Song of a Man Who Has Come Through
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 of tending to the mysterious and deeply meaningful gratification that comes with true intimacy. How do we then find the harmony? Should love between these seemingly separate worlds serve as the active agent, our means and method, then the miraculous work begins!
The Great Mother
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 penetrates my psyche with perspective and reverent peace.
The Safe, Cleansing Womb
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 Heart Chakra
Known as the Anhata Chakra, the heart chakra resides at the space between the breasts at the center of the sternum. Associated with the energy of circulation, passion, and devotion, anhata holds the tension of opposites between mind and body, psyche and soma. Anhata 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 distorts, darkens, and weighs 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 one’s 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, one finger at a time. 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 finger’s worth, we may begin to receive and soften. Furthermore, we may discover that we are the best-suited lovers for ourselves. Finally, we may find a greater balance between the struggles of the mind and the urges of the body.
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. Consider that we were to approach a client as an individual rather than a series of symptoms in need of management. We would come into therapeutic work with a very different range of curiosity – respect, compassion, and trust in the workings of the soul. A client may be facing the world and themselves with undiscovered layers of meaning and creative potential. Finally, one may become more connected with feeling. One may release old perspectives when confronting painful or simply unhelpful beliefs about themselves and others. However, the work with mind-body integration supports a willingness to let go of direction in certain respects and open up to experiential. Specifically, the interactive play between the perceiving and sensing functions.
A Storehouse of Memories and Activator of the Unconcious
Studies show that the body is a thinking body, with sensational phenomena. It is a storehouse of memories and an activator of the unconscious. We need a treatment model that supports this interrelationship. One where the role of consciousness spends time participating in the sensory here-and-now. One aspect of the person must receive and give attendance to the other. Otherwise, the relationship is contrived, compartmentalized, and often ignored. We move the body in an attempt to communicate something fluid, spontaneous and honest. If the mind is occupied with execution rather than relational participation, we discover a very rigid and out of touch individual. We have a very real problem on our hands – the divided self. Typically, this manifests as an oscillating self. On the one hand, it fights for power, control, to conquer problems, and win out. On the other, it succumbs 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 a 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 a warm balanced heart. However, it closer to empowerment than the sacral instinctual power.
The Yellow Sphere of Light
One engaging the solar plexus chakra in balance experiences the moment from a place of self-worth and acceptance. The seat of rightful existence dwells in this yellow sphere of light. The sacral chakra is concerned with guilt and pleasure. Meanwhile, the solar plexus chakra addresses shame and power. Healthy empowerment comes from a sensational presence in this area of the body. Let’s relate and connect with this space. We may begin to feel our deep and sacred birthright to be present in all that we are. Through this chakra, we strive to overcome the wounds that make us smaller than we ought to be as well as 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 earths animals” – David Abram
Aristotle once wrote that the human soul is a rational soul. He observed how plants possess a vegetal soul focused on growth and nourishment. Meanwhile, animals possess the soul of instincts. For humankind, argues Aristotle, both the vegetal and animal souls are present. However, it is the rational soul that sets us apart. Here we turn our attention to the psyche and soma connection once more. In fact, the soulful experience can be encountered in each of these three dimensions. Indeed, we must come to terms with our poor connection to the sensuous and wise experiences of nature and animal life. Moreover, 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. Should we become convinced that our thinking defines our being, we gravely miss the simple pleasure of existence.
Orange Swirling Hues
This week we turn our awareness 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 would find ourselves deprived 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. If we work to balance this energy center, we discover a world of joy rather than sensory overload.
The Soul of Experience and the True Personhood
The sacral chakra is a double-sided coin. On one side, when this energy center is blocked or overactive, one can feel either cramped in the lower body or loose. For example, the kidneys, bladder and adrenals can become infected, inflamed, or hypertensive. One’s lower back may be tight or in spasm or the belly may hang out pronouncing evidence of an indulgent lifestyle of fat and sugar. Not surprisingly, these areas are associated with the feeling of guilt. Guilt claims the right to pleasure and joy, argues that pleasure has lead to terrible things and therefore must be repressed. This is a common mistake we make when working at psycho-spiritual healing. If guilt overwhelms the sacral chakra, one may go on living as the rational do-gooder but it suffocates the soul of experience and true personhood. Creativity chokes behind the strong grip of guilt.
A Calming and Soothing Realm
The problem is not the desire for pleasure, but the relationship one has with pleasure. For example, if we seek our pleasure at the expense of our souls, there is, as most of us have seen, great destruction that may accompany our ‘natural’ inclinations. On the other side of the coin, pleasure of the sacral chakra promises great relief from the mind and a realm of expression and sensation that can detox the negativity within us, become blissful and filled with wonderful hormones. A balanced sacral chakra is one that allows the salivating self to taste and enjoy the process. For example, watery energy is a flowing, sometimes completely calming and soothing realm. Other times, it is rapid and powerful. With riptides and undercurrents of emotion sweeping us off our feet and thirst-quenching nectars of heavenly sweetness, the moisture of feeling deserves our deepest attendance, respect, and indulgence.
