Devoted to Pathwork

March 30th, 2011 by gary.vollbracht

Recent days have been stressful and anxious for me, times of depression, confusion, anger, frustration. So I found myself drawn back to my recording project of the Pathwork lectures. With all going on, I rationally did not have time for working on these recordings, but was nonetheless drawn to it.

The Pathwork Lecture I was recording was #4 titled Life Weariness. I had to smile at that, for “life weariness” was what I was feeling. But on a deeper level I noticed that I was simply drawn to these Pathwork lectures, perhaps like an artist is drawn to painting, or a musician to composing music or playing an instrument. I was not reading them to learn their concepts intellectually or as a means to improve my life or find God or whatever. No, rather I was reading them simply because I was drawn to read them. Their words enliven me, encourage me, support me. I cannot exactly say why, but it is true. And I recognize that this was somewhat similar to my reading the Bible so regularly in my 30s and early 40s, though then I think it was more from a sense of duty, or “ought to” than from the sheer joy of doing it that I experience with the Pathwork lectures.

As I sat with this experience of working with Pathwork Lecture #4, the word “devotionally” arose in me. Yes, I was reading the Pathwork lectures devotionally.  Just letting the words penetrate me and feeling myself nourished by them, like eating a rich chocolate brownie with ice cream and savoring each bite.  Thus I was taking in the Pathwork lectures.

When I look up the definition of devotion, the dictionary offers words like: profound dedication, earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc. And I would say that this indeed applies to my relationship with the Pathwork Lectures, and to their application to my life in the various practices they offer — daily review, meditation, helper sessions, etc. Even doing Pathwork homework and discussing same with my Pathwork friend Jenny fits here, as does my nearly daily coffee time conversation with Pat, always tapping into Pathwork wisdom at some point.  So I find myself devoted to Pathwork on several levels. It occupies so much of my time, my thinking, and my reflection time. Pathwork provides a framework for my life. And the Lectures are a profound source of inspiration for me.  Yes, I am devoted to Pathwork.

Then last night in a meditation session with Mary’s EmbodyBeing group, I shared my relationship with the Pathwork lectures, how I read them devotionally. Mary integrated “devotion” into her teaching. She was speaking of being devoted to life — willingness to be completely there in whatever is there in life — including reading Pathwork lectures, or being in a primary relationship. She went on to say that devotion is about surrendering all expectations, in fact in devotion we are free of all expectations. She offered that we could be in a state of devotion — irregardless of how we were feeling in the moment. I want to pause to take that in.

I feel joyful and enlivened at this realization that what I am experiencing is my devotion to Pathwork. I can just leave it at that. I do not have to know why, or make it work, or whatever. As a meditator keeps coming back to his or her cushion, or an artist to his or her canvas, so I keep coming back to Pathwork — a major source of vitality in my life these recent years.

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Longing for Connection

March 26th, 2011 by gary.vollbracht

In recent months I have come to see the longing I have for connection. It has been, I see, a core theme of my entire life. While it shows up in many places, such as my propensity to start small support groups, gather people together to connect as we work together in business and other organizations, meet with many people in one-to-one conversations over a meal or coffee, and the like, its strongest pull is in my relationship with women, that is, the women with whom I have been in a primary relationship in my life. This has been an area of growth for me as I see how my patterns and images from childhood have molded my approaches to satisfy my deep longing for a connection with a woman.

As with each of us men, much of my patterning and image-making began with my relationship with Mom. As I explore this Gary-Mom relationship with my Pathwork helper I see a number of things that have led to images, beliefs I formed and have held onto tightly in this world of relationship with a woman.

Mom seemed to be in her own world, busy with many activities, some of which, like cub scout den mother, impacted me. But mostly she was doing her own thing — meetings, sewing, many crafts, and the like. Not unexpectedly, I took this on as being totally normal. I saw that to connect with Mom, a huge longing for me, meant that I had to enter her world on her terms. This meant being the good boy, the invisible boy, the obedient boy, the helpful boy, the performer boy. She would not come into my world to find out what I was all about, what I liked and didn’t like, and who I really was. She did not come to my world, play with me, and bring out what was of interest to me. No, she seemed preoccupied with her life much of the time. May not have been unusual, but it seemed to make a big impact on me because of my very strong longing for connection, which seemed unrealizable for me to have with Mom.

