September 23, 2012 · 6:44 am
Two months ago I had my last session of psychotherapy. After 5 years of regular analysis there was a deep reluctance to let go and to move on. We had been through so much together. The last few sessions were both awkward and anxiety producing but an ever growing part of me was becoming aware of my desire to embrace my own personal inner calling. Although I had discovered so much about myself during analysis, I needed to emancipate myself from this mental duality with my therapist and work alone.
Going it alone reminded me of an experience I had when I was 12 years old. I was hiking on the moors with a boy scout group on a survival exercise. We were reaching the stage where a few of us would eventually have to depart from the leaders, and the rest of the pack, and camp on our own for 2 days and nights. I was both anxious and excited at the same time. As soon as we waved goodbye to the pack and went our own way, my eyes seemed to widen and I took on this new type of energy, I knew that I was solely responsible for myself and the other boys, and each step that I took after departing was mindful and steady as I realised that I had no-one to fall back on. I had a similar feeling after leaving analysis.
It is only you who can create awareness in yourself. A master, teacher or psychotherapist can help you to initiate the change you are seeking, but for genuine transformation, you must walk your own path. To start with we have to have enough of a ‘self’ to ‘help’, so initially walking our own path can be aided by a teacher of some kind. After therapy, I began to practice yoga and meditation once again. Almost every morning I would wake up and begin my practice without fail. I realised that my ego and my continuous self-talk, as well as a tendency to live in the past or future, were a evasive force and I needed to counter that peace breaker with something opposite, present and real. This daily practice also included mindfulness in many small ways. Many times during the day I would bring myself back to my breathing and the present moment. I knew that this was all I had to do and the future would work itself out. A new faith emerged from my practice and when I meditated I invited the dark thoughts and fears in to ask them what it is that I could do to to help.
An example of this practice happened when I was meditating about my son. I began psychotherapy after my son was born, and for the last 5 years I have been through a long and painful struggle in order to gain more access to him. I became aware while meditating that there was also a 5 year old boy in me that I needed contact with too. I spoke to that boy and asked him what I could do to help. He told me he had no-one to play with and that no-one cared for him so I held his hand and promised he would never be alone again. With this experience, I realised that I had a strong desire to save myself, in turn, by saving my son. My intention became clear after that, I knew what I had to do.
Only the moment you reject all help are you freed ~ Buddha
June 5, 2012 · 9:34 am
I want to leave therapy knowing that I have done the work. I want to leave having covered all the bases, spanning right back to my early childhood. I want to leave therapy blossoming, knowing that I understand myself so much more. This notion of mine is probably the reason why I haven’t left therapy and why I am now approaching 5 years with my current analyst. Part of ourselves can trap us in this search for perfection and complete understanding. How can we possibly know ourselves fully when we are continually changing. We cannot ever know ourselves fully, and searching for some kind of ‘completion of oneself’ is a form of controlling behaviour, as part of us is not willing to accept that life is chaotic. The mystery of life is acceptable as far as the heart is concerned, but the head will always try and think it’s way around the bumps and curves, and for the mind this constant thinking exercise will be never ending. You can’t blame the thinking mind for doing what it does as that is it’s job. You could say that all that is real happens in the heart, and all that is not happens in the mind. However, the mind has to think sometimes so that we can complete certain daily tasks and our heart may need to stay out of the way, especially living in Western society. A harmonious balance between both worlds feels correct.
My thinking and philosophical mind has certainly expanded and deepened over the last 5 years, and in my therapists words he has said; “You are an extremely creative thinker”. I left that particular session (thinking once again), that if I am a creative thinker, I must spend much of my time thinking and not feeling, which is what I tend to do. Thinking is very protective. Thinking can shroud our emotions and feelings like a non-porous membrane. An obvious example of this constant thinking is when we think of a person in our lives who is dear to us. We can all be guilty of attempting to work this person out by thinking about the thousands of possibilities they may be thinking or feeling. What is more important is how that person makes us feel. Once again the mind is trying to control things, it even attempts to control another’s thinking and feeling.
The reason I entered therapy in the first place is that I was lost. A part of me had overshadowed another part and I was out of balance, lop-sided and anxious. At that point in my life I needed some help and support and our therapeutic journey began. However, by staying with a therapist, teacher or master for a long while, on some level we are enabling the kind of self talk that got us into difficulties in the first place to continue. We are once again engaging in another pattern of reasoning and debate, focusing on our sad and bad issues. I am not saying that therapy is damaging or that it is not conducive for awareness and happiness. What I am saying is that too much of anything can be counter productive, and the difficult part of our therapeutic work is knowing when both the heart and mind need to move on and go it alone. Perhaps when we leave, that is where therapy really begins.
February 19, 2012 · 4:52 pm
People will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid facing their inner darkness and demons, and why shouldn’t they? Who would want to wage such a watchful and unfailing war against the false self in the name of attainment? Why should we aim for something when we have no evidence at all that it exists? Perhaps, us would be soldiers in the cause of truth, have no other choice. Our lifelong search is not something that can be explained, only something that can be lived. When we have witnessed the sweet taste of truth, there is no way back but foreword.
