Thursday, December 7, 2023

Matt's 2024 Inner Work Group & Community

My new 2024 online inner work group and community will start on February 1 with registration opening for a limited time in mid-January. If you’d like to learn more and join the waitlist, please visit here:

>> Learn more about Matt's 2024 Inner Work Group & Community 

We’ll meet live a few times each month, for meditation, inquiry, imaginal practice, and to explore the mystery of Being, healing, and spiritual transformation.

Weaving together depth and somatic psychotherapies, relational neuroscience and trauma studies, and the wisdom of the mystics, yogis, and alchemists, we’ll explore an embodied, trauma-sensitive approach to deep soul healing, self-realization, and the alchemy of the heart.

The purpose of the group is to come together in a true holding environment and to open to the power, beauty, and intelligence of the relational field itself as an ally and friend on your own unique path.

Here is a sample list of topics we’ll lively cover throughout the year. The depth at which we go into any of these will depend upon the way the group is unfolding and evolving together, and new topics may be added based on interest and passion from the group and from the field itself. Together, we will listen to the Self, and guidance from the soul, allowing it to lead us through the year.

While there may be a theme that emerges for each individual session, much of what occurs will arise spontaneously, creatively, and guided by soul and the Self, and the wisdom of the relational field, including much that is transmitted non-conceptually, by way of feeling, emotion, the body, and the imagination. This list is only meant to give you a sense of the possible territory:
  • The Contemporary Path of the Mystic: Union with the Divine and the Sacred World
  • Trauma and the Sacred: Exploring the Link Between Our Psychological and Somatic Wounding, and Spiritual Realization
  • The Alchemical Imagination and How All Transformation and Healing is Alchemical (and Relational) at its Core
  • Shadow Work and Illuminating Lost Pieces of Soul: Liberating the Frozen, Crystallized Orphans of Psyche and Soma
  • Dreamwork and Active Imagination: Opening into the Wisdom of the Soul and Living a Symbolic Life
  • The Role of the Body and Somatic Attunement, and How the Body and Nervous System Form the Root Alchemical Vessel
  • The Contemporary Path of the Wounded Healer and the Wisdom Within your Embodied Vulnerability, Tenderness, and Sensitivities
  • Cultivating a Daily Practice Unique to You and Your Individual Soul-Print
  • The Foundational Role of Mindfulness, Meditation, and Embodied Inquiry on the Spiritual Path, and Finding Your Own Way into the Contemplative Life
  • The Role of Relationship and the Yoga of Intimacy: The Beloved, the Ally, and the Inner and Outer Friend
  • Prioritizing Soul as we Age, and Aging as a Soul Practice: Death, Dying, and Illness as the Alchemical Prima Materia
  • Griefwork and Tending to the Blue Regions of the Spectrum of Consciousness; the Death of an Old Dream and the Emergent Coming-into-Being
  • The Various Forms of Psychotherapy, Meditation, and Inner Work as Types of Alchemical Vessels - as Experiments of the Heart
  • The Art of Befriending and Becoming a True Friend to Yourself: Cultivating the Healing Power of Self-Compassion and Providing an internal Holding Environment When Things Fall Apart
I'll be posting more information here later in the year about the group and you can also join my mailing list to receive the most up-to-date notifications. 

I look forward to being with everyone starting in February! 



Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Attachment, fusion, and the yoga of relationship

In close personal relationships, it is important to emphasize a secure attachment bond and the co-regulation of challenging emotional states. 

To practice kindness toward our lovers and friends, listen to the way they are making sense of their experience, attune to what they are feeling, and hold them during difficult times.

It is also essential to be on the lookout for unhealthy fusion, honoring the reality that we are not only connected, but also separate. 

Any secure attachment must include healthy differentiation, where at times the most skillful activity will be to establish firm boundaries, assert our independence, privilege our own personal integrity, and allow the other to struggle with feelings of aloneness, uncertainty, and confusion.

At times we will disappoint those we love, and this will activate our historic core vulnerabilities… and theirs. 

For many of us, disappointing another is just not safe, and we will do whatever possible to ensure they do not come face to face with the surging material of their unlived life. But allowing them to meet the reality of their own heart is an act of profound mercy and compassion.

While transpersonally we can speak about unity and oneness, within the relative we are also distinct, with our own histories and ways of organizing our experience. Each with our own fate and relationship with the divine, our own paths to travel; our own unique ways entering the mystery. 

To dissolve these differences into some homogenized spiritual middle does not honor the sacredness of form.

If we do not consciously explore the reality of our separateness, it will inevitably manifest in less than conscious ways, unleashing unmetabolized shadow into the relational field. 

Like all work of depth, this art form evolves slowly, as it marinates in the alchemical vessel of the body.

May we be kind to our partners as we navigate this territory – especially during these challenging times – honoring the vehicle of intimacy as one of the most provocative, sacred, and holy that we have in our modern world.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Tending to the Soul: A Self-Guided Online Course

My self-guided, home study course on Tending to the Soul: A Journey of Being and Belonging, and a Spirituality of the Heart is currently available: 

>>Learn more or register for Tending to the Soul 

There are times in each of our lives when a chapter comes to an end, when we find ourselves on the precipice of rebirth and renewal.

Something has dissolved – the dream of me and my life and the way it was all supposed to turn out – but it’s not yet clear what’s going to arise from the ashes to take its place.