This lack of an emotional connection with Mom was very painful for me. Unconscious, but painful. As children do, I took it personally — I must be such an inept, ugly child that Mom wants nothing to do with me or my world. But then, since my psyche could not handle this pain of being so unworthy of Mom’s love, I generalized and created the image that said all women were like my mom and to connect with them I would have to enter their world. They would never enter my world or meet me half way. This way my psyche did not have to deal with feeling somehow unloveable. It’s just the way women are — they live in their own worlds. So, unconsciously, this became my modus operandi with women — figure out their world (through my eyes even, based upon Mom’s world, not truly their world) and play into it. After being in a relationship for a while of course I came to resent this arrangement, but the image was solid and could not be easily dismantled. My resentment would turn to anger and rage. But mostly I felt stuck, and I numbed out the resentment, rage, and anger that lived within my psyche in my relationship with a special woman.

Then there was the matter of relationship itself. What was modeled for me by Mom and Dad was that the husband-wife couple relationship was about having a fair amount of independence, each being in their own world, not much emotional connection or intimacy, and in relationship they come together in a dutiful way to go to church or a family gathering. This may not have been true, but it is how I experienced them. This left me not expecting much in relationship except perhaps for the sexual experiences.

The latter, of course, was a total mystery and billed as a source of danger and even evil. So I could not go there either. It seemed my whole relational life with women was lopsided and distorted, and with sex added became scary, not giving me the fulfillment I truly longed for. I did not even know what this longing for fulfillment in a complete and full relationship with a woman was — it was beyond anything I could envision. Total mystery.

So to summarize, my image about women was that to connect you had to comply to the rules of their life game, and about relationship, that it had little to do with emotional intimacy and connection but more about sexuality and form in social circles. Yet my heart burned for a full multi-dimensional relationship with a woman. I just had little knowledge what this would be. To proceed I would have to let any expectation I might have about such a relationship drop by the wayside and experience true relationships with a real woman through fresh eyes.

So this is what is playing out with Pat. I must stop projecting my images on her about women — that a relationship with her means playing 100% by her rules. And she does not want me to have this image! Not for a minute. And it is not fair to her not to see her more broadly for the full woman she really is. It is not fair to her to resent her for the picture of her I myself have painted! I have to dissolve my images, hard as this is, and see her for who she really is. I need, too, to drop my image about relationships — that they are emotionless and give a lot of space for independence but little mutuality — and realize that true relationships hold the potential for reciprocity and mutuality, for surrender and sharing, and for compromising in the best sense. And I must open myself to the possibility, no the probability or even certainty that this is what Pat longs for as well in our relationship.

So intellectually I get the picture, but that is not enough to move forward. The images formed in my emotional psyche cannot be reasoned out of existence by my mind. It helps to get the picture mentally, but to move forward on an emotional level I need more. My helper reminds me that this is where asking for help comes in. Asking for help from a healthy ego, not as a little boy asking Daddy God to magically take my burden away. No, I must be in touch with my ego’s longing, and go, as an adult, to God, to Jesus Christ, to my Higher Self and ask for assistance.

This is still not easy for me. There is still a stubborn streak in me that says I need to take this next step on my own without help. So could I pray that I might see the need to pray? This comes closer to possible. Wow am I a stubborn person!  But I accept that I am stubborn, accept the consequences, and do not go into the toilet over it. All of this feels like growth.  Of course part of my longing for connection is connection with God and Jesus Christ. So all of this is up for me. The wrestling feels good. Invigorating even. Feeling alive.  Feeling love.

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Brief Visit Back to 9th Grade

March 25th, 2011 by gary.vollbracht

My role a couple of weeks ago was one of being a teaching assistant in a year-4 Pathwork Transformation class.  The class meets for four days and the work goes deep, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. On day three at one of the break times we put some music on and began dancing. An oh-so-familiar experience for me. Let me teach. Let me lead a work scene. Let me prepare homework. But please, please don’t ask me to freely dance with the students and the teacher in the class!

