Thursday, June 30, 2022

It's okay to feel sad


It's okay to feel sad, to be uncertain about it all, to be melancholic, to lament, and to grieve.

Despite the madness of our world and a collective disembodiment to the blue shades of the spectrum, these states are not evidence that something is wrong with you, that you have failed, that you need to meditate more, pray harder, become better at staying in the present moment, manifest the opposite of sadness, or that you are lost or beyond redemption.

It is high-voltage evidence that you are alive, with a tender beating heart, subtle and perceptive mirror neurons, and senses that are open to the chaotic glory of being a human being who is simultaneously broken and whole.

Just in this one moment, be sad. Fully. Not partially. Go inside the sadness. Find the sad one there. Speak with her, listen to him, feel what she is feeling, see what he is seeing, stay embodied to the reality that you are a vessel, a temple where the lost orphans of psyche and soma can come to rest.

Separate a bit from the visitors so you do not fuse with them. Dare to go close, but not too close. Intimacy without fusion. Relationship without merging, honoring your own integrity and perspective. Find the boundary which is provocative, but not flooding. Enter the middle. Provide sanctuary and safe passage for the broken pieces to unfold and illuminate. For they, too, are filled with light.

Sadness is not something you need to fix, cure, or transform. It need not be healed but held. You need not shift sadness into some “higher” state or apply teachings so that it will yield into something else. For it is complete and pure on its own.

With the fire of awareness and the ally of your breath, descend into your belly, touch your heart, tend to your throat. Go on a journey into the core of the feeling, the sensations, images, and the raw, shaky life that is longing to be held. And listen.

It is by way of this journey that sadness will be revealed to be what it is, a secret wisdom-guide and bridge into the universal heart, a messenger of power, mercy, and fierce compassion that wants you as its midwife.


Photo by jensphotography

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Free video - The Alchemy of the Heart


Dear friend, 

I recently recorded a video on "The Alchemy of the Heart," which you can watch here:


During the webinar, we’ll explore:

- The importance of taking time each day to attune to the images, feelings, and other living messages that are reaching out from the soul

- How metaphors and images from the alchemical tradition can help us on our unique journeys of individuation and healing

- Bringing awareness and compassion to those parts of us that may have an unconscious investment in keeping things the way they are

- How our deepest emotional vulnerabilities and sensitivities are unique passageways into the soul

In this free short webinar, I speak about the nature of healing through the varied lenses of the alchemical imagination, relational neuroscience, meditative awareness, and depth and somatic psychologies.

Each of these doorways provide a series of perspectives and practices through which we can come to know who we are as open, sensitive, relational human beings, with bodies and feelings that can sometimes shatter and hurt.

But it is in the core of this shattering, inside the shards of the heart and fragmented pieces of the soul that the mysteries of healing are to be found. It is inside the wound that the tincture is flowing. The ancient alchemists — our friends on the journey — referred to the illumination arising out of the darkness as the scintilla, or the sparks of light.

Healing may never look quite like we expected or imagined – it’s just too wild and untamed for all that. It requires that we question the status quo of the culture and shift our perception outside the intergenerational matrices of collectivity and trance.


Photo by Colin Watts

Saturday, June 11, 2022

A light found only there...


There’s something about periods of liminality and transition which contain a hidden doorway into reunion with what I sometimes refer to as “the lost orphans of psyche and soma,” a group of internal friends and allies that we will meet along the way. 

This “confrontation with the unconscious,” as the Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung referred to it, is a vital and necessary part of any journey of depth, and requires that we come face to face with what we’re doing here, what’s most important to us, and how we’re going to make use of the sacred life energy we’ve been given.

As so many of us have experienced, there are times when things fall apart, our hearts break, old dreams fall away, and our lives just don’t turn out the way we thought they would. In one way or another, the status quo becomes disrupted and we find ourselves in unknown and shaky territory. 

We may even be surprised by unexpected experiences such as anxiety, depression, restlessness, and a profound loss of meaning.

The invitation in these moments is to collect the shattered pieces into a holy vase and place them on an altar in front of us. 

Inside the broken shards is a light found only there, what our friends, the ancient mystics and alchemists, referred to as the lumen naturae

In order to perceive and be touched by that light, however, we have to come down into the earth, feel, and grieve. The unveiling of the hidden light is the nature of the alchemical opus, the great work of the heart that is unique for each of us.

If we look and listen carefully - as we're waking up in the morning, falling asleep at night, out in nature, with a friend, or preparing a meal - we might see or hear or sense this light as it longs to make its way into our perception. 


Photo by Kevin Schmid

Saturday, June 4, 2022

The Resting Your Nervous System self-guided home study course


My online course - Resting Your Nervous System: Embodying a Trauma-Sensitive Spirituality and Discovering a Felt Sense of Safety - is available in a self-guided home study format. Around 18 hours in length, it weaves together teachings and practices from the fields of relational neuroscience, depth and somatic psychologies, and the meditative traditions.

