A Deeper Look at Graduate Level Pathwork

I continue to explore the many facets of the new four-session graduate-level Pathwork program Erena Bramos is offering at Sevenoaks beginning in November and continuing through June 2013. I also continue to explore my attraction to participate in this program. Yesterday I again had a lengthy discussion with a veteran Pathworker friend of mine – a licensed counselor and 27-year deep-user of Pathwork. Some of what came out of this rich conversation led me to revise slightly my previous blog entry on this topic contrasting “graduate level” Pathwork with “undergraduate level” Pathwork (click to open). This conversation also led to some of the following additional perspectives on this topic.

To lead a graduate-level program in Pathwork requires several things. First the teacher must be a veteran Pathworker, one who has devoted 20 to 30 years of his or her life to personal growth using Pathwork as the main avenue of purification and transformation. Such a person will have stood in the fire of transformation many times, experienced its demands, its processes, and its rewards, and as a result be even more committed personally to this path called Pathwork than he or she was five years ago.

Second, such a leader of a graduate-level Pathwork program must be willing to be vulnerable, to let students see into his or her humanness. This breaks the pattern of transference between teacher and student that was so necessary for the student in the early “undergraduate” years of a student’s study of Pathwork. Transference seems to be part of the condition for a “safe container” in these early years of personal growth – be it with a therapist, Pathwork Helper, or a personal and spiritual growth program such as Pathwork. Via transference, the teacher, at the undergraduate level, becomes the “good” (or “bad”) parent and helps in a re-parenting process.

But for the graduate-level work the lines between student and teacher blur and melt away. The container is no longer “safe” in the same way that it was in the undergraduate work. In the undergraduate work the container was made “safe” by the good-parent teacher.  But while this level of safety is broken in the graduate level work, in reality the container in the graduate-level work becomes much more Safe for students at this deeper level of consciousness. The graduate-level teacher shares experiences of being in the fires of transformation, confessing that he or she is also in the fire. If the “teacher-parent” does not become utterly and merely human, that is, if the “teacher-parent” refuses to be a peer to this advanced Pathwork student, the student is robbed of the experience of entering the fire of transformation, the fire of Life, the Life where his or her Safety comes from within, not from without.

Third, the leader of the graduate-level Pathwork program must be able to discern whether or not a student is ready for this graduate (transformational) level of work. As the Pathwork Lectures point out, deeper material given to a student who is unprepared to work at this level can do damage to the student. On the other hand, when a student is ready for this deeper work but is not offered the opportunity to go there, said student will plateau and stall in his or her growth. Pathwork does not offer a permanent plateau where one has “arrived” and thereafter stays peaceful and serene for the rest of his or her life. No, the Call is always to continue if one is willing to say “Yes!” But the discernment for readiness is tricky and takes a skilled leader in the Pathwork to help a student decide if he or she is ready for such graduate-level deep transformational work.

Fourth, the leader of the graduate-level Pathwork program must be skilled at intuiting or knowing where a student is and where the student needs to go next for the deeper work of transformation. This takes wisdom on the part of the teacher as well as the courage to hold a student’s feet to the fire to facilitate the student’s transformation.

Transformation is the work of God within the student, by Grace, rather than the student’s egoic self-responsibility of purification that occurs in the undergraduate phase of spiritual development. Transformation requires a profound search for and dissolving of the very deep roots of negative intentionality inherent in us all – healing our fundamental dualistic splits and thereby fulfilling the purpose for which we are incarnated on this planet. This level of work is a challenge for both student and teacher, and the teacher’s skill, built up over years of experience, is used in the graduate program for the further transformational work of both student and teacher.

We on the Mid-Atlantic Pathwork Council wrestle with how to build the curriculum for our Pathwork Transformation Program. We are tempted to want to add new, more popular, more readable material so abundantly arising around us during these past two decades. But do these new materials, which often do not take us into the depths of our negative intentionality, take us away from the core teachings of Pathwork?  The graduate program goes deeper with Pathwork rather than introducing some of these new writings. Actually it is a both/and rather than an either/or, but when we feel a need to add new material to enrich our offering we ask ourselves, have we tried Pathwork and it has failed us, or have we not tried it deeply enough and hence not experienced the depth of its transformational power?

