Hear from the heart wordless mysteries!
Understand what cannot be understood!
In man’s stone-dark heart there burns a fire
That burns all veils to their root and foundation.
When the veils are burned away,
The heart will understand completely.
Ancient Love will unfold ever-fresh form
In the heart of the Spirit,
In the core of the heart.
When I think about transformation in relation to personal/ spiritual growth, I immediately wonder, “What is it that is transformed? And what is it transformed into?” Is it really possible to change who/ what we are? Or is it more a matter of coming into concurrence with who/what we’ve always been?
Maybe the answer is both: We can truly transform the structure of our personality, but only by fully accepting ourselves, just as we are. The spiritual journey is a journey of discovery into our True Nature. Our True Nature has always been and will always be. We come to see who/ what we really are by looking more and more deeply into ourselves, uncovering more and more layers of who/what we have taken ourselves to be, but really are not. And when we see all the way into our Fundamental Nature, the spacious pure awareness of Being, we are permanently transformed. We are transformed in that we no longer are deceived into believing that all the machinations of the ego-mind — all the self-images and beliefs we have come to cherish as “reality” — are real. We see them for what they are: thoughts — neurons synapsing in the brain! We see the division they create in ourselves and our world, and the consequent suffering. And we are now free to choose to believe them (and fight for or against them) or not. That is true transformation.
How does one go about transforming oneself? In my experience, there is just one path – self-inquiry. And there are two primary vehicles: solitary self-exploration through meditation and other inquiry practices, and self-and-other exploration in relationship. While few people these days have the time for extensive meditation (although I do highly recommend the Soft-belly and Awareness Meditations), most people are in some kind of an intimate relationship — either with a spouse/ significant other, or close friend or relative. So I want to share with you below the tools I have found most useful for self-exploration and creating healing in relationship:
- Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” (And, of course, let yourself know what that is!)
- Ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” (It is good to see that most, if not all of the time, when a couple has a fight both parties are needing something they are not asking for.)
- Ask for what you need.
- Deal with the consequences.
Comment: If you hold back (from yourself as well as your partner), you’re creating a gap that will widen over time until the inevitable separation occurs. Don’t hold back especially the things that are difficult to share. I am a huge believer in impeccable (and kind) honest communication. Honest means knowing your truth and sharing it.
Freeze Frame: In any conflict, both individuals are 100% responsible for the creation of the problem. This exercise creates the possibility for two (or more) people to look together — from the same side — at an incident that caused a painful rift in the relationship, for both to take full responsibility (ending the blame/who’s right, who’s wrong dance) for creating the problem, and for each to see how and why they created the issue to begin with. Both parties need to be committed to discovering the truth in themselves (primarily), as opposed to taking, holding, and defending a position.
- Partner A relates incident needing healing to partner B in as much detail as possible, paying particularly close attention to what s/he was feeling, especially immediately before the moment s/he felt hurt by partner B.
- Partner A replays the few moments immediately before the hurt, this time in very slow motion, paying even closer attention to what s/he was feeling.
- When partner A gets to the frame where the hurt happened, s/he stops the “movie” — freezes the frame — precisely at the point where s/he was dealt the blow by partner B. Partner A does not move his/her awareness away from this awe-full moment in time, but instead drops his/her defenses, stays totally open, “takes the hit,” and sees what it touches in his/her consciousness.
- That pain, if allowed to take one where it wants to, will eventually take the person back to an earlier (usually much earlier) pain that needs healing. One will see how s/he co-created the pain so that s/he could open the door to heal the old wound. (Have you ever noticed how we recreate the same pain over-and-over in our lives until we finally stop running away from the pain and see what it’s trying to tell us?)
- Once partner A has seen into the source of his/her pain, it is also possible from this place of open awareness to look at partner B in the frozen frame and see/feel where s/he was coming from. At this point all that is in one’s heart is compassion, understanding and forgiveness.
Just Listening: Perhaps the greatest, most healing gift we can give another is the gift of unconditional presence. The following exercise creates a spiritual/emotional environment wherein one person can unburden his/her soul in the sacred space provided by the other’s love and compassionate listening. It is the best tool for creating deep emotional/spiritual intimacy between two people that we are aware of. If used regularly (at least weekly), it will transform a relationship.
- Create a (physically) “sacred space” and set aside at least 4 hours where the two of you can be completely undisturbed.
- Partner A lies down (experiment with the position that allows for the greatest ease of opening). Partner B sits next to partner A, without touching, unless requested by partner A. Do not look at each other.
- Partner A allows any and all feelings to be expressed that need to come out, not holding back anything, regardless of content or intensity. Partner A allows this releasing process to unfold until s/he feels absolutely complete/finished.
- During this process, partner B just listens. Just listening means hearing the words of and feeling the feelings with (compassion literally means “to have passion with”) partner A. If partner A is expressing difficult feelings towards/about partner B, partner B listens as if partner A was talking about someone else, and is just there for partner A. S/he does not spend even one second preparing a defense/rebuttal to partner A’s expression of feelings. This exercise is absolutely not about being right. It is about getting to the heart of the matter for each individual. Partner B provides the safety of a compassionate external witness to allow partner A to explore uncharted and ofttimes frightening territory within him/herself. The only time partner B may say anything during this time is to remind partner A that s/he is exploring his/her feelings. One possible way this can be accomplished is for partner B to gently say to partner A, “That’s a thought, not a feeling. What are you feeling?”
- When partner A is done, partners A and B switch positions/roles. Partner B now has an opportunity to explore/express any and all feelings s/he needs to.
- When partner B feels complete, partner a may have another opportunity to further explore his/her feelings.
- When partner A is done, partner B may have another turn.
- This going back-and-forth between partners A and B continues until both feel satisfied that they have done all they can do for this time.
Time Out: When things get heated as they do in any alive relationship between two people, it is often a good thing to take a time out. This means that one person says or signals that s/he wants a timeout— a temporary cessation to the fighting — and the other person has already, previously, agreed to abide by the request. At this time, the two go separate ways with the sole purpose of seeing how — and why, if possible — they created the fight. When either party is ready to share what s/he has seen, that person offers to reconvene the discussion. When both parties are ready, the conversation continues. The one condition to this tool is that whoever calls the time out will come back to discuss the issue within 24 hours.
I guarantee that if two people love each other and are willing to work on themselves in and through the relationship, these tools will not only take them through any difficulties they encounter in the relationship, but they will also transform both the quality and nature of the relationship, and also the individuals who practice them. In September, I will be facilitating a four-day residential “I and Thou” Relationship Intensive, where these tools will be mastered, so that they can become a way of life for the participants. For more information about these and other offerings, please go to our website at www.heartwork-institute.com.