Herding, Freeing, and Leading Cats, the Inner and Outer Cats

This journal entry contains my reflections on Helper Retreat Day 2 – Saturday, August 3, at Sevenoaks. It is based in part on my journal entries of Sunday, August 4, plus a few journal entries since then.

Yesterday (Saturday, August 3) was a rich day of being together as a Pathwork helper group – accepting our struggles as a community, living in the “perfect imperfections” of the earth plane. Holding space for “what is” within each of us and among us as a group. Dropping into this “what is.” By grace, feeling an emerging peace with “what is.” I found the experience to be beautiful.

One of the exercises Julia led us in was on forgiveness. In the exercise each of us was invited to ponder the question, “With whom in our community – those present at our retreat and those not present – am I angry, frustrated, disappointed in, and/or do I experience disharmony?” At first I was aware that my answer was, “No one.” Then as I dropped deeper my answer morphed into, “Well maybe a little frustration with one or two.” And then eventually, “Well my oh my, honestly I have feelings of disharmony with everyone here and everyone not here.” I had to smile at myself in this experience! This ubiquitous disharmony in me was great to see – as well as to see how I live in denial about my feelings of disharmony with many folks in our helper community and elsewhere. I numb out my disharmonies, and let the disharmonies fester beneath the surface from whence they come out unconsciously and sideways. Ah yes, back to Pathwork 101! Begin always with the Pathwork practice of daily review.

What was at the root of these ever-present disharmonies with the others in my Pathwork helper community? My first answer to this question surprised me. My disharmonies seemed to be a result of my rigidity in the face of the great creativity, strenghs, and diversity of personalities making up our Pathwork Helper community.  The disharmonies come up as I try to organize, coordinate, administer, and budget such a diverse range of personalities, activities and approaches to things each of us in the community has. For me this was the “managing a herd of cats” phenomenon that is spoken of as a metaphor for trying to “manage” a diverse group of very creative and talented people whose personalities are often as diverse as their gifts.

But when in my “organizing” things I carry my rigidity too far, no one can or is willing to fit into my elegantly, though admittedly narrowly, defined structures. As I look at myself in this organizing role I’m reminded of Kornfield’s, “See with the heart, which loves, rather than with the mind, which compares and defines.” I see that in my attempts to organize what we do I unconsciously practice mental “labeling” of the players, a practice that brings with it its concomitant “comparing and defining,.” This is what my mind does in order to rationalize, structure and understand (and control) life in our Pathwork helper community. Unconsciously I try to “make” members in our leadership fit into my worldview of life and thereby make life “safe” for myself, using my conscious excuse that such organizing is necessary if we are to “unite” and move in a common direction.

As an aside, I noticed that this labeling is exactly what I project onto others, a labeling process, however, that my own creative and spontaneous side rebels against when it is coming from others. Of course my experience of being labeled and controlled began with Mom. I (my inner free and creative child) wanted to be seen by Mom for who I am in my Essence, in my spontaneity, in my playful joy, and not be “seen” and conditionally “accepted” by Mom for my performance, accomplishments, and obedience to rules, the framework that Mom used to define me and mold me into what she wanted in me, what she thought would serve me best in life, as it had her (all a result of her own life experiences of course). My inner child longed to see and be seen from the Mom’s heart space, as Kornfield invites.

I believe the word that is used to describe what I did with Mom’s structuring of my life is introjection – the process by which I took the labeling that Mom did to me and made the labeling into a part of my own psyche – making it perhaps part of my “slightly older kid” in my psyche whose job became keeping the lid on my younger more spontaneous, adventurous and curious kid in my psyche. But my younger kid was playful, diverse, spontaneous, strong-willed and unpredictable so that my older self’s job was one of herding my inner “cats.” Undoubtedly this frustrated my older self (my emerging ego).

I saw how this rigid stance of my older kid, my emerging ego, bound up my inner world of “cats” that make up my own diverse set of personality characters, especially my creative and spontaneous parts. I limited my own Essence and its glorious potential by predefining how I (Mom) thought I ought to be and how I ought to look in the world. Thereby I have put my Essence in a straightjacket of my own making.

Is one of my deeper Essence qualities leadership? If so, perhaps by controlling my organic spontaneity I have thereby bound up my own leadership, leadership that could be strong if it were allowed to come forth organically and spontaneously from my depths. But fearing spontaneity, I prevented my true leadership from arising authentically and organically from within my being. Instead I turned to a masky pretense in my leadership and thereby lost my capacity to lead authentically from my grounded self. Is that possibly what I have done here in my leadership within MAP? It certainly seems so and explains some of my challenges in exercising leadership.

