Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rx: Love

A recurring theme on this blog will be the simplicity and ordinariness of spirit.  Like many, I used to believe that the spiritual was exalted, elsewhere and available only to a few.  I thought that spiritual awakening would perfect someone, making her relentlessly kind and untroubled.  Come to find out that nothing changes except the capacity of perception -- and this changes everything, especially over time (how could this be otherwise?  God, Spirit, name your noun/verb, is by definition all places and all time and beyond everything.  Nowhere it cannot exist.  It IS existence.)  One of the enjoyable little perks of waking up is seeing how many places spirit had been obvious all along but I never understood what I had been looking at.  Like love, joy, mind and gratitude.  And, especially, healing.

My first job in mental health was working for a Day Treatment Center that served the chronically and severely mentally ill.  What I began to learn without realizing it was the lesson that if you put 2 or more people, of any background, into a situation of emotional safety and continuity, love and healing will happen.  Many of the people who attended this center had spent a good portion of their lives in institutions. But we all benefited from a brief period in the Seventies where community mental health and some of the tenets of Radical Therapy were supported.  Mental illness was still stigmatized, however, so we utilized diagnosis and conceptual categories as little as possible.  Instead, we created a therapeutic community where everyone was accepted as the person they presented themselves to be on any given day.  The moments of healing that resulted were not cures, not big solutions, but still were emotionally powerful enough to make me weep.  Every person in that community, even the silent, was capable of stupendous acts of compassion, humor, altruism and love.  I have seen this same lotus rising-out-of-the-mud phenomenon among juvenile delinquents, incarcerated adults, newly bereaved and regular visitors to my office.

There is something about Unconditional Positive Regard, as Carl Rogers termed it, that allows people to risk a new behavior, a quantum jump -- however temporary -- to a higher level of consciousness.  Attention is a kind of energy, and focused non-judgemental attention is a form of love that facilitates healing.  This is why healing happens among friends and family no less than in the consulting room.  This is part of why AA works (more about AA later -- who knew it was a Mystery School!).  No matter how introverted the individual, as I am, we are all social animals and respond to safe attention.

The capacity for this kind of love is increased at every level of the spiritual journey until the love has no object but itself.  And the self is infinite.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

kundalini and libido

In 1995, I began a spiritual awakening that has involved both body and mind.  The opening incident seemed to be consequent to a string of difficult events -- the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake, the onset of my mother's final illness, the death of my best friend, my father's heart attack and an excruciating marital breakup.  I've been asked more than once if spiritual opening requires great pain.  My answer is that it depends on the person.  I certainly required the shaking by all these events in order to loosen my grip of a firmly perceived reality.  The same is true with psychotherapy, which takes courage to enter.  We don't change easily -- we are designed for stability -- and usually need a powerful motivator, like pain.

But I had re-entered psychotherapy myself, for the umpteenth time, not long before the awakening began.  In fact, I was sitting around feeling morose after a therapy session when all of a sudden the disparate facts of my psychological history seemed to coalesce into a marvelous and profoundly meaningful whole.  Every event in my life seemed to have had purpose, not a moment had been wasted.  At the same time, I felt as though streams of information that I could not comprehend were being downloaded into my brain and waves of something like electrical energy were flooding my body.  I was not at all in bliss (that came later, which I'll describe in future posts).  If what I was getting was true, all spiritual growth -- even the little epiphanies of an ant -- fed evolution of the whole.  At the time this seemed like a very cruel way for the universe to use human beings.  It wasn't till a few years later that I saw that we ARE the universe.  In 1995 I still half-believed in the Judaic God.

Freud wrote about psychoanalysis allowing ego to reign where id had been, shining light on the darkness.  Looking back, I'm not sure it was only the dramatic events that precipitated the kundalini awakening, for that was what it turned out to be.  Rather it was the hours and hours of non-judgemental witnessing of both others' and my own psychological movement that may have worn down the command of the ego, like water on rock.  Working as a therapist is not unlike being in meditation all week (remember the old joke about therapists' needing 25 hours of therapy a week?).  The skill to be acquired by both analyst and analysand is to be able to bear, honor and learn from increasing amounts of feeling and sensation without freaking out and/or acting out.  I now believe that the Goddess of Libido sees this kind of work as an invitation to send more life force into the organism.  The life force She sends acts as a kind of psychic roto-rooter sending ever-deeper pieces of emotional grit to the surface to be healed.  Rather than ego supplanting id, the two functions ideally come to balance in a harmonious relationship.