Entering the Chrysalis of Transformation

Some Experiences from and following the Graduate Program Session 2 (January 10-13, 2013)

I’ve read this blog entry a number of times and am struck by the level of confusion, paradox, fluidity, and lack of clarity of what is going on in me that that this blog entry reveals at several levels. It seems this is the somewhat amorphous and dynamic state I am in, so I post this entry simply to be real with my readers. A work in progress to be sure…

On Sunday evening, January 13, I returned from Sevenoaks from Session 2 of The Graduate Program (Exploring the Sacred Dimensions of the Pathwork) led by Erena Bramos. This second session was titled: Dancing With the Fear of Death. The 3-day program brought 21 veteran and committed Pathworkers together.  Each of us grew as Erena led us into spaces she herself is wrestling with in her life with the help of her own Pathwork Helper. Such humble, vulnerable, undefended, and courageous leadership inspired each of us to go to our own edge of our respective spiritual journeys and press forward.  We could be inspired by fellow participants as well as by Erena. The time was magical and transformational for me and, I sense, for most of the others.

While it is impossible to express all that happened within me during these three days and what followed, I do want to express at least a few experiences and witness to my sense of being in a new state of awareness or consciousness. I compare entering this new space to the experience the caterpillar might have moving into its evolutionary phase of transformation within its chrysalis – everything that was before in caterpillar-land being transformed into formlessness and emptiness of the chrysalis stage, and then slowly transformed into the unique butterfly stage, a stage that cannot even be imagined as a possibility by the caterpillar. Or perhaps it is what Jesus spoke of when he mentioned putting new wine into new wineskins rather than new wine into old wineskins. Perhaps I am creating new wineskins to receive new wine. Yes, I felt very different on the inside both during this second session and afterwards. Lots happened and continues to happen, by the grace of God.

An incident that typifies my experience over these three days was an exchange I had with a classmate and then Erena during toward the end of the 3-day session. The exchange began with a comment by one of my earliest classmates who pointed out to the class that in her long 12-year history with me, some combination of changes in her and changes in me made her experience of me very different this weekend from how she had experienced me in times past. With a playful smile she reported that her experience of me in this program was somehow delightful for her. I was touched, but I was not really sure what she meant.

Then Erena shared that she, too, experienced me as being somehow quite different from the Gary she had experienced just two months ago in our our November session. Erena would not say she was delighted but rather said she was moved by how I was showing up this time in this session. Moved? I was again touched, even more so, because with her word “moved” I felt that I was being seen on a deeper more profound level of my being, seen from a depth where I really longed to be seen. But not really knowing what Erena meant by being moved, there was a tad of fear here as well.

I noticed that I, too, experienced myself differently, but not in a way that I could easily explain, yet somehow clearly strange and new to me. All I was experiencing during the session that I could name, however, was more quietness in me, and a time of what seemed like peaceful disorientation in me, a state that led me to the metaphor of moving from the structured caterpillar state to the unstructured amorphous chrysalis state. From this chrysalis state I was not sure either of what Erena saw in me or of what it meant. I simply took in her words, the words of my friend, and my own experience of myself, and sat with these words and this experience of self in what I would describe as peaceful confusion.  This was chrysalis-land, the land of emptiness, of Mystery.

A second experience built on this. We, as a class, had been discussing Pathwork Lecture 234 Perfection, Immortality, Omnipotence – one of the six assigned lectures for the weekend. In class on the second-to-last day Erena asked us to share what stood out for folks in this lecture. I listened with interest as others spoke out, but I shared nothing. Finally one of my fellow class members asked, “Gary, you work with the lectures all the time. I’m curious, what stands out for you?” I did not feel at all threatened by his question but rather I simply shared that this class discussion was both interesting and perplexing: Interesting because I was curious about how others took in this familiar material and curious about this method Erena was using to teach the lecture via sharing, and yet perplexing because I realized that I do not remember what moved me when I read (rather, listened to) this lecture several times over the past two months. Simply put, I did not remember enough specifics from this particular lecture to enter the conversation.

I then shared with the group that I read the lectures more devotionally than educationally. By devotionally I meant I allowed myself to be moved in the moment as the material struck me, letting it enter my heart as seeds, but then forgetting what seeds were really planted or how they were germinating within me as I danced with Life. I did not take them in educationally, that is, in a way that I could say that I now understood particular Pathwork ideas or concepts. While my devotional method of taking in the lectures nurtures me in the moment, like rain on the earth, it leaves me clueless as to how to answer the question, “Gary, what stood out for you in this lecture?”  I am more apt to remember a tree I happened to be walking by as I was listening to a piece of the lecture that was particularly cogent for me during my exercise walk during which time I was listening to a particular lecture.