And, by the way, I noticed that this older kid, my immature ego who organizes and controls things, now projects this excessive labeling and defining out onto others. Others become like Mom to me – the labelers of who I am rather than seeing me as I truly am in my Essence. In addition to my mostly unconscious inner labeler, my inner “Mom” I have one or two other “Moms” in particular in our leadership community on whom I project this labeling. To these few strong leaders (Moms) I react negatively, an example of transference of Mom’ authority over me onto them. In seeing how this works with me, I can see how the labeling I do in my attempt to herd cats making up our community is of course resisted by others as well, and for the same reason that I resent such labeling by those in authority over me.

And yet I could realize that this is a both/and situation. Some “rigidity” has a positive affect – organizing and bringing order to the manifest world. I am reminded of Pathwork Lecture 205 Order as a Universal Principle. And when I searched for this lecture in my index of Pathwork Lectures I also noticed that there is Pathwork Lecture 12: The Order and Diversity of the Spiritual Worlds – The Process of Reincarnation. How perfect is that – both order AND diversity are present in the world!

Then I noticed that in my engagement with Jesus Christ (which as readers of this blog know is up for me these days) I may be holding Jesus Christ in too-rigid a way also – forcing my relationship with Jesus Christ to fit some intellectual construct, the specificity of which I likely took on from my early days in the Lutheran Church. When I sought possibilities for my relationship with Christ outside my church I could not seem to get out of the “mental construct” mode of holding the “right specific ideas” about who Christ is and what my relationship with Christ should look like if I were truly Christian (a label I didn’t even like). In my exploration and inquiry I was examining and exchanging one “mental idea” for another “mental idea” when “mental ideas” are the wrong modality entirely for experiencing the reality of a love relationship with the Christ. This “mental idea” approach to the Christ was blocking the emerging of a true, but for me very NEW, heart-felt experience of a relationship with Jesus Christ – whatever a “heart-felt experience of a relationship with Jesus Christ” might mean. Can I drop into the unknown heart-space, the Mystery, and meet the True Christ there? Of course this is another topic. I excuse myself for wandering off topic in this blog entry.

Let me get back to my experience of the forgiveness exercise we were exploring Saturday. So what I saw was that a part of me, a young part, longs for this heartfelt connection, apart from any rigidity of an intellectual construct that another part of me superimposes. The latter is more my Egoic space, the “compare and define” space that Kornfield presents and invites me to overcome.  And internally it is this separate Egoic part in me that organizes and orders things that needs to ask for forgiveness from my younger spontaneous and creative part of me. In asking for forgiveness my Egoic part would say, “Forgive me, young one, for not seeing and valuing that spontaneous and alive person you are.” But the emphasis of this group exercise that Julia was leading was not internally directed but externally directed – asking for forgiveness from those others who were around me that I had been “comparing and defining” to fit into my world of order for our Pathwork helper community.

So what the exercise brought up for me is my need to ask for forgiveness from all of the “cats” in my life, internal and external, whose personalities I have tried to fit into my orderly way of being in the world. I noticed that my organizing way is as one who has adopted the “attachment avoidance” defense strategy for being safe and fulfilled in the world. So rather than connecting in love by secure attachment I avoided attachment with people (including my inner people) and defined, compared, ordered and organized them instead. This kept me “safe” and “separate,” and became a solid defense against connecting to them in love.

Yes, what is being invited of me are prayers for forgiveness all around! The prayer Julia suggested for this request for forgiveness was the Ho’oponopono Prayer:

I’m Sorry

Forgive Me

Thank You

I Love You

A beautiful peace arose in this understanding and experience of forgiveness. I feel so alive!

Epilog 1 – during the third day of the Helper Retreat (Sunday, August 4) time was taken by the group to thank me for my leadership efforts over these recent years. Someone suggested that during my term of office as Chair of the Pathwork Council and earlier I was the “GLUE” that held things together. I appreciated the reflection and gratitude, and I saw that being “glue” is, in fact, much of what I have done – glue for the differing personalities of the Pathwork Council, glue for the Helper Community as a whole in trying to keep all of us on the same page via communications, and glue that linked the MAP educational programs with the financial running both of MAP and of the Sevenoaks Retreat Center.

I also saw that perhaps now what is needed is for us as a community (and perhaps “us” as an inner community within my psyche) is to become UNGLUED so that we can reconfigure in a truly new way – a way that honors both diversity and creativity on the one hand and order on the other, but perhaps looser order, one that fosters and leverages freedom.

How might this look? I put the ideas I have for how this might happen for Mid-Atlantic Pathwork into a chart. The goal would be to balance order (so the “business” of MAP can be understood and managed profitably) with making room for many more “Cats” who have grand ideas about how Pathwork can expand (if interested, open my outline of this vision)(Here is a similar vision I prepared a year ago, but did not take forward at that time).

However I have one more critical thought here, and that concerns the nature of Spiritual Leadership. Yes, perhaps I have been the glue that has held various voices together at the table. Yes, perhaps I have made sure all voices are heard. But have I provided spiritual leadership? I feel not, at least not fully. Could I have provided more spiritual leadership, that is, do I have the capacity to offer more spiritual leadership that I have to date? I am not sure, but I think the answer may be, “Yes.” I could have done more here than I did. Perhaps I can do more in the future, but from a more informal relationship with the community.

