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The Transformation of the Transformation of Home

Last summer, as I drove west on Atwells Avenue in Providence, R.I., past the house on the right whose first floor long ago had been converted into a barbershop run by Walter the Barber, I realized that as much as sixty years had passed since I had sat on a padded board laid across the arms of the barber’s chair.  My heart softened for a moment and then tightened back up when I drove another block west, past several unrecognizable houses replacing others that had been demolished, and stopped across the street from Number 770.

My Childhood Home at 770 Atwells Avenue

My Childhood Home at 770 Atwells Avenue

To my right, as I looked through the passenger window just beyond the sidewalk, I was startled to see, plastered on a house similar to 770, several signs for a hair salon and (another) barbershop with walk-in service. Before I could turn my head the other way, I had to take a deep breath and only then look out the driver’s window and across the street at the yellow, vinyl siding on a three-tenement dwelling; it had been my home for approximately 20 years before I left permanently while on my way to graduate school at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Each time I had returned in the many years that followed—and there were fewer and fewer returns after I moved to Maryland and after my parents moved, too, and then died, one in 1989 and the other in 1996—something had started to transform, something almost imperceptible.

Yet, as I slouched in the car seat with the motor still running and tears nearly brimming my eyes, I realized that the transformation was now much clearer.  I saw the crushed water bottle and the crumpled newspapers and the McDonald’s wrappers flipped around by the breeze on the sidewalk in front of the house, but it was what else I observed that most confirmed the slow deterioration of the house itself and its ambience.  As I looked to the right, I saw an opening in the fence, a barrier that ran in front of the house and then down its right side.  That opening led both to the front porch and also to the alleyway on the right that in turn led to the concrete garbage container where my father and I had dumped innumerable newspaper-wrapped bundles of kitchen waste for the garbage collectors to gather once a week.  But the gate that had filled that opening in the fence and thereby had furnished a modicum of security was now simply gone.  Then, as I looked at the metal and concrete porch itself, which had replaced the two-tiered wooden porch when the house was sheeted in vinyl, I felt as sunken as the left side of the metal awning that overhung it.

This front porch was now actually being used as such with lawn chairs haphazardly scattered about in the small space in front of the doors, one of which seemed, in my mind at

The Porch at 770 Atwells Avenue

The Porch at 770 Atwells Avenue

least, carelessly left open.  In my days there, with most of our neighbors as private as we were, the front porch with its two doors was rarely used, either to enter the house or to lounge about.  Instead, we would enter the house through the side doorway, located at the back of the yard on the left side of the house.  Very rarely, my Uncle or Aunt would use the left porch door to enter their first floor flat.  On Thursday evenings only, my father would use the other porch door, which was a faster and somewhat easier access to our third floor flat, though, when he arrived at the third-floor landing, he would then have to traverse my parents’ bedroom to get to the kitchen.  On those evenings, despite his long-term angina, and with some help from the rest of the family, he would haul up the family’s weekly groceries, which he had purchased in the dingy and dark Olneyville market, the only large such store within a mile.  The only other significant time our porch door was used occurred in 1984, while I was up in Cambridge, when the rescue squad came to carry down my twin sister, Anita,* who had suffered and later passed over from an asthma attack.

As children, Anita and I had played with the few toys we had in that narrow yard along the left side of the house.  Long after I had moved away and after my father was kicked out of his long-rented garage down the street, he found this yard was just barely wide enough to allow his car to ease carefully into and out of it.  Along half the length of the forty-foot yard I had sped in the red wagon my Uncle had bought for me until Grandma, my mother’s mother and the owner of the house, repeatedly scowled at me from the second story window and complained about the noise to my father, who argued back, only in the end to take the wagon away from me.  Later, when my Uncle bought me a grand, red, adult bike on my eleventh birthday, because of over-protective parents, I had to ride it, for almost a year, only in that constrictive yard, with no more than three pumps of the pedals each way and a partial dismount necessary to make the very tight turns. Anita and I had played mostly in the back of that yard, where it was a bit larger, with its red and white wooden bench and the Eucalyptus tree covered by leaves the size of small elephant ears.  But we would come hurriedly to the middle of the yard when my mother would call

Crugnale's Bakery

Crugnale’s Bakery

down to us from the third floor, kitchen window flung open so powerfully that we could hear the clang of the iron weights in their wooden slots; from that high window she would drop into our waiting, but clumsy hands a brown paper bag filled with heavily buttered, thick slabs of Crugnale’s bread wrapped expertly in waxed paper. She chanced our catching the bag before it split open on the concrete yard to avoid our climbing the stairs and thus bringing “dirt” into the house; her fear was especially keen if we had been down in the lower yard at the back of the house where a fireplace and picnic table were located not far from abundant, loose soil my Uncle was forever overturning and sieving through a screen to filter out stones.

In that lower yard, my Uncle, my father and the mason father of one of my friends had built the fireplace and the concrete steps that led down into that sunken space.  I hardly remembered the building of those structures, given how young I was at the time.  Nevertheless, I did remember the only construction I did participate in, that one much later: the outside stairway leading up to one of the house’s back doors, located near where Anita and I played in the upper yard.  When I was in Cambridge, my father set out to rebuild that stairway, under which my Uncle had stored his snow-blowers, each one bigger than the previous one.  Whether my father asked me to do so or whether I simply volunteered, I eagerly came down to Providence to serve as an equal participant, an enormous change from all the times when I had sat by, handing him tools or just watching, as he did minor home repairs.  This time, however, we worked literally side by side with great ease and even camaraderie, reconstructing the entire staircase in three long, but heart-warming days.  Without many words and with an exchange of open, vulnerable faces, we exuded pride for the work and for our partnership.

But now, from the limited vantage point of my car seat across the street, I could not see that staircase; apparently, it, too (along with the Eucalyptus tree), was gone, replaced by windows after what had to have been some internal reconstruction.  What I could see in the yard now was a very tall, chain-link fence on the far side of the yard separating the other house on the left from my childhood home.  It had replaced a wooden fence that had been low enough for me to climb over to retrieve balls we had accidentally catapulted into our neighbor’s yard.  Part of this later fence, across from where the staircase had been, was twisted as though the supporting posts had been loosened from their concrete anchors.  Further back, another, lower fence paralleled it and was equally twisted until it made a sharp right turn, thereby obliterating any access to the lower yard.  Moreover, a further change that the new owner had made, cementing over the crumbling foundation bricks, had failed; for now many of those red bricks were readily visible where the veneer had cracked and chipped off.

The Weeds at the Atwells Avenue Home

The Weeds at the Atwells Avenue Home

But what appalled me most were the weeds.

From the lower yard that had been the object of my Uncle’s muscular care rose the vibrantly green tops of at least seven- or eight-foot weeds.  Nearby, in the upper yard where Anita and I had played, a small forest of weeds at least three feet tall had sprung up in every place where the concrete was sectioned into blocks.  The weeds propagated even along the front of the house between it and the fence, in one case reaching across one of the windows on the first floor.  Its vivacity mocked the phantoms of trees look gone that had tried vainly to flourish, un-nurtured, in the graveled rectangle cut into the asphalt near the sidewalk’s curb.

Situated near the curb on the other side of the street, I felt my eyes transfixed on what I did not want to see, even as I slouched further down into the driver’s seat.  Poverty and despair had come to live in what used to be an enclave of mostly Italian-American, blue-collar families.  After a few more minutes, during which I had noticed several pairs of intense eyes peering at me from the house on the left of number 770, where timid Walter* and his obese sister, Lorraine,* co-habited long ago, I shifted into forward gear and drove further up the hill, turned right onto Academy Avenue, right again onto Newark, then down the hill past the now shabby Crugnale’s bakery (where in the morning mist many years past my father and I would devour steaming hot bread before going fishing), right again on Valley Street, and finally left, back onto Atwells Avenue going the other way.

I no longer felt safe.

That sense of being ungrounded, unwelcomed, even vaguely threatened eased only a little as I made my way past Uncas, a jewelry factory (where my mother had worked among individuals she had nicknamed “B.O.” and “Big Nose,” and had gossiped about at the dinner table), and up the hill past what used to be Gasbarro’s liquor store but was now, like many others around it, an industrial building of indeterminable use.  In another moment, I passed over the major rail line linking the states of the East Coast and gazed at Holy Ghost Church, the site where my sister and I had our christening and confirmation, and where I gave a substantive eulogy, first for her and then later for each of my parents, each time much to the annoyance of the impatient priest who wanted to get on with the Mass.  Looking a few blocks ahead, I searched for St. John’s Church on the right, only to find that heavy stone edifice gone.  While its demise made way for one of the very few patches of real green space on Federal Hill, the “Little Italy” of Providence, the absence of something that had seemed so permanent was unnerving to me.

Shaken anew by this change, I stopped at a light at the intersection of Atwells and DePasquale Avenue on the left, which, like the rest of Federal Hill, had undergone a “face-lift” about thirty years ago, only now to be seriously in need of another.  In the town square that had replaced part of DePasquale Avenue, there was now an aura of seediness, of tiredness, even amidst the giant flower urns and the elaborate stone fountain into which some visitors tossed pennies or other coins to buy their wishes, while others sat on the fountain benches and munched on powdered sfogliatelli.  Not even the bright, pastel Mediterranean colors of some of the store fronts and awnings, the vivid religious murals positioned just under some second floor windows, and the paving stones arranged in intersecting swirling patterns—not even these innovations could dispel a sense in me of something not being quite right.

Partial View of DePasquale Square

Partial View of DePasquale Square; My Uncle’s Meat Market Was Near Where the Yellow Building is Now

For me, all this revitalization was really a not-quite-authentic veneer over what I had known fifty years ago when I worked every weekday during my last high-school summer in a meat market owned by another uncle and situated down on the left end of the DePasquale Avenue; the market’s exact position was now obliterated by a couple of restaurants.  Back then, big-wheeled pushcarts with all manner of heaped-up, spectacularly colored fruits and vegetables filled the Avenue, while the owners divided their time between refilling the rows of sold commodities and hawking the merits of their unsold “cosi bello” wares as they corralled sometimes reluctant customers into buying more of what they had not really wanted.  Occasionally, one of those omnipresent, middle-aged Italian women garbed in the traditional black skirt, blouse, and kerchief would argue back vigorously, arms and hands gesticulating in whirls of emotion, until the defeated seller muttered, “Va bene, va bene!”

Such scenes, though somewhat muted, took place every Friday in my uncle’s meat market, when those Italian ladies, often as wide as they were tall, demanded “La carne migliore” from Nicko,* my Uncle’s assistant butcher, who did most of the work in the store, while my uncle smoked and read magazines in his hideaway on the second floor.  Smiling at these inevitable rituals between the white-aproned butcher and the ebony-clothed ladies, I would usually either be filling pig’s intestines with sausage from the grinder, or be scraping the chopping blocks caked with fat from all the beef, lamb, and pork that had been cut and sliced on them, or be sweeping the floor of bits of meat and the straw that was supposed to absorb drippings.  Though my uncle had visions of my someday replacing him, he gave up that idea rather quickly when I failed to cleave a loin of pork into individual chops without bits of bone shooting into the pink flesh that I had already quite mutilated.  Or maybe he abandoned his vision more decisively when I drew a knife across my left index finger when trying to separate a cap bone from a leg of beef; because no one was free to help me, I had to drive myself, copiously dripping blood, to the hospital in my uncle’s Pontiac, whose cavernous trunk was then free of the two to three sides of beef it often held in transit from the stockyard.