I smiled at myself, nearly laughed out loud.  But the smile and inner laughter covered lots of pain. The experience took me back to one of my socialization experiences in ninth grade. I played tuba in the sports band. We played at all the home games on Friday night. I showed up in uniform, played my part, but afterwards, when most of the other kids would go out and party, I would walk home alone, a short journey of less than a mile. On the way home I would stop at Deters’ Dairy and get a large coke and chocolate milkshake.  Though significantly obese, I so looked forward to these times of soothing the pain I felt in socializing with others.

Over time I “solved” this problem by defining myself in relation to others by the roles I played.  I could be the worker or the manager, the chairman of this or that committee or group, be a leader in the company for which I worked, whatever. Just don’t ask me to go drinking after work or take in golf with the guys on Saturday morning.

So here with this class of Pathworkers. Let me make my presentations and what have you, but please don’t make me relate without being in a defined role.  During the aforementioned break one of the students started showing us his skills in dancing the Salsa. So eloquent, so smooth. I could have watched him all night. The lead teacher got involved, as well as the other students, while I watched sheepishly and uncomfortably from the sidelines. And all of this residual pain still inside of me even though I’ve done over ten years of personal work to get at the blocks and images, the patterned behavior that leads to my pain. At least I was simply feeling the pain and not running away or grabbing a piece of chocolate to soothe myself.

Later I discussed this matter with the teacher, Kathryn. Her observations were helpful. My underlying beliefs included the belief that I simply did not fit in. And on some level I did not, at least not being able to dance smoothly and eloquently. And further my conclusion was that I would be laughed at or mocked for my clumsiness in dancing and that such mockery would be an unendurable pain for me. I could see the fear of my inner child. He was feeling alone, excluded, inept and deficient.

Kathryn went on to say that whether I know it or not I have a connection with each person in the class and with her. It is by way of my big heart that shows up in many ways. “When you teach a Pathwork lecture the content is usually clear, but it is your passion for the material and the ideas, your passion about the students’ getting it, the way it lands in you and enlivens you, all of this enlivens the classes you teach.  If people looked at the content without experiencing your passion about the material, your teaching would be flat.”

She went on to point out that I care about each student in the class. OK, dare I say I love each person in the class. All this shows through. And with this love in the air, no one cares whether or not I can dance. Love is all that matters. “The class members would love to teach you to dance,” Kathryn pointed out. She concluded with, “The class responds to your big heart. You give so much from your heart. This is what connects you to each person in the class.” A lot to take in. Humbling. And I realize this is not my ego’s pretending to love to look good but the authentic loving that flows through me, in me, and out of me. Just let me be with this a bit. I feel such gratitude in this moment. And such love.  Blessings on your day.

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Lessons from an iPhone Training Class

March 6th, 2011 by gary.vollbracht

Yes, Pat and I each got iPhones on Monday. We ended up going to a Saturday night training class yesterday. OK, a weird “date,” but we have fun at such ventures. About 15 folks showed up for the training, many of them in our decade of life themselves.  The teacher took off, and away we went.

Within five minutes I was in overwhelm. I simply could not keep up with my classmates who seemed to pick this all up instantly, or at least what they needed to pick up. I stopped the teacher a couple of times asking her to explain things, but even then I got flustered and did not get it. Did we make a huge mistake by getting on the iPhone train?

After a short while in class, seeing that I wasn’t getting things, I went into my own world with my iPhone. I shut down email, realizing that email the way I use it was made for computers, not iPhones with their tiny keyboard and miniature screens. That helped. Then I struggled to get my APP account set up with the iTunes Store, but once again got all flustered. By the time the class was over, I was unsuccessful at most of what I tried, and I was exhausted, frustrated, and a little annoyed at the entire experience.

