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.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Emissaries on the path

One way of imagining the path of embodied transformation is through the archetype of the wounded healer. Its invitation is to open to the possibility that our sensitivities and tenderness aren’t obstacles to our path, but the very path itself.

It's a radical view and one that’s counter-instinctual, meaning that we're unlikely to want to turn toward our embodied vulnerability with curiosity and compassion; it’s just too painful, shaky, and unknown.

This concern is valid. For in the core of the shadowy places dwell the lost orphans of psyche and soma - in their personal, collective, and ancestral forms.

This confrontation with the unconscious, as Jung referred to it, isn’t always syntonic with me and the way my life was supposed to turn out. It has a way of going against the psychic status quo, and that can ache and burn.

It’s essential that we respect this not (always) “wanting” to do shadow and depth work, accessing, feeling, and tending the wound: no shame, no blame, no apologizing for what we are as open, sensitive human beings.

Here, it’s not about seeing how quickly we can get rid of, transcend, or even “heal” the unheld and ungrieved ghosts of our unlived lives, as they surge into conscious experience.

It’s more a journey down the descending current, into ground, mud, and Earth. Toward embodiment, holding, and containing. This isn’t always going to feel all that great. We just can’t always ask that of the path.

But there is fruit here in the depths, gold in the shadow, a life of profound meaning, connection, beauty, and depth. One of richness and full participation.

Despite the counter-instinctive nature of depth work, well, here we are. Perhaps as friends of Chiron and his merry band of traveling soul-explorers, with an innate longing to live in a way that's not partial, but dancing, playing, weeping, and grieving within the full spectrum.

Through that doorway, we don’t go around the wound (including by way of our spiritual beliefs and practices), but we hold and embrace the achy pieces of soul as emissaries on the path, as potential allies of wholeness.

Photo: sunset on Last Dollar Road, listening, the aliveness and holding of Telluride in the late spring 

Thursday, June 8, 2023

A missing friend

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, attachment, and narcissistic injury.

When our capacity to process unbearable terror, panic, and shame is overwhelmed, unmetabolized pieces of soul 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, it’s just your ego, just let it be, it isn’t who you really are” is experienced by an inflamed nervous system as the activity of empathic failure, aggression, and psychic violence.

It’s like a neural form of gaslighting and reflects a deep misunderstanding of relational wounding and implicit memory, and only contributes to the intergenerational transmission of trauma.

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 disorganizing reality of the missing Friend, and no accompaniment into the dark night. “I am alone in this.”
This is devastating to the soul.

When the lost orphans of psyche and soma come surging to be held, they’re not all that interested in our crystal-clear analysis, detached witnessing and fantasies of “mastery,” or powerful spiritual insights.

They’re longing 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 helped out of that frozen, crystallized state and to live once again.