Monthly Archives: April 2017

Can We Take Others Further than We Have Gone?

I get asked this question occasionally in several different ways (most recently the other week), and so I thought I would share my thoughts on the matter.

The basic question here is: can we take others (meaning students/patients/clients) further than we have gone ourselves?  There are also several related questions, such as: if we have not had a particular experience, can we work with that? as well as the different ways we can look at the first question (and if we are talking about experience, education, or consciousness overall)… such as can we bring someone past the point of our own consciousness level?

When I first started doing work with clients (beyond my experiences doing basic massage therapy at a spa-type setting) I took this question fairly literally. My response would have been “sure”, meaning that I saw that I got clients from many different walks of life and was able to provide what I felt was adequate care for them.

Most notably in this phase I worked with a lot of firefighters (my business was across the street from a fire station) and generally I get along with these sorts, likely because we both have a tendency towards dark or sarcastic humor (yes, I am generalizing, but it is a valid point). I have zero experience as a firefighter (and watched a house burn down last week and still can’t believe that there are people that willingly run into burning/smoking buildings for a living) but found that although I had not had the same direct experience, I could still listen, empathize, and care for others appropriately.

Although the question of If we have not had a similar experience, can we work with that? is somewhat clumsy, I found that the basic capacity to listen, to truly hear, and to be neutral (as in, open enough to not judge experiences and personally willing to hear about experiences dissimilar to my own without it creating inner chaos in myself that would pull me away from focusing on my patients/clients) is something fairly rare in our modern day culture… as is safe, neutral (non-sexual) touch. Just the act of having someone listen to you with compassion and non-judgment is incredibly healing.

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We also feel unsafe sharing our experiences, or may simply feel unsafe as individuals due to our individual or collective history. Creating safety and a container for the sessions (a complicated topic that I won’t fully go into) so the person can realize your boundaries can allow for safety to be built. Clients (just using this as a general word) will continually test my boundaries… sometimes this is simply because they are entitled, or irritating, but mostly it is because they are attempting to find some semblance of safety… to know that I have boundaries and what definitively they are. We often balk at the creation of boundaries as healers, but those boundaries being consistently maintained are what creates good healing work and general safety in a session.

HOWEVER… What I will say about the whole “experience” thing is that those firefighters would have likely interacted much differently if there were scheduling an appointment with someone who was or used to be a firefighter, or had more knowledge of that world. This gets complicated, as what many of them may have been looking for was a reprieve from that, or safe touch from a female (even if they were not conscious of those needs). But there is an extremely high likelihood that they would have not only interacted differently but worked on different topics if I had experienced anything similar to what they did in their daily lives and work.

Being heard in community of peers is incredibly important. Having someone deeply know and understand your experience from the inside-out and having the above capacity to listen, hear, and create safety, boundaries, and neutrality, results in an automatic sense of deeper connection and safety. In shamanic work, the purpose of shamanic sickness and the wounded healer concept in general is that the individual will pass through their own healing crisis and come out the other side. This is one of the reasons why those truly called to spiritual work often come down with rather odd and sudden illnesses that they pass through (whether that takes hours or decades is the question, of course).

But even in a more “mundane” capacity, finding friends, support groups, and so forth of people who have had the same experiences that you have had, no matter what they are, allows for the person to move beyond the “I am the only person who has ever experienced this” type of mentality and harmful separation ideology into a profound space.

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This is about an embodiment and energetic attuning process. What this means is that a system (and you know, the person attached) that has struggled with Lyme disease (for example) will not only have the intellectual understanding of what to look for in patients, will also have a history of what has worked for them and what hasn’t on their journey towards personal healing, and not only can deeply listen to others that are a “past mirror” or “former aspect of self” (all tendencies in client work), but that their system can show the client currently struggling what a healed (or more healed than the client is currently, hopefully) system is like.

This is typically on a rather subconscious level, by the way. There is a deep knowing on the part of the client (also very subconscious) about what they can share with their healer/clinician as well as this attuning process in which the energetic system of the healer shows the client a state of greater health or harmony than the client currently has.

So we get to the issue of consciousness here. 

So I will basically say this: the openness and relative consciousness of the healer creates the container for the session.

This sounds complicated, but I will illustrate through a story. I was friends with a fellow Acupuncturist that ran a clinic nearby. She got fertility and pain patients primarily, while I got trauma, emotional and spiritual chief complaints (as well as headache/migraine people, but that is a different story). Clinicians of varying sorts often have specialities, so this wasn’t a terrific surprise.