In typical fashion, when I got home I stayed up and played with this gadget. I got the two APPs I most wanted (Evernote, and Star Walk) successfully purchased and loaded, I synched the iPhone with my iMac, successfully loaded on my 204 Pathwork lectures and a few audiobooks, and thrilled at how Star Walk led me through the skies identifying planets and constellations. I was a happy camper by the end of the evening, but an hour or two after Pat had gone to bed.

Our Sunday morning coffee time ran over two hours, beginning with our iPhone experiences the night before and leading into some pretty deep places from this innocuous beginning.

First, I realized that the iPhone training class experience reminded me of most of my classroom experiences — be they high school, college, or any other training since.  I seem to be a slow learner, just not able to pick things up as quickly as other students. I can follow along somewhat, but then have to go home and dive into the material to really get it.

And for whatever reason, I have always enjoyed the “diving in” learning experience. In college, while my many classmates who seemed to have “got it” in class were out shooting hoops or partying, I was steadfastly at my desk working to understand the various engineering courses I was taking. Though slow, I so enjoyed the process that this was not at all a burden. Perhaps it was even an escape from the social scene or sports scene where I did not seem to fit in.

At the end of the day, it all worked. I graduated with the highest grade-point average in my mechanical engineering class and went on to get nearly all A’s in my doctoral work in engineering. I realize that I was not balanced, especially from a social interaction perspective, and that this would lead to some real challenges in my relational life, but I so enjoyed and identified with my academic life I that I did not realize the price I was paying in terms of wholeness in living.

This learning style continues to this day, even with, or perhaps especially with, teachings such as Pathwork. Eventually I seem to “get it,” but it comes with a great investment of time in pouring over the Pathwork lectures. An investment I am drawn to make for the sheer joy of the learning process. It so resonates with me, enlivens me.

And this same learning pattern was true in Massage School as well — hours and hours spent learning anatomy and physiology, and at the same time experiencing such a struggle to actually “get” the practice of massage on real people — something you either have or don’t have in your genes I would guess.

Pat mirrored back, “It is interesting to see the combination of qualities in you that work this way, much in the same way a great pianist draws upon his or her natural gifts and strengths.” And I realized this also applies to things like working up financial management information systems, building systems that organize information in ways that communicate both message and meaning. Or organizing PowerPoint slides or other presentations. Perhaps even in developing these blog entries that bring me so much satisfaction. It all takes hours and hours. And I so willingly devote these hours because of the joy I experience in the unfolding of information.

Pat smiles, “Like Socrates would say, ‘Know Thyself.’” She went on noting that our minds are wonderful and unique. How do you balance things out? As for her, she confessed that she was one who did indeed get things in class. Not good or bad, just different. Pat went on to wonder how Einstein was from a social perspective. I reminded her that Einstein did not do well in school and was a patent office worker early in his career. Socially? Not a giant for sure.

Pat and I spoke of our lack of well-roundedness. But we are functional. Neurotic like everyone else, but not psychotic. We can’t do it all, so how do we choose? How should we then live based upon who we are? Yes, celebrating who we are in our particular uniquenesses.

I recently went out of my way to record meditation material for a group of friends. One of the responses was gratitude for my kindness. I find that seeing myself as kind triggers me in some way. Why? I certainly do not want to be unkind. But somehow being brilliant would be seen as a more “valuable” trait in me than being kind.

I looked up kind: “Of good or benevolent nature or disposition, having, showing, or proceeding from benevolence, considerate or helpful, mild, gentle.”  Then benevolent “Characterized by or expressing goodwill, desiring to help others, charitable, intended for benefits rather than profit.” Pat was quick to affirm that these are qualities she sees in me, whether I value them or not. “As you are speaking of kindness in you,I see the clear stream of the Divine manifesting through you. This is the way God comes. Life squandering itself through you. The erotic life force. The way God is: squandering Life through us. So how does this squandering energy, this kindness, feel in your body, Gary? Ecstatic? Blissful? … I prefer ecstatic!”

I see that it is so important to feel kindness, to feel benevolence, coming through me. This happens in my recording of the Pathwork Lectures, in helping others, in organizing information and helping others to understand. I get the Pathwork teaching that we are being selfish in our being unselfish because being unselfish FEELS SO GOOD. Like LOVING feels so good, God manifesting through us feels so good.

