A Couple's Intensive – Part 8: More on Finding My Tribe, My Mentors, My Call

While Pat and I were at Beth’s in Vermont the three of us talked about finding our Tribe. We discussed the marker of knowing we are in our Tribe when we experience a sense of timelessness. At the same time we noted that in our understanding, the meaning of Tribe is: a common group of practitioners who are growing together on a spiritual path of self-realization. The latter is in contrast to a group that is serving merely as a “comfortable second family” for us – which may “feel good,” but not really serve our spiritual and psychological growth. I shared the swan and the ugly duckling story as how I felt sometimes growing up. But I was quick to add that Pat and I had broadened that ugly duckling story a bit and had come to see that I had to let go of the narrowness of rejecting who actually showed up in my Tribe as I searched for it.  At this, Beth smiled and blurted out, “Your Tribe might not only include swans. There would likely be some water snakes with you on that lake!” We all laughed, but we got her point.

The next morning I experienced a felt sense that everyone and everything is part of my Tribe! This was a big change in me and changes everything. Borrowing from Rumi, All guests are invited and welcomed into my Tribe! Everyone is my teacher and I am everyone else’s teacher! Yes, we are One.

This put me in a much softer space with the world: with Mid-Atlantic Pathwork, my kids and grandkids, Pat, friends, people with similar interests, people whose interests are wildly different from mine, people who trigger me and make me crazy (my perfect mirrors), and the like. Everyone is part of my Tribe, since we are all human and are all in the human struggle: students in the school of life. We have so much to learn from each other, from our experiences of and with each other.

Earlier Pat and I had talked about finding mentors for ourselves. Who have been our mentors? At first the idea of mentors was to find someone whose interests and passions aligned with our own – such a mentor would be our “swan” and would encourage us to grow into and experience our “swanness.”

This could happen in the early stages of development perhaps, but we saw that what one truly needs is to be encouraged to grow into freedom and self-realization, swan or no swan. The danger of finding what might at first feel like a fellow swan might lead us to make him or her our hero-swan.  With our hero-swan we might unconsciously copy and follow him or her and not really grow and evolve into our own unique true selves. So “yes” and “no” regarding hero-swan mentors.

Later, on the way home, Pat began reading out loud (a common practice for us on long drives) a book I had read and so enjoyed over a decade ago: Balancing Heaven and Earth by Robert Johnson. It is his autobiography written at the age of 76 [1998]. The early chapters, as they did a decade ago when I first read the book, again inspired me. In particular Johnson speaks of his early (when he was a boy of 11) near-death experience, how that experience gave him a glimpse of the “golden world,” and how so much of his life had been spent trying to find that golden world (heaven) while staying on earth (hence the title of his autobiography – Balancing Heaven and Earth).

He spent his professional career as a Jungian therapist and authored at least ten popular books from Jungian perspectives (He, She, We, etc.). What I resonate with is his sense of the Divine in everyday life. He was a transpersonal therapist who integrated the spiritual and psychological worlds, rather than an atheistic therapist to whom the spiritual means nothing but pathology to be healed. His transpersonal perspectives and experiences, balanced by the psychological work of stalking and resolving patterns and images, so resonate with me.

He speaks of the importance of mentors, or as he calls them, Godparents. His biological parents could not understand him at all when he was a young boy growing up. They dismissed his sense of the divine in his near-death experience and did not encourage him in music and other subjects that he so loved. His Godparents on the other hand saw him, also had had similar experiences of deep beauty and the world of the divine and so could understand and coach him in his inner formation. I appreciate Johnson’s distinction between parents and societal teachers and mentors who coach people in their livelihood and ego development during the first half of life (outer formation) on the one hand, and God-parents (or transpersonal therapists?) who could coach people as they transcended their ego and came to their real and authentic selves (inner formation) in the second half of life.

Of course Pat saw that much of Johnson’s story has been my story – only I really did not find those “Godparents” to support me in my young years when I was so searching for spiritual truth (though I would not have called it “spiritual truth” back then – I was pursuing and stuck between cosmology and science on the one hand and Lutheran doctrine/biblical fundamentalism on the other). But I would find “Godparents” (spiritual teachers, spiritual directors, and ultimately Pathwork and other teachings) later (in my fifties) to assist and guide me in transcending my ego and in experiencing my inner formation during the second half of my life. This inner formation may be where I shall be for the rest of my life – and I am so grateful to have been blessed by the group of people around me who assist me in this inner development.

And of course I see my emerging role as Pathwork Helper being a Call to being a transpersonal mentor – helping folks with their inner formation and development, helping them with their process of breaking out of their ego-shell of the first half of life and manifesting their divine rays from Source in the second half of life. What could be more satisfying than that!

Shared in love, Gary