Finding MY "YES" To MY Life
Life has been a rollercoaster ride for me these past few weeks. Getting sucked in by my tar-baby attachments, especially to the organizational aspects of Sevenoaks and my Pathwork community. In the midst of all this frustration I thought several times about resigning all my roles within the Mid-Atlantic Pathwork. My Pathwork Helper Moira has been reflecting back to me recently and strongly that staying in the energy field of this organization, from her observations of me, seems to be sucking the Life Force out of me, perhaps literally killing me. These are strong words from someone who knows me well. What is up in me in all of this Sevenoaks and MAP organizational and financial activity?
How does this rollercoaster of my relationships with Sevenoaks work? With some resolve I can in one moment of seeming clarity solidify my intention to withdraw from the organization, and then in the very next meeting with my Sevenoaks fellow leaders I seem so easily to be drawn back in. Suddenly and mysteriously things would seem “OK” again, the boat of Sevenoaks righted again on somewhat calmer waters.
Pat watches me as my resolve to leave gets mitigated to, “Oh, it’s not so bad after all.” Though unspoken by Pat, my reconsideration of involvement after moments of such clarity that this organization is not good for my health, often brings great concern to Pat, who sees what all this organizational malaise and confusion are doing to me. And as she or Moira or others reflect back to me how this involvement is affecting my psychological health if not my physical health, I will once again say resolutely, with a sense of “periscope up” that this is not how I want to spend the eighth and perhaps final decade of my life. And yet another Sevenoaks/MAP leadership meeting comes and here I am again, recommitted. Why do I refuse to get off the rollercoaster that is killing me, or at least is not bringing me joy and nurturing me? Does not something have to give? I am reminded of Pathwork Lecture 183 The Spiritual Meaning of Crisis. What level of crisis will it take to get me unstuck from all of this?
The most recent rollercoaster ride occurred over this past weekend, a week ago now. After an Executive Committee Meeting on Friday where, after going in with a strong sense that “I’ve got to get out of here,” by the end of the meeting I had seemed to be drawn back into the organizational muck. After this experience Friday afternoon I awoke in the night, the wee hours of Saturday morning, in a state of alarm and, at the same time such clarity. Yes! My days with Sevenoaks need to end, and very soon. Perhaps stepping down from the Board where I serve as Treasurer and as one of three members of the Executive Committee, and doing so by the end of our fiscal year in June, and then from the Pathwork Council where I serve as Chair, and doing this, say, by the end of August, before the new school year begins in September. So in this state, at 1:30 AM on Saturday morning I wrote out my letter of resignation, though I did not call it that. It was not a rant, but rather a simple statement of not wanting to get so caught up in all the organizational, financial, and leadership matters at Sevenoaks.
At 2:30AM I returned to bed. I slept soundly the rest of the night, having written this out. Of course I would never send such an email without sleeping on it. The next morning during our coffee time I read the 2-page letter I had written in the middle of the night to Pat. She expressed relief, her concerns that during the over-2-hour Executive Committee meeting on Friday I had seemed to her once again to have allowed myself to be sucked into the Sevenoaks vortex seemed to now have been addressed by my over-night experience reinforcing my resolution to resign, again. We talked this through from many angles.
Pat reflected back to me that, Yes, the letter was clear and not a rant coming out of my lower self. She assessed that I was stating truths in the letter that the others in leadership needed to hear and tackle. But, she offered, the decision to send the letter or not had to be my own. After coffee time with Pat I added two more pages including some of Pat’s and my dialogue. I was still uncomfortable sending it, however. Instead I chose to prepare an email to the other two members of the Executive Committee stating that I had prepared such a letter. In the email I went on to summarize in half a page what my four-page letter said about resigning. In my email I offered to send the letter if either of them wanted the longer version.
And, predictably and wisely, I again chose not to send this email either. I would just sit with this over the weekend. These periscope-up writings were for me more than for them. I needed to see where I was more clearly, but then simply let my actions and behaviors flow from that clear awareness. In a way I could let go of the process at this point. The rest of the weekend was relaxing.
And to my amazement, after that experience of greater awareness on Saturday, over the next days I grew to be more at ease with the Sevenoaks’ organizational matters . I was more at peace with the strong personalities that surround me in leadership. I could be the strongly “grounded reed” in the sea, a reed strong and yet a reed that could bend with the flow of the energy around me rather than be rigid and immovable.
