Psychic Surgery

For the last few years, I’ve been experiencing what, to work a metaphor, I’m going to call “symptoms” of a psychic wound from my childhood.  It’s a wound around sex and sexuality that has been deeply bound in psychic scar tissue.  This scar tissue has acted as a deadening agent, a protection from accidental re-injury or activation.  The last fifty years allowed a lot of scar tissue to accumulate, for the psychic body to develop a somatic relationship to the wound in which it has been as if asleep.

Then came awakening.  With awakening as consciousness came the slow awakening of many parts of myself, countless and previously unknown parts.  Some of these parts brought ecstatic enlightenment to my Being.  Some brought quiet joy. Others brought pain that radiated out from the essential wound of incarnation, of being in a body.  Some of these parts are small and mundane, others are large and consequential.

About two years after awakening as consciousness, I took a long and quite activating telecourse with Waking Down in Mutuality founder, Saniel Bonder called “Let’s Talk Sex.”  For me, the course opened the door to the way sex and sexuality have been shadow parts of my Being, parts that are acting on me without my awareness.  My Trillium Awakening teacher Sandra Glickman has said “we are governed by what we can’t see.”  How true that is.

I’ve often used the metaphor of a splinter in talking about psychic woundedness.  It’s as if early life events, conditions and patterns lodge in our Being, some of them quite deeply, and once their trajectory inward stops, and they come to rest, they begin a trajectory in the other direction, back out toward light propelled by the body’s psychic antibodies that form a pocket of pus around them, sometimes with swelling, irritation and pain until they work their way up to the surface level where they can potentially be removed.  Sometimes they shoot out on their own accord, like a birth.  Even if they come out on their own, they leave a trace of their passing, a trail, a residue of awareness.  But sometimes they are obstructed and require the assistance of a skilled practitioner.

My wound material has been under the skilled care of a team of practitioners.  I first spoke of the wound with my core teacher, Allan Morelock.  He’s both my spiritual GP and a highly skilled specialist. He held the revelations without judgment and offered a salve of love and acceptance.  The Let’s Talk Sex course community was a collective massage team that prodded around the wound awakening its field of feelings: pain, distress and confusion.  Over time, the confusion gave way to a pressure to acknowledge the nature of the wound, which for the first time in my life, I spoke to my Beloved partner, revealing the people, places and actions that caused the wound.  Since then, the scar tissue of the wound has softened, parts of it have been metabolized into my Being.

But the deeper parts have been more stubborn.  They have required a commitment from me, welcoming them forward.  I say it’s been a commitment from me, but of course, it’s not been me at all; it’s been the flow of Being, bringing around events and realizations, revelations that have created space around and shed light on what has been buried for so long.  It has brought me into the transmission field of teachers whose skills with healing are both mysterious and effective.  The Shamanic healers Cielle and Jeffrey Backstrom peeled away the layers of dead and decaying matter between the wound and its healing.  They’ve created the space for and called in those who are the wisdom keepers for my life.  These keepers have revealed some of the conditions that led to my wounding and as importantly the patterns that caused it to fester, darken and limit.  They’ve brought me to readiness for surgery.

Last night, I entered the operating theater via a Skype session that brought me face to face with the psychic surgeon, Allan Morelock.  There’s a way that being in the transmission of these deeply embodied spiritual teachers, Sandra, Cielle, Jeffrey, and Allan, slices through my resistance to exploration.  In their loving, laser-like gaze there is neither a need nor a place to hide. My relationship with these teachers, especially Allan who mid-wifed my awakening, is deep.  The trust is bedrock.  The loving care, the truth telling, are utterly reliable and inescapable.

Meeting Allan last night, entering his transmission field stripped me down to the deepest, ickiest place in my wound. Through conversation, we unpacked it and bathed it in light.  He guided me into a meditative state in which we could lift out each piece of the wound, both the “story” of what happened, and the ways in which the conditions and patterns of my life have caused it to fester over decades.  He held it all in the light of loving investigation, of forgiveness and release.  He drew the whole gaping wound out of my body, left a large, tender spaciousness in its place.  In the hours to follow, in recovery mode, I rested in the pain of healing.  I was exhausted with the work of Being more fully alive.

This morning, in meditation, the palliative care of body, mind and spirit, I rested in the ongoing healing of my wound.  I rested in awareness of its long history, our long relationship, the dance of accommodation.  I acknowledge the way that relationship is changing through the healing process.  Sandra Glickman has famously said “wounds formed in relationship can only be healed in relationship.”  And in my experience this is true of all healing.