The Constellating Themes of the Sacral Reality
We seek to balance the sacral chakra. This week, let’s pay special attention to their sense of things. 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. Indeed, 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 need be open first. Dealing with fear, the root chakra grounds our experiences in a place of balance and security. Below is a simple series of affirmations we associate with the sacral chakra. For those of you willing to give it a try, I encourage reading through these. Say them out loud, speaking them from the space of the sacral and meditating on the color orange. Noticing how one feels exposes the constellating themes of the sacral reality.
- I am the co-creator with the divine
- I am creative
- Creativity flows through me
- I feel my emotions and I feel my pain
- I love to feel pleasure in my body
- Sexuality is sacred and is meant to be enjoyed
- I release all blame and guilt
- I easlity accept pleasure
- What others do is none of my business
- I am a sensual being
- I am a creative being
- My emotions are balanced
- I can and will receive and give pleasure
- I am exactly where I need to be in my life
- I release the need to control others
- Goodness beauty and joy resonates with my soul
- I attract what I need and I am blessed
- I accept my uniqueness
- I am grateful for the joy of being me
- I embrace my sensuality and sexuality
- I am connected to my body
- I am fully present in all the little pleasures of my day
- I love myself unconditionally and exactly as I am
- I receive pleasure and abundance with every breath I take
- I belong
How will you hold the rare and perilous given you? Dawn begins in the bones
– Risa Kaparo
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 the psychic and physical intimacy we crave. This spectrum between body and mind helps us to identify what networks are thriving and which may be split off or disconnected. In the simplest terms, if the body and mind are not in attendance to one another we suffer. We hear this truth when we hear things like, “my gut instinct” or, “my head and my heart.”
A Subtle Flow of Energy
But what flows through the body that holds it together? The electromagnetic fields that comprise and contain our essence are a subtle flow of energy. It 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, and even consciously enter or exit the sensory world through intention? We want to take some time these next weeks to reconnect 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.
Addressing the Unconscious
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, the honest experience of our sensory-selves is where the ultimate changes take place. For example, we share may a difficult pattern or a painful memory in therapy. However, if we 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. The information remains simply that. Information. Until you do something with the unconscious, no amount conversation around a subject does anyone any good.
The Organs of the Energy Field
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 top vertebra, we have an organized network that leads to the brain. We discover the chakras through sensory awareness. They are clusters or centers of high sensitivity or connectivity between the neural and the mental realities. Just as the body has organs, the chakras are 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. For example, if someone were to activate their root chakra (as we will discuss this week more in-depth), one would experience a closeness to the body, a more grounded and calmer overall temperament, and a sense of safety and present awareness.
We find the root chakra, or muladhara in Sanskrit, 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,’ without grounding and 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 on up the spine. It has 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. If, for example, 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, then, do we open the root chakra? Through conscious breathing deep into the energy center, reiki, 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 notice the sensation in your feet. For those of you who are 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.
Well, we made it! Starting this week Barn Life programs are officially on campus! I thought it an interesting experiment as we connected through such physical distance. Our last theme, I believe, reflected our best efforts under the strain of social distancing. Alchemy is a heady and slippery world of ideas that support a mindful journey through our thoughts and emotions. However, it also addresses the significance of the body itself. Our return to campus offers us a great opportunity to explore the importance of physical and psychological connection. It is my hope that we will gain a better understanding of the psyche and soma (body) relationship and improve our attendance to the wisdom and messages of the body.
A Powerful Way of Healing Trauma
First, I want to elaborate on a few fundamental assumptions about working with the body. As studies continue to reveal, bodywork is an extremely potent and powerful way of addressing and healing trauma, freeing the mind from rumination. This includes cravings, depressive thoughts, anxiety, and more. In fact, no single cultural or mytho-religious background completely neglects working with the body. Psychology, with its broadening horizons and narrowing treatment methods, has to contend with the undisputed significance of the relationship between the body and the psyche.
The Unio Mentalis
By majority, most of us walk this earth with a severed head. In alchemy, this is referred to as the unio mentalis, a separation of the objective world from the thinking mind. On the one hand, this is an important step because we begin to observe the distance. On the other, however, we are often doomed in psychotherapy to the constant observational perspective. Psychologizing, as we might refer to it, is all about observing ourselves with language and category. We learn to be analysts, scientists, and researchers of our thinking, our moods, and our relationships. The problem here lies in the circular reasoning. Should we stay in reflection, we resemble Narcissus himself, oblivious to the love and beauty of the world. Should we remain severed from the wisdom of the body, we serve, in the end, to strengthen the mind’s perspectives alone.
The Unification of Mind and Body
The body becomes, then, a receptacle for all the contents we cannot or will not recognize. As we move through thought, reflection, and strategy, though, we may end up with a physical illness, a numbing to the sensory experience, and, ultimately, a great distance from the soul. How can we break free of the division between the mind and the body? Depth psychology is but one tradition that helps us to access the work of integration. Not only of aspects of our inner life but also the unification of mind and body.
