Based on their own program of recovery, mentoring experience and commitment to “passing it on,” Bill and Sandy Fifield have spoken to over 200 groups, in speaking engagements and workshops. Their recent book, “Dig Deep in One Place: A Couple’s Journey to a Spiritual Life.” encompasses all phases of the spiritual disease of fear, which afflicts all of us. Their story is an epic journey of 45 years through addiction, alcoholism, and co-dependence to come to a life of happy, joyous freedom. Learn more at: www.digdeepinoneplace.com. This program was recorded on July 31, 2013. Sadly, Bill, who had been struggling with cancer, died the following week. Along with sadness, I feel privileged to have gotten to know Bill for this brief period before he left us. -BW
Allan Hardman is an author and expert on personal and spiritual transformation, relationships, emotional healing– and a Toltec Master in the lineage of don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements.™ Allan teaches in Sonoma County, CA, and from “The House of the Eagles,” his winter home in Chacala, Nayarít, Mexico. He guides Journeys of the Spirit to sacred sites in Mexico, and hosts wellness vacations in Chacala. He is the author of The Everything Toltec Wisdom Book, and co-author of two books with Deepak Chopra, Caroline Myss, Dr. Andrew Weil, Prince Charles, and others. Visit Allan’s extensive website at www.joydancer.com, where you can also learn about his online spiritual membership community.
Peter Strong, Ph. D., is a mindfulness therapist, meditation teacher and the author of The Path of Mindfulness Meditation. He treats anxiety, depression and all forms of emotional stress both in-person and online via Skype. In this podcast, Dr. Strong talks about mindfulness and how can it be applied to working with emotions. We’ll learn how mindfulness manifests in relationships and in transforming our experience of ourselves.
Pathwork teaches the profound distinction between sadness and depression. (For this essay, we exclude clinical depression, which is another animal.)
Depression is a self-generated, stuck state. In depression there is no movement.
Depression includes the attitude, “this shouldn’t be,” which is incompatible with flow, with life. It’s a feeling that we’re alone in the universe. A feeling that there’s absolutely nothing I can do. It includes the notion that there’s something outside of me that can be blamed for my depression.
However, depression can be a powerful teacher. It alerts us to tap into our sadness, so that healing can begin.
Nothing external can harm our spirit. People who have enlightened us on this notion include Viktor Frankl, whose spirit was not adulterated by the holocaust, and Nelson Mandela, who endured unconscionable imprisonment for 27 years without losing an iota of grace.
Unlike depression, sadness is a highly enabling state. Sadness in the present is a trigger of childhood wounding. We can’t always name the wounds, because at an early age we didn’t have sufficient ways of processing the experience. Rather than vivid memories, what are stored are the feelings.
There are many painful realities in our current life to stir our sadness. When we get hurt, misunderstood, rejected, dismissed, when our longings are unfulfilled, when we become present to the painful conditions in the world,sometimes a current sadness triggers our “ancient” pain and we grieve both at the same time.
Healing comes from feeling the sadness and from re-experiencing childhood wounds. While we can’t necessarily recreate the childhood events, we can recreate the feelings. Rather than resist the sadness, we can drop into it. We can feel those feelings. We can map our current feelings to those childhood feelings. We can alternate from just totally immersing ourselves like a child, crying, screaming, punching pillows, kicking our feet, rocking, etc. to engaging our adult conscious ego, who can soothe our child. Our adult can help our child distinguish that what’s happening in the present is just a trigger. Our adult can remind us that we are whole and complete and ultimately in control – that our true self will still be there when everything else goes. And that by opening ourselves to sadness and vulnerability, we are ultimately making ourselves more available to life.
Oh break my heart,
Oh break my heart,
Oh break my heart again…
So I can love even more.
Depression is unidentified sadness gone underground. Said another way, it’s an unhealthy attitude to the way we respond to sadness.
There is such a warm, wonderful richness in feeling our sadness. And there is catharsis. Not only do we wind up feeling better in the present, we also begin to heal our child consciousness. That child sadness may never fully go away; but, if we continue to re-experience it in healthy ways, its power over us diminishes over time.
When the heart weeps for what it has lost,
the spirit rejoices for what it has found.
(Adapted with liberties from a lecture by Sue Van Doeren on October 3, 2013.)
In the winter of 1964, Nelson Mandela arrived on Robben Island where he would spend 18 of his 27 prison years. Confined to a small cell, the floor his bed, a bucket for a toilet, he was forced to do hard labor in a quarry. He was allowed one visitor a year for 30 minutes. He could write and receive one letter every six months. But Robben Island became the crucible which transformed him. Through his intelligence, charm and dignified defiance, Mandela eventually bent even the most brutal prison officials to his will, assumed leadership over his jailed comrades and became the master of his own prison. He emerged from it the mature leader who would fight and win the great political battles that would create a new democratic South Africa. (source)
Death is the last taboo in our American culture, and spiritually, it’s killing us.
“The gift of death,” according to Stephen Jenkinson (a.k.a., the Griefwalker), “is life.” If there were no death, life would not be precious in its ephemerality. We would just take every day for granted.
Except, in our culture, that’s exactly what we do. We do everything possible to stave off and deny the eventuality of death. And it’s costing us our lives.
I’ve begun to use this in my relationship coaching and couples workshops to help create a sense of urgency. What if you were going to die on September 30th, 2013? This next, would be your last Thanksgiving, your last Christmas, your last Valentine’s Day. It would be the last time you’d see the crocus pop up in spring. I mean, wouldn’t you want to just spread out a blanket and watch that crocus for hours? Would you make sure you showered your children with love? Would you forgive your partner his/her past transgressions and desperately find a way to, one final time, really connect on a level you’d always dreamed might be possible?
