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A Shared Life of Wrestling, Growth, and Discovery

Grieving For Not Feeling Grief — AND For So Many Years

I had intended to spend today working more on creating the Devotional Format of Pathwork Lecture 155, but first I felt called to share another deep dive into my life by offering another blog entry.  The lecture – though very relevant to where I am – will wait.

Yesterday afternoon, Monday, Pat and I had another couple’s session with Sage and Anthony, the first after our Divine Sexuality workshop with Sage a week ago (May 6th – 8th). As our session opened, Sage shared with us how special it was for her that Pat and I were in attendance. While she spoke this with tenderness and love, I noticed that I could not really take in her words, I could not bring myself to believe her words. This awareness pained me, and I spoke immediately to my pain and frustration in my not being able, or rather not being willing to take in Sage’s words. Sage was visibly shaken by my not being able to take in what she felt so strongly, and, being moved, she repeated her words back to me, saying that these were deep feelings toward Pat and me and that they were coming straight from her heart. I realized that I would not allow her words to affect me emotionally. It was as if there was a thick glass wall between us keeping me separate from her on a feeling level. The session with Sage and Anthony was most meaningful to us. And something is shaking loose in me.

That was yesterday afternoon. This morning, Tuesday morning, as Pat and I sat in silence for half an hour (the regular initial part of our daily morning practice before we enter discussion) I reflected on our session with Sage and Anthony the afternoon before. As I did, it seemed that I was somehow in a new and deeper space, even a feeling space. The session seemed to have had an effect on me. I felt my longing to let go. I felt my longing for intimacy with Sage and Anthony. I felt the coldness of the glass wall I had erected in my mind that represented my terror of feeling deeper intimacy with Sage after the workshop last weekend.

From this deeper space I could see that, in a way, my blog entries could be my screaming out to be seen as I truly am, screaming, screaming to be met, screaming for intimacy.

Yet with my blog, my “No!” is there too, being terrified that someone might actually read my blog and find me, in my “honesty,” to be the disgusting human being that my lower nature accuses me of being. I want my blogs to be honest and deep on the one hand, and, on the other hand, when I sense that I am honest and deep I become terrified that someone might actually see me and reject me as a member of the human race. Perhaps this is overstated. And perhaps there are days when it is not!

As I said, these feelings – the longing for and the terror of intimacy – were strong in me during our opening silent time Tuesday morning. I was feeling “pregnant” as if something – maybe me – was bursting forth out of the womb. I felt like I was at the edge of a precipice, contemplating jumping into the abyss, the raging fire below me.

Earlier in the morning I had read an email from Marjorie Bair. Days earlier she had read three of my past blog entries (those of April 23rd, May 11th, and May 13th) and the email she sent me this morning was sent after she read my fourth blog (that of May 15th). Here are her words that I had read earlier in the morning before Pat’s and my morning practice together began…

I just read your recent blog, part of it in response to my note inviting the inquiry you then engaged with.  As in your other blogs I’ve read, it’s striking for its honesty and the depth of exploration to which you took your inquiry.  Thanks much for sharing it with me.

In the morning silent time before Pat’s and my conversation time, as my attention turned to this email I realized that Marjorie has been accompanying me this past month, ever since the “Trusting Weekend” of April 14th – 17th, holding my hand, as it were, as I walked my path. I was also aware that she has accompanied me as far as she can. This is not because Marjorie could not accompany me as I walk further along my path but rather because I must now go on from here on my own. I thank Marjorie for her accompaniment these past weeks and days!

Our intensive with Sage and Anthony is coming up in a month – Thursday, June 16, through Saturday morning, June 18th.  This intensive will consist of five 2½ – hour sessions, just Pat and me with Sage and Anthony. This will be our fifth intensive, yet it feels in many ways that it is our first real intensive. I sense that the other four intensives with Sage and Anthony were simply the needed prerequisites for this fifth one. At this fifth intensive I sense I am heading for a rebirthing experience, or perhaps an initiation into manhood on some level. Of course I am a bit uneasy about this, but it also energizes me in some way. I pray for strength.

