Answering my Call to be an Acorn — From Pseudo-Leadership to Leadership

Divinely led experiences before, during, and after Erena’s Module IV of the Pathwork Graduate Program several weeks ago (May 30-June 2) at Sevenoaks led to some major transitions in my life. Let me describe some of these.

What makes me feel safe and OK in life? What I saw was that my relationship to a teacher (like Erena, say), to a teaching (say, for me, Pathwork, and earlier, the Bible), and/or to a structure (currently my various roles at Sevenoaks and within Mid-Atlantic Pathwork, and earlier, my career, my Lutheran church, and various other organizations). Yet I am a bit uncomfortable in these externally-based self-identities. It feels like building the foundation of my identity on sand rather than rock, the rock of my inner Essence. And when I do this externally based self-identification I realize I am not being true to my own Essence, whatever that may be, but rather relying on these external forms that I have chosen as a basis of my identity, and continue to choose for whatever reason.

What do I most seek in life, things that have led me to structurally-based, highly mental self-identification? I realize that I am often not aware of what is motivating me in my many facets of life, yet I seem so involved in the seeking process – seeking without even knowing that I am seeking it seems. Perhaps I am driven in my seeking by some deep element of my Soul. Perhaps what I most seek is to fully experience Life as it unfolds in each moment.

Pause. Is that true? Perhaps unconsciously, but I could not consciously put this into words such as these, which seem somehow profound and beyond me. But let me accept this as possibly true for the time being. So this poses the question, “And where am I unfolding just now in this moment?” And why have I chosen externally based structures for my identification in this unfolding?

I can see that early in life certain key aspects of my personal development were left behind as I was growing up – namely, my emotional and somatic sensing/experiencing parts. But my mind “saved” me and served me well – early on I could think my way through life, and from my mind and within this culture I could even find myself “successful” and in “leadership” in various organizations. In other words, this mental approach to life worked well in my externally-defined identity in the classroom, in a structured teaching environment under a structured teacher, and, to a degree, in business, in my church, and in numerous organizations in which I served. It could even work somewhat in my marriage and in my family.

But on the unstructured playground, or times calling for spontaneity in my body and emotions, I was at a lost. The company golf outing, or going out with the guys for a brew after a day at the office, joining in with others at the church picnic or joing the church bowling league, or showing up on the dance floor – well these would be most uncomfortable. My ego could not navigate the world of spontaneity, rather, only the world of fixed structures.

During the experience with Erena in this graduate program module an image came up to help me see what is going on in me. While in my mind I might be able to be a “mighty oak” in the structure of the forest, in the rest of me, in my body and in my emotions, I was still an acorn. If, as I claim I desire, I am to live fully into my Life as it unfolds in each moment, then I need to be the acorn I am in my physical sensing/experiencing and emotional parts. These latter dimensions are not as required to be “successful” in the structures of our culture, but they are absolutely necessary for a healthy and mature Life experience on the various unstructured playgrounds of life.

And it is on the playgrounds of life where we find our spontaneity, our Essence, and our joy and fulfillment. This is not “play” in the sense of frivolity but in the sense of effortless effort – activities arising out of creativity and spontaneity of my Essence. Play as writing this blog is play.

Because I have been so wrapped up in my mental functioning it has not occurred to me to seek fulfillment and joy outside my various frameworks (frameworks established by teachers and other leaders, teachings, and organizations). Rather, if I sensed fulfillment and joy were missing in the structures I happened to be in, then I would leave these structures (company, church, marriage, etc.) and seek these qualities in other structures – but all mental frameworks nonetheless, rarely considering the possibility that the answers to full living were not in these external frameworks based upon mental capacities at all but rather from within my being, from within my Divine Essence. I came to see that my task in this incarnation was to fully live into my acornness! – that is, living fully into those parts that are so young in me – my physical, emotional, and, yes, my sexual aspects.

Of course being an acorn is challenging at first – beginning by having to give up my identity as an oak. This is a process of unmasking myself of my pseudo-mental-only oakness and standing there before my “oakish” peers, in a place of vulnerability as an acorn.  It is a process of coming to know myself as the acorn I am in the worlds of the physical, emotional, and sexual beingness. Can I come to celebrate my acornness when all my life I thought I had to be a mighty oak?

Erena gave a beautiful example of a common defense pattern that even we in Pathwork use – a defense of pseudo-vulnerability and pseudo-openness. The example was the defense used by the Sea Cucumber. The animal, when threatened, expels a part of itself. The enemy gets involved with this part of the animal while the rest of the animal escapes and in a matter of several weeks restores its expelled part. So a person, in the presence of one he or she does not fully trust, one who nevertheless invites openness and vulnerability, will share a portion of his or her Essence, but only a portion. This would not be enough of one’s Essence to be truly vulnerable with the other, but rather enough for the untrusted one to chew on for a while. This is a mask of pseudo-vulnerability and pseudo-openness.

