A Spectrum of Energy — From Intensity To Relaxation

My psychophysical session with Ed Gutfreund

On Tuesday (3/12/13) I had a beautiful session with my psychophysical therapist Ed Gutfreund. I began the session sharing my experience from the day before.  In a luncheon conversation on Monday I had shared with a dear friend of mine and his wife Pat’s and my experience of cleaning out our storage shed – a 10’x15’ temperature-controlled space that we have rented for years for close to $200 per month, thereby, embarrassingly, being a part of the $22B Personal Storage industry.  I had explained to my friend what I was learning from this “cleaning-out” experience.

The lessons came from seeing my biography before my eyes. The storage shed captured my life in phases. First there was the “photographing wildflowers” phase taken up in my early thirties. Spring, summer and fall, weekend after weekend, would find me at the nature center or elsewhere with my Nikon F4 with its exquisite Nikkor macro lens plus the flash apparatus I had designed for the purpose of photographing wildflowers with ease — plenty of depth of field and near-perfect exposure. Photo after photo – all on fine grain Kodachrome 25 film, thousands of slides. What an investment of my energy this represents!

Then there were class notes and projects for the many graduate courses I took from Sr. Barbara Fiand – maybe 5 boxes in all of stored material.

But what really got my attention was my book collecting. Fortunately the books were not in storage — I had given them all away. But in the storage garage I discovered an itemization of my book expenditures – not by book but by dollars per year. In 1996 (age 54 – the year I retired) — $5,223. Yes, almost $400/month. Then over the four-year period 1997-2000 the dollar amount for books was between $10,800 and $13,600 per year (yes, over $1,000 per month for four years), and finally tapered off to $4,304 in 2002, and, in 2003 when I connected up with Pat, a “mere” $2,011 – in all: $65,000!  The subjects of my then vast library were focused on spirituality, psychology (including complete works of Carl Jung, for example), sexuality, and personal growth. And this was the library I gave away in 2007 when Pat and I moved to our condo in Milford. The number $65,000 stunned even me. Thank goodness I had given them away and not tried to rent even more storage space for them!

From there came the journals, all begun in 1992 when I turned 50. Again, thousands of pages, box upon box – many typed up and also stored in computer files, but also many in long hand – including notes from classes, coffee time with Pat, and so on. And I would make copies of some of the handwritten journals – just to make sure I didn’t lose them! Why were these thousands of pages of journals so precious to me?

As I said earlier, embarrassingly, I had shared all of this with my friend and his wife over lunch on Monday.  My friend’s response after hearing this story: “Gary, I hope you see your Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in this!”

As I shared my expansive extravagance with Ed in my session I could feel the energy build in my chest.  I was not embarrassed with Ed as I had been with my friend. I became aware of the possibility that these stored materials represented the energy in all that has manifested in my life. And Ed was on my side as well, not at all convinced of my friend’s OCD diagnosis. Rather Ed helped me to see all of this energy was perhaps my Life Force arising. I paused to consider the positive motivations giving rise to all that I have been involved in throughout my rich life.

I considered other aspects of my life. I was very active in my job at SDRC and in my church life at St. Paul Lutheran Church and with my family. But, while consuming much of my time, these career, church and family activities were not my true passion. Rather, as my slide collection developed in my thirties proved, I loved the wild flowers because they brought me back to the Majesty of Nature.  During my wildflower extravaganza years nothing would excite me more than discovering a wildflower I had not yet photographed, especially one with a complex or unusual structure. This trumped all that was going on at home, work, or at church. It was an outlet that nourished me.

And the same thing happened in my early fifties when I had developed a deep emotional relationship with a woman. Again the energy of this relationship dominated my inner energetic life, although externally I remained active on all other fronts. This relationship turned my life upside down and replaced wildflowers as my source of joy in living. This relationship lasted about five years and set the stage of all that would follow.

Part of what followed was my building the extensive library I mentioned. Though I read but few of them, I loved the thousands of books that surrounded me in the Tourmaline Life Center, the center I created to house and share the books and host various activities. Why the books? I surrounded myself with them because of the spiritual and psychological wisdom they represented. My extensive library became a symbol for my searching for life’s meaning and truth.

This search also led me to activities such as the Ken Wilber group that met at Tourmaline Life Center. Other parallel activities that arose out of this search included my entry into being a hospital chaplain intern and then a massage therapist – all miles from my career as an organizational man or my life as husband or father. And yes, there was profound sadness in what was missing as well – for my family and for me. My life was very rich, and yet fragmented and not cohesive at its core in my relationships, including, sadly, my family life.