My silent time went on. I envision Sage and Anthony on the other side of the thick glass wall. They are begging me to walk through to them. They are eagerly welcoming me as if I’m a brand new creature being born into this world, into their world. They are filled with delight and expectancy as they await the opportunity for me to join them in person. They can hardly wait! … Can I possibly believe this, accept this as a reality, know this as a reality and, finally, feel it as an experience before and after breaking through the glass wall?

Just in saying all this to myself, I can feel my fear. I fear that it is not so, that it is “off-the-wall presumptuous” to even think of their “welcoming me” as a possibility. BUT I will not know unless I dare to penetrate the wall, to somehow break through the thick glass wall separating me from them. I realize they, like Marjorie, have done all they can do. They cannot do this “breaking of the glass wall” for me. It’s as if I have to break out of my own eggshell as a newborn chick, or break out of my own chrysalis as a freshly birthed butterfly, maybe even a brand new species of butterfly!

I realized that this “breaking out” is exactly what I did not do at my birth! I got stuck in Mom’s birth canal and had to be pulled back and pulled through the C-section cut in Mom’s abdomen for that purpose. I was terrified then, and I am terrified still!

And in all of this I see that Pat, though a witness, is not a player in this rebirthing experience. This surprises and worries me. What does her not being involved in this critical process mean? Can I share this sense with her?

Our thirty minutes of silence came to an end. Whew! I feel so alive! How was I going to share such a rich experience that occurred during this initial silence of Pat’s and my time together? I had, in a way, drifted away from Pat into my own world during the silence. But as our eyes met after the silence I realized that Pat wanted to begin our conversation with her own experience, so I would have to wait, actually, I would gladly wait.

Pat: As I sat down this morning I felt a movement toward healing the glass wall and your negative intent that was revealed in our session with Sage and Anthony yesterday. We need to be with the infant who didn’t have the experience of being seen and received – this is where it all started for you, with Mom, your birth, and early hours, days, weeks, and perhaps years that followed. I’m noticing that our approach to this hard glass wall must be soft. We cannot directly take the wall on. The wall was needed for your protection. We need to be with the grief that the infant Gary had to experience because this wall was needed. We need to open to a relationship with this grieving infant Gary. We need forgiveness here.

Gary: Who is forgiving whom? Pat: Now, our adult selves, need to be forgiven for being mad, angry, grumpy, or whatever for our not feeling fulfilled. Our adults have to be on the side of the wall with infant Gary, recognizing that he survived the only way he could. We need to grieve with him, we need his forgiveness for not being there from the beginning, and we need to love that infant Gary. So while Sage and Anthony are on the other side of the glass wall, the adult Gary is here on this side of the wall, with infant Gary, offering the support to infant Gary that only the adult Gary can give him.

We don’t understand legacies that are handed down generation after generation – legacies so lacking in bonding and nurturing. Contrast infant Gary’s birth and nurturing with that of your new granddaughter Evelyn. Evelyn, with Elizabeth and John to hold and welcome her, has everything you didn’t have. We celebrate that! Now, can you get a feel for this movement of love in your heart for the infant Gary?

Yes, you have to do the psychological work, BUT you also need a softening of your relationship toward infant Gary, a movement toward feeling. Can you re-mother yourself? And can I re-father myself, welcoming in my embodied womanhood?

Pause…Breathe…

I was stunned by what was flowing out of Pat’s mouth. How could her arisings so parallel my own? I then shared all that had come up in me during the earlier silent time. I was in tears. Pat’s response was, “Lovely, simply lovely.” I shared with her my sense that she was a witness to but not a player in my re-birthing. She responded, “Absolutely, that is correct!” I was relieved. Yes, this is MY WORK.