<<Learn more about the course here


The current times we are living in are unprecedented in so many ways. In addition to emotional, psychological, and physical stress, many of us are experiencing uncertainty and inner restlessness, an existential or even spiritual exhaustion that we may not be quite able to articulate.

But alongside this, there is also a glimmer of hope and possibility, a sense that something new is emerging, but not yet known. Many of the world’s great mystics, poets, and alchemists have noted that it is precisely during transitional times such as these when a doorway will appear.

This path of direct revelation unfolds by way of the human body. Now, more than ever, it is essential to find ways to rest our nervous systems, not only as a way to manage traumatic stress and core soul-exhaustion, but to deepen our relationship with the earth, 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 Resting Your Nervous System, we’re not going to talk too much about neuroscience or brain anatomy. Please know that no previous knowledge (or even interest) in these things is necessary. Rather, it is my intention that the course be embodied and experiential – close and relevant to your lived experience.

I want to explore our nervous systems in a more “earthy” sort of way. The truth is that if you close your eyes and shift your awareness inside, you’re not going to find “a nervous system.” In this way, the nervous system is not some “thing” that exists inside you, or some abstract idea or scientific theory, but is actually a friend, a companion, an ally that walks with and accompanies you on your unique journey.

It is right there with you in your relationships, in your work and creative expression, as you wake up melancholic in the morning, meditate, do yoga, go shopping, pay your bills, gaze up at the night sky, come apart in a moment of overwhelm, fall in (or out of) love, or sit with a friend who is struggling. Your nervous system has its own particular wisdom and ways of perceiving, sensing, and navigating the mystery. Along with your soul, spirit, body, and mind, it is an essential dimension of your inner family, a majestic partner with its rightful place in the larger ecology of what you are.

It is my hope that the course deepens your awareness of what it means for you to be alive at this time, touches what is most meaningful and important to you, opens new pathways of experience and perception, and evokes an embodied, felt sense of compassion and connection to yourself, others, and the world.

We could really use that about right now: embodied, sensitive, open, warm, empathic, kind human beings who can listen deeply to one another and inside themselves, and to open to the possibility that perhaps there is no such thing as “individual” healing or awakening, but only a healing or awakening that includes all sentient life.


Photo by Welsh Pixie

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Real magic


Many are familiar with the term “holding environment” as elucidated by Winnicott, a warm and poetic description of a relational configuration rooted in empathic attunement and right-brain to right-brain resonance.

As the matrix of secure attachment, it provides the rich, creative terrain from which we can explore reality, resting and playing in unstructured states of being. From this ground of safety and creativity, we journey out of the familiar, experiment with our vulnerability, and stay embodied to the full range of human feeling.

Any effective holding environment is weaved of qualities of contact and space, dancing in the holy middle where there is intimacy without fusion, closeness without engulfing, tenderness without impinging. This is the soil from a little baby’s brain and heart and nervous system grow. What a miracle. Real magic.

While honoring the interpersonal aspect of holding, there is a transpersonal dimension as well. From this perspective, open awareness itself is the ultimate holding environment. Training ourselves to access, become familiar with, and relax into our true nature reveals the deeper dimensions of contact and space, where we come to the embodied realization that we are always, already being held, by something infinite and vast.

While as an infant we depended upon another to provide this environment for us, it is wired into the human heart. Every inner experience is made of this space, luminous, and undifferentiated from awareness itself. From this perspective, what we are is the quintessential holding environment. Those substances which cause a little nervous system to grow, unfold, and differentiate are the same that keep the stars from falling out of the sky.

While it is unlikely we will ever resolve the mysteries of self and other, intrapsychic and intersubjective, personal and transpersonal, or sun and moon, we can apprehend the miracle together with awe, remembering that we will always be beginners on the path of love and humble messengers of its outrageous, relentless activity.


                                            Photo by RitaE/ Germany via Pixabay


Saturday, May 21, 2022

Turning toward the broken and the shattered


Sometimes I wonder if all therapy isn’t grief therapy when all is said and done. The original Greek therapeia referred to attending, caring for, sending breath into. Not “curing,” “fixing” or even “healing,” not these heavy clinical words. But by way of our own tenderness, to infuse with life. To surround with warmth, to take the risk that this holding will always ask of us.

To be a midwife for psychic and somatic reorganization, to bear witness to the birth of a new heart, one which will inevitably ache and long and break and shatter and open and crumble in the face of it all. For that is the nature of this human form, which is crafted of particles of mystery, of mercy, of grace.

Things tend to not turn out the way we thought they would, for they are too alive, too magical, too majestic. This “not turning out the way we thought” is not evidence of mistake or that we’ve failed or done life wrong, but of the beloved and her activity here. And her outrageous care for form.

To fall to the ground, to stand back up again, to fail well, to be lost, to be found, realizing that love will assume any of these forms, shifting shapes as it spirals out of the stars and makes its way into this miracle world of time and space.

To grieve the crumbling and ending of one world, the death of a dream that has finished its time here. To allow that dissolution and provide sanctuary and safe passage for these forms to continue their journey into the other world.

