Doubt.

“…wanting soul life without the dark, warming intelligence of personal doubt is like expecting an egg without the brooding heat of the mother hen.” 

~ David Whyte

I’ve been following what I consider to be my own “soul life” as closely as I can for many years. And in so doing, I am acutely aware of and intimately familiar with the “warming intelligence of personal doubt.” 

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve wondered things like, ‘Am I on the right track?’ ‘Did I totally misjudge things and make a huge mistake by going this way?’ ‘What if this [dream] is all just in my head?’ etc.

And… as i see it now, doubt is just part of the process of becoming and of living a full-fledged, authentic life. It’s not “bad” to feel doubt; in fact, perhaps it’s quite the opposite. Perhaps it is a key indicator that we’re actually on the right track, fully and truly “living the questions”, as Rilke would say.” 

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Loyal Soldier Subpersonality

What follows is a great explanation of the Loyal Soldier:  that aspect/sub-personality whose job it is to keep us safe and small.

Thank you to Emerging Crone for the original post!

Emerging Crone

I am reading Molly Young Brown’s book – Unfolding Self about the practice of Psychosynthesis. I tracked this book down because I believe it is the origin of the practice of welcoming home the Loyal Soldier subpersonality. I am inserting below an email from January 5, 2006 that generated a rich and vibrant discussion in Divine Feminine Wisdom. Later this week or next – I will share here more of my work with subpersonalities but it seems I need to start here.

Dear Women of the Divine,

A term I use a lot here and others have now adopted is the “Loyal Solider” – LS from here on out ok?

This is a term I encountered in Bill Plotkin’s Book Soulcraft and one of the aspects of myself that I worked with during the Sweet Darkness Intensive. Prior to my work with Bill – I heard the terms inner…

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Prayer: May I be fully used up at the end of this life.

I cannot think of a more apt quote to capture how I feel about my work and my philosophy of life these days. My prayer is often to be fully used in the ways I can be, and to share what I’ve experienced and been given thus far. This idea of ‘being used’ just seems to be the way nature intended it; part of the cycle of life.
 
    “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and  grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making  you happy.”
“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as  brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.”     
~  George Bernard Shaw
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Looking for love in all the wrong places.

Over the past few years, I’ve been paying attention to a distinction between caretaking vs. caregiving.

One of my teachers, Bill Plotkin, makes the distinction between caretaking and caregiving as coming from our woundedness (caretaking) versus coming from our wholeness (caregiving):

“When merged with [our] wounded [parts], we might appear to be nurturing – and are, to some degree – but our primary motivation is to avoid abandonment, criticism, or poverty by securing an accepted place in the lives of others. This is a form of “nurturing” that is more properly described as caretaking than as caregiving. We appear to be giving, but there’s at least as much taking going on.”

Consider a few scenarios:

  • The friend who we’re nervous to confront about something, and so we refrain from telling her our truth as we’re afraid of losing her love/acceptance as a friend.
  • The husband who doesn’t confront his alcoholic wife as he’s afraid of her criticism of him, and so he silently colludes with her disease and behavior.
  • The client/customer who we feel afraid to share an honest insight with, for fear of them getting upset and/or leaving us.

In each of the scenarios, the primary motivation to nurture is to secure a sense of belonging in some way (avoid abandonment), rather than doing the more challenging work of sharing authentically and perhaps standing alone.

Again, Bill Plotkin:

“Rescuers manage other people not from the position of organizational boss or supervisor but from the role of helper or servant. From a distance, it looks as if they’re contributing to their families and society – and they are in some ways – but on closer inspection it turns out that they take as much as or more than they give.

With the Caretaker variation of the Rescuer, the individual achieves a safe place by providing for others, but her “care” comes at a hight price for both the recipient and the provider. The receipt pays with his guilt for taking so much and with his consequent lack of development and loss of autonomy. The Caretaker (also sometimes known as the Giving Tree) pays by never truly feeling loved or worthy. She feels needed for what she does, not loved for who she is. Every act of care taking digs her hole of low-self esteem a spadeful deeper. She also pays by enslaving herself to a life of service from which she derives little fulfillment. She’s buying superficial acceptance, not true belonging.”

(italics mine)

The thing is, when we rescue or caretake, we never get what we truly yearn for – true belonging.

