Taking Off Straightjackets, Not Exchanging One For Another
Meditation – Saturday
Pause and Consider: My Spiritual Path – Taking Off Straightjackets, NOT Exchanging One Straightjacket for Another
Yesterday I visited the University of Cincinnati, my alma mater where 50 years ago I was a sophomore in the College of Engineering. Baldwin Hall, at the head of the quadrangle of the engineering buildings, had changed little. I took photos, including one of the plaque for the Herman Schneider Gold Medal award winners – an award given annually to the “top” engineering student in the College of Engineering. It was surreal. There my name stood as the winner of this award in 1965 – the second year this award was given.
It felt surreal because compared with the other names on this plaque I felt like a failure in my professional career. Other folks whose names were on the plaque had gone on to become professors, leading business entrepreneurs and executives, big players in their professional lives. I felt like a dropout, never really developing professionally, and then in midlife finding my way into spirituality. Standing in front of the plaque, I felt like one misplaced on the planet, one who never really found himself in life. Profession? Never really found mine, or at least never felt I was at home in my career.
I was at UC to meet my brother Paul and a fund developer for the College of Engineering. Somewhere in all of this I felt compelled to show them a photo that I had just taken of the plaque – the names of many who were members of Delta Tau Delta fraternity, fraternity brothers of mine and Paul’s. Upon showing this photo I felt stupid, arrogant, and foolish. How attached I am to look back and identify with 50-year-old “accomplishments” that were not really me. And then the shame took over. How pathetic to hang on to such ancient trophies for my identity! I thought I was now spiritual and beyond needing such (internal) accolades for my sense of who I am. Of course in all of this I can laugh at myself, since this is just the talk in my head and not particularly related to reality — but on the other hand at times it feels like reality!
Later yesterday evening Pat and I watched the second and final episode of a documentary of Harry Truman. I could see myself in my career as Harry Truman may have felt in his role as U. S. President. He was loved by the people but not respected as a capable leader. Thus it was with my presidency at SDRC. Harry stood in the shoes and shadows of the charismatic and beloved FDR, I in the shoes and shadows of the charismatic and beloved Jack Lemon, founder of SDRC. Harry was the farm boy from Missouri, I was the Midwesterner from Quincy, Illinois. Good to see all of this that floats around in my head.
I brought this to my meditation this morning, along with the pressure I feel to get budgets out, the announcement of my having completed the Pathwork recording project out, to get prepared both for a business board meeting on Monday and for a series of Sevenoaks meetings next week.
Focusing Statement 1: Pathwork Lecture 131 Interaction Between Expression and Impression; ¶22
As you advance on the path and make progress, the inner vessel brings forth the false ideas, wrong conclusions, problems that do not really exist and against which you fight on wrong premises. Then it is even more essential that a harmonious interplay between the two activities exist. The correct timing of when one or the other is appropriate must be found.
I smiled. I had thought this paragraph would begin differently. I thought it would say that as I advance on my spiritual path and make progress that more and more Joy, Peace, Fulfillment, and Serenity would come to me. Not so! The lecture says rather that as I advance on my spiritual path and make progress that more and more mud gets stirred up in my water. Since life is a spiral, I can assume the mud gets muddier as I come closer to my core issues in life. Not what I wanted to hear, but again I see the truth in these words. One more untruth to let go of and one new truth to impress upon my Soul substance
So again in emptying my untruths I look at:
1) My false ideas, my images
2) My wrong conclusions about life, conclusions that have guided me my entire life
3) My non-problem problems – problems that do not exist and against which I fight on wrong premises.
As I look at the mud that has come up this morning in my Daily Review, I see more clearly that I hang onto external images for my sense of who I am. I know these “prestigious” trappings are not the real me, but I hold them up as shields to show the world and myself who I am, and shields that also serve to protect the tender and fragile Self that is my Soul. And I also hang onto the image that, when I am spiritually mature I am beyond identifying with these ornamented shields of bygone accomplishments – the image and illusion that I am beyond being simply human. So here is more Self-alienation — since I am, after all, human.
And then I noticed that I get caught up in comparing myself to others, and using the standards of the world as the only yardstick that counts. Or, if I use a spiritual yardstick, I sense I simply do not measure up at all, which, of course, further exacerbates my non-problem problems.
And the self-judging goes on beyond being a failure both professionally and spiritually. I find I am not feeling connected in either of these worlds, I am not being my Real Self in either of these worlds, and I am not grounded and leading from my Essence in either world. Further, I judge even this state, this state of humanity, as bad. So a negative vortex gets set in motion. I can feel it. So much here to look at. And I am aware of how good it feels to embrace the mud that has to be cleaned out if I am to find true happiness in life.
Yes, lots more mud has gotten stirred up! Time to welcome all guests, but of course there will still be some discomfort in this cleanup operation, for my limited human state does not want to admit, let alone welcome ALL guests. And yet the Lecture reminds me that this state that I am in, with all this mud stirred up, represents advancement and progress on the path. Life on this path is not about settling in to some peaceful existence – for this would be stagnation. No, rather, Life is an adventure as I go more and more deeply into the well of my life. Recognizing this helps me welcome all guests, including the ones with mud on their shoes!