I find “teaching” the lectures challenging because each Pathwork Lecture presents material on so many different levels and from so many facets that it is challenging for me to “teach” the material in any one particular way. In the end a student learns what he or she needs to learn for a life lesson from the lecture material, but to teach seems by necessity to oversimplify what the lecture is really saying, and further I could be presumptuous in assuming that I knew where the student was in his or her process and what would be most relevant from the lecture. No, I am more interested in letting the student apply the material to his or her own life situation and then sharing how the lecture guided or helped him or her, if he or she at all remembers, which often he or she, like me, cannot.

Erena could “get me” in my somewhat bizarre explanation of how I read the lectures, and she went on to share with the class that, while I said little during this session, when I did speak it seemed to come from a place in my heart where the Guide’s wisdom lived within me. Then she shared with the class that a few days earlier I had sent her my response to Pathwork Lecture 81 Conflicts in the World of Duality, a lecture that was not assigned but had really struck me as relevant, and that she was going to use what I had sent in class the next day.

It was my response to Erena’s remarks about my offering of Pathwork Lecture 81 that was so revealing as to what lives within me. At first of course I was proud for being “special” in Erena’s eyes for something I had shared with her. The prideful energy was old and reflected my patterned behavior in facing life. It was as if Mom had seen and appreciated something that I had created. But my follow-on reactions were immediate and at once shocking and revealing. I suddenly found myself resenting Erena for seeing and sharing my “creation” from Pathwork Lecture 81. It was as if she was seeing my external manifest, that is, my performance rather than seeing my unmanifest inner being, my loving heart, my Divine Essence. What I felt starved for was to be seen and affirmed and loved for my loving heart, my unmanifest Essence. I was not being fed when being seen only for my performance. I wanted to be seen as ME, not as what I had done or created.

All of this inner working within me is full of distortions, images, and misperceptions. So there is a lot for me to sit with and reflect on here. I sense, for example, terror at the thought of being loved for my unmanifest Essence, for my innate Love flowing out (or unconsciously leaking out) continuously from my God Essence. So on one hand to be thus seen is my deepest longing and at the same time on the other hand my deepest terror. To be seen in this undefended heart-flowing-with-love way, though this is what my Soul is starved for, feels so vulnerable, so naked, and so uncontrollable. It is so much safer to be seen and appreciated for what I do or manifest in a controlled and measured way, seen and appreciated for what I choose to manifest and choose to share so that on some level I can control and manage how people see me in my performance. Of course this sharing my manifest creations, my performance, is pseudo-safety and not true safety; pseudo safety because the real me is not being revealed and lurks beneath in my unconsciousness. And the price is high for staying in this pseudo-safety world of performance – the price being to not allow myself to experience the giving or receiving of love, that is, the price of not connecting with others freely, spontaneously, and undefended from my Essence.

Secondly, this is an inner battle that I project outwardly onto Erena (or onto other leaders and teachers, and, of course, onto Mom). It is not Erena or Mom who refuses to see and connect with my beautiful Essence of Love that longs to flow out into life spontaneously. It is a part of ME that refuses to connect with my Essence of Love. I live in denial that Love could possibly reside within my Soul. I refuse to see myself as the Divine Essence I truly am at my deepest core. I refuse to see myself as a wise lover, or something other than, to borrow the words from a Lutheran confession, “poor miserable sinner,” and I project that refusal onto the Lutheran Church where I confessed this state of being a “poor miserable sinner” every week as part of the confession in the weekly Sunday Lutheran Liturgy. All of these negative energies reside in me, not “out there,” though they were triggered by things “out there.” I heard “I, a poor miserable sinner,” every Sunday in a way that awakened my own distortions about being “a poor miserable sinner.” Thank God for the Lutheran Church where this inner belief could be revealed and healed!

Thirdly what is manifest by me IS coming, at least in part, from my Essence, but I deny this. I want to see what arises in me as coming from my separate ego, and yet I know that what comes from my separate ego is, in fact, inauthentic, coming from some combination of Lower Self and Mask Self or Idealized Self Image. What I truly manifest that is “good” does in fact come from my God Self. But this God Self is One with God, and my little ego wants to maintain its separateness. This all leaves my Soul in a state of confusion as to what is what in my manifest life – is it real or is it unreal, distorted by Lower Self or Mask Self distortions?