There’s a way that the depth of wounding is matched by the length of healing.  What we bring in with us when we enter this fleshly experience of our Being, what we accumulate from the early days can take the rest of our days to integrate.  There’s a way in which being alive in this human body is the core wound of experience.  When we awaken as embodied consciousness, we enter into the dance of healing, of mediating the distance and dissonance of Being and Body, which are both one and separate.  Like Michelangelo’s iconic depiction of the outstretched fingers of God and Man, these bodies are a constant ache toward the eternal.

Equanimity for the Transient

It’s a brilliantly cold day here today.  Up to a whopping 12 degrees with a wind chill of 7.  The sky is bright blue with hints of cloud spread around the edges, jet trails, mare’s tails, dry brush strokes of white that striate the blue.  It’s still technically morning, a few minutes to noon as I write this.  Morning, noon, night, hour, minute, month, year, all these abstract concepts that we lay upon our experience to try to rein it in, keep it in our “control.”  It is, of course, New Year’s eve, the last day of this construct known as 2014.

And even though it is a construct, a concept, it’s useful in its way.  We are not cut loose in timelessness, merged with the continuum of time and space.  We are here, somewhere, in these bodies that, like their sisters the plants, turn daily toward the sun for guidance, for nourishment, and then toward the dark for rest. And the days come and go and come and go, as the moments come and go and come and go, each one a realization: I am here.  I am this.  I am.

I am in a place of deeper translucence these days, a place of abiding joy, which has no opposite.  I was thinking earlier on my drive back from town, from yoga, coffee, groceries, about an article I read once about “The Happiest Man Alive.”  It was about a Buddhist monk, a Frenchman I think, who had spent the last twenty or so years of his life meditating about 20 minutes every day.  I remember envying him his happiness and at the same time considering the differences between living in the robe in a monastery and living in the myriad relationships of the wider world.  Today, the gap has all but disappeared.  Every life has its heavy lifting, even in the monastery.

I heard a story once from a Buddhist teacher of mine, who had herself, spent a few decades in the Thai Forest tradition.  It was about a monk in her order, a former US Marine, who had found his way from a tough youth to the military, and from the military to the war Southeast Asia, and from the war to the monastery.  There was in the order another monk who had a habit of sitting too close to the former Marine, usurping his space.  One day, at the end of his tether, the Marine called out the other monk–let’s take it outside, so to speak.  As they squared off in anger, the Marine monk suddenly stopped and looking at his raised fists dropped them into a namaskar mudra and a bow.  The monks embraced and went back to their meal.

It’s a good story, and one that speaks volumes about the challenges of being in one of these “meat suits,” this super sensitive bodymind with its millions of neurons and nerves firing non-stop day in and day out.  It’s about awareness and energy, about the need to embody what arises, to let it have its say and at the same time leaning into the way our own emotions, our anger, say, is ours alone, and the way what we encounter moment by moment is our teacher.

My teacher, Allan Morelock, says that equanimity is this realization.  That when we are in this moment with complete awareness, whatever the moment contains, whether pain or pleasure, that awareness is equanimity, and equanimity is joy, which has no opposite.  The mirror does not, as in the fairy tale, tell you whether you are beautiful or not.  It only reflects what is presented to it.  Where our conditioned experience meets the mirror, there can be a huge distance between subject and object.  Allan says they are one.  You are only as beautiful as you feel.  Coming to this truth requires us to relax into all the old stories, all the old patterns, resting in their deep discomfort.  After years of self judgment, denial, criticism, anger, bitterness, if we can rest in the truth of our woundedness, our vulnerability, then we can rest in our beauty, our innocence.

Wherever you are today, in balmy warmth or frigid cold, whether in pain or in ease, in community or in solitude, may you gaze into the mirror of your heart and find the truth of your beauty.  May you have joy in this moment and all the moments to come.

The Unfathomable Mystery of Being

I would be a liar if I said my life were without layers. One moment seamless well-being and ease, and another moment deep discomfort and existential pain.

Today, at the school where I work, two girls, close friends for most of their short seven and eight year old lives, had an altercation. None of the adults witnessed it. Suddenly there were tears and recriminations. Neither girl denied her actions, the sharp elbows into another’s ribs and the subsequent slap in the face. One of the teachers, as is our way, took the girls away from the rest of the group and asked them to talk to each other about what happened. No one lectured them about the inappropriateness of aggressive physical contact. They know about that. They each spoke from the feeling of the moment. There was anger. There were hurt feelings. There was an apology and an opportunity to speak further about the issue. Then they went off together back to class.