What I realized after referring patients back and forth was that the same patient would come to me and start talking about wanting to heal their grief, or spiritual patterns and they would go to her and talk about infertility. I realized on a basic level that not only did I have no interest in fertility work, but that my mind was closed to people who wanted to spend a hundred thousand dollars on IVF (this is my issue, not theirs of course) and my thoughts as to overpopulation and effect on the world. So they wouldn’t bring it up.

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When I got more comfortable with my own sensitivities and “shamanic/spiritual” path, I also started having clients show up who wanted this work. At this time I was an Acupuncturist, Craniosacral Therapist (etc. lets just say a lot of bodywork and mind-body-energy work type studies) and in no way on my website or in person did I talk about having sensitivities/perceptual/psychic abilities or that I did spiritual work. They just knew, and as I healed my own inner “stuff” surrounding the topic, the more that I healed the more that people came to me… and the greater service I could be to them.

I have had people say things to me occasionally like: “I never get clients like that” or “clients never bring things like this up” or even “nobody wants to work on that level” and what it is always an indicator of is the healer not having “healed” that within themselves to the point that they can create this container– this sacred space wherein the client feels safe and ready to tackle such healing work.

Additionally, being a healer is a constant evolution. It involves not only the embodied experience of having many different clients over the years, and what you learn from that, but it should be an internal process of healing to offer more of yourself to your clients (as well as further education and practices to do so in the elusive “spare time” healers have)

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We have complicating variables with this, as sometimes a modality has incredibly high “consciousness” but the individuals who practice the modality may not. I am a passionate advocate of CranioSacral therapy. To me it resets the nervous system and allows for a physical-energetic-mental-emotional-spiritual continuum of healing that is one of the most profound things that I have found out there (and I have done a lot of healing work/exploration of different modalities). It has truly effected incredible healing personally for me.

This modality has a wonderful and expanded “consciousness” that focuses on things like neutrality and creating a safe place for people to explore, whatever that exploration may need to be. However, individual therapists do not have such consciousness (and I am not picking on CST practitioners, this happens with every single healing modality out there. Try finding an Acupuncturist these days who is spiritually minded. It is difficult).

Partially this is experience. Ida Rolf used to say something like that she wished people (post her 2-4 year training in the matter) wouldn’t call themselves “Rolfers” (a bodywork modality focusing on the fascia or how the structure organizes around gravity) before they had five years of experience (full time, one would assume, singularly focused on Rolfing) because what they are doing is not Rolfing yet. This consideration has a lot of ramifications for healing modalities that may have a beginner course that is a single weekend, or someone who has not yet seen enough clients to move past barriers that clients will inevitably bring up in them (if they are willing to look/grow in reaction to that, that is)

A lot of people get stuck in this. If we are uncomfortable in ourselves, or have not healed a specific topic within ourselves, we will either shut up the client (redirecting or ignoring what we cannot handle), or more likely, they will simply not bring it up. In the CST community, there is a similar and unfortunate “new-age” capacity to deal with emotions… which is not at all… and the belief that anger needs to turn into hugs, or that the end stage of healing must include forgiveness, a hug, and love all around.

While some of this mentality drops away after solid experience (and hearing about what clients have gone through the idea of suggesting that they imagine hugging whomever to heal seems ludicrous), our own consciousness and comfort level with a particular topic creates this level of restraint in a session, often to the detriment of the client.

I had a client who I suggested work on his inner violence. He was someone who felt a surge of power when being violent, and was having trouble navigating the fact that a part of him really enjoyed this primal, instinctual energy and the power and “masculine/machismo” that it created when it came out. He got noticed, he got seen, and he got more respect in certain ways. He had incredible difficulty in finding anyone that not only he felt comfortable talking about such a thing with, but who was able to move away from their own fear and ideologies enough to help him to understand that this primal instinct did not need to become love and light, or anything other than what it was. It simply needed to have an appropriate outlet. He eventually found this through martial arts (specifically Aikido) but not through Craniosacral therapy, which was the perfect modality for him…. except he couldn’t find a therapist who had worked through enough of their stuff to take him where he needed to go.

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When we talk about this in regards to spiritual teaching and work I will say that the answer here is typically also that we can only teach or take others as far as we have gone. Where the limits are of a spiritual teacher in terms of their consciousness and experience level (including embodied experience as well as, quite frankly, education, as anti-intellectualism in spiritual circles is a huge constraining factor) always restricts their students.

However… (yes, this is another however) in spiritual work I often people show people doorways, or they go through initiations, that take them into what I either have experienced and cannot describe (or will not, so they just don’t take on my cosmology/belief system/experiences verbatim… another huge difficulty in the “spiritual teacher” arena) or they will actually utilize that experience to fuel them to go beyond where I have been with that particular topic.

