Today we begin a new series on images of healthy parent models. It’s no real stretch to suggest that how we were parented influences who we become. From Freud to now, psychology has been dominated in large part by the reconciliation of childhood experiences with presenting problems in adult life. After all, is it not the inner child we hail supreme in psychotherapy? And why? Of course, these formative years mold the ego through modeling of the environment. Naturally, mother and father provide our first real images of how one engaged with emotion, relationships, responsibilities, beliefs, and life itself. To one degree or another, our work at Barn Life is about bringing out of these models. We explore how we have taken them into adult life: what worked, what didn’t, what motivates, and what destroys.
Substantiating Our Best Selves
From wounding to winning, the parent models we had present to us our best efforts and our worst limitation. If, for example, we rely too heavily on our strengths we may never know the meaning of failure. As Winnicott once wrote, we would be best set up for a healthy individual life with a good enough mother and a good enough father… too good and we never find our interiority, too bad and we find only the survivalist within. Adopted in childhood, these external figures formed how we find motivation, nurture, and relationships to our own goals both as the clinician and the client. The resources we acquire to substantiate our best selves as we will explore rely heavily on the images we hold of how to self parent.
Archetypal Images of Masculine and Feminine Figures
There is a problem with simply processing what was formative from our parents. Specifically, we may never reconcile these images to the whole. Without corrective experiences of a healthier nature, we battle out the same inadequacies of our ancestors. In this effort, I want to use this series to explore universal images of masculinity and femininity in order to open up the conversation about the inner parent model. We will explore the missing links of the psyche in what may be underdeveloped and what may be over-relied upon. In an effort to bring us closer to the organizing principles of mothering and fathering we will be spending the next several weeks exploring archetypal images of masculine and feminine figures in myth and fairytale. These figures help us to better understand the nature of our own unique experiences. Additionally, we find new voices of motivation, nurture, acceptance, and effort.
A Deeper World of Exploration
For our first week, I want to draw special attention to the way we draw on our learned models. How do we confront obstacles? Conflict? Inadequacy? Failure? Stress? What beliefs do we hold about what we deserve? As we will see in coming weeks these structures resemble the personified images of mythic and fairytale figures. These learned models are doorways to a deeper world of exploration. With the intention of an expanding imaginal life, we will work to make more conscious who is among us as the voice of father and mother inside and out and who we might long to meet in the pantheon
I stood upon a high place
And saw, below, many devils
And carousing in sin.
One looked up, grinning,
And said: “Comrade! Brother!”
The Center of Consciousness
Undoubtedly you have heard of the third eye chakra. In large part, we might say the third eye is the dominantly favored center of consciousness for us westerners. Since the scientific revolution, humankind in the west began to reduce our concept of wonder, mystery, divine, and imagination to the measurable and mathematical. For example, what once was the mysterious magic of divine wonders became the arrangement of chemical structures. Chemistry, mathematics, and the clustering of ideas are products of western psychology. Here, one can attribute these rationalistic virtues to the mind itself. While artistry flows through intuition, sciences generally strive for calculation. What does this have to do with the third eye and mental health?
The Eye of the Mind
To be blunt: everything! Our mythological structures and sciences work like a lens over the eye of the mind. For example, if we are primed with the narrative that all things can be solved, what then becomes of the journey? I say one of the great problems we all have today is the many predicted outcomes that dictate our experiences before the journeys themselves. When, for example, our motive is resolution rather than revelation our aim is to no longer experience the surprise of life, wonder dies as predictable systems darken our peripheral vision. The third eye chakra is all about these tensions.
A Tremendous Shadow
If one does not release the tension behind the eyebrows, strive for execution, and follow the unconscious mythologies of the sciences, the soulful unfolding of a meaningful life may fall under a tremendous shadow. Longing, an innate and necessary messenger of the soul, may instead grow perverse. The adventuring and intimate seeker may consider longing to be a precursor to failure rather than an opening into meaning. The third eye is all about mystery. It draws in the images and intuitive fluctuations of the unconscious. When in talk therapy we ask a client open-ended questions, we are supporting them to look with the third eye at the material unresolved. One might ask, are we seeking to reduce another’s experience down or to open their experiences up?