Fourthly, perhaps this situation reveals my primary split – the split between [what I manifest and believe to be me as performance of my little separate ego] and [what I manifest from who I truly am, from my Divine Essence]. What I manifest does indeed come, in part, from my Higher Self. But I refuse to see that it comes from my Higher Self and prefer to see it as coming from my separate little ego where my little ego can feed his pride for appearing “so loving” or “so wise.” I see that often I strongly insist on being separate from God, separate from my own God Self. My struggle to not be one with God, even one with my own Essence, my God Self, is a matter of life and death for me! Ah, so maybe this is my primary split! My little ego believes that being one with God means its death. And, of course, in a way it does mean death to the separate little ego. This separate little ego is like the caterpillar me entering into its chrysalis stage and in a very real way disappearing so that the butterfly can emerge.

So the invitation to my Soul is to enter into this chrysalis stage, this formless stage, this emptiness stage. Coming as it does from its more-structured caterpillar stage my Soul has no idea what lies in store for it. The caterpillar can only surrender to the process of dissolving and transformation. Actually, it has no choice in the matter of course, for this is its natural evolution and path of development. Pain and suffering come about only by my Soul’s refusal to surrender to the natural process of transformation. This is my saying “No!” to the process of the death of my caterpillar stage, death of my little ego stage.

In the chrysalis stage I can only be formless and empty. Yet there is an intense aliveness within the chrysalis, an aliveness accomplishing my transformation. This chrysalis stage is creating a new wineskin to take on the new wine being poured into me, or rather the new wine welling up from within me, flowing in me and out of me. All I can do is slow down, be curious, look around, become increasingly aware, and witness the life process within, which is formed anew in each moment. From here I can be at peace, though not at first when I am just learning to adjust to the emptiness climate in the chrysalis.

But the experience of moving into and being in the chrysalis is new in each moment for me. The richness of life during this chrysalis stage, this transformational stage, this creating-of-a-new-wineskin stage, is magnificent. And yet at times scary as the familiarity of a more structured caterpillar-land dies away in me. What new shall arise? I cannot know anymore than the caterpillar can envision butterfly-land and all that living in butterfly-land will mean.

I notice that this new space, this chrysalis space, has a practical applications side. I am quieter, more at peace with others and with myself. What does it all mean? In part it is the dying of caterpillar-land and these former ways of being so structured in the world. Let me elaborate a bit.

I can be with Erena and the others in the class from a deeper, quieter, more Mysterious and profound place. Perhaps this is what Erena and the others and even I myself were seeing as a “new Gary.”

So how about with Pat? When I came home to Pat Sunday night I was still in this expanded space, but for reasons I do not yet understand it was hard to connect up with Pat. The next morning I was able to hear where she had been in my absence and able to share where I had been at this second session of the graduate program, but there was still a gap between us. Some of the former ways of connecting seemed to have died off and new ways of connecting are not yet in place. I seem to be at peace, however, in this strange Mystery of our couplehood.

Or how about my relationship with my brother, Paul? On Tuesday morning I had a 90-minute coffee time with him. The time was great, and yet at times more stressful than usual as he restated his solid trust in the redemption model of poor-miserable-sinner saved by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross and thereby paying the debt, enduring the punishment, my brother owed to and deserved from God for being a sinner. This was hard for me to hear. It did not help that Paul felt bad about how I responded to a blog response that came in Saturday in response to my blog entry “I, a poor miserable sinner,” an entry that I had first posted over two years ago. In my response to the responder on Saturday I had made reference to Paul, and as he read it it seemed that what I said hurt my brother.  I am sorry about that. In all of this I felt a sadness of separation between us.  I could be with the sadness in silence, the pain.

Then yesterday afternoon I had a Finance Committee meeting. As usual, it was stressful for me. Why? Because I had a deep sense of how we should be looking at our budgets next year. This arose in me earlier in the morning, deep from my intuition.  But during the meeting as I shared my approach it seemed to fall on deaf ears. The other members of the Finance Committee either did not understand what I was trying to do or, seemingly, just outright disagreed with what I thought was a clear way of seeing ourselves and moving forward.

During the meeting I was able to take in the stress and later able to communicate some of my concerns that my framework would help lead us through. This evoked another response from one of the committee members. After I laid things out in my post-meeting email, he was seeing things as a disaster.  And I was pleased with his response because previously how we were looking at the business obscured not only the disaster but a direction as to how we could come out of it. I had been flexible to take him in, but also faithful to what was arising in me as a way to steer our ship as we go forward. Now that we see what is happening and what needs to change we can tackle our future from a realistic and logical perspective.

