Wrestling Against and Longing For Union
What am I longing for in life? Of course, consciously and unconsciously, the answer is love, and the Pathwork Lectures speak of our longing to love others being a deeper longing and need for our souls than our ego’s distorted version of love, which is focused so heavily on being loved by others. Perhaps all of this longing for love is my longing for Union. The Pathwork Lectures go on to say that before we can experience our deepest longing – Union with God, Union with the All – we need to experience our longing for and manifestation of Union with each other and also with Nature, the Cosmos. Union is an experience and manifestation of Love. God is Love. God within each of us is Love. So this sets the stage for my life – coming to experience Love and Union in this life on planet earth, imperfect, distorted, and limited as it needs be due to our limited dualistic consciousness. Incarnation limits our capacities and blocks our infinite potentialities, and yet this life with its limitations is the life we are to live in this School of Life on earth. Life on this earth is the life of the soul’s purification and transformation.
I can see how this deep inner longing for Union, this longing for manifesting Love, has played out in my life. I was aware of sacrificing this inner longing in my marriage, not being faithful to my inner God voice but rather, being caught up in the culture and the physical dimensions of Union, I entered my 34-year marriage at the age of 24. I had betrayed my soul. Through my first five decades of life I was very immature in the matters of love and Union, and in the end this immaturity and what it led to – in both my marriage and my divorce – was so devastating to my wife and to my own soul.
During my marriage I felt tugs of love and Union with several women. Eros, the Life Force, my God within, whatever we want to call it, was awakening and would not be squelched. My Ego and commitment to my wife and to the church, however, were quite strong factors in my life and these defenses would hold back the even stronger forces of love, Union, and Eros; but the longing from within would not go away. It was relentless.
At fifty I allowed myself to get hooked in a relationship that seemed to be my destiny. Eros was quite strong, but in a container (ME!) that was still immature. I had no real experience to draw from when it came to evolving a mature loving relationship in Union. The relationship that came to dominate my life ended after five years, but left me wide open to the forces within. I had tasted a deeper and more complete love, and my soul would not or could not put the horse back in the barn. Rightly or wrongly, it led to my leaving my wife in 2000 and divorce by the end of 2001. This was a very unstable and ungrounded time of my life that did not even begin to stabilize until I entered my sixties.
At age 58 (in 2000) I was introduced to Pathwork by a BBSH teacher. I purchased a number of books that she suggested to me – the Thesengas’ books Undefended Self and Fear No Evil. As with all the 3,000 spiritual/philosophical/psychological books in my burgeoning library, these Pathwork books remained on my library shelves unopened. I would say my dyslexia makes serious reading challenging, but the idea of owning books appealed to me.
Somehow, however, in this process of acquiring Pathwork books I also purchased the Pathwork book Creating Union by Eva Pierrakos. I took this book on a silent personal retreat in August of 2000. This would be the retreat where this same BBSH teacher who introduced me to the Pathwork books would be (by seemingly Divine intervention) my director. She would be the person most responsible for my exploring Pathwork Programs at Sevenoaks Pathwork Center. On this August retreat I actually began reading Creating Union. I was hooked. I could not put it down. This was the first Pathwork book I read cover to cover. I so resonated with all that this book expressed – the pages so fully integrated sexuality, Eros, and spirituality into a primary relationship between man and woman. This Union I recognized was what I was longing for in my relationship with a woman!
After the retreat I knew and expressed my longing clearly: I longed for a holistic Union with a woman on all levels of our being: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. I knew and felt Eros with Pat at the time, but she was not feeling Eros toward me, so my frustration and pain were heightened. Pat not being available, and my being separated from my wife and heading toward a divorce, led me to another intimate relationship. But this felt off to me as well. It was rich, very rich, on some levels, but in the end the Eros I felt toward Pat was not to be denied, and once again, and with great pain, I ended this other significant relationship in my life. I had been in a long marriage and two very serious and moving relationships but was awash. Yet I knew that which I was longing for – Union as described in Creating Union.
But was I ready? I had the theory – I knew intellectually and intuitively that I longed for an integrated and holistic Union with a woman on physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual levels, but I did not know that I was not at all prepared for such a relationship. My immaturity and distortions stood in the way. While Pat and I ultimately entered into our committed relationship in the spring of 2003, I quickly realized that what I expected this “wonderful” relationship to be it was not. So now for ten years we have been living together committed to discovering what Love and Union between us could be. There has been – and continues to be – so much growing, inner personal and spiritual development that has had to happen and must continue to happen in each of us for this Union, this USness, to manifest.
We have worked with our couple’s counselors Sage and Anthony for a year now. This began with a two-and-a-half day intensive of the four of us — Sage, Anthony, Pat, and me — last June and has continued in powerful biweekly Skype calls among the four of us since then. We enter another intensive with them at the end ofJune. So much has unfolded, so many blocks have dropped away. But also an awareness of even deeper blocks, defenses, and challenges has emerged. This working as a couple toward enlightenment is certainly a path within a path.
Early on Sage named our goal: to experience intercourse on all levels – physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. What Pat and I realized was that we had no real idea of what that meant. In me I was aware of what I am calling a Fragmented Union. By this I mean that while I have had some experience of “intercourse” on some of these four levels with different women, I am far from what I believe is possible. What stands in the way? Firstly I am woefully undeveloped in some of these four dimensions, and secondly, I am certainly am not experienced at all in these four dimensions being integrated in one relationship, an integration I am longing for with Pat.
