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A Shared Life of Wrestling, Growth, and Discovery

Alone in a Crowd

Pat’s and my time together is precious, especially as we connect over coffee time in the morning. And yesterday, Sunday of the Labor Day weekend, was no different. And the time resulted in a blog entry that was rich with meaning for me. It dealt with community, my Pathwork community and our USness as Pat and Gary – P&G, as we like to say.

And then in the afternoon we drove off to be with Pat’s family in Louisville. We drove down with Pat’s son, daughter-in-law, and grandson, Henry. A two-hour ride in the car, they driving and Pat and I in the back seat on either side of Henry, Pat’s “bundle of endless energy” grandson, was a lovely family scene. And upon arriving in Louisville we joined in with Pat’s mom, Pat’s two sisters and one of Pat’s sister’s three children, and their six and a half children, the “half” coming from the one to be born two days hence. Quite a crowd for Pat and me, in sharp contrast to our solitary life in our Milford condo!

And this entire family is a marvelous gathering of just what you would want a family to be. Conversation about kids punctuated continuously by the kids themselves. Food galore – none of which I should indulge in but do. Plenty of TV in the background – the UK vs. Louisville football game being dominant. I really honor this family and their values. But how do we relate?

So in this world of hustle and bustle, kids running around everywhere, what do I say in conversation beyond the superficial “How are you doing? What’s up in your life?” And I have no idea how to answer in a meaningful way the reciprocal question they pose: “So Gary and Pat, what’s up in your lives?” As intense as our lives are, I have nothing to say but, “Man are we busy!” The inevitable follow-up question “With what?” draws Pat and me into silence and perplexity. What on earth could we say that would be meaningful? I honestly don’t know. I felt the awkwardness of these moments Sunday. I noticed that I was not judging them to be “wrong” and us “right,” or vice versa, but just perplexed about how to share our lives with them and they their lives with us. What would rich engagement look like?

And then there is the role of technology. Driving down and back Henry spent much of his time with his headset on playing various educational games on his parents’ hand-me-down iPad. Pat and I could watch, but I could barely follow what Henry was doing. Then on the way home Mom and Dad engaged in a game of “Whose Theme Song is That?” using their iPhone to bring up theme songs from old TV series – programs I hardly knew let alone knew the theme-song that matched, and the stars playing in them? Forget it! But Pat could join in, and there was fun in the air. Again, I could be a witness to this “family time,” but I had no way of participating in the family time. I feel the same lack of connection in Trivial Pursuit – a game that shows up an incredible amount of ignorance in my memory bank!

Throughout the day I could feel the pain of my aloneness. And I could blame them for being so hooked on technology and the “trivia” of life, avoiding any threat of a conversation about Life and its Meaning.  AND I could see that I was guilty of the same thing, being hooked on the positive energy I feel awaiting my upgrade to a new MacBook Pro that should be in any day. Yes my mind entertains itself by the joy of anticipation in getting a new computer with its 4x RAM and 10x disk storage than has the 5-year-old MacBook I am using here to type this blog entry.

And I realize that even my blog entries are in a way quite superficial – communicating with the “un-answering” “distant” “Cloud in the Sky” of the technology age. But at the same time I am attached to this illusory “connection” – noticing my disappointment when, after my many hours of composing blogs, the response as reported on Google Analytics on a particular morning may be “zip” compared to the already disappointing average of 5 unique visitors per day with each visitor spending an average of only 3 -4 minutes per visit. And actual responses are but 2 or 3 per YEAR. What am I longing for here with my blog?  Connection? With whom? Perhaps my own soul. In fact there may be truth here!

As I sat in meditation on this question this morning I noticed my mind racing off to the to-do list of the day, or to that new Mac coming soon. I seem to resist even inquiring either about love and connection or about what blocks me from experiencing more of this in my life.  Pat then joined me for coffee time. And even here I noticed my mind racing every which way as we sat in silence on the screened-in deck as the rain of Isaac provided a pleasant background masking noise.

