Saturday, April 22, 2023

Matt's book - A Healing Space

Dear friends, my most recent book, A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times, is available through Sounds True, Amazon, and other online retailers. Please support your local independent bookseller whenever possible!

At some point along the way, each of us will be asked to revision the ideas which have accompanied us to this moment in our lives. While at times the call arrives quietly and slowly, as a whisper guiding us into new territory, for many it comes as an unexpected visitor, erupting in the night as we find ourselves in transition, confused, angry, heartbroken, uncertain, or depressed.

However it arrives, it is a reminder that even our most sacred identities and beliefs tend to become encrusted over time, worn out symbols of a living reality that is no longer so alive. Somehow what was clear only days or even moments ago has lost its meaning and is no longer able to accompany us into the next phase.

The recurring theme we will explore in this book is how we can meet the challenges of life in a new way, one that is imbued with curiosity, wisdom, and compassion. In replacing the old circuitry of shame, self-aggression, and self-abandonment with holding, kindness, and attunement, we discover the sacredness of “ordinary” life which turns out to be not so ordinary after all.

In this unearthing, even our most difficult, confusing, and painful experiences are filled with intelligence and in some unexpected way turn out to be guardians on the path. As we make the journey together, we will uncover and experiment with new perspectives, tend mindfully and with tenderness to our immediate experience, and discover fresh layers of purpose and meaning.

Includes a lovely foreword by my friend Mirabai Starr, author of Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics, and many other books.

Chapters include: Reimagining What it Means to Heal; Already Held: Encoding New Circuitry and Opening to the Unknown; Self-Compassion and Caring for Ourselves in a New Way; A Sacred Deflation: Working with the Inevitable Experience of Uncertainty, Disappointment, and Loss; Shifting Our Center of Gravity: Approaching the Idea of “Integration” with Fresh Vision; The Great Dance of Being and Becoming; Toward an Embodied, Emotionally Sensitive Spirituality; Dancing in the Shadows: Sanctuary for the Unwanted to Return Home.


A Healing Space is a brilliant weave of Jungian and Eastern contemplative wisdom. In this powerful new offering, Matt Licata guides us to a place of sacred refuge, where we can meet even our greatest moments of confusion and suffering with compassion and grace.

–Tara Brach, PhD, author of Radical Compassion

Weaving the wisdom of reflective practices, the insights from Carl Jung and the alchemists, and the relational truths of attachment research and psychotherapy practice, Matt Licata offers us a beautiful tapestry of truths to transform trauma into healing and strength. Adversity can constrain us, but with this wonderful book, we can find the perspectives and courage to embrace the reality of life’s innate uncertainty to guide us on a journey of growth and discovery—moving from post-traumatic imprisonment to liberation.

–Dan Siegel, MD, clinical professor at UCLA School of Medicine, director of Mindsight Institute, and author of Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence and Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation

Matt Licata pinpoints a space within us where healing, awakening, and a vibrant reckoning of who we actually are can be realized. The wisdom hidden deep within our darkest experiences comes from not turning away from these, but by directly tending to them with gentleness, love, and compassion. This book depicts a way of genuine freedom.

–Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Happiness

In A Healing Space, Matt Licata serves as a compassionate and insightful guide to the transformative task we all must face: how to forge our pain and sorrow into remedies of Spirit that can illuminate our way. With the soft clarity of a magnifying glass, Matt brings into view the many things that inhabit our nature, though they are seldom easily seen. Stay in conversation with this book and you will be a better friend to yourself, those you travel with, and to life itself.

–Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Soul and Drinking from the River of Light

If you are looking for a book to be a companion to you during this extraordinary time, it’s this one. A Healing Space is a robust guidebook into the inner territory of yourself, assisting you in the exploration of deep and rich personal and life questions that lead, always, to wondrous realizations and growth. What a treasure to find in these times of great change.

–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit and Intimate Conversations with the Divine

Tender, profound, and deeply useful, this book is gem. Remarkably, Matt Licata weaves together self-compassion, depth psychology, and radical acceptance into a beautiful, passionate, soaring exploration of all that it means to be human.

–Rick Hanson, PhD, New York Times bestselling author of Neurodharma: New Science, Ancient Wisdom and Seven Practices of the Highest Happiness

Matt Licata has become an important and eloquent voice inviting us to go to, rather than avoid, what seem like unbearable emotions buried in our dark depths. From his Jungian perspective, he provides needed reassurance that doing so will achieve alchemical transformations in which what we thought were inner toxins turn out to be our gold. He also offers a cogent critique of the spiritual bypassing and ego bashing that is rampant within many spiritualities.

