Identifying Unresolved Problems, Undoing Pseudo-Solutions

Coffee Time with Pat Friday 9/13/13

As I sat in meditation and daily review on Friday morning I found myself intrigued with the self-inquiry questions raised in my previous blog entry based upon Pathwork Lecture 111 Soul Substance – Coping with Demands. The initial question posed in that blog entry deals with my sense of the unresolved problems I brought into this incarnation to work on. The subsequent questions inquired as to how thus far in life I had chosen to address these unresolved problems, how I had come up with what turned out to be immature pseudo-solutions that in themselves now have to be unwound and dismantled so that the unresolved problems can be addressed anew and be seen freshly from a deeper level of consciousness.

I was helped along by Pat’s and my decision last night to listen to about half of the two and a half hour recording of Session 3 of our Couples Intensive with Sage and Anthony, which took place in Toronto back in June. This afternoon session on day 2 of the Intensive focused on how I was present in the session. It was on the heals of Session 2, the morning session of day 2, where Pat had gone deep into her own beingness and presence at the Intensive. Listening to Session 3 last night I could hear myself searching for words to describe where I was, how I felt, what I was thinking about. In listening to it I at first assessed it to be choppy, with sentences disconnected, long gaps of silence, and slow. But as I settled into listening from a deeper place the session seemed to be just what I needed. Here is some of how Session 3 went…

Gary: Pat, it was not easy to follow you this morning. I was most interested in what was arising in you, but I could not go there with you experientially. I wasn’t at that deeper level of consciousness that you seemed to be at. I felt that I was holding down the fort from a lower energy level while you were experiencing expanded consciousness. I was delighted that you were going into deeper places. Sage: Gary, come back to yourself, stay in your own well. Gary: This morning I did not want to disrupt Pat and her journey. I focused on her and left my own experience. I was not here with myself this morning but busily there with you this morning. Anthony: Meaning? Gary: I had a feeling that I ought to be there with Pat, not here with me. It is easier to be in your camp, Pat. I am not sure what being in my camp even is or means. Sage: So you left your own terror, your own grief that perhaps was arising in you as you made your descent into your own holy well of consciousness. Perhaps you abandoned yourself on the descent. Gary: I saw my job as going over to be with Pat’s grief.

Sage: So perhaps you left your acorn and tried to be an oak, holding down the fort, as you say. This was your solution in this situation, actually, your defense: go be with Pat and leave yourself. Gary: Going back to my own childhood with Mom and Dad, perhaps I had a lost childhood in a way – in relating to others I too quickly became the “responsible one.” I did not know how to play with peers. Anthony: You were not given the experience of play. You experienced fusion with the adult world. This was your way to survive. You figured out what the adults wanted and that’s what you did. Thereby you felt more comfortable and safer in the adult world than with your peers. Sage: So your feelings did not count, and so you turned against yourself and your feelings. You abandoned your acorn self, your natural playful self. When with others, adults or peers, you had to be an adult in the room. Gary: I would attach to adults rather than peers. I simply did not know how to connect with the other kids. Anthony: You would be the adult and could not go for something pleasurable. You concluded there was not room for your feelings. Pleasurable experiences like “playing with peers” was not an experience familiar to you in your life. Your play was in solitude.

Anthony: Gary, notice how you frame things. There is self-shaming, a dismissing of yourself – your feelings are not important, your experiences this morning were “less than” Pat’s experiences this morning. She was at a “lofty” consciousness, you were at a lower frequency of groundedness that you seemed to judge as somehow “less than” Pat’s experience. Growing up you were never affirmed in your experiences or in your feelings. They did not count, and now you ignore, dismiss or disparage your feelings or experiences. Gary: My entire focus growing up was being acceptable in the adult world. Sage: You needed to be in their world, you needed to please your parents or other adults. How terrifying it would have been to be yourself with your own feelings and experiences — even if you could have been with them yourself it would have been unthinkable to have shared them with peers. You had to be the adult, the oak.