As I sat now, still waiting for the stoplight to change, I looked down at the inch-long, reverse “J” scar from that incident and remembered how still another uncle, Vincent,* one of my father’s four brothers, would come every late Friday afternoon in his yellow, Ford convertible to whisk me away from such danger and the mixture of humor and depression that sometimes hung over the meat market.  We would drive, sometimes with the top down, to Jamestown Island in Narragansett Bay, where he, with help from some other family members, was building a flat-roofed, small house on a cliff overlooking the Bay.  I would be seeing the Island later that day, even though the house had been sold long ago.

As the green light flashed, I started driving again, glancing to the left at Scialo’s Bakery, the place my parents would take my sister, Anita,* and me after Sunday Mass at Holy Ghost Church many years ago for huge Danish pastry, sfogliatelle, monstrous turnovers filled and covered with yellow custard, and soft/crunchy Zeppole on March 19, St. Joseph’s Day.  But, over the years, the store seemed to shrink, as well as did the size of the pastries and their availability.  Those losses should not have mattered much to me, given how my diabetes and heart disease made it unsafe now to crave them; but, somehow, what was missing did matter.

Scialo's Bakery

Scialo’s Bakery

Still, Scialo’s was one of the few stores still recognizable; not only because so many had been reconstructed, reconfigured, even torn down, but also because the ambience was no longer quite Italian, given the significant number of other ethnic groups that now offered their services, principally culinary.  The change was a tribute to the acceptance of the multicultural by the usually ethnocentric Italians.  Yet it also signaled the passing of a colorful, vibrant intact culture that included, of course, a darker aspect represented long ago by Raymond Patriarca, the Mafia Boss, whose office for thirty years starting in the middle ‘50s had been in a vending machine and pinball store near the end of Atwells Avenue as it now intersected Interstate 95.  My uncle, who lived in the first floor flat of the Atwells Ave house and was a Sergeant of Detectives for the Providence Police, had been part of the force tasked with interdicting the mob’s activities.  He once told me how bullets went flying across Atwells Avenue not far from where Interstate 95 was later built.

I had now approached that intersection and was about to turn south on the Interstate to drive toward the Theodore F. Green Airport near where my wife was waiting for me

La Pigna at Entrance/Exit of Federal Hill

La Pigna at Entrance/Exit of Federal Hill

when I noticed the Gateway Arch; it had been erected over Atwells Avenue during the revitalization of Federal Hill to mark the entrance/exit (depending in what direction one was driving) of the community.  At the apex of the arch was La Pigna (“The Pine Cone,” sometimes erroneously referred to as “The Pineapple”), which Italians supposedly see as a symbol of “welcome, abundance, and quality.”  My experiences so far on this day had done little to confirm for me those attributes of the current state of my childhood home and its environs.  The past was not romanticized in my mind—my current childhood recollections had revived too many miseries, deprivations, and depressive family episodes to color it rose–nevertheless, something grounding, something that was mine, had been lost irretrievably.  On this day, La Pigna was not welcoming at all.

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On my drive toward the lower Bay along Interstate 95, before I had left Providence, I passed, on my right, the monstrous metal insect perched atop a building and advertising an extermination service; on my left, I noticed what used to be Coro, the huge jewelry factory where my father had earned a much-needed income from the mind-numbing job of foreman several decades ago until, after thirty-two loyal years, he was summarily laid off in 1963 with the gift of a fake gold watch.  When the factory had been converted some years ago into an office building for a health insurance company, I had felt the unsettling loss of something familiar, but also, and much more important, a sense of retaliation against a mind- and soul-killing monolith.  Apparently, some things did need to be exterminated or just end.

I looked over that converted building toward the north end of the Bay and thought I could see on the other shore the nursing home where in 1996 my mother exhaled her last breaths.  She had been living in a residential group home in Warwick until her poor balance sent her right temple flying into one corner of her room’s table; from the hospital after ten days of treatment, she was sent to the nursing home to recover.  When I had visited her, my initial hope was that the Bay’s presence, however industrialized it was near this place, might bring some peacefulness to her.  That hope was immediately blanked out by what I saw in the hallways: heart-stopping images of residents in wheelchairs, some drooling on bibs hastily wrapped around their sunken heads, others screaming nonsensible syllables, still others seemingly comatose on gurneys rolled into the halls for “socializing”—a nightmare concentrating the horrors of my mother’s own, often very painful life as a child with a cruel mother.  A week or so after she had moved into the “home,” she phoned me and insisted that I call her after the weekend.  When I phoned at her requested time, she begged me, with the prescience of her impending death that would baffle her caregivers, “Joey, let me go!” and I did.  It was her time and her choice; and, despite my grief, it was a decidedly welcome transformation.

Twenty minutes later when I picked up my wife at the Best Western Inn near the Airport, I had shaken off enough of the malaise to greet her warmly.  As we drove further down 95, we talked about our upcoming excursion on a tour boat along Narragansett Bay, embarking from and returning to Quonset Point, still partially a military (mostly naval) base where my father had worked during World War II.   I may have visited there sometime in my childhood, but now our long drive through the gray, nondescript base to the waterfront did not jog any memories.  I was surprised: this environment was something new to me in my home state, though I would have welcomed something far less drab.  Nevertheless, I looked forward to being near the water that always revived my spirits.

After we had boarded the large, tour boat catamaran and as its engines started to roar and move the vessel away from the pier, I walked near the bow, trying to get my bearings.  My sense of unfamiliarity was not due to changes in the environment, which was the case near my old home and Federal Hill, but rather to my never having seen this part of the Bay, at least while being on the water.  Though I could dimly perceive, about seven miles south of us, the Jamestown Bridge arcing from the mainland to Jamestown (Conanicut) Island, I was vaguely feeling myself in a suddenly strange land.  And when I opened the tour brochure, I was again surprised, this time because we were to visit ten lighthouses distributed along both sides of the lower Bay—I had never heard of eight of them!

Plum Island Light

Plum Island Light

Our first stop, approximately 2 miles south, was the Popular Point Lighthouse, which seemed to be simply a large, attractive house with a turret.  It was very close to artsy Wickford, where my father’s artist brother had won awards for his edgy, avant-garde paintings and where my father and I had fished a few times off the large wharf without any “luck.”  I had never before seen this lighthouse.  Soon, puzzled by what was unrecognizable, I focused intently for a sense of grounding at the Plum Beach Lighthouse that the boat was fast approaching, though toward a side of it that I had never viewed.  Nevertheless, with a strange sigh of relief, I watched the white, black and plum colored structure come into sharp relief, as it stood staunchly on a shoal as always, not far from the Jamestown Bridge.

Especially when coming back in the ’54 Chevy from fishing on the Island, my father and I had always glanced down on this Lighthouse, located a few hundred feet north and a quarter mile west of the center of

Rusty Grating of Old Jamestown Bridge

Rusty Grating of Old Jamestown Bridge

the arch. When I was a ‘tween, I wondered why the superstructure seemed to be made of a much larger version of the beams with triangular holes that made up much of my Erector Set; more important, I also wondered why the see-through grating at the very peak of the Bridge was always rusty, so much so that I feared it would break apart and cause us to plummet 135 feet to the frothy waves below.  As a teen with a driver’s permit, I worried more about safely negotiating this very narrow, two-lane bridge, nearly a mile and a third in length; so intense was my white-knuckled concentration in steering between oncoming cars and the concrete curb that I knew we had reached the peak of the bridge’s arc only when I heard the distinct hum of the car’s wheels on that rusty grating.  And yet, despite the minor terror, the bridge was a friend that brought me to an Island that was a sanctuary to me, whether I was fishing with my father or staying with my Uncle Vincent at the “beach house.”

But the essence of that suspension bridge back then was revealed to me only on moonlit nights when I would lie comfortably on my back wrapped snugly in a blanket on the sloping lawn of that beach house, high on a cliff fronting the West Passage of the Bay.  From that vantage point, I would look towards the right at the great, shining necklace of streetlights, either standing gracefully along the Bridge’s roadway or hung on its superstructure.  The lights’ luminescence softened and transformed, not only the sharp edges of the girders, but also the otherwise stark display of the Bridge’s constant threat of rust.  The Bridge became then an ethereal symbol of my constant reaching beyond where I was, of imagining limitless, new possibilities.

In that luminescence, the enchantment of the Bridge could be matched only by the wonder of other lights shining to my far left, back across the Bay at Bonnet Shores, where the first major crush of my life, Holly,* would spend her vacation in her parents’ summer home.  I had known then some of what Gatsby must have felt when he stood on his vast lawn and looked across his bay at the lights on Daisy’s estate.   And, after Uncle Vincent, who shared my love of the Bridge’s magic, asked what I was doing lying there, he insisted that I overcome my shyness and create something new; the next afternoon, he drove me to Holly’s home, where I spent a delightful hour or so until I climbed back into the car, smiling, and grateful beyond imagining to someone who understood my deepest, adolescent feelings.   Over fifty years later, that moment was the first memory Uncle Vincent recalled after I had not seen him for about fifteen years.

Old Jamestown Bridge (Before Demolition) South of New Bridge

Old Jamestown Bridge (Before Demolition) South of New Bridge

General Location of Beach House

General Location of Beach House

But now, fifty years after I had last slept in that house, I once again felt the malaise that I had felt in Providence; for, the old Jamestown Bridge was simply gone, demolished one day and turned into scrap iron for recycling and also into huge chunks of concrete that became reefs, now far offshore in the Atlantic.  In its place was a sleek, four-lane, all- concrete bridge that was safer by far, but simply had no character.  And, as the tour boat passed under the new Bridge about a half mile from the Island shore, I could not find my Uncle’s house, even though I knew it was only a few hundred feet to the south of the Bridge, where it was absorbed by the Island.  Uncle Vincent had warned me that many more houses had been built over the years, obscuring easy detection of the beach house, and, more important, that his house no longer appeared the same because of structural changes made by the new owner many years ago.  In vain, I tried to find at least the old steps leading down the cliff from the lawn, steps made of huge flats of slate, many of which I had struggled to carry up from the rock-strewn shore.   In my sadness, I recalled also how Uncle Vincent and I had stayed one rainy night in the house that was half finished, with no windows in the side fronting the Bay; I had half-cursed the lightly falling rain, when my Uncle turned to me and said quietly, “I like it, Joey; it makes me feel peaceful.”

Back then, his gentle, yet definitive words had shocked me out of my slump into new awareness, but now the remembrance of his startling perspective only made me sadder.   I was anticipating a further accentuation of that disquiet as the boat picked up speed and headed toward Dutch Island Lighthouse.   It was situated across a narrow strait near a point of Jamestown Island called Fort Getty; the fort, like others around the Bay, had been occupied by the military looking for ocean-cruising U-Boats entering the Bay during World War II.   Starting sometime in the ‘60s, it had become a remarkable fishing spot with its huge L-shaped wooden wharf; later, when the Town of Jamestown realized it could make money from entrance fees, it was turned into a recreation area that grew so much in popularity that boaters from as far away as Connecticut and Long Island dropped anchor in the cove near the wharf.   Soon the hills between the wharf and the remnants of the Fort were infested with dozens of campers from three states.

But the earliest days of its draw as a fishing spot, when few knew about its charms, were those I recalled with fondness.  For then my father and I, and sometimes his fishing

Fort Getty Wharf in 2012

Fort Getty Wharf in 2012

buddy, Ernesto,* would fish for the occasional striper from the shore, as well as “tinker” mackerel and “doormat” summer flounder from the wharf.  On that platform we would greet the other “regulars,” females as well as males, characters worthy of novelistic study with their idiosyncratic baiting and fishing rituals, their craggy faces and often-unkempt hair, and their endless lunches chilled in coolers side by side with their “catch.” We seemed to make up a very loosely connected “family,” with one of the member’s dubbing me “Little Joe” to distinguish me from my father, as if that were necessary.  When the newcomers with their chaotic fishing styles started to arrive, the old-timers reluctantly made room on the already crowded dock; in contrast, at fourteen, I did welcome some of them, the young girls from the campers, two in particular, whom I might have connected to if not for the disapproving eye of my overly-protective father.