As disorienting as these times of transition can be, they are evidence of a sacred process occurring deep in the personal and collective soul. For it is only from a shattering that the phoenix is able to emerge.

The question now for so many of us is: what is it that the soul wants? Not what I thought I wanted, what I should want, or what others want for me, but what is calling to me from the depths of who and what I am, into a life of new vision, purpose, and meaning?

As we engage in this holy reassembling, it can be so easy to lose track of our home base, whether we imagine this center as the palace of the soul, the light of the spirit, or the ventral vagal safety-pathways of the holy human nervous system.

The great poets, alchemists, wayfarers, and mystics have declared that the path is everywhere but it can take a slowing down and a cleansing of our perception for this to become a living reality.

Learn more about the course here or you can write to with any questions.

Monday, November 27, 2023

The path is everywhere

The path of the heart is not only one of transcendence – ascending and rising above – but also one of descent: Into underworld, earth, and shadow, and into relationship with the figures of the somatic unconscious.

The lunar way isn’t as clear as its heroic or solar counterpart. It is unclothed: of fixed concept, a precise map, and knowing how it’s all going to turn out. It has a way not of confirming but of dismantling the spiritual persona.

No promises, no guarantees, no mythical tales of some “permanent” state of enlightenment or unending transcendent experience, where we can remain safe and free from the reorganizing fires of love, which burn through the known to reveal essence.

In the mandala of the lunar, we make room for Kali to come and dissolve even our most “powerful” realizations, evidencing her lack of interest in our fantasies of resolution.

We cannot travel inside her body, her being, if we already know what’s “real” and what’s “true;” or if we’ve mistaken the map for the territory, which is always wild and untamed. Our “mastery” is of very little interest to her.

Held in her temple are the holy images of our broken dreams, disappointments, hopes, and fears – the entirety of our unlived life; the grief of the ancestors, the lamentation of the earth, and the sensitivities of the soma.

Here, in the center, the wound is opened and no longer bandaged, which is what allows the tincture to enter.

The feast is laid out before us, sprinkled throughout the oceans, stars, forests, and green light; and all through the eyes of the one in front of us. The path is everywhere.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thanksgiving: How well did I love?

On this new Thanksgiving Day, it is so easy to take for granted that tomorrow will come – that another opportunity will be given to witness a sunrise, spend a moment with someone we love, or be astonished at the crystals in the newly fallen snow.

But another part knows it is so fragile here, precarious, shaky, outrageously precious and at times so shattering, that this opening into life will not be here for much longer. One moment, we will turn toward it and it will be gone.

Recognizing this, let us give thanks on this new day by no longer postponing our time here, by not waiting any longer.

By remembering what's most important and what truly matters. By doing whatever we can to help others, listening to them so that they feel felt, holding them in moments when they need a companion.

At the end of this life, it is unlikely we'll be caught up in whether we accomplished all the tasks on our to-do lists, manifested all the things we dreamed we wanted, played it safe, or completed some endless self-improvement project.

At that moment, there may be only one question that remains: how well did I love?

Did I pause each day to slow down and truly behold the beauty of the sensual world? Was I willing to take a risk, feel more, allow this life to matter, and to really experience what is already here and what has already been given?

Ending the trance of postponement and dissolving the dream that there is some breath, some beauty, some love coming tomorrow. Tomorrow is a dream that may not arrive. Love is now.

The bounty and harvest of thanksgiving is upon us, awaiting to be seen, felt, tasted, and heard, in the trees and the snow, in the imagination and in the heart. In the very center of our holy mirror neurons as they light up when we attune to one another.

I hope I make it all the way through this Thanksgiving Day, but if for some reason I do not, this would have been enough. I have been given so much more than enough.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Honoring ego and its role in our inner ecology

There’s a lot of talk in contemporary spirituality equating “true” spiritual realization with “getting rid of,” “transcending,” “killing,” or “annihilating” the ego.

These archaic, patriarchal, war-images and metaphors are violent and feel very tired.

A more dynamic, systems-based, holistic, and compassionate alchemy is, instead, to respect and relativize the ego, and help it to find its place in the larger ecology of what we are.

The ego is simply our self-image, how I’ve come to imagine myself. We each imagine in this way, even if we fantasize that we don’t. We human beings are storytellers, mythmakers, and need not apologize for this, but engage it with depth, subtlety, and soul.

The rush to deny ego and declare its illusory status often arises from a fragmented, dissociated split in the self, where there’s been a history of early relational trauma which has not been repaired. This is understandable.

Not surprisingly, it’s safer to fantasize that this self is “illusion” than it is to enter into its world, collect and hold the broken pieces, and grieve what until now has been ungrievable.

The ego is one voice among many, one figure sitting at the table of Being, a unique and essential mode of perception and activity.

At that same table, there are also other non-ego voices and persons, representing the ancestors, mythological beings, and figures of the archetypal field; personifications of our dreams, fantasies, symptoms, and complexes.

These ones dwell in the shadow, the somatic unconscious, and the subcortical places. They long for our presence, embodiment, devotion, and care. They are not obstacles on our path, but are the very path itself.

To facilitate dialogue and relationship between ego and the Others in psyche and soma, to help the dissociated to re-associate, the unlinked to link once again, is an act of wisdom and also great love. Not only for ourselves, but for all of life.

