Saturday, October 29 2011
Embracing Dark Feelings
In preparation for an upcoming intensive retreat with Richard Moss, whose work I've been following for nearly 20 years, I've been re-reading his latest book, Inside-Out Healing. In chapter 8, he discusses dark feelings and the role they play in psychological and spiritual deepening. According to Richard, dark or abysmal feelings "are part of the ingenious way in which our souls help us to evolve; therefore, experiencing them is intrinsic to deep healing." (p. 159)
For most of us, the tendency is to run from these "untamed" feelings, to avoid them through busy lives and busy minds – compulsively thinking, repeating old stories that keep us in familiar, and often unhappy, territory. While it's not easy to do so, our willingness to stay gently present with the mystery and physicality of raw feeling lies at the core of the heroic journey. In spiritual mythology, the hero descends into the underworld of psyche, faces inner demons and returns transformed – empowered, cleansed, comfortable in her own skin.
"The underworld is a gateway to the God within who is forever without a face or name. You cannot descend to the darkness without being carried up into the light, and you cannot realize the light without being called to descend into darkness. All feeling is mysterious, but in the lower realms in particular, some part of you knows that you are meeting what is and will always be beyond you as an ego or separate self. If you can meet the abysmal feelings with awareness instead of letting your ego take over, in that meeting you are reborn." (p. 158)
"Make it a practice to turn directly toward any disturbing feeling, whether it is just a kind of restlessness or a deep sense of threat, and clear your mind of any thoughts. Steadily 'touch' the feeling with a soft inner gaze. Remain spacious, extending your senses far beyond your immediate location, and open your intuition to the limitless expanse of being. Keep relaxing without losing the sense of readiness.
"This does not protect you from the abysmal feelings; you do feel them. You need to feel them because they are part of being human and can deepen your humanity. But not joining with any thought about them keeps you from letting your ego disguise the dark feelings by turning them into guilt, anger, terror, or self-loathing. Moreover, when you can make space for the dark feelings, you discover that they are never as terrible to experience as the psychological misery your ego creates with its stories about what is wrong with you." (p. 163)
Friday, October 21 2011
Sometimes the writing flows effortlessly; sometimes, like now, it's a bit more work. What follows is a meander, a little slice of life with surprises and contrasts and a rhythm of its own. I'm reminded of life's invitation to make room for it all, even when it doesn't fit tidily together.
Instead of hiking all three days of our recent extended weekend on the north shore of Lake Superior, Joanie and I decided to spend our first afternoon exploring the Canal Park area of Duluth. We wandered in and out of shops, browsing a bunch and buying little. In one shop, I found a beautiful little book of photos and verse authored by a local photographer and writer – a perfect Christmas gift for my dear friend and business partner, Kirk Lamb. Ten minutes later, book in bag, as we browsed camping equipment in the original Duluth Pack store, in walks the aforementioned Dr. Lamb. That we would bump into him at that moment, in a good-sized city well over 100 miles from home, astonished me. I alternated between babbling and standing there speechless.
The next day, Joanie and I hiked over nine miles on a stretch of the Superior Hiking Trail located within the Duluth city limits – a most interesting and varied hike. It began on a mile or so of boardwalk along the lake, moved steeply uphill on neighborhood sidewalks, then into woods along a high ridge overlooking the city, down a long stretch of creek bed, down a long, narrow lane that divided the city's two main cemeteries and back into the woods again to the edge of Duluth, where we called a cab for the trip back to our hotel.
We saw mansions on the ridge and boarded-up houses and buildings down below. We noticed two girls picnicking in a parking lot on a tattered blanket protecting them from the asphalt. We passed bare maples, dormant for winter, and stands of birch with green leaves galore. We witnessed the drama of a screeching mouse trying to escape the clutches of a hawk, thrashing in the bush as he hunted his prey and, eventually, flying away mouse-less. Later on the trail, we came upon a sad scene: a recently deceased 4-point buck, who apparently made it back to the woods after being hit by a car.
There was life, death and escape from death, poverty and wealth, the ordinary and extraordinary, the joy of watching Joanie's catlike movements as she stalked birds with binoculars raised, the easy flow of our being together, the water, the woods and the wind – lots and lots of wind. It was our constant companion that day, a steady 15-20 knots, gusting to 30 or 40 at times. On a couple occasions, the approaching gusts sounded like a freight train moving through the treetops. I remember once wondering if a waterfall were nearby.
The day before, as I perused Kirk's Christmas present, one of the poems, entitled "The Wind", caught my attention, prompting me to buy the book. That next day, as Joanie and I hiked in the wind, I noted the synchronicity and decided to share our experience and the poem with you.
Taking your chances with the wind
means you have to be prepared
for the parts of you that are
as well as
Wednesday, October 05 2011
In last week's posting, I mentioned a brief autobiography I recently wrote in preparation for a mentoring program with Richard Moss. With just a tad of trepidation, I'd like to share a passage from that writing, a story revealed only to a few folks so far.
I spent a number of years, studying with Master Chunyi Lin, moving through the four levels of Spring Forest QiGong, a marvelous approach to healing he developed. In contrast to yoga, which I've tried and failed at a number of times, QiGong quickly resonated with me – as did Master Lin, who teaches that underneath all the techniques he offers, what really heals is Love. Kindness, forgiveness, and unconditional love are at the heart of his approach.
One thing that did not resonate at first was his recommendation that we call upon a master to assist us in doing healings. He'd mention Jesus or Buddha or Lao Tzu as examples. I had pulled away from Jesus some time ago, and the idea of a master seemed too hierarchical to me, so I didn't pay much attention. In the level-three retreat, during a two-hour meditation, he came to each person to do a healing. I was having a great meditation when I felt his touch on my cheek. Instantly, right in front of my face, appeared the face of Jesus. I knew immediately: There's my master. That's whom I call upon now, when I'm doing a healing or just need some guidance.
A year or two later, I was doing a two-hour meditation with a growth group I facilitate. About halfway through, I silently asked to see the face of Jesus. Instantly, just like before, an image appeared. This time, to my amazement, it was my face – my laughing, joyful face. And, immediately, I realized: Each of us is Jesus. I'm not talking here about the historical Jesus, but about a spiritual essence, oneness with God, at the core of our being.
Reminds me of my favorite quote from Richard: "We are, already, that which we seek."