Body: Breaking the Shame Cycle through the Lower Chakras

images4EQRC8AAIn the Tantric form of Yoga, the body is seen as the highest instrument to express spiritual awareness and consciousness. For thousands of years, yogis have understood how to use the physical to connect to the spiritual. They apply movement, chakra energy and sound. The deeper the engagement with body, the deeper the union with Spirit.

In my work with women, the disconnect between body and soul is heart breaking. This detachment, more often than not, starts because of trauma. It then manifests into eating disorders, dissociation, self-harm, and negative body image which continues the cycle. Even traumas that aren’t as overt as rape or molestation have a huge affect on a human being. The signals that a woman’s body doesn’t meet expected standards wears on the psyche and cultivates shame. These messages come from culture, but they also come from home – which is a more profound influence. Family members who struggle with their own denied issues slap their burdens on their children and carry it forward for generations.

Too many women consider their bodies an albatross they’re forced to bear. They see only fractured body pieces and rate them based on how they compare to other women’s parts. Who can blame them? It’s human to want acceptance. We survive through groups. When we’re young and scared, we’ll do anything to belong.

Young women who don’t see themselves as mature enough to set boundaries with older men are easy prey. They’re made to doubt their discomfort level when men leer, make suggestive comments or violate their space. They’re told this is a compliment, not a threat. Drugging women to use their bodies to get off has become, as one twenty-year-old put it, “part of what my generation has to deal with.” When they’ve been knocked out by a roofie and wake up hours later, they usually fear the social repercussions so much that they don’t report the assault. Eventually, this trauma manifests into PTSD and incapacitates them.

The cruel ways people have treated others over sex is part of the dark shadow of human history. It doesn’t only apply to women, however, statistically and traditionally women (and young girls) have experienced a higher percentage of sexual trauma. As long as cultures continue seeing through the lens of a dominant/submissive gender, this abusive entitlement will continue. These scars run deep and leave a shadow not just on a person but on a whole society.

In healing emotional and physical traumas, it’s important to consider how our etheric body energy has also been affected. Trauma does not just affect memory. Our chakras have also been altered. With sexual trauma, our first two chakras, the root and sacral chakras, have suffered the biggest blows. The root chakra manages the energy of physical-care, grounding and survival. The sacral chakra energy reflects issues of self-worth, how we see ourselves in relationships and how we engage sexually. When someone has suffered physical and sexual violations that affect our first chakra, they’ve also been emotionally molested which alters flow of the second chakra.

Chakra flow damage comes from either restricted flow or tears that create excessive flow. Root chakras that are torn open tend to cause problems in the area of excess such as binging, hoarding, or over-spending. If the first chakra has been restricted, those behaviors show up as restriction of food, money, possessions, high anxiety. Both affect the way we’re able to care physically for our Self. Sacral chakra excess shows itself in codependency, no emotional or sexual boundaries. Sacral chakra restriction shows itself as fear of intimacy, rigid boundaries, sexual anorexia or asexuality.

Many times, when one chakra has been damaged, another chakra will overcompensate. It’s not uncommon for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to develop psychic abilities because – when the orange chakra is torn – the third eye tends to open wider. When the root chakra is closed, our solar plexus or crown chakra can go into overdrive.

Reiki and re-connective work are some ways to help the etheric healing process. Yoga with an experienced practitioner can release the emotional pain that our bodies absorb. Regular sessions with a licensed therapist who understands trauma releases emotional pain. It’s a real benefit if a therapist also does some of the physical processing. If a therapist is trained in modalities such as EMDR that facilitates neuroplasticity in the brain, trauma can be release. Some grounding techniques used to prepare a client for trauma processing also assist in the healing of disrupted body energy.  The deeper a person goes into the physical healing process as they heal emotionally, the deeper they’ll be able to reconnect to who they are and find the balance between their physical and spiritual Self.

 

Mind: That Great and Terrible Wonder

images9QTLBV1MthinkThe brain is a filter that helps us make sense of our world. This organ, compared to all others, is the most mysterious, immeasurable organ in our bodies. We can love without a spleen. We can express feelings if we have an artificial heart. We can understand our meaning in the world with one kidney. We can’t do any of these things without our brain. Without a brain, we can’t have interpersonal relationships. We’re incapable of self-reflection. We can’t identifying what we feel. The function of the brain goes far beyond the reasoning process. The brain truly is the link to our Soul.

In the past decade or so,  research of the brain has yielded some fascinating insight. Scientists now understand from what regions of the brain energy flows, what hormones and chemicals are released to affect mood and what type of circumstances affect brain function. As a therapist who works with traumatized clients, this information has been invaluable in helping facilitate healing on emotional as well as energetic levels.

Through studies, the question of “how?” can now be answered. However, the question “why?” may never be determined.  Scientists cannot pinpoint the exact source that stimulates neurons and creates brain functioning. This is where the mystery of universal energy has to be accepted and embraced – perhaps even revered by those who seek to measure it.