Image: Gerd Altmann

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The portal to new life

It’s afternoon in the forest and the light is yielding to the darkness, just as the stars yield each morning at dawn.

One moment they’re here; so close, luminous, that beauty, and then they’re not. It’s like this also in inner nature, where in one moment things can be so clear: who I am and what I’m doing here.

Only for it all to be dissolved in the next; my life and the way it was all supposed to turn out.

The capacity to grieve the death of an old dream is the portal to new life: To go into the broken and feel, to meet the shattered pieces with presence and with love.

The soul is always speaking to us, the Friend is always nearby and offering its essence, its body, its being. At times, by way of beauty, joy, connection, and peace; gratitude, flow, wonder, and awe. We can give thanks for the sweet forms of grace as they nurture and hold us.

At other times, the dispatch from the Beloved will emerge out of the underworld, an eruption of the dark, and can be deflating, fierce and untamed. It is ego-dystonic, and cannot confirm who and what we think we are.

This particular emanation of the Beloved can ache in the pathways and burn in the heart.

And will unlikely feel all that nurturing: a surge of activation in one of our relationships, an out-of-the-blue experience of anxiety or depression, an unexplainable symptom in our body, the loss of meaning in our work, a dark night, the collapse of the known.

To perceive this activity also as grace, as one of the many arrows in the quiver of the Friend is not easy, and will often take us to the ground.

But it is on the ground, in the earth, in the mud and in the colors of the forest that we may be crafted as a vessel in which love can come alive here, incarnating through each of us, in a world that so badly needs it.

Friday, November 3, 2023

Emissaries of the path

The next time you find yourself caught in a repetitive loop of thinking, spiraling, and falling down the rabbit hole… slow the situation down.

Feel your feet on the earth. Sense the aliveness in your hands. Breathe deeply from your lower belly.

Shift of the rabbit hole and into the vessel, where things are not quite as they seem. A more sensual, imaginal place where wisdom figures stand by to show you something behind the veil.

With your presence, interrupt the momentum. Stay close. Stay in your body. Feel. Sense. Listen.

Something important may be emerging, longing for contact, to be illuminated and held, just underneath the threshold of consciousness, surging out from the intelligence of the somatic field.

Inside the very core of the emotions, the images, the pure feeling, the felt sense, the Ally incarnates and embodies itself, with a secret hope that conditions ripen for it to be known.

The invitation is to provide sanctuary and safe passage for the unlived, the unfelt, and the ungrieved to be touched and to be held.

What is it that I need right now? What is it that I have not been wanting to feel? How can I meet this moment and take care of myself in a new way? One that is spacious, loving, and even wild.

The emptiness in my heart, shakiness in my belly, constriction in my throat… the sadness, the shame, the rage, the lost joy, the lost capacity to play and to imagine, to dream a new dream… these are the emissaries of the path and allies of wholeness and integration.

I will not abandon myself. I will not turn from my embodied vulnerability. For just this moment, I will step into the unknown, and listen.

As the alchemist in the depth and containment of the vessel, I will allow spirit to matter and for matter to reveal its nature as spirit itself. And in the mystery of that union, I will go.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Relational alchemy and the internal Other

Usually when we speak about the “others” in our lives, we are referring to those on the outside who we are in relationship with, that we care about, that matter to us.

It’s important to attune to them and to what it’s like for them - to see the way they see, feel they way they feel, listen to what keeps them up at night, and what opens their hearts.

While we each bring our own unlived life into the psychic space where our subjectivities intersect, there is also a third thing, the field itself, that has its own autonomy and intelligence, and is an equal partner in the relationship.

Whether we call this the interactive field, the analytical third, or the mystery of the Friend, this one is there with us in the liminal in-between.

This is the realm of Hermes, the one who guides the alchemist in her work, which is one of devotion and love – love of the materials in the vessel, and of the vessel itself.

In addition to the external other, there is also an “other” who is moving inside us, an unknown piece of soul who has become split off from the totality. Just like the external others, these ones also long to be known, held, and loved.

They are shape-shifters and will manifest in an infinite number forms – as vivid emotions, dream images, somatic tenderness, even as color, music, and poetry as they seek us as a vessel in which they can come alive.

In this way, relational alchemy, unfolds not only with an external other but simultaneously with the dissociated figures of psyche and soma, who carry light-pieces of our wholeness and essence.

It is to the degree we are able to empathically attune, listen to, feel, sense, and hold the emerging inner Other that we will be able to truly accompany those in our lives.

If we’re not able to attend with devotion to the inner darkness, chaos, and contradiction, we will never be able to practice intimacy with these same qualities as they inevitably emerge in our most intimate relationships.

Photo by Pietro Merola

Monday, October 23, 2023

Inside the secret places

Inside the body the lost ones travel, carrying our dissociated experience and unfelt feeling, taking up temporary residence in our muscles, cell tissue, organs, and breath.

Scattered pieces of soul gather in our eyes, shoulders, and bellies, and in the secret places within our hearts.

They’ve become frozen and crystallized there, and display their longing to come Home by way of our dreams, bodily-felt emotions, and the variety of symptoms we experience.

If we’re unable to access them, to feel what they feel and tend to their tears, they will make their way deeper into the underworld and into the soma, awaiting a future moment when conditions are ripe.