A Balanced Third Eye
Of course, there is room for both in the balanced third eye. In fact, without balance, one may experience, on the one hand, an overactive third eye. Here, images and intuitions are un-grounding and often disassociating from the presenting moment. At great extremes, we call this psychosis. On the other hand, without an intuitive and reception gaze through the mind’s eye, one may experience a rigid, concrete, obtuse, stubborn, perfectionistic, judgment and even tyrannical attitude toward one’s self-concept, ideas about the past, others, and more.
The Role of the Cameraman
In short, the third eye chakra is a significant center of consciousness. For our purposes, as we engage and develop healthy psychological and somatic relationships between the chakras, we want to generate some awareness around the condition of the third eye. Often, we require the turning of the third eye down and in as we have been to engage with the subtle body of a psycho-sensual world below. As the camera lens, one must work on the role of the cameraman. Where do we turn our attention and, as with any eye, are we taking in the light?
Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge
Driven by invisible blows,
The rock will split, we will come at the wonder, we shall find the Hesperides.
What is the knocking?
What is the knocking at the door in the night?
It is somebody wants to do us harm
No, no, it is the three strange angels
Admit them, admit them.
The Center of the Psyche-Soma Connection
The heart chakra is arguably the great center of the psyche-soma connection. We strive to reconcile our abundant psyche to the restrictions and rightful size of the body. Here at home in ourselves, our bodies reach upwards toward the wild spirit of the psyche. If we recognize the relationship between mind and body is an alchemical work- which is to say the primary material that makes up our soulful life, we open ourselves into a world. We tend to the mysterious and deeply meaningful gratification that comes with true intimacy. How do we then find harmony? Should love between these seemingly separate worlds serve as the active agent, our means and method, then the miraculous work begins!
A Deep and Mysterious World
I love the water. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be in the swimming pool, the ocean or the bathtub for a long as my mother would allow it. This hasn’t changed really. When I’m out sailing, the relationship with such a deep and mysterious world penetrates my heart space. I suppose it has always had something to do with the great mother- a womb so large and yet deserving of respect. To soak or sail the waters that nourish and soften the rough edges of life penetrate my psyche with perspective and reverent peace.
A Profound Truth
My first solo- encounter with the psyche soma connection through love happened during a hot shower. With warm water softening tension on my neck and upper back, in the safe womb that incubates the ritual of cleansing and self-care, I began to rub my own shoulders. In this moment I allowed myself to feel and receive the care that my conscious hands provided. My shoulders received and accepted the gift. I suddenly switched my attention to the hands themselves providing the love and care. A sense of duality overcame me as I recognized the duality of my nature. I could, in the same moment give love and receive love. I was in that time the one I was meant to be with and the promises to take good care and invest my conscious effort in gratitude to myself seeded a profound truth.
The Anahata Chakra
Known as the anahata chakra, the heart chakra resides in the space between the breasts at the center of the sternum. Associated with the energy of circulation, passion, and devotion, anahata holds the tension of opposites between mind and body/ psyche and soma. Anahata is at the center of our auric body. The color of light to balance it is a bright grass-green. It is not traditionally associated with a sentimental kind of love- though heartbreak and deep wounding often distort, darken, and weigh down this part of the body. Instead, the heart chakra has to do with the flowing abundant love of creation. This is to say, both the love of ones self as well as the love of the universe.
Finding a Greater Balance
Our poem above written by D. H. Lawrence reflects this kind of revelation. He speaks of a wind that moves through the heart, a mysterious knock at the door that, although fear may prevent us from receiving, is the visiting divine energy. Opening up the heart is a lot like opening up a fist. When we practice a sensory awareness of this center of consciousness, we may begin to unfold as if one finger at a time releases the tight grip in prepared defense. The opening heart may feel painful and yes scary. This is why I encourage this week that we practice some self-love. If we take the time to open the heart even but a fingers-worth, we may begin to receive and soften, we may discover that we are the best suited lovers for ourselves and we may find a greater balance between the struggles of the mind and the urges of the body.
Early in our work with the psyche and soma connection, we introduced the concept that the interrelationship between the body and mind is a primary factor in the individuation of one’s personality. For example, we approach a client as an individual rather than a series of symptoms in need of management and liberation. In this way, we come into therapeutic work with a very different range of curiosity, resepect, compassion, and trust in the inner workings of the soul. A client may be facing the world and themselves with deep and undiscovered layers of meaning and creative potential.
