Extreme healing work produces extreme states, a lot of them. You may feel raw, vulnerable, too open, hypersensitive, spacey — and that would only describe your condition after the actual work, which itself could be much more intense. You may end some days feeling like a noticeably different person than the one who started it. One experience I have had many times, because of the nature of my traumas, is the sense of not being a person, of not having any stable anchor anywhere in the universe, the experience of a void beyond any concept or identifiable feeling. Learning to relax, experience that fully and dwell in it comfortably required some practice.
The demands of dealing with these states will amplify the weak spots, the fault lines of your living situation. Any tension in key relationships, economic or professional uncertainty, lack of a firm connection to a place, social isolation or inflexible calls for your attention will be perceived by you as greater dangers. Any one of these could compromise your work or bring it to a full stop. When we approach the core issues of our lives, the bargains we have struck, the compromises we have made in order to get by come under a glaring light.
I am still learning to take care of myself in some basic ways and am in no position to give life lessons. I only offer here a few observations of functional laws that govern psychic energy regardless of a person’s level of mastery. These natural but subtle laws are observable. The deeper you delve into this work, the more sensitive you become to them and the harder it is to fool yourself with rationalizations and dogmas. Subtle energy and its behaviors become tangible.
The first remark is that my life is trying to help me diagnose my core issues through whatever is not working in it. This detective approach is described in more detail in stalking the ego. Finding diamonds in the mud begins right there, in cultivating an attentive student’s attitude in front of the vicissitudes of life. This approach should include the unexpected and even the tragic. Theoretically at least, the greater the disruption of my routine, the higher the potential for learning transforming lessons.
I do not mean that you should expect perfect equanimity and mastery from yourself. A simple attitude of friendly openness to the idea that the universe is your guru can take you a long way — it is not part of our hypercontrolling culture.
Some of these laws and the ways to work with them to accelerate our evolution are described in other pages like this one [complete, complete, complete]. Here is more.
When two people are in an important relationship to each other and one of them is more ‘advanced’ in terms of presence and commitment to evolution, the ‘higher’ person will tend, over time, to pull the other one up and the ‘lower’ person will tend, over time, to pull the other one down. There will be resistance and suffering on both sides.
When we become aware of this fact, we may work on cleaning up our lives by severing the relationships that slow us down and seeking new ones with partners who are compatible in terms of evolution. This is all very legitimate, but when children are involved, the ground rules completely change. Essentially, the kids run the show and strategizing for personal development must become subordinate to a larger project. The very idea of managing our life to maximize our opportunities becomes irrelevant. Clinging to it will increase the suffering in the situation and will not produce the hoped-for positive outcomes. There is a greater force at work and we ignore it at our peril.
Existing family systems — your family of origin or the family you created — can be understood from this energetic perspective through meditation, with or without entheogens. The pulling-up and pulling-down patterns can be recognized and you can extricate yourself from any situation that contains chronic resistance or opposing forces locked in a stasis. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the outer situation will change. The liberation ‘only’ happens within, but the clarity you gain leads to the skill to make the fine distinctions and delicate choices the situation requires.
Engaging in transformational work while turning one’s attention away from the family field can only lead to frustration or worse. We need to encounter our demons where they live. For example, some people receive a new name from a guru or choose one for themselves. Avoiding the discomfort they felt when hearing their given name will prevent big gains from occurring. Those feelings, however painful, are a highly fertile soil for real transformation. They should be bravely engaged through therapy, meditation, writing, art and by any means necessary.
See also the systemic view.
Our ‘civilization’ is founded on an overarching mythos of indefinite improvement, also known as progress. In fact, on close observation, this culture is unfriendly to genuine improvement. What really happens when things improve is a fascinating question to me. There seems to be a letting go, an accepting, a release which is energetically antagonistic to the obsessive control we usually associate with making things better.
When healing occurs, there is a sense of lightening up and spaciousness. We notice the absence of a previously familiar weight. This is a crucial phase that can easily be neglected in the elation of the moment. The problem is described in this gospel parable:
“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.” When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26)
This dynamic can be experienced firsthand and it has very practical implications. When healing occurs, it is not the past hurt that goes away; it is our identification with it, our holding on to it. This absence of the familiar can generate a sense of spaciness, of ‘nobodyness.’ Disorientation and anxiety can follow.
The empty space that the negative energy pattern left behind must be filled — with new projects and goals, with an investigation of the next layer that just got uncovered, with happy, positive living experiences and, enclosing all this, with the sense that your life is about something. Without it, I would have been buried under the weight of my pain a long time ago.
This is critical. We live in a deeply disturbed culture and the seven wicked spirits will not waste any time.
Obviously, having a community or sangha of like-minded people is a big asset. When the healing work gets intense, we start noticing the impact of our relationships and straining at those that are not aligned with our project.
Protecting our gains without slipping into defensiveness is an art form in itself. Another powerful tool is ritual. Not just healing ceremonies, but simple rituals to punctuate the main transitions of the day, a few opening words for meals, keeping a personal altar, all this can help preserve our sense of presence and neutralize the ambient trend towards unconsciousness. So many of the activities and products of our ‘civilization’ seem designed for distraction and mental entropy.
With all the material abundance we have created, we live in a culture of lack. Getting what we don’t have is meant to be our prime motivator, and it bleeds even into our efforts to free ourselves from that trap. That is known as spiritual materialism. Perhaps sadly, in order to be able to let go and really have contentment, it helps to be rich and not have to work for a living. For the rest of us, dealing with the realm of work and money provides some of the most demanding training, as it will constantly restimulate experiences of lack. The good news is that if we attempt to stay awake in the presence of all those trigger points, there is no need to take classes or follow teachers: all the learning is right there, at our fingertips.
Working with daily upsets to enhance awareness is not a new idea. When we are engaged in a detailed investigation of the heavy stuff in our lives, we add dimension to this practice — every little issue is thematically linked to a larger issue and there is meaning to be found everywhere.
It could be said that when we get to the heart of the matter our main struggle is between holding on and letting go. At that point, the ability to lighten up — a genuine sense of humor — becomes priceless. I once thought I had plenty of it. Now I see it as as another skill to practice as a beginner, like the rest of it.
Keep it flowing is another mantra expressing the same principle. Music, dance and anything else that helps you bring that principle to life are powerful allies.
Finally, there is a kind of tightrope to walk between firmness of intention and the great lesson of kindness to ourselves. Discipline without harshness, determination allied with gentleness… a beautiful challenge.
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