It seemed also, and strangely to me, that my energy redoubled to continue working with budgets so that the financial position of the organization was as more clearly laid out. This was in preparation for a Board meeting on Wednesday where I was to present in summary form the elaborate spreadsheets I have been developing. Hours and hours were spent on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to this end, and I was satisfied with the results – yes, the spreadsheets were clarifying and giving us a good business sense of our “state of the nation.”
The Board meeting from my perspective went OK, but seemed to focus on more trivial items of business than our true priorities as a Board. Finally I presented my budget. There were “niceties” from others about how it looked, but I did not sense that the rest of the Board was even remotely picking up on where I think we are financially as an enterprise going into next year. And yet I was undaunted. The next morning (Thursday) my energy to clarify these elegant budgets even further was there and I spent additional hours putting what I think are the finishing touches on what I call our PLAY Budget – a budget where we, the business management, can easily try various scenarios and make decisions for moving forward. This tells us whether or not we are survivable let alone sustainable. In continuing this intricate spreadsheet work I felt energized and positive about what I had constructed, knowing that it may take some time to work this matter of understanding the business of our business among all of us in leadership, myself included. By Thursday evening I was once again enlivened.
Let me backtrack. Tuesday morning after my meditation I spent time with the first eight or so paragraphs of Pathwork Lecture 149 Cosmic Pull Toward Union – Frustration. The words of the Guide penetrated my soul. I was refreshed. Inspired. Enlivened by this wisdom. These words concerned the cosmic pull toward connection and, as the title says, Union – and they applied directly to what I am wrestling with at Sevenoaks. Could I feel the Oneness of our sometimes-argumentative “team” as we wrestle with the issues of Sevenoaks?
These were very relevant insights, and I experienced a thrill in taking in these words, knowing they spoke truth, even though the truth was uncomfortable for me to hear at times. I could feel my commitment to separateness, opposing the cosmic pull toward unity and Oneness, opposition that could bring me only pain in the end. Wow, how relevant to where I am these days in my conundrum of Sevenoaks.
After my meditating on this Tuesday morning Pat and I had had our morning coffee time. Out of my enthusiasm I read a few words from this lecture to her. It was premature. She was not there and could not really take this all in. I slowed down and tuned in to where she was – a place of dealing with inner turmoil. I set my energy aside and listened in and could connect with where Pat was. It was a short coffee time because she had to leave for her eldercare job. I was glad we had this time to connect, that we could blend our energies before going on our separate ways.
At noon on Tuesday, before the Board meeting on Wednesday, I had my session with Ed Gutfreund, my somatic-psychological therapist, and went through where I was in all these ups and downs with Sevenoaks. It was a very helpful session. My presenting problem for Ed was that all this energy with budget work for Sevenoaks and with engaging the Guide via this Pathwork Lecture, for example earlier that morning, were taking me away from what I said I longed for: a deeper emotional connection with Pat.
Ed reflected back to me that in so many of our sessions and even in that session he could feel my energy both for the Pathwork material per se as a guide for my Life and also certainly for the organizational issues I wrestle with. “Both of these are very strong energies in you, Gary.” Yes, for sure. Then he added, “You have very strong emotional connections to both the Pathwork as your spiritual path and to your energy for bringing vision, sense of community, and order to matters at Sevenoaks. These are FEELINGS!”
His words startled me. Because these connections were more conceptual and intellectual, and because I held the image that intellectual engagement was the antithesis of emotional connection, I had not recognized that my strong engagement with and energy for both Pathwork per se as my spiritual path as well as with the community development of our Pathwork organization as well as organizational and financial ordering of matters at Sevenoaks were, in fact FEELINGS.
So often I have judged myself as being able to think about feelings rather than feel my feelings. Now Ed was suggesting the converse of this: “Gary, you have very strong feelings about what goes on in your mind intellectually.” In other words, yes, I am a thinker, but I have very strong feelings that arise in my thinking. I had been condemning my thinking about feelings rather than recognizing my very strong feelings about my thinking – including my feelings about my intuition and seeing contextual patterns among disparate parts. For example, I fee such joy come up in me when a piece of the Sevenoaks financial puzzle I am working on falls into place or I feel joy in an AHA moment in reading or listening to a Pathwork Lecture. Or even in this insightful session with Ed. Yes, indeed, in these moments of insight I FEEL! What do I feel? Joy, excitement, and pleasure. This insight was in itself an enlivening Aha moment.