Pat: This new sub-group of 12 of my spiritual community that I am joining is consequential. It will be a place where we can be honest with each other. Yesterday I was feeling “Chaos, Messiness, and Destruction,” but I was feeling these negative qualities in a new way, a more neutral way. In high school I hated conflict. The “Debate Team” was the last activity I would have engaged with – too threatening. Now, with this new subgroup forming, I have signed up to participate in something where I will be “undone.” It will be the great “undoing” of who I think I am. AND I’m excited about this, not terrified.

Gary: Yes, I can see the significance for you of this new group of 12 travelers with their teacher – especially in juxtaposition with our time with your family yesterday. And I wonder how having this “super group” will affect your and my connection as well. Pat: You and I? I see our USness as unaffected. In fact our relationship goes hand in hand. And about family? It is so hard to sit around and chitchat with them. However perhaps our energy around family is peaceful, perhaps our Presence is palpable and a benefit to all.

Gary: Yes, Jesus Christ commissioned the 12 Apostles. They were to be out in the world but not of the world. They were not to be hermits living in caves but rather, like Jesus Christ himself, they were to be out among the crowds spreading the message and experience of love and truth. This Presence does not separate us from family but rather perhaps introduces a level of peace, love and truth into the mix of family.

Gary (continuing): And I notice there are levels of appeal of the Truth we are coming to experience. At first we are enthused by the message of Truth, and we spread the word of Pathwork, say, because we want others to experience our enthusiasm. Pathwork, say, has helped me solve some life problems.  At this stage we may numb out the cost of the following this path all the way, however. We are wanting everyone to feel the Bliss that Pathwork promises. Then we come to see the price of following these teachings to the core of our being! This deeper place requires commitment and courage, and many may not be up to that price. Even some of us fall away at that point.

Gary (continuing): From a deeper place of Pathwork (or other authentic spiritual programs) we are entering the world where we will be “undone.” People were drawn to Jesus Christ by the thousands, but when he talked about taking up the cross and following him even the 12 left him at first! “No, please. I want bliss, not a cross!”  The cross for us is the symbol of death of the little ego – and not many want to hear about that. “Oh please, tell us about bliss supreme. I want that! But not if I have to change who I am!” And of course at first the price seems to be our very identity. And it turns out that this loss of identity is indeed the price, because our current identity can never give us the Peace that we long for. No, this shell of existence has to be transformed. I again am reminded of Bonhoeffer and his book The Cost of Discipleship. This is not a popular message for one not wanting to take self-responsibility. He was addressing what he called “Cheap Grace” that was an issue he saw in a church that would not stand against Hitler.

Pat: Let’s go back to Henry in the car and his way of triggering you. Gary: Yes, I was projecting onto him my own addiction to “things” and my own world of self-centeredness. Pat: Henry was with his iPad and not connected. Can you feel his suffering in not feeling connected? And witness his defense of retreating into his own world? Gary: Yes, absolutely that withdrawing into the world of technology lives in me and is a pseudo protection against feeling the pain of my disconnectedness, my absence of a feeling of Love. Pat: Yes. We are trying to connect with others from “Out There” and see this lack of “Out There” connection as the problem. Rather we need to connect with the Divine Essence we are within. Then, thus connected with our Divine Essence within, we discover  that we are in Truth connected with the All. Gary: Yes, this is Ira Progoff’s Life Stream connecting all of our wells.

Gary (continuing): Our blockages lead us to the illusion that our wells are deep and separate, never connecting to the Life Stream. From our distortions of our Divine Rays (the distortions being Pride, Self-Will, and Fear in the Pathwork model) we believe we are separate. These distorted aspects of us need to be purified and transformed. And this purification and transformation is why we are here on planet Earth. This process is “taking up the cross” and following Jesus.

Pat: So for me this is quite a bit of the puzzle coming together. It is sobering! While I am not feeling undone in a foundational way, this way will be the great undoing! From here we can come to appreciate the energy of joy in the car driving back from Louisville even though we are not participating. We encourage joy wherever we see it. Gary: I get it. Appreciating all the technology-based entertainment in the car is like my appreciating ballroom dancing without having to master the dancing myself. But I would love to be able to dance! And that subject may have to be taken up at a later time.

Shared in love, Gary

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Gary Vollbracht