And through the last 15 years there was the journaling by which I sought to integrate and honor my spiritual journey.  Eventually this journaling became my blogging, which I added to other sharing on my website. Blogging was a release of the energy I held for this journey of life.  This blogging came out of the same energy as my recording of the Pathwork lectures, which had become an outlet for the Pathwork wisdom earlier over a six-year period (2006-2012) in my life. Yes, lots of energy, a longing for deeper consciousness and meaning, for love and life. All of this was coming from a deep source within my soul.  Maybe it appears as OCD to some, but this energy feels central to who I am. Is this narcissistic? Perhaps, but also perhaps in a positive way – being more fully who I am and manifesting the unique me and celebrating others becoming the unique individuals they are, all aspects of the One. But there was a lot of pain and grief in this unbalance as well.

And then in my session with Ed I turned to my relationship with Pat. How many couples, after meditating in the morning, go on to begin most days with an additional 1-2-hour coffee time of deep intimate sharing on spirituality, psychology, and emotional and sexual connection – all part of the Grand Mystery that Life is? And add to this, how many couples then have biweekly Skype sessions with a husband and wife counselor team specializing in intimacy and couplehood as a spiritual path, whose sessions they record and listen to, sometimes two or three times before the next session? And again this material finds its way into my blog entries. At what point does this all become excessive? Or is this, all of this “squandering into Life,” (squandering being used positively in the Pathwork lectures as an inherent characteristic of the Life Force) simply who I am in this lifetime?

All of this awareness and energy rose up in me during the first half hour of my session with Ed. I was feeling it in my heart and chest area. I was so alive, celebrating and feeling the richness of my life.

But was I overdosing on and gorging myself with all this energy rather than savoring it bite by bite? I notice that after all of this expansion I so often fall into long bouts of anxiety and fear, perhaps even depression. Is this another disorder – bipolar perhaps? Or again is it just part of who I am?

And I further notice that at the core of my searching is the question, “Gary, what is love?” This question again comes from a deep Knowing that “Love Is All That Matters,” as the song goes. So where is love in all of that energizes my life? And yet, do I not experience love in my relationship with Pat? Or did I not with my marriage partner, my family, and other intense and defining relationships earlier in my life? Am I just not understanding what love is although I am swimming in it? This deeply concerns me, thinking that all of my energy notwithstanding, love, this purpose of all of life, has perhaps escaped me.

I went on with Ed. Gary: Pat and I talk about our struggles with love. We ask ourselves, “Yes, we have so much in our relationship, but where is the Eros we so long for in our souls?” This is what we are working on with our couples counselor team. And this was brought home to me at the end of lunch with my friend and his wife. I had mentioned my longing for love, and to this he got up, put his arm around his wife, and said, “Gary, this is love. I am learning more about love each day of our lives together, more so now than I’ve ever known before.” At his words I was deeply touched.

And I could further see love from Andrew Solomon’s book Far From the Tree where he describes the unconditional unreciprocated love that parents have for their children in cases of extreme disability. I am aware that this level of love is territory I do not know, at least not consciously. These extremely challenging conditions, Solomon writes, have changed who these parents are as people, breaking open their hearts. This love is what I long for, AND this love is what terrifies me.

I get caught up in the intensity of my life, yet without a grounded sense of love what do I have? As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” Is this me? This is very perplexing to me, beyond what my Ego can handle. Ed: So when you are this much aware of this intensity and of the perplexing nature of it, what do you start to notice about yourself? I know you have lots of thoughts, but what is your emotional state, and what is your physical state that you are aware of? Gary: I feel very vibrating in my heart/chest area, like a panting pattern of breathing. It’s very alive. Ed: If that little vibration had a word or an image, what would it be? Gary: There is a lot of Joy – so an expansion. The image would be coming out of jail. Being able to be that all here. (Afterthought: My words surprised me, “getting out of jail?” What jail? I am reminded of the form and formless sides of the various dimensions of duality. It would seem this intensity in me has some imbalance, I would guess on the side of form, running away in fear from the formless. Balance is what is needed – 50/50 both/and vs. either/or).

