“Practicing What I Preach!”

February 6, 2012

Frankly I was feeling a teensy bit smug; I had just completed a couple of blogs on complexes; I felt good about the result, had felt no triggering while I was preparing them, then of course the universe smiled and an e-mail zinged into my mail box producing exactly the reaction I had been thinking I had avoided. “Vancouver Bound!! Arriving May 11 – Departing May 22 🙂 I’m going to do the program on the 16th/17th and then Cortes on the 18th if that still works for you? VERY much looking forward to it!” I felt a flush in my body indicating the trigger; it was not what I thought we had agreed; it would require travel on the Friday and Monday of a holiday weekend, never a good idea, and would leave only two full days on the island. Then I dismissed my concerns and told myself to get over it; it was no big deal, however I knew that I needed to also express my concern or it could come back as passive-aggressive behaviour when we were stuck in hours of ferry line-ups. I replied, “Unfortunately your plans will make Cortes a brief visit as we will have to travel on the Friday and comeback on Monday now – not ideal as it is a long weekend. This means two days travel for two days on the island and Monday could be a long day (up to 12 hours).”

My place on Cortes Island

Cortes is a beautiful remote island off the coast of Vancouver Island and requires three ferries from Vancouver to access it. I have a lovely place there that I rent whenever I can and in between times (unfortunately there are too many of those), I use it myself when I can get away. On a good day it can take seven hours door to door. On a bad day it has taken me thirteen hours to get home due to ferry lines and schedules. My friend had called me to say she would like to come out and visit and asked if we could visit Cortes. I responded affirmatively and suggested a five-day window around Victoria Day weekend; these dates would avoid travel on busy days.

I thought I was done with it; if she still wanted to travel on the busy days I was sure it would work out however her response later that night caused me to rethink. Her e-mail was entirely innocent. “Is that still ok with you? What IS an ideal Cortes weekend? Will be fun regardless :)” However I realized I still had some energy unresolved and needed to put some effort into understanding my reaction. Then the eureka moment; I had not really dealt with the initial trigger; I had basically suppressed my feelings rather than explore them; I had leapt too quickly into trying to respond as an adult before the child had been fully explored; I had failed to practice what I preach.

The blog I had just written suggested five steps to explore and heal the wound that has triggered the complex. I had done number one – awareness then flipped to number four – reacting from my adult persona as opposed to the child. I had ignored steps two and three: exploring the energy and feelings and then empathizing with the part of me that owns those feelings. I took my journal downstairs, put on some sacred music and then took a deep breath to begin step two. The first thing that came to me was an old child response, ‘it’s just not fair, I put this lovely plan together and now she is making the plans and ignoring mine.” I sat with this for while and then sensed a deeper component; my control had been taken away. I had been in control and now she was. Then the pieces began to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. James Hollis suggests that one of core wounds as a child is overwhelment; one of the strategies to deal with our sense of powerlessness was talking control; this is one of mine. As I reflected I realized how much I hate not having control; for example going to a wedding in someone else’s vehicle, I feel trapped and powerless. At this point I thought I was complete however there was one button unpressed. I contemplated why I had so quickly suppressed my objections to the suggested plan. Even though my reaction may have come from the child, my perspective as an adult was still clear; I would prefer not to travel on the Friday and Monday, particularly the Monday when ferry loads are so unpredictable and I could not make a reservation. I took a deep breath and then it hit me. The other core wound that Hollis talks about is abandonment. I was scared if I had a voice that my friend would abandon me. Once at school I voiced that I wanted to play centre not wing on the rugby team, the outcome was that I did not play on the team again. These old complexes had the power to unconsciously influence my responses and to give my power away.

Having clearly identified the complexes, and empathized with the powerless victim that had triggered them I assumed I would have clarity about how to respond. Was this about having a boundary or going along? In fact I was no clearer so I let it go and went to bed. Waking the next morning, I realized to my delight that all the energy around the issue was gone, as an adult I was fine with any outcome. I sat at my computer and e-mailed my friend the definition of an ideal Cortes weekend. “1) Never travel on the Friday of a long weekend. 2) Never travel on the Monday of a long weekend. 3) Never go for less than three full days. 4) Always travel Monday to Thursday – seniors are free on the ferry.”

Then the magic happened, my friend suggested changing her plans to visit Cortes the previous weekend and we both seemed pleased with the compromise. As James Hollis said, “We all have appointments with ourselves, sometimes we fail to show up.” I got there eventually!