This universal energy source is Soul energy. It affects every aspect of our multifaceted Self.  It charges our muscles with movements. Soul energy manifests feelings. Its power motivates us toward personal growth and healing. If listened to, Soul energy will guide us. Its force is wisdom and truth and stillness. Its intent is reconciliation with original Divine energy. The combination of Soul energy and brain are what I refer to as the Dimension of Mind.

It’s from the Dimension of Mind we first become aware of our feelings. These feelings bring us into the realm of relationships. The delicate symbiotic dance we perform through our interactions with others is one of the gauges by which we can understand ourselves. As Daniel Siegel states in The Developing Mind, the ability of one mind to perceive and then experience elements of another person’s mind is a profoundly important dimension of human experience. This dance can keep us alive, help us fall in love, or make the right career choices.

Mind reflects our awareness and our state of being. It provides us with the ability to notice what arises in us. It can get in our way and keep us from everyday functioning or it can release its limitations so we can connect to the universe. Mind is not only about an emotional connection with others, it’s the choice we make to live fully awake. Mindfulness practices are intended to still the constant chatter that thinking creates because our brains can get ahead of the rest of us when we’re not careful.  Mind Nature in Tibetan Buddhist practice is considered the universal existence. Mind creates happiness or suffering depending upon the person’s awareness and how they choose to use their thinking. The ordinary Mind (sem) is the one that creates duplicity, jealousy, pettiness, anger, aggression and many other states of discord. The aware mind (Rigpa) is the awake mind. Rigpa is present to the moment which brings us full connection to the Soul.

Our Soul seeks wholeness and has a need to connect to its Higher Source. It needs Mind’s assistance to accomplish this. Through an inner dialogue with symbols, we also connect to our world beyond the five senses.  Dreaming, visualization through meditation,  daydreaming, the use of art, form and movement are some of the ways we stay connected to the world beyond facts and figures.

Our preverbal existence (10,000 years or more ago) used the images  brought forth through Mind to connect with each other. Our more recent verbal society developed reasoning  skills which prioritized exterior facts as our primary communication. Our brains can handle both, but we’ve been taught in our modern world to value the tangible over the experiential. As a result, Mind wants to find answers to everything. It wants to measure, adjust, explain its way out of the subjective. It’s learned to stir dissent in our Self, to tell us everything about ourself is wrong and incomplete. This process has created inner conflict and is leading us down a road toward depression and anxiety that still again, our brain wants to reason us out of.

We’ve forgotten that brain doesn’t run the show and that it’s just one of many factors that complete the Dimension of Mind. Yes, brain is the steering wheel but not the whole vehicle. We can’t drive the car without it, but it can’t hold us hostage, either. Our brain and our Soul need to remember to work in conjunction. Both need to negotiate and sometimes our brain needs to slide out of the driver’s seat and let Soul steer for a while.

 

 

.

The Art of Negotiating Boundaries

SCAN_PIC0001smallThe difference between living a life of happy engagement or miserable chaos rests in how we apply boundaries. In my work, I hear clients speak about boundaries all the time. However, when it comes to applying them they seem confused. A lot. So, here’s a primer.

A boundary looks a little different for everyone. A perfect metaphor is a fence. Some fences are higher, some are lower, some are more open, some are harder to scale. Boundaries are meant to protect, ensure, define. What a boundary is not is a fortress wall that blocks out everything. Nor is it an open puddle that anyone gets to run through. We’re responsible for setting our own boundaries. When we expect someone else to do it, we’ve pretty much violated ourselves.

Boundaries fit into two categories: outer and inner. The first is easily understood because outer, or physical, boundaries are a tangible concept. Physical boundaries include setting limits around your body, your possessions, your personal time, your work and living space. It also includes your etheric space. Etheric space is your physical or auric energy that expands beyond your skin and bones. It’s the unseen yet often felt “circle” that feels penetrated when someone you don’t know stands too close.

People have no right to touch you if you don’t want them to. They have no right to steal your things, tell you to do something that hurts you or make themselves at home if you want them to leave. They also have no right to drive your car without your permission or go through your desk drawers at work. These examples of boundary violations are pretty obvious. What’s not so clear is how to enforce the boundaries.

Inner boundaries are harder to assess because we can’t physically touch them. As a result, those boundaries get horribly dishonored – by those who possess them as well as by those who offend. This more dubious concept of boundaries bewilders people. It takes intentional work to first identify them and then to learn how to effectively set a limit.

What makes up the world of inner boundaries are your feelings, thoughts, beliefs, spiritual experiences, creativity, memories, fantasies, hopes and dreams. Yet, many people aren’t connected to theirs. We can determine where our body ends and another’s begins, but if we don’t know what we feel, believe or want, how can we know if we’ve been infringed upon?

Violations of inner boundaries range from emotional abuse – if the behavior is purposeful – to clueless insensitivity. Name calling, commenting on someone’s body, passive-aggressive behavior, withholding attention or affection, mocking and mimicking, adultery, raging or intentionally distressing people are some examples. Enmeshment, which is when someone wants to know your every waking thought or feeling and tells you how to think or feel, is a massive inner boundary violation.