Pat then went on by observing how she and I nurture each other. Each of us is calling forth the other, “Lazarus, come forth!” We each have the other as an intimate partner that can support the other’s “coming forth!” She went on, “I feel you doing that with me.” My dad is in your voice as you speak to me and says, “Pat, come through in all your womanliness.And from me comes Norma’s voice, your mom’s voice, saying, “Gary, I am so sorry.”  Who better to be the one witnessing you, channeling Norma to you, than me, Pat Peterson? And we express our sorrow to our own kids in the next generation as well. We are so sorry.

Pat went on to say that there was something else in our session with Sage and Anthony that stood out for her. She remembered Anthony saying to me, “Gary, what does what you are looking for in intimacy and closeness look like to you?” and my response, “Anthony, I don’t know!”

So Pat next asked, “What if there is nothing missing in our relationship?” I confessed that my challenge is to dare to truly feel what is here in our relationship, whether or not something is “missing”! Pat responded, “Me too! Our challenge, both of our challenges, is to feel what’s here. We’ve both developed such a pattern not to feel. On the other side of the glass wall are all those feelings, that full pallet of feelings, with our young ones.  We need our capacity for feeling to expand in such a way that we fully feel what all that is here!

Pat challenged us to consider that the wall is a glass wall, not a 20-foot-thick solid brick wall that we can’t see through or easily traverse.

We talked about Sage’s obvious and open grief at my not feeling her deep feelings toward me. Pat observed, “Gary, you can relate to Sage’s grief! You, like Sage here, experienced that pain of another not receiving your love many times. This is the same pain that Sage experienced at your not receiving her love. Recall the greeting card you shared early in our relationship – a black and white photo of a young boy offering the rose, a red rose against the black and white photo. That was such a beautiful, innocent, and loving gesture by the “young” Gary. And that rose was not received by so many of the women you wanted to offer it too, perhaps beginning with Mom.

There is so much grief here for you to feel. And it was true in your early relationship with me as well –  you offered me the rose frequently, but each time I was not ready to take the rose you offered.  It was so painful for you on each and every occasion. So you share the pain and grief that Sage feels. AND you, as an adult, can also feel the pain that infant Gary felt when his “love rose” was not received by Mom.

I confessed that I not only rejected the rose from Sage, but also from other women in my life. I felt both the pain of being rejected AND also the pain of being the perpetrator of the pain by rejecting others — special women in my life. And for the latter I am so sorry.

Pat then reminded us of the Thich Nhat Hanh poem, “Call Me By My True Names” in which the “victim” and “perpetrator” are one.

Pat then commented, “I am honored to be here with you.” To which I responded, “And I have to break through the glass wall to receive you!”

Pat reminded me of all the roots that have supported my spiritual journey – She, of course is the critical root, but Pat also saw that there are so many others: Sage, Anthony, Marjorie, Moira, Erena, the five or six significant women in my long life of relating to women, my heritage through my mom and dad, my children and many dear friends, my brother Paul, and on and on.

Pat then added, “I’m just breathing in the richness of our lives together AND offering that richness for the benefit of all beings – there is such deep truth in that for me – in the ‘for the benefit of all beings.’”

And I recalled for Pat my first real affair, the one upon turning 50, where I had given my rose to a woman, only to have her, eventually, reject it. When she finally did reject my rose it was as if she was tearing off one petal at a time. I could feel the pain of that death, petal by petal. I could perhaps experience that grief, again petal by petal. And in my mind I looked up at this woman and noticed that as she tore off each petal she, too, was crying. I noticed I was feeling a grief I had not allowed myself to feel. Perhaps it was just a glimpse, but I allowed it. And I realized that in this experience  I was also witnessing and empathizing with the grief of another as well. This all felt so new. Could I now grieve the lost grief, the grief I had not been able to feel until now – in myself, AND in so many others? I pray to do so.

As our coffee time neared its end we realized the depth of the sharing we had experienced. Instead of our half-hour Adyashanti meditation we closed with a simple half-hour of silence – honoring the experience of our morning together.

Shared in love, Gary

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Gary Vollbracht