Cross-Work — Our Purification and Transformation Work
Perhaps in its simplest form a true spiritual path can be expressed as Cross-Work – taught and modeled for us by Jesus and many others and a foundational distinction of Pathwork. In this model one strips off usually unconscious defenses taken on in childhood, defenses that seemed necessary, and in many cases were necessary, to avoid pain and to survive. After discovering his or her many defenses built up over a lifetime (or lifetimes) the spiritual seeker then steps into the said pain and feels it deeply. This is like “being on the cross” or in the “dark night of the Soul” as described by many mystics. By being real and being in the Now moment of our unique Cross experience, somehow enlightenment can happen, seemingly as a byproduct of doing our Cross-Work.
Often this Cross-Work, this purification and transformation work, happens gradually as we do this stripping off of defenses and feeling our pains underneath. This happens via our daily spiritual practices (meditation, daily review, etc.). Occasionally this transformation comes spontaneously when we are in the midst of a major life crisis. All of this work leads us to Pleasure and Joy that come indirectly from our Cross-Work.
This was the topic of my previous blog entry that referred to my study of Pathwork Lecture 215 – Psychic Nuclear Points Continued – Process In the Now, a lecture given in November of 1973. This lecture’s elegant description of the Now was given 24 years prior to Eckhart Tolle’s bestseller, The Power of Now which was published in 1997. I find this interesting. And I’m curious why I can take in this Pathwork Lecture more easily than Tolle’s work while for most it is the other way around. Because of its “Cross-Work” approach, many resist this deep work called for by Pathwork, but avoiding this Cross-Work is called “By-Passing” by Pathwork and other spiritual teachers (See Spiritual Bypassing by Robert Augustus Masters, and other works).
So what is the Cross-Work of Pathwork? It involves removing the defenses developed in childhood to protect us from pain, fully feeling that pain in our adult self, and discovering that this pain that we could not bear as a child won’t kill us as an adult. This is often easier said than done because often much of our life has been spent building and protecting our defenses against pain. So a spiritual path such as Pathwork becomes a life-long path of purification and transformation.
What are some of these pains on our Cross? Pathwork Lecture #190 Importance of Experiencing All Feelings, Including Fear – the Dynamic State of Laziness (the Gateway Lecture) lists several feelings that we need to fully feel in our NOW Points. These include:
• Weakness (helplessness),
• Pain (physical, emotional, spiritual),
• Hopelessness, and
• Shortcomings (lacks) experienced in childhood,
The defenses that we use to cover over these challenging feelings are many. I am aware that I cover over my deep feelings of sadness, loneliness, fear, and hopelessness by my busyness and achievement (my strong willfulness and pride), striving to be competent (Pride, power mask), intellectual endeavors to understand the context and meaning of life and the Cosmos (building a kind of serenity mask to cover my fear) and service for others (love mask). All of this activity and the attitudes and beliefs that motivate this activity distracts me and keeps me from feeling my pains as an ordinary human being living in the Now.
I am intrigued by the description of Eckhart Tolle transformation that came out of his own Cross-Work – meeting his suicidal depression – as described in Wikipedia…
“One night in 1977, at the age of 29, after having suffered from long periods of suicidal depression Tolle says he experienced an “inner transformation.” That night he awakened from his sleep, suffering from feelings of depression that were “almost unbearable,” but then experienced a life-changing epiphany. Recounting the experience, Tolle says,
I couldn’t live with myself any longer. And in this a question arose without an answer: who is the ‘I’ that cannot live with the self? What is the self? I felt drawn into a void! I didn’t know at the time that what really happened was the mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and the fearful future, collapsed. It dissolved. The next morning I woke up and everything was so peaceful. The peace was there because there was no self. Just a sense of presence or “beingness,” just observing and watching.
Tolle recalls going out for a walk in London the next morning, and finding that “everything was miraculous, deeply peaceful. Even the traffic.” The feeling continued, and he began to feel a strong underlying sense of peace in any situation. Tolle stopped studying for his doctorate, and for a period of about two years after this he spent much of his time sitting, “in a state of deep bliss,” on park benches in Russell Square, Central London, “watching the world go by.” He stayed with friends, in a Buddhist monastery, or otherwise slept rough on Hamstead Heath. His family thought him “irresponsible, even insane.” Tolle changed his first name from Ulrich to Eckhart, by some reports in homage to the German philosopher and mystic, Meister Eckhart, by other reports he was drawn to that name coincidentally.”
So a true spiritual path is one that does not take us around our pains of life, thereby bypassing them, but through our pains so that we can discover that they indeed do not kill us. In Pathwork this is the experience of “jumping into the abyss” and discovering we float.
I am on retreat this week with my two Pathwork buddies (Mary and Jenny) and we are practicing our Pathwork together – discovering our defenses and dropping into the pains beneath our defenses, feeling those pains, discovering that they do not kill us, and daring to feel the joys that arise in this process, almost like a byproduct. It doesn’t hurt that we are doing this work in a comfortable cottage on a quiet beach of the Atlantic Ocean.
Shared in love,