Saturday, January 29, 2022

Held by the darkness

In ways the conscious mind isn’t always able to understand, we can also be held by the darkness. I find this to be such a powerful image, and something I’ve come to experience in my own life, as well as in my clinical work.

But coming to that direct experience isn’t easy, as we know; it’s not really something that’s been taught or honored in our world. The sacredness of that level of revelation is held outside conventional matrices of intergenerational trauma and trance.

It’s not only the light that can hold us, but the darkness as well, the holding benevolence of the lunar descent.

There is a bias toward the light in our cultural and spiritual traditions, but there is an initiation which can only happen by way of the darkness, which too is holy.

This is the initiation occurring within the very center of the mandala of the wounded healer.

Photo by Myriams-Fotos

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Saturday, January 22, 2022

A prayer for the new year

As we move together into 2022 – and what has been an unprecedented cycle of personal, cultural, and collective initiation – a doorway appears.

May you be guided and held and may you come to know the great Friend who is alive inside you, longing to walk with you into the inner chambers of the Heart. Not only the heart that is open and filled with joy, but also the one that is tender and shattered with grief. For it is inside the shattered pieces a whole new world is born.

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 the sparkling of a snowflake, 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.

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.

Wishing you all a joyful and meaningful 2022.

Photo by Noel Bauza

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Saturday, January 15, 2022

The wild realities of neuroplasticity

Early relational experiences are encoded in our neural circuitry in the first 18 months of life. Stored as implicit memory, these patterns remain outside our capacity for conscious reflection, secretly shaping the lenses through which we imagine ourselves, others, and the world.

In those moments when we feel unsafe, the templates open and come online, coloring our perception. In response, we tend to numb or shutdown, or else become flooded with unbearable feeling. We long to return to safety as we are wired to rest there.

For it is from that neural scaffolding of safety that we can play, explore, be creative, spontaneous, flexible, emotionally supple, and able to take the risks that relationship will always ask of us.

Our expectations in relationship are organized in a fragile little nervous system that yearns for connection. The neural pathways are tender and responsive, as we seek attuned, right-brain to right-brain resonance with those around us, as well as with those within us. We want to feel felt, have our experience held and mirrored, and for a holding space in which we can explore unstructured states of being.

While traumatic encoding is deeply embedded, it can be rewired. While it may feel entrenched, there is hope. Even if your early environment was one of empathic failure, developmental trauma, and insecure attachment, it is never too late. The wild realities of neuroplasticity and the courage of the human heart is unstoppable and an erupting force of creativity.

As long as breath is present, the opportunity for safety and connection is available. Both the somatic narrative as well as the verbal narrative can be revisioned and brought up to date in a way that is poetic, kind, and majestic enough to companion you into unknown territory.

No matter what is happening in your life, you can start right now, in this moment. The opening for reorganization is always here and wired deep within you. Don’t give up. Love will never give up on you.

Please remember this and remind those in your life that there is always hope, not only some fanciful hope, but a hope that is wired into the true holiness of your body, soul, and nervous system.

Photo by mathgun

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Saturday, January 8, 2022

The body knows, the heart knows

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

Just be there with them so that they feel felt and understood. Bear witness to their own organic wisdom as it recalibrates, reorganizes, and emerges.

Listen. Not only to their verbal narrative but to the somatic story as well. To the secret, sensitive language emerging from their heart.

Bracket your beliefs and systems for a few moments. Attune. With the poetic beauty and power of your mirror neuron system, enter into the miracle we-space with them, so that they feel felt.

I'm with you. I'm here. I feel you. I understand you. Be midwife as a new story is woven with new cloth, one that is majestic enough to contain the immensity that they are. One that is updated in real-time, integrated, spacious, flexible, translucent, and kind.

Extend to them a soothed nervous system, a sanctuary of presence, a field of permission where they can go through their experience without any pressure to heal or to meet some hidden agenda in order for you to stay close. Resist the temptation to “teach” them. But instead, “reach” them, finally, by way of the circuitry of empathic immersion.

It's going to be difficult to do this if we are out of touch with our own unlived life – with the unmet grief, the unheld sadness, the unmetabolized rage. If we have disavowed these visitors – including through our endless metaphysical theories and beliefs: it will just be too unsafe to enter the vessel with eyes and heart open.

Of course the mind has such a hard time with this. It just can't believe it. What about my theories and techniques and spiritual beliefs and all of it? I must convey it all and show them.

But the body knows. The heart knows. The holy nervous system knows.

The Other – whether outside us or taking internal form – is not in need of new information, theories, or spiritual beliefs, but needs and wants and longs for you… your nakedness, your tenderness, your raw unfiltered being, your love.

Photo by Joe Plenio

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Saturday, January 1, 2022

The raging intelligence buried within the dark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by RitaE

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