Note: Some years ago, 1987 to be exact, I began writing a short series of articles for a paper (remember paper?) newsletter I published, (called The Phoenix Flyer) and sent to clients. I called the series The Phoenix Philosophy, and, for me, it was the beginning of articulating a view of how life might be seen to work.
I was cleaning out some old files the other day, and stumbled upon copies of the newsletters. I’ve decided to run some of the “old” stuff, just as I wrote it in 1987, and will comment after.
This article first appeared in the December 1987 issue of The Phoenix Flyer.
So, if enlightenment is a goal to be sought after, if “Being Here Now” is the focus of our quest, how do we know what method, teacher, guru, (fill in the blank) to follow? Well, before we ask that question, it might be better to say a word or two about how to tell what’s NOT working.
Discomfort is a pretty clear sign that something’s amiss.
That’s what usually brings people into therapy. Something doesn’t feel right. There is no more reliable indicator that the path you have chosen simply isn’t working. (This also might indicate that you haven’t picked a path at all.) At the level of the work of the soul, nothing can be less helpful than ignoring such warning signals.
Clearly, paths are available that bring different people to different levels of clarity and openness. Many, many paths. With but one destination. Reunion with the Ground of our Being. The end of separation from God and from each other. The reason for many paths is simple. Different words and different experiences are necessary because people process information in different ways.
Which means that it is not unusual for people to have to look around to find a system or teacher or therapist that can speak or teach in a way that works for them.
The way to determine where to stop looking and which technique to try can only be based upon an intuitive sense that the person teaching has your best interests at heart; that the teacher has no ulterior motives in mind. If you have that sense, then you can take this a step further and trust the techniques taught, even though what is suggested can be, and often is, painful.
I have a client who came to see me while I was writing this. As I needed an illustration at this point, he, of course, provided me with several. My client has an issue he has needed, for a long time, to deal with. Many sessions ago, I suggested he write a letter to the other person involved, a letter he would not necessarily do anything with. The mere process of writing the letter would be enough. Because this issue was a profoundly painful one, my client resisted writing the letter.
This time, the letter was poking out of his shirt pocket. Since writing it, he had begun to feel a sense of inner release around his issue. It’s not over yet, but it is on the road to being over. Because of this inner healing, my client also found the time and energy to reach out and simply be with another person who needed his friendship.
The point here is that in order to move along a healing and therefore spiritual path, you have to actually do something. All the talking and rationalizations world change nothing. There must also be a change of heart. Paul wrote: “Do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by a complete change of heart.” To change the heart is to immediately act differently.
New understanding comes initially at the level of the head. Then, there seems to be required a penetration to the level of the heart, coupled with a new behaviour or activity. Intellectual assent is not enough. It almost seems that sometimes what is necessary next is simply to follow the directions of someone you trust. In the acting out of the new understanding, you see a glimmer of how it could be, and that seems to allow the thought to reach the level of the heart, where transformation takes place.
What this boils down to is a unification of the mind and the body and the spirit. It is a cooperative effort. The path, the technique for assisting this to happen is not as important as is getting the message as a total person.
One more time around, from the Phoenix perspective. I tend to look for the meta-issue that is blocking my client. Through in-depth discussion we verbalize the issue and discuss possible alternative ways of looking at the situation. This approach allows the client the opportunity to reshape their entire world and self view. This is not problem solving. This is a change of being.
We then look together for ways of acting out the new cognitive understanding. Usually, because the way of acting out is new, there is the pain of the loss of the old, dysfunctional way of doing things. There are also the reactions of others to contend with. And there is the pain of confronting the issue head on. This is, in a sense, activity at the level of the body – an acting out.
At the same time, I teach my clients to pay closer attention to the warning signals their body is giving them. Once again, the mind focuses on the body in a cooperative venture.
As the change in behaviour takes place, almost always the client is filled with a profound sense of wonder and joy. In the initial stages, this is fleeting, but this is the soul talking. And that soul is saying, “It’s about time you noticed me!” The soul must then be addressed – and this from the perspective that the therapeutic venture is not, ultimately, about problem solving. The therapeutic process is about reaching a state of wholeness. This is the place, as my friend and teacher Gloria Taylor used to say, where you “Be it, not do it.” In other words, the change is incorporated into the core, the totality of the person’s being.
At this point, as a closing project, I often recommend Bodywork, meditation, or some method of bringing about direct contact between the body-mind and the spirit.
How you do all of this is up to you. The path is not as important as the walking. Next time, more on why all of this is so very necessary. Peace for now.
I am struck with finding the seeds of my present thought, along with the colouring of being one year out of the Ministry. I have become more and more convinced over the years that approaches to finding one’s self (which deeply involves finding one’s soul) is a solo act.
Each one of us is on a unique path. As my friend David Raithby put it, “It’s like being lost and alone on the sea, sitting in a small boat. The best we can hope for is to run onto someone paddling in the same direction. Then, we can paddle together. We still don’t know where we are going, but at least it’s less lonely.”
One of the keys to successful therapy is the willingness to “sit at the feet” of the therapist. I’m using that language because most people find it offensive.
I amaze myself when people come into therapy and list off their problem. Then, as we talk, no matter what I say or suggest, they say, “I know that,” or “I’ve tried that,” or “My other therapists said the same thing and they were wrong too.”
It seems to me that the whole purpose of therapy and “self development” is to let go of what isn’t working. If the person were capable of figuring their issues out totally alone, why are they coming in for therapy? )
Picking a path and a therapist is perhaps one of the most important choices anyone ever makes.
Moving along a path requires dedication and commitment. And a yielding to the learning. (This is not a yielding to the person, but to the need for guidance along a segment of the path.
Gurus take advantage of the former; good therapists never confuse themselves with gurus, and offer only the latter.) No matter what political correctness tries to stuff down out throats, friendship is a meeting of equals; therapy and spiritual direction are impossible between (perceived) equals. Plain and simple.
I notice my reference to combining the body-mind with spirit, and my brief mention of Bodywork. I was a baby Bodyworker back then, but was clear that steady bodywork was a requirement for health and wholeness.
My chief style back then was a combination of acupressure and myotherapy. For the last decade I’ve been working with Reichian body and breath work (as is described on my website,)
I’ve watched several clients, over the years, find amazing insights, good health and a pronounced increase in chi flow. On the other hand, people who dabble at Bodywork, like people who dabble with therapy, often find themselves in worse shape than if they had just stayed stuck and hadn’t dabbled in the first place.
Starting down a path is not enough.
The transformation of the heart is a way of saying, as I did in the article, a change of being. People of faith often call this state “new being.”
Notice the last word. This is a “being-ness” as opposed to a “doing-ness.” Many, many people confuse the two. They describe their experiences – the workshops they attended, the traumas they experienced, and confuse all of this running around for an actual experience at the heart or cellular level.
Being is an integration at all levels of, well, being. Doing is running around and running one’s mouth. Big difference, and an obvious one.
Bodywork does indeed bring the realms of BodyMindSpirit together elegantly. Nothing, at the body level, means nothing. Every ache, every colour shift in the skin, every hardening, stiffening, infection, systemic slowdown is significant.
Commitment to a path is not precisely what we’re talking about here. In the end, as I noted in the article, it’s all about commitment to the journey. The path, in the end, is the tool. The journey is the point. Not for attention or show. For being-ness. In the end, the journey is all that there is.