When I was forty-three, on that very same wharf, the heavy, massive beams of which had already started to rot away, I had switched that protective role with my father, making sure he did not hurt his somewhat unbalanced, seventy-nine-year-old body as he insisted on casting his rod again and again on his last fishing trip.   But that day everyone except him got “skunked”—he was the only person on the dock to catch a good-sized flounder, expertly flipping it up and onto the wharf despite his now stiff joints.  That was in August, 1989.  Four months later—four days after Christmas—he passed over, on his hospital table a piece of driftwood I had found near the dock and had imbedded with stones from our various Bay fishing spots, along with braided fishing line and a couple of hook-less lures.

Now, while my heart grew increasingly heavy as the tour boat came closer to Dutch Island Light and the Fort Getty wharf a few hundred feet beyond, I suddenly became aware of

Dutch Island Light and Fort Getty Beyond on Right

Dutch Island Light and Fort Getty Beyond on Right

another, insistent, but vague feeling.  Just as I had become disoriented earlier when we had first cruised south on an unfamiliar part of the Bay, I was now perplexed, closer than I had ever been to the Light and also seeing a side of it I had not viewed before; from this perspective, even the wharf a short distance away looked oddly different, improbably interesting.  Curiosity, even a kind of fascination, began slowly to displace the malaise in me.

Before the tour boat operator pushed the throttle forward, I suddenly looked right and back along the shoreline, trying to find other fishing spots I had known as a youngster near the high cliffs and massive granite formations on the mainland shore: Saunderstown, where one of the first ferries from the mainland to the Island had been docked long ago, and South Ferry (which, for some unknown reason my father called Fort Coney) where I first learned to cast a fishing rod not far from the dock now taken over by the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography.  I could find neither.   And, yet, what I did find was a topography, picturesque, but strange to me, since I was looking at it from a vastly different viewpoint. As the tour boat captain pointed out the cape when he steered past it, even Bonnet Shores, where my first love lived in the summer, was almost unrecognizable, yet truly exquisite.

Travelling between the Island and the mainland on our approach to Beavertail Light at the tip of the Island, I looked ahead and saw a dark shape looming up from the water.  An eerie excitement started to flood my body as I wondered if this was the mysterious “thing” that I had observed first from Beavertail when I was a youngster and about which my father had no clue; I had supposed it to be the conning tower of a submarine that had left the Quonset Point Naval Station for the ocean.

Remnants of Whale Rock Light

Remnants of Whale Rock Light

But it had not moved then and did not do so now.  When the tour boat slowed down and circled the structure, the operator declared this to be the caisson remnants of the four-story Whale Rock Light, constructed atop a treacherous reef in 1882 with a focal plane height of 73 feet—the highest lighthouse ever built in Rhode Island.  In the freak, Category 3, 1938 Hurricane, most of the lighthouse, along with Walter Eberle, the keeper, was swept away, possibly by the ferocious 120 mph wind and/or by the huge storm surge and/or even by a tidal wave observed in the general area.  But this sudden demise of the Lighthouse, said the tour boat captain, was only the last of several dramas involving previous keepers, including the attempted murder in 1897 of keeper Judson Allen by his crazed, knife-and-shotgun wielding, assistant keeper!

I was momentarily bewildered by these revelations, so unsettling were they to my erstwhile beliefs about the structure.  By the time the tour boat turned east, southeast toward the Beavertail Light, we were at the edge of the Atlantic ocean.

And I was afloat in a new world.

As the catamaran rounded the Light, I could recognize the building and some of the huge rock formations splayed in a half-circle around it.  With some effort, I was able to detect those particular, sometimes dangerously slippery platforms my father and I had spent much time on, hauling in huge tautog when we weren’t losing rigs to the numerous rocks just below the water’s surface.  Still, in spite of such vague remembering, the coastline was not the same, for I was seeing the giant slabs from another angle and thus viewing aspects I had not imagined existed before now.

Fishing Off The Rocks at Beavertail Light

Fishing Off The Rocks at Beavertail Light

It was like seeing the other side of the moon.

That sense of intriguing strangeness continued as the boat coasted north now, up the East Passage of the Bay between the east side of the Island on the left and Newport on the right.  I was less familiar with this part of the Bay, though my father and I had fished at times amidst the gorgeous rock landscapes around the resuscitated, yet still partially dilapidated Fort Wetherill.  But now, from my offshore vantage point, that area, too, seemed from another world, as did the other lighthouses I had never seen: the squat Castle Hill Light, barely visible in its niche among the rocky cliffs; Lime Rock Light and Goat Island Light and Rose Island Light, the first hardly seen amidst the many structures in Newport Harbour, and the second and third eclipsed by the looming bulk of the Jamestown-Newport Bridge somewhat further north; and, finally, the Conanicut Light nestled among much taller trees at the northern tip of the Island.

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When the tour boat had finished its circumnavigation of Jamestown/Conanicut Island and had settled back into its berth at the Quonset Point dock, I walked down the gangplank to the land, wondering what had happened to me; for I was no longer depressed and, in fact, was somewhat invigorated.  On the way back to our motel, I muttered largely incoherent thoughts to my wife, trying to make sense of the shift.

Soon, however, I sensed that the watery journey I had just taken was also a soul excursion designed to open my awareness beyond certain limiting beliefs.  Since the moment I had stepped aboard the tour boat, I had entered a seemingly known world made often curiously very strange by my now seeing what I had not observed before and now learning what I had not known previously.  Though the various losses and consequent pain were real, particularly given the absence of the old Jamestown Bridge, the deterioration of the Fort Getty wharf, and the seeming disappearance of my Uncle’s beach house, I did not feel as devastated as I might have been because my rigid beliefs about what was and was not present to me had loosened.  I was reminded now of the Gestalt psychology perspective on change:  things change, not by becoming something different from what they were, but rather by revealing more and more of what they essentially and always are.   Focused as I had been on deterioration and loss, which made anything I observed different from what it was, I had to be pushed by Spirit to see what else was present, to see a wider and different context, to see the other side(s) of what I supposedly knew.

In my musings, I was abruptly aware of having been guided by navigation aids, those mostly small lighthouses around the Bay, many of which were hidden to me until now, symbols of guidance signals from Spirit often ignored or simply unseen because of limiting beliefs about what is and is not.  Even the fond memory of the no-longer-visible Jamestown Bridge necklaced in ethereal light offered me the opportunity to soften the hard edges of those beliefs.  In addition, though the beach house was not readily visible, my Uncle’s fifty-year-old words about the peace of the rain had sounded strongly again, reminding me to perceive anew, to see what else is possible.   And what about those hair-raising, human-interest stories waiting to be relished in the history of that seemingly inconsequential “thing” washed by the waves in the middle of the West Passage!

Still, my earlier journey to my childhood home and Federal Hill seemed devoid of new context, new awareness, for me.  All that loss was definitely all that it was, or was it?  It was not until my wife and I had retired for the night in the motel and I had picked up and scanned a new book that I had brought with me, The Source Field Investigations by David Wilcox, that I knew Spirit was guiding me also in that first journey; I would have known that earlier if only I had opened to what else was present.  In his book’s third chapter on the significance of the pineal gland, Wilcox noted that many ancient spiritual traditions focused on this pea-sized structure in the center of the brain as the place where “telepathic thought transmissions and visual images are received” (p. 40) from others and from Spirit.  The gland was known as the Third Eye by the ancients, which is not surprising since modern research has determined that “direct photic events may occur in the mammalian pineal gland” (p. 57), even though it seems not to be exposed to light, given its deeply embedded location.

Vatican Cone #1

Vatican Cone

But what caused me to sit bolt upright on my motel bed was Wilcox’s note that the word “pineal” came from the Latin pinea, which mean “pinecone.”  In fact, said Wilcox, “pinecones are prominently featured in sacred art and architecture from all over the world—in an apparent homage to the pineal gland” (p. 41).  The Egyptians, Romans, Mexicans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Hindus, and Meso-Americans revered the pinecone; likewise the Popes use a staff featuring a carved pinecone.  Moreover, in the heart of my ancestors’ country, Italy, the Vatican embraces The Court of the Pinecone, where a gigantic, bronze pinecone is displayed.

In an instant, I realized with a tingly awe that La Pigna, the pinecone, a symbol of direct connection to Spirit, had overseen from high atop its arch the whole of the Italian

La Pigna at Federal Hill Entrance/Exit

La Pigna at Federal Hill Entrance/Exit

enclave where I was raised!  (The arch was another bridge, like the Jamestown Bridge, that I needed to pay attention to and perceive fully to “bridge” from a limiting to an expanding belief).  My driving under it was an invitation to me to view my entire experience in the stunning Light of the Divine.  I began chuckling and even outright laughing at this turn of events, of perceptions.  While the actual pigna had been erected over Atwells Avenue long after I had left my childhood home permanently, even that fact symbolized the gradual realization by the community, and by me, of what was and is always present and true: that Spirit is everywhere, that, as I said in a previous post, “Heaven on Earth,” All That Is is really all that is.

And then another revelation: in finally seeing what else was present, I was saying Kaddish for my childhood environment, somewhat the way Allen Ginsberg had said Kaddish in his poem by that name for his mother, Naomi.   In his long prayer for his dead mother, Ginsberg incorporated parts of the original Hebrew prayer of mourning.  But, unlike the institutional prayer that glorifies God but says absolutely nothing about the person who has passed, Ginsberg’s Kaddish recounts in vivid detail, not only his mother’s pastel vision of a peaceful world, but also, among other horrors, the wrenching pain his politically active, but ultimately insane mother brought to herself and her family before her death.  In writing this way, Ginsberg was insisting, in my view, that the Divine is truly encountered in its fullness, not at all by looking away from this world with its displays of seeming ugliness, loss, pain and horror, but by looking unflinchingly at all of it with an open heart until its essential Divinity reveals itself.

If I am willing to see beyond the rigidity of limiting beliefs, then everything is ultimately disclosed as holy, then everything is purposeful and serves my mission here: all the obvious joy and sweetness, but also the weeds in the yard of my Atwells Avenue home, the deterioration and demolition of structures on Federal hill, the babbling and drooling horrors in my mother’s nursing home, the rust eating away at the ultimately destroyed Jamestown Bridge , the reconfiguration and even invisibility of my Uncle’s beach house, and the destruction of the Whale Rock Lighthouse.  And nothing is ever really lost, not only because All That Is remembers all that is, has been, and will be, but also because in feeling deeply the apparent losses, I paradoxically preserve what is gone all the more vividly as parts of who I am.  Moreover, the seeming darkness that is loss can serve ultimately as a potential illuminator of other aspects, not only of that which has undergone change, but also of us, if we choose to avoid clinging to ossified beliefs and, instead, find our hearts’ opening more and more to perceiving all as Divine.  My journey is to continually rediscover those truths and so be released from the blindness that keeps me stuck in perceptions that limit the full and ecstatic flowering of the world in my consciousness.

So, Dear Reader, what resonates for you in my account of transforming my understanding of the transformation of my childhood environment?

