February 26, 2009
Over a margarita at happy hour in beautiful Sayulita I was recounting to a friend my curiosity about someone I met on vacation. Following a relationship break-up, she had become deeply devoted to a spiritual path; which had become a major focus for life yet I sensed that many deeper personal issues had been sidetracked. “Ah the spiritual bypass” my wise friend observed and suddenly I wondered if this was yet another form of resistance.
A bypass is a way around an obstruction; whether a coronary bypass or freeway around a city centre, it avoids an obstacle. However when we bypass the obstacle, it is still remains. Occasionally on the journey of the soul we encounter a problem we choose not to resolve. We bypass it however it is still awaiting our attention. It’s a bit like an unpaid parking ticket; we can ignore it but it may come back to haunt us.
Sometimes spirituality becomes a way of avoiding deeper issues. We content ourselves with spiritual progress and try to bury unresolved personal concerns. This can work for a while but generally if the soul desires our attention to something it will find a way to get it. A friend of mine spent many years at Fairfield, the centre of the TCM movement where residents spent hours and hours in transcendental meditation. However, despite this tremendous spiritual development, these people often lived crazy screwed up lives marked by dramatic evidence of discord. They appear to become spiritually one-sided and failed to complete the healing of the personality that was longed for at a deeper level.
Recently I made a commitment to focus on practices that would open my heart however surreptitiously I diverted myself on to a different journey connected with exploring my relationship with death and dying. It was only after I had explored this concept of the spiritual bypass that I was amused to find I had been “hoist with my own petard” (an expression used by Shakespeare in Hamlet that means to be caught in one’s own trap.) I had avoided the more challenging pursuit with one I found relatively easier.
Interestingly this diversion also gave me a gift by introducing me to Stephen Levine’s wonderful book A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last. In this book he suggest a practice that helps significantly to get in touch with unresolved issues. It is a Life Review where we mindfully explore the complete as well as that which is unfinished in our lives; it will help to disclose the unhealed and the unforgiven that may require our attention.
It seems that which we ignore will almost always come back to us.
February 9, 2009
Does meditation actually make any difference at all? It is something that most minds rebel against to some degree. Resistance is a powerful disincentive and we can always find a reason to put it off, abbreviate it or dismiss it entirely from consideration. The mind has a masterly way of discounting it for so many reasons; it’s boring, it’s just too new age, it’s not for me… the list goes on. Yet the evidence continues to build that meditation actually does you some good. Jon Kabat Zyn pioneered the Stress Reduction Clinic in Massachusetts where mindfulness meditation is successfully used as a medical tool to treat stress. In addition there have been a couple of studies that suggest that mindfulness meditation increases the capacity of the immune system to fight infection. Finally there may be a strong correlation between starting meditation and activating your own intuitive faculties. Ken Wilbur suggests that meditation can be a key to access spiritual or higher states of consciousness. In my own life I think meditation was a catalyst for change. For much of my life I was a self-proclaimed atheist, focused most of my energy into my work and became a successful adverting executive. Then my mid life crisis intervened and I left my work, my wife and went around the world for a year. Upon my return to normality I decided to learn to meditate. There was only one reason. Before I embarked on a return to a more hectic pace of life working as an advertising consultant, I wanted a tool to try and reduce stress, which had always played an inherent role in my life. It was not that I had undue concern about stress it was that I wanted to maintain some of the equilibrium I had acquired during my fifteen months or so away from the routine of full time work. However in hindsight, my commitment to regular meditation seemed to spark changes that have forever altered my life. If you saw 2001 A Space Odyssey you may recall the giant beacon, that once uncovered on the moon, sent out a signal that forever changed man’s relationship to his solar system. Well I think meditation acted like a beacon for me and sent out the signal that I was ready for change. Life has never been the same. I found myself opening to things that I never could have thought possible – dreams, signs, synchronicities, intuitive insight, psychic connection and more. Concepts that are generally not accepted in the paradigm in which most people live today. It goes part way to explain how an Executive Vice President of Advertising can end up a Spiritual Coach. So take the plunge you may find yourself on the journey of your life.