The grief of knowing on some deep level that all form must reorganize, for it is its nature to do so: The people in our lives, what we have come to think we are, what has previously provided meaning, our bodies, our own worlds of experience, with even our greatest revelations ground into dust and sent back into the galaxies from which they came.

To turn toward the broken and grieve consciously, to honor the uncertainty, collecting the shards and the ashes and shepherding them. To dare to see the dissolution not as error but as holy, painfully and preciously whole, and to stand in awe as the pieces reassemble.


Photo by Shiva Reddy 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Caring for yourself in a new way


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

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

Slow way down. Ground into the earth.

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

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

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

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

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



Saturday, May 7, 2022

The felt experience of joy

 Usually when we speak about the shadow, we're referring to less desirable experience such as unmet jealousy, rage, selfishness, and shame. Usually, the shadowy underworld is seen as the dark repository for “negative” aspects of ourselves, i.e. our terror of intimacy, unacknowledged narcissism, and unmetabolized anger and deep sadness.

But it is not only negative aspects of self that we disavow, split off from, and project. Many of us have lost the capacity to access and embody more “positive” experiences such as contentment, pleasure, creativity, empathy, and connectedness. Even the very natural, organic life-giving capacity to rest in more unstructured states of being and play can come to be associated in the nervous system and psyche as unsafe.

Some of us have even disconnected from the simple experience of joy, a spontaneous sense of elation at being alive. I was once working with a man who was suffering from depression. What we discovered during our time together was how unsafe it was for him to express joy, how the experience of simple delight became tangled in his nervous system with danger and the likelihood of incredibly painful rupture with critical attachment figures in his life.

During our sessions, there were times we would become aware of this very simple, childlike, causeless joy coming to the surface as he was speaking about some experience he had, and how inevitably some (subtle) panic or anxiety would co-arise with the aliveness. He would then quickly disembody: 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.

After this happened a few times, we became curious about what was going on and were able to explore it together. Slowly and safely. With no judgment or shame. So that he had the experience of being felt and understood. Repairing those broken circuitries of love, empathy, presence, and warmth.

Being together in this, he was able access previously unconscious thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and bodily sensations, as well as early memories of how his father reacted to his joy and excitement, becoming aggressive and enraged, demanding that he “grow up” and stop acting like “a baby” and 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, unseen, unheld, and un-allowed to be who and what he is, a man who longs to know joy and at times is presented with the opportunity to re-embody to the lost pathways of pleasure and elation deep in his psychic and somatic being.

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.

While the term has a negative, darkened connotation and imagery, it is not only “negative” experience that we place in the shadow, but any material that has not found a 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.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Free video - An Invitation to Rest Your Nervous System


I want to share with you a free video (and accompany .pdf article) entitled, An Invitation to Rest Your Nervous System. 

>>Access the free webinar here 


During the webinar, I speak about slowing down and attuning to our bodies and the earth as we move into the next phase. As part of an integral approach to our practices of transformation and healing, it is an act of kindness to train ourselves to listen to and include the nervous system as part of an embodied spirituality.

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, 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 find the content interesting and helpful. 



Saturday, April 23, 2022

The energetic imprints of the wounded healer


The wounded healer isn’t only a myth to learn about, but a living reality inside you, with its own images, feelings, fragrance, and modes of vision. It is more like a mandala or inner atmosphere that you can enter into.

Or perhaps more accurately, it will at times find you so that it might draw you nearer to itself, through your dreams, unexpected moods, a color, a friend who irritates you, or through unexplainable symptoms in your body. Just as you may be longing for the Beloved, he or she (or it or they) are also looking for you, and will do whatever it takes to find you.

Within the center of the mandala, to speak mythologically, we find Chiron and his merry band of travelers, as well as each and every person who has been initiated into the mysteries by way of the sacred wound.

Perhaps the fact that you are reading this post may indicate that you are somehow part of that lineage, the stream coming down by way of the Asklepian dream temples of ancient Greece, where wayfarers and travelers would go to receive vision.

But this isn’t only an anthropological or historical matter. Chiron and the dream-vision incubation temples are alive inside you right now, infusing your muscles and cells, hidden in the chambers of your heart, and wired into the strands of your DNA.

We might open our imagination and discover that these mythological figures are not trapped back in ancient Greece, but are alive in the collective fields which play out in our personal lives through our relationships, creative work, spiritual practice, and health challenges.

Because the energetic imprints of the wounded healer are alive in the collective, we can be in relationship with these figures, their qualities, and ways of perception that they represent.

Through our practice and prayer and silence and being in nature and in the chaos of relationship and work, we can enter experientially into the center of the mandala, or interior garden. In this sense, the wounded healer is an actual “place” that exists in the landscape of the soul, that we can find our way to in the imaginal world.

You might start to sense or hear it, feel or see it, or know it is there in some unexplainable way.

You won’t be able to “find” this place within your physical anatomy or with a high-powered microscope, but you may very well find it in the anatomy of the soul.


Photo by Peggy Choucair


Saturday, April 16, 2022

Relationship as path


In close personal relationships, it is essential to emphasize our connectedness and the preciousness of secure attachment, leading with our vulnerability, receptivity, and sensitivities. In this, we prioritize the relationship and its value in our lives.