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

A Brief Look at the Sethian Model of The Multi-Dimensional Self

Multi-dimensional SelfThis is the handout for my talk at the Pathways Magazine Expo on March 24, 2013 at the North Marriot Hotel and Conference Center in Bethesda, Maryland

In many traditions developed both in modern times and long ago, the psyche has been viewed as having multiple aspects, such as the Five Skandhas of Buddhism and the four “sheaths” or “bodies” of the Jiva (with a fifth being the bliss or eternal Atman) of Hinduism.  Relatively more recently, Freud described the self as composed of the id, ego, and superego, while Jung saw the self as comprising the ego, personal unconscious and collective unconscious (the latter sometimes personified as symbolic figures like the Father, Mother, Wise Old Man/Woman, Warrior, Lover, etc.).  Even more recent psychological schemas see still other groups of components making up the self, such as the “Top Dog” and “Underdog” of Gestalt Therapy, and the “Pusher,” “Inner Critic,” “Protector/Controller,” and “Inner Child” of Hal and Sidra Stone’s Voice Dialogue.  Other theorists, among them Assagioli in his Psychosynthesis method and Berne in his Transactional Analysis, list and work with yet other components.

All of the components listed above in the various conceptualizations of the self are simply partial aspects of the self; in short, the components are not relatively whole and relatively independent selves who have their own histories.  While Hinduism and Buddhism do conceive also of past-life selves and future-life selves that are mostly whole in themselves yet remain associated with the present individual, these selves are not seen as useful to the individual, except as stepping-stones OUT of the karmic cycle of suffering that keeps reincarnation going.

However, in the conception of the multi-dimensional self as described by Jane Robert’s trance channel, Seth, many relatively whole and relatively independent selves in addition to past and future personalities are intimately associated with the present individual and are dimensions of his or her overall identity; moreover, these selves are not only useful, but also vital, as I will show, to the overall well-being of the present self and to the development of its Entity or Soul.  In Seth’s conception, the Soul, like All That Is (otherwise called the Divine, Source, etc.) does not remain static, but instead evolves.   Following “value fulfillment,” the inherent, inescapable impulse to be and experience Itself in every way, in every possible dimension, All That Is creates infinite images of Itself, images called entities or souls that are also endowed with the impetus of value fulfillment; thus each Soul, constantly establishes images of itself in many dimensions, one of which is the material dimension where these images are known as flesh-and-blood personalities.  These three-dimensional personalities in turn seek to experience themselves in every conceivable way, creating with the help of the Soul many images, many alternates of themselves in various dimensions.

This material world then, far from being a place simply of karmic suffering, is instead an enhanced opportunity for personality and Soul growth and, ultimately, for the enrichment of All That Is.   Since All That Is is all that is, every perspective/learning attained by each of its creations, and its creations’ creations, and its creations’ creations’ creations…and so on, becomes a perspective/learning of All That Is.  Conversely, since every creation is part of the One, of All That Is, each creation has access to and IS all of the dimensions of All That Is.  So, though I remain an inviolate consciousness, a unique perspective, I am also all that my Soul is, for instance, all the past-life selves/personalities it has formed.

For each of its personalities, the Soul forms an Inner Self that mediates between the personality, which has free will, and the Soul with its overall intentions.  The Inner Self also provides the personality with access to all the dimensions or selves/personalities of the Soul, access that can provide helpful information and alternate models of thinking, feeling and behavior to the personality to help it grow and get out of stuck places. These models are grouped into four categories: past-life selves, future-life selves, parallel or probable selves, and counterpart selves.  What follows are brief definitions of these kinds of selves, definitions that have very many implications that are beyond the scope of this writing to explain.

Past-Life Selves are those personalities that we were in past lifetimes, which are usually easily accessed through a regression process.  Present-day personalities often find that their past-life selves are of a different gender, race, religion, country of origin, etc., and have often vastly different perspectives on life that can provide the present personality with new ways of viewing current issues.  Moreover, the various talents and other capacities of each of these past selves are available to one degree or another to the present personality, depending on its goals for the present lifetime.

One major misconception about past-life selves is that their misdeeds create karma for the present self, who has the inescapable burden of making up for those transgressions.  This is not the place to explain fully why karma is not real (see “Karma: What It Is and Is Not” on my blog).  But suffice it here to say that karma depends on cause and effect, which implies a time sequence; but, since time as we conceive it does not exist beyond this three-dimensional world, we are not encumbered by the actions of any past life self…that is, unless we choose to be so troubled in order to further our own growth in a certain way.

Moreover, just as past-life selves can provide information and models of being that we may or may not accept for our transformation, so, too, we can provide the same opportunities for past-life selvesby regressing back to a particular past-life and offering assistance in changing a decision, direction, path.  Such changes, of course, reverberate back to the present self who accepts the influence or not.

Future-Life Selves are our personalities that call us, in terms of time, from future lives.  Our beliefs, actions and emotions in the current life may shape what is likely to be the core of our next lifetime, not in terms of cause and effect (karma), but rather in terms of preferences, of choices made by both the present and future-life selves .  For instance, for an individual’s next life, the person, in alliance with his or her Soul, sees a multitude of possible selves that might emerge, but some are more probable than others, given the present person’s present inclinations.  And yet, the future-life self–which, like all of the selves discussed here, has free will—can itself refuse, accept or modify the preferences emerging from the present self.

Tuning into one or more of those probable (and even improbable) future selves as it or they are actually living their lives may give us glimpses of the pros and cons of what we might try to incorporate now, in our present lives.  For instance, a future self to whom we are greatly attracted can actually “pull” us now into a talent it has perfected, but which we have been timid to explore in the present.  In that way, just as we can influence our future-life selves, with their permission, from our vantage point, so, too, do future selves influence us from their stances if we accept their input.

Parallel or Probable Selves are those selves very much like our present selves, but who make all the decisions, take all the paths, that we have chosen not to make and take in the current life.   The Many Worlds Theory of Quantum Physics, as well as Seth, declares that, before any decision is made, however small, there exists a quantum wave of all the possibilities of how that decision could be made.  When the individual finally chooses one of those possibilities, all the other possibilities are also actualized, but each in a different or parallel universe.  As each individual makes a choice, that information is telepathically conveyed to everyone else around him or her, and each of these other individuals subconsciously chooses or does not choose to be a part of same universe—most make the choice to do so.  These transactions take place at “warp speed” continually beneath conscious awareness.

The usefulness of contacting some of our parallel selves is without question.  For instance, at some point in the creation of his or her reality, an individual for any number of purposes may have contracted to develop cancer.  When that moment happened, at least one (and maybe more than one, each with a slight variation) parallel life developed in which the individual does not have cancer.  By contacting this parallel self, the individual might understand what he or she could do or be without cancer and might therefore decide to heal the cancer in the present life.  If that happens, the healed individual becomes the central self and the self with cancer becomes a parallel life.   Yet, from the parallel self’s point of view, the self who is healed from cancer would be a parallel self, who in turn could be contacted for information.

Counterpart Selves form with the Soul’s intent to explore an issue simultaneously from multiple points of view (usually 4-6) through the creation of several personalities living around the same time around the globe.  Each person, then, has counterparts of himself or herself, of both genders and of various ages, living nearby or elsewhere around the planet, all of whom have chosen, guided by the influence of their common Soul, the same basic issue(s) to work out; but each uses different talents, perspectives, choices, emotions, ideas, etc.

For instance, if the Soul wants to work on the overall issue of weight, it might “divide” its incarnations of a certain time period into a fifteen-year-old girl in Kansas who is challenged by anorexia, a twenty-six-year-old Chinese man living in Taiwan who is obese, an eighty-six–year-old monk in Tibet who has voluntarily restricted his diet for spiritual purposes, and a middle-aged female researcher in Budapest who is working on developing a totally safe diet pill.  By incarnating all these counterparts, the Soul experiences the issue from multiple points of view at relatively the same time.  And it is not difficult to see how all the counterparts can find mutual benefit from the information that can be passed among them when they are in contact with each other, which may be in person, if they recognize each other, or through other means.

These other means may be employed to make contact, not only with counterpart selves, but also with any of the other three groups of alternate selves; these means include deliberate, conscious hypnotic processes like regressions, progressions, and other guided imagery.  However, there is also constant interaction among these selves on a subconscious level in dreams possibly every night.  Still other means are semi-conscious: “bleed-through” communications from alternate selves in waking life through “hunches,” spontaneous images or thoughts, or other “serendipitous” experiences.

These communications are possible primarily because all dimensions, all selves, though distinct, are inseparable, intimately related to each other; for all are part of All That Is.  Moreover, because time as we know it “exists” only in this three-dimensional world, all the alternate selves exist at once, outside of time, side by side, if you will.  They are constantly, mutually, influencing each other, though any one influence may or may not be accepted by a particular self.   As a result, no self, not even a past-life self, is finished in its growth.  While past-life regression which ends with the death experience of that self might seem to give the lie to what I just wrote, nevertheless, that ending is only a probable ending (only one of many possible terminations) that the present self has viewed for the past-life self in the regression to help the present self understand the influences it has accepted for its current incarnation.  Thus, it is possible to help the past-life self, if it so desires, to select a different death experience and so move into a universe parallel to the previous one; that change will also affect the present self if it so chooses.  So constant change is available to all selves, for no self ever ends.

But why do our souls/personalities have our three-dimensional brains arrange some of our alternate selves in a time sequence inthe first place?   Seth says that we do not create this kind of reality because we need to suffer for some reason; we create it, rather, so we can play with what the illusion of cause-and-effect can tell us about manipulating energy—with self-discipline, control, compassion, creativity and love.  These are the fundamental purposes of being human.  However, should we get too entrenched in this time-dominated dimension of reality and thereby forget all that we are, our alternate selves will find a way to reach through the veil and speak to us, illuminating the essence of our multi-dimensional core.

NOTE:  Image above is found at http://www.holisticcyprus.com

At the Crossroads of Beliefs

With a sigh and a shrug of her shoulders, she gazed down at her hands, her right index finger tracing circles on one of her jeans-clad thighs.  Slouched in the overstuffed chair opposite my own, she suddenly jerked her head up and said.  “But I’ve tried everything, and I still can’t find the perfect man for me…he just doesn’t exist!”  As she looked right at me, her eyes, imploring me for help, were filled with fear, sadness, anger, despair, and hope.

What I was seeing and hearing in front of me was not unusual in my hypnotherapy practice.  Heather* was typical of most individuals who came to me, desperate to understand how they could create change in their lives.  Certainly, I, myself, was not immune to the same quandary, but I had learned some truths about working through obstacles in order to move ahead.

In the last few years, many people, by watching The Secret and/or by reading books on manifestation and the Law of Attraction and/or by listening to speakers on the topic, have discovered keys to bring about some desired change.  Most writers agree that one key is setting an intention about what you seek; another key is “revving-up” the intention with emotion; and the final key is actually accepting what you asked for. A process that is simple…until it is not.  Throughout the manifestation process, trouble arises when the beliefs that are often hidden beneath our desires/intentions intersect at a crossroads and create cross purposes, a subject not often discussed in depth.  Before I can explain these conflicts of beliefs, I must first clarify what a belief is and is not.

The Nature of Beliefs

So, what are beliefs?  They are interpretations, translations, and assessments of Reality, but are not Reality Itself.  Because of the nature of our usual perceptual ability, which comprises the five senses, no perception/perspective/interpretation/translation/ assessment, even if it is positive and furthers our agenda, can capture the whole of Reality, which is infinitely multifaceted, frustrating any attempts to encompass it. Thus any belief is only one angle by which to perceive Reality.  While that angle or vantage point is valid as far as it goes—that is, it does indeed capture some aspect of Reality—nevertheless, it inevitably distorts what it captures since what it records is only part of a whole it cannot ascertain.