This morning in my Pathwork reading time I read these words from Lecture 166 Perceiving, Reacting, Expressing, ¶11:

You may flock to this or that supposed panacea, this or that new spiritual approach, always in the vague hope that it will open the gates to life — the full and vital life you somehow know you miss out on.  All of these must let you down in the end, for they are evasions, born in the hope that you will not have to dissolve the hard mass of tightly packed feelings of violence and pain.

So would we be colluding with folks’ resistance to self-confrontation by introducing new, easier to read, and more popular material and thereby getting away from the purpose of our lives, namely, the purification and transformation of our negativity? I would offer that this purification and transformation of negativity, which we Pathworkers seem to agree is central to Pathwork, is not just one aspect of spirituality, but rather the very central point of any true spiritual path. From that perspective I would argue why would one want to get away from Pathwork core teachings since they are the core tool of all true spiritual growth? Again, a both/and, not either/or – but I see the graduate work in Pathwork as intending to take us straight into the fire of transformation for those whose divine kernel is Calling them into this fire.

Caveat.  Through conversation, my deep reading of the Pathwork Lectures, and my own sense of things from within, this is how I am coming to understand what I am calling the graduate and undergraduate levels of Pathwork.  Is such a view correct? Helpful? Important? I seek the truth in this and invite others, inside or outside of Pathwork, to share their sense of what seems to me to be an important topic. I am curious why this understanding is so important to me that I pursue it to this degree, but I confess the energy for this arises within.

So why am I so drawn to this graduate-level of Pathwork? Through years of mirroring me, my veteran Pathworker with whom I talked yesterday knows me well. And in this conversation yesterday she led me to the understanding that at a core level I have a deep Calling to go deeper in Pathwork. After completing all the formal training in Pathwork that Sevenoaks offers (ten years), after having recorded all 258 of the Pathwork Lectures over the past six years (at six hours per lecture, that would be 1,500 hours working with the lectures), after hundreds  of hours of processing and workshops – both for me and in teaching, three years of helper sessions with my helper Moira Shaw, I can recognize clearly that my Call is to go to this deeper level of transformation, to join my Tribe of veteran Pathworkers who can support such work through their own examples of doing Pathwork in a deeply committed way.

Following this Call has brought with it my energy for the Graduate-Level Pathwork Program that Erena is offering.  My hunger for this program is for furthering my own transformation at ever-deeper levels. Yes, I would like others to join me simply to make it a richer experience, but I am clear that my primary draw is personalto enter the deeper fires of transformation.

It should be noted that the undergraduate/graduate line is not fixed in concrete and is very personal to each student. The Pathwork Transformation Program at Sevenoaks is currently five years. The intention is that years 1 and 2 and perhaps the first half of year 3 would be undergraduate in approach. Years 4 and 5 would offer students an experience to begin the deeper graduate-level work of transformation. After graduating from PTP one is “launched” in his or her spiritual path using Pathwork tools, and should be able to enter graduate level programs to deepen one’s personal journey to God. And this could happen every year for the rest of one’s life.

Mid-Atlantic Pathwork offers two trainings post PTP: Advanced Pathwork Studies and Helper Training. Both of these programs include graduate-level personal work as well as training to take Pathwork out into the world, serving as Pathwork teachers or, eventually, Pathwork helpers.  The graduate program next year does not include the training side of this advanced work but rather serves to support graduate-level students to go ever deeper into their Call.

To close my half of the conversation I had with my Pathwork veteran yesterday we explored what brings me joy in Pathwork. I could identify six things: 1) Working personally with the Lectures on a daily basis, 2) Writing about my experiences in my blog whenever so moved, 3) Diagramming the Pathwork concepts via PowerPoint – thereby etching the material onto my Soul Substance (these materials are shared on this website – click here), 4) Deep Conversations with others – Pat and several Pathwork and other friends for whom personal transformation is a primary life goal, 5) Using Pathwork Counselors/Helpers to deepen my relationship with Pat on all levels: physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually (couplehood as a path within the path), and 6) Joining in with Erena and others in this Graduate-level Pathwork program.  To these sources of Joy I say and commit myself to a YES! Certainly my support network of so many counselors, helpers, and teachers contribute to this process of answering my Call with a big YES!  And with this YES! I can say NO to things that are not my Call. As I see this support and love all around me I am filled with Joy and Gratitude. Yes, Life is Good.  God is Good.  Amen.

Shared in love, Gary