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

This unheld and unmetabolized material shapes our perception and forms a psychic template through which we’re able to imagine ourselves, others, and our world. But this happens outside our conscious awareness, from within the depths of shadow.

As we’re invited to “just be in the present moment,” we have to remember that in the present moment the ancestors are there with us.

They not only take up residence in our bodies, our hearts, and deep in the soul, but they are our bodies, hearts, and souls. Psyche is multiple and polytheistic.

They arrive invited or otherwise, along with the lost, crystallized orph
ans of psyche and soma, the spinning figures of our unlived lives, and the rich landscape of our implicit memory.
We’re not alone in that “present moment.”

What does the Other have to say about us and our meditation practice? Have we asked them and listened carefully to their response, with devotion and care?

Have we lamented their tears and grieved their pain?

To what degree have we met them, and accepted them with love? And sought their wisdom on the nature of past, present, and future.

Photo by Paul Davies

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Slow and safe

We’ve all been given experience that we’ve been unable to process consciously. This is one of the basic characteristics of trauma, unendurable emotional pain that hasn’t been able to find a relational home in which it can be held.

There are times in my clinical work when I’ll meet with someone who is really suffering, but they can’t actually feel that pain. They’re not able to make contact with the felt quality of the open wound.

Instead, there’s a protective numbing, a dissociative shut down and collapse into the somatic unconscious. From here, the lost orphans of psyche and soma burn, ache, and long for holding.

This response is coherent and makes sense based on what happened earlier in their lives, and was an adaptive response in the face of survival-level anxiety and annihilatory panic, to the very real threat of psychic disintegration.

Trauma is the experience of de-linking – left and right, top and bottom, limbic and cortical, body and mind – and linkage occurs through the felt sense of safety.

Where we find a way, guided by mercy and grace, to touch that experience, hold it in love, make sense of it, and integrate it into a new cohesive narrative.

Slow and safe. I’m with you, and you’re safe. I’m with you a
nd you’re safe. You’re no longer alone. And you’re safe.

While insight and clarity 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.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Into a vessel of light

When we meet with someone who is feeling melancholic, empty, shaky, or down, we can quickly become convinced that something is wrong, and that our role is to (urgently) fix the situation. To provide techniques, spiritual theories, and advice to get them out of their experience and into a different one.

It’s natural to want relief for those we care about and do whatever we can to help. We can hold a larger intention that they feel better while simultaneously staying open to the intelligence that is moving through them.

Perhaps it is something more subtle, more soulful, more holy than relief they’re longing for. And that advice, techniques, and theories are experienced by them as misattuned and yet another failure in empathy.

And then on top of the difficult emotions, they feel unseen, unheard, and alone, which is shattering. They look and cannot find the Friend, and shatter more.

There is wisdom in the images and emotions which arrive as a complex is constellated and incarnates in the body, an important dispatch from the soul serving an initiatory function beyond ordinary perception.

If we slow down, we might discover how much of our need to fix, heal, and relieve arises not from true compassion, but from an unresolved, dissociative relationship with the darkness within, from our own untended vulnerabilities and sensitivities, and spinning ghosts of our own unlived lives.

It is possible that the most skillful and kind thing we can offer the other is to sit in the charged energy with them, 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. To extend a soothed nervous system and a field of love in which they can meet the reality of their own heart.

And be there with them to gather the shattered pieces, collecting them into a vessel of light.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Into the autumn...

To walk in the early morning on what appears to be another ordinary day, with the summer and the fall still in dialogue about who will take it from here.

Wandering between heaven and earth, it is clear how little I know, unsure of what love wants of me until she whispers it through the birds and falling leaves, the orange, the yellow and the red, as it makes its way here into this flowy world of time and space.

I really hope to make it all the way through this day and to have another chance to be in awe at what might be shown tomorrow. But if not, for now I am left only with a simple gratitude to have be shown even a tiny sliver of love. I have been given so much.

It is early morning in the forest – and fall is arriving. Something new is preparing to emerge, to express its qualities, and play in awareness.

It is breathtaking, really, to watch as love emerges as the senses, as pure feeling, as these colors, as this imagination, all laid out as one rich feast for lover and beloved and their union.

Not a union transcendent of separation but one which includes it as we fall to the ground in humility knowing that the vast activity of love is never going to be resolved, beholding the spirit within matter and the holiness not only of oneness, but also placed inside multiplicity.

To be here in this world is the only miracle. We've been given the primary materials to make the journey: a beating heart to feel, arms to reach out and hold another close, words to speak kindness, and eyes to look into the depths.

Behold the harvest that is this life and the creative bounty of love as it emerges out of the unknown and takes shape as the miracle of autumn. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

A sign you're on the right track...

The discovery of meaning, richness, beauty, and depth arises not only through an encounter with the light, but also by way of immersion in the dark.

In ways the conscious mind isn’t quite able to understand, we can also be held by the darkness, inside the womb of the unknown.

It’s going to feel counter-instinctual to allow ourselves to stay in that place of not-knowing, meaning we’re not going to want to do it. The pull will be back to certainty, clarity, and knowing ahead of time how it will all turn out.

Holding the tension between all the contradictory feelings in the body vessel is the activity of love. Providing a home for the burning, the longing, and for the darkened material to reveal its nature is the essence of the alchemical journey.