Ed: So something about that intensity is really freeing. Gary: There is something about allowing the intensity, allowing what is in me, to be OK. In fact, I think what happens, Ed, is that I’ve not been aware of this much intensity, rather, I am just in it. (Afterthought: This “just being in it,” or swept away by it, is what happens, of course, in the dualistic imbalances of life) Ed: Not observing it? Gary: Right. I am just caught in this intensity and throwing myself at it. Ed: It sweeps you along? Gary: Yes, the intensity sweeps me along, and I think what may happen is, “Well Gary, you have a lot of feelings about these things. That excitement IS a FEELING, Gary.” Oh my, I am not as “feeling-deaf” as I think I am. I might in fact be a fish in water (feelings) looking for water (feelings). I just notice that wow. Ed: So what if you would give yourself a moment with that. Feel what is in your heart, and all the way out to your fingertips. (Pause)

Gary: What I notice is that there is a savoring of the intensity. I don’t have to throw it out of my self, expressing it, being swept away by it. Rather, I can just hold that energy, be aware of it, observe it, be curious about it, and enjoy it. It’s as if the expressing of the energy gets too extreme and I express the energy rather than savor the energy, pondering it in my heart. So can I just savor the energy of that without expressing it? Rather, can I just hold it?

Ed: You feel it differently when you hold and savor it rather than express it, right? You experience it differently. Gary: I feel it more. In expressing the energy, throwing it out, being swept away by it, it seems I dissipate it rather than just feeling and enjoying it. Can I just enjoy the energy and the intensity? Ed: Can you take in the nourishment the energy gives you? Gary: I hadn’t considered that, but it is very nourishing and enlivening, even inspiring. What I am seeing is the importance of being aware of that life energy, that Life Force within me, without needing to blab it out necessarily when I am in groups or with Pat even. Rather, I can just slow down and enjoy the energy and intensity in me. I do not have to defend the intensity, dissipate it, or judge it. There is something very freeing in that as well.

Ed: So you feel the aliveness in this intensity, and you start to take in the nourishment of that. I start to wonder, “As you let some of your time with Pat, your coffee time, say, come to the edge of your awareness, these rich conversations you have for instance, what if you savored the richness of those conversations as well?” They have a quality of intensity, and you can take in what that exchange provides for both of you, you can take in your own experience of that. Gary: Yes, to be able to savor what Pat and I have in our connection during our coffee time. Again, it is a slowing down. Can we just savor, without even finishing the next sentence? Can we come to delight in ourselves and in each other, delight in that which holds this energy? It is a kind of uniqueness in each of us. Ed: So what’s happening when you reflect on this possibility? What happens in your heart?   Gary: It feels like there is more opening. The whole idea of slowing down seems really important.   Ed: Feel the rest of your body, around your heart, when you slow down in this moment. Gary: It feels like opening a door to a different room somehow.

(Ed and I move to his massage table. Ed places pillows under my head, ankles and hands. Ed’s hand is on my heart.)

Ed: Feel these places of support. Savor any sensations in your hands and feet. Notice as you slow down, taking your time. Gary: What I notice is a fear of slowing down. Ed: When you have all this support, see if you can allow yourself to feel the fear of slowing down. Gary: Falling deeper, right under your hand on my heart. Like floating down in water and landing on the bottom of the lake or ocean. I settle into the silt on the bottom of the lake.

Ed: When the fear gets down to silt and rests there, what might it say? Gary: Welcome! Ed: Welcome?! … What happens in the rest of you when you hear the fear say, “Welcome”? … Gary: The fear, the stress, seems to dissipate a bit. There is a relaxing. … Ed: What happens in your thoughts when you feel yourself relaxing and hear the invitation, “Welcome,” from the fear? … Gary: My thoughts slow down. … And then there is a resistance to the thoughts slowing down. … Like I dare not stop thinking!

Ed: That resistance speaks another kind of fear, “Gary don’t dare slow down in your thinking!” …  Gary: It’s on two levels. You don’t have to think about what you are feeling and you don’t have to write down what you are thinking. Just be. Ed: Feel the invitation to just be. …  Gary: It’s as if someone has “pulled the plug.” …  Ed: And what are they pulling the plug on? Gary: All the thinking apparatus. And it’s a peaceful pulling of the plug, no anxiety in the pulling of the plug. Ed: So there is some ease that comes with that. … What happens in your heart as you come to recognize that ease of not thinking so hard?  …  Gary: I am more present to my heart. More aware. Ed: Take your time with that. Notice what your heart perceives when you are aware of it. … Gary: There is an increasing trust in what the heart feels. It can’t quite name what it feels, but I see that there is some softening. …