Think here about the conundrum of several blind men who meet an elephant for the first time: one, touching the elephant’s trunk, declares it to be snake-like.  Another, touching its huge ear, argues that the creature is shaped like an enormous wing.  Still another, touching one of its massive legs, insists that his compatriots are fools in not perceiving that the animal has an affinity with trees.  Each man’s physical blindness is, however, less important than its psychological counterpart; for each is blind to the fact that his version of the reality, while seemingly valid in its limited scope, does not encompass the whole.  As a result, each man inadvertently creates a misrepresentation of both the part and the whole, believing the part to be the whole; and each, if he believes the stakes are high enough, might actually fight to the death to defend his perception, believing it is the Truth, rather than only an imprecise and limited aspect of It.

Like the blind men, many of us do not actually see most of our beliefs or acknowledge them as such.  Think about when you could not find your car keys, only to notice, finally, that they were in one of your hands under the package you were also holding.  Or remember the last time you were looking all over your desk for a particular envelope that you ultimately found right in front of you.  Or what about your glasses that, strangely enough, were on top of your head the entire time you were frantically searching for them. Why couldn’t you notice these items?  The answer is that your limiting beliefs about where they could be literally blinded you to the “obvious” whereabouts of these artifacts.  For instance, you might have believed that you left your keys somewhere in one of the places you looked for them—in no way could you believe you were holding them in virtually plain sight.  As for the envelope, well, you believed, knew without a doubt, that the envelope was the brown, 9” X 11” type.  As you scanned your workplace with this belief, this template of perception, the white, business-size envelope right in front of you did not fit this template and so was literally not seen.  And those glasses—well, you never, ever place them on the top of your head; and thus that location isn’t part of the search, even though part of your scalp is actually feeling the pressure from the clinging temples.  Such beliefs actually keep us from seeing all that is before us, including the very existence of the beliefs as such.  In the examples above, it never occurs to you that you are searching for things through a limiting belief, one that filters out what does not fit its parameters.  You simply know that you are open to everything around you—to think otherwise is just plain crazy….uh huh!

Moreover, we very often do not recognize any one belief as an interpretation of reality because each one is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Because the belief allows us to perceive only that which it focuses on, what it focuses on validates the belief as the Truth, rather than just a perspective on the Truth.  You see what you believe, and then believe what you see.  With its subjective, inadequate spotlight, the belief does not illuminate any data that would disconfirm its validity as the Truth.  So the young lady in my office complaining about not finding “the perfect man” is actually telling her truth; for her limiting beliefs—about what such a man would be like or how able she is to attract him—never allow her to see him, even if he were to sit beside her on a park bench.  Her reality comprises only that which her limiting beliefs allow her to perceive.  Like one of the blind men adamant about his conception of the elephant, she is, in effect, trapped in that portion of Reality framed by her beliefs.  And thus her beliefs are so constantly reinforced/validated that she would be thoroughly shocked to discover that Reality is quite different from what she thought It was.

Ontological Shock and Disconfirmed Beliefs

In fact, the shock might be so great that she refuses, momentarily or permanently, to accept the disconfirmation.  In such a case, to accept that Reality is so substantially dissimilar from what she has held as the Truth would necessitate a complete reconfiguration, a change of identity, of both self and the world.  Other people, when faced with an even greater disconfirmation, might fear losing their sanity if what they deem sane is identified by an authoritative other as a limiting belief.  In Passport to the Cosmos, one of two books he wrote on alien encounters and abductions, John E. Mack, M.D, the late Harvard psychiatrist, uses the term “ontological shock” to describe the experience that many abductees go through at the moment when they can no longer deny that what they have undergone is in some way real” (p. 52).  He goes on to note that “A worldview….is a source of security and a compass to guide us.  For an individual it holds the psyche together.  To destroy someone’s worldview is virtually to destroy that person….People who present ideas that seriously challenge a worldview are punished—by death for heresy in the past and now by ridicule, debunking, and efforts to destroy their reputation” (p. 34).

While most of us do not have to face this particular encounter with a much more complex reality, nevertheless, such psyche-altering situations happen quite frequently to us in a vast array of physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually traumatic situations.  Even the normal transitions between life stages, such as adolescence, mid-life, and old age, can trigger huge shocks that may or may not result in positive transformations.  The ontological shock is such because the worldview, often called a paradigm, is not just one belief, but rather a series of layered/interlocking beliefs that govern most of what we experience.  Thus, these intertwined beliefs are mutually reinforcing and create a seemingly impenetrable thicket or matrix, which is fiercely defended. No wonder some of my hypnotherapy clients react with a degree of hostility to my efforts to show them that their limiting beliefs about identity and Reality frustrate their getting what they say they want.

Such was the case with Heather, who had cast herself as the all-suffering victim of some outside force that refused to bring her what she consciously, seriously thought was her greatest desire.  Even after I actively, empathically listened to her account of innumerable strategies she had employed to seek out her beloved, she reacted with narrowed eyes, slightly clenched fists and even an air of condescension to my wondering if she was missing something in her analysis.  For hadn’t she just provided me with unassailable proof that what she said she wanted was actually what she wanted?

The Multi-Dimensional Self: “Parts-of-Me” vs. “I”

What I had next to do was to explain, gently, the notion of the multi-dimensional self, the idea that the self is not unitary, but rather a gathering of many aspects that sometimes function in unison and sometimes not.  Using common examples—from her trying to decide what type of ice cream she wants today to choosing what educational institution she wants to attend—I demonstrated to Heather how all of us constantly make choices between one wish, inclination, or desire and at least one other.  The fact that we have to choose so often between two or more directions strongly suggests that there are competing yearnings and therefore competing parts of the psyche, each of which has its own structure of beliefs.  Unfortunately, when Heather (or anyone else) tends to speak with “I” as the subject of her sentences, she fosters the illusion that she is univocal and that, therefore, there could be no inner conflict.  When I asked her to speak instead with “part-of-me” as the subject, she at first resisted and then complied, sensing that that construction was more accurate.  She reluctantly came to understand that there might be other inner perspectives not totally in alignment with that part she labeled “I.”

To illustrate more concretely what I was suggesting to her, I told her the story of a young man who came to me many years ago when I was a traditional therapist.  A vibrant, good-looking man of 32, Jerry* had been divorced about a year and a half before he came to see me.  He was managing fairly well as a single father of two boys, 8 and 10, though sometimes  felt overwhelmed.  What Jerry was not managing well was his love life.  Feeling ready to begin dating again, he described himself as “quite horny,” but could not find anyone with whom to begin a relationship.   Just after his divorce was final, in order to help himself get grounded and focused, Jerry committed to a church which he really enjoyed, except for one thing: there was a prohibition on pre-marital sex.  A conundrum of the highest order, to say the least!

As I listened, I wondered what this conflict of yearnings and the beliefs that sustained them would bring to him.  A week later Jerry announced that he had met an incredibly beautiful woman—a picture he showed me of her underlined that fact—who was very sexy and wanting to make love to him.  He might have succumbed to her charms, except for one problem; she belonged to the same church that frowned on premarital dalliances!  After a while, the sexual/spiritual tension was too great, and they split up.  A couple of weeks later Jerry proclaimed that he had met another woman, who was nearly as attractive as the first woman, who was ready to have sex, and who did not belong to that church.  Once again he might have chosen sex over his religious affiliation, but—you guessed it!—another problem arose when she disclosed to him that she was a single mother of three boys.  The thought of managing five boys was more than overwhelming, and Jerry said goodbye to her also.

Had all of these occurrences not been so painful to Jerry, I would have shared my amusement with him.  What happened to him was a perfect illustration of the Law of Attraction: you get what you focus on.  Since he focused on both celibacy and sexual attraction, he received in his experience with each woman a combination of both desires/beliefs.

This un-integrated, unresolved combination of conflicting wishes/beliefs caused Jerry much anguish; he felt victimized, extremely frustrated and overrun by something he could not understand.  But, with some gentle prompting from me, he soon began to discern his competing needs and beliefs; still, we both sensed something else lying beneath this conflict of desires.  As we turned our focus to how he felt about his divorce, it was not long before Jerry realized that he had felt so blown away by his wife’s betrayal in having an affair for several years that he made a half-conscious decision not to get close to another woman again, fearing a repetition of the infidelity.  Hence the conflict between sex and celibacy served Jerry’s underlying belief that he should not get deeply involved with a woman again.  When we explored further his near-phobia of intimacy, we found still more global, limiting and obstructing beliefs, such as the “fact” that all women (including his mother) betray men, the “fact” that all women (like his other girlfriends) use sex for control, and the “fact” that all men (including his father and uncle) eventually fall victim to women’s machinations.  Though I do not recall if we checked for the influence of beliefs he may have imported from one or more past lives, they would certainly be another source of relevant, limiting beliefs, such as the idea that the world is not a safe place.

Despite his initial bewilderment, once he became more open, Jerry saw that it was relatively easy to find those conflicting beliefs that prevented him from getting what he consciously said he wanted.  As Jane Roberts’ Seth repeatedly says in his dictated books, for the most part, these beliefs are not deeply hidden in the subconscious, but are instead mostly conscious and relatively easy to access if we learn to step back, change focus and have the courage to ask what inner perspective may be getting in the way of our getting what we say we want.  However, such access will not seem easy if we refuse to believe that opposing beliefs exist—how can they exist if we believe the self is univocal? Operating from the belief that the self has one voice, Jerry, at the outset, did not even look for a competing belief/self.

Nor are we likely to see these beliefs if they are self-reinforcing (as explained above) or if we see through them as though they were glasses.  Those of us who wear glasses often forget we have them on, even if they are tinted sunglasses!  All glasses distort the world we see, either to allow us to perceive something we would not otherwise see as with prescription lenses; or to appear “cool” or to hide; or to protect our eyes from sunlight; or to give a “color,” tone, mood to what we observe.  In each case, the distortion serves a purpose just as all beliefs serve purposes that seem positive until they are not.  Even when the distortions that are beliefs serve a useful purpose, problems inevitably arise when we forget we are deliberately distorting reality or seeing only one aspect of it.  What we need is the reminder that the right side mirror on most vehicles provides.  Inscribed on the mirror itself is the caution: “Objects are closer than they appear.”  In order to provide the driver with a greater field of vision, the mirror is shaped to show objects farther away than they are; but, to prevent an accident, the mirror reminds us that the useful distortion is still a distortion.

So, in summary, we often do not notice those beliefs that obstruct our getting what we say we want because: 1) We say that what we perceive is reality and not just a perspective on reality; 2) We see only what the belief allows us to see, and thus it is self-reinforcing and blinds us to disconfirming data; 3) Beliefs interlock with one another and become woven into our identity, which we do not want to change; 4) Many of us tend to think of the self as one-dimensional, instead of multi-faceted and thus use “I” when “part of me” is often a more accurate subject of many sentences we say about ourselves; 5) Many of us are sure that, if there are, indeed, competing beliefs, they are beyond reach in the deep subconscious; 6) Even when we are aware that beliefs may distort Reality, we usually eventually forget that fact.

We Create Our Own Reality (Even Our Not Getting What We Say We Want)

The biggest obstacle to getting what we say we want is, however, not knowing or not being willing to know (and function from) the fact that we create our own reality.  Seth has said that this fact is one of three statements he has made that is not in any way distorted by Jane Roberts’ channeling, and is, therefore, not really a belief, but rather a true reflection of All That Is.  Seth calls it a “primary” or “basic” reality, one operative in every system of reality/consciousness. Whether we open to this fact consciously or not, we still create every bit of what we experience, even our not getting what we say we want.  At every moment, we walk into the materialization of our thoughts, beliefs and emotions, whether they are in alignment with each other or not, and explore them, consciously or not, from the inside.  Becoming fully aware of this truth enables us to be totally conscious creators of our worlds.  To accept the fact that we create our own reality with no exceptions is deeply empowering; it allows us immediately to understand that, notwithstanding what we consciously intend, what comes to us is always, at the very least, the co-creation of all of our inner selves that are in or not in alignment with each other.

