Saturday, December 9, 2017

Some thoughts about psychotherapy

I’ve received a few notes recently regarding my thoughts about psychotherapy...

I am more of a poetic psychotherapist than a clinical one. As such, I am more interested in not-knowing, depth, meaning, and the future than I am in certainty, techniques, the past, or the healing of symptoms. In my experience, there is wisdom in our symptoms, and it is honorable to attend to them without any agenda that they transform or be healed.

This does not mean I am not interested in a person’s past or in the lessening of the pain and suffering they are experiencing. Of course, this is very important and I wish this for everyone I work with. But, for me, psychotherapy is much more than that. It is not a medical procedure, but a procedure of the soul, oriented in the care of the psyche and tending to the heart.

Sometimes we are asked to suffer in order to discover depth, to know ourselves, to know grace, but to suffer consciously, to actually participate fully in the inevitable disappointment, heartbreak, and deflation that life as a sensitive, alive, vulnerable human being will often demand. To find meaning in our suffering, to enter into relationship with it, to tend to it, to even become intimate with it. To not discard it but to discover its purpose and role as a true companion in our lives. To even take it as a lover.

This sort of therapy is not for everyone and I have no fantasy that the work I do is going to be right or most skillful for everyone. It definitely is not. These days, I no longer with psychotic, borderline, or narcissistic personality organization. Nor with severe depression, anxiety, trauma, or other clinical diagnoses. These situations, in my experience, are best responded to with very specific treatment plans and methodologies, and are to be taken very seriously.

My work is oriented toward the “ordinary neuroses” of love and work, as Freud referred to them, our inborn longing for existential meaning and purpose, innate yearning for intimacy and aliveness, and the reality of the transpersonal and spiritual dimensions of the psyche.

My training and interests for a few decades have been in the larger fields of depth psychology and relationally-oriented analytic practice, as well as the contemplative aspects of the wisdom traditions and heart-guidance of the wandering poets.

In my experience, the most important factor in therapy is the relationship between the parties involved, and not the technique or theory the therapist happens to believe or specialize in. It is neither theory nor technique that uncovers the ultimate medicine. While important, these are secondary to the psychic, emotional, and spiritual resonance and attunement between those working together.

And, dare I say, secondary to the love that is there in the field when we meet in this way. Even Freud is purported to have shared that “in essence psychoanalysis is a cure through love.” Some say love has no business in psychotherapy. I am not one of them. There is no psychotherapy (tending to the soul) without love; love is the basis for soul-tending. Of course I am not speaking about the expression of erotic love, but that of agape, the love that arises naturally in any true I-Thou relationship. The love of a midwife bearing witness to the birth of a new soul.

Psychotherapy for me is an alchemical process where client and therapist come together into a very charged sort of vessel to envision and discover the unique gold that is hidden inside each human heart. To discover the wisdom buried in the dark, and to transmute difficult emotions into their wisdom essence. It is not easy work, but is honorable and sacred. And at times really hard. And boring. And annoying. And lonely. And seemingly useless. And utterly alive. And magic.

To chart a course into the psyche with a fellow traveler is an act of love and courage, and shines a special light into a world that needs it now perhaps more than ever.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The temple of human intimacy

In our modern world, intimate relationship can be one of the most profound vehicles we have for healing, a contemporary temple in which to explore the mysteries of the heart. But should we choose to approach intimacy in this way, we must prepare for a long journey through the dark wood, and into the exquisite, uncertain, chaotic terrain that we will be asked to navigate along the way.

While a holy dismemberment and reassembling may sound exciting and something to look forward to, we will likely have some pretty contradictory feelings about the whole thing. We want close relationship more than anything, and simultaneously we want nothing to do with it. The archaic fears of abandonment and engulfment circle in the psyche of the personal and the collective.

At some point, we must reframe our view of emotional groundlessness, embracing it not as something to be discarded or transformed, but beheld as ongoing revelation. This may sound like madness to the mind as it does not conform to the dream of manifesting endless positivity or to transcending our vulnerability in some disembodied realization. But buried in the core of the contradictions, in the union of the opposites, the water of life awaits.

In this sense, intimacy is a path of resurrection as well as crucifixion, not primarily a vehicle to remedy our own loneliness, unworthiness, and existential anxiety. Its most sacred function is not to make us feel better or to shield us from the potentiality of heartbreak, deflation, and disappointment, but to reveal wholeness.

In the birth as well as in the death, we will come face to face with the reality of the unconscious self, into uncompromising relationship with the wildness of the disowned internal other, and be asked to embrace the nakedness and exposure that the beloved is wired to call forward.

Nowhere to run. No secret trap doors. No meditating it away. No hiding out in the present moment. The only way out is through. Into the arms of the beloved, in whatever form he or she happens to take. Into our own arms, and into the unresolvable mysteries of separation and union. Perhaps there are none which are sweeter. And fiercer. And darker. And filled with light.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Spirit buried inside matter

The difficult emotions, the confusion, the struggle, and the heartbreak. The fear, the doubt, the ending of the relationship that was supposed to last forever. On any true path, we must confront and integrate the ending of dreams, the dissolution of one world so that another may emerge.

The hopelessness, the struggle, the devastation of the crushed longing. The disappointment that it was never going to turn out the way we thought. The painful wondering if we’ve done something wrong, if somehow we’ve failed.

These are the raw materials we have to work with on the path of the heart. Place them on the altar in front of you and bless them with safe passage. You need not transcend your vulnerability, problems, or neurosis to know this. For inside the broken is a wisdom found only there.

Sadness has something to show you that joy could never provide. Inside aloneness is a secret offering that can never be found in connection. Hopelessness, when entered, reveals meaning that hope is unable to reveal.

It is pure and creative inside the symptom, but remains unseen in the overemphasis on becoming and in the tragic loss of imagination. But the alchemists and tantrikas and the unseen ones and the moon, the sun, and the stars have come to remind us. To re-enchant the imaginal and pull back the curtain to reveal the gold behind the veil.

There is spirt buried inside matter. Multiplicity is just as holy as oneness. The dual and the nondual are not two. There is no separation between the raw tender feelings and the flow of wisdom essence. Each are made of the same substance.

“What about my passion?!” Rumi demands of God.

God says, “Keep it burning.”

“What about my heart?” asks Rumi.

“Tell me what you hold inside it,” says God.

“Pain and sorrow,” says Rumi.

God says, “Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

While the trance that there is something wrong with you is sticky and seductive, slow down, unplug from the unreal, and listen. Feel. Sense. We are conditioned to find a problem where there is an invitation. Place your hands on your heart. Attune to the aliveness of the inner body. Follow the breath back into essence.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO.