Beginning to Experience Love
I notice it has been a while since I’ve posted an entry. No particular reason except my life has been so full of beautiful engagements with so many people in so many settings and also so full of engagements with concepts and activities. I notice especially my engagement in the 6-week series that Patty and I are leading for six beautiful participants, including Pat who decided to be in this class with us. In other words, life has been exhaustingly full in so many wonderful ways.
This weekend finds me at a Pathwork helpers retreat at Sevenoaks. Here I am with 12 other helpers or helper apprentices, 13 of us in all. We have been together for only two hours, but I have already been blessed beyond words by an incident at the opening check-in, which, by the way, lasted 20 minutes past our intended 10 PM end time. That’s right, all we have done so far in our 2 hours together is to check in — each stating where we are and what we are bringing to this retreat.
I checked in first, expressing my new awareness, awareness in that moment, of my fear of these beautiful people, fear of being truly myself with each one of them.
The Pathwork Lecture on which we are building the retreat is Lecture 95 — Self-Alienation and the Way Back to the Real Self. The point of my sharing was that I felt some form of alienation from myself, some form of not showing up fully as “Gary” with each one of these people. I noticed that for each one I would have a strategy for how I would show up that I thought would bring about connection with that particular other person. Parts of me would stay back and hide, especially aspects of my emotional side. This was true with each person one-to-one. I would show up differently with each person, always unconsciously looking for that magic person with whom I could be safe just being me.
And when I was with the group where I could not show up differently with each one because everyone was there, I would simply shut down or numb out the experience of really being with the group as a whole. I would be there, but not really be there, at least not emotionally. I would feel pretty isolated, controlling every word that came out of my mouth. All of this behavior would be pretty much unconscious.
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here. As I said, I was the first to check in, sharing fairly openly some of my new awareness of my fear at being there. After I checked in one of the helpers looked across at me and said how much she was enjoying being in my presence. She and I meet a lot over the phone and it is mostly in a “business” kind of setting, usually having to get some issue addressed or some decision reached, but rarely just talking with the purpose of connecting. So here she was enjoying being with me without my wearing one of the many hats I have taken on in our community of helpers.
I appreciated her stating this of course, but at 4:00 AM this morning I awoke with a jolt. A key insight about my stance in life floated up, a “floating up during the night” being often the way that new personal insights arise in me. These moments of insight are such a grace for me.
The insight was the new awareness of my felt emotional response, or rather the absence of a felt emotional response, to my friend’s comment about enjoying being with me. What I awoke with was the insight that when she affirmed her enjoyment at being with me, I immediately and unconsciously went to that place in me which said, “I wonder what I said or shared or what I had done leading up to this retreat that would have earned her enjoyment of being with me in person.”
I noticed that I was not open to the notion that the answer to this question was, “nothing.” She was simply enjoying being with me in person for no particular reason. I had not somehow merited her enjoyment at being with me. How could this be? It didn’t compute. Did I not have to earn such a response from her? Then I found myself asking, “Could this be true love that I was experiencing?” Was I experiencing being loved much as a baby would be loved for just being? It seemed that the answer was, “Yes!” Wow! Now this is a big deal.
As the check-in proceeded, several of the group shared how much they had been loving new babies born into their families. I realized that I do not have that experience with babies. I do not yet have the capacity to take in the simple purity of human life as expressed in a baby. In the same way, I do not relate to pets. For me babies and pets are beings that take a lot of work with no redeeming qualities. So this experience with pets and babies, too, is a situation of unconditional love that I have not yet allowed myself to experience.
I further noticed how I behave to connect with another. I say to myself, all unconsciously, “Perhaps if I am open and vulnerable enough people will love me.” Or, “Perhaps if I am generous enough with my time and money people will love me.” Or, “Perhaps if my insights are brilliant enough people will love me.” Again, all unconscious rationalizing and thinking going on inside my head. But I do not yet get the truth that is, “Just enjoying being here with you while you are just enjoying being here with me IS love.” This truth, this possible experience of unconditional love, is something I am going to have adjust to.
So consider “baby Gary” here in the midst of the helper group. People are taking me in just as I am in all my babyness. But the one person who is not taking in “baby Gary” is ME. I myself do not relate to “baby Gary.” “Baby Gary” is not interesting, or conversational, or connecting, at least not connecting in ways familiar to me. So I realize that this could be my opportunity to reconnect with “baby Gary,” connect with Gary emotionally, and this connecting being independent from any merit or trait or even his amazing cuteness in this form of being a baby. And this is also an opportunity to take in the baby in each of the others in my life, to love each one unconditionally with no particular reason except they exist as fellow human beings with me on this planet.
With this awareness, I have already gotten my money’s worth from our retreat, and all we have done so far is to check in. I find I am grateful, or rather more grateful than I had heretofore allowed myself to be, for each person here in this retreat, including “baby Gary.” Amazing. Perhaps I am beginning to experience love.