Saturday, April 29, 2017
Dear friends, thank you for your notes regarding my 2017 schedule. At this time, the only public event this year will be a five-day retreat in July with my friend Jeff Foster at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado.
We do expect the retreat to sell out (it's about 75% full currently) and will take reservations in the order they are received. Learn more about the retreat here.
We look forward to spending this time with everyone in the mountains in July!
While the work of integration and encoding new circuitry is not easy, and requires just about everything we have, there is hope. While it can seem like moving a mountain, the pathways are open, translucent, and not as solid as they appear. In their own way, they long to be reorganized into more integrated and cohesive forms. They are hopeful that they will be restructured.
I do not speak all that often about hope, as I am a great fan of hopelessness as a wrathful and transformative companion on the path. There is magic inside hopelessness but the art of mining that gold has been lost in our modern world. You can still find it, it is buried inside your heart.
It is not some disembodied, theoretical, philosophical hope that is offered here. It is embodied, untamed, creative, and alive. It is not a hope that things will always turn out the way we want them to, or that love will always conform to our hopes and fears, or some surety that our most cherished dreams will not be shattered. It is much more radical than that.
It is a hope that is a wild sort of confidence in your true nature, which has never been unhealed. It is the kind of hope that you stand on the rooftop, shout out in the four directions, and embody with the sun, the moon, and the stars as your witness.
It is the hope of wholeness, and the utter workability and sacredness of your emotions, your feelings, and the temple that is your own body. It is the hope that your vulnerability, your tender heart, and your ripe being is a gift here, without which the planets may fall out of orbit.
It is the kind of hope that is not passive, but is the material of revolution.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Love is the totality. It is whole. It is transmitting in the light but is also raging and alive in the darkness, shining brightly in ways the conventional world may never understand.
Within the confusion, sadness, despair, and grief, something very real is attempting to break through the images and identities that are no longer large enough to contain you.
Something is dying and making an attempt at rebirth.
It is incredibly rich here, but what this is may never conform to the fantasy of a life without vulnerability and confrontation with the unconscious.
Art credit: alchemical vessel releasing vapour by Elena Ray
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
It is inevitable at times that the rug will be pulled out from underneath us, and we will come face to face with the naked, tender, glory, and mess of what it means to be an alive, sensitive human being. Things will fall apart, old dreams will die, relationships will end, and the allies of deflation and disappointment will dance in our hearts. Before we spin into the trance of shame, blame, unworthiness, and defeat, let us turn into the brokenness where the particles of aliveness await.
It is tempting to become convinced that something has gone wrong, that we have failed, this time as a good spiritual person. “Spiritual” people don’t experience anxiety, depression, rage, jealousy, fear, and hopelessness … right? What about staying the now? Stuffing the rage and forgiving everyone before you’ve digested the deep pain that was caused? Accepting and loving everything that appears without first confronting the heartbreak? Repressing the grief and replacing it with a consistent flowing gratitude for all that is. Clearly something has gone wrong … hasn't it?
Inside the deflation is a hidden truth that the path of the heart is not oriented in how we can manufacture a life where this does not happen, where we can remain safe and untouchable on the sidelines, in some transcended (dissociated?) state … for periodic eruptions of the beloved and her unknown emissaries is wired into this particular star. The rippling encounter with the tender and the groundlessness is not an indication that something is wrong with you, but is high-voltage evidence that you are alive. For this disenchantment is the prima materia that he or she has to reach you. These are no ordinary moments. This world needs alive women and men, now more than ever. Please stay awake.
Rather, the question during these times is: are you going to use these reorganizing and shattering experiences as vehicles though which to befriend yourself, to attune to the unprecedented flow of feeling with you, and to weave a sanctuary for the wisdom-pieces of the broken world to be held and illuminated? Or, will you fall back into your habitual, conditioned history, attack yourself, your tenderness, and your sacred vulnerability, spinning into the habitual fight-flight urgency of shame, blame, resentment, and self-aggression?