Yeah, rescue-schmescue…What about just being kind?

I can almost hear it now: “Yeah, but what about just being kind to our fellow humans? It sounds like you’re saying to just leave people twisting in the breeze when they are suffering.”

I’m all for empathy and reflecting people’s feelings – when we can come from a place of residing in our own inner wholeness: that is, when we come from a Self-centered (centered in our True Self), Self-loving place – not from a place where we’re trying to fill some need or inner void.

True Belonging

I believe that one of the most loving acts that we can offer each other is to be real and honest. And, because that’s often easier said than done, we can start to practice this with ourselves by asking questions like:

  • What is MY truth in this moment?
  • What am I really feeling?
  • What do I really want?
  • Where might I be substituting my real self for a place of temporary belonging?

As we step more fully into our own wholeness – those innate strengths, resources, and capacities that are our birthright  – and stop trying to find love and acceptance in all the wrong places, we will eventually come to know what’s been there all along – our true belonging.

 

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Letting go of the leash.

Sometimes I feel like that dog who’s being walked on her leash and refuses to let go of it, gripping it tightly in her teeth as if she’s the one doing the walking (not the one getting walked).

That’s how I feel sometimes when I lose my trust and forget to have faith. I believe that I’m the one in control of this whole experience and so I try to direct it, control it, and force my way along the journey.

What I’m forgetting in those moments is that things ARE working out (even if I can’t see evidence of them just yet), and that ultimately, I am so very cared about and loved.

So today, I think I’ll let go of the leash…

photo by Ryan McGuire

 

The Inner Beloved

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today, around the world, many of us are celebrating our beloveds. We are bestowing gifts upon our sweethearts. We’re blowing kisses to our darlings and we’re sending messages of love to our one and onlys.

Oh, how sweet love can be.

As all of this yummy love flows freely today, I’d like to suggest that we also take some time to love, honor, and cherish an often forgotten sweetheart: the Inner Beloved.

Heh? What’s that? The “Inner Beloved”?

To answer, I defer to Bill Plotkin (from his book, Wild Mind: A Field Guide to The Human Psyche:

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The concept of an Inner Beloved is simply beautiful to me. It suggests that there’s a unique relationship within me that’s just as sacred and rich as any outer relationship I could be in.

In her book The World Is A Waiting Lover, Trebbe Johnson writes this about the [Inner] Beloved:

“The Beloved personifies the object of the soul’s longing for union with its highest expression. Elusive and alluring, the Beloved seduces us into our own becoming, compelling us to keep moving through tangled paths, wild deserts, mockery, misunderstanding, and, more often that not, a Vulcan’s forge of yearning love that we discover we cannot bear to live without….   Part of the human heart, part of the immense mystery beyond our ken, whether you wish to call it God, the creative force, the soul, the unconscious, or the interplay of subatomic particles that gel the universe, the Beloved is the desired on, the lover desiring, and the abyss of desire itself. Standing just out of reach, in the green glade of our vision and our dreams, barely perceptible in dappled sunlight, the Beloved beckons to each of us alone: “Come. Come. Come to my arms and fall in love with yourself and all your world.”

~

THIS is the kind of love that I want to be living into and knowing more of every single day of my life. I want to know the depths of an inner romance that compels me to “keep moving through tangled paths, wild deserts, mockery, misunderstanding…”  I want to know a love that I just cannot live without, that beckons me ever forward into my own becoming with an almost longing-pain quality.

~

As I write this just now, I can sense my Inner Beloved awakening and stirring. Somewhat dusty from neglect, it shines through the cracks of me nonetheless. And although I’ve abandoned this “other half” of my psyche a lot in the past (unconsciously, or by simply forgetting that it’s there), I can sense a deep well of love and curiosity that’s present to me anyway, wanting to know me even more intimately, too.

I think that later today I’ll go on a walk with my Inner Beloved… a simple, quiet walk, just to start the conversation again.

My Inner Beloved and I have much catching up to do.

 

“Once we make room in our life for the great, mysterious Other that beckons, we realize that longing itself is a potent force, for every breath we take louvers us wider to the light of that remembered or hoped-for presence. Soulful yearning is active. It expands its own boundaries in keening for what it loves and does not have. We are stretched wide open by a God-shaped hold and wish with all our hearts never to be closed up again. Exile, our ache and our bliss, keeps us moving toward the best of ourselves.

