It’s my first time in an ambulance. I’m in extreme physical and existential agony. My upper left chest, my left-side ribs and arm are massively aching with a deadly intensity. The paramedics are very quickly working on me, to determine if I’m having a heart attack. I am, they say. I am groaning, crying, enduring, too squeezed and crushed to scream, teetering at a very dark edge, unable to breathe or make any movement on my left side — it’s as if an enormously heavy steel boot is pressing down on my left chest. Only a few minutes ago I was standing in front of our house, slammed …..
Once Life’s inherent insecurity has become inescapably obvious to us, regardless of the myriad ways we have of securing and comforting ourselves, we find ourselves at a precipice of realization, with one hand on our fear and the other on our longing to be truly free. That edge, that psychospiritual dropzone, asks not for negotiation, recoil, or premature leaps, but for steps leading — however haltingly — to a radical reevaluation and eventual embracing of insecurity. Such an embrace is no small thing, requiring as it does that we — right to our marrow — turn toward what we ordinarily would be strongly motivated to turn away from or …..
If we’re going ahead with a certain endeavor and are cut off from or otherwise oblivious to the child in us as we do so, that child — that indwelling locus of innocence, vulnerability, and prerational attunement — may be activated enough to snare our attention, including interrupting or derailing what we’re attempting to do. There’s no deliberation in this, just raw, desperate need taking over, amped up with supportive rationalizations and related self-talk. The stop-neglecting-me desire that’s going on behind the scenes and the desire to proceed with our project are two quite different forces, far more oppositional than symbiotic or cooperative, setting up an internal conflict that …..
Paralleling and distracting us from our suffering is an abundance of dysfunction in spiritual drag. This includes spiritualized greed (think so-called prosperity consciousness), spiritualized escapism (dissociation masquerading as transcendence), spiritualized narcissism (the you-can-have-it-all deification of me-ness), and other forms of spiritual bypassing — meaning the use of spiritual beliefs and practices to distract us from our pain, our relational hassles, and our developmental challenges. And at the same time, there coexists a highly functional — and, not surprisingly, far less popular — spirituality, one that neither exploits nor bypasses, but is robustly grounded in deliberate intimacy with all that we are. In this spirituality, love, awareness, …..
Many of us are attached to believing that everything happens for a reason. But many things actually happen, arguably including incarnation, simply because various factors have, through their mutual intersecting and interactions — that is, through their inherent interrelatedness, overlappings, and cross-pollination — made such manifestation inevitable. Each of these factors has its factors, and so on, back and back and back, in surpassingly complex contingency. This, all put together in a causal context, makes for something far more real than “a reason.” We may not want to fully acknowledge the contingent nature of whatever arises — including us — trying instead to assign some kind of meaning …..
Know your conditioning inside out. This means being very familiar with your personal history, recognizing whatever wounding you carry (and how you tend to compensate for it), seeing how and where your conditioning has made your choices, and how and where it is still running you. Breaking your conditioning’s grip on you won’t erase it, but will put you in a position where you’re not at its mercy, being able to relate not from it but to it. You’ll likely need the help of a good therapist to do this well. A good place to begin is to take a reactive pattern you have and — when you’re not feeling …..
Our inner critic is like a mosquito. Mosquitos can be irritating when they get close, and may even overwhelm us when they get really close, filling us with their buzzing and sucking and irritating presence. But when we deal skillfully with our inner critic, it becomes not much more than a mosquito on the far side of the room, almost out of hearing, not able to mess with us, not able to shame us. When your inner critic kicks in, what’s immediately helpful is to name it as such: “My inner critic is here” (or state the name you have given it). Then take a few deep breaths, softening your belly, …..
Aggression is what happens when anger loses its heart and goes on the attack with a dehumanizing hardness. Aggression militates against intimacy, keeping relationships in the shallows, marooned from any significant healing and deepening. To get to the heart of aggression, to undo its armoring without stranding ourselves from our anger and capacity to take care of ourselves, is a great undertaking, at once vulnerable and empowering, made possible in part through devoting yourself to the following practices: Empathy. The more empathetic you are with another — allowing yourself to truly feel or emotionally resonate with what they’re feeling — the less likely it is that you’ll get aggressive with them. …..
The point of a conscious rant is to defuse overloaded or potentially harmful reactivity in a way that hurts no one, including ourselves. In a conscious rant, you get to totally cut loose emotionally, exaggerating your sounds and movements without any editing, all within the confines of a well-boundaried context — the ground rules for which you’ve thought out and clarified beforehand. This is very different than everyday reactivity. The context has been set; into the ring you step, knowing the boundaries and knowing that you don’t have to hold back anything — you have permission to be outrageous. Your task is to do this full-out. If …..
It is easy to trash shame, as if it is nothing more than a negative or unwholesome state, something to condemn or eradicate. However, unhealthy shame — commonly known in its extreme as toxic shame — is not an innate emotion but rather something that is done with shame, something that dehumanizes. To make wise use of shame, it’s crucial to recognize the differences between its healthy and unhealthy forms: Healthy shame is directed at a specific action, but unhealthy shame is directed at the doer of that action. (If, for example, I’ve broken an agreement with you, you can be critical of what I’ve done so without degrading me …..