Notes on the East, Mind, and the Story

This blog will go deeper into the east direction of healing as first written about in the blog entry, “The Defeat Story and the Transcending True Self.” Healing started in the north and you can read about that in the previous post.

East is the mind and here we can find the mindfulness practice that allows us to be witness to the story of defeat versus buying what it is selling. When we can watch the mental stories and the mind blah blah blahing while knowing true self is not the thoughts, we free ego from being enslaved to the story of defeat. This gives space for true self to rise up from the shadow and synthesize with the ego. No need to understand how this works. If you learn to watch your thoughts but not believe in them and if you learn how to be the witness to your mind but not identify with mind as self, the true self will rise, synthesize and become ego. The healing of the east is connected to the air, seeing the big picture like a wise eagle up in the sky.

I want to share my personal story of healing in the east. Back in 2010, when I was 38 years old, I had never meditated before minus a handful of times. I had done countless journeys inward in the form of creative visualizations and shamanic journeys. I had stared out the window and allowed my thoughts to reveal themselves in silence probably every day of my life. But I did not think I needed to meditate and I had no desire until my father suggested I try it when he noticed how much I was struggling with a certain issue in my life.

Smack dab in the middle of New York city, I closed my eyes and began the basic practice of watching my breath and noticing my thoughts pass like clouds through the sky of my mind. Beginners luck. Within just a few minutes a profound felt experience took me over. I could feel me being my breath and the thoughts not being me. Suddenly, I changed forever. I no longer believed my thoughts were true. I no longer felt my self to be what my thoughts were telling me I was through their stories and more deeply, I no longer felt thoughts themselves to be anything even close to who I was.

An emptiness seized me for weeks afterward as I would have thoughts about me or whatever topic rose up and every single thought seemed irrelevant. Not pointless or bad or wrong or any judgmental thing. Just a soft neutral irrelevance that left me feeling empty because I used to fully invest in my thoughts before that. I used to not have a sense of space between me and my thoughts. All of the sudden there was space and complete differentiation. Thoughts seemed nothing more than song on the radio.

I am very mental by temperament. I have seven air planets in my natal chart which represents mind. I am a huge meaning-maker. Eventually, I found my way back to the love and joy I experience for allowing my thoughts to have some weight. During that period in 2010, I would have said, “I have seven air planets in my chart, is just a thought. Astrology is just a thought. I am a meaning-maker is just a thought. None of it matters. I am, is just a thought.” and let it all go the moment those thoughts rose up in me. This is a path many take in life and it is beautiful and true in its own right. I swung back to the middle because my true self love for meaning-making led the way.

Every time I get too invested in thoughts I can return to that place and drop all identification with thinking and identities that thinking creates. To identify with your thoughts means to believe them as true and to believe what they tell you informs you about the nature of reality, self, or whatever you are thinking about. We use thoughts as a means to communicate and they have their purpose. Eventually I found the right balance for me in how much I invest in thoughts but I don’t identify with them at all anymore. I can blab on and on about my natal chart and how it makes sense of my internal experience and I also don’t identify with Astrology as a concept, at the same time. This is how it is with every mental understanding that I love and that gives me a strong felt sense. I love exploring the archetypes, they give me a strong self sense and I don’t identify with archetypes as concepts.

I identify with only a felt experience of being me. It’s wordless. It’s love if I have to give a word.

I share my story of east healing to show how quick it can happen to loosen the grip on the mind. When we over-identify with the stories our mind tells us, we suffer. Buddhism is rooted in the psychology of detaching identity from thought. We are not our thoughts. Even being a “me” is a thought and radical practice of this transcends sense of self past the individual level. We are not who we think we are.

Thoughts are not ours. We don’t make them up. Thoughts travel around and we catch them with our brains that are like nets catching butterflies. Or you can see the brain as a radio station and thoughts are the radio waves. Those of us who channel experience this consciously all the time. I turn my brain to a certain channel and channel a certain being.

The big idea (which is a thought too, so everything I explain in this blog is also moot) is that we are not the stories we tell ourselves and we don’t make up thoughts we think. Rather, the human being is a frequency channeling other frequencies in one big frequency being.