Dr. Jeanne Schul and the Subtle Body
In Dance the Body Electric, Dr. Jeanne Schul suggests that the body is a powerful conductor of psychological and emotional life. The “subtle body” is the space between mind and physical body where a sensory relationship can be experienced. Through, for example, a sensory exploration of movement, we discover the truth about ourselves. Movement is honest. It does not explain itself or rationalize. Movement confesses. It reveals, without words, expressions of the substance of our nature. Movement may reveal frozen emotions or ignite fires of intense expressions. Movement works on our reservations and our need for control.
The Confessions of the Body
This week, I want us to remain mindful of the bodily sensations and the impulses to move. Honesty, in the most spiritual sense, is always an expression of love and not strategy. Should we open up to the confessions of the body, we may find ourselves thoroughly present, sincerely engaged, and wildly human once more. For the next several weeks, we will be engaging with the body from a few different modalities in groups. We will explore the 7 primary chakras and support a connectivity between these real and living centers of consciousness. I encourage you all to remain firstly in the body and, as we come together in a real physical environment, to strive to honor those vessels of substance that differentiate you from me. May we all remain at home beneath the skin and near the heart of wisdom that transcends the mind.
Well, in our series of transformation, we have come to week 4, the rubedo. We have spent time exploring stages and experiences of suffering and healing with an alchemical eye. Growth is difficult. To shift the patterns of our relationships, our moods, and our deepest destructive tendencies takes more than ideas. I’d bet any one of you can sit yourself down and prescribe a world of “shoulds”. However, a lovely 12-step sentiment says that to get out of ones own head and into their feet, to follow the path that others have taken will produce the results you seek. Before we take this week’s subject of the accomplishment of the alchemical opus, I want to encourage each of you to ask yourselves, am I willing to walk a path that others have walked?
Your Knights of the Round Table
When those around us have the things we want, through action we learn to get them ourselves. Rather than the parts of ourselves that like to have things figured out, what if we look instead to the curious and the willing parts drawn to the wisdom hard-earned by others? How are your knights of the round table shaping up? Do you have people you respect who sit on your council? If not, it’s a good time to start looking. How can you take better action? Move in their direction.
The Creative and Personal Relationship
It is true that following a well-worn path helps us begin to change. However, there is a second aspect to this work that requires special attention. Alchemy helps us to realize the combination of operations with instructions (following the path). However, it also highlights the creative and personal relationship with the process. On the one hand, we can follow along. This will accordingly move us out of the old and toward better practices. On the other, it is important to understand that we require a mindful intimacy with ourselves in the present moment.
The Soul Cannot Be Put Away
Have you ever wondered why, when doing everything right, we experience these surges of extreme emotions? Why doesn’t the formula automatically equal success? Should we look up from the tunnel vision of better actions? Should the diligent good soldier forget their own inner life? One may prevent death and destruction, even experience moments of joy or hopefulness. But without the heart where is the soul? Are we truly alive? Many learn to split themselves between passion, expression, feeling, and operation. The danger? The soul cannot be put away. If we repress our own instincts, ignore feelings, good and bad, we create a pressurized and cooking vessel beneath our efforts.
Turning to the Rubedo
The reason for this? If we try and live the lunar white world – of hopeful and dreamy consciousness – we are straining to resist the coming pressures of a real moment. While the albedo (whiteness) is important to bringing us out of the blackness of our darkest suffering, it only lasts so long before the daylight comes back. Many will cling to the white-washed experiences – attempting to float in the ideals, live the perfect image, even act the part. In our final week on the alchemical stages of change we turn to the goal of the work: the rubedo, meaning “red.”
The Redness of Life
Dr. Jung understood this idea when he suggested that living the dream state is not enough. Jung writes, “In the state of ‘whiteness’ one does not live in the true sense of the word. It is a sort of abstract, ideal state. In order to make it come alive it must have ‘blood’, it must have what the alchemists called the rubedo, the ‘redness’ of life. Only the experience of being can transform this ideal state into a fully human mode of existence. Blood alone can reanimate a glorious state of consciousness in which the last traces of blackness is dissolved, in which the devil no longer has an autonomous existence, but rejoins the profound unity of the psyche. Then the opus magnum is finished: the human soul is completely integrated.”
Here and Now
The rubedo refers to the sensory experience in the here and now, paired with the mind of an evolving and aspiring ego. The mind and body, instincts, and ideals have all undergone operations, cooked, separated, evaporated, remixed, and reproduced. In short, we are fully present and able to navigate the good, the bad, and the ugly with presence and acceptance. This is difficult to grasp without some well-developed skills. Here at Barn Life, we emphasize mindfulness – the skill of noticing, learning to become aware, both psychologically and physically. While challenging and provocative to all the things we repress and struggle to overcome, learning to work with the raw material means also learning to detach, endure, and alchemize.
Have you learned to meditate?