–Richard C. Schwartz, PhD, developer of the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model, adjunct faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and author of more than fifty articles and books

A Healing Space is a beautiful, insightful, and moving contemplation of the journey of healing we all undertake as human beings. It illuminates how self-compassion—holding our own pain with love—transforms our experience in a profound way so that we can learn the lessons life offers us moment by moment.

–Kristin Neff, PhD, associate professor, University of Texas, and author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

A Healing Space invites us to explore and endeavor the alchemist’s way of facing the tough stuff that haunts us. Matt Licata, skilled psychotherapist and spirit-beacon, offers respite for the troubled soul. Along the way, he prepares us with the exercises necessary to face the wounded psyche, question its purpose in our lives, and go through the middle of it in order to free the best parts of ourselves. Healing is a tricky thing, and Matt is just the one to guide us through the psychic fog. He writes with the vulnerability of a poet and the insight of a master alchemist to help us shape what remains a recurrent struggle into a form we can face, question, and—with practice—balance and embrace.

–Stan Tatkin, PsyD, developer of the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT) and author of We Do and Wired for Love

This is a book about love. The kind of love that embraces all parts of ourselves and others with generosity, tenderness, and strength. Matt is clear that this quality of receptivity does not develop easily or quickly. It is not a decision of the mind so much as an opening of the heart so no part of us is abandoned in the healing process. Challenging our society’s tendency to fix, leave, or devalue states considered negative, he extends welcome to darkness, death, confusion, doubt, and all their companions as instructive friends in their own right, not just as the prelude to light and rebirth. He illuminates the pathway to Rumi’s Guest House where our shame and malice are equally welcome and held in healing compassion. In truth, each of us yearns for sanctuary for these parts, and Matt is a wise and empathic companion along this healing path.

–Bonnie Badenoch, PhD, author of The Heart of Trauma and Being a Brain-Wise Therapist

This inspiring book invites us to trust the intelligence of whatever is unfolding in our lives, especially when it hurts, and to meet it in a deeply compassionate way. Matt Licata is a cartographer of the human heart. He knows the ineffable space where healing occurs and offers us a map for getting there, right up to the threshold. The rest is alchemy. We have been waiting a long time for a book like this.

–Christopher Germer, PhD, clinical psychologist and lecturer at Harvard Medical School, author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, and co-developer of the Mindful Self-Compassion program

A Healing Space elegantly weaves together contemporary approaches in neuroscience and depth psychology with the ancient wisdom of the contemplative traditions, providing a modern, integrated path of deep transformation that fills in what might be missing in each separately. Matt Licata emphasizes radical befriending that reorients our inner critic in a kind way. This book lands in the heart and is ultimately about the power of love to heal trauma and attachment injury. We need this fresh vision and perspective. Matt definitely delivers.

–Diane Poole Heller, PhD, founder of Dynamic Attachment Re-Patterning Experience and author of The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships and Crash Course: A Self-Healing Guide to Auto Accident Trauma and Recovery

In this well-written book, Matt Licata challenges us to remember our disavowed parts, our painful emotions and traumas and to treat each as if it were a lost friend needing our attention. In this way, though often difficult at times, we can arrive at a state of wholeness and embrace in a gentle, loving way previously unwanted and unsupported aspects of ourselves and become the person we were meant to be. Matt supports this process with great attention and compelling narrative and offers us a hand-up in this challenging but essential task.

–Jeffrey Raff, PhD, Jungian analyst and author of several books, including Jung and the Alchemical Imagination and The Practice of Ally Work

Monday, April 10, 2023

Spring Renewal, Rebirth, and the Purifying Activity of Grief

Dear friend, 

I hope this note finds you well and that you’re enjoying spring and the re-emergence of the light. I’m writing to you from Finland where the birds are sharing a new song and the forests are coming alive. The pieces of light are starting to appear, as they tend to do, in places where we’d least expect them.

And so it goes on the path of the heart…

As we move from one cycle to another in both inner and outer nature, I have found myself reflecting on how we live in a world that in so many ways has lost contact with the holiness of mourning and its purifying fires, an absence which comes with profound consequences, including loss of energy (soul) and a feeling of being cut off from life and the heart.

In the words of Jungian psychoanalyst Donald Kalsched, “The inability to mourn is the single most telling symptom of a patient’s early trauma.” I have found this to be (achingly) true in my own life and clinical work.

It’s important to remember that in the death-rebirth cycle, there are two essential components: death, which I’m referring to alchemically, or metaphorically, as dissolution (the alchemical solutio) and, on the other hand, rebirth, renewal, and rejuvenation. It’s very understandable that this second aspect is the one we’re most interested in!

The dissolution aspect of the opus isn’t as easy or natural to embrace or see as equally sacred, equally holy, and an equal manifestation of love, of the Beloved as it comes here to seed this world with its qualities. It’s the Kali aspect of love, for those of you familiar with Hindu mythology, or an energy like Vajrakilaya in the Tibetan tradition, or Mercurius in alchemy, the hidden side of God or the Divine.