And yet our Lower Selves of pride, self-will, and fear, for whatever their puny reasons, distort and block this feeling of ecstasy in manifesting God in loving kindness into the world through us. Our patterns get in the way.  How do we dismantle our patterns so we can feel God manifesting from within? Our limiting beliefs keep us from aligning with the abundant, squandering ways of Life. We can have it all, for we are God manifesting!

I can have it all, but while I feel my ecstasy in so much of my life, I seem shut down and blocked in feeling ecstasy in my relationship with Pat. We talked about this. Perhaps I am caught in pattern in our relationship, blocking the potentiality of Source that wants to manifest in us through our relationship. In blocking ecstasy in our relationship, I choose to spend time where I am feeling more ecstasy — even like time with the Pathwork lectures.

Pat continues, “Seeking to balance pleasure and pain brings up duality, wanting this, and not wanting that. The spiritual practices we are involved in help us experience ecstasy in BOTH pain and pleasure that are in the reality of life.” I respond, “Yes, how do I feel the ecstasy of my pain of my longing, the pain of my unfulfilled longing.” Pat, “Yes, the pain of life as it lives in you, in us.” I continue,”The ecstasy in life as it shows up, yes. Not the ‘pseudo-ecstasy’ that is the ‘good’ of the ‘good/bad’ duality. The ecstasy, true ecstasy of the unitive state of consciousness, a consciousness that transcends the consciousness of duality, is what Source has the potential of generating within us.

Pat returns to the body, “So, how does this conversation feel in your body, your genitals?” I had to confess that I am not there, I am not yet fully inhabiting my body. Pat, “We have not experienced that yet, have not perceived that yet.” I responded, “This goes back to the teaching you’ve shared that our heart is the organ of perception. So only in opening our hearts will we be able to perceive and experience throughout our bodies this transcendent ecstasy wanting to emanate from Source, our Divine Selves within.” Pat is immediate with, “I agree, I agree!”

I go on, “Now all this enlivening we are experiencing right here, right now, is God manifesting in and through us — God’s love squandering itself in over two hours of beautiful conversation.  This is so different from going to church on Sunday morning.” Pat responds, “Yes, a precious, precious gift. The two of us in relationship.”

I was moved to read a quote to Pat that I used to lead off a recent helper meeting: “I have often mentioned that contact with the divine spark, or your real self, is an outcome of this pathwork.  Some of my friends are beginning to experience this indescribable event.  The safety, security, conviction of truth, the harmony and rightness of it are worth all the effort of overcoming resistance. … In order to have the divine spark manifest, you must deliberately contact it and require it to answer you and show you the way. … Let this innermost self, this greater intelligence within you, answer your confusions, guide you to the truth you need to know about yourself and strengthen you to change false images, misconceptions, and to swing from the no-current, that has a deeply hopeless, doubting, destructive, dark, negative outlook, into the yes-current with its promise which will be inevitably fulfilled.” (PWL 125¶25)

Pat related deeply to this reading and started into the Magnificat. I found it and read it for us:

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid;
for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty,
hath done great things to me;
and holy is his name.

Pat was in tears as I read these words. A very moving Sunday morning. And to think it began with reviewing our experience with the iPhone training class. It appears that the class was “O so worthwhile,” but had little to do with any content we may have picked up! We close our Sunday morning “worship service” with a big “Amen!”

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Opening to God, to Jesus Christ

March 5th, 2011 by gary.vollbracht

Why do I wrestle so with relating to God or Jesus Christ?  What images do I hold about God and Jesus Christ that stand in the way of relating to them in any way that could be called love?  Perhaps this is one of my main life issues.  And it relates, perhaps, to my relationships with others, especially those to whom I give authority.