It is equally vital to be on the lookout for unhealthy fusion, honoring the reality that we are not only connected, but separate, with our own interiority, subjectivity, and ways of making sense of our experience.

Any secure attachment must include healthy differentiation, where at times the most skillful activity will be to honor our separateness from the other, differentiate from them and assert our views and needs, establish firm boundaries, and privilege our own autonomy and personal sense of integrity. This activity is active, dynamic, and alive.

To differentiate in this way will require each party to feel and integrate experiences of aloneness, uncertainty, confusion, and shame. Allowing one another the space and safety to metabolize this activation is the activity of love.

Once we take the risk to allow another to matter to us, it’s inevitable that we will disappoint them - and be disappointed by them in return. This will burn and ache and will bring alive our (and their) historic core vulnerabilities.

In the face of this, there can be an urgent impulse to do whatever possible to prevent the shattering of their heart and the achy (non-negotiable) confrontation with their own unlived life. But to allow the other to meet the reality of their own heart is an act of profound mercy and compassion. This will ask so much of us.

While from a transpersonal perspective, we can speak about unity and oneness, within the relative we are also differentiated and wildly unique, each with our own ways of organizing our experience. Each with our own fate and relationship with the divine, and with our own path to travel. To dissolve these differences into some homogenized spiritual middle does not honor the sacredness of form.

If we do not consciously honor the reality of our separateness, it will inevitably express itself in less than conscious ways, leaking out into the relational field as emotional and somatic symptomatology of all kinds. Paradoxically, it will also keep us disconnected with the other at a very core level, for if we have placed the burden upon them to tend to our unlived experience for us, it is simply not safe enough to come closer, for either of us - physically, emotionally, or at a deeper soul level.

In the fire of relationship, the lost orphans of psyche and soma call out from the underworld, from the depths of the soul and from within the pathways of somatic being. They long to be held and integrated and allowed their rightful place in the larger ecology of what we are. Like all work of depth, this art form evolves slowly, as it marinates and cooks in the alchemical vessel of the body.

May we be kind to our partners as we navigate this territory together, honoring the vehicle of intimacy as one of the most transformative, sacred, and challenging that we have in our modern world.

Freud said it was the dream that was the via regia, the royal road, to the unconscious; for Jung, it was the complex. But for many of us, it is relationship that is the royal road, a road that is precious while at the same time tenderizing.


Photo by Manfred Richter

 

Access free videos from Matt here 

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Free Video: Trauma and the Wounded Healer



In this short webinar, I explore an embodied, contemporary, trauma-sensitive path of spirituality and healing through the archetype of the wounded healer.

>>Access the free video here 

Many of us interested in things like spirituality, yoga, and meditation have been wounded in our lives – physically, emotionally, or at a deeper soul level. How can we come to see our wounding not as an obstacle to our path, but as the very path itself?

The great mystics, poets, and alchemists have suggested that our wounding serves an initiation into the soul, 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?

In the video, we'll look at 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 find the video interesting and helpful. 


Photo by IdaT

Saturday, April 2, 2022

The return of the Friend


In moments of unbearable experience - when we’re unable to access the internal resources or relational support to process what is happening in our lives - pieces of emotion (and soul) are stored outside conscious awareness in our bodies and nervous systems, where they remain available for metabolization at a later time.

There’s a lot of wisdom in locating this material outside awareness so it’s not continually pouring into our experience. Despite how intelligent and adaptive this process is, however, the unintegrated material is subject to being reactivated in a future moment, especially within the field of our close personal relationships (which have a way of illuminating, well, just about everything that remains unilluminated within us).

Early in our lives, we don’t have the developmental capacity to integrate unendurable emotional, psychic, and somatic material. Prior to the ages of 4 or 5, we’re not able to repress that which is potentially fragmenting and have no choice but to experience it directly, or to sequester it deep in the underworld, by way of those more archaic defenses of dissociation and splitting.

Poetically speaking (with correlates from the field of relational neuroscience), the lost ones who carry this material for us long to release this burden and return home. Sometimes we hear or see or sense them around us; they appear in our dreams, fantasies, and unexpected moods and physical symptoms. At times they even appear as a natural phenomenon - the sun, moon, colors, or star - or even as our lovers, friends, and (real-life) children.

Healing then, from this perspective, requires that we travel into the center of that yet-to-be-processed emotion and bodily arousal, by way of the neural network that is holding the material, and infuse it with those qualities that weren’t available at the time it was stored there - empathy, warmth, companionship, and holding.

Where, instead of disintegration, there is re-integration. Instead of dissociation, there is re-association. A relinking of mind and body where they were once (understandably) split.

The most essential of these qualities to bring into the network, the required neural scaffolding we might say, is a felt sense of safety. Safety is the treatment.

So we have these two core components of trauma and any deep relational wounding: emotional and somatic experience that’s overwhelming, on the one hand, and then the felt sense of aloneness on the other.

