Awakening to Love, Slowly

February 20th, 2011 by gary.vollbracht

These past ten days have been powerful for me, including helper/counselor sessions, a journal-writing mini-workshop, working with Pathwork lectures, and deep conversations with Pat and others. Some of this was captured in a writing I did for a writing group that met yesterday, a group now of seven that I have been in for over ten years. I titled the piece I shared Awakening To Love, a title suggested by Pat. I attach the piece here.

The piece was hard to write and hard to read. In a way it felt like I was reporting on the weather, consciously holding back and numbing out some of the deep feelings involved in the experiences of these days. But at times there were tears in the sharing. Welcomed tears.

There is vulnerability in writing such material and sharing it. Some friends, people who love me dearly, offer “advice” it seems to me, though usually not directly. Yet through my filters I hear, “use such-and-such technique to get into and through your feelings, see this counselor who specializes in your difficulties using amazing methods,” etc. — techniques and methods with which I am usually familiar, even use myself in Pathwork settings working with students.

I accept the input graciously, but sometimes it hurts. Sometimes I just need to be heard without being fixed. And sometimes in the face of such advice I ask myself, “Have my ten plus years in Pathwork and many other modalities of spiritual and psychological support really helped me live?”  But of course I would not be even here without my commitment to these years of personal work. The doubting of this is just another ego-trick one might say.

As an example of love in my life, I shared verbally with my writing group a particularly meaningful email from my son John.  He and I meet every few weeks and have intense, deep, and very satisfying conversations.  In response to one of these engagements earlier this month he emailed me, “I also enjoyed our time together and I value your perspective and the loving way you share it.” What more could I want from my son!? And I feel this with my daughters Sherri and Nancy as well. It’s a big deal to me.  They are a big deal to me!

After I shared this phrase from John, one of my writing-group friends asked, “Could you take John’s beautiful words in?” I responded that I know getting this email from John means a lot to me. “But could you take it in on a felt level?” she pressed. Feeling a bit pressured, I responded, “Well, probably not.” And that is likely true. The feelings of love in me are emerging only slowly. Yet at just the right rate for me, for my unique unfolding!

After I read my piece in our group, our conversation shifted to the word “love.” It seemed to be a mysterious, vague word for all of us, even threatening to some of us.  Pat and I use the word “love” sparingly in our relationship, and more likely will steer away from it in favor of something like, “I really enjoy being with you.” For whatever reason, that “enjoying to be with each other” seems to hold more power, more truth. I’m sure there is love here too, but we are not sure what that means.

All with whom I have shared these recent experiences have assured me of their love, even accepting that I am not yet taking in all of their love. But I can feel my urge to dip my toe into the lake of love that surrounds me and maybe, at some point, I’ll dare to dive in.

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Facing my Denial of Love, Within and Without

February 16th, 2011 by gary.vollbracht

I am being confronted by my denial of love on many fronts.  I deny love that arises in me toward others. I deny and ward off love that comes toward me. It is not yet clear what is driving my defenses against love, but as I spiral down the well of my life at this ripe age of 68 it is becoming clearer that this denial of love on all fronts may be my Core Life Challenge this time around.

The evidence of my denial of love surfaces in unsuspected places.  Recently I wrote a piece on “Possibilities,” the theme for our most recent writing group a few weeks ago. I awoke at 3:00 AM the day of our writing group gathering and wrote it in my stream of consciousness. It felt powerful at the time.

It built off my experience of reading Caring Bridge blog entries of a friend of mine who, as it turned out, would be having lung surgery at the very time we would be meeting in our writing group.  My piece meandered, but concluded with a spontaneous sentence confessing my love for my friend.

During coffee time later that morning I read the piece to Pat. When I got to the last sentence, uncontrollably, tears welled up in my eyes.  And in Pat’s. At the time I was embarrassed and attempted to numb myself down in the moment to arrest such a display of emotions. “Sure glad I read this to you before reading this in the group!” I blurted out.  As if such an out-of-control display would a worst possible occurrence in our writing group, a group I have belonged to for over 10 years.

But knowing my potential for tears mattered not. I was the last of our six to read. The others’ writings had been revealing and moving, as always. And, even forewarned, when I got to the last sentence of my writing again the tears came.  I did not know what to say.  It was too late to numb out my feelings in the moment. The others, of course, were touched deeply by this spontaneous arising of love in me. It was I alone who could not handle my emotions. (If you are interested in reading the piece, click here.)

But there is another dimension to this denial of love. Not only do I deny love arising spontaneously from within, I also deny love coming at me. My counseling/helper sessions are focused on this.

My Pathwork Lecture readings speak to me about this as well. Lecture 244 ¶31-34 (homework I myself created for a transformation class I assist in leading) invites me to look at a major fault in my life, mine being in this case denying love.  Picking this as my problem with which to wrestle, this Pathwork selection suggests two steps. The first step is to pose the question, “What, Gary, are the consequences of your denying (read “not trusting“) the love of God, the love of your friends, the benign Love of the Cosmos?” The answers come immediately. The consequences of my not trusting love is fear — in all its many forms: pervasive anxiety, nervousness, excessive effort at all that I do so as to earn my place in the cosmos, pushing ahead of the natural unfolding of things around me leading to disharmony and tension in groups with whom I work, a life out-of balance, a life without pleasure, peace, or sense of security, a life without deep emotional relationships. Huge price, Gary!

Right, huge price indeed. But even so I feel powerless to change. And the Lecture goes on to step 2. It reminds me that I cannot address such matters alone. I must seek help, Divine help, even help from Jesus Christ, ¶33 says. So now I am in a catch 22. The only way to come to trust the Love of God is to ask God, the God I am refusing to trust, or Jesus Christ, the one with whom I am struggling to relate, to help me. I feel cornered, trapped. Probably right where I am supposed to be.

Let’s see what happens next.  But until then I am, for whatever reason, at a deeper peace just having come to face this life-issue and written it out here for others to witness. I am at least no longer denying my denial! I am not unaware of my denial nor am I caught up in it, but rather, I am observing it, curious about it and curious as to where it became rooted in me. Perhaps this will lead to new choices. I smile at myself.  A relaxing moment, a moment somewhat free from the fear that is usually so ubiquitous in my life.

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