The initial work to establish inner boundaries is to take a few steps back and develop a loving dialogue with yourself. Exploring your inner world and being able to identify the difference between your thoughts and feelings is important. Stating your dreams, developing your beliefs based on your sense of integrity, allowing yourself to visualize your future, all this doesn’t happen overnight. It’s extremely useful to do this work with a licensed therapist if you’re struggling, because more than likely there are influencing factors keeping you from committing to your individuation.

Defining if a boundary has been violated is about the ability to measure your discomfort level. If you’re okay with a house guest staying a few extra days, that’s one thing. If you’re desperate for time alone but find it’s easier not to tell him, then you’ve lowered your boundary threshold. Only you are able to determine what that threshold is. Is it a mild inconvenience or total violation? Saying “no” is not a bad thing. It may be a last resort after you’ve politely stated having a guest three more days doesn’t work for you, but it doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a person who respects your time, energy and space. When you respect yourself, so will others.

The gauge when enforcing an inner boundary is much like enforcing an outer boundary. Again, it’s about measuring your discomfort level. How do you feel about what that person said or did? What in you is unsure, even though you feel horrible right now? We can state that we expect better treatment from them. Whether they choose to give it, is out of our control.

Part of setting a boundary is to establish a consequence that you’re willing to follow through with. That consequence can’t be something hurtful to the other person or infringe on their integrity in any way. So, if you say to your spouse, “If you choose to ignore me the whole day after we argue, then I’m hitting you over the head with this frying pan!”, then you’ve completely overstepped his boundaries and are the violator.

A consequence is something within your control that sets a limit. It also must match the boundary infraction. “If you choose to ignore me the whole day after we argue, then I choose to go shopping and have dinner with my friends.” You can’t control if he choses to stonewall you, but you can control how to get your needs met in other ways.

It’s also very important to explore why you allow your boundaries to be manipulated. Are you afraid the other person won’t like you? Do you fear you won’t be heard or that you’re not worthy of being listened to? Boundaries don’t keep us from being intimate. It’s exactly the opposite. If we establish a boundary with someone, we’re negotiating with them. This requires engagement and exploration of the issues around the boundaries. We’re showing the other person we respect them enough to negotiate and more importantly – we respect ourselves enough to be negotiated with.

Our Soul’s Journey

SC2As a writer, I’m determined not to fall in love with my words. Still, I do. I’ll get attached to a paragraph or sentence. I’ll move the clever thing around, cutting and pasting again and again, determined to keep it because, well, I love it.

That’s a sure sign the brilliant tidbit has to go. If I’m inserting words into the work just because I like them, I’m not moving the story along. So, I emotionally detach then delete. I don’t even save the paragraph in my “drop” folder anymore. I’ve found I never go back to it. If there’s substance in what was said, it’ll come out in other ways.

Just like those words, attachment to the trivial keeps us from seeing a bigger life picture. If we’re clinging to something just because we don’t want to let it go, then it’s time for us to detach and delete. This could be a behavior, a way of thinking about things, a way of seeing the world. Holding on “just because” is really holding on to fear. This stalls us. It limits the choices in our lives. It inhibits us from living our true story.

Most certainly this struggle manifests to a deeper degree when our psychological awareness increases and spiritual consciousness arises. We find ourselves called to a new way of being yet woefully ill-equip to make the journey. Suddenly, the character we crafted through the years doesn’t match the current storyline. No longer are we the master of our own universe, the fabulous fixer, the narcissistic know-it-all, the helpless martyr, the upper-class soccer mom, the macho ladies’ man or the sheltered housewife. We’re hesitant about where the plot’s going to take us and we turn back.

Slipping on our old armor, we notice it’s too tight. We manage to squeeze into it, but eventually we blister and can’t breathe. We’re cranky. We’re in pain. We remember that brief moment of total freedom when we felt our Self through therapy or meditation and now we feel confused.

Eventually, the armor of inauthenticity wears us down. We look for help and find people who’ve already made this crazy trek. This calms us. We peel off the defenses. Sometimes we do this willingly. Sometimes we fight like hell, watching the blood from our fingertips streak the metal as the chainmail is yanked from our clutches. Tender and vulnerable, we have no choice but to cross the threshold and enter this special new world.

Growth puts us into a state of transition and transitions are scary. They’re literally the movement from one place to another. This is where ordeals occur, where the bad guy might get us. What if we lose sight of the road, or run out of gas, or meet people different from us? How will we react? What will we see? What will we do?

Detaching from the old allows expansion to begin. We’re able to engage with ourselves and others in new ways. We practice genuineness and vulnerability. As we eventually find our bearings and trust this different kind of control, we open our heart to new challenges. This provides us with space to shift deeper into the subjective, less evaluative aspects of our new Self. We learn to embrace and not measure the mysterious experiences of our innermost cave.