How is this healing?

Because, for example, when you let go of believing you are insecure and not good enough, space is created within. This space will naturally fill up with love. Love is the frequency of oneness that is the core power inside every single human being. Love is God. Love is Nature. Love is Universe. It’s the most natural thing in the world. Yet it is very easy to blotch out. If you spend all day trying to prove your worth in the eyes of others or chasing after projections of what you think will satisfy you or tell yourself you are a piece of poo or tell others they are a piece of poo or whatever story of pain and suffering you tell yourself, you blotch out the natural love that is the very core of existence.

I don’t use the word love like a hippie woo woo creature you can make fun of but you might make fun of me anyway. Let me remind you, love is strong. Love is childbirth, love is surviving abuse and war and starvation, love is saving a life, love is working through problem after problem, love is communicating truth, love is being honest, love is being open, love is being vulnerable, and love is being present. Love is hope. Love is the blood in the body and the gold of the soul. The west is where we feel this love. The east is where we clear space to feel this love.

I have not formally meditated in years. I do a vinyasa yoga practice that connects breath to movement and this keeps me centered so that I remain the witness of my thoughts. Four times a week. Chill. I have huge struggles in certain areas and I am not on any mountaintop when I share that being witness to my thoughts is something that comes easy to me. For you it may be harder and you may need to meditate daily to stay the witness. We all need a different kind of practice.

You can meditate by simply watching your breath and thoughts pass by while sitting in silence. You can watch your thoughts and breath while chanting, making something with our hands that does not require thought, or do some form of movement that allows you to watch thoughts and breath at the same time. You can meditate for five minutes a day or hours a day. Some ancient eastern practices make it complex and add all sorts of fancy breath work. There is a lot of variety to choose from and practices root back to the beginning.

True self rises from the west when we create space by not identifying with thoughts. This is my take on it, coming from a western point of view where I have consciously chosen to embrace the creative play of being an individual soul. I don’t believe in the individual soul as a static thing because as we lose the human suit we may become more collective and when I let go of all thought, I feel only oneness as the play of forces and form. I like to use all metaphysical concepts playfully, poetically and free to morph, as a result.

I feel the play of forces and form that is oneness choosing to put on the costume of the individual soul. Like the Russian doll image, I feel oneness as the core doll evolving through individuating itself into more and more specific life forms. I feel oneness evolve through creating stories of being different life forms. Just as humans stem from the single cell bacteria here on earth…I feel oneness as the spirit version of the single cell bacteria, continually evolving into more and more life forms. Metaphysical tangent.

True self is the authentic individual aching to emerge from the shadow of the ego where it waits for ego to make space for it to rise.

When space is created by not identifying with thoughts, true self can begin to rise and embody the conscious personality. True self is a felt experience and not a belief system. Why must I always express myself creatively? It’s my true self. Why am so sensitive and feel things with the volume way higher than most? It’s my true self. Why am I so spiritual? It’s my true self. It’s me beyond an idea of me. It’s living breathing me.

I was blessed to be raised by parents who did not tell me what to believe about who I am or life itself.  I was raised without religious or moral dogma. I was raised with a felt experience love, even through the dysfunction, abuse, and troubles youth delivered. This may have made it easier for me to know who I really am. I can only imagine the struggle for some who are raised with strong mental belief systems and dogma that forces them to repress their true nature at a young age to survive or be liked. I think about this especially for LGBTQIA kids and it breaks my heart that their true nature is made to be sinful and wrong by religion.

We all face the battle of true self versus conditioned self if we don’t align with our culture’s value system, on any level. Yet even if you are gender binary, christian, cis-male, straight, between the ages of 18 and 35, healthy, handsome, wealthy and educated with the cultural norm kissing your feet, you may equally battle discovering your true self because the world will mold your success so easily and distract you from looking within. However you are praised or marginalized by family and culture will inform how your true self is repressed or valued. Nature and nurture.