Focusing Statement 2: Pathwork Lecture 131 Interaction Between Expression and Impression; ¶23
There is no rule, my friends, as to when to emphasize one more than the other of these two approaches to the self. The only way you can discover this balance is by feeling into yourself and listening to your innermost soul movements. By doing that you will not only come to be sensitively attuned to the need of the moment in this respect, you will also strengthen your selfhood. By honoring the individual rhythm of your personal path, you assume self-responsibility instead of trying to fit into prescribed rules. Your own cosmic attunement can unfold only when you reach for it consciously and deliberately. It cannot reveal itself if you ignore its existence or pursue blind, rigid practices.
Again, there is so much in this paragraph. I am struck by the fact that we each have our own rhythm in this cycle of expressing and impressing, and this individual rhythm needs to be attuned with the Cosmos – a Cosmic Attunement of my rhythms with the rhythms of the Cosmos. I just want to pause and take that in… I go back to the diagram I came up with a couple of days ago concerning the spiral: (for full size, click here)
There are no rules. How interesting this is to me. Of late I’ve been looking for rules for my meditation practice – in order to parallel Pat’s daily morning practice. I’ve tried various styles in recent years – following various teachers or instructions, even those of Pathwork. Then a few weeks ago I settled in, for now, on what really seems to work for me. It is a five-step process:
Step 1) My Daily Review, — written out in my journal
Step 2) Reading a paragraph or two from a Pathwork lecture and using it as a Focusing Statement,
Step 3) Reflection: a time of application of the Focusing Statement to issues brought up in my Daily Review and, in reflection, recording material in my journal. By then Pat is finished with her practice and we enter…
Step 4) our daily Coffee Time – 30 minutes to an hour or two or three of deep sharing and more journaling. And finally, often later, comes…
Step 5) expanding on what comes up in my meditation and Coffee Time with Pat by writing these blog entries. This last step, writing the blog, helps me crystallize and integrate the material into my being.
I find all of this very satisfying and nurturing, often inspiring and enlivening. So by dropping my search for outside rules about my meditation practice, I’ve manifested and settled into something that works for me, and for Pat. AND I allow myself to shift it about or change this practice as my needs change or as new ideas arise. I love the flow and freedom in this practice that has emerged for me. … At this point in my meditation I could not stop, so I went on to:
Focusing Statement 3: Pathwork Lecture 131 Interaction Between Expression and Impression; ¶24
People have too ingrained a tendency to obey an authority. We have discussed this amply in the past, but never quite in this connection. In a very subtle, and still vastly undetected way, you pursue even such a liberating activity as the pathwork — whose aim is to attain full selfhood in every possible way — without making use of the material according to the momentary needs of your psyche. You try to use the material as if it contained rules to be governed by. This, of course, has a stifling effect. Even though such an approach cannot kill the vital stream within yourself, it does not encourage its manifestation.
More rich material! What arises is the need for me to be free. I often say my Lutheran heritage began to feel like a constraining and tightly binding straightjacket, a straightjacket I had outgrown long before I eventually gave it up. And even after I had broken out of this straightjacket, albeit not until I was in my fifties, I approached my new spiritual life by trying to find the “right” new straight jacket – the “right” worldview, the “right” spiritual practices, the “right” teachings, the “right” teachers and mentors, etc. In this way I was jumping around from one straightjacket to another rather than breaking out and being free of all straightjackets!
This even, and maybe especially, applied to my use of Pathwork. At first, instead of focusing on making conscious “the momentary needs of my psyche,” I tried rather to learn Pathwork concepts – concepts about images, lower self, higher self, mask self, etc. etc. This had the effect of making me rigid about my new Pathwork straightjacket – I needed my new Pathwork straightjacket to be the final and “right” straightjacket.
From this stance I was both vulnerable (needing Pathwork to be “right” for my own sense of security) and defensive toward those with a different straightjacket or those who had no straightjacket at all. It is very helpful to see this set forth in this lecture and to see how this applied to me, especially in my early years of Pathwork. I trust I am weaning myself away from this straightjacket mentality. I certainly are feeling such freedom these days.
But before dismissing this point, I just want to notice that this identifies another untruth for me to empty out even more than I have already: The untruth is, “A spiritual path is a rigid set of teachings, practices, and worldviews. It is important to have the ‘right’ spiritual path since all of life counts on it in fact being ‘right.’” I see now that this untruth has led to a lot of unlived life in me.
Our coffee time was two hours this morning, and very moving and deep. After Pat shared where she was in her life just now, I shared my enthusiasm from my morning practice. We shared a lot. It was great. Pat: Gary, in living your life, in getting out of your straight jacket, in getting out of all straightjacks, and in coming into Freedom and Cosmic attunement, you help all others recognize and get out of their straightjackets and become free to come into their own Cosmic attunement! Gary: Thank you for helping me to see this as my Cosmic purpose, perhaps my role in the Plan of Salvation!
Gary: I am really struck by the truth that to teach Pathwork (or any spiritual path) we need to begin by bringing more and more consciousness in the student of the “momentary needs of his or her psyche.” This so resonates with me. No more “presentation” style teachings without FIRST a focus on the student’s individual and unique needs of his or her psyche in that moment of teaching. Never get too far away from the student’s needs and the work will be powerful and energetic!
There was much more, but this feels enough. Shared in love, Gary