As we encounter more challenges, we notice we’re also being rewarded. Empathy, Intuition and Creativity start to unfold. This new gift of awareness allows us to identify what we need. Because we understand the necessity of travelling lighter, we now detach from that which weighs us down. Detach and delete. We see clearly now. We’re living the bigger picture. We’re operating in new ways. We move ahead, but know when to rest.

At times we stop to replenish at sites along the path. There, we meet people we didn’t know existed. We notice ourselves being present to them. We’re fascinated and moved by the stories they share of their own journeys. The things they share fill our hearts and leave us grateful. As we pack up and move on, because we must, we ask for directions. We’re seasoned enough now to know when to seek guidance.

We also begin to feel and it’s good. Colors and energy move easily through us. We no longer flee in panic at the sensation. Another gift.

An odd thing strikes us. We realize that we know now that Knowing is not knowing in the way we thought it was. It’s not an answer but acceptance. It’s not conclusions but curiosity. Looking back, we see the path we’ve travelled. We see those unnecessary burdens we shed and wonder why we needed them in the first place.

Smiling, it occurs to us that this journey is our home now and it’s such a long way from where we came. We look down into our hand and see life’s elixir. It glows warm in our palm. This is something we’ll be passing on to the next person we meet on the road. While this is something to keep, this is also something to share. We want to pass this along. And now we know all is good.

Artwork by Deborah Koff-Chapin

The Miracle of the Inexplicable

005I’ve owned a lot of plants in my life. They come and they go. Some bi-annuals fade away. Some house plants have been inadvertently killed due to my busy schedule. The one plant that’s been a constant in my life for the past fifteen years is my night-blooming cirrus.

This is a Gift Plant. It’s cuttings were given to me by a neighbor. I’m on my second large container that holds its colossal greenery. This plant is hardy. Indigenously, it grows on the ground in the tropics. It’s singular flowers bloom once – at night between dusk and dawn – then they’re gone. Forever. Never again will I see the same blossom. There will be more to come. I never know when or on which side of the plant another will grow. If I’m blessed, and I have been, there will be more than one at a time lurking beneath the heavy foliage. So, I have to pay attention.

When the stems of the bloom slope down from a leaf, letting me know the phenomenon is about to happen, I’ll stay up late that night. Like a mid-wife excited about assisting in the birth of the next miracle coming into the world, I watch in wonder at a process I’ve seen over and over. I shoot a million pictures and text anyone who wants to see. The scent of the flower is concentrated. If the plant were in the house, every room would be filled with this ineffably orangey-musky smell. The bloom is white. It’s larger than the size of a man’s fist. Inside is another, tiny bloom. Like something otherworldly, this miniature star extends outward into the moonlight, heralding the nocturnal insect that’s supposed to come and steal its nectar.

The soul of this plant seems deep and meaning-seeking to me. This is the Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha or Mandela of all plants. It’s exotic, yet hardy. It’s majestic, yet not particularly pretty. It stands above all other flora and stays consistent with its purpose. It spreads its large leaves in an outward reach. I handed out some cuttings at work and they’ve remained happy by themselves in an empty glass or rooted in water. If a leaf cutting is slipped into mud, its tendrils spread and grow another plant with very little help. If I were to give the cirrus a personality trait, I’d say it’s indifferent in that pleasant way where it enjoys company but doesn’t need it to thrive. To me, it’s also the greatest metaphor I know that reflects the inexpressible spiritual moments in our lives.

You know those moments. Like the time a passed loved-one manifested at the foot of your bed to say hello (or good-bye), or the time you felt yourself in your sleep talking to your ancestors, or the time you know you saw little people sitting in the trees smiling down at you, or the time you felt the presence of God so strongly in your body you couldn’t speak, or the time you astral-travelled to another planet and woke up terrified yet wishing that could happen again, or the time you heard a loving voice behind you, yet no one was there. Those moments. Those singular moments we’re both terrified of, yet exhilarated by. Those are the moments that remind us we’re just one tiny carbon-being among a larger, unfathomable universe that’s beyond our comprehension yet, we feel so knowingly tied to. Those moments.

Sometimes we sleep through those moments, figuring there’ll be another bloom later on. Sometimes we stay up all night fascinated by the miracle of the inexplicable. Sometimes we explain them away because our mind can’t understand what happened. Sometimes we fear telling anyone because the community we’re tied to may expunge us, yet when we do share, we realize they too have had those moments. Some of us spend every waking hour attempting to get those moments back. Yet, like those elusive and hardy blooms, they come when they come. We just have to open to them when they happen.

We can look for them. We can ask for them to happen again. We can cultivate our lives to increase the probability of them. They will come again. Painfully, they will also go. Though in their coming and going, they leave something behind. They leave us with a reminder that we’re connected to something bigger and that something bigger is here for us. They leave us exhilarated by the miracle that is our life. They also leave us humble, because we can’t really explain how or why. If we want to stay open to them, we’re forced to just accept them. This is the hardest part – accepting something we really can’t understand. Yet, it’s in the acceptance of these mysterious experiences that we feel our Soul. Those moments leave us open to probabilities. They free us, for just a while, from the mundane routines in our lives that can keep us numb and forgetting the bigger picture.