So the answer is a sort of “yes” here… meaning that on the spiritual path what the individual student does with the information that I offer, whatever that may be, can take them far beyond where/what I have experienced and “expand their consciousness” beyond my current thoughts or realizations about that situation, or in general.

I will say that I am the sort of teacher that loves when a student comes into their own, when I see them move beyond their own barriers, and especially those willing to move beyond the sort of surface layer type b.s. that is so readily perpetuated by so many in the “spiritual” realm. Some teachers are not like that, however many are.

I always warn people to look out for teachers that are static in their understandings. It is a difficulty that once in “teacher” mode that someone may close down any of their personal expansion. This means that students will often outgrow that teacher. These static understandings also may come from an organization or teacher further up who is creating a rather rigid container for them to teach under, however (and unfortunately). This turns into a bad game of “Telephone” and lacks the embodied experience and essence that a truly fantastic teacher will relate.

I will say, as a last aside, that the difficulty with spiritual teaching is that you always hope that students will move beyond your consciousness level– that they will grow and contribute to the world in amazing ways. Ideally the path of “awakening” is to bring as many others with you along the way as are willing or able. I once didn’t understand how teachers could not teach the totality of what they knew. But when you get into things like how to curse (and you teach that to students… which I do not) and so forth, there is a reason for that holding back, and it is because inevitably a student will erupt in some sort of chaos, and despite all the seeing and divination and barriers you put up to ensure that such things don’t occur, they will. And you will have to deal with it. So it is a difficult thought process that guides many teachers who may be holding back information.

So the basic thought here is that in general… no, you cannot take students, clients, and so forth beyond your current consciousness level or your current and basic internal capacity to deal with a subject. But you can, in some cases, show people the door, and they may walk through in an entirely different way than you did, moving far beyond what you taught them. And that is a wonderful sight to behold.

8 Common Ego Traps: Part Two

You can find Part One, and the first three ego traps, here…

There are many ego traps that I could go over here, and some I will not talk about because I talk about them quite frequently in other blogs. The spiritual path is about becoming whole– about expressing compassion and love for ourselves (and every aspect of ourselves). Our darkness is not “bad” and does not need to be turned into “light”, we do not need to set up rules for fear or anger to make them more palatable to ourselves or provide the illusion that we are in control of them, and without truly engaging with the primal aspects of ourselves, and aligning with their power and wisdom, we cannot come into our full capacity and power as human beings.

The spiritual path requires a certain amount of discipline and education, and I do think that one of the greatest ego traps is playing into the mentality that this sort of thing is not needed, thus fueling the outer societal thoughts about how spiritual sorts are ignorant or delusional. It is rare that people are willing to engage in the sort of discipline and move beyond the easy or one-step fix-it popularized spirituality that is ultimately illusory and perpetuates cultural myths about spirituality and the direct spiritual path being “inferior” or even laughable to a society still steeped in materialism, thus creating an outer split between material and spiritual “consciousness”, but I will end my soapboxing (about this at least) and move on with the rest of the list.

I do realize that these are difficult questions to ask of oneself, but the sort of restrictions and blockages that are carried within (and the sort of “traps” they create) can be realized and moved through, allowing movement towards more freedom and wholeness on the spiritual path overall. The question, of course, is if we are willing and ready to sit with difficult questions and realizations and openly and honestly ask ourselves such things… and be willing to hear, openly and honestly, the answers.

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Ego Trap #4: Not taking Personal Responsibility for Ourselves
As long as any part of us is fractured, or separated from itself, we will find such aspects in the outer world. In an unawakened state, we blindly and chaotically react to the world around us, living from the wounds and beliefs created from those wounds.

The spiritual path is really one of radical responsibility, one in which we become more adult. When we are wounded or traumatized, a part of us becomes frozen in that state. We may have had many experiences like this (as well as trauma that was passed down to us from varying sources), and most people are in a childlike state, living from their wounds and constantly re-creating their wounds in the outer world in an effort to heal them.

While the spiritual path is one of deep questioning (at times which is uncomfortable), temporary chaos, dissolution of ideas and the destablization that happens as a result of coming into a state of greater wholeness… as a whole, the spiritual path should make one more “adult”, more centered, grounded, and with less baggage. If this is not happening, it is something to question.

If we are willing to take any sort of responsibility for ourselves, we can begin to realize that we constantly project our wounds onto others. What we see in others is a reflection of what is unhealed within us. Our reactions to others are rarely coming from a current, adult state– they are coming from engaging in a scenario, or with an emotion, that is “looped”– that part of ourselves, unhealed, that is frozen in time.