In itself, this is a somewhat unique story. And I offer it as an example of how unfathomable we are to ourselves and to each other.

Life has layers. I’ve been in an ongoing conversation that I mentioned in an earlier post with an east coast friend about the nature of suffering. And in my experience, we all suffer in some way from time to time. Simply being incarnated, being in this physical realm, can be quite painful, and that pain can cause suffering, even for those of us who have realized the Self. What changes is our relationship to the suffering. It takes on a sort of simplicity, free from story and ideation. Often it comes up right alongside our realization of its source in the still undigested bits of our conditioned existence. To deny that we suffer in this way is to deny our humanity.

In my experience, as in the story I recounted above, all relationships open the door to the unfathomable mystery of the self and the other. Now some may say “there is no Other!” And there’s a way in which that is true. And at the same time, paradoxically, there are 7 billion incarnated beings on this Earth, and each one of them appears to the body mind on some level as “other.” When we encounter this other, it is an encounter with the Self. Whatever we experience with them is being experienced within the self. It’s a mirror showing us something about our own particular path in this life. In the account above, the girls experienced a paradox of relationship. In loving there is also irritation. There is shadow. In relationship, there is separation and merging, irritation and bliss. We can’t have one without the other.

One of the most beautiful things about the altercation between these two schoolgirls was the fierce anger of the one and the heartbreak of the other. Children are transparent. They have not learned how to dissemble, not completely. And what I loved in watching their exchange was that they were willing to be fully present with what arose. “You made me mad.” “You hurt my feelings.” It was clean and simple. No one pretended that they felt other than they did.

The further I go on this path of embodied awakening, the more I realize how little I know. Nothing is static. Everything is changing. I don’t know my Self, my partner, my family, my friends. I experience them. In the moment. Being is continually unfolding, painting itself, as my beloved teacher Allan Morelock has said, on us in each moment. We must awaken to this truth. We must awaken to its its iridescent beauty of emergence. Its unfathomable mystery.

The Drunken Poet of Being

It all starts with movement. Every day, we move, but how do we move? Do we move to the inner workings of our arising Being nature, or do we move to the thoughts of our minds?

There’s a grace in leaning into what arises. What is in the field? That is what is. Once the mind draws back from its agenda of expectations–what should be–to what is, movement becomes fluid.

I dreamed recently that I was walking somewhere with a very drunk celebrity of some sort, let’s call him a poet. I could feel in every layer of my Being how delicious he felt, the way our bodies resonated with each other was like home. I felt my fingers touching his arm, his body along mine. It was a sort of rapture. Walking behind us was a tall, thin woman with her hair in a severe knot who kept leaning toward me saying “what are you doing? What are you doing?” And I said “It’s okay; I’m just playing with him.” And I meant that in the literal sense; we were at play. After that I woke up.

Recounting the dream later, I saw how the parts illustrated this concept of movement and expectation. Of Being and the desire to control Being. Being is the drunk poet with whom we can play in a delicious connection, and the mind is the severe voice of fear: what are you doing?

Of course, Being does not always arise in a way that is delicious. Just as often it arises in a way that is tortuous, or nauseating, or painful. Still, what I am realizing is that even this is a sort of gift. Once I lean into what is uncomfortable, there’s a kind of relaxation. I guess what I’m saying is that relaxation is relaxation. We can relax in a bed of feathers and we can relax on a bed of nails. Everything that we encounter is an experience. My teacher Allan Morelock recently said something along the lines that experience is Being’s way of showing it what it feels like to be alive.

This is an old teaching. It runs through most of the world’s great spiritualities: turn the other cheek, don’t create unnecessary suffering, understand that the world is illusion. And these teachings can be used either for good or for ill.

Awakening to our true Being nature gives us the continual opportunity to practice relaxation. What changes is not our experience of life but our relationship to those experiences. Relaxation is like surrender. You can’t “make” yourself–or anyone else more to the point–relax. It comes from within. It comes from a courageous heart.

There’s an important Vedic concept represented by the Sanskrit word: Hridayam. It’s a kind of onomatopoeia. Heart I am. Hridayam. That which nourishes the heart. We can best nourish the heart by feeding it what it needs.

There’s another old teaching. A sage told a boy that he had both a tiger and a lamb in his heart. Which is stronger, the boy asked? Whichever one I feed, he answered. So if you feed relaxation, relaxation will be stronger than resistance.

So when the Drunken Poet of Being shows up in the dream that is your life, walk with him. Relax. He knows where he is going.