It is not pleasant when the rug is pulled out and old dreams collapse, as this activity seeds the experiential field with the radical, fierce envoys of deflation and disappointment, who are here to reorganize, not to maintain the status quo. But it was never the status quo that you were after any way. You’re just too wild for all that.
Seen with an open heart and perception that is cleansed, you will apprehend this reorganization as a wrathful form of grace, filled with a light that is only found in the core of the dark—preparing, marinating, and opening you into something beyond what you’re currently able to imagine … arranging the particles so that the mystery of what you are may fully come alive here.
Art by David Ho
Monday, April 24, 2017
Co-emerging with a disturbing emotion or feeling-state is an invitation into the center, into the alchemical middle territory between the opposites of repression and fusion.
While the ways of self-abandonment are infinite, the most reliable is to disembody and begin thinking, to shift our awareness out of the surging, pregnant aliveness in the belly and the heart, and back into the numbing flatness of the conditioned storyline. It is believed to be safer here, more sure, and more certain, but there is nothing safe about disembodiment.
Yes, the voices can be relentless - sticky, loud, seductive, and claustrophobic. "Something is wrong." "You are not enough." "You have failed." "You must escape." "There is a horrible problem here that must urgently be handled." "You must improve yourself... and quickly."
These are the voices of the orphaned one who is longing to finally be seen, to be met, to be heard, to be felt. Spinning and scrambling to make sense of a misattuned world, she will do what she must to reach you. She wants you out of the fire and back into safety for this is all she knows, an earlier version of you without the capacity to turn into the somatic aliveness and offer the healing rains of loving presence. She is trying to care for you in the only ways she knows... but a new level of care is erupting underneath the surface.
When you find yourself pulled into the extremes of denying or repressing what has come, on the one hand, or fusing with it on the other, fueling the ancient story that something is wrong with you... the invitation is into slowness, into rest, into a primordial sort of opening into the middle. Nothing need be understood, shifted, transformed, or healed... for now.
The invitation is into holding, not healing.... for it is from the ground of this embodied, intimate, naked embrace with what you are that all healing will organically emerge.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
I am often asked about this or that technique, powerful new method, or approach: does it work, should I try it, will it help to transform limited beliefs, deeply embedded trauma, unbearable emotions? Will it eliminate my vulnerability, increase my sense of self-worth, relieve the despair, soothe the anxiety?
In my experience, techniques do not heal. Relationship heals.
As nearly all of our somatic and emotional wounding arose in interpersonal contexts, it is best unwound, untangled, and metabolized within an attuned, empathic, relational container. This container is nonordinary, alchemical, and sacred, and weaved of strands of the heart.
The “technique” that the therapist, coach, practitioner, or counselor employs is much less important. There is nothing wrong of course with learning new techniques, but there is no activity that is more creative, wild, and revolutionary than attunement, presence, and love. These are not techniques, but are aspects of your true nature, luminous and longing to erupt and come alive here. They are already wired into the fabric and substance of what you are, uncaused and unproduced, and await recognition.
What you are is infinitely more powerful than any technique. You are the technique … each time you listen deeply, look at another with love in your eyes, speak words of kindness, allow them to matter to you, nourish and hold their experience, and attune to their inner world as it is …
… allow yourself to care about how they are making meaning of their lives, making sense of a crazy world; as you dare to see them not as an “object” arising in your experience—who might or might not be able to meet your needs or confirm your hopes and fears—but as an outrageously unique “subject” in their own right. And as you mirror back essence, offering cosmic permission for the ultimate discovery that who and what they are was never “unhealed.”
Based on their theoretical lens, different approaches will look to intervene at different levels of the spectrum, i.e. cognitive, affective, somatic, and behavioral. Each practitioner is going to have their bias. But when it’s all said and done, developmental trauma and other wounding arising out of an environment lacking in holding, mirroring, and empathic attunement is reorganized within an intersubjective field. Research in interpersonal neurobiology* has consistently shown us that neural circuitry is re-encoded within the context of such relational attunement.
