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A Shared Life of Wrestling, Growth, and Discovery

Experiences in Community

Eighty or more people from Karen’s family and from several generations of Pathworkers from Sevenoaks showed up at 3:00 yesterday for Karen’s Memorial Ritual. A very diverse group had gathered representing the various eras of Karen’s 57-year life. Because of the diversity many did not know the others. I was busy doing set-up during the hour preceding the service. But once I finished the set up of the audio and video recording equipment, I settled back to enjoy the Service – especially the slide show of Karen’s photos that Kent had worked up and which was shown at the beginning of the Service.

I was the last speaker in Lighthouse, and I very much enjoyed the sharing by Susan, Alegria, Gretchen, and Kent who preceded me. And as for my own talk, I felt aligned and centered, very much in the flow, and at peace. The talks seemed to flow into one another beautifully, and mine felt like a natural conclusion.  I did not use notes, and the only change I made from my prepared remarks (shared in Sunday’s blog) was at the end.  I added a second, “Yes!” It felt good to play a role in this Memorial Service. Spirit, including Karen’s Spirit, seemed to support us all.  Her Presence and smile over us were palpable.

Afterwards Pat and I spent the night in Charlottesville and on Monday morning did our usual morning coffee time in our motel room at the Best Western near the airport (and nearest Sevenoaks). Pat: The gathering of people is so important. I felt the two most recent gatherings of my AIP spiritual group were rich with depth of connection. And yesterday at Sevenoaks, though it felt a bit chaotic and disorganized, it was good for everyone to be there. Where do we gather to worship and pray?

Gary: With your AIP group of 30 I see much homogeneity, a commonality of framework that supports a depth of connection among all of you. By contrast, yesterday in the Sevenoaks gathering I saw a lot of heterogeneity, which seemed to result in superficial connection. There is a big difference it seems to me. In a way I was saddened, even shocked. Who are we? Why are we so committed to this thing called Pathwork? Such diversity. In some ways a very unusual “group.”

Pat: Perhaps you are a more diverse group. We at AIP are more unified under a common practice – even though each of us is quite different in life. Gary: Perhaps, and also your being united under a founding leader helps – like Pathwork used to be under Eva and John Pierrakos, and Sevenoaks under Susan and Donovan, or like I imagine Diamond Heart Approach is under Almaas. Pat:  And Pathwork in general and Sevenoaks in particular no longer have that unifying founder energy. It seems that Karen and her “cluster crystal,” what you call the “Crystal of Pathwork Leadership,” points to a post-founder era of leadership. Your message on behalf of Karen was, as you so clearly stated, a commissioning of the collection of people involved in leadership within the Pathwork organization and within the Sevenoaks community.

Gary: I compare Karen’s Memorial Service with the funeral of my parents after their sudden death in a car accident. Karen died at age 57. My parents at age 56. Eighty showed up for Karen at Sevenoaks. Eight hundred showed up for my parents’ funeral 40 years ago in September of 1972 at their St. James Lutheran Church parish in Quincy, Illinois. At my parent’s funeral there were a lot of familiar structure, familiar singing, familiar prayers, and a familiar homily. There were tears. The structure seemed to hold the energy for this event, and my brother Paul (age 27) and I (age 29) felt held in this framework. People knew how to be. There were strong feelings, a sentimentality, say, that seemed the basis of our gathering at St. James on that September morning forty years ago. The structure of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod connected us to each other and to ourselves. Mom and Dad had been members of St. James nearly their entire 56 years of life.

But back then at St. James our true connection from the heart was not as strong I would say. Paul and I and our families had moved out and lived in Cincinnati, some 460 miles away. Yet there was some deep root sense of feeling. I have done so much work to try to grow beyond that sentimentality into honest feelings of connection from the heart. I am not saying this structural type of connection did not work for most folks in my Lutheran Church, but only that in the end it did not work for me. I would see more commonality of your AIP group rooted in a common practice rather than the sentimentality of the connection at St. James back in those days. Or later for my 30+ years of involvement in St. Paul Lutheran Church in Cincinnati. Something was missing for me in the way of connecting.

Pat: I would not say a “common practice” connects us in AIP, although that is true, but rather we are rooted in Presence that has come out of our common practice. I saw that Presence in the group leaving Sevenoaks yesterday just before the Memorial Service began. The group that was leaving must have been a Yoga or similar group. As they interacted with each other as they were leaving Sevenoaks I noticed a deep connection coming out of their expanded state of consciousness that they had reached during their weekend event. It is this Presence that connects us with ourselves and with each other. This Presence takes us beyond sentimentality – beyond warm feelings of the familiar. In this deeper connection there are fewer words. Words are not necessary from this deeper level of connecting.

Gary: Did you sense less Presence among our folks yesterday at the Memorial Service than from the departing Yoga group?  Pat: No. It was I who was not able to be Present, so I could not be open with the others. Gary: For me there were great differences between folks I could connect with and those I could not. And we did not have an entire weekend to connect like the preceding group did – rather just a few minutes. And yes, where I felt deep connection I felt safe and there was no need for words, just presence – and hugs. But with most in attendance I did not know them well or feel that connection; I did not feel as safe opening my hear. I was not expanded in my consciousness. Quite the contrary. I was busy with mechanics of equipment set up. In fact I noticed that my two defense mechanisms of either on the one hand using a lot of words with others, or on the other hand to withdraw into activity became a wall separating me from the others. Pat: My heart was guarded, and yet after the spreading of Karen’s ashes and I was walking back to Center Building a person reached out to me and my heart opened. Some people just have that effect on me. Ed Gutfreund is one of those folks.

Gary: Yesterday I felt disconnected from you, Pat. And from some of the others, but most importantly you. Pat: We walk around wanting connection, but we are not able to manifest or experience connection. When we are not connected to our own deepest Essence we are not connected to the underground stream that connects us all together. Yesterday was a great learning about connecting it seems.

