just close his eyes and start to meditate. It had become urgent for him to disembody from that level of openness, spontaneity, and simple, playful elation at being alive, especially if he knew that I was witnessing that within him.

After this happened a few times, as the trust deepened between us, we were able to slow way down and become curious together and explore what was happening in those charged moments. Slowly and safely. With any judgment or shame, or some heavy agenda that he be fixed or cured or healed or any of that. There’s no safety in that sort of dense psychic agenda.

What was most essential was that in those moments he have the experience of being felt and understood, repairing those broken circuitries of love, empathy, presence, and warmth, so that he could feel again and express himself in a space of holding and trust.

In this field where he felt safe-enough, he was able access previously unmetabolized images, perceptions, emotions, and bodily sensations, as well as early memories of how his father reacted to the boy’s joy and excitement, responding with aggression and rage, dismissing and rejecting him, demanding that he “grow up” and stop embarrassing the family. And how in response to that, his mother shut down and turned away from him to avoid the conflict.

He felt so lost, alone, unseen, and disallowed to be who and what he is, a man who longs to know joy and to play and dance and explore his body and emotions and relationships – and even the Divine - from this open place.

He came to see how he had equated feeling full of life and natural states of delight, interest, play, and spontaneity with being judged and rejected. Over some time, he began to unwind this organization and was able to slowly re-awaken to this spectrum of experience and touch the natural joy he had disconnected from at an earlier time in his life (for very understandable reasons).

While the “shadow” is often associated with darkness and the unwanted, it is not only “negative” experience that finds its way into the shadow, but any psychic, emotional, or somatic material that has not found an attuned home within the relational field.

To retrieve the lost joyous little boy and girl is an act of love, really, not only for one’s self but for all of life.

Image by Shlomaster

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Resting your nervous system

I’m often asked about the role of the nervous system in healing, and how things like trauma and relational wounding affect our capacity to feel safe, intimate, and connected with life. As well as about the relationship between spiritual transformation, unintegrated emotional-somatic experience, and things like our attachment organization and the effects of early (mis)attunement on the developing brain (and little heart).

I’ve recently created an 18-hour self-guided home study course - Resting Your Nervous System - 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 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 compassionate 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.

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.

Learn more about the course here 

Wednesday, September 8, 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

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

How well did I love?

It’s so easy to take for granted that tomorrow will come, that another opportunity will be given to bear witness to a sunset, take a walk in the forest, listen in awe to the birds, or share a moment of connection with the one in front of us.

But another part knows how fragile it truly is here, how tenuous, and how this opening will not be here forever.

It’s so easy to fall under the trance of postponement and the spell of tomorrow.

At the end of this life, it is unlikely we'll be too concerned with whether we accomplished all the tasks on our to-do lists, played it safe, or resolved our unending self-improvement project.

Inside these hearts there may be only one burning question: how well did I love?

One day we will no longer be able to look at, touch, or share a simple moment with those we love. When we turn to them, they will be gone.

One moment will be our last to experience awe at a color or a fragrance or the blooming of a violet, or to enter into union with the vastness of the sea.

It will be our last chance to see a universe in a drop of rain, to have a moment of communion with a friend, or to weep as the light yields to the night sky.

One last moment to have a thought, feel an emotion, fall in love, or listen to a piece of music. To know heartbreak, joy, sorrow, and peace—to behold the outrageous mystery of what it truly means to be a sensitive human being.

What if today is that last day? Or tomorrow? Or later this week?

Knowing that death will come, how will we respond to the sacred and brief appearance of life?

Perhaps our “life’s purpose” has nothing to do with what we’ve fantasied it to be about, but simply to fully live, to touch each moment with our presence and our one, wild heart.

And do whatever we can to help others, to hold them when they are hurting, to speak kind words, to listen carefully to the ways they are attempting to make sense of a world that has gone a bit mad.

To slow down and bear witness to the erupting miracle of the other as it appears in front of us.

Perhaps this is the most radical gift we can give, to offer ourselves as a true healing space in which love can find its way and come alive here.

Attuning to he heartbeat of the earth, Lappohja Beach, Southern Finland 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Following the sparks of light

There was an old, collective dream that opening the heart was always going to feel safe, that somehow love promised that.

That allowing another to matter was going to be easy, that providing a temple for the grief, the tender, and the broken was somehow not going to feel raw and at times unbearable.

That in the end, somehow love wouldn’t shatter the known.

That to transform meant we’d be in some protected, resolved, untouchable state where we had transcended the sensitivity of being an open, naked, alive human being. That somehow healing meant we’d only have to live in one narrow band of the spectrum.

But healing and transformation are not only solar and transcendent, but of the descending current and the moon, of the earth and the mud and the soil, and at times will take us to dust.

It would seem love has very little interest in our fantasies of invulnerability, trances of mastery and control, or wiggling into some sustained transcendent state. It is just too wild for all that, too creative, too pregnant, too quantum.

Love seeks a vessel in which to come alive here and we are that vessel. It finds us by way of our quivering, our tender not-knowing, and by that willingness to fall to the ground and start all over again.

Sometimes broken, sometimes whole, sometimes a mess, but always alive. In all of our chaotic glory.

When we’re totally unclothed, love will show us what we are. When the known crumbles away, all that remains is this burning heart.

There is nothing more alive than that. There is nothing more sacred than that.

following the scintilla of light in the forests of Southern Finland