Yet, even those individuals open to the fact of self-creation often hedge here or there, thinking and acting as if some areas of our experience are not designed and generated by us.  To hedge like this is to disempower ourselves in many ways, including limiting our ability to see all the other obstacles listed above that get in the way of what we say we want.  Sometimes we show our hedging in the way we discuss how our intentions operate.  For instance, a short while ago, a beloved soul companion said something to me that I have heard often from others: “What if what we put out there is not what is supposed to happen?  Then what happens?”  Implied in this sentence construction, whether the speaker intended it or not, is the notion that there is something like God or the Soul, that ultimately “calls the shots.”  In one of Jane Roberts’ ESP classes in the ‘70s, Seth said:

You form the reality that you know, not esoterically, not symbolically, and not philosophically. Some great over soul doesn’t form it for you- you cannot put the burden there, either. You have in the past, collectively and individually, blamed a god or a fate for the nature of your personal realities – those aspects, indeed that you did not like.

The personality is given the greatest gift of all; you get exactly what you want to get. You create from nothing the experience that is your own. If you do not like your experience, then look within yourself and change it. But realize also that you are responsible for your joys and triumphs, and that the energy to create any of these realities comes from the inner self. What you do with it is up to the individual  personality.

In saying that the inner self (i.e., the Soul, the Divine aspect of each of us) provides the personality with a flow of energy for creation, Seth is declaring that that flow may have a general direction, but it is ultimately directed by the personality (with its many parts/egos), who may even direct the flow against the flow. Thus the Divine or Soul aspect does not hold the trump card.  And that is so because the personality has free will!  If we did not have free will, our personality self(ves) would be robotic and learn absolutely nothing to develop the Soul and contribute to the Divine.  The Divine aspect of who we are needs our personality self(ves) to be free-will explorers at the edge of what is known by the Soul; thus, even “detours” from the main line of development facilitated by the Soul aspect can provide knowledge, including, at the very least, information about why that route is not entirely useful to pursue.

In a rough analogy, the Soul is like the voice in my GPS that offers me the most expeditious route to my destination, given the time of day, one-way streets, the traffic situation and other parameters at that particular moment.  (Some GPS systems, like the one on the Apple iPhone present “equifinality,” giving three possible routes, each with the same outcome, but with a different experience, e.g., most scenic route, one that is quickest, or one that bypasses something.)  As the driver, no matter my reason (including just being “defiant” as I sometimes am!), I have the freedom to ignore the GPS voice, which, however, will continue to offer me new opportunities to reach my goal in the quickest, least problematic way.  Again, any so-called detour will always provide some new experience even if it might be relatively more onerous and takes longer to achieve the goal.  The Soul acts in just this way vis-à-vis the personality, though it does not give up after a while, as does the GPS voice!

Knowing What We Want: The First Step to Getting What We Want

Given the information about the nature of beliefs, the multi-dimensional self, and the fact that we create our own reality, how do we intentionally bring to us what we want?  The first step, as I noted early in this post, is to set the intention; but to do that, we have to know clearly, unequivocally, what we want.  And such knowing is not as easy as some people might think.  For, as I have shown with the case of Jerry, when we are searching for what we want, often several parts of us vie for dominance in choosing what is desired.  In fact, if we are not getting what we think we want, there is no doubt that an inner interplay of conflicting, obstructing forces is operating.

There are several hypnotic processes that can facilitate awareness and resolution of this kind of conflict.  One is past-life regression during which the individual’s subconscious is asked to take the person’s awareness back to a time when some vow or decision (even about the degree of ones worthiness or about whether ones actions in a prior life can be forgiven) was made that now, in the present incarnation, if the vow is accepted by the current personality, inhibits action/intention in a certain conscious direction.  For instance, an individual who believes he wants to set up a practice as a psychic recalls a vow never to do so, a determination made at the end of a lifetime in which he misused his psychic gifts or was murdered for speaking of esoteric truths.  Or a woman who desires a career as a gymnast recalls a past life in which, as a child swinging joyously on tree limbs, she slips and falls, breaking many bones in her body.  In each case, to bring that part of the individual that is still fearful or doubtful into alignment with the aspiring part requires a new perspective, e.g., the individual may simply acknowledge that circumstances in the present life are far more advantageous and thus limiting vows are no longer needed; or may alter the outcome of the past life to a much more positive, less inhibiting ending; or may change the fearful part’s role from anticipating terror to prescribing caution.

A related process is to go back to the Interlife when plans were being made by the personality with or without other personalities for the upcoming life.  At least two primary modalities are possible here: the first is Michael Newton’s Life Between Lives Hypnotherapy, a thorough, but very long process that allows the individual in trance to examine not only the pre-conception contract, but also many other aspects of the Interlife.  A much briefer, though still effective process developed by David Quigley, the creator of Alchemical Hypnotherapy, leads the individual in trance directly to the contract he or she made with another individual or with God/Higher Self, a contract that has proved exceedingly burdensome and inhibiting of progress toward what the individual now wants.  When the contract is with another individual or small group, the person seeking a change in the contract needs to “clean up” what caused the contract to be made in the first place; he or she then does a replay of the contracting experience more in keeping with what the person presently wants.  The person, in trance, then communicates the new contract to the other individual who may or may not accept it; if the new contract is not accepted, the person who desires change will either renegotiate or completely end the contract.   If the contract is made with God or the Higher Self, the petitioner, in trance, engages that Entity in a dialogue, hoping to end or at least mitigate the terms of the contract, especially if most of the lessons have been learned or if the purpose of the contract can be served in less painful and inhibiting ways.

Another hypnotic process to facilitate clear intention is what NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) practitioners do every time they assist an individual to sumount blocks to achievement: they ask the subconscious if every part of it agrees to the change.  This is called “checking ecology” (the degree of integration of parts in the psychic environment) in such NLP modalities as 6-Step Reframe. A part that disagrees is summoned to image itself in the individual’s inner world in a symbolic way that reflects what/who it is.  The part is then asked what its positive intention is in frustrating the forward movement of the individual.  Always framing the intention as positive allows the part to feel heard and respected.  The individual is then asked to summon his or her creative part to help the inhibiting part to accomplish its intention for the psyche without the present negative side effects.  If the inhibiting part accepts the new way of accomplishing its goal, the individual then once again checks the ecology of his inner world of parts until there are no objections.

Negotiating with inner parts/subpersonalities to achieve an agreed-upon intention is the overall object of various other parts therapies, such as Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis, Gestalt therapy, Hal Stone & Sidra Winkelman’s Voice Dialogue, and David Quigley’s Conference Room.  Each of these therapies emphasizes some inner dynamics over others, e.g., Gestalt’s focus on Top Dog/Under Dog, Voice Dialogue’s concentration on the Inner Critic, and Quigley’s spotlight on the Inner Child.   But all of these modalities agree that the psyche is multi-dimensional and thus all aspects/parts/subpersonalities must be in alignment for the person to consciously set an unequivocal intention for what he or she truly wants.  (Byron Katie’s modality, called “The Work,” while not a form of parts therapy, is also useful in questioning the validity of limiting beliefs, in effect deconstructing them so that room is left for other, more expansive beliefs to emerge.)

Emotionalizing What We Want: The Second Step to Getting What We Want

Once all the parts agree with each other as to what the intended outcome is to be, that intention requires some “juice,” which is accomplished by adding emotion to the mix.  No matter how clear the intention, without our emotionalizing it, the intention loses its power to materialize.  While some individuals might think such a prerequisite is onerous, they might pause a moment to reflect on what would happen if this requirement were not operating: in that case, every thought and whim, with or without emotion, would be immediately materialized, creating infinite chaos.

As Seth has said many times in his books, every thought, no matter how small or insignificant, has an electromagnetic reality.  Thoughts, then, are “things” of greater or lesser substantiality or energy.  If every thought were amped up and materialized to the same degree, it would be impossible to have any meaningful experience on the Earth plane because of lack of discrimination, prioritization, and overall organization.  When we are outside of this plane, our creations are instantaneous, but not substantial in the way manifestations show up on this plane; in the Other World, then, we are better equipped to deal with such creations.  However, we cannot learn in the Other World what we can learn here, where creation is slowed down so we can become much more aware of and responsible for what we bring into being.  Here we have time to think twice or thrice about our choices; fortunately, for most of us, wanting to “kill” someone who has hurt you does not immediately translate into action as you cool down and understand your emotions.  In a less dramatic scenario, for instance, my client, Heather, has time to thwart her growing desire to “swear off” men before she becomes an emotional hermit.

However, if Heather keeps repeating to herself that she wants to “swear off” men, then what amounts to a hypnotic auto-suggestion becomes more potent, more emotionalized through that repetition.  Repetition is a key way to emotionalize and energize, for it produces a trance, a framework of beliefs, that is self-reinforcing because of the aforementioned nature of beliefs to blind one to disconfirming data.  In Heather’s case, her emotionalizing and energizing her limiting beliefs is mostly unconscious and productive of misery.  Yet, if she was aware of emotionalizing and energizing a more expansive belief about her possibilities with men, she would more likely get what she says she wants.  Moreover, if her emotionalizing is accompanied by her concretely imagining with all of her senses what she wants (what Neuro-Linguistic Programming calls “future pacing”) she will truly experience herself as a conscious co-creator with All That Is.

Still, if we have to add emotion and energy to our intention, that effort implies that we did not do as good a job as we could have in seeking the input of all of our parts about our intended outcome.  If all of the parts had agreed, the emotionalizing and energizing of the intention would have been automatic because at least one or more of the parts would amp up intentions.  In doing “parts work,” we often overlook one or more parts who may be afraid to exercise their powers (for fear of some retribution), or may be hiding to gain and exercise power behind the scenes, or are being repressed by other parts who speak louder and more insistently.

To rectify this situation, we must go back to any of the modalities outlined above, e.g., past-life regression, contract work with others or with God/Higher Self, Gestalt therapy, Voice Dialogue, NLP ecology work, Psychosynthesis, or the Conference Room.  In parts therapies, we must ask directly, “Is there anyone here who objects to giving energy to this intention?”  As when we are asking about the intention itself, parts may reveal themselves and “speak” through body sensations (e.g., itches, sharp or dull pain, stomach rumblings, sudden desire to sneeze or cough, curious smell) or through images that suddenly surface in the mind’s eye.  We then dialogue with the part, which may respond with further images, body sensations, inner voices or automatic writing.  Once again, some negotiating needs to take place with the help of other parts to bring the dissenting part on board.  Occasionally, in doing such dialoguing, a spontaneous regression to a past life or the past in this life (or even to the future or the Interlife) may occur as a response demonstrating the part’s objection.  One can also ask the part directly when it was “born,” when it came into being a dissenter.  For instance, in the case of Jerry, the part that objects to intimacy with a woman may have been born in this life, when he saw the effects on his father of his mother’s infidelity. Or that part may have been born in response to a past life in which his female past-life persona was the “other woman” in a marriage.

Receiving What We Want: The Third and Final Step to Getting What We Want

So let’s say that your intention is clear and energized, and you focus on it repeatedly.  That should do it, right?  Uh, no, those conditions are not enough for complete manifestation of your desire.  You need to be open fully to receive what you asked for.  Many of us are not.  The adage, “Be careful what you ask for—you may get it!” is operative here.   Whenever I discuss this part of the manifestation process with clients, I often get looks of utter shock, of profound disbelief that I could say something so…stupid!  “Why wouldn’t I want it?” says the typical doubter with annoyed condescension.   When I broached this perspective with Heather, her narrowed eyes and tight lips told me she was containing her anger, concluding that I am downright crazy.