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Reflections on Sacred Space

February 5, 2012

Chapel of The Holy Cross - Sedona

Recently I commenced a new training program with my teacher Atum O’Kane called Archetypal Dimensions of Spiritual Guidance. The first program was titled, The Keeper of the Sacred Space. The concept of Sacred Space is a curious one. Does it reflect a space or an experience or likely a combination of both? Is every space sacred and is the difference what we bring to it? The possibilities seem endless: religious sites, music, relationships, natural beauty, a storm, the ocean; I have at times found the Sacred in each one. A recent list I recorded in my Soul Journal included: Notre Dame Cathedral, St. Peters in Rome, Chapel of the Holy Cross near Sedona, the chapel in the forest near Twin Lakes at Mammoth, the beach near Yachats in Oregon, Tuolumne Grove of giant cedars in Yosemite, the Sanctuary at Hollyhock – the list could go on but these are all places where I have had some form of mystical connection.

My experience suggests we can both encounter and create sacred space. I like the idea that Sacred Space is an encounter with the numinous or spirit. It is as though an “other” enters the space. When we create it we fashion the conditions in which the numinous or spirit can be evoked. In Sacred Space there is normally a sense of the “other” which is to some extent indefinable. Sometimes the catalyst is the space itself. Recently in Erfurt, Germany I encountered this sense of Sacred Space in two churches; one where Martin Luther used to preach and the other where Meister Eckhart taught. It is interesting to reflect on the common aspects of this experience as well as the differences. I was common to both of them and I introduced a contemplative perspective as I sat to meditate. Each building had a history, a gravitas; both places had been used for sacred ritual for over 1,000 years and had celebrated the energy and insight of two of the most remarkable teachers in Christendom. Both buildings had suffered war damage and been beautifully restored to their traditional form. They were the only two churches of the five that I visited that created such a distinct energetic impression of the sacred. Now at this juncture one could assume that it was my knowledge of the great men who had preceded me that created my experience yet I only knew of Martin Luther’s personal involvement with the building. I only found out about Meister Eckhart’s relationship with the Preidiger Kirke sometime afterwards. This perhaps leads me to the revelation that Sacred Space will always contain something of the mystery about it.

Sometimes we may feel a special energetic connection with a place without really knowing why. Recently I encountered a sense of Sacred Space totally unexpectedly in a place where I have walked many times before. I was taking my daily promenade around the beautiful seawall in Kitsilano. I began at Granville Island and then intended to stroll around Vanier Park to Kits beach. I had not prepared for foul weather and as I observed a storm moving in off the ocean, I wondered about making a dash for home. Yet for some reason I decided to embrace the storm and walked defiantly into the strong west wind and driving rain. I decided to do the Navajo Beauty meditation. ‘I walk with beauty before me, I walk with beauty behind me, I walk with beauty all around me” and suddenly I was in the grip of ecstasy. I found myself in that strange mystical state where tears and laughter magically intertwine. As I got wetter and more wind-dragged, I laughed with a sense of pure joy and began to sing

I have also observed that engaging with someone on a deep, level can transform the space whether that space is a store, a taxi or a doorstep. I sense this starts with a sense of “meeting” in a meaningful way; I liken it to a soul connection. What causes two souls to open in this way is part of the mystery but the result is a sense of Sacred Space. For example recently I was at a party, an unfamiliar event as I avoid them like the plague, but my new neighbours were having an open house and it seemed the friendly thing to do. As an introvert I can handle intense social stimulus for only a limited time, so I am always one of the first to leave. As we share a landing, it was a short trip home but en route I encountered a young man standing outside my door. He greeted me and we began to converse about the need of the introvert to recharge their batteries. Realizing we were both introverts led to an engagement and a dialogue around how introverts derive their energy from the inner world and that this time of conversation actually helped the batteries recharge; it seems to me that in that moment we had entered Sacred Space.

In my practice as a spiritual coach I have learned the importance of creating Sacred Space to provide a container for the work that I do both with individuals and in groups. There are two steps in creating the Sacred Space and two in closing it. Creating it involves preparation and attunement. Preparation involves grounding myself, clearing my energy, and bringing attention to my heart then the lighting of a candle. Attunement, which means bringing into harmony, takes place after the session has commenced. It is orchestrated through a guided meditation/bodyscan and concludes with the recital of a poem. (The poem will reflect some aspect of the soul journey.) Closing sacred space involves a simple ritual with the client using a guided gratitude meditation and a reading (I always use Julia Cameron’s Blessings) Once the client has left I extinguish the candle, re ground myself, shake off the energy with a simple affirmation letting go of any that is not mine. “I release what is not mine to hold”

Encountering or creating Sacred Space requires our presence; the mystery is whether the space is sacred without us; would an atheist find the essence of the sacred in the same way? Perhaps the soul needs to be in an awakened state. I think the words of Hafiz are an appropriate way to close, “What is this precious love and laughter budding in our hearts? It is the glorious sound of a soul waking up.”