There is no greater challenge facing us than for us to look inside and allow our spiritual freedom to take flight. After all, all else is an illusion. Inner freedom cannot be attained externally, it is already within us, and lies dormant until we release it. This reminds me of a Rastafarian friend of mine who once said to me “you can’t learn to love yourself, just love yourself”. love is already inside we just have to release it. So what gets in the way of our spiritual freedom, what challenges our inner peace and harmony? Our dis-harmony is down to where we are, and where we think we want to be. If these two places were the same, we would be in harmony. Unfortunately it is more complicated than this, as although we may know in our hearts where we want to be, we may not be fully conscious of where we truly are to start with.
Take relationships for instance. A friend of mine teaches Thai Chi and over the last 6 months he has found himself increasingly attracted to one of his students. As in all matters of the heart, he watches her carefully, and has come up with all kinds of stories about who this woman is, without truly knowing. He imagines that his student will be able to fill the void inside of him and make him whole. He has created these stories in his head because his head likes to create elaborate fantasies and attachments. Therefore, from the very start, he was not fully aware of who he was, so how could he expect this woman to provide the spiritual harmony and freedom that he so desired. Interestingly, when he found out that his desire for her was not reciprocated, even more internal stories were created about how he may have handled the situation better to win her affections. So why did his mind create this diversion? Because it knows that the true self does exist, and it does not want to set the true self free, as the mind or ego would loose its power. This is the war we are waging. But by being conscious and aware of where the mind likes to go, we can watch it grasp things, something the mind will always do, and we can then let them go.
In as much as my friend may have grasped mentally for love we also cannot grasp mentally for spiritual freedom. Paradoxically when we let the idea of freedom go it is then allowed to be our friend. Space is allowed to be space when we do not fill it with internal chatter and projections about the future. If we can cleanse our hearts of selfishness, hate, and greed and serve others, this will help our true selves to unfold. By helping others we help ourselves. Much of the time we fear this letting go as we believe we may fall, or not attain what we think we need. We may also believe that if we give our time to others we will not have enough left for ourselves. The path to spiritual freedom is very individual and personal and we have to make our own way through the forest. If we follow another’s path it may lead us in their direction, not ours. If we lead with our hearts on the long journey, we can be sure we are going in the right direction, and we will never tire of the search as our hearts never grow old.
I am so small I can barely be seen. How can this great love be inside me? ~ Rumi
October 18, 2011 · 6:37 pm
My therapist, who I now like to call my ‘spiritual guide’, has an uncanny way of tuning in and summarising or pinpointing exactly where I am at, especially when I am trying to explain or describe a particularly new sensation that may be beyond words. He sensed today that I was ‘at home’ on the couch which is exactly how I felt. I was glued to the couch today, akin to the grounding one feels when meditating or in deep relaxation, my eyes were fixed on the white cotton clouds that I could see through the window for the entire time. Today’s session had no agenda, nothing specific was discussed or worked through, we simply took a leisurely stroll with our conversation among the many gaps of silence which were like long deep relaxing breaths. It produced a beautiful image in me of a Mother and baby relaxing together, where the baby is happily kicking it’s legs and doing it’s own thing, and the Mother is simply being and not interrupting the babies flow. I think I may have been influenced by Winnicott in this case.
This longing to ‘come home’ is what so many of us strive towards. However many of us feel ‘away from home’ much of the time. We are all searching for something that is already within us that has been lost somewhere along our paths. This does not mean that we all have the potential of continuously being at home, in some kind of enlightened state or ‘Ānanda’ as some Buddhists may call it. However enlightened one is, I believe that we all have certain tendencies developed in our past that tend to rear up over certain issues, which is why acceptance of who we truly are is essential. I often try to be a more spiritual and enlightened person but what is that exactly? It’s just and idea. All I am capable of is being aware when something uncomfortable arises and noticing it for what it is and staying with it rather than trying to fight it off. As soon as I engage my old stories and patterns of attachment to a particular way of feeling I land myself in trouble. ‘I should not feel like this’ or ‘why is this happening again’ only reinforce these old patterns, as well reinforcing my neurological pathways. An example of this is the morning my Father died. I remember, just after I received the news, I walked to the window and watched some kid’s playing happily outside and thought, how can they play joyfully when this is happening!
Developing your own style of daily practice is essential for healing. Tara Brach said on mindfulness, that for some suffering with trauma, practising mindfulness and breathing may cause a sense of suffocating. There are ways of practicing that may suit you better. For myself, yoga has been a wonderful practice but right now I am practising Chi-walking around nature, mixed with prayer and meditation, just because it feels right to me. I seemed to stumble upon this almost by accident and this is where I seek refuge at times when I feel exacerbated. This daily practice is slowly developing into something very lucid for me and helps me to be more centred and free when faced with uncomfortable emotions. It is one thing meditating and practicing and another thing to stay focused when faced with daily experiences that put you on the spot. As Jack Cornfield said ‘If you can always find contentment just where you are, you are probably a dog’. The idea of being a perfect spiritual human being can only lead to feelings of failure. It is though the unconscious knows this and almost sets you up to fail. There are plenty of other things outside daily orthodox practice that can help us like music, art or film which may give us a new sense of purpose and hope. We are individuals and we can engage in being compassionate to our own unique way of living, even if this is not how we planned it.