I faced this head on in my most recent session with my helper Moira.  We were talking about ego strength, the importance of the healthy positive ego, the part of me with which I can identify. I cannot identify with my Higher Self — for that is not always available to me, and could lead to spiritual bypassing of other parts of me that need work and purification. Not my Mask Self — for that is not the real me, only a what I have worked so hard at pretending to be. Not my Lower Self — so easily identified with in my upbringing as a “poor miserable sinner” in my conservative Lutheran roots. This latter “poor miserable sinner” identification is rooted in my cells and so the healing has taken time, perhaps lifetimes.  But I can safely identify with my mature ego, the part of me that observes, that chooses, that thinks, that acts.

So why does my adult ego resist and fight against a relationship with God or Jesus Christ? The answer came as a flash of insight in my helper session with Moira. My adult ego has chosen to pursue Pathwork, resonates with the work and teachings of the Pathwork Guide. He has faced his doubts, his pride, his patterns, his idealization of himself, his fears, his self-will and controlling nature. He has chosen to leave a marriage that wasn’t seeming to work for him. And in all of this he has still not arrived at a felt sense of true fulfillment and happiness.

Intellectually I understand that I can not take the next steps of my journey alone. I need help.  Help from God, whoever God is.  Help from Source.  But emotionally I resist going to a power greater than my ego. Why?

The insight that came was that emotionally I associated going to God for help as regression to childhood, not a surrendering from a place of adult strength.  I realized that my image was that to go to God for help meant I was a helpless little boy going to a mommy/daddy God. It meant negating all the work, all the choices, by which my ego has navigated my life. It meant defeat. It meant I was wrong in pursuing this path, this Pathwork, and that I needed to get on my knees before the authority of a fundamentalist church and confess that I was dead wrong, confess they are right, plead for forgiveness for my waywardness, and hopefully be taken back into the family of God, the God of my Lutheran Church.

This was too much for my ego to take.  He would never do this. Yet I was accosted by the words of Jesus, “Unless you come to the Kingdom of God as a little child, you cannot enter therein.” What I heard was, “So, Gary, be helpless, be a baby, a little child. Bow to the authority of the Church, bow before God and Jesus Christ.”

This would make coming to God a regression to childhood for me. I would become a weak, helpless, dependent child, and God would sweep me up into His ever-loving arms, and I would be happy at last, and forevermore.

There was a second distorted image as well. I realize that for most of my recent life I have felt like the prodigal son, the one who left his father’s nest and squandered his father’s money, the son who needed to come back and throw himself at the mercy of his father. While I resonate and get that story, in my adult ego I realize that I am not the prodigal son of this parable, at least that’s not all of me.  I have not gone off and squandered my life, though a part of me would accuse me of just that! No, mine has been more the life described by Campbell as the hero’s journey — leaving “home,” yes, but learning, growing, wrestling, and returning a wiser man with gifts to give. I am amazed that for so long I have assumed I was, and identified with, the prodigal son going down the path to destruction, rather than the hero on a journey of growth. This new self-image of hero vs. prodigal brings me joy and peace.

So in this recent helper session I suddenly got that my two images of needing to regress to childhood or return as the prodigal were images, not reality.  My image was that a healthy adult could not have a relationship with God, rather only a helpless child or returning prodigal could experience such a relationship with God.  These images were strongly and rightly rejected by my healthy ego, but it knew no alternatives.

But now I can see that surrender is neither regression to childhood nor the confession and return of the prodigal. Rather it is taking self responsibility for my life, self responsibility for my choices in life, self responsibility for how I spend my time and effort and money. And yes, self-responsibility for calling on a power greater than my ego when I realize in my adult self the wisdom of such a reaching out and surrender.

From this adult self I can answer “Yes” to the call that the Pathwork lectures seem to hold for me. AND from here I can realize that I cannot go on alone, that I need to call on a Source greater than myself, even wrestle with that Source if needs be, as Jacob and other saints have done through the ages in their journeys to God.  This is humility, not fearful or embarrassing humiliation.  I am not coming as a helpless child or wayward prodigal but rather as a strong healthy ego, wrestling with Source to to find Truth, Love, Meaning in Life. This adult can come to God, can come to Jesus Christ as a friend along the path.

All of this is fresh and raw.  I’ve been with it for a couple of weeks and still it feels to be a profound shift that can open the door to God and to Jesus Christ.  I feel relief. Amen!

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