Gary: Back to worship and prayer. We do not go to a church and haven’t for over a decade now. Earlier church was central to our lives. Now none seems to fit. Pat: Yes, when we go to Crossroads with the kids we witness a common “belief” and a common “service to others” that connects the membership. The members gather because this place feeds their deep hunger and longing for connection. Here at Crossroads the members have an experience of unity that connects them. Gary: Yet, because I do not share in their belief system and their particular call to service, I do not experience that feeling of belonging. I am more guarded, my heart more covered over with all kinds of defenses.

Gary: I want to go in another direction. Can I be in leadership and still feel I belong? Yesterday in my talk, and the days and hours leading up to it, I felt aligned with Spirit. And during my talk I could sense the flow of Spirit in speaking the words that came out of my mouth. I was surrendered to Spirit.

And yet, these good feelings notwithstanding, afterwards I was looking for resonance and response from others, for some kind of affirmation from others in the group. I did not experience receiving that encouragement and affirmation from the senior leaders, or from you. Yes, I somehow needed your affirmation and the affirmation of others after my talk. Pat: There was a lot to take in yesterday. I could not really find words to express myself. I needed more time to process. It’s like walking out of a movie and just wanting to be silent until all the pieces settle inside of me.

Pat: What I see this morning is that in your talk you “spit out the seeds,” Your turtle’s head came out of its shell for those moments. Yes you were frustrated afterwards, not really being sure what just happened, and anxious in not knowing if what you did was “OK” or not, BUT in the end you did it. You planted the seeds for the future of Pathwork and of Sevenoaks. The idea of the multifaceted leadership symbolized by the cluster crystal that Karen entrusted to you, the “Pathwork Crystal of Leadership.” I now see that all of this happened, and I can now encourage you in that. But I could not do that yesterday. And it is hardest for me in these situations when it is you who are speaking, as you were yesterday, from a place of leadership.

Gary: Why is it hard when I am the speaker? Pat: Well it’s like being nervous when your kids are performing at a recital. You want them to “do well.” Gary: Here is what I am now noticing. 1) I have a need not to need encouragement – I want to be beyond needing encouragement – beyond being “merely and utterly human.” AND 2) My need for encouragement (coming from my ego) is insatiable. No matter how many said, “Good Job,” and there were several, I would dismiss their words and seek approval elsewhere. This is part of my orality Character Structure – not able to take in food even though I’m sitting at a veritable banquet table. AND 3) I did not need words of encouragement at all. What I needed was a hug, a hug that would say, “Thanks Gary, I ‘Got’ You.”   This morning when you just now said that I planted seeds, your words meant a lot. I was relieved. “Pat got me!”

Pat: After the presentations and we were leaving Lighthouse for the spreading of Karen’s ashes under the Mother Oak I wasn’t sure where you were. Gary: I was in a strange place. I was not comfortable with the other leaders. I could feel a “You talked too long” energy – or it was as if I had said nothing of consequence – I did not feel seen by the other leaders – a recreation of not being seen by Mom or Dad. So what did I do? I stayed behind, by myself, and began taking down my audio and video equipment. Eventually I walked over and joined you at the spreading of the ashes ceremony. Pat: I don’t think you were singled out there. The other leaders were not really recognized by the senior leaders either. It seemed that the important thing to the senior leaders was a teaching about death, a proper death by Karen and those who went through that experience with her. What others had to say was not deemed as important. And to tell the truth, I learned something from their sharing, and appreciated it. Gary: Oh I did too. And I want what Karen had for her lay out and cremation after three days.

Gary: When leaders are always in a teaching role I feel separated, even when that teaching is in the form of sharing deeply.  And I see that “separating energy” in me in my blog as well – as if my sharing is somehow “wise” and “unique” and “helpful.” This kind of sharing does not necessarily connect me to others with whom I am sharing. It can even push them away I suppose.  Pat: Let me interrupt. Are you not intentional to spread seeds (your insights, etc.) via your blog? It is a disservice to yourself if you do not see this intention and awareness. In your blog your intention as I witness it is to seed the Cosmos with what is arising in you as seeds of insight – even if only a few resonate with your seeds. I see that in you.  You are excited and satisfied in your blog entries. That comes from your joy of discovering insights, applying them, and sharing what you are discovering about Life. I see your intention to seed the Cosmos, and we are ALL the Cosmos. And on some level is that not the Calling? Spreading the seeds of our own true selves?

Gary: Can I accept this sharing in my blog as my Calling? Just like my recording of the Pathwork Lectures is part of my Calling? One friend yesterday introduced herself, and I recognized her name and saw that she was one of the people who listens a lot to my recordings. But she confided in me that several years ago she had tried to listen to my recordings and for several reasons could not stand them.  My voice was not right, etc., etc. She even went so far as to begin making her own recordings. Then last October she tried listening to my recordings again and this time they fit perfectly. What changed? The recordings were the same recordings. Everything in its due season. My job is to just keep seeding the Cosmos with my readings, my blogs, etc. And ditto for everyone, whatever each person’s Divine Essence is all about.

Pat: We cannot know when these seeds shall bear fruit. We just keep up the planting process!  Gary: Yes. As the Pathwork Lectures say, God and Nature squander abundance and love even if only a few seeds take root. Squandering is a part of creativity, abpart of living in abundance.

Our Monday morning sharing was rich and enlivening. Afterwards I felt more connected to Pat and alive at the end as we grew through our sharing and exploration. Pat noted how much she appreciated our sharing once again as well, and marveled as to how we manifested working with Sage and Anthony.  We continue forward.

Shared in love, Gary

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Gary Vollbracht