Instantly I knew this defense pattern applied to me. When approached by someone I do not fully trust I let out a bit of my Essence and in this act appear vulnerable but really am not. When I have, for whatever reason, decided that I cannot trust the other I play this game with the other. This creates a wall between the other and me and keeps me safe. But it is deceptive on my part, yet a deceptiveness I choose as a necessary defense of my ultimate Essence.

This mask of my Essence, my pseudo Essence, is frequently mental – a modality from which I feel safe. I would never let the other into my world of physicality, emotionality, or sexuality, my true Essence. And thus true and complete intimacy is blocked. Yes, mental intimacy is achieved, but this is not what the acorn in me longs for. The acorn is built for full intimacy. I am reminded of Jack Kornfield’s wise saying, Learn to see with the heart, which loves, rather than with the mind, which compares and defines. Yes, in my pseudo-vulnerability I shall share those parts of me that fit into the world of defining and comparing, but not into the world of intimacy and love.

I did a major work scene with Erena on this issue. We called this Sea Cucumber defense system in me my Essence Killer – yes, this Essence Killer lives within me and is projected out onto others. I do not want to see my own full Essence in the physical, emotional and sexual arenas and so use my mental aspects as a defense against seeing myself. And this is projected onto others as well. The work scene was oh-so-helpful to me, and in the process led to a major healing between me and another person in our group, a person I will let define and compare me via labels placed on me, but never allow an emotional or physical connection. I saw that this “I will never let you experience my FULL Essence, even if it kills me to keep you from experiencing me,” applied to my relationship with many in leadership at Sevenaoks, as well as to Mom and Dad, other authorities, and even to God. I would let others see me in a mental arena, but never in a physical, emotional, or sexual arenas. I had become my own Essence Killer!

Back to the question, “What do I seek in life?” I find I seek to understand myself as well as understand others around me. Suddenly I saw that I enjoy much of life but fail to recognize things I do as joyful. I enjoy the Pathwork lectures and their role in helping come to deep levels of self-understanding. I enjoy writing my blog – organizing these understandings and integrating them into my beingness. Yes, sharing these writings is somehow a part of all this. Then Erena blurted out her wisdom, Gary, if you enjoy writing your blog, what other reason do you need to write it? I was stunned for a moment. I was seeing this blog-writing as narcissistic, which it could be, but is it any more narcissistic than a painter revealing himself or herself through the creativity arising from his or her art? Or a dancer in his or her dancing? This word of wisdom from Erena was quite freeing. Others, for example my helper Moira, have encouraged me in the same vein, as have Sage and Anthony in Pat’s and my couple’s work. Even my business card lays out my theme: A Shared Life of Curiosity, Wrestling, and Exploration, and on the card I invite conversation with anyone interested. I tend to this garden of self-discovery. As part of this tending I am one who blogs, has a website, records and listens to Pathwork Lectures, works intensely on my relationship with Pat and developing our intimacy with one another, exercises, maintains his weight, enjoys deep relationships with several others, and has, for over a year now, has had chronic myelogenous leukemia – and who in all of this beingness is utterly and merely human. Now it is time to live into all of this Real Self as the Acorn I am, to realize that I do, in fact, enjoy so much of life quite apart from my organizational roles that I use to define myself to myself and to others!

And I see that when I bring only my mental capacities to my leadership my leadership is a pseudo-leadership and not authentic leadership. In a mental-only, logic-only mode I cannot really hold my own. No, I need to back up and let the other capacities and potentialities of my Essence emerge, my physical, emotional, and sexual aspects. In true leadership all of me is needed or I shall wear myself out. With these other capacities joining my mental capacities I can step into authentic leadership, and it will be effortless effort. Until then it is time to take a timeout in my organizational life and get back on the playgrounds of life where my spontaneous creativity can develop and mature, where I can enjoy being merely and utterly the acorn that I am and allowing this acorn to grow naturally and organically, at its own pace, into the oak that it inevitably will become in its own time.

This was a part of my experience in Module 4 of Erena’s graduate program.  I am very grateful for her steadfastness and wisdom in this purification and transformational work going on within this acorn that is my Essence. I could truly say that I enjoyed this graduate program in a profound way for all that was revealed. This experience of revelation is my Joy in life. Yes, I seek because in my acornness I am a seeker! Being the Seeker I am brings me the Joy that is my Essence. 

Shared in love, Gary