While it is natural to become enamored with the latest “powerful” method, technique, and newly discovered strategy to catalyze healing, we can easily lose the forest for the trees, and forget that it is love that heals. Love is not a technique. What this “love” is must be uncovered within your own embodied field of presence, and inside the cells of your heart. It is unprecedented, unique, and relentlessly creative … just like you.
Your heart is not a technique. And love is the ultimate medicine.
*see the work of Schore, Siegel, Badenoch, Porges, Cozolino, van der Kolk and others in the Norton Series.
Thursday, April 20, 2017
In a moment of activation, the emissaries arrive. When you find yourself overwhelmed by repetitive, habitual, ruminative thinking; when the thoughts are looping; when you are attacking yourself and falling down the rabbit hole of self-aggression … just stop.
With the power and fierceness of the warrior’s sword of compassion, cut the storyline. Slow way down and feel your feet on the ground. Breathe deeply into your lower belly and activate your senses. See what is around you with clear vision, enter into pure listening. Shift your sacred life energy out of the spinning and into the aliveness of the body.
It is an act of kindness to not fuel the dysregulating narrative, and takes practice, courage, curiosity, and imagination. Something is erupting under the surface, longing to be met and integrated, but it is raw, naked, and non-conceptual. Rather than turn into the center of the restless, claustrophobic, and sticky somatic aliveness, we default back into conditioned history—to the shame, the blame, the attack, and the aggression, anything to keep us out of the fire and the tender surging tingling core of the vulnerability at the center.
The invitation in these moments is into the shaky interior. Use your breath as your guide into the inner landscape. You are being asked to care for yourself in a new way. See what feeling state the very vivid and colorful storyline is attempting to take you out of, and slowly, with kindness drop underneath the conditioned history and into the hot, seething, pregnant life that is surging to be held.
In order to make this journey, that of the sacred return, we must set aside our agenda to understand, to change, to transform, even to heal … for a moment. We can return to transformation at a later time. For now, replace it with a fiery curiosity. To become more interested in our original primal experience than in our interpretations of it, turning our bodies into a crucible of open awareness, filled with the qualities of warmth, attunement, and revolutionary kindness.
And in doing this we call off the war. We dare to practice peace. To step off the battlefield and into the unknown mystery of the body, and the wisdom-field of the always blooming, awakened heart.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
It is important to realize that the path of opening the heart is not that of becoming a receptacle for the unloading of others’ unconscious, unresolved beliefs, unprocessed feelings, and unintegrated behaviors. It is to the degree that we are attuned to the alchemical “inner other” within us that we will be able to skillfully respond to the projections of the external other upon us.
As our perception is cleansed, we come to see that the “other” is not only those persons who appear in our lives, but the “inner other” that we have lost contact with along the way: the unmetabolized guests of the somatic landscape that we have turned from and sent into a dark, shadowy forest.
These ones will always and into eternity surge to be allowed back into the inner family, forever appearing as your intimate partners, children, and friends; as the colors, the moon, the sun, and the stars, taking infinite form to reach you. The sensual world is rich with hidden emissaries of wholeness and the heart. Slow way down, and see.
The only way to care for and integrate the “other” is by way of profound levels of self-compassion. For many, this holding does not come naturally as it was not encoded into the nervous system of a little one in an environment lacking in empathic attunement to the magic and brilliance of the unfolding emotional world. But despite the early relational trauma, the developmental wounding, and the disorganized narratives of attachment, you can learn and practice this now.
While appearing “compassionate” on the outside, being an emotional doormat involves the re-enacting of early, unconscious dynamics. We learned that devaluing ourselves, often in very subtle ways, was the best route to get our needs met, to fit in, to receive attention and affection, and to maintain a precarious tie to an unavailable attachment figure.
Because the pathways are luminous – neither solid nor fixed – they can be reorganized around empathy, kindness, and presence. But this possibility occurs only by way of self-compassion and the unconditional commitment to no longer abandon the inner other as it surges within you, in the form of feeling, sensation, and vulnerability of all kinds.