So there are some questions here that can be asked to move past this:

  • What do I see in this person that is a reflection of myself?
  • What am I projecting onto this situation or person?
  • What age is this response from? (when reacting to a situation or person… as in, is it your current, adult self, or might it be a surly teenager, a know-it-all twenty-something, an abused child)
  • Am I finding an outlet for my internal emotions and pain in the external world?

For that last question there is a realization that when we have a stockpile of anger within, we will always find things (or people) to fixate that anger on. Same with anxiety, or fear, or grief. If we believe that the world, or the people in it, are always out to victimize us, we will create that scenario again and again until we heal whatever is within that caused that belief to be created. We can find external ways in which to validate and externalize our emotions into the physical world. If we sit with our emotions long enough, we can understand that our inner pain is always looking for an outlet, and we can always find someone or something to make us angry, cause us to grieve or despair, someone to recreate our issues with our mother, or father with. The question of what am I really angry (fearful, anxious) about always comes into play here… because chances are that it is not your current, adult self that is feeling this way.

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I will say as an aside that this world is chaotic, and noisy, and filled with wounded people who do wounded things. It is wonderful to feel emotions, to get angry at your boss, or to feel grief at others looking to simply take and wound in their pain and separation. We should feel emotions that are from the present moment, and allow ourselves to deeply feel them and use them appropriately. But there is a question of if what we are feeling is current and appropriate for the situationThis distinction can only be had if we are willing to take personal responsibility and assess how we may be projecting our inner wounds onto others, and the world. There is also the question of if you are using your anger as a creative, vital, flowing “get stuff done” sort of force of action (as it can be in its healed state) or if you are simply shoving it down or stockpiling it for later because you do not wish to feel it, or do not have the skills to feel it (or the compassion and/or wholeness towards the emotion to recognize it as a valuable source of wisdom).

Ego Trap #5:  Not recognizing the Persecutor- Selfishness and Lack of Heart
When we are in pain, it is nearly impossible to see outside of ourselves. It is important in times of personal chaos to focus on the Self. But for many the spiritual path may be a way to be the eternal victim– always seeing the world and the people in it as looking to take, victimize, or harm us.

Because we have experienced harm in the past, we have closed our hearts in our need to protect ourselves. The difficulty with this is that with a closed heart, we cannot empathize with others. We cannot look beyond our own fleeting and often insignificant needs, our own trauma, our own beliefs. The great irony here is that we have closed ourselves off so we cannot be hurt again, but in doing so, we hurt or are not available to others.

On the spiritual path it is incredibly important to reconcile and heal all of those hurts– all of the pain, difficulty, and integration of the parts of ourselves that have separated, frozen in time, and are “looping” again and again. But it takes a soul of great courage to reconcile the sort of selfishness that causes for one to take, to not give, and to move beyond the mindset of the Self being the protagonist, or the center of the Universe, on the spiritual path.

The end result of a spiritual path is always one of giving. It is about moving beyond those wounded pieces and then about seeing how you can be of service to others. The spiritual path is not about you, basically. It is about you moving beyond your “I”, your ego, to the point that you can be a adult, mature presence of strength, wisdom, and stillness in a world that could really use those sorts of people.

Realizing that we have been selfish, self-centered, and do not consider others is a difficult thing to awaken to. But it is a huge ego trap for people, and realizing how we interact with people, what we ask for others, and if it comes from a place of “taking”, or a place of reciprocity is the first step. Do we express gratitude when others offer themselves to us? In our pain and self-interest, we naturally assume that the world and people in it are going to simply offer themselves to us. When we expand beyond our own selfishness, we realize not only that we can take personal responsibility for ourselves, but that what we ma be asking of others and of the Earth may not be of right relationship.

Moving beyond “right relationship” and basic reciprocity (considering what we offer to someone or something vs. what we take) is the ability to be in a heart-centered place. This does not mean lack of boundaries, or thinking everyone is the “same” with equal value… it means that you can, with compassion, realize that someone is lashing out at you because they are not in a place to take personal responsibility for their pain, and you can decide to not engage in recreating their “loop” or trauma, and can also express compassion towards the parts of yourself that may have at one time resembled or resonate with such pain.

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Ego Trap #6: Seeking Bliss and Highs– Spiritual Escapism
Some of the most amazing experiences can be had on the spiritual path– the sort of bliss and expansion that contact with divinity can create is addictive. The moments of bliss can help for those going through difficult spiritual experiences to have a proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” and see them through some incredibly rough patches on the spiritual path.

There are also those who seek out drugs, spiritually vacation, attend endless retreats, or create imaginary worlds for themselves in which they are a goddess, god, or demi-god in order to move away from their daily lives, and to escape the pain and difficulty of being human.