There is wisdom here in the shattered – and profound guidance for the path ahead – but it can’t be accessed with ordinary awareness. It can only be felt and known through the heart.

This process involves an emptying of the cup, a cosmic decaying and recycling, where we’re shown that the path of awakening and healing, while giving us everything, will simultaneously take everything away.

This “taking everything away” is one of the signatures of the beloved, of a fierce and reorganizing grace, but it’s not necessarily the sort of “grace” we had in mind when we started out on the path.

It is only through the process of embodiment and incarnation that the beloved, her being and blessing can find its way here, with us as the vehicle for that sort of embodied, ensouled transmutation.

Yes, it can be so shaky at times: “I can’t take any more. Can I just go back to the way it was?”

But this tenderness and sensitivity, that ache in the heart, that burning in the body for union, is a sign you’re on the right track, that you’ve crossed the threshold into the liminal place where the Friend is there to receive you.

That longing is the doorway in.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Autumn and the emptying of the cup

Dear friend, I hope you’re doing well as we move into the Autumn, a time when the colors change, which for the alchemist was a sign of transmutation in the vessel.

For many of us, this transition is also occurring simultaneously in our bodies and hearts, as some part of us falls away. It’s as if some piece of soul is no longer able to accompany us into the next phase; a tender emptying of the cup.

This clearing out, which some part of us might long for, can also be shaky and unknown, leaving us with the felt experience of groundlessness and uncertainty.

In alchemy, this is the stage of the yellowing, with its primary process known as putrefaction, one of my favorite alchemical words and images, referring to the putrefying, or dying away of one thing so that something new can come into Being.

Autumn has always been the most emotional, vulnerable, and broken-open time of the year for me personally. It’s as if a certain landscape of grief or melancholy is activated and a doorway opens where the blue ones of the Soul emerge in my body and imagination.

These pieces of soul who reside in the blue regions of psyche carry felt experiences of tenderness, melancholy, sadness, and grief, and invite a shattering. It’s not the ordinary, conventional sort of sadness where something is felt to be missing, lost, or incomplete. It’s more like an overflow in the heart, a sadness that is pregnant and full.

It’s tender, raw, naked, and sore, as if it could take you to the ground and turn you to dust if you were to go with it, to walk with the blue ones into their world.

In the Autumn we see that yellowing unfolding out in nature, by way of the decaying leaves, the wet green moss, the burning reds and the oranges and the rotting logs. And we may also see it deep in the Soul.

To attune to that Inner Autumn requires a new cleansing of perception and a polishing of the heart, where that which was once so clear - me and my life and how I was so sure that it would all turn out - my relationships, work, physical health, living situation, emotional stability, who my friends are, what I enjoy doing, what it is that brings me meaning…

There’s a way that in this yellowing, all of that can begin to putrefy, fall apart, and be turned to dust. The particles of light which comprise this dust, the alchemical scintilla, are one of the true symbols on the alchemical or mystical path, emanations of the activity of the Ally as it incarnates in time and space by way of emotion, image, and pure feeling.

It’s only natural that we’d view this as less than idea, or as evidence that something has gone wrong. I mean, who among us wants to have their life putrefy, and their most precious beliefs, reference points, and realizations ground into particles of dust.

But from an alchemical perspective, this is a necessary process and unfolding, a clearing of the space, and evidence of the emissary of wholeness, laying the foundation for something new and creative to come into Being… something we didn’t quite expect, that we weren’t able to see beforehand, something literally beyond our capacity to imagine.

This process begins to flow by way of our willingness and ability to grieve, to tend and stay embodied to the death of an old dream, in whatever form it comes, which requires a fidelity and a real devotion to the broken and to the wisdom it carries.

One of the mysteries of the path is that we can’t know in advance what it will be like to live our lives without our conditioned ways of seeing the world. If our lenses of perception are cleansed it’s like we’re naked and newborn. This is the archetype of birth, or rebirth, which can be simultaneously thrilling and terrifying, and almost always contradictory.

Yes, there is a certain excitement in stepping into new territory, but it can also generate bewilderment or even a panic in psyche and soma as we sense a pending confrontation with the unknown. We must be kind to ourselves during times of liminality and transition, and honor the actualities of what it truly means to heal.

In the end, it is a work of love, but it’s a path that includes the sweetness of love, as well as its more wrathful and reorganizing aspect, holding, and honoring not only that which we gain from the journey, but also everything that we’re sure to lose on the path of awakening and healing.

If we look carefully, we can see that whole cosmic drama unfolding in the very center of each falling leaf.

It's a love that’s Whole, that is vast enough to contain and contain it all. It’s all path, it’s all grace, it’s all God.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Tending grief and the path of the wounded healer

Tending to grief is the essence of the wounded healer. Providing sanctuary and safe passage for its unfolding – in the body and in the imagination – requires that come to the ground, touch the Earth, and weep.

Weep for the shattering, for the dying of a dream, for the entirety of the unlived life, the way it was all supposed to turn out. Inside these tears is the alchemical tincture.

Grief is not something we “get over,” step by step, or transcend with our spiritual experiences, but a partner we practice intimacy with, honor at times, argue with at others, and lament with as the cycles unfold.

The goal is not to wiggle into some state where we “never suffer again,” through some fantasied sustained transcendent experience, rising above our embodied vulnerability, but to find meaning in our suffering and to use it to help others and this world.