Perhaps if we become like the cirrus, open to engagement, yet comfortable with just being, we can feel the inexplicable rhythm of those moments more regularly. Perhaps we can allow them to run their course, accepting the gift of their presence and their loss. 012

Thoughts verses Feelings

imagesfeelingsheart

“Give me the feeling that comes with that thought,” I’ll say to a client.

They stop, look perplexed for a moment, then say something like, “I can’t believe he would do that to me!?”

“That’s a thought,” I say. “Give me a feeling.” The client looks more perplexed, the frown deepens and they shake their head. Sometimes they lean closer and look at me like I might be a little crazy. So begins my lesson on feelings verses thoughts.

We all get stuck here. It takes real effort differentiating the two, but it’s really important to do this. Our thoughts, and the feelings that follow, work within a millisecond of each other. They’re so closely intertwined, we can’t see the pattern. Yet, distinguishing between the two is the difference between constant engagement with conflict and illusions or peace.

One is made up in your head. The other is the energy that arises in your body as a result of what you made up in your head. Do you see the difference? A thought is made up in your head. The feeling is in response to the thought and carries different energies through your body. Many times, neither of these reflect the truth.
The reason I use the simplistic term, made-up-in your-head, is because a majority of our thoughts are based upon our own versions of reality – the lens by which we see the world. That lens has history to it, because our brain is using past references to pull forward a schema it understands so it can stay in control.

You might think because your spouse slammed the door too loudly that she’s mad at you. If you stay with that thinking, feelings burst forth based on how you felt when your parents argued and slammed doors. Now, what kind of feelings rise up inside you? Anger, fear, sadness, guilt? Suddenly, you’re back in that place where parents were shouting and throwing things and you’ll respond accordingly to your wife. This is the illusion.

The narratives we make up (say it together), in-our-heads, cause all sorts of problems. If you challenge your thought and investigate why the door slammed, you might find the poor woman standing with a handful of groceries and having to use her foot to shut the door. Or maybe the wind slammed it shut. Or maybe she was so happy to be home from work that she pulled the knob too hard.

There’s a third part to this breakdown. It’s the emotion that occurs as a result of the feeling. Our language uses emotion and feeling interchangeably, however there’s a difference. Within that millisecond we talked about, where a thought occurs and a feeling is felt, we also respond. That’s emotion. Emotion is the rejoinder to the feeling, be it a smile, frown, yell, or freezing in place. This process feels so natural, it’s hard to imagine there’s a pattern at all. Though seeing this pattern can help us change ours. If we observe our usual process and not engage in it, we break the illusions that were driving us.

It’s also important to remember that a person or situation evoke a thought. If we can grow more aware of what’s occuring around us, we can pay closer attention. We can then slow down and observe what we’re thinking. In Buddhism, the way to peace is through the Eightfold Path. The first four of these eight are; right understanding, right thought, right speech and right action. If we’re to understand outer stimuli evokes us, then we can be aware of the thoughts and feelings that arise, and not speak or act in harmful ways.

The most damaging aspect to this is when we stay convinced that our thinking is the only truth. Then we cling to the feelings and emotions that flare as a result of that illusion. We rationalize our choices out of shame and maintain the attitude of the victim. This way we don’t have to reflect deeper on the nasty words or actions we spew onto others. We justify and spread hurt and darkness.

If we’re willing to acknowledge that our truth is subjective, then we’ll be more willing to notice what stimulates our thoughts, feelings and emotions. We stop engaging in blind ways that keep us running in circles with no clarity. In this way we spread light and we allow our own light to  burn brighter.

Emotions: Mirror, Mirror, go away!

imagesWUOG13IYI lost a dear friend last year. Not to death but to illusion. Her perpetual absence has me mourning her. Some days, I wake up and think about what we shared over the years and my heart aches. Sometimes, those memories leave me angry. Always, I doubt myself and wonder if I had only done or said something differently, would she have reacted the way she did? I send loving energy her way and imagine her calling me. I think of calling her and saying, “okay this is ridiculous, life’s too short not to talk this out!”. Then I remember her last words to me – not spoken, but written in an angry email that wiped out six years of friendship – and I can still feel the seething quality to the words. So, I keep from making the call.

“Who says that to someone?,” another friend says to me. She gives me her sage-like glance, “you know when someone calls a person those things, it’s because it’s a problem they can’t deal with within themselves, right?”

I know. Lordy, do I know. I’m a therapist, after all. I talk about ego defenses and shadow sides all day long. Yet, somehow, when the table’s turned and I’m on the receiving end of someone else’s disowned stuff, it hurts. It hurts because, the truth is, my friend was right. I am those things at times. I’m those things enough that I can’t write down what she accused me of being. I also know that it’s my stuff – in all its uneasiness and embarrassment – that shrieks back at her. It stands formidable like the wicked witch’s mirror reflecting the wrinkles and blemishes she’d rather kill for than acknowledge.