If we are seeking spirituality because we are unhappy about our lives, the solution is to use spirituality, or to work with a spiritual path, to heal that. Our spiritual existence is not separate from our physical existence, and if we are disassociated, disembodied, unhappy, or constantly seeking the next high on the spiritual path, that indicates that something within needs to be healed.

Ego Trap #7: Not Reconciling Race, Class, and Privilege
We tend to not want to look at how we may have had privilege in our lives, about how what country we live in, what race or culture we are from, or what class of society we are in affords certain privileges.

We tend to largely surround ourselves with people with the same backgrounds, the same race, class, and ideas as ourselves. We also tend to read things that we agree with (and the same shows and books over and over again, just with different names on the cover) to shelter ourselves from new ideas, contrasting ideas, or the reality of our sheltering.

In our spiritual seeking, we may not realize that we are enacting history and the same issues of “taking” that colonization created. Without reconciliation that we are participating in the same “loop” that our ancestors did, just in a different way… without reconciling that we are ignoring that such a history or loop exists, we cannot fully move beyond and heal the internal judgment, persecution, and dominant beliefs that have been passed down to us by society, by our family or ancestry, or by world history at large.

All of us, no matter race, religion, spiritual path, class, or caste, have judgment or seek to separate from others in some fashion. Recognizing and being willing to admit our own biases is a difficult thing to ask, but the effects of this are not only personal wholeness, but the realization that our differences make us beautiful. Cheesy sentiment, I realize, but if you consider that the spiritual path is one of relational changes– meaning gradually understanding that your neighbor, your community, the world, the Earth, and the cosmos are all part of you… and being willing to see what judgments, hatred, divisions, persecutions, and unwillingness there is to engage with some of those parts, and that inner hatred, racism (etc) that you have unreconciled within will give way to wholeness (and the ability in the outer world to engage with more than just people that look, act, and think exactly like you).

The solution to this is to realize that your mind/ego wants sameness. It doesn’t want to reconcile disparate ideas. So read books by authors totally different than you, read about religions and spiritual paths from people living them, and meet, interact, and most of all listen to the stories, experiences, and pain of others. We have a tendency to dismiss pain that we have not experienced directly, to dismiss the experiences or see them as invalid if they are not the same “truth” as our own. Actively seek to expand and open your mind to people, places, and ideas that you do not agree with, and see if you can feel compassion or understand how others who think, believe, or have experienced differently than you, as it is the key to your own expansion.

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Ego Trap #8: Not realizing our own Beauty and Worth
One of the funniest things on the spiritual path is that you get to a certain point that you realize that you are restricting yourself not out of some deep, dark, childhood wounds (or ancestral, etc) but because there is a mechanism within you that doesn’t believe that you can move beyond a certain point on the spiritual path

Who are you to feel power? Who are you to feel joy when others are struggling with so much? Who are you to be great or worthwhile or succeed or awaken? Who are we to feel divinity or oneness or grounded or heart-centered? Who are you to heal? Who are you to have a job that you love, to know what you are here to do? Who are you to know who you are on the deepest levels? Who are you to move beyond the blind pain and reactivity that the world and the people in it engage in? Who are you to be whole?

We struggle so much with healing the parts of ourselves that are broken, frozen, disassociated and afraid. We come up with realities, and like a six year old putting on a super-hero cape, we pretend to be powerful and the “chosen one”. We pretend to be happier than we are, more complete than we are, superior to one another. All of this is a perpetuated outer reality created by inner pain and trauma.

When we come to states that we have not felt before, we feel uncomfortable with the unknown, of treading new territory. Of experiencing what we have not before, and what sort of changes that will create.

We fear our own greatness, what we could be if we really allowed ourselves to heal and become… instead of being a series of masks and illusions covering up our pain. We fear our authentic, powerful selves.

One of our primal wounds is that of separation, and we fear really and truly being connected. Connected to ourselves authentically, connected to divinity.

We fear opening our hearts, because in our woundedness we have closed them and have created protections around them. When that protection is in place, we cannot truly love one another. We are closed off, and are constantly looking at the world as if it were looking to wound us, to take from us. Opening this center requires moving beyond our various trauma and pain, but it also requires for us to move beyond the idea that we are worthless. That we deserve to be happy, that we deserve to be connected, that we deserve to be open and embodied and authentic in a world that is filled with people who are not.

The thing is, of course, that if many people are willing to see their own immense worth, without the cages and masks and illusions, that it would create a revolution. One person can be a catalyst, a way to show others how to do the same. And that person could be you.