But I am not (at least not in that way!).  Yet, I can understand how Heather could wonder about my mental stability, given how much time, effort, and tears she expended to create what she says she wants.  When she came down from her haughty perch, however, I reminded her of the phenomenon of ontological shock, which I first discussed relative to ones finding out that the universe is far more complex than one had thought.   Now, in this final phase of the manifestation process, ontological shock may emerge once again when some part of the individual realizes that a great deal may have to change in his or her environment and in himself or herself–even his/her identity!–if the manifestation is truly embraced.  For instance, Heather would have to see herself as an empowered woman instead of as a victim, as someone honestly open to intimacy instead of someone pursuing what she is also secretly afraid of because it is so foreign.  We tend to stay with our old, even painful limiting beliefs because they are frequently more “comfortable” than the more expansive ones that nevertheless often seem very strange, if not downright alien to our usual way of showing up in the world.  Remember what Hamlet said, “Our present fears are less than horrible imaginings.”  Or recall the saying, “The Devil I know is better than the Devil I don’t know!”

Unfortunately, many individuals like Heather will not believe my warning until they have a real chance of getting what they want.  Then, suddenly, they don’t have the time to receive something new because of an impending physical relocation for a job, a sudden illness, or, as in Heather’s situation, the reemergence of an old, but toxic lover.  What has really happened is that still another part of the psyche has been ignored, not adequately seen or consulted, or downright repressed.  What needs to be heard is that part’s beliefs about the internal and external changes likely to occur if the individual gets what she/he says she wants.

Once again, to make contact with the part that holds off acceptance requires doing some of the same parts work I outlined for the other two steps of the manifestation protocol, and/or doing contract renegotiation, and/or investigating past-life (and future-life) situations.  In doing past-life regression, for instance, Heather may discover that she is hesitant in this life to embrace full intimacy because, in a past-life, her soul-mate may have died soon after she married him, or because she may have experienced a conflict between marrying someone and an opportunity to travel the world experiencing multiple, very different relationships that made her feel immensely and exotically desired.  Whatever part is objecting to embracing what the person wants and receives must be respected and dialogued with if there is to be total alignment of all the aspects of the individual.

Only then is the manifestation process complete.  Only then at the crossroads of beliefs is the traffic managed properly and thus allowed to flow without obstruction.

*Names are changed to protect privacy.

Ultimate Presence

There he stood with a curious grace, all 230+ lbs of him, dressed in shaggy, faded blue jeans, a red-and-blue plaid shirt with short sleeves rolled up even shorter and, low on his brow, a dark blue baseball cap, the arch of its visor matching the curve of the friendly smirk brightening up his face.  “I don’t teach dogs how to sit, stay, roll over and all that stuff,” he said, the smirk transforming into a wide, confident and infectious grin as his audience of dog owners struggled to keep their variously-sized charges from lunging at each other and now wondered if they had come to the right training class.  Obviously enjoying his showstopper as he swept his gaze from one side of the room to the other, he then said with slow emphasis, “I teach them…how to be.”

His name is Dave,* a very wise man seemingly disguised as a hillbilly, good ol’ boy.  Though his words oddly resonated deep within me, and probably within many of the nine other humans there, his impact on the dogs was even more pronounced.  A couple of the larger canines, a chocolate-brown, slobbering Lab and another that was a cross probably of a Boxer and a Pit Bull, were nearly dragging their frustrated, even somewhat frightened owners off their chairs and toward the man they wanted to eat raw.  Without flinching, Dave instructed each owner to dig in his or her heels and hold tight the leashes; then he faced each bared-tooth animal and snapped a command, “Ou(t)!”  It was the word “out,” but without the “t,” a vibration, he explained later, that was the archetypal sound of the mother dog directed at her wayward pups.  Within literally a second, these seemingly ferocious dogs were sitting, panting happily, then tranquilly lying down and gazing up at the man they now loved and licked as he stroked each of them behind its ears.  Puzzled, even awed expressions took over the human faces around the room.

A miracle?  No, simply a manifestation of presence.  Dave has his techniques, but what he has most is the way he is, the way he shows up in the world, at least when connecting with dogs and their owners.

So, what is this powerful quality that most people know when they encounter it, but nevertheless have trouble articulating?  This post is an exploration of the many aspects of presence, from the most common attributes to what I believe is its ultimate expression.

Most dictionaries will agree that someone manifesting presence truly, really exists here and now, close by in time and space, and has an air or aura of self-assurance, poise, coolness, equanimity, unflappability, and an overall powerful, sometimes dignified and in control (as opposed to “controlling”) bearing and comportment.  (see http://www.thefreedictionary.com/presence) The legal definition of presence adds to this portrait; an individual is present or displays presence only when he or she is truly capable of giving consent, when he or she personally acknowledges something as valid, or when he or she is “constructively present” through valid representation by a designated party. (see http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/presence).  And presence is even important in understanding how we now connect electronically with each other.  “In an instant messaging (IM) system, [presence] is the status of a person’s current availability (online, idle, offline, etc.)….”Rich presence” implies conveying more information about the user’s current status, including type of device being used and its operating environment, location and local time of user and any other messages the user might wish to announce (http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/presence).

Putting much of the above together gives us a fuller portrait of the individual manifesting presence: he or she (to repeat) truly, really exists here and now, close by in time and space, is truly focused and undistracted, and has an air or aura of self-assurance, poise, coolness, equanimity, unflappability, and an overall powerful, sometimes dignified and in control (as opposed to “controlling”) bearing and comportment. In addition, the individual displaying presence is choice-full, fully empowered to give his or her consent and validation to anyone representative of him or her, and clear and communicative about whether he can be or is fully present at any one time.

Dave certainly exhibited many of the features listed above as he managed the canines.  And he displayed another quality of someone with presence: the ability to elicit the same state in those near him; the dogs immediately recognized his ability to free them from their own distractibility and fears and thus to encourage them to be focused and present in their natural, loving state.

Presence as the Authentic Self

Here I am reminded of two other men I had encountered many years ago when I was a soldier in Vietnam.  One was the epitome of someone without presence; the other was the quintessence of it.   In 1970, I was sent from advanced Army training in the States to the 3rd Squadron, Fifth Calvary (I do not remember the regiment, etc.) operating from Dong Ha, eight miles below the DMZ.  Though I was supposed to be a tank crewman operating in the “boonies” for three months at a time, my education helped me get a job as an Operations Clerk in the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) located in a bunker twelve feet below ground near the center of the compound.  In case the enemy breached the perimeter, which was about five hundred feet away from the TOC, a main target of the enemy, everyone was assigned a defensive position.  Mine was near the top step of the only entry into and only exit from the TOC.

During the day, from this vantage point, I could see the officer’s hootch (quarters); among its occupants was the Executive Officer (XO), a major, who fancied himself as the reincarnation of Patton.  At least several times a week, when he was in from the field, he would strut around the TOC, much to the repressed laughter of the other personnel, including me.   Invariably, he wore a shiny helmet, which he may or may not have exchanged for a dull one in the field so as not to become an enhanced target for an enemy bullet.  Clinging to the helmet was a set of goggles, even though these were not important in an environment without the extreme dust Patton had encountered in North Africa.  Around his neck, the XO had tied a yellow cravat, meticulously arranged to match the scrupulously starched uniform he wore, complete with jodhpurs—after all, wasn’t the tank corps the modern equivalent of the cavalry?  Moreover, he wore his jodhpurs “bloused” (tucked) into his always spit-polished boots in the way only paratroopers were allowed to wear their trousers during the War.  I have a dim remembrance of at least one pearl-handled pistol holstered at the hip.   And, topping off this elegant regalia, was a riding crop, one end of which he used to slap an open palm as he swaggered around the TOC.  I always wondered if he occasionally used it to slap the tank turret to make the machine go faster.  And I wondered also if this distracting, preposterous posturing had ever gotten one of his men maimed or killed.

One night around 1:30 a.m. while I was working alone, later than I usually did, in the TOC, the dreaded siren sounded, alerting us to a possible breach in the “wire.”  As I clamped on and fastened my helmet, shouldered my flack jacket, grabbed my M16 and flew up the stairs to my assigned position, I suddenly realized that I had not been given any rules of engagement.  These rules regulate when to fire and where, a crucial issue given that I would not be able to distinguish foe from friend in the darkness that descended when the compound lights were deliberately doused to deny illumination for the enemy.  In my utter fright at the possibility of my first firefight, I chambered a round, crouched down and waited for I knew not what.

Suddenly, the door to the officer’s hootch burst open, and out hobbled the XO, constricted by his untied boots whose laces provided him with a major opportunity to fall on his face.  Still shiny, his helmet lay cockeyed on his head, unfastened, a dangerous situation when one may be facing imminently the abrupt, physical movements of combat.  Covering his torso was a regulation Army T-shirt, which I soon realized was inside out.  As for his trousers—well, he had none on…which allowed anyone interested to view his shorts decorated with huge, red polka dots.  In his right hand he grasped a .45 pistol, which he waved nervously in my face after he had finally shuffled and crouched his way to me.  “What’s going on?” he said, terror flooding his eyes.  “Where the f— is everyone?”

Though I had been nearly shaking in my own fear, I could barely suppress my laughter and disgust at my superior officer’s total lack of presence.  As I was about to respond, from around the mound that was the top of the TOC came the Commanding Officer (CO).  Dressed in a dull helmet and in Army fatigues distinguished only by his camouflaged, colonel insignia sewn on the shoulders, the CO was the portrait of leadership.  His broad shoulders and erect stature were an outward manifestation of his inner commanding presence.  Barely suppressing his anger and repugnance at the nearly sniveling XO, he said, “Go put on your pants!!  Get the hell out of here!”  Away scurried the XO while, again, I could hardly contain my amusement; yet, immediately, I grew fearful once more, wondering what the CO would now say to me.

I met his gaze, which was stern but not unfriendly.  After a moment, he calmly said, “Son, do you have a round chambered?”  “Yes, sir,” I said, waiting for the reprimand.  “Give me the rifle,” was all he said.  After taking the weapon from me, he quickly ejected the round, then handed it back and said, “Don’t chamber another round until I tell you.”  And off he walked into the darkness.

Thankfully, the siren soon stopped, a false alarm.  Along with my relief, I felt a renewed strength, as well as a certain awe and inspiration.  By the CO’s model in the moment, I developed a growing sense of my own presence.  And, though I had and have no love for war, I would have followed this CO into battle.   In his bearing, authority, attention, understanding, fairness, and discernment about what was going on for each of his soldiers, he was manifesting an irresistible presence, unlike the XO who was inauthentic and, in short, a fake not to be respected or followed—by the way, I never saw him again after that night!  In Leadership Presence, Halpern and Lubar say about the leader with the CO’s presence: “The world sees him as secure and fully comfortable with himself; he never tries to be someone or something he’s not.”

Presence as Improvisation

Halpern and Lubar note that presence is also “the ability to be completely in the moment [conquering fear, distraction, and pressure in ones daily performance] and flexible enough to handle the unexpected.”  This description further describes the CO and Dave, while revealing an aspect of presence that suggests its even deeper roots.  Halpern and Lubar are here describing presence in terms of improvisation, the process of staying in the moment while being open to and making use of whatever is available or emerges.  An individual can practice improv only if he or she is totally in the here and now and thus observant of everything not only around him or her, but also within in terms of all the mental, emotional, and physical assets he or she has.  Such a person is like a tennis player totally focused with heightened sensitivity and receptivity, waiting for the opponent’s serve, and balancing on the balls of the feet, ready to move back, forward, to either side, or up or down to connect with the slammed ball that may land anywhere in his field of responsibility.