Our struggle with the personal shame of disowned feelings is never more apparent than within our interactions with others. Our psyches are drawn to those who echo our perspectives. The traits we admire in others, are the traits we possess in ourselves. The nuances of our mindset and the way we feel about ourselves is always reflected in the people we choose to be around. We manifest our private circles this way.

Inconveniently, we’re also drawn to those who possess the darker, less examined aspects of our Self, and this can sometimes be the same person whom we think hung the moon. Insecurity, selfishness, fear, manipulation, self-loathing, uncertainty all attract like. We may think we’re attracted to powerful people because they’re “fabulous” and we feel special around them, yet the shadow side of powerful people is a fear of powerlessness. The darker the shadow, the more troubled the relationship. The addict is drawn to the codependent. The narcissist to the anti-social. The unconscious aspects of Self work in mysterious, sometimes contradictory ways. As we attract the familiar, we are unknowingly disowning the negative traits and placing them at the feet of the other.

In his classic work, Love and Will, Rollo May argues that love and will are the conjunctive process of being. Combing love and will is a reaching out to influence others; molding, forming, creating the consciousness of the person we love. This is only possible when we’re open to the influences of the other. Love must first follow. Because without love, will becomes a form of manipulation:

The interrelation of love and will is shown, furthermore, by the fact that each loses its efficacy when it is not kept in right relation to the other; each can block the other. Will can block love. The overemphasis on will, which blocks love, leads sooner or later to a reaction to the opposite error, love which blocks will. (pg. 276)

If we’re willing to look in the mirror, to see ourselves without the illusion of what we want to present to the world, then we can accept the wrinkles. We can also see the spark in our eye, the great smile on our face and the smoothness beneath our aging. We can embrace all parts of our Self no matter the discomfort. We can – at the very least – be open to the possibility of growth.

Our higher Self knows instinctively that having to face our issues regularly is the only way to resolve them. Our ego – what we prefer to see in the mirror – rejects all that’s unattractive. That unattractiveness may come in the form of another person who’s holding up the mirror to us. Sometimes we reject the whole person no matter how much love we have for them, because our will not to see is stronger than the engagement of acceptance.

Will blocks love when we’re not feeling complete. Fixations on another’s flaws are those infantile aspects of Self. When we decline to acknowledge them, we don’t have to take responsibility for them. If we can allow ourselves to be sidetracked by the ineptitude of another, we can delay the journey that may take us deeper into our own healing. May says we can’t change unless we’re willing to open to the influence of the other. In this case, it’s looking deeply into the mirror then asking, “What in this mirror drives me to want to kill?”.

The Spirituality of the Obvious

 

1014244_533912696706563_727841077_nOnce in a while we get a signal – a really big signal – that comes in subtle packages as a way to remind us that Spirit is with us wherever we go. The problem is, we rationalize it away and lose a great opportunity to connect.

If we’re lucky, the spiritual energy around us will stay determined and press on, making it so obvious they’re reaching through our dense atmosphere to touch us that we have no choice but to listen. These experiences don’t come often. Anyone on the spiritual path or who has lost a loved one wants them. We wish and hope for a tangible meaning. A message. A sign there is a greater connection than what we experience on this earth.

Yet when these things do happen, we sometimes get scared, stubborn or doubtful and will them away.

My big Duh moment happened on a hot, July day in New Orleans. I was spending a weekend with my friend and we were determined to have a mini-spiritual retreat despite the lovely distractions of her family. My friend is an intuitive/medium and so am I. Because we live in the bible-belt (and because I’m also a licensed therapist) I keep this under wraps in my everyday conversations. Having like-minded souls to commune with is greatly sought after when you’re in our position.

This day, we were enjoying the energy manifested by our conjoint meditations and readings for each other and were spending the afternoon on her porch creating spirit paintings. Spirit painting is something I made up one day as a way to allow my Guides to work through me. I meditated, asked to see colors and images, then went to town  on my canvas with heavy brushes and paint. The result had been more than I could imagine. I intended energy flow for myself – to break down ego barriers so I could engage deeper during meditation. What I got were soft images of faces and forms. Some I had already seen and communicated with. Some forms were not so human. Some were faces I had not seen before. The fact that they had shown themselves just by me pushing paint around, was affirming. I was on the right track.

I wanted to show my friend how to do this. That day, we set up our workspaces. I meditated for her and she meditated for me. Then we picked up our brushes and colors and started to paint each other a picture. Within a few minutes, a yellow Monarch butterfly rounded the corner from the front of the house. It came on to the open porch and fluttered between my canvas and the door. Cute! The little butterfly had lost its way. I went back to pushing the paint around and was startled when the butterfly came between me and the canvas and hovered. My heart beat wildly. I stilled. I ‘d never been so close to a moving butterfly before!

“He must love the colors,” I said to my friend. Then the butterfly disappeared, back beyond the house. What a nature experience.