Look carefully and see the ways you habitually place others’ needs over your own… not out of true compassion for them, but as a re-enactment of an early environment of shame and unworthiness. With love, seed the surging somatic material with holding and attunement, receive the longing for update and integration, and step into the sacred world which is already here, wired into the stars and into the tender cells of your very own heart.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
No matter how many profound insights we have, how many amazingly powerful awakening experiences we collect, or how convinced we become that we have it all together, we will always be at risk of further heartbreak, deflation, and crushing revelation.
In the bedroom of the beloved, there is always more humbling to come, as we are all beginners there. No experts, no masters, and no final, resolved landing place where we are guaranteed a life without vulnerability and deepening exposure … for the beloved has no interest in all of that.
It is by way of the broken places that he or she is able to reach you, and to fill you from within with essence. In that crucible where the opposites are at play, the rug is being pulled out from underneath us in an ongoing way, with our personas falling away one by one as they burn up in the fire of pure seeing. Buried within the tension of these opposites is a nonordinary gold. See it. Feel it. Hear it. Hold it.
Out of this highly-charged and creative field, it is revealed once and for all that your shaky raw vulnerable heart is not weakness and your tender sensitive body is not something to be transcended or “healed,” but are portals through which the sacred materials can descend into the earth and come into form.
Though at times it may seem as if the world has gone mad – as the dreams of separation play out within the collective, things are not always as they seem. You are the vessel through which love can come alive here. Without you, it will not be possible.
Photo: from the holding field of the dark Horsehead Nebula, Orion
New book – The Path is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – to be released in June
Thursday, April 13, 2017
Just below the compelling storyline, beneath the colorful emotional landscape, there exists a rich, mysterious world of sensations: a somatically organized field of intelligence, creativity, and aliveness. It is dizzying here, awash with particles of the unknown.
Something is pulling you, but it can be disorienting to a mind longing for resolution. The urge to return to the known, to get hold of “my life,” and to renew the dream of control can appear as overwhelm in the nervous system.
Without pathologizing the movement back to ground, allow the mind the rest, even for just a moment. Dare to consider that nothing has gone wrong, nothing need urgently be resolved, and that no answers are coming … for now.
Open instead to the sacredness of the question and the mystery that you are, that which will never be contained by an answer. For what you are is wild and unprecedented … a firestorm of presence, of heart, and a ragingly unique form that love has taken here.
Please don’t forget what you are.
Please don’t forget what you are.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Many have heard the term holding environment, introduced by the British analyst Donald Winnicott, to describe a field of warm, attuned presence. Any effective holding environment consists of the essential qualities of good contact and an ideal amount of space. Through making close, empathic contact with another as they are, and offering a spacious home in which their experience can unfold, we become vehicles of love in action.
We are willing to allow the other to matter to us, to care deeply about them, and to take a risk in moving toward them while simultaneously offering ourselves these same qualities in a system of mutual interaction.
We seek intimacy with the other and their unfolding experience as it is, but without coming so close that we lose perspective and become emotionally fused with them. In this sacred middle territory—in between the extremes of cold, passive, disinterested witnessing and fused, sticky, unboundaried identification—we bestow the gift of empathic attunement.
Simultaneously, in addition to making good contact, we infuse the other and their subjective experience—as well as the relational field we are a part of with them—with the offering of pure space. In this context, space isn’t something that we “give” or “do”; it is what we are. By resting in the organic space of being, we plant the seeds of a cosmic trust that their experience is valid, that we do not need them to transform in order for us to stay close.
We commit to not flooding them with our requirements and agendas, but will honor their unique process and path by being there for them if (and only if) we are needed. We will not impinge upon their journey, we will allow them to fail and to succeed, and we will walk side by side with them into the dark and the light.
But we will not try to make the journey for them. We will not give them answers to questions that are theirs, nor will we protect them from falling apart when that is what love has in store for them. We will do whatever we can to support their unique and unprecedented path of individuation.
But we will allow them to walk it alone, to fall to the ground and get back up, to know the full spectrum of the opportunity they have been provided.
Art by Gustav Vigeland, c/o the Vigeland Park in Oslo