Gary: So now let’s look at my work with Sevenoaks’ leaders. I enjoy working on my own preparing budgets, organizing meetings, communicating with my peers one-on-one, and the like. This is my “play” time in a way, my time being an acorn. But when I am with other leaders in a group setting I suddenly feel intimidated, I am an acorn in the midst of oaks. I then try to be an oak, but because I have not evolved emotionally far enough to truly be an oak emotionally it is painful, I am still an acorn with regard to my feelings.

So I bring my elegant budgets, organizational ideas, and results of my many conversations with other individuals into the official committee or board meetings, and in these gatherings of leaders I feel my views or ideas are not understood or appreciated. In the face of criticism I become passive-aggressive in my logical approach – all mental, I step out of my body. This is very painful. It is one of the reasons I needed to step down – in my body and emotional space I am simply not an oak and not ready to take on issues requiring “oakness.” Sage: So when you are on your own and by yourself or in a one-to-one conversation you are creative and happy, but with groups of other leaders, your peers in leadership, you do not know how to present yourself, or how to engage as a peer, as an oak, as an equal.

Gary: Or how to “play” with oaks in the room. I can’t even imagine playing with these leaders — say, going golfing, or even going out to dinner with them. Play time with them is very stressful to me. When I take my long trips to Sevenoaks I am playful and spontaneous as I drive along in my car by myself. During the 8-hour trip to Sevenoaks I choose when and where to eat, for example. So alone being an acorn is fine.

But now driving up here with Pat I was not sure how to have fun, how to play with her. Anthony: How about right NOW in this moment with Pat? Gary: I am not sure how to be here with Pat in this moment. What direction should this conversation be going? Should we be doing something different from what we are doing in order to make our intensive more fruitful? See, immediately right here I am taking the role of an adult! And PLAY with Pat while driving up here with her, well I am not even sure what that would look like.  Sage: We are following you right where you are. Follow yourself from the inside out.

Gary: As I pause here to be with myself fear arises. I assess that I should be a certain way here, but what way? I don’t know what I want in this moment. I am frightened not to know what I want. (The conversation began to get very slow here as I dropped deeper into myself – long pauses, often minutes long, separated our comments.)  I’m slowing down. … I’m breathing. … I’m not sure how to connect just now.

I sense I have to change to connect with you three or with you Pat. I get uncomfortable thinking I have to change to connect. I want to connect, or do I really? Actually I’m not sure. Fear is in the way. But if I did want to connect I would have to change something in me. My mind is trying to figure out how to be in this situation. … Now, as I slow down a bit, I am beginning to feel peaceful. Sage: Be with yourself here. I realize you can’t believe that Pat is following who you are here. You believe you have to earn our caring for you. Being received “as you are” is hard for you to conceive of as a possibility here. We realize that. Anthony: A child longs for his parents to be curious about who he is. He looks for curiosity about him — curiosity about who he is, what he likes, how he feels — coming toward him from the parent. If curiosity about the child doesn’t come toward him from the parent, the child fills the gap in the presence of the parent and asks himself, “What does the parent need here?” The child will do anything to fill that gap, to meet the parents’ needs. …

Sage: I’m interested where you are just now. Gary: I do not feel connected. I am frightened. I want to try to make myself OK with the other, with you three, with Pat. The acorn thinks he has done something wrong. The acorn is confused about what is attractive about being an acorn and cannot imagine an acorn being attractive — only a mighty oak can be attractive in the adult world. Sage: Possibly that “just being” is attractive in and of itself. Gary: Being “real” is attractive. Or on the other hand, “real” could be pretty messy. Could that be OK? Or being “unreal,” and “masky,” could that be OK too? “Oh, you’re interested in me no matter who I am?” I’m quite surprised at that. In a way this is humorous. I don’t know what you want of me, what you could possibly value in me as an acorn. I don’t know what I want of me as an acorn, or what I could value in me as an acorn. I get frantic in this vacuum. There is such an inner pressure to be an oak, but I am not, and it terrifies the acorn in me.

