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.



Photo by Bingngu93

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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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