So I was pleased at his response – in it he was revealing the issue I was trying to make. I felt like I could be in a healthy dance here without needing to be rigid or forcing. I was able to build upon the response he gave and I could lay out what I think our approach should be going forward in the 2013/14 budgeting process. This felt very different from how I might have faced this situation six months ago where I would have either collapsed and given up trying to lay out the wisdom that I felt was arising in me, or stubbornly leveraged my forcing current to make it happen whether or not I had wisdom arising in me.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I also had a beautiful session with Ed Gutfreund, my psychosomatic counselor. This helped to ground much of my experience of the weekend’s program as well as what came afterwards.  During my session with Ed I could sense that my core split has been being at odds with the profound nature of my ultimate being, my oneness with God, my Divine Essence and all that flows out of my Divine Essence. This awareness of this split brings me to a new and unfamiliar space. It will take some time to adjust to new wineskins, to my caterpillar morphing into a chrysalis and, eventually, piece by piece, into a butterfly.

With Ed I could share and explore another depth experience that was my “teacher” during the weekend. I noticed several times in conversation with a few others at our graduate program session that I longed for more depth than was happening between us, and perhaps even demanding more depth than even I was willing to give, whether or not the other was open to more depth in that moment. I noticed that when that depth was not there, when the conversation was what seemed to me merely superficial chitchat, I felt isolated and lonely at a Soul level, and then sadness would set in in my Soul, though the latter was largely unconscious. It is as if a wall separated me in my Soul Essence from the other and his or her Soul Essence. And this process is a negative spiral – my sadness increases because of the wall and becomes more a more profound sadness in my Soul, which leads to even more separation and isolation from the other. Our respective Souls would become ships passing in the night. Can I simply be with my Soul’s profound sadness brought on by this situation – nowhere to go, just feel it?

Then another layer became clearer with Ed. Part of me does not accept what comes out of my Divine Essence – my love, my vulnerability, my undefendedness. That part that does not accept my Divine Essence accepts only external performance. Then I noticed that what does arise in me from a deep place, say from my intuition during meditation, I interpret and perceive as not coming from my Divine Essence at all but rather as coming only from my little ego, and as such I consider what arises as outer masky performance rather than what it actually is: manifestation of my Divine Essence. And, as with all performance, I resent being connected with myself only through my performance.

This is like a young me at “show and tell” in kindergarten – things bubbling out of me from my innocence, curiosity, and from my joy of discovering the world within and around me – all aspects of my Divine Essence. Then immediately after show and tell my young child part does not want to be seen for who he really is – this innocent spontaneous playful one. Being this spontaneous and playful would be way too vulnerable, too naked. So I devalue the spontaneous innocent yet profound arisings and deem them merely “performance.” Then I resent myself (or Mom, or the teacher, or my classmates) for not really “getting” on a deep level the real me. In short, I do not honor the depth and profound nature of what comes out of me. Rather, I make my profoundness “fluffy,” and part of me resents my own devaluing of what is truly profound within me. And again underneath this resentment is profound sadness because my need to see and value my deep and authentic Essence-self by myself is not happening. Because of the complexity of this patterned behavior my longing to see and be seen at a deep, spontaneous, and profound level is never fulfilled. True self-appreciating, self-valuing is often missing, and to the degree it is missing I feel starved for not being seen in a profound way, by myself or by others.

Can I slow down and see now that I am becoming a new person, a person who truly values who he is in his Divine Essence, though covered with many layers of distortions and faults? This morning (Wednesday) during meditation, reflecting on my experience of all of this, I saw that as I slow down and enter more fully into this new chrysalis space that I can listen more deeply and with more compassion, valuing and appreciating both myself and others. From here I can be more undefended, more trusting of my deep core, trusting of my Divine Essence, trusting of God within to flow in and through and out of me into the world around me. Here I can be open to, even longing for, more and more self-discovery, self-honesty, purification and transformation of anything that is not God within me. From here I can ask God, the God within, the One God, for support and help in seeing clearly how to be fully my Divine Self in the world, how to purify and allow the transformation of all my distortions, negative aspects, and negative intentionality.

After meditation I was drawn to the Pathwork Lecture 174 Self Esteem and listened to it twice during my morning exercise routine. So inspiring.  So helpful. Yes, it seems I am in a new space, a chrysalis space. It is time to slow down and let happen what wants to happen in me.  Let the work of purification, transformation, and manifestation of my Essence – Love, Joy, Wisdom, etc. – continue! May it be so. To live such is both humbling and thrilling!

Shared in love, Gary