Not only do we have the emergence of unbearable and unendurable images, feelings, and sensations, but at some very basic level we’re alone with all that. There’s no experience of companionship, the Friend is absent and non-locatable.

For a relational mammal, this absence causes us to ache - emotionally, somatically, and spiritually. It’s the return of the Friend that we long for. The nature of who and what this “Friend” is must be discovered in the fire of our own direct experience.

May you discover and come to know this Friend in its infinite forms and expressions in your life. Though it can seem otherwise, my personal (and clinical) experience has shown me that the Friend is near. It can be painful and it can burn in the body and the heart, but there is hope.



Photo by debowscyfoto


Learn about Matt's self-guided online home study courses and access free teaching videos

Saturday, March 26, 2022

When sitting with a friend...


Dear friend,

I hope you’re doing well as we move into the spring, where the darkness is starting to yield to the light. This time of the year in the mountains is always one of dialogue, between the winter doing its best to hold on and the spring who is longing to emerge. In one moment it can seem like winter is taking the lead, only a few hours later for the spring to burst forth. Just like it is in the soul at times, there are wild swings between the various poles.

When we meet with someone who is feeling melancholic, empty, restless, or down, we can quickly become convinced that something is wrong, and that our role is to act urgently to fix them. And to engage in techniques, theories, and ideas to help them replace the actuality of their experience with what we believe they should be having instead.

It’s totally natural to want relief for those we care about and we want to do whatever we can to help; we don’t need to pretend this isn’t the case. We can hold that larger intention that they feel better, while simultaneously staying open to a call emerging in the field between us into deeper territory.

Perhaps it is something more subtle, more nuanced, more beautiful than relief that they are most longing for. For the Friend, for a companion who will go with them into the dimly lit, endarkened landscape of the soul.

From an alchemical perspective, there is wisdom and guidance in the images, emotions, and somatic data arising into the relational field between you, vital communication from the soul serving an initiatory function beyond what we can perceive. We don’t want to short-circuit that, especially as a result of our own anxiety and discomfort.

If we slow down and reflect, we might discover how much of our “fixing” activity, the movement toward relief, arises not from true compassion but from an unresolved relationship with our own darkness, with our own historic core vulnerabilities and untended complexes, and from the spinning and twirling of the ghosts of our own unlived lives.

It is possible that the most skillful and kind thing we can offer our friend is to sit in the charged energy with them, bearing witness to pure feeling together, in that claustrophobic or restless space, and stay near; to remove the burden that they come out of their experience, “feel better,” or heal in order for us to stay close.

Perhaps they don’t need to be healed, but to be held, to be heard, and to feel felt and understood, for someone to companion them as the hidden wisdom unfolds. Where, together, we weave a safe home, a sanctuary, a wholeness-temple where the shards of a broken world can reassemble.

I wish for you - and for all of life - to know this temple directly in the living reality of your own immediate experience.

Please take care of yourself.

Warmly,

Matt



Photo by Bingngu93


Learn about Matt's self-guided online home study courses and access free teaching videos

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Free Video: Spirituality, Shadow, and the Figures of Light


I want to share with you a video I recorded on the nature of an integral spirituality, one that is embodied, emotionally-attuned, and sensitive to trauma.

In the video, I speak about how transformation isn’t only a movement “upward” into transcendence, but also “downward,” into shadow, earth, body, and ground.


>>Access Spirituality, Shadow, & the Figures of Light video here

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 shards– the “lost orphans of psyche and soma” – are relocated and sequestered into what is referred to as “the shadow,” where they remain, awaiting a time when it is safe to return.

One of the consequences of this material remaining unilluminated and unintegrated is that it can lead to the experience of depletion, loss of energy, or soul loss, which is a condition that so many of us feel in the modern world (at least from time to time).

We all have strategies – including at times the use of our spiritual beliefs and practices – to keep us out of too much pain, fear, panic, overwhelm, and shame, from a direct confrontation with our own trauma and attachment wounding, and from the terror of rejection, blame, and abandonment.

By bringing curiosity and discernment to how these strategies may be manifesting in our lives, we can discover the light and the gold that have been sent into the shadow, and what it would mean to provide a home, or sanctuary, for this material to return home, back into embodied, conscious awareness. For it is through this sacred return that we are able to live a life of wholeness, purpose, meaning, and aliveness.

I hope you enjoy the video and find it evocative and of benefit.



Photo by Muntaha Nega

Saturday, March 12, 2022

The little one at the door


In those inevitable moments when you’re being flooded by activating, confusing, or overwhelming images and feelings, you might imagine that an important figure of the soul has appeared at the door (of your heart) and is knocking.

It could be a young child, infant, or even a fetus; a lost teenager, a worried adult at midlife, or an elderly person nearing death. Or perhaps a wounded or frightened animal, a mythic or spiritual figure, or some other one who doesn’t fit into any of these descriptions.

Often, this figure is young, and for understandable reasons. We open the door and the little one is there, exhausted from a long journey.