A certain true self temperament may not let any amount of cultural/family conditioning, abuse or trauma repress their true nature. Another temperament may crumble from the slightest thought of being humiliated. The reality of being oppressed, abused, or steered away through a strong value system put in place by family and tradition effects each individual in varying degrees. You can notice this in siblings who grow up in same household and culture but respond to external life in very distinct ways based upon their distinct internal experience. The distinct internal experience is the true self.

True self exists beneath and beyond thought but thought turns true self into a word and a concept. In the east, space is made between the felt experience and the thoughts that are always flooding in to costume the felt experience into a story. This story, when identified with, cements itself into the psyche and loops. This looping is called a neural pathway. The reason why we get stuck in habits of thinking and behavior roots itself in the way the neural pathway plays on repeat like forgetting to change the radio station and it always playing the same song, over and over. This is suffering.

 

 

The Dark Night of the Soul

I am compelled to write about the dark night of the soul because I am currently journeying through a dark night myself. The recent death of my mother was my entrance, this time around. We all take our turn in the dark night journey. Loss is the entrance. This may be a loss of a loved one to death, to the break-up of a relationship, loss of health to illness, loss of a job, loss of a home, loss of youth, loss of a dream….loss.

In astrology the dark night of the soul would be associated with Pluto, the planet of loss that happens out of your control that takes you to your knees in surrender. It is through this surrender that the soul transforms. In tarot, you could associate the dark night of the soul with the Death and The Hanged Man archetypes. The former applies to the actual loss, the latter to the journey that comes with the loss. If you pull these cards, you know it is your turn.

The dark night of the soul is not fun, easy, predictable, or known. Each time a person goes through it, it is their own unique journey. At the same time, the dark night of the soul is archetypal, universal, and collective. There are key elements we all experience when going through it. It’s helpful to know that you are not going insane and that nothing is wrong with you when you feel…

Hopeless, like nothing can lift your heart out of the shadows.

Despair, like you’ve fallen into an abyss and there is no light to be found.

Confused, like one minute you are in your every day life with your usual struggles and pleasures (no matter how intense they may present) and the next minute you’re in a different place emotionally. You feel feelings you cannot name. Your life does not seem to make sense.

Angry because you feel as if life unfairly took something important from you.

Judgmental of yourself because you are not functioning like your usual self and being vulnerable makes you feel embarrassed.

Like hiding or withdrawing because interacting with others makes you feel worse. Maybe you are envious of what they have that you have lost. Maybe you try to explain yourself but it makes you feel worse to do so. Maybe the contrast of your life against their life is too much to bare. Maybe you need silence. You don’t laugh as easy. You don’t feel chatty. You cannot care about their lives the way you normally do. You have very little to give.

Like escaping self-destructively into food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, television, or whatever thing or activity will act like a balm on the harsh feelings. Maybe you have an addiction issue and the dark night takes you to a new level of needing to surrender to not partake in your addiction. Maybe you don’t have an addiction issue but keep over doing it and feeling bad about yourself and struggle to find balance.

Like you can’t sleep or you sleep too much, your dreams are intense, you wake up each morning in a fog, you never feel truly rested.

And these are just a few of the feelings and experiences I am tapping into that we all share when in the dark night. The dark night is not a depression. It is a rite of passage.

Just know you are normal for experiencing all of the above. This journey will take its own course in its own time. There is nothing you can do to stop it and it is enforced upon you.

Surrender is the key.

Surrender is all you can do but at the same time, you have a choice to continually make and grapple with every single day. I stress “grapple” because the dark night of the soul is an internal wrestling match on the regular.

You can surrender and radically accept all of these feelings and experiences that seize you, not identify with the feelings, let them pass through you and allow the dark night to mysteriously transform the myth of your soul.

Or you can resist the dark night by identifying with the feelings and telling yourself a story that creates suffering based upon these feelings.

This story can be that you are bad, guilty, wrong, fucked up, not good enough, or that you need to just pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get on with life, that your feelings can’t compare with those who are going through worse, that you don’t have the right to feel pain and loss as you push all your feelings down into the shadow, slowly making yourself sick either through seeming like a shining star of strength or through self destructing from escape into addiction or fleeing or doing something impulsive that makes your life fall into suffering. You get the idea.

Suffering is the story, not the feelings.