In leadership of spiritual organizations Spiritual Guidance is most important. This Guidance comes through all the people involved to be sure. And yet it seems to me that not all Guidance is equal. One of my characteristics in my term of leadership has been that I have been challenged to lead, that is, challenged to lead us based upon my own Guidance, based upon where I felt we were being called spiritually. Taking up the torch and leading was just too scary for me to even consider. And beyond that, in the absence of my own voice, I was challenged to say whose Guidance would carry the biggest weight in steering our school, choosing this Guidance based upon its resonance with my own sense of where Spirit was wanting us to go and yet always staying open to new voices. Organizationally I was in fact the Chair of the Pathwork Council and had the “official” authority to do more. But I sense I let the organization and myself down in not being willing to carry the authority to lead that I was given. I have sadness about this. Why did I back off from leadership?

But of course my Guidance in my sense of where we were to go could have been wrong, misguided, and very distorted in some ways. Perhaps the new organization will carry forth more closely aligned with Guidance from Spirit than I was able to manifest. But also perhaps it will not.  I see my ambivalence here. Can I still play a leadership role, but from a distance? I want to remain open to where Spirit is leading us, and leading me.

And again this is an inner issue as well as an outer issue. Not all the characters and voices of my own psyche have the correct Guidance for me and for my life. To which voices do I give the greatest weight when it comes to deciding where my personal ship is to sail? Do I have the courage to follow what on some level I see as Truth? Am I willing to take the chance that I could be wrong, that what I am seeing as “truth” is in fact not Truth or is perhaps a very distorted sense of Truth? Am I willing to take the risk of paying the price to follow my Guidance? Am I willing to take the chance that I could be Right?  Am I willing to lead the cats, both the inner and outer cats in my life? Of course this is a both/and, not either/or situation – to herd AND free AND lead the inner and outer cats is quite a dance!

Perhaps in leadership is where I am called to my masculinity – to take up my positive aggression that I have been so reticent to take up. My fear and shyness get the best of me. And again, why is that resistance to true leadership, inner and outer, so great in me?

For answers I am reminded of the last Pathwork Lecture – #258 – which is titled “Personal Contact with Jesus ChristPositive Aggression — The Real Meaning of Salvation.”  Am I surprised at the juxtaposition of “Positive Aggression” and “Jesus Christ”? Not really. So my journey, now outside of formal leadership roles, continues. I pray, truly pray, for Guidance (help and commitment in discerning and purifying the Truths I may see “through a glass darkly”) and Courage (finding and resolving my blocks to following Guidance though my purification) and Spiritual Help (required for true transformation of some of my lower-self aspects’ negative intentionality).

And with Pathwork lecture 258 being the last lecture given through Eva I am reminded that perhaps even my name ties in – Vollbracht.  This German word is in Luther’s German bible. Where? In Jesus’ words from the cross, “Es ist vollbracht,” which translated is, “It is finished.” I have a tingling feeling when I am aware of all these “endings” – the last Pathwork lecture concerning positive aggression and Jesus Christ, Jesus’ last words from the cross, my being in my eighth decade of life – as if something consequential is being lived out through me and my life in my latter days on the planet. All Mystery.

Epilog 2 – Coffee Time on Wednesday, August 14.

With some degree of enthusiasm I shared the above with Pat during our coffee time. Gary: I see in me some level of conscientiousness and responsibility that I have exhibited in my roles within MAP. Pat: And perhaps also a bit of perfectionism, a dash of being driven, and a touch of rigidity. Gary: And caring, generosity, fear, pride, self-will, and wisdom. Pat: And kindness and lovingness. Gary: Yes, and all of these are held in a spirit of the 50/50 Work© – being merely and utterly human with positive and negative traits. Pat: These are all energies of the Universe, and our patterns and images configure out of our unique combining of these various energies. As we bring Presence to the field of these energies the overall energy increases in frequencies – Unity is the highest. This highest level of energy is the area of the Four Immeasurables: Loving Kindness, Compassion, Appreciative Joy, and Equanimity. Our patterns are at lower frequencies. In being with all of this in effect we lift the field of consciousness – we bring attention to our patterns so they can be dismantled.

Gary: And not only do you and I have all of these energies at play in us, these “cats” of our psyche and personality, but all of the others in my Pathwork community have their own inner “cats” that they bring to the table. So our collective job is first to see the “cats” in ourselves and in the others and then also to fully accept the “cats” in ourselves and in the others. Perhaps this would be a true state of 50/50 Work© consciousness in our community. Pat: And you have helped to facilitate attaining this group consciousness in the Mid-Atlantic Pathwork helper group by being a force for gathering all of the players together in retreats, meetings, phone calls, and the like. Gary: Yes, that seems so. Thanks for helping me to see this role that I have also played in MAP.

Shared in love, Gary