Anthony: But the body knows what it wants as an acorn, though the mind does not. The body’s wants are simple. The body wants to breathe. The body wants to be comfortable. Give value to what the body wants….  Gary: It is pleasant to be in the body and simply breathe and relax. This is like a meditative state. I am in my body now. There is an absence of anxiety. This is pleasant…. A very different place. … I can be with myself….  There is no need to fill the space with words. I am curious about who’s here inside. I am experiencing relaxation in my upper arms. (I take a drink of water.) Pat: I’m delighted that you enjoyed drinking the water.

Gary: This feels like a different place. Anthony: I love this! Sage: Lovely acorn. Gary: A slowed down place – very comfortable. There is a place in me that wants to tend to the inner place – to keep the floor swept. I’m moving much slower than usual. Being in my body is a slow, low frequency, comfortable energy. I’m very present to me. I’m not sure where you are.  S L O W – healthily slow. I feel my hands. I am not eager to leave this place. I’m letting it imprint itself in me.

It’s as if I am in my workshop with my tools. Tools for thinking. Tools that enjoy music. Tools that enjoy photographing wildflowers. I am peaceful in the basement of my workshop, alone. I see how I have let Sevenoaks keep me out of my workshop. I need a sign on my workshop door: “Retired!” Sage: Maybe you could rename your workshop your “Playshop.” Gary: Amen. Play is what I did as a kid – I had so many hobbies that filled my Playshop!

Anthony: This is solitary play. Now there is another here. You can play alone or play with Pat. Gary: Inviting Pat into my personal space, my playshop. (I got teary here) Showing Pat all the tools in my playshop that give me so much pleasure. I realize I don’t have to leave my playshop to be with you, Pat. I could also go to your playshop. Or to OUR playshop. I had made it an either/or situation – thinking about my pleasure as coming 100% from my playshop or 100% from your playshop (but what would that look like)  or 100% from OUR playshop (again, what would that look like) – but it is a both/and situation as we go to our various playshops.

This is as much of the session that we listened to Thursday night – another half to go. My meditation/daily review time Friday morning picked up from here and from my time in Pathwork Lecture 111 that gave rise to the inquiry as to my sense of the unresolved problems I brought into this incarnation to work on.

Looking at the session with Sage and Anthony from last night’s listening led me to see that one of these unresolved problems was the problem of not fitting into the world I was born into. From birth I thought I was “not OK” in this world “as I was.” I did not feel welcomed “just as I was” by Mom, Dad, or others.

So what was my pseudo-solution to this unresolved problem? Part of me isolated myself from others and developed many personal hobbies in which I could indulge myself. This was my pseudo-solution of choice and resulted in the creation of my “playshop.” But of course at times I had to be with others – with adults and with my peers in my family, neighborhood, school and church.

What was my pseudo-solution when I had to be with people? I had many pseudo-solutions in relating. First, I related mostly to adults. Let’s begin with Mom and Dad. Here I related by conforming to family norms, obeying, serving their causes, performing, pleasing, being responsible, being competent, and the like. Relating to adults was my top relating priority.

What about with peers? I did not know how to play with others for sure. I did not do sports. I would play tuba in the band but not socialize apart from band practice. I would participate in planned activities in scouts, church groups, and school. But I would rarely or never socialize or “play” with peers apart from formalized events. When not involved in something organized I would be at home alone in my “playshop.”

And in high school I would be the competent student but would not participate in sports or social events – would not go to sports games except when the band played and afterwards would go home to be alone. I would never go to dances or date girls. I would join organizations and in these organizations I would get involved in roles – often in leadership. In leadership I would “relate” by being competent in my tasks, by organizing, planning, being 110% responsible, pleasing others, and the like. This carried on into my adult years in my career, church, family, and other organizations.

I feel some inner excitement to see all of this more clearly!

Coffee time discussion

Pat: From listening to our session with Sage and Anthony last night I could feel your energy in playing in your playshop alone – with the chemistry sets, erector sets, astronomy books, building model planes, etc. You were relaxed as you shared about your playshop. There was a deep Knowing of this space during the session. Gary: Yes, but how do I engage with you and others from my private playshop? For example, these recent years in my playshop have involved deep dives into Pathwork, but how do I move from this private work with Pathwork out of my playshop and into the world with others? I do not feel called to teach Pathwork or even to be a Pathwork helper. These areas just don’t work for me, especially the teaching role where groups of people are involved.