The internal wrestling is hard because the feelings that rise up in the dark night are unnamable and often intense. The key is to let them rise and pass through you like chemical storms.

Agony, loneliness, despair, anger, regret, every form of vulnerability where the ego feels like its fallen off the throne and lost its crown, can present in the dark night. Or maybe you feel a low level blah, a loss of interest in your regular activities, or you need to be alone. Depends on the temperament as we are all different.

The key though, is to allow the feelings and desires to present and be honored without buying the stories the feelings want to sell.

Sometimes the thoughts create the feeling but I think more than often, the feelings create the thoughts. You feel sad and then you tell yourself, “I am not good enough”.  You feel confused and you tell yourself, “I am lost.” You feel guilty and you tell yourself, “I am not lovable.”

This is why I am not a big fan of reframing thoughts to change the feelings. I think this winds up invalidating the feelings and then what you resist will persist and the feelings will find a way to express, often through physical illness or projection onto another. Feelings need to be recognized and felt to leave the body. Our culture has a morality around dark feelings being bad and it winds up making the self sick as a result.

I am more of a fan of mindfulness practice. When a big scary or dark feelings rise, instead of trying to change the feeling into something positive, witness the feeling, feel it, and do not identify with it. You are not your feelings. If you do this, the feeling will rise like an internal storm, express, and leave the body like waves that roll through.

When you identify with the feeling that rises inside, you create a story from it. If you identify with despair in your dark night, you may create a story that says, “my life is always painful and I never get a break.” This traps the feeling by perpetuating it over and over inside of the story. This causes suffering.

If you don’t identify with the despair rising in you, the feeling will storm, express and leave the body. This is where the magic happens. Somehow, from letting feels express and leave the body, you slowly begin to transform.

This is the soul journey of the dark night. The essential nectar. It’s in the meaning making. It is spirit playing the role of you and making a myth out of your life. It is you finding forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation for yourself and for those who have hurt you. You let go of the clinging, you release the suffering, you release the karma. Your heart purifies and you remember who you are. Love.

This is how the soul transforms. Through loss.

The dark night of the soul is an archetypal rite of passage that is meant to transform your soul. Grief is the medicine. But you have to allow this to happen.

If you resist the feelings by over-identifying with them and creating stories of suffering that perpetuate the same patterns in your life, you wont transform. You will petrify. You will grow more resentful, guilty, bitter, defensive, untrusting. You may get sick if the stories turn into physical aliments from all the trapped feelings.

If you don’t identify with the feelings that rise within you and you learn how to let them express and pass through, you will mysteriously begin to feel differently about yourself, your past, those who hurt you or who you hurt in your past. You will begin to find forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation.

Forgiveness. Redemption. Reconciliation. Big words, big topics. I will save digging in for another blog.

This is the power of of the dark night of the soul. It is soul medicine and to understand the medicine you must remove judgement on light being good and dark being bad. You must remove the perspective that happiness is good and sadness is bad. That gain is good and loss is bad. You must allow the full spectrum of life experiences and feelings expression within you, without identifying with them. You must be willing to heal, grow, and evolve. It’s very hard!

If we collectively (and we are starting to) understand and educate about the medicine of the dark night of the soul it would be easier because no singular human would feel isolated in their experience and they would have a map for how to traverse through the pitch black dark night of their soul journey. Perhaps many of our ancient elders experienced this collective wisdom in their earth based cultures?

I am only giving a brief summary here and I am writing this mid-dark night of my soul. Figure I have another year left. I am internally wrestling my ego’s compulsion to identify with the feelings and tell myself negative stories about self. My witness is strong and although the negative story maker is busy as work, I am not identifying with those tales.

It’s important to understand that not identifying often means saying “no, I wont believe this story about myself,” not necessarily being free of the negative stories blabbing away in the psyche every time a hard feeling rises up. It’s learning to ignore the blah blah blah while allowing the feeling to swell and express without thoughts. Eventually the thoughts and meaning-making return but as a wise soul myth, and not a false negative self story.

I am just now beginning to enter the realm of forgiveness. More to come. I am in the dark night with you and if you are not in the dark night, hello from the darkness.