He or she is wondering, hoping, pleading, "How about now? Is it safe? Can I come home? Will there be anyone to hold me? I know it wasn’t possible last month, last year, last decade, last generation. But what about now? I'm not here to harm, cause more pain, or interfere with your healing, I just want to come home and rest and play again.”

It can be helpful to personify the activating experience, to drop into the felt sense of the situation, and “allow” it to take form as a figure. It’s more natural to open our hearts to a little being there, with that innocence, and find our way into relationship.

In contrast, it’s just not all that native to open our hearts to an abstraction, like “anger,” “sadness,” “fear,” or “panic.” How do we open our hearts and souls to a concept?

If we can “allow” the emotion and sensitivity to express itself by way of an image or a figure, we enter into communion with the one who has been carrying that shame, rage, and loneliness for so long. We travel into their world and see it with those missing qualities of empathy, holding, and care.

As we deepen in our inquiry we may start to discover that this little one really does have her own autonomy. “We” don’t create her, but in some way she’s actually already here. She has “created” herself.

Tending to her is the activity of love.



Photo by Niklas Ernst 


Saturday, March 5, 2022

Sensitivity and discernment on the path


The alchemists had hundreds of different types of vessels, of various shapes and sizes, able to contain, heat, and transmute the material in subtle ways, working with the Divine to reveal golden-nature.

We find this metaphor of gold-making throughout the alchemical tradition. The nature of just what this gold is, however, is part of the mystery. Is it ordinary gold? Soul gold? Or the gold of Sophia, the feminine wisdom-principle?

The vessel had all sorts of strange names, chambers, and portals, with nuanced ways that air and heat (awareness) flowed through. There was the pelican and double-pelican, reflux condenser, retort and double retort.

They had a very refined perception that not all vessels are the same and that each catalyzes a unique flavor or fragrance of transmutation on the way to the ever elusive philosopher’s stone.

Finding the appropriate vessel and applying the proper heat was essential for the alchemists, as well as ourselves. Whether a vessel of safety, essential for tending to trauma; or a structure-building container, required for narcissistic or borderline organization; or a retort designed for uncovering unconscious shadow and lost soul-pieces; or a more transpersonal vessel, crafted for a radical transformation in identity and perception.

Spirituality and healing are not one size fits all ventures. There is no one right vessel, or approach; the sensitivities of the soul and the subtleties of the heart, it’s just too mysterious for all that.

If we start to see the various therapies and spiritualities as different types of vessels, containing and illuminating experience in nuanced ways, the goal isn’t to fit them all together or to integrate them all into one homogenized thing, but to honor the differences, and to start to attune in deeper ways to what particular vessel is most skillful and compassionate for us in a given moment.

Just like the alchemists, we can have the material heating up in one way, in one particular vessel on one day, only to shift it to another on the next; this is the art of alchemical work, cultivating that sort of sensitivity and discernment.



Photo by Loulou Nash

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Monday, February 28, 2022

Matt Licata's online course starting on Thursday


Even though it may seem as if we are alone – and in part we must walk the 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 - Alchemical Healing and Accessing the Wisdom of the Sacred Wound: A 7-Week Deep Dive into a Psychotherapy of the Soul.

>>Learn more about the Alchemical Healing and Accessing the Wisdom of the Sacred Wound online course

Over seven weeks, we’ll make a journey together into the heart of an embodied spirituality, the alchemical imagination, and a psychotherapy of the soul. Starting this Thursday, 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. 

It’s not easy to do transformative inner work on our own as the path can become blurry, hazy, and even a bit lonely. Anytime we open to the shadow, the lunar, and to our own unlived lives, it can be helpful to have others to kindle 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 seven weeks, we’ll participate consciously in the power and transformative nature of the relational field to support us to cleanse our perception, open our hearts, and remember what’s most important.

>>Learn more about the Alchemical Healing and Accessing the Wisdom of the Sacred Wound online course here

The live sessions will last around 90 minutes and include experiential exercises, talks and presentations of the course curriculum, sharing personal experience, and live interaction where you can ask questions.

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 access all of the video, audio, and written material, and work through the course at a pace that is right for you. 

I’d love to have you join me as we move into the renewal of Spring where together we can create and participate in a safe, warm, yet provocative and creative interactional field, and explore some of the mysteries of the healing journey together. 



Saturday, February 26, 2022

Into a temple of wholeness


When we meet with someone who is feeling melancholic, empty, restless, or down, we can quickly become convinced that something is wrong, and that our role is to act urgently to fix them. And to engage in techniques, theories, and ideas to help them replace the actuality of their experience with what we believe they should be having instead.

It’s totally natural to want relief for those we care about and we want to do whatever we can to help; we don’t need to pretend this isn’t the case. We can hold that larger intention that they feel better, while simultaneously staying open to a call emerging in the field between us into deeper territory.

Perhaps it is something more subtle, more nuanced, more beautiful than relief that they are most longing for. For the Friend, for a companion who will go with them into the dimly lit, endarkened landscape of the soul.