Working with Mind-Body Integration
One may be empowered by external accomplishment, labels to symptoms, and successful aversion to negative behaviors. Additionally, one may become more connected with feeling. This can release old thought structures and perspectives when confronting painful or simply unhelpful beliefs about themselves and others. But the work with mind-body integration supports a willingness to let go of direction in certain respects and open up to the experiential. Specifically, the interactive play between the perceiving and sensing functions.
Exploring, Receiving, and Participating
Studies show that the body is a thinking body, with sensational phenomena, a storehouse of memories, and an activator of the unconscious. We need a treatment model that supports this interrelationship. One in which the role of consciousness – that which we are aware of – spends time exploring. It must receive and participate in the sensory world of the here-and-now. In short, without penetration, there is no transformation. One aspect of the person must receive and give attendance to the other. Otherwise, the relationship is contrived, compartmentalized, and often ignored.
The Divided, Oscillating Self
We move the body, for example, in an attempt to communicate something fluid, spontaneous, and honest. The mind may be occupied with execution rather than relational participation. In this case, what we discover is a very rigid and out-of-touch individual. With the play of these to aspects of person, we have a very real problem on our hands. Namely, the divided self. Typically this manifests as an oscillating self that on the one hand fights for power. It attempts to control, conquer problems, and win out. On the other hand, it can succumb to chaotic wild forces of the instincts.
The Solar Plexus Chakra
Becoming animal is of particular importance here for us as we look to the chakra system. This week we are discussing the solar plexus chakra. Found above the navel just below the rib cage, the solar plexus chakra shines with the color yellow. Through imagery, breathing, and simple sensory awareness of this place in the body, one begins to feel the creative and yet stable presence of an individual personality. The solar plexus belongs to the space between the feeling and creative center of the sacral chakra and the heart which brings balance and harmony to the mind and body relationship. So we might say that the solar plexus is more instinctual than say a warm balanced heart, yet closer to empowerment than the sacral instinctual power.
One engaging in the solar plexus in balance is able to experience the moment from a place of self-worth and acceptance. The seat of rightful existence dwells in this yellow sphere of light. Where the sacral chakra is concerned with guilt and pleasure, the solar plexus chakra addresses shame and power. Healthy empowerment comes from a sensational presence in this area of the body. To relate and connect with this space, one may begin to feel their deep and sacred birthright to be present in all that they are. Through this chakra, we strive to overcome the wounds that make us smaller than we ought to be. We also overcome the distractions that prevent us from showing up in our true callings and personal power.
“Ultimately, to acknowledge the life of the body, and to affirm our solidarity with this physical form, is to acknowledge our existence as one of the earth’s animals”
– David Abram
Vegetal, Instinctual, and Rational
Aristotle once wrote that the human soul is a rational soul. He observed how plants possess a vegetal soul, focused on growth and nourishment. On the other hand, animals possess the soul of instincts: survival, cunning, and the like. He also posits that humans possess both, but with a rational soul that sets them apart. Here we turn our attention to the psyche and soma connection once more. Notably, the soulful experience can be encountered in each of these three dimensions. Often, as reflective and rational beings, we must come to terms with the rational facts of our poor connection to the sensuous and wise experiences of nature and animal life. In fact, often enough it is not the rational mind that needs the mending. Rather, it’s the liberation of the animal and the natural relationships to life and presence.
The Sensuous Fields of the Present
The mind thinks itself into existence and one great danger to the soulful life would be to dismember the thinking existence from the rest. Should we become convinced that our thinking defines our existing, we gravely miss the simple pleasure of existence.
The simplest of things often are the most complicated. The mind whines, demands, and even tantrums as the high-chair tyrant. Self-importance and endless attempts at total domination make it so. Yet looking toward the expressions and experiences of bodily notions begin to open and engage the sensuous fields of the present. Such glimpses bring us profoundly into the dimensions of soul that we found ourselves starving to call home.
Awareness of the Sacral Chakra
This week we turn our attention both sensationally and psychologically to the sacral chakra. Seated above the root chakra between the frenum and the navel, the sacral chakra gushes with orange swirling hues. This chakra is the energy center of all creativity, relationships, sexuality, and feeling. When out of balance the sacral chakra is a dangerous place. Should we live unconscious to the underactive or overactive energy in this center, we find ourselves deprives of vital enjoyment and personal power on the one hand or, on the other extreme co-dependencies, cravings, compulsions. The sacral chakra is the seat of our addictions and ultimately gluttonous behaviors. Should we work to balance this energy center, we discover a world of joy rather than sensory overload.