Many Voices, One Center…

There are as many perspectives on healing as there are healers who are healing, scientists who are researching, philosophers who are contemplating, poets who are dreaming, and artists who are creating. It’s up to you to choose which focus or path resonates with who you are and what works best for you. Do you know who you are and what resonates with who you are? Do you know what is best for you?

Complex trauma tends to shatter the ego from an early age, submerging aspects of the self into the shadow. Multigenerational wounds stemming from cultural and family of origin mistreatment wait patient on the dark sea floor until transpersonal and instinctual forces lift them up toward the surface for the ego to see. How often we don’t see the wounds because we project them onto our dearest loved ones or the world or the self in a negative fashion. The message gets lost. The story of pain morphs into body ailments and rejection. The true self is not heard among the clatter of other voices; mother, grandmother, brother, great grandfather, teacher, authoritarian voice imposing shame.

Dive deeper if you believe and recover past lives in or out of the bloodline, in or out of the earth or milky way, where guilt and defeat collected in the belly of your soul…or maybe it was victory and power that collected, usually it’s a mixture of every feeling not worked out, over glorified, shunned by the ego or ignorant to the soul. Our tapestry of karma tells tales as sentimental as a delicately woven blanket made by the hands of an experienced and wise elder. You don’t need to believe in past lives or even the true self to understand that the mind, conscious and unconscious, creates a multitude of stories based on what we experience.

It is never just one story. It is never all or nothing, black and white…well, except when it is (which sometimes is really is). Sometimes we must pick a side and fight and some things resonate as wrong or right deep down beneath logic, such as unnecessary killing, suffering, violence, and abuse. But when it comes to be a human being, we do not hold only one perspective, one way of being, one karma, or one destiny. The conscious self, or ego, wishes it to be one thing and tries its hardest to think one way and have one truth to create one outcome, in a sweet attempt to mirror wholeness. But wholeness is not having one perspective to make one outcome happen.

Wholeness is getting back in touch with our center (soul, true self) that is able to balance and contain the multitude of who we are. For life is always moving and changing. Simple appearances hide complexity. Nothing is really solid even if it appears so to the eyeball. All atoms are moving about and there is a ton of space between them. Split atoms and space keeps getting bigger and containing more complexity. The ego sees what it needs to see to adapt to the world. The eye sees what it needs to see to adapt to the ego. As your consciousness (or frequency) changes, so does your perspective. This is how the soul evolves. If the ego can let go of rigidity and open gently to the vastness within, it wont repress this evolution, it wont create a great divide.

The past is happening now and the future is happening now too but on other dimensions that would shatter the ego just as trauma can do but shatter the ego to the point of no return. We have limitations for a reason. Linear time is a needed limitation but my point is more emotional than philosophical. Our ancestor’s wounds live as alive in this moment as they did when they happened according to linear time. These wounds live inside of us. If you believe in past lives, same goes. In this life, same goes for what we experienced in childhood. Same goes for the future too but I think to speak of this would wax too philosophical for this blog.

The voices of our ancestors, mother, father, siblings, culture, past lives, lives on other dimensions, lives as other sentient forces…all lives live in the unconscious mind in a non-linear fashion, alive as ever and very naturally. The unconscious is the sea containing everything.

On one hand, you can spend your life digging up ancestral, past life, family of origin, and other-dimensional karma, never reaching an end point to the healing but always refining, evolving and liberating your soul in the process. On the other hand, when you know in your feelings that all of these stories are not Self and you find your Self in breath over and over through the practice of some form of meditation, while continuing to open and purify your heart through feeling your feelings, you may heal just as effectively without going into any stories, conscious or unconscious.

I have healed from both these modalities equally. I have also grown tremendously from good old fashioned cognitive-behavioral mindfulness and using my conscious will to re-author my life stories. I have also transformed deeply from making art out of pain to honor the feelings and stories of suffering. And these are still only a few modalities of healing out of many. My true self finds the most effectiveness from using these five modalities and each speaks to a different voice inside. The breakdown:

Bringing the wounding, personality traits, true self and gifts out from the shadow connected to the family/cultural system and bloodline is what allows me to be in the world and in relationships as a differentiated being, true to herself and in loving relation that honors the differentiation in others. This work is most powerful for me in letting go of identifying with the the wounds I carry, being my real self with others, and in aligning my heart and will so that when I say I want to do something, I am more likely to do it. This work is always in progress.