The butterfly returned less than a minute later. It flew the same course, between the wall and my canvas, and ended up in front of me again. It fluttered in place right under my chin. It felt as if he was looking to see what I was doing. It stayed for a good fifteen seconds (while I held my breath!). Then it left. Again.

Twice?  We glanced at each other.

A little wide-eyed, we laughed. We wanted this to be a special message. We were attempting to reach further spiritual heights that day. But, we also wondered if this was a fluke. Were we attempting to put meaning to something that was just happenstance? Like the energy worker who believes he can will the traffic light to change, or shift the winds. Was this our petty will? Were we making something out of nothing? It was, after all, Summer. Things were blooming. Butterflies abounded.

Before these doubts finished processing in my head, the butterfly was back. I halted. My friend picked up her phone. A third time? Really? It came once again, along the same path, looping around to my right and ending up – flutter, flutter – between me and my canvas. Another fifteen seconds or so went by again before it left.

Three times. Cool.

By the fourth time the butterfly visited, we were tense with awareness. Not so much a fluke anymore. My friend snapped shots from her phone, attempting to follow the little guy around the porch without scaring him off. A long while passed. The message was clear as he intentionally hovered in front of me. Pay attention!

We were listening. Especially by that fifth time. The energy was serious now. Unbelievable!  Something bigger than both of us was revealing itself and we’d be stupid not to listen. By that final swoop, the butterfly seemed to know he had gotten through. He turned and flew away, hopping along the flowers as he went. Who, what or why this happened is still a mystery. Maybe we’ll never know. But we listened. We just knew this was an event to be trusted and like so much that has to do with Spirit, never questioned.

(we grabbed our phones as fast as we could and the buttefly stayed around long enough to let us take its picture!)

 

 

Intuition: The Two Paths of Awareness

 

untitled (2) mindDeepening our Intuition leads us down some magnificent pathways toward the inner sanctum of our Sacred Self. Having dialogue with our Intuition empowers us and steers our lives toward deeper meaning. We learn to accept that not everything communicated has words. Then we can remain open to other ways of being. Learning to trust our Intuition gives us the freedom to be comfortable with the unexplainable. When we embrace our intuition, we accept there’s a universally complex language within all of us and that subjectivity is okay.

This sensing language is the language of the Soul. The dialogue involves colors, energy, emotions or perceptions.When we meditate or dream, forms come to us that the conscious Mind struggles to interpret. Jung referred to this communication as the “intuitive idea that cannot be formulated in any other or better way” than through the use of these symbols. This language is also spoken with our body energy through our etheric field. If we learn to manage our energy, we can find a new way of heightening our engagement with our world and the people in it.

Intuitive knowing is slower on one level, yet faster on another. We may sense something immediately, but not be able to describe or understand it right away. Jung describes this journey as;

…something which can scarcely be described in words. It can only be experienced. It is a subjective affair quite beyond discussion; we have a particular feeling about ourselves , about the way we are, and that is a fact which it is neither possible nor meaningful to doubt.

Intellectualizing doesn’t work with intuiting. Mind wants things organized in neat Microsoft files that can be corroborated by the outside world. A process that’s laughable to Soul.

There are two ways of using our Intuition. The first is by developing our “sixth sense”. This is what we use when interacting with people and situations. Sixth sense intuiting uses instinct as its driver. It helps us sense things like knowing when someone is lying or deciding if a new job is right for us. This sixth sense intuiting deepens how we interact beyond sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. We can develop this through learning energy work including the clearing and managing of our chakras. Reiki work helps us develop this sensitivity as well. Stillness in our own agendas is important in this process. How many times have you ignored something that you had a strong sense of because you didn’t want to believe it?

This use of etheric energy is also how we heal emotional wounds. While it’s not the only tool, but it’s one of many powerful ones. Rebalancing your chakras allows for physical, emotional and psychological flow. When we shut off aspects of our Self, we shut off some of their associated energy centers. Drawing from universal power and opening up to an infinite source of light, heightens our sensitivity. Our source of body energy is limited, but when we tap into the Higher Source, we can manifest a whole new way of living.

The other way of intuiting is through psychic or mystical engagement with our inner world that also connects to our Higher Source. To intuit in this way, we need to allow the images we receive through meditation to just be. This gives us an opportunity to connect deeper with the information we’re given. The language of the Angels and Higher Spirit is through symbols and form. These have few references in our verbal and written language.

Making the sacred space for this intuiting helps facilitate a quiet container. For me, I like a softly scented candle, since scent – while it’s a fifth sense – links us to our deeper awareness. Using a journal is also important since we can write or sketch the images that come to us. If you’re clairaudient, you may hear words in your head, similar to when we hear the lyrics of a song. Writing those down and allowing them to just be, is part of the process. Dreams are also integral to intuiting. They’re wrought with symbols that drive our waking Mind crazy since it cannot fit them into that Microsoft file. But, if you write down what you remember, over time, you’ll see a pattern emerge. This pattern, whether through dreams or meditation, will speak to you and guide you.