Before our intensive in June with Sage and Anthony, Pat and I are taking another workshop together. It is called DARe – the Dynamic Attachment Re-patterning Experience. This program has been developed by Diane Poole Heller and will be taught by Patti Elledge over the weekend of June 6 – 9 here in Cincinnati. As the name implies, this workshop deals with attachment disorders – disorders arising out of our life experience from ages zero to three years.
This is not a workshop for “blaming Mom” for our attachment issues – our entire society suffers from this through many generations, and Mom and her mom and her mom, etc., all experienced some level of attachment disorder. Rather, this workshop is to help us understand how attachment disorders live in us and influence so much of our lives, especially our lives in relationship to others and even more especially with our primary relationship, here my relationship with Pat. Pat and I are looking forward to this exploration, especially at this time in our life together (never too old to learn something new – especially things that are so deep within our beingness).
Leading into this workshop we were given a test to help us come to know our attachment styles. Four were named: 1) Secure, 2) Avoidant, 3) Anxious/Ambivalent, and 4) Disorganized. I took the test and the scores came out as follows (highest scores are our highest styles): 1) Secure – 18 (out of a possible 30), 2) Avoidant – 14, Anxious/Ambivalent – 7 and 4) Disorganized – 7.
This would suggest that I am fairly secure — Secure was my highest score — but with a strong tendency to avoid attachment as a primary value in my life. I have spoken about attachment avoidance disorder in detail in earlier blog entries, and the results of this test did not surprise me. What it means is that of all that I value and hold precious in my life, human attachments or connections are not one of these. But there was another inner pattern I noticed from this test – in my “Secure” score I gave only one of the questions – “I am comfortable being affectionate with my partner” – a zero! So I am not secure when it comes to being affectionate.
How I would interpret this? I would say that while the test suggests that my security may be strong on the intellectual and spiritual axes it may not at all be strong on the physical and emotional axes. As an aside, our couples counselors shared that the Dalai Lama once said that humans can live without meditation and robes but not without human affection. So this is a pretty serious test result for me: I have not found my security in affection with other human beings, yet this affection is key to a rich and full life.
This insecure pattern shows up a number of places in my behavior. First, people, especially counselors, often say my affect frequently does not match my words – I can be talking about something that obviously has deep feeling and emotional meaning to me, yet I talk about such feelings as I might talk about the weather. In such a case I am not really feeling my feelings and hence am not communicating feelings to another in an emotionally intimate way but rather simply describing in words what I think I am feeling. The other could never guess what I am feeling by looking at my facial expressions or body. Such exchange of words about feelings is not to be confused with a true heart-to-heart emotional connection. This would also apply to physical sensations. It is quite challenging for me to sense my sensations – the challenge on which my Hakomi counselor Ed is working with me. “Where do you sense this in our body” is a scary question for me. So to truly connect physically in a sensate experience is also challenging. Did I intuit this and want to heal this when I became a massage therapist? Perhaps.
Pat offered that translating my sensations and feelings into words might be a defense against sensing my sensations or feeling my feelings. She added that as soon as I speak about my sensations or feelings I seem to be pulled out of them – and, I might add, relieved in the process. Feeling feelings is scary for me. So in my defense against this fear of feeling my feelings I mistake talking about my feelings with feeling my feelings.
In the DARe training we shall explore such attachment issues back to ages zero to three – time with Mom. What was my attachment with Mom about? I do not remember sensing physical or emotional connection with Mom. I did not have a spiritual connection with Mom either. What does this “spiritual connection” mean? For me a spiritual connection would mean being on the same page experientially in a spiritual domain and having that shared experience be fairly deeply felt. I was not really sure where Mom was spiritually. Was she really all that wedded to the stern dogmatic stance of her German Lutheran ancestors? We just never shared about such matters. Perhaps we were connected intellectually. Or not. She seemed more concerned about my lack of spelling abilities than about my vast interests in cosmology, spirituality, philosophy, and the like. So my relationship with Mom is not remembered well by me.
I suspect that this absence of connection to Mom led me to be more of an attachment avoidance type. I did not seem to experience anything of value in my connection with Mom, but rather came to value hobbies, things, big ideas, and the like. And I did most of this in the privacy of my life in my room and in the basement or my head in a book in the living room.
This attachment avoidance disorder is what I bring to Pat in our relationship. I can say this scares me, but I notice that I do not allow myself to feel how scary this must really be for my soul. So as my life with Pat continues, my challenge – and hers, for she has her own set of attachment issues – is to work through, one by one, the defenses and obstacles I built up around me to protect my heart from intimate attachment.
This is opening my heart to a land of Mystery, a land of the unknown. It means sacrificing some of what I have attached to for my security – big ideas, life’s comforts, even Pathwork and the like – and settle in to a common ordinary Joe who can feel and share what he feels without resorting to words, who can sense and share what he senses without resorting to words. One of the Pathwork Lectures speaks about spirituality in relationship and notes that true spiritual intimacy cannot really happen until the bridges of physical, emotional, and intellectual intimacy have been built. Lots of work here to be sure. Dare I move forward into this arena? How can I not, no matter the consequences that may arise. After all of this there is no turning back.
This may indeed require another “dark night of the soul” as I go from the familiar (ideas, concepts, roles, hobbies, etc.) to the unfamiliar (emotional connection, love, affection), from the defended and safe into the undefended and vulnerable. Let the next chapter of our journey together unfold. May I fill out these missing dimensions of Union, these dimensions of the physical, emotional, and spiritual, and may they manifest as an Integrated Union with Pat, others, and God, rather than Fragmented Union with these special people and God – fragmented meaning different forms with different folks and integrated meaning all forms brought together in my relationship with Pat. This is my longing. Pray for us!
Shared in love, Gary