Bringing the wounding, personality traits, true self and gifts out from the shadow connected to past lives on earth and on other dimensions transformed my sense of self and life itself on a very zoomed out level. In the zenith of this awakening some very chronic and severe symptoms fell away, never to return. This healing journey along with reconnecting with the divine feminine, awakened my calling to be a healer. Knowing the story of my soul beyond this world anchors me to this lifetime.

Finding my Self in breath and knowing in my feelings that the stories of the soul are not the Self gives me a direct experience of inner peace and equanimity, leading me to my center, over and over. Also, I am able to hold the stories of my soul with a lighter footprint when I am anchored to breath as Self, first and foremost. This is the Tao so to speak, it is beyond language.

Mindfulness-based CBT is the work that helps me not get stuck in stories and helps me choose to re-author my life stories, cause to be frank, I am not a huge meditator. I do meditative yoga about four times a week and I am always the observer watching myself but I do not specifically meditate every single day. I do use mindful CBT almost every day, along with narrative work to not sink into story and to keep my center vibrant and creative. This work also helps the feelings to express and pass through me like weather, allowing suffering to be used as grist to evolve.

Creative expression is my home base. I will not let go of a soul story unless I turn it into art. This is because I have a fervent attachment to honoring painful stories. I do not believe forgetting is healthy. I believe we must always remember our history and how suffering is caused, how power is misused, how lives are harmed, how abuse is formed and how it steals the life force and autonomy from the individual. When I turn abuse into a novel, a shattered ego into a painting, or heart break into a poem, history is honored and I can let go of identifying with the wound. I embrace the open broken heart through creative expression. Ritual, singing, cooking, ceremony, painting, writing, are some of the ways I engage in daily.

These are the modalities that work best for me and this is why I use them with clients. I connect to the wounded healer archetype and am called to be healer from my personal experience. I don’t claim to be in expert though I have a lot of experience. I do not seek power but I also admit that in my shadow there is a woman who is learning to empower herself. Once the story of empowerment is fully honored she will transcend empowerment, not needing to become stronger than her oppressors or be in a dialect with them. The story will evaporate and change as all stories do when we give them conscious embodiment, space to breathe, and time to express.

I treasure my humanity and no longer feel shame for my vulnerability, wounds, or weaknesses. We all share the same shame and it’s ok to feel it, know it, express it, let it go and laugh at our collective self-consciousness while not forgetting the horrible abuse that stole our freedom. We can use the pain to transform and reclaim our autonomy. Holding the tension of opposites allows the masculine and feminine aspects of each one of us to have a voice; to evolve and to honor what is without changing it into something else.

My intention in writing this blog is to spark your center. What modalities resonate with you and why? You may or may not know. We each have our own path to healing. I offer what I offer as a healer and I have plenty of referrals to give out in my community. I think it is important to never give your power away to a healer. Nobody knows more than you know about your inner self. The right healer for you will evoke a feeling of rightness inside, bring out your soul stories, help you to find your center and to come home to your true self. If these words don’t resonate, no worries.

Sometimes there is chafing, conflict, or transference, where new perspectives get cracked open, trust needs building, or projection emerges in the relationship between healer and client so that the client may heal. This opportunity is golden. There is a difference between the golden opportunity of healing conflict and not resonating with a healer. If it’s the former you usually get a big emotional reaction and if it’s the latter, you may feel more annoyed than upset, more unaffected or just…off.

Approaching healing from different perspectives, in my opinion, is most effective. I cannot imagine eliminating any of the modalities that I use and I am always open to more. Some modalities fade away over time and new ones take their place. I would not be surprised if one day I ditch some modalities completely. We are ever changing and evolving. I remain unattached to all modalities except one. Creative expression is my home of homes, this I know to be true. What do you know know to be true?