Many times what we get is not so much an answer, but confirmation. This confirmation can occur as an inner knowing or something outside of ourselves. The answer may come in the form of a conversation that happens later in the day, or a recurring theme you keep experiencing as you lead your daily life. As part of confirming, we can ask; What is this image, color, energy or sensation that’s being presented to me? Another approach is to ask, what does this mean to me? How do I feel when I see this symbol or experience this information? If we’re open to the messages, all will be revealed in time. Be patient, since when we’re intuiting new information and mystical experiences, we have few if any previous references.

The largest block to intuiting well is ego. While ego is an important mechanism in the development of our Sacred Selves, it can go awry if we’re not aware of how Mind loves to put up defenses. A neurotic ego may want to shape the information to accommodate its insecurities. Keeping our Mind still keeps it out of the intuiting process and this keeps us from developing inflated illusions about ourselves and what we’re doing. This takes practice and a willingness to examine those undeveloped shadow sides we refuse to address in ourselves.

This process is a journey with no end goal other than to know ourselves deeper. Using our intuition as a vehicle to help us maneuver life’s passageways is a way to draw us closer in to the light and wisdom we already possess. It’s a pathway to bring us home again to what we already know. ~ Cheryl Lewallen, M.Ed., LPC

Emotion: Reconnection to Feelings

136

Embracing your feelings and treating them with loving kindness is the first step on the journey toward psychological and spiritual wholeness. When you use your feelings effectively, they work like a compass, directing you where you need to go. You tap into your navigation system and this allows you to manage your life. Yet, for some of us, that compass appears short-circuited. The needle feels stuck in one direction even though you know you need to head in another. For others, the needle seems out-of-order, unable to pick up any polar energy that could point you to a place other than where you currently are. When your directional process isn’t working, it feels frustrating and overwhelming.

The main reason we become disconnected from our feelings is because of fear. Some people have been trained to shut their feelings down because they’ve been hurt or traumatized in childhood. They associate love and connection with pain. Others may have been mocked and demeaned – this particularly happens with boys – because they expressed their feelings and were told they were weak. We can dissociate from our feelings for less traumatic reasons, too. When we spend much of our lives attempting to please others, we’re not self-focused enough to know our own needs. Another way we sever our connection to true feelings is when we work really hard to cultivate an image and deny our authenticity. Regardless of how it happened, if we’re cut off from our feelings, we’ve cut ourselves off from our humanity. This is how anxiety and depression start.

In his book, How to Be an Adult, David Richo calls this state of disconnection neurotic fear. Neuroses is a psychological term that goes back to Freud. It’s an overarching description that basically means uncertainty in our sense of Self. Richo states that this neurotic fear is an indicator that we have not maturely integrated all aspects of who we are. “Fear is the opposite of love,” he writes, “because it is totally conditional. It keeps us out of the water; it excludes. Love is all-inclusive. To say that love casts out fear is to say that unconditional and conscious integration has triumphed over ignorance and inhibition.”

The basis of addiction and other destructive behavior comes from a fear of feelings. People who have suffered trauma have a hard time connecting love with peace. They misconstrue the ferocity of their experiences for feelings. They become numb on one hand, yet seeking intensity through drugs, sex, dangerous experiences, abusive relationships on the other hand. Intensity is a high. It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s not feeling.

Feelings are so much more. They’re deeper, yet more subtle. They’re like colors. They’re the energy of warmth, pulsation, friction and calm. We must allow ourselves the experience all of these colors and energies in order to be fully alive and integrated with Self. If we deny ourselves the so-called uncomfortable sensations of sadness, loss or anger, we’re also leaving out happiness, joy, and peace. Feelings are a package deal.

It’s important to begin a dialogue with our feelings. Listening deeply and embracing our own truth is the most freeing experience we can have. Within the complexity of our feelings is great splendor. It’s the Yellow Brick Road, the Hero’s Journey of life. We may not know exactly where we’re going, but we need to trust that the journey will get us there if we just put one foot in front of the other. Journaling, the use of art, talking it out or just sitting and allowing the sensation of the feeling to run through us are several ways to process these feelings. Combining all of these techniques to reconnect are the best ways. Some people are more tactile and need to process physically (dance, exercise, walks in the woods). Some need to use image (finger painting or other creative endeavors), some need to verbalize (talking it out with friends or therapists) and some need to understand what they are feeling on an intuitive level before they can share (journaling, reading self-help books or art).

Like energy, feelings need to move. Even to sit in stillness and allow the sensation of the feeling to work through our bodies and to determine where we feel this sensation, is movement. Some fear if they do this they’ll explode. That’s not the case. You can only “explode” when pressure is applied. And when we stuff feelings down into a proverbial sack by ignoring them, we’re creating pressure for ourselves that will generate depression or anxiety. Finding the best way for you to flow, for you to identify and feel the sensations of what you’re feeling, will help you reintegrate and reclaim the sacredness that is your Self. ~ Cheryl Lewallen, M.Ed, LPC

Artwork by Deborah Koff-Chapin