And the one who awaits us, arms outstretched, is the Beloved.” (Trebbe Johnson)

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A seeker’s life (so far)

I was recently writing about my “why”:  why I do what I do as a life coach.

In doing so, I was reflecting back on my journey up to now, which, just like everyone’s, has been filled with many chapters, many plot twists, and many (many!) lessons. My work in the world has shifted and changed as I’ve shifted and changed, which has been a lot.

For most of my adult life, I’ve been what one might call a “seeker”:  someone who’s been driven (possessed?) to find the deeper layers of truth, both within herself and in life itself.

Here’s a bit of that seeking story…

SEEKING

From my teens to my early twenties, I battled with eating challenges (binge eating). I really wanted to understand WHY I was driven to eat, as well as HOW I might heal that pattern in myself. Through lots of introspection and inner study, over time, I eventually got down to some of the roots of the pattern and was able to shift. But another hunger quickly took hold: the hunger to know myself and what lay underneath the surface of my ego.

In my late twenties, when trying to decide between going to the Peace Corps or getting my Masters Degree in Psychology, I chose the latter. I enrolled in a Masters program in Spiritual Psychology, and no joke, this changed my life profoundly.

Through the program, I learned how to take true responsibility for myself and my happiness on all levels -physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. I learned how to show up for myself and counsel myself in a way that I’d never known how to before, thus creating the foundation of a very solid and strong relationship with my Self (the most important relationship in my life, as I see it).

I also learned one of the biggest lessons of my life:  true happiness never resides outside of myself (i.e., in a job, romantic partner, more money, etc), but rather, it’s always starts WITHIN first, and then the outside (life) reflects that inner state back to us (the crazy thing to me is that WE NEVER LEARN THIS growing up in our culture! Rather, we learn to try and fill all the voids within us by getting more stuff or trying to find more love or money or whatever. But that’s a different rant for another day :).

WHAT AM I HERE FOR?

By my early thirties, I was almost obsessed with questions like, “What am I here for? What is my deeper purpose? What am I here to give or share in this world?” And these questions plagued me because, for one, I really didn’t know, and two, because one of my values is making a difference, so to not know what that difference was that I was to be making was painful.

By my mid-thirties, I was making great strides on the outer level of life. I’d paid off $30k in debt working at a job I actually liked. I found myself in a truly supportive, loving and awesome relationship with a man I loved. And, I was just starting my own small business  as a coach on the side. But the Universe had other plans for me: I was laid off from my cushy job and found myself getting unemployment benefits, not yet able to support myself in my coaching work.

BETWIXT AND BETWEEN (Getting off the hamster wheel)

In this chapter of my life, rather than go straight back to the hamster wheel of work, I chose to get off of it. For a few years, I dove deep into learning about my Soul and how it was trying to guide me (versus how my Ego wanted me to remain in my comfortable little life). I continued to struggle with the questions of What am I here to give or share with the world? How can I serve?  I’d have nights where I’d awaken in fear, thinking about how short life is, and wondering if I’d ever be able to share anything of value before I shuffled off this mortal coil. I enacted a Vision Fast (a 4 day ritual of going out into nature alone, without shelter, fasting and praying for a vision to bring back for my people) to help me find my answers, and I spent many, many hours alone, listening for my inner voice and doing my best to follow it.

It was during this chapter, too, that I learned that Soul speaks not so much in words, but in much subtler ways, through feelings, sensations, intuitive nudges, images, etc. I learned the value of slowing waaaay down. I learned that my Ego was very uncomfortable being off of the hamster wheel (of having a “regular job”), but I realized that it was just doing it’s best to try and keep me safe in the (limited) ways it knew how.

STILL GOING…

This last chapter has morphed into where I am today, a few years later. Of course, I am still a seeker. I still have SO MANY questions, and not a lot of answers. I do feel now, however, that I am on the right path for me, even though there are many (many!) times I question the right next step to take. But I think that’s just life.

What I’ve learned so far is that when I turn within and ask for guidance, and then listen for what comes, I usually find the next step.

And that’s all one really needs…. to just take the next step.

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