And to be shown the endlessness of the Beloved and the way she appears in time and space.

To marginalize the experience of grief to work against nature.

There is no endpoint to this depth, meaning, and aching beauty in the soul, no final state of resolution where we land in some untouchable place, free from the wildness of grace. The path of awakening and healing isn’t only about what I will get from it, but also everything I will lose.

Here, we find ourselves in what the alchemists called the rotatio, the holy rotation of vast cycles of rupture and repair that touch and open the human soul. Inside the shattered is light, longing to come through us and out into the world.

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

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

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The parting of the veil

So much of our psychological wounding is relational and encoded around love.

While understanding by way of left-brain processing can be helpful and supportive, it is right-brain immersion in fields of safety which fosters reorganization.

The body will reorganize when it feels safe.

Inside the body the lost one travels, taking up temporary residence in our muscles, cells, organs, and breath. Scattered pieces of soul gather in our eyes, shoulders, and bellies, and the secret places within our hearts.

They’ve become frozen and crystallized there. We feel their longing to come Home by way of the variety of symptoms we experience.

If we’re unable to access them, to feel what they feel and to tend to their tears, they will make their way deeper, into the underworld and the somatic unconscious.

To put a name to the terror and the grief, to the primitive agonies as Winnicott referred to them, is vital when it comes to the felt experience of integration.

From time to time, they will peek their little head, their little heart out into the field of consciousness, as if to say, “Is it safe yet?” “Can I return home?” “Can I play again?”

In the slowness of the morning, in the quiet at night, in the dreamtime, and all through the day if we listen carefully, we might hear them.

As the veil parts just a bit, we may discover that it’s a lot more creative, more intelligent, more (bitter)sweet and achy and majestic than we ever expected.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

A vessel in which love is able to find its way here

Because our deepest wounding, which is always a wounding around love, emerges relationally, it will be most effectively tended, repaired, and healed within a relational field. We are relational beings and all healing is relational in its essence.

The nature of this relationship, and that of the Other, is of the mystery and can take many forms, as a shapeshifter and trickster-ally. It can be astonishing and is sure to never look like we imagined.

The death of an old dream is an essential aspect of the death-rebirth journey, the dream of me and my life and the way it was all supposed to turn out. The invitation is to hold the shattered soul-pieces near and grieve all that we will inevitably lose on the path of awakening and healing.

It is these tears that are the alchemical aqua permanens, which water the seeds of new life. In tending these tears the broken pieces are not mended but revealed to be carriers of light, as they are, in their un-mended state. They are whole and complete in their brokenness, and not in need of being transformed.

It is the Friend, in whatever form It appears, that parts the veil and cleanses our perception, by way of mercy and grace.

That grace is not only the sweet and flowy kind that we cherish and long for – nurturing, holding, containment within the womb of the Divine Mother – but will at times appear in a more fierce and wrathful form, and will reorganize and take us to dust.  

This is the grace of the alchemical yellowing, the putrefaction, which is also the activity of love, but is an emanation of its darker side.

It is a coming together of unity and multiplicity, solar and lunar, that reveals a vessel in which love is able to find its way here, incarnating through our bodies, emotions, and imagination.

Whether sweet or fierce, containing or reorganizing, each are grace, and will polish the heart with a unique fragrance of the divine.

Photo by Anton Maskimov

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Sunday, August 27, 2023

Videos from Matt - Embodied Spirituality & Healing

Dear friends,

A few of you have written to ask about my YouTube channel. We have 25 or so videos uploaded and plan to add a couple new ones each month if you'd like to take a look or subscribe.

>>Visit my YouTube channel here

In the video here, I speak about the sensual, tactile, embodied nature of healing, updating neural networks, and the encoding of new circuitry - and how this emerges by way of the longing of the lost orphans of psyche and soma.

This excerpt was edited from a 2023 session with as part of my yearlong spirituality and healing group and community. The group is currently closed to new members but will likely reopen in February of 2024. 


Matt Licata, PhD is a psychotherapist, writer, and independent scholar based in Boulder, Colorado. He is author of A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times (Sounds True, 2020), The Path is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You (Wandering Yogi Press, 2017), and the forthcoming The Path of the Wounded Healer: A Soulful Spirituality and an Alchemy of the Heart.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

The friend is near

As we move through the second half of life, a new voice will often emerge, pouring out through our longing, our grief, our anger, and our disappointment. A figure from deep in the soul.

To hear and respond to that call, we have to slow down and listen through the veil, beyond the noise and density of the collective, and the matrices of intergenerational trauma and trance.

It takes courage to listen to the soul and to take it seriously. To cultivate a real devotion to the messages it is sending to us. We are called into this devotional place by way of our dreams, our study and practice, and through prayer, ritual, dance, art, creativity, and being a parent, a teacher, a lover, and a friend.

It can be a lonely journey at times, as if there is no one who can truly understand us. We turn to look for the Friend though they are not there.

But the Friend is near, even if unable to be seen.

Holding and tending this aloneness, and the grief that accompanies it, lies at the very heart of archetypal process of death and rebirth, and the truth that all healing is relational in its essence.

There can be no unity or oneness without there first being an experience of separation. Otherwise, union would have no meaning. They co-arise together, where a subsequent union lays the seeds for a more subtle separation, and then a more subtle union, and on and on.