You and I, I tell my clients, and now I’m telling you, have squandered our lives. We’ve spent most of it feeling like we have forever. We don’t. And we’ve squandered our relationships (at home, at work, with work). We dole out forgiveness and affection like there is a scarcity of it, and it needs to last forever. What a shameful waste!
The truth is, not everyone reading this even has until September 30th, 2013. “Not me!” you say. “I’ll still be here!” To which, I say, so what. You are still going to die, sooner or later, and probably sooner than you think. But are you really living now? What are you doing with your short time here on earth? What actions are you taking to make every moment count? When are you going to heal your relationships and your relationship with yourself?
What are you waiting for? Death is around the corner. Embrace it and rejoice!
On vacation in Costa Rica, my teenage son dragged me to a locally famous place where there was a rope swing into a river. The starting point was on a rocky cliff, maybe 25 feet high, with rocks on the bottom for about 15 feet. That is, if you let go too soon, you’d likely die or become crippled. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to do it.
On the cliff with me was a young woman, roughly 20 years old, that for a half hour, tried to screw up her courage (as did I), to go off. After speaking with her, I learned she’d been there for three hours that afternoon, and most of the day before, and still hadn’t gotten the nerve. People, including my son, tried to pressure her, but that wasn’t working.
At the top of our lungs we all shouted down from 10 and when we got to one, much to everyone’s amazement, she went! I realized I needed the same level of encouragement, and got everyone to count down for me, and, much to my amazement, I went!
There’s something about power in numbers, and about support, verses pressure. What if we all had that kind of support for our relationships – what do you imagine that would do to the divorce rate? What, instead of women getting together to complain, and go into agreement, about their husbands’ bad manners, callous ways, lack of listening skills, etc., the women supported each other? What if men, instead of complaining about their about their wives’ honey-do lists, nit-picking or whatever, really shared constructively?
Relationships don’t exist in a vacuum, but in an environment. With every relationship you encounter, you have the ability to help it slide down into a black hole, or lift up into a deeper connection.
A taller tree blocks the light, killing off some types of trees, while providing the necessary shade for other types of trees to flourish. But trees don’t have choice consciousness, and we do. Without consciousness, we kill off relationships; with consciousness, we help them prosper and grow.
What can you do to come up under the relationships in your world?
In my 57 years, I’ve seen a lot of inspiring things. I can’t think of anything more inspiring that this. It speaks to love. It speaks to living. It speaks to eternity.
I particularity love Zach’s notion that most of us live like we’re invincible. He says, ”It’s not the kind of invincible like Superman; it’s the kind of invincible like, ‘I’ll see you in five months.’”
It’s more common than not for people, and I count myself among them, to feel unloved and unworthy – not necessarily from moment to moment, but, perhaps, as a sinking feeling ever looming in the background.
Related to an issue I was having feeling appreciated at work, a business coach (who is peerless in his field) gave me an exercise to look in the mirror and say “I love you.” His reasoning was simply that no one can love you like you can love yourself. I thought that was pretty sound. In fact, I still do. However, this exercise wasn’t working for me, so I explored a bit further.
You see, when I look in the mirror and say “I love you,” there’s a part of me that doesn’t believe it – that doesn’t trust myself. Others might have a congruous reaction, and I might at some time, but not at this point in my evolution. There’s work we can do around that.
Let me paraphrase, with liberties, what our Pathwork Helper, Pnina, said on this topic.
When I have attempted to work with a daily mantra in the past, often it didn’t resonate in the moment. Rather, it touched into the internal split I was feeling – and the mantra didn’t feel true, or I couldn’t connect with it in a genuine way. There is an exercise we do where you get to connect with three different aspects of yourself we call the Child Consciousness, the Healthy Adult Ego (or Caretaker) and the Higher Consciousness. When you process from the point of view of your Child Consciousness, you will connect with the consciousness and experience of your Child (a profoundly amazing teacher) and come to truly know that the Child you are wants to feel safe and trusting of the moment and of others, especially the Caretaker.
So, it’s essential for the Child to feel safe with, and trust, the Caretaker. The way we create internal safety and trust is to be in truth with our self – to the best of our ability in the moment – and of course to be in truth as we grow and change.
So, when you say to yourself ‘I love you’ and you don’t truly feel or believe this in the moment, you are creating a split between what you are really feeling and what you think you should be feeling. Said another way, you are trying to superimpose an artificial feeling on your experience in the moment. It won’t feel right if it doesn’t feel true; and if it doesn’t feel right, it reinforces the negative feeling rather than the positive one.
Another approach, more Pathwork oriented, is to take a moment and assess what you are feeling toward yourself in the present. For example, you might say: ‘I don’t feel so good about myself right now because: _________. I would truly like to feel more loving and accepting of myself, and I’m not sure how to get there.’
This type of approach helps you align with positive intention (vs. traditional positive thinking which tries to build a positive feeling on top of a negative foundation) and places no demands on you to be where you are not. From my perspective, I always prefer to feel authentic with myself in the moment and give myself space to be as I am, while aligning with my most caring intention toward myself, even if I’m not there yet.
Authenticity leads to truth; truth leads to trust; trust leads to love.
What things do you tell yourself, and don’t believe? Can you find a way to be in truth with yourself in a way that allows for greater guidance and love to flow into your consciousness?