Pushing Life's Reset Button — Again — And Again, Please
Focusing Statement: Pathwork Lecture 131 ¶14
Let us take a very simple common example so as to make it easier for you to follow me. Every one of you is constantly afraid, in one way or another, of being inadequate, of being rejected, of being looked down upon or not taken seriously. Whether or not you consciously consider this as a problem in you, you battle against it, trying in your own way to solve it. Trying to solve a problem that does not exist must create real problems. The predicament against which you battle is a nonsensical idea, for others are not out to reject or diminish you, as you often emotionally perceive. Whether or not you are aware of it at this moment, nine-tenths of your attitudes to life — to yourself and to others — are a struggle against this false premise. To defend yourself against this dreaded happening, you build an elaborate structure.
Over fifteen years ago when I was in a Lay Pastoral Ministry Program at a local seminary I was given a battery of tests. The results, as explained by a loving and insightful counselor, boiled down, as I recall, to one central statement: “Gary, you will do anything in order to appear competent.” So much was this a part of me, that the counselor was amazed, and pained, to see this in me in such an extreme way. This lifelong issue seems to fit what this Pathwork lecture is speaking about – my life-or-death fear of appearing to be incompetent.
So how have I tried to “solve” this “problem” of having to appear competent at everything I do? Of course this was obvious in the standards of doing well in school, especially in my upper years of college. Then, after retirement from a 29-year career in business, upon entering other professions (like my 9-month-stint as a hospital chaplain intern, or my few years as a massage therapist, or my attempts at being a Life Coach and then a Pathwork Teacher and Helper) I would always try to take courses to improve my skills and competence.
Training and education was everything it seemed. For example, I can laugh at the credentials I racked up as a massage therapist, taking training in multiple modalities of massage. But to actually be a massage therapist – well that was an entirely different story. This experience followed the same pattern as that of my experience in engineering – I was a very good student of engineering, but not much of an engineer. As my engineering career unfolded I found myself in the soft side of the engineering profession – sales, marketing, and management – but not being an engineer designing and building things.
A couple of things here. First, I seem to value being of direct service to others in what I do – whether that means being a good engineer, chaplain, massage therapist, life-coach, or Pathwork teacher or helper, matters not. What is key is that I offer good service to others. And second, I tend to devalue the meta-versions of these service areas – that is I devalue playing the many administrative, management, sales, and marketing roles in which I get involved in order to support, and even lead in some cases, those who do the “real” work of being of service to others. It would be like a frustrated school principal who could see value only in actually teaching and no value in being a principal, not even thinking he or she could be a good principal if he or she were not also a good teacher.
I notice that I also have created my own idea or image about what a truly competent Pathwork teacher or helper would be, or what a competent massage therapist or life coach or chaplain would be. My image says that a competent Pathwork helper or teacher, for example, would always know what to do or what to teach, would have all the answers for any question that a student or worker might come up with. In short, a helper has to help, and a teacher has to teach.
But as I consider this, I see that this is my first obstacle in all of the fields I’ve pursued in my retirement – I’ve based my competence upon knowing exactly how, as a chaplain, to help a patient in the hospital suffering from terminal cancer, or how exactly to help a massage client relieve severe back pain, or how to help a Pathwork worker or student have a better and more fulfilled life, that is, how to help the worker or student experience full enlightenment.
I can see that this “need to help” – this need to have measurable and visible results, and profound results at that – actually takes me in the wrong direction altogether if I want to provide these services I think I should be offering to others in order for me to be a worthwhile person on the planet. I am drawn to Bert Hellinger’s words in his Pausing Before the Mystery writing (click to open). From Hellinger’s words, the entire framework I have put in place to assess my effectiveness as helper, teacher, massage therapist, life coach, or massage therapist is wrong if I think I am actually supposed to teach or help or solve someone’s problems!
In areas of spiritual development in which I want to serve, one teaches by drawing truths out of the “student” for him or her to see and feel. One helps a worker by companioning, that is, by deep listening and mirroring back to the person what is arising in the person. I have to let go of a lot of my habitual patterning here if I am actually going to be a Pathwork teacher or helper!
And as long as I gage my competency by my or another’s sense of the efficacy of my “advice” and “help” I will never meet my own or another’s standards. And even if I did meet my own or another’s standards in teaching or helping, in the end meeting these standards would prove to be ineffectual in dealing with the reality of the person’s ultimate issues. The person’s life would not improve in the long haul because of my brilliant insights. Why? Because these insights would be coming out of ME, not out of THEIR SOULS.
And then in my meditation I dropped deeper. I saw that I put another burden on myself: I must be competent in my own spiritual life. After all, I left the church and have gone on my own spiritual path. I had better be “right” about this decision to leave my tribe and find my own spiritual path.
So how do I measure my own competence in living my own spiritual life? What are my standards of competence for the “successful” spiritual journeyer? Competence of the spiritual journeyer would mean: faithfulness to right practices, profound levels of consciousness and awareness – enlightenment even, deep levels of Knowing and inner wisdom, and the like!
And, just like the Pathwork lecture quote above reminds me, I tackle this “problem” by building another elaborate structure: completing the five-year Pathwork Transformation Program, the Pathwork Teacher Training Program and finally the Helper Training Program – 8-10 years of education, experience, and training in all. So after all this “education” and “experiential work” do I feel growth in my own spiritual life?
Yes and no. “No” if I measure my growth by the old standards of having to be steeped in and faithful to right practices, of having to experience deep levels of great consciousness and awareness, and of having to tap into great truths and wisdom for any issue of life that arises. But “Yes” if by “growth” I mean seeing that over these recent years I am coming to the realization that these old standards for measuring efficacy are not really relevant for measuring where I am in my spiritual journey.
In a way this is like having been very faithful to the playbook of life as I came to learn it, only to come to the point in my life where I realize that to truly grow spiritually I now have to throw away the playbook I have used all these years. I think this is what the Pathwork quote above is trying to explain to me.
And once again after my meditation – in doing it my way – I am feeling very enlivened. I am full of gratitude. May I take these new insights into my life this day.
I shared the Focusing Statement and all that arose in my meditation with Pat. Gary: My morning meditation this morning is as if I pushed the “RESET BUTTON” of my life. Again, of course – for it is not the first time! Nor will it be the last. Perhaps pushing the Reset Button will become a daily practice, or even hourly when we get good at life. The true beginner’s mind.
Pat: I want to support your emerging meditation practice – this sitting with your daily review, your reading a paragraph or two from a Pathwork lecture, and then all that arises in you as you sit in this space of quiet – or not so quiet when you are aware of all that arises. To witness this in you brings me joy.
Pat: I’m so happy to have you companioning me. When I get caught in that “I’m no good” space, I don’t stay in that pattern. I look at what is here: The clearer strands of our higher selves are here, and we have the privilege to be here and support one another. Coming to put words to these amazing experiences we both have in the morning is so helpful. For my entire life I have wanted someone with whom I could talk God – and here you are. Gary: I need to pause and take this in. … Yes, indeed. Such gratitude arises. I don’t want to miss this moment, but in truth it is still challenging for me to stay at these levels of love and gratitude. Kind of overwhelming, in a good way, but still overwhelming.
Shared with love, Gary