From an alchemical perspective, there is wisdom and guidance in the images, emotions, and somatic data arising into the relational field between you, vital communication from the soul serving an initiatory function beyond what we can perceive. We don’t want to short-circuit that, especially as a result of our own anxiety and discomfort.

If we slow down and reflect, we might discover how much of our “fixing” activity, the movement toward relief, arises not from true compassion but from an unresolved relationship with our own darkness, with our own historic core vulnerabilities and untended complexes, and from the spinning and twirling of the ghosts of our own unlived lives.

It is possible that the most skillful and kind thing we can offer our friend is to sit in the charged energy with them, bearing witness to pure feeling together, in that claustrophobic or restless space, and stay near; to remove the burden that they come out of their experience, “feel better,” or heal in order for us to stay close.

Perhaps they don’t need to be healed, but to be held, to be heard, and to feel felt and understood, for someone to companion them as the hidden wisdom unfolds.

Where, together, we weave a safe home, a sanctuary, a wholeness-temple where the shards of a broken world can reassemble.



Photo by Jackson David

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Thursday, February 24, 2022

Matt's new live online course - Alchemical Healing and Accessing the Wisdom of the Sacred Wound


My new (live) online course - Alchemical Healing and Accessing the Wisdom of the Sacred Wound - will begin on Thursday, March 3rd. Over the course of 7 Thursdays, we'll dive deep into many of the topics that are important to me and my writing, as well as to my clinical work as a psychotherapist. 

>>Learn more about the Alchemical Healing online course here

While I'd love to have you join us live, it is not required as many have other commitments. You can fully participate in the course at your own pace and will receive access to all video, audio, and written course materials shortly after each session. The live sessions will take place on Thursdays at 11am US Pacific time and last around 90 minutes. 

What does it mean to live a meaningful, soulful life in these uncertain times?

Is it possible to step outside the matrix of intergenerational and cultural trance and discover a new sense of aliveness, creativity, and purpose?

The path of transformation is going to be wildly unique for each of us. While we can benefit from the wisdom left behind by the mapmakers, we must make the journey ourselves.

The spiritual and healing paths not spectator sports and we can’t stand on the sidelines and participate from a distance. Something a lot more intimate, creative, and even more alchemical is being asked of us right now.

The discovery of meaning, which is at the very core of the human experience, isn’t preordained or given to us by our families, cultures, or religions, but must be unearthed in the depths of our hearts and vessels of our bodies. 

At times, this soul-mining requires that we go against the status quo and forge a new way. It can feel shaky, uncertain, and tender, and it can be helpful to connect with friends and fellow travelers along the way. 

It is in this spirit of companionship that I'll be offering this new live online course, Alchemical Healing and Accessing the Wisdom of the Sacred Wound: A Deep Dive into a Psychotherapy of the Soul.

During our time together, we’ll explore perspectives from diverse approaches such as depth and somatic psychologies, the meditative traditions, relational neuroscience, and the alchemical imagination, stepping into the teachings and practices that form the heart of my own life and clinical practice.

Even though we’re scattered throughout the planet, in my experience it is possible to come together within a healing relational field and connect deeply with one another, with ourselves, with the heart, and enter into communion as we move out of the winter and into the spring. Out of the darkness and into the light.

The soul is always calling out to us, but often in ways that are hidden to our ordinary perception. It is my hope that our time together will help us connect more deeply with the Inner Guide, the Inner Companion and Friend who is always nearby, shape shifting and taking unexpected forms to call us Home, into a soulful life of deeper purpose, meaning, and aliveness.

I’d love to have you join me, and one another, as we make this journey together.

Hope to see you online soon. 





Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Free webinar with Matt Licata on Thursday


A reminder that I'll be offering a free webinar on “The Alchemy of the Heart” this Thursday, February 24 at 11am Pacific time/ 7pm in London.

>>Register at no cost for The Alchemy of the Heart webinar with Matt Licata

During the webinar, we’ll likely do some meditation together and I’ll share my experience about the nature of healing through the varied lenses of depth and somatic psychologies, relational neuroscience, meditative awareness, and the alchemical imagination. 

Each of these doorways offer a series of perspectives and practices through which we can come to know more deeply who we are as open, sensitive, relational human beings, with bodies and feelings that can sometimes shatter and hurt. 

But it’s in the core of this shattering, inside the shards of the heart and fragmented pieces of the soul that the mysteries of healing are to be found. It is inside the wound that the tincture is flowing. 

The ancient alchemists - our friends on the journey - referred to the illumination arising out of the darkness as the scintilla, or the sparks of light

Healing may never look quite like we expected or imagined - it’s just too wild and mysterious for all that. It requires that we question the status quo of the culture and shift our perception outside the intergenerational matrices of collectivity and trance. 

I look forward to seeing you on the 24th at 11am PT/ 7pm in London. You can sign up at no cost here.





Saturday, February 19, 2022

The union of sun and moon


Often, our paths of transformation and healing are dominated by solar metaphors and images - those of growth, moving upward, rising above, and transcending the messier, more chaotic, more unknowable dimensions of our human experience.