And, Ed went on, “You have feelings in your relationship with Pat. These are different kinds of feelings, but feelings nonetheless. And remember that feelings, like energy, are fluid and dynamic, not static, fixated, or rigid. So your feelings with all three of these engagements in your life – Pat, Pathwork as your spiritual path, and Sevenoaks/Pathwork the organization – change all the time. Sometimes these feelings are painful and frustrating, such as when you have to battle to get your elegant budgets to be seen by others on the Finance Committee or Board, or when you are struggling to connect emotionally and physically with Pat. But you can tolerate frustration.”
Ed: AND, Gary, you have a CHOICE in these matters. You are not destined to stay in any particular situation, especially if it is, as you suspect, killing you! What would happen if you backed off entirely from Sevenoaks? That would leave a big hole in your calendar as to how you spend time. So what would happen? And more importantly, how would you feel after leaving these Sevenoaks matters behind you?
Gary: More Joy! Sevenoaks has taken me away from my depth work with Pathwork, my engagement time with Pat, my blogging that I so enjoy, and so on. I could take up recording more of the Pathwork material that brought me so much joy over the past six years, in part because it so connects me to the Lectures. I feel lighter just thinking about getting out of all of this Sevenoaks stuff. Ed: Perhaps you could stand up, walk around, and embody what you are feeling right now as you take in what it would be like to jettison from Sevenoaks. And I did. Yes, this is where I want to be.
And yet I allow myself to get pulled right back into the Mid-Atlantic Pathwork organization. Sevenoaks, the tar baby in my life, can suck up forty hours a week or how ever many hours I choose to spend with it. Sevenoaks’ appetite for me is insatiable.
Ed: With all of this energy that you’ve experienced with Sevenoaks, it must serve some function for you. What do you get out of it? Gary: Wow, great question. What first comes up is that it feeds my masochistic stream, my sense of victimhood, my self-pity party. It reinforces an image that I do not deserve joy in my life – that I am the Cinderella destined to administrative roles so that others can shine, or Sisyphus pushing the heavy boulder up the hill. Very Self-defeating.
And I also see that I have fear in pursuing those other two aspects of my life – my connection with Pat and with Pathwork as my spiritual path. I Know these two aspects feed me, but it is as if, in a strong negative intentionality, I say “No!” to what nourishes me. In this situation all my work with Sevenoaks becomes a defense against my own Life Force within. The Pathwork wisdom might suggest that I am trying to prove to Dad that hard work gets me no where – trying to punish him for leading me down a path where my performance was supreme. “See, Dad, how miserable you’ve made me, making me identify with hard work irrespective of how said work tied into what brings me fulfillment and joy! Wow. Ed: Interesting. ‘Til next time…
Wednesday morning saw me alone in my morning meditation. Pat was gone and I reflected on all of what I’ve experienced these few days and on the words from Pathwork Lecture 149 that so captivated me yesterday. I paused and considered what has arisen out of me this year that has brought me joy. Beautiful and radiant energy flowed in me as I consider this arising. I see so much that has manifested in and through me and in working with others: manifestation of the graduate program, perhaps the most successful new program we have experienced at Sevenoaks in some time, the richness of Pat’s and my sessions with Sage and Anthony and all that comes out of that, Pat’s and my new practice of spending Sunday morning with the New York Times and eating out for brunch at our favorite restaurant, organizing the financials of Sevenoaks, my Pathwork deep-dives, my inspiring sessions with Moira and Ed, my many conversations with Pathwork and other friends about spiritual things that matter to me, my precious coffee time with Pat each morning, writing my blog, adding Pathwork and other meaningful quotes to my website, and so on. I am overwhelmed at the richness in all of this. Why would I not want to say “YES!” to this? Only by saying “YES!” to this can I begin to say “NO!” to things that take me away from what so enriches my life and so enables me to enrich the lives of others.
Yes, I experience frustration. Yes, I need to set boundaries and balance my life. And yes, perhaps I have to consider really phasing out of Sevenoaks over the next four to six months.
Once again I have come to the end of this blog entry and feel the Joy that arises in the insights, understanding, and clarity that has come out of just putting these matters down in writing. Yes, as Pat says often, we are so blessed to be in this time of our lives together.
Shared in love, Gary