Sometimes my playshop included creating elegant spreadsheets for Sevenoaks or elaborate PowerPoint presentations for Pathwork Lectures, but these never seemed to be valued relative to the work I put into them. But this was the only way I could engage with others. So engaging more deeply comes more through creating my website with its Pathwork and other quotes, its presentations, and my blog. I enjoy this process of creating my website and all the many entries, but it is still very isolated and not directly engaging with others. I just “throw these materials over the wall” so to speak onto my website and go on to the next entry, whether or not the materials and sharing of my process in my blog touch or engage with anyone. In any case I do not feel engaged with others through my website. My richest engagement spiritually speaking is with you, Pat, and then Jenny, and several others from time to time. But this is not a very broad set of people with whom I can be myself.

Pat: Being in relationship with me is part of this engagement. Gary: Yes, our coffee time is rich, but much of it is words, words, words – sharing concepts, talking about how we feel, etc. Pat: How would it feel to let go of the words? Gary: Scary! Pat: Perhaps words, thoughts, and concepts are part of your defense structure against true connection. Yes words, ideas, and concepts are your gift, too, but where and how can we be led into the wordless place?

Listening to our session with Sage and Anthony last night I could see the challenge of coming to a wordless place. How do we acquaint ourselves with the wordless place? Gary: Yes, especially in our relationship. How do we get beyond the coffee time words and into the wordless place of our relationship? What does that even mean? And how do we experience connection in that wordless place? Pat: We could be walking hand-in-hand into the Mystery that Life is, walking hand-in-hand into the field as we have done with Sage and Anthony – fluid – going down the “holy well.” During this session with Sage and Anthony that we just listened to there was lots of silence, but in the silence we kept looking at each other. This was presence. There can be a lot of chattiness in my playshop, but then the words slow down and I become open to the natural movement toward connection between us and toward the experience of union.

Shared in love, Gary

Epilog: The next morning (Saturday) I awoke gripped with a feeling of profound selfishness, fear, and irrelevance. There is so much suffering going on in the world and yet I am spending time in these nuanced places of relating. Last night we watched The Last Days, a moving documentary by Steven Spielberg and The Shoah Foundation. It was the 1998 Academy Award Winner for Best Documentary Feature. It developed and followed five lives that survived the Holocaust. It was hard once again to imagine man’s inhumanity to man that it depicted during the Nazi rule under Hitler. What so stood out for me was how much each survivor’s past and current families meant to them – somehow I got off this “family relating” track early on in my own life it seems.

There was a second factor contributing to my sense of selfishness and irrelevance. Last weekend while driving to and from Vermont we listened to Eve Ensler read her most recent book In the Body of the World – A Memoir. This is a “must hear/read” for anyone on a spiritual path – so much to integrate and so well done. But again it shows the brutality of life on planet earth. And then closer to home Pat and I see so much suffering. In the context of all of this suffering it feels somehow self-absorbed to be so engaged with our own lives and journey. Hence my being so gripped by a feeling of selfishness and irrelevance.

But balancing these impacts, yesterday I also listened once again to Pathwork Lecture 141 Return To the Original Level of Perfection (a lecture assigned for the Graduate program that meets in two weeks) and was deeply inspired. It gives such a beautiful statement about the purpose of Pathwork (open short quote). I ask, “Gary, would it not be meaningful to develop this one lecture into a short ’course’ on the spiritual life as laid out by Pathwork?” What would such a course look like in format? Would it be in person with a group? Or a webinar? A workshop? A series of studies? Would I do it with someone, say Jenny? This lecture assures me that I have all the potential in me to do this. But will I, now that I am stepping out of leadership at Sevenoaks and should have the time?  Is this a Calling for me, or not? Prayers and comments welcomed.