But an alchemical perspective, while not denying that organic movement of the spirit, includes and at times privileges the lunar current - the descending, earthy, soulful return to the mud and the ground.

The alchemical imagination honors this movement out of the clouds and the high mountaintops of crystal clarity, and downward into the valleys, gardens, and richness of the rotting logs and green moss.

It’s not as clear or known here, but is vital and pregnant with color, fragrance, and essence. It’s rich and multi-layered and contradictory. And utterly unresolvable.

If what we’re interested in is the felt experience of wholeness, where we’re able to touch and breathe and move within the entirety of what it means to be an open, sensitive, embodied human being, it’s essential to include both solar and lunar dimensions of the spectrum of consciousness in our practices and in our lives.

That wholeness includes not only a solar, heroic movement upward into spirit, ascending and transcending, but also a lunar, endarkened, rich, subtle, nuanced movement downward into soul, into dream, fantasy, imagination, and creativity… into the soil and mud and the womb of the earth.




Photo by Stergo/ Игорь Левченко

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Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Free live webinar with Matt Licata - Thursday, Feb. 24


I’ll be offering a free webinar on “The Alchemy of the Heart” next Thursday, February 24 at 11am Pacific time/ 7pm in London.

>>Register at no cost for The Alchemy of the Heart webinar with Matt Licata

During the webinar, we’ll likely do some meditation together and I’ll share my experience about the nature of healing through the varied lenses of depth and somatic psychologies, relational neuroscience, meditative awareness, and the alchemical imagination. 

Each of these doorways offer a series of perspectives and practices through which we can come to know more deeply who we are as open, sensitive, relational human beings, with bodies and feelings that can sometimes shatter and hurt. 

But it’s in the core of this shattering, inside the shards of the heart and fragmented pieces of the soul that the mysteries of healing are to be found. It is inside the wound that the tincture is flowing. 

The ancient alchemists - our friends on the journey - referred to the illumination arising out of the darkness as the scintilla, or the sparks of light

Healing may never look quite like we expected or imagined - it’s just too wild and mysterious for all that. It requires that we question the status quo of the culture and shift our perception outside the intergenerational matrices of collectivity and trance. 

I look forward to seeing you on the 24th at 11am PT/ 7pm in London. You can sign up at no cost here.





Saturday, February 12, 2022

The return of the Friend


In moments of unbearable feeling - absent the internal resources or relational support to process that arousal - pieces of emotion and image are stored outside conscious awareness in our bodies and nervous systems, where they remain available for metabolization at a later time.

There’s a lot of wisdom in locating this material outside awareness so it’s not continually pouring into our experience. Despite how intelligent and adaptive this process is, however, the unintegrated material is subject to being reactivated in a future moment.

Early in our lives, we don’t have the developmental capacity to integrate unendurable emotional, psychic, and somatic material. Prior to the ages of 4 or 5, we’re not able to repress that which is potentially fragmenting and have no choice but to experience it directly.

So healing then requires that we go into that yet-to-be-processed emotion and bodily arousal, by way of the neural network that is holding that material, and infuse it with those qualities that weren’t available at the time it was stored there - empathy, warmth, companionship, and holding.

Where, instead of disintegration, there is re-integration. Instead of dissociation, there is re-association. A relinking of mind and body where they were once (understandably) split.

The most essential of these qualities to bring into the network, the required neural scaffolding we might say, is the felt sense of safety. Safety is the treatment.

So we have these two core components of trauma and any deep relational wounding: emotional and somatic experience that’s overwhelming, on the one hand, and then the felt sense of aloneness on the other.

Not only do we have the emergence of unbearable and unendurable images, feelings, and sensations, but at some very basic level we’re alone with all that. There’s no experience of companionship, the Friend is absent and non-locatable.

It’s the return of the Friend that we long for. The nature of who and what this “Friend” is must be discovered in the fire of our own direct experience.



Photo by Sarah Richter

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Saturday, February 5, 2022

An arrow in the quiver of the beloved


Even if our primary interest is in spiritual transformation, we cannot separate out our unresolved relational trauma, attachment wounding, and the narcissistic injury we may have experienced.

What I’ve discovered in my own life (the hard way) and also in my clinical practice with a lot of dedicated spiritual practitioners is that if we fail to tend to our own wounding and trauma, it will inevitably leak out, and color any realization that we might have.

Unprocessed somatic and emotional material has a way of creating a perceptual sieve through which we come to imagine ourselves, others, and the world; and also how we imagine and relate with nature and with the Divine.

There is no bright line separating our verbal, emotional, somatic, and autonomic narratives; they weave together and interpenetrate one another in strands of dark and light. Each, we might say, an equal arrow in the quiver of the Beloved as he or she or it or they seem to come into the world of form, of time and space.

No matter how deep and profound our realizations have been, they will be filtered through whatever unmetabolized trauma that remains in the vessel of the body.

The invitation is to enter into that vessel with curiosity, with a fidelity, even a devotion to the full-spectrum unfolding of this human form, to care deeply about all of it, and to allow that devotion and care to flow out into the neural circuitry of the world.



Photo by Ingo Jakubke

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