Ed: Stay in touch with that quality that informs you of trusting the heart, this heart, right here. … Your ribcage, and your heart really here. … Gary: I have sensations in my teeth also. … Like letting my body inform me of where it wants my attention. … and then just going there and being with it – as here with my teeth. Ed: It really invites listening, doesn’t it? Gary: Listening to my body. Being curious about that. …

Ed: What happens to the resistance to slowing down your thoughts when you get curious about listening to your body this way? Gary: Well it’s an invitation to further slowing down. Ed: You might even expand your awareness beyond the focus area of your heart to a little further out in your limbs, further down, notice how your whole body might be responding to this invitation to further slowing down. …

Ed: Keep in mind where you were a little while ago. Can you feel that you bring the possibility of nourishment here? Can you feel some of that nourishment in this further slowing down? Gary: Yes. It’s like giving myself permission to slow down. Ed: You can actually do that, can’t you? Gary: Yes. Ed: Notice your capacity to allow yourself permission to slow down. … Gary: It’s like melting into the table. Ed: It’s almost like the bones of your sternum and ribs here – it feels like they’ve softened a bit. …

Gary: It’s a little bit like hallucinating. (laughing) I don’t do hallucinating, but … Ed: Something alters in your consciousness though. Gary: Yes, something is different. Ed: It might just be worth getting a little familiar with that. There is a kind of mood in this slowing down – similar to how you slow down in your meditation, which might contribute to it. Just for here and now when you feel this slowing down, this kind of alteration, it kind of feels like a hallucination. Notice what keeps emerging from yourself when you take in nourishment at this slow pace. … Gary: It seems there is a forever letting go. Letting go, and then letting go, and then letting go. … Ed: You are welcome to the time of however many layers there are to that letting go, letting go, letting go. … See if you can tell different places in your body when you are letting go. …

Gary: Still some sensations in my teeth and jaw. …  Ed: If these have more to say to you, what might that be? … Gary: It seems almost preverbal. … Like a wild animal growling. … Like a wolf. … Ed: Just feel those sensations, how they speak something. … And notice what happens when you listen to them. … Gary: It melts and goes to the next layer. … Ed: Stay in touch with yourself as much as you are able, but what do you hear when you go to the next layer? …  Where are you?  Gary: There is a lot of motion in my mouth. … Like unwinding.  Ed: Another kind of letting go.  Gary: Yes, like we used to do in Cranial Sacral work in massage class. … Ed: Yes, didn’t you study some of that biodynamic cranial sacral material from Hugh Milne? That is so much about listening, and listening, and listening, and listening. … See your capacity to listen, which emerges when you are so linked up this way. …  Gary: Things get more diffuse into my arms …

Ed: Imagine if you could create little experiments for yourself that you could try once in a while, on your own.  As you were talking before about savoring about what you and Pat get in your morning time.  What would happen if you just sat with each other after these wonderful conversations you have in the morning. Just listen internally, empathically, intuitively, feel the energy field between yourselves, within yourselves, taking in the nourishment of your conversation, feeling the slowing down.  Gary: Nourishing, yes, it feels nourishing. …

Ed: Take one more little scan from head to toe, back to front, and inside to outside.  See how you can memorize this really slowed down state. … I’m going to remove my hand from your heart. And in a moment I’m going to ask you to sit up.  Take it slowly. … Gary:  It’s a pretty amazing state. … Ed: You can sit in the waiting room for a minute, or your car. Become complete enough so that you can drive home safely. Have a slow and careful transition here. …  You don’t have to rush the transition.

Gary: It’s a pretty deep place. Ed: Yes it is. … Gary: I’ve come to a different world.  Feels like coming out of a trance. Ed: It’s a pretty deep contemplative state in many ways, isn’t it? Gary: I would say. Certainly a new experience. I feel very present. Ed: You get something different when you really slow down, don’t you? It strikes me that there is a continuum from the intensity with which you began the session, which has one kind of energy to it, and this real slow space at the end of the session, with a different kind of energy. Gary: They are both there. Ed: Yes, they are both there. Part of our potential. Gary: Very good, Ed. Thank you.

This experience has served me well these past few days. Of course this is an understatement.

Shared in love, Gary

Epilog:  In preparing for the Graduate Program Module III that begins this week I was listening to Pathwork Lecture 149 – Cosmic Pull Toward Union – Frustration. A particular set of paragraphs seemed to relate to this session with Ed, and I copied it into the Pathwork Quote section of my website. I titled it: Experiencing Pleasure In A Frustrating World. I found I could apply this to my life this past week. Oh the joy of struggling and living in our dualistic world!