Separation and multiplicity are just as holy as oneness and union; they are equally valid emanations of the Beloved.

There is no end to the depths of the human heart. We don’t wiggle into some sustained transcendent state where we’re “permanently” awakened, gone beyond the reality that the Beloved will pull the rug out from underneath us, in order to draw us nearer, and to reveal more of its essence.

In the end, love seems quite uninterested in our fantasies of permanent transcendence.

Even as we may yearn to rise above our embodied sensitivities, emotional wounding, and relational trauma, on the alchemical path they are the prima materia, the required matter, soaked with spirit, and portals into the depths of Soul.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Trusting in our own path

It’s important to honor what it is that we’re really asking of ourselves when we engage a path of individuation and healing. It’s no small thing.

When we make that sort of commitment - to psyche and soma, to the angels, allies, goddesses, and gods, to nature and to all of life - we open the door to the interior castle, that luminous holding and transitional space where the figures of the unlived life await our holding.

Not only the disowned and marginalized, but also those pieces of soul who carry the quantum and the new, lost creativity, awe, wonder, and the joy of pure Being itself.

To step into that castle requires that we break through the orbit of the psychic and collective status quo, and the dense matrix of intergenerational trauma and trance.

While we may have a genuine desire to do this, there are parts of us who simultaneously have an unconscious investment in not healing, because at a very deep level we know what that will require – an underworld journey into the darkness, to liberate the lost ones who have become frozen there.

It will ask everything of us, but that voyage bears fruit beyond our imagination, beyond what we can imagine ahead of time. It is the end of one world so that a new one can come into being.

No, we’re not always going to want to do this, to embrace the shadow, to tend to that grief and shakiness in the heart, that sensitivity in the body, and to stay near while the soul incarnates by way of psychic activation, complex, feeling, and through the imaginal and relational worlds.

It can ache and burn and at times is sure to feel so claustrophobic. At other times, a lightness of being, a moment when the veil parts, and we’re in the Mystery. And in that space of unknowing, we know that love is with us.

The Beloved is there inside the aching and the burning, and will take form at other times as a sweeter grace. Each are equal arrows in her quiver, ways of drawing us nearer, opening us through our longing.

Not to harm, but to reveal… to show us that the path truly is everywhere.

Photo by Jose Antonio Alba

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Safety and companionship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Alexas_Fotos

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

When sitting with a friend...

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 meaningful 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.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2023

The wisdom in not-knowing

There’s a fantasy that we’re supposed to know what to do with our lives. And if we do not then this is clear evidence that something is wrong with us, that some cosmic error has occurred which must urgently be remedied by figuring it all out.

Especially if accompanied by waves of uncertainty, hopelessness, and confusion… more evidence that we have failed or fallen short, fueled by further imagination that psychic states such as contradiction, doubt, and deflation are not very “spiritual.”

What about the endless stream of “high” vibrations? The manifesting of more and more cool things for myself, that I’ve dreamed will make me happy? And the accompanying inflations of a happy-happy solar-based self-help industry which has pathologized the wisdom of the darker, lunar shades of the spectrum.

At times it will appear that nothing is happening, which can lead to a framing that we are “stuck,” “not doing it right,” or “lost in some sort of ‘low vibration.’” The mind has a nearly unlimited capacity to fantasize, especially in ways that enact early patterning of shame, self-abandonment, and misattuned empathic failure.

But before we turn from the non-conventional allies of confusion and doubt, let us slow down and reimagine. In a world that is fixated with doing, with answers, and with resolving the contradictions and wildness of the human being, we must remember that death is required for new forms of love and creativity to emerge.

As an experiment, you could say out loud, with the earth as your witness, “I don’t know.” And give yourself permission to not-know, for now, without any shame, judgment, or pressure to resolve the mysteries of the heart.

There is profound wisdom and creativity in the core of not-knowing, in slowness, in patience, and in rest, but we must retrain ourselves to receive that level of revelation. In this reception, we see that not-knowing is a perfectly valid, honorable, and authentic place to be, and not in need of transformation. It is a pure expression of life, in and of itself, exactly as it is. Its value is not in its transcendence, but in its embodied embrace.

Art by Anja Osenberg

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Sensual, tactile, and attuned to the imaginal

We don't live in a world that honors the purity and wisdom of grief, and the ways that love will take us apart, dissolving the dream of the way we thought it was all going to turn out.

As we hold the broken pieces near, we bear witness to the liquefying of even our most sacred realizations, ideas, hopes, and beliefs.

Somehow, the soul is weeping from the inside, which allows the salt in our tears to wash us out, cleansing our perception and polishing our hearts, so that we may become a transparent vehicle for love to find its way here.

The invitation is into an embodied lamentation – sensual, tactile, and attuned to the imaginal – to the allies and figures that come to show us something we’ve forgotten about the preciousness of this place and the beauty in the broken.

In this way, we gather the split-off pieces into a holy vase and place them on an altar in front of us. Through speaking to them and metabolizing feeling in the body, we allow the decaying material to move on without us, with dignity, mercy, and compassion.

The falling apart of the known is not some great cosmic error to correct or repair, but an emissary of the archetype of the Friend, who calls out and finds us by way of the shattered places, in the depths and in the valleys, near the wet moss and the rotting logs.