February 4, 2009
The Musical Bumps
September 2008: I am hiking a forested trail called Singing Pass leading me to a stunning alpine hike called Musical Bumps. It is just after ten in the morning, the trail marches for six miles, climbing steadily up hill for 3,300 feet before the alpine section of the hike begins. I am feeling somewhat fatigued. My legs are a little heavy and the prospect of a twelve-mile up hill hike to the peak of Whistler Mountain seems daunting. I encounter an area where the trail has slid. It is steep with no visible signs of a path. It is about fifty feet high. I ascend a slope that appears more gradual then find myself faced with a tricky side step on even steeper terrain. I feel uncertain and a little alarmed then pick my way carefully hanging on to tree branches wherever I can. I breathe a sigh of relief and give a short prayer of thanks as I reach terra firma. After a couple of miles I notice my chest feels a little tight. I start to do a mental check of any other side effects of a heart attack. No sweating or shortness of breath, no pain or numbness and I am still climbing steadily. I feel a little alarmed, wondering whether it is serious, or just anxiety. I do not feel like going back particularly with a major slide to descend behind me. I become more conscious of my chest. I have my cel phone with me just in case I get into trouble. Every now and then I check my heartbeat which seems steady and not excessive.
Gradually my anxiety diminishes. I wonder what this is about. I always seek meaning in the drama of my life. Is this physical or metaphysical or both. I complete the hike in just over six hours. Much of it is uphill and I notice my heart rate is regularly exceeding 140 b.p.m. with no apparent negative effect. I pause when I get tired but recover quickly. The scenery is magnificent, craggy peaks with glaciers and golden meadows reflecting the fall colour. My anxiety dissipates as my attention to my heart becomes less overt. I look forward to the cool lager I will enjoy once I reach the Whistler lodge.
Two days later when I get home I check the internet for the meaning of feeling chest pressure. The warnings seem quite dire and suggest an immediate visit to emergency. Somehow I am not convinced. Am I in denial? I am certainly of an age where heart attacks are possible. I decide to complete my daily soul journal. I sit in contemplation beside my altar. I light a candle and burn some lavender oil and enter my sacred space. I ask for guidance. Is this physical or metaphysical? The message I get is calming. The heart is a vulnerable energy center. Most of our lives we keep it guarded to avoid absorbing too much negative energy. It is though we create an armored shell that prevents us from absorbing too much hurt. As we focus on becoming more conscious we become more aware of this shell and that is what I am feeling. ‘But why now?” I ask. Because you have reached the moment when you are ready for a new exploration. I do not feel totally relieved. ‘How do I know this is not the voice of denial?” I enquire. I feel guided to open the BC Health Guide, which make me feel reassured. The lack of physical symptoms, and my ability to complete a twelve mile uphill hike with no ill effects, is like having my own stress test. My contemplation reminds me that this new awareness of my heart chakra has come to remind me that I have work to do to with my heart. My heart requires feeding. Feeding the heart comes from beauty, joy, laughter, music, compassion, poetry, peace and gentleness.
That evening I am going to an evening at the Callonish Society. I think it is a fundraiser but my friend tells me it is a circle for cancer survivors. We hesitate en–route then flip a coin. Heads we go. Heads it is and we join this lovely group of people. We do some chanting and I notice the heart engage. Then people share their stories and I realize that this is more heart food. My friend and I walk home and decide to pull a card each. I select The Power Deck Cards of Wisdom by Lynn Andrews. I form a very clear intention. “I need absolute clarity that I can believe this soul dialogue.” I pull card 44 – Witness. I read these words “Live in your sacred witness. The inner place of silence and observing is your true identity and therefore your true power. The answers that you find through the timelessness of spirituality and the innocence of nature offer the infinite. Answer your own questions by reflecting on nature and conversing with your own sacred witness.” How amazing. Pascal once wrote “The heart has its reasons that reason does not know” I think I may be starting to understand what that means.
November 2008: I go for a medical and share with my doctor the fact that I have experienced heart pressure. She seems fairly disinterested in my theory of heart chakras and says I likely have angina. She arranges a cardiogram and reminds me that should I feel any more symptoms I must not take chances and go immediately to Emergency. I don’t feel any anxiety but go for the cardiogram and get a clear result. I don’t raise the issue of metaphysical healing with the doctor as I sense paradigms are in conflict. She sends me for a stress test with “angina?” on the requisition.
January 2009 I am walking rapidly trying to keep up with the treadmill, which increases in speed and elevation every three minutes. A multitude of cables extend from electrodes on my chest and a pretty series of blues lines shows the performance of my heart. I am reaching ten minutes and the nurse has told me to keep going until I am tired. She also advised that the average time for the test is 6 to 9 minutes. My heart is beating regularly and powerfully at about 160 beats a minute. The nurse tells me I am doing very well. The machine whirrs into action and I am forced into a full jog to keep up. “I’m not tired but I really don’t want to jog for too long because of my knees” I tell the nurse. How ironical to have a successful stress test but ruin my knees. We agree to stop at thirteen and half minutes. My heart reaches 171 bpm which diminishes to 91 in five minutes – a very good sign. The physical heart is in good shape, now it is back to the more important healing of the deeper heart.