The darker aspect of the (transpersonal) Self plays an essential role in our individuation and healing, and being in conscious relationship with this dimension of psyche is indispensable on an alchemical path, though it is not easy to engage and stay with.

It can be supportive, if not necessary, to tend to this relationship alongside an empathic other, whether a therapist, mentor, teacher, or wise friend, ideally one with some experience of the inner terrain of the soul and the heart, where through a joined window of tolerance you can hold and process emotions and images that on your own may be overwhelming.

The truth is that we’re wired to rest and explore within a relational field; we just weren’t meant to walk the path alone - that’s not the sort of nervous system we were crafted with. Relationship - and engaging the mystery of the “Other” - is an essential aspect of the path of alchemical transformation and healing, and which we must discover within the fire of our own embodied experience. Just what this “Other” is for us can only be revealed by way of the path of direct revelation.

So there’s the death aspect of the archetypal cycle and also the long-awaited dawning of rebirth, where we’re offered vision and a pathway into a new way of being. It’s where a doorway, or portal begins to open, after being closed for a certain period of time. In my experience (my own pain, wounding, and grief), it is our willingness and capacity to feel and to grieve that bridges death and rebirth.

There is no lasting, embodied, visionary renewal without passing through the portal of grief, which requires us to slow down, come into the earth and the ground, and honor all that we’ve lost. It requires that we provide a home for shattered ones and for the integration of the dying pieces of an old dream.

This is the way we empty the cup so that it can be refilled with new imagination, cleansed perception, and a heart that is polished with beauty, wisdom, and grace. In this sense, grief is the forgotten portal. There’s a powerful and mysterious connection between our capacity to grieve and the emergence of new vision.

In my experience, this connection and subsequent exploration is often left out of many contemporary psychotherapies and spiritualities, which remain riveted to the upward, transcendent, and solar, or else the quick removal of symptoms (which contain important pieces of soul). But we have to go into the mud, the earth, and tend the lunar currents as well, for the new and the creative to take birth in our hearts.

The portal to resurrection and new vision opens through conscious, embodied lamentation, as we gather the shards of the heart and the scattered pieces of the soul, which are emanations of the strands, or scintilla of light, as the alchemists saw and conceived of them.

It’s a process where we collect the shattered pieces into a holy place and place them onto an altar in front of us, where we can enter into relationship with the shards of soul that must move on without us. And we can participate with a whole heart with the death of an old dream, and the way we were so sure that it was all going to turn out.

The nature of this altar and this vase will be different for each of us, with calligraphy, engravings, colors, and in a shape that is crafted for our unique soulprint. We don’t design the vase ourselves, at least not by way of ordinary ego-consciousness. The vase is outside our deepest hopes, fears, desires, and unfolds apart from our personal sense of will.

It is given to us by the transpersonal Self, by the Divine, however we come to conceive of that and is ours and ours alone - no one else can perceive or apprehend it, or design the vase on our behalf. A good friend, therapist, or mentor may be able to hold us and bear witness as we evoke and enter into relationship with it, but in my experience it will always remain out of full sight for them.

The vase, the altar, and any aspect of the soul wanting to come into our conscious experience will present itself in unexpected ways, through our dreams, out in nature, in a moment of intuitive knowing, or even through a disturbance in our mood or emotional activation.

The ally is mysterious - a trickster, mercurial, and always looking for us. But it does so in ways that will surprise us and that we aren’t able to apprehend ahead of time. This is the mystery of the alchemical vessel, which is not only literal, but metaphorical, a container inside each of us where the purifying work of transmutation can occur.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, yes, at times, it can feel like everything is falling apart, like we are falling apart. In these moments, the alchemical invitation is to open to the possibility that this process of “falling apart” is not some great cosmic error or mistake that we need to correct or repair, or to quickly put ourselves back together again.

Perhaps the shattered heart need not be “mended” in these moments and returned to the way it once was, but that in its shattering, the ally is revealed. Perhaps the “falling apart” is a harbinger of integration and emissary of the archetype of wholeness.

This one whispers to us, through a thundering silence, and invites us to fall apart consciously, to allow the alchemical process of dissolution, of yellowing, to unfold, honoring it it as an essential, non-negotiable phase as we open to rebirth and what it is that will emerge from the ashes.

Please take care of yourselves and I’m wishing you all the very best on your own wildly unique journey of transformation and healing - a journey that is never for ourselves alone, but for all of life, including the ancestors and the ones yet to come.



P.S. Upon request, I hope to be adding new videos to my YouTube channel in the weeks to come; thank you for your emails about this!