Coming into oneness, unity, and having everything together is not more spiritual, more sacred, or more complete than being dissolved, falling apart, and attuned with multiplicity.

Within the vessel of the Heart, separation and union are equally holy stages, states, and processes, unique and differentiated arrows in the quiver of the beloved, ways that she longs and yearns to draw us nearer to Her.

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Thursday, June 29, 2023

Rebirth, reorganization, and the journey of individuation

The rebirth aspect of the death-rebirth cycle is preceded by a willingness to enter the unknown and to grieve there, to come into Earth and allow an old dream to die – me and my life and the way it was all supposed to turn out.

To place the broken pieces of the heart onto an altar in front of us and provide a sanctuary in which the lost and unlived can shatter and be reorganized. To mourn all that we’ll inevitably lose as we heal and awaken.

Individuation is not only a process of acquisition - what we’ll “get” from the path - but also one of restructuring and dissolving, oriented in that which will be taken away.

To feel and tend to that in the body can burn and ache, as it is tenderizing in the soul.

It is an act of kindness to remember that the transformational process, by its very nature, is messy, glorious, and full-spectrum. It’s not only the activity of creation, but of reorganization as well, unfolding not by straight-line but through circle and spiral.

There's a sweet and flowing, nurturing sort of grace that we’ll encounter on the path, at times… and there's also a grace that is fierce and reorienting, one that works against the psychic status quo.

Grace is alive within the rebirth and the renewal, spinning out the fruit of a new world, but equally alive within the shattering and the dissolving, inside the particles of dust as we’re taken to the ground.

While as open, sensitive human beings, we very understandably have a bias for the former, it would appear that the Beloved does not share that bias. Each are equal arrows in her quiver, equal ways to draw us nearer.

Image from Jung’s Red Book

Friday, June 23, 2023

A sacred, linking thread

Beyond all the theories, approaches, and techniques, for me therapeutic companionship is a bearing witness to the life of another as they come to befriend themselves in a way that wasn’t possible until now.

To excavate meaning where meaning has been annihilated, to mine purpose in the core of the purposelessness, to somehow bear that which has previously been unbearable.
This befriending is not passive, but fierce and alive, and the activity of psychic revolution, which is the movement of love itself.

It is the light shining out of the core of the dark night, the outrageousness of the human spirit, and the basic goodness of the human heart.

Together, we stand on the rooftop and declare that grief is not pathology, despair is not pathology, heartbreak is not pathology. Instead, they are path.

Grieving and weeping are not manifestations of illness, but of a sacred, linking thread.

At times, we’ll be invited to walk into the dark wood with another, into the disorienting and hopeless places, without knowing where the journey will lead, if we will make it out in one piece, or if and where new life will be found.

We will be asked to make sense together of where they’ve been, who they’ve come to imagine themselves to be, and what they are longing to become. To discover what matters most to them and cradle it in our shared heart.

To gather the pieces of the broken world into a holy vase and place it on an altar in front of us, holding the shards of soul who have been scattered, now longing to return home.

And participate in a sacred assembly that is gathering before our very eyes, an assembly of the shattered.

It is awesome, in the truest sense of the word, to bear witness in this way. To fall to the ground in the beholding of the divine in action, of the unstoppable wild bravery of the human spirit, and the relentlessness and creativity of love as it makes its way into form.

We can start wherever we are, right now, in this moment. And allow ourselves to be crafted as a vessel for love to make its way here.

Photo by Annie Spratt

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Tending to the wounds around love

Even if our primary interest is in spiritual transformation – enlightenment, awakening, union with the Divine, realizing our True Nature – there’s a direct link between spiritual, trans-personal realization and the path of personal healing.

These are not two things. They are two currents in the human body and psyche which interweave, interpenetrate, and twirl together.

The latter involves an embodied tending to the wounds around love, which are relational and go to the very core of our sense of self. They manifest in a variety of ways, as forms of soul-betrayal, including attachment and narcissistic injury, profound failures in empathy, and the tragedies of an inadequate holding environment.

These wounds are carried by the orphans of psyche and soma, a group of pieces of soul who have become crystallized in the time machine that trauma is, tucked away in limbic and bodily circuitry, stored in implicit memory, outside the reach of our clear, cognitive insights and discoveries, as well as many of our spiritual experiences and realizations.

They’re just not all that moved by those. They’re not impressed by our fantasies of sustained transcendent awareness, the rising above our embodied vulnerability, and capacity to wiggle into some spiritual state.

They long and spin and twirl for something more tactile, more embodied, a meeting in the Heart – to be contacted, heard, held, and for fields of safety through which they are able to return Home.

From within the psychic and somatic underworld, they surge from time to time - especially in the context of our relationships – not to harm or take us down; not as obstacles to our path, but as emissaries of the very path itself. As its representatives.

If we attend only to the part of us that’s Pure Spirit or Pure Awareness, which is tempting, there’s a way that aspects of our embodied humanity, our relational nature, and the lost ones are denied entry into the temple.

Instead, they are banished into the shadow, a temporary holding place from where they ache, burn, and grieve, as they make their attempt to reach out once again.

They’re relentless in that way and never really give up, seeking us out in whatever way they can: through our dreams and waking fantasies, unexplainable physical symptoms, unexpected moods, irrational reactions, and through the ever-creative manifestations of the “Other,” as seen and unseen allies of integration.