February 3, 2009
I grew up with a lot of fear. It pervaded my youth. I was timid, shy, over shadowed by my father, uncomfortable with woman and had no sense of confidence or self esteem. At the age of 26 I had a serious car accident. It was in the days before seat belts and when drinking and driving was all too common. The accident was totally freakish. I was struck by an empty car careening down a hill in an eastern suburb of Toronto. The vehicle was empty because it had been stolen, involved in a police chase and abandoned. The series of synchronicities that had come together to ensure that I was in the precise spot to be hit were remarkable. The impact caused my chin to collide with the steering wheel resulting in fifty stitches in my jaw, broken glasses and bruised ribs however I came out remarkably unscathed. I remember sitting at home reflecting on the ten different decisions that had led to me being in that exact spot at that precise time. It was almost as though fate had determined the outcome. I remember concluding that I would get something out of this experience besides sore ribs and a swollen mouth. I decided to recreate my image and consciously leave my old self behind. I bought a pair of John Lennon glasses, round frames with blue tinted lenses and I decided to grow my hair. The effect was remarkable. I felt like the ugly duckling transforming into the beautiful swan. Everyone seemed to like my new image. (In hindsight I realize that because I started to like myself more, I developed some self esteem.) I put away the discomfort and fear of life and assumed a confident new image. Life responded accordingly and my faith in my own projection was reinforced.
Thirty years later I came across the Enneagram, which is a personality typology profiling system. There are nine possibilities and when I completed the test I thought I was an 8 – adventurer or challenger. There was some suggestion that you should complete the questionnaire based on the character you had before you turned twenty-five. This seemed ludicrous to me because I had changed so much. Some years later I was given a copy of The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: Nine Faces of the Soul by Sandra Maitri. After reading it I felt somewhat dismissive because I did not fit the profile of the 8 at all. However when I realized how well it fitted a friend of mine I gave it a second chance and realized that my background precisely matched that of a six. At first I had dismissed it because a six is based on fear and anxiety. Then I encountered the counterphobic six who address their fear by taking a rebellious stand to things they find threatening. This is the Six who takes on authority something I have done all my life. Suddenly it became clear to me that before the age of twenty-five I had been a phobic six but once I developed confidence I tucked the fear in the background and assumed the counter-phobic personality.
Many years later I became more aware of the possibility of assuming a persona that perhaps only represents an aspect of who we are. My persona was successful at building a successful life but masked much of who I was at a deeper level. Only when I embarked on what I realize now was the path of individuation, did I start to explore some the deeper aspects of my personality. Like most men I had never really got in touch with the feeling side of my nature and this exploration opened me up to some of my deeper wounds. Sandra Maitri suggests that ennea-type sixes have lost touch with the “Holy Idea”. This made sense to me as I had no sense of anything “Holy” for much of my adult life. The soul did not exist as far as I was concerned. What a six needs in their life is a sense they are more than their bodies, minds and feelings. This realization of our true nature gives us faith. I have been very blessed in my life with a series of individual experiences that have affirmed for me beyond any doubt a sense of the divine or spirit or presence. (The name doesn’t really matter.) I recall the first occasion that I really heard the words “You are not a human being having a spiritual experience, you are a spiritual being having a human experience”, my paradigm shifted and I could never see my life again in quite the same way.
February 2, 2009
Spiritual Coaching is where life coaching and spiritual guidance merge. It is a gentle process of exploration focused on you telling your story.
It is particularly beneficial for those who suspect life is more than a series of events that we totally control or alternatively are victims of. We review life as a journey that reflects both the inner landscape and its materialization in the outer world.
Spiritual coaching may start with an assessment of your outer state and why you are encountering a particular series of events. Alternatively it may begin with what is happening at a deeper level and how this is effecting your life.
What can you get from Spiritual Coaching?
Every journey is unique and different and will unfold according to each person’s needs and desires. Some of the benefits will include:
1) Creating a more balanced life by understanding your deeper priorities.
2) Developing goals and aspirations that are consistent with your own deeper desires.
3) Learning to identify and work with your own resistance to your highest good. (see https://ta44.wordpress.com/2008/09/11/resistance/)
4) Find renewed enthusiasm, creativity and curiosity in exploring your amazing journey.
4) Generating a new clarity about what kind of life you desire and find where your passion lies.
You begin to detach from the drama or story of your life and look deeper at the underlying journey that is attempting to unfold. Once you have some clarity from an inner perspective then you can work towards achieving objectives and goals that are consistent with your deeper needs.
Spiritual Coaching involves a variety of tools for your personal exploration including silence, the body scan, dreams, active imagination, the peek/peak experience, resistance, oracle and divination tools and creative imagination.