The Place for the Sacral in Life
We seek to balance the sacral chakra. This week, pay special attention to their sense of things. Smell, taste, longings. As we spend time opening up to the realm of guilt, pleasure, and joy, let us all keep in the mind the animal and vegetal soul. There is a natural and worthwhile place for the sacral in life. The instincts may be wilder than we want and this is why the root chakra needs to be opened first. Dealing with fear, the root chakra grounds our experiences in a place of balance and security.
How will you hold the rare and perilous given you? Dawn begins in the bones
– Risa Kaparo
The Connection Between the Psyche and the Soma
We are not just physical bodies, nor are we the untouchable substance of our thoughts and feelings. Somewhere in the interrelationship between our physical bodies (soma) and our psychological landscapes (psyche) we confront the spectrum that is the human experience. Whether we are talking chakras, dreams, philosophy or spirituality the real brilliance is that all these systems have interconnectivity. We will see how the chakras align and open psychic and physical intimacy. And, whether knowing it or not, we actually crave this. When you hear things like, “My gut instinct” or, “my head and my heart,” we recognize some sense for the wisdom of the body and the importance of integration. Specifically, connection between the psyche and the soma.
More Than Our Physical Being
But what flows through the body that holds it together? We are more than our physical being. Referred to as the flow of subtle energy, the electromagnetic fields that comprise and contain our essence is a scientifically founded and experientially substantiated fact. The space between our cells is as voluminous as the cells themselves. How is it that we can experience energy? How can we consciously enter or exit the sensory world through intention? We want to take some time these next weeks to help clients and staff reconnect, activate and engage with the energy centers in the body. Through breath, meditation, yoga, and mindful awareness of the chakra system, we will take the time to notice and activate our mind-body connection through our subtle energy fields.
Information Vs. Experience
One of the great gifts in this approach to our work at Barn Life is the opportunity to come out of old patterns, habits, trauma and compulsions without having to speak directly to them. While talk therapy is an important part of our work, in the end, an honest experience of our sensory-selves is where the ultimate changes take place. For example, if we share a difficult pattern or a painful memory in therapy but do not take the time to feel it in the body, experience movement or adequately express the energy that the topic brings, we may not move through the energy and the information remains simply that. Information.
So what are the chakras? Imagine your spinal column as a carrier of all nerve signals that connect to the entire body. From the base of the spine to the very top vertebrae, we have an organized network that leads to the brain. The chakras are discovered through sensory awareness as clusters or centers of high sensitivity or connectivity between the neural and the mental realities. In the same way the body has organs, the chakras can be understood as the organs of the energy field. When activated, one is conscious in the body and the energy field. In each particular chakra, there are observable traits and characteristics that correspond. If, for example somewhere were to activate their root chakra, one would experience a closeness to the body, a more grounded and calm overall temperament, and a sense of safety and present awareness.
The Root Chakra
The root chakra, or Muladhara in Sanskrit, is found at the base of the spinal column. This energy center, when closed or inactive can cause one to feel out of touch with the present moment. Without an open and active root, one is ‘unrooted.’ We are without grounding. We are also often out of touch or disconnected from the here-and-now. When we work to activate and experience the root chakra, we can begin to bring better balance to the spectrum
In terms of energetics, this chakra channels earth energy upward through the feet and legs to process and stabilize it. It then moves the energy up the spine, now transmuted into a form that the body recognizes as signals to balance the endocrine system through the release of hormones. If the flow is cut off, symptoms occur that are also psychological. For example, if the root chakra is inactive, we do not then feel our feet or sense our existence in the body to be a strong component of reality. Instead, the mind wanders, the moment is overtaken, and the experience unbalanced.
Opening the Root Chakra
How do we then open the root chakra? Through conscious breathing deep into the energy center, reiki, and yoga postures. Even the turning of awareness to the lower body can help. We will practice during our groups this week and learn to remain open and grounded. For now, you may try simply unclenching the lower body, simply noticing the sensation in your feet. For those of you overachievers, you might try a root chakra meditation on YouTube. The bones are the nearest and most dense part of our existence. This is earth, this is underneath all else. If our nervous system and our musculature store the stuff we, well, stuff, then starting with the bones, feeling the present moment as it is in the physical and concrete, or in our case, calcium, we may begin to move upward through the spine bridging the divide between body and mind.
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