Yet, this is possible only if the player first recognizes both the expansive beliefs that help him or her discover and tune into various kinds of inner power and also those limiting beliefs that constrict his or her sense of self and thus the depth and fullness of his or her presence.  In short, to actualize all of the qualities already listed and still others that inform presence, the individual must continually grow, that is, develop more and more awareness of all that he or she truly is.

A case in point is the stuttering King George VI, informally known to his family (and soon his voice coach, Lionel Logue) as Bertie.  In The King’s Speech, Bertie at first believes his stutter is congenital until Logue, with much effort, persuades him to see that his upbringing by an angry father, cold mother, physically hurtful nanny, and teasing brother inhibited his expressing himself and caused him to develop limiting beliefs about who he is and his weaknesses and strengths.  Believing his demanding father who tells him his stuttering makes him useless as a potential monarch, and believing that protocol must be preserved at any cost, Bertie does everything he can to stifle his own desire to become king; such is the case even when his brother David eventually ascends the throne and neglects his duties in favor of an affair with a twice-divorced commoner whom he wishes to marry.   When David finally abdicates and thus propels Bertie into succeeding him, nevertheless, because of continuing limiting beliefs about his own abilities, Bertie is still not fully present to accept the coronation.  Only when Logue, during preparations for the coronation, provocatively sits in the ancestral coronation chair and thus angers Bertie, does Bertie demand that the seemingly impertinent Logue get out the sacred chair.  Logue asks by what right does Bertie make such a demand; Bertie responds with a major declaration, finally claiming what, before this moment, he has been too scared to pronounce:  “I have a voice!” shouts Bertie without stammering, thereby owning his fuller self and kingly aspirations.  He is now on his way to becoming wholly present as he learns to give less and less halting, yet eloquent speeches to his countrymen, who are hungry for inspiration from their monarch during WWII.

Multi-Dimensional Presence

After the first of the King’s successful speeches, Logue ceases to call Bertie by that name and, instead, finally addresses him as “Your Royal Highness,” thereby acknowledging the monarch’s kingly presence.   Still, there is more to the King that could be present, if he expanded his awareness and knew how to access those dimensions.  I am referring here to his multi-dimensional self.  In Jane Roberts’ Seth Books, Seth constantly notes that each individual comprises not just many traits,  but also many dimensions or selves, all of which affect the nature of our presence in the world.  Besides reincarnational and future selves, we have and are parallel selves and counterpart selves.  As for parallel selves, these form at every moment we decide to do one thing (as simple as a finger movement to the right) and not one other or several others (finger movements to the left, up, down, curled onto itself, etc.).  By choosing one such action, we collapse the “quantum wave,” which contains all possible actions; the one action we choose may be as small as (or much smaller than) finger movements, and as large as (or larger than) dropping a series of gargantuan bombs to end life on Earth.  While we have chosen one of these actions, our other probable selves nevertheless actualize in parallel universes all the other possibilities not chosen by us in this reality.  And, of course, each of our other probable selves creates its own parallel selves each time it acts, and so on infinitely.

In this life, for instance, Bertie chose to claim his kingly aspirations; in one parallel life, he chose not to take the throne with the result that the government shut down with grave consequences to England in the upcoming war.  In another parallel life, Bertie became a shadow king advising his brother on what to say and do without taking any credit and so diminishing himself still further; in another parallel life, Bertie became mentally incompetent from the stress, and his daughter Elizabeth took over at age 10 with tumultuous consequences.   Likewise, in this life, the CO reprimanded the XO; in one parallel life, he overlooked the XO’s deportment and thereby possibly endangered everyone; in another parallel life, the CO never came by, and thus the XO and I were left to decide what to do…and so on.  In each parallel life, a different decision by the Bertie or the CO led to a very different result for each of them and for those around each man.

As for counterpart selves, these are other aspects of ones Oversoul, living in the same time period—though each is a different age—and working on the same basic challenge; but each does so from a different perspective.  For instance, Dave, my dog trainer, may have a male counterpart who is 6 years old, living in an impoverished country and eating wild dogs as his only sustenance.  Another counterpart might be a woman of 22 in Texas, who is researching how to extend the life of thoroughbred canines, while another counterpart might be a shaman of 85 in China who has Dog as one of his power animals; and still another female counterpart is 52 and runs a rescue shelter and regularly and with much grief has to put down unwanted dogs.  All these incarnations of Dave’s Oversoul, including Dave himself, may be working simultaneously on different ways to view and relate to canines.  And the Oversoul Itself, which embraces and knows all of the selves/dimensions and how they reflect an infinite number of approaches to the Oversoul’s current mission, may be accessed directly through meditative, hypnotic processes.

Most important in this discussion of presence and the multi-dimensional self is the fact that there are constant “bleed-throughs” among all these selves, communications that appear in dreams, hunches, waking fantasies, and, more deliberately, in visualizations and other kinds of spiritual hypnosis.  For someone who wants the fullest presence possible, learning to accept the reality of these selves and then consciously to access them will provide new resources, even talents and abilities, to enhance what the individual can bring forth, improvise, from within in the present moment.  For example, in at least one parallel life, Bertie is not a stutterer and is, in fact, an eloquent orator; by tuning into that self, Bertie in the present life might then have his own, inner voice coach.  Or Dave could connect to a counterpart self who knows how to extend the life of thoroughbred dogs and thus make helpful suggestions to clients whose purebred dogs are nearing the end of their lives.  Or the CO could have opened to a future self as a Major General and thus gotten advice on choosing better junior officers.

Ultimate Presence

If we look for an example of such full-blown presence, we might examine the doctrine of “Real Presence,” promulgated by Catholic, Orthodox, and some Anglican Christians.  This is the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Wafer consecrated by the priest during Mass to become mysteriously the actual body and blood of Christ and then given to qualified participants to eat.  Theophagy—god-eating—was, according to Sir James George Frazer in The Golden Bough (1922; accessed at http://www.bartleby.com/196/120.html ) a ritual known to many ancient societies.  What may be unique, though, in the Christian view is the nature of the god’s presence: “None of these churches sees what is really in the Eucharist as a lifeless corpse and mere blood, but as the whole Christ, body and blood, soul and divinity,” even though the wafer and wine appear to be only what they seem. (http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Real+Presence).  More emphatically “…in the Eucharist, Jesus Christ is really present in what was previously just bread and wine, and not merely present in symbol, a figure of speech (metaphorically), or by his power (dynamically)” (http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Eucharistic+theology).  In short, Christ with all of his living humanity and divinity is completely present in/as the Wafer.  As such, as well as in his historical form, Christ, hypostatically merging his full divinity and complete humanity, is the exemplar of the Ultimate Presence possible, open to all of His infinite dimensions/selves.

Yet there is more to understand about Ultimate Presence if we go to John 6: 51-57 (The Jerusalem Bible translation), where Christ Himself describes his Real Presence:

I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world….I tell you most solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you.  Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.

As is commonly understood, Christ seems here to be emphasizing several points: 1) that He is the Sacrifice exacted by the Father to atone for the sins of mankind; 2) that when the faithful consume his Flesh and Blood and connect also to His Divinity, they are thereby bonded to Him and to each other; and that individuals not participating in this communion will not have everlasting life.

However, these interpretations seem to rest on the assumption that Christ is essentially different from humans, that He is one-of-a-kind, and only through absorbing His Unique Presence is there life everlasting.  Yet, the Church teaches that Christ is wholly human.  While the understanding of Christ as Divine is certainly underlined in the passage above, nevertheless, His “Son of Man,” Human, flesh-and-blood nature is even more emphasized.  So, unless his followers eat, take in, his “real food” and “real drink”—his material existence—and experience its utmost value, and make it one with their own tissue, paradoxically, they cannot experience immortal life.  What Christ is ultimately saying here, I believe, is that matter, flesh and blood, earthy existence are inherently sacred, even immortal at some level—recall that He later rose with His Body into Heaven after the Crucifixion; that His mother, Mary, was also taken into Heaven with Her Body at death; and that He noted that he was the “living bread which has come down from heaven,” a curious statement seeming to imply that he was already one with materiality before he was born!

Thus, Christ seems to declare that there is no real distinction between the physical and the spiritual, between the body and the soul; and that the body is the soul’s expression,”face” or extension into three-dimensional existence.  If Christ were to deny that the material world, His Body, is sacred, He would be repudiating His full reality, His Ultimate Presence, and thus also not be telling the truth when he says eternal life comes through His Flesh.    Furthermore, if Christ is wholly human, his Physicality that is His Soul made Flesh is no different from that of anyone else.  Thus, when one eats Christ’s material being that is also His soul and His Ultimate Presence, one is simply eating, ingesting, absorbing in a very concrete way one’s own divine humanness.  In this view, anyone who truly and completely realizes this truth can manifest the Ultimate Presence that Christ models.

This means that an individual who is Ultimately Present, in addition to all that was described earlier, is also fully in his or her body, which is wholly sanctified as the 3-D expression of his or her soul; is aware that to claim life everlasting is to fully realize that matter is simply divinity of high density; is committed to earthly, material life as the necessary means for the soul to realize more of its potential; and is grounded in here-and-now existence.  In contrast is the individual who believes that to be spiritually present is to want to depart physical existence, to escape the “heavy,” constricting body, and to focus on cultivating only the higher level chakras.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  As Robert Bruce says in Energy Work: The Secrets of Healing and Spiritual Growth:

Modern New Age people tend to stimulate and attract mainly higher spiritual energies.  But to function well on all levels…we need a balanced intake of energies.  Low vibrational energies are not negative or toxic or bad, any more than are low musical notes and tones….Low vibrational energies are grounding, balancing, and healthy, and should be an essential part of ones elemental dietary balance (p.113).

Using Ultimate Presence

Just as Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist cultivates communion with others, so, too, when an individual shows up with his or her Ultimate Presence, he or she is able not only to connect quickly to provide solutions and solace, but also to help elicit the other’s own presence.  Dave showed this faculty at one level when he tuned in to the growling dogs and drew from them their calm presence to match his own.  At a deeper level, mental health and health practitioners—those with “healing touch,” for instance—first tune in to their full selves, paradoxically, in order to tune into their clients.  To the degree that their helpers become present to them, clients typically respond positively, emotionally and/or physically.  Because of trauma of one kind or another, these clients frequently disembody and un-ground themselves in an attempt to leave what has harmed them.   However, the helper’s grounding presence, void of any deliberate masks, subterfuges, or distortions, signals to the client that it is okay to stay embodied and present.  The helper can give this indicator only if he or she accesses from within whatever he or she needs to stay in his or her own body experienced as soul.

Another use of Ultimate Presence is best illustrated by what happened to me during one phase of my writing of my doctoral dissertation at Harvard in 1975.  I had just finished a chapter on one of John Berryman’s poetic masterpieces, Homage to Mistress Bradstreet, which was, among other things, Berryman’s own experiment with presence.  For in this poem he wanted Anne Bradstreet, living in the middle seventeenth century as American’s first published poet, to come alive again, be fully present to him, so that he could dialogue with her.  To explain completely how Berryman accomplished this would take up far too much space (check out my book, The Berryman Gestalt); suffice it to say that, with some difficulty, he opened himself and became present to her reality, speaking initially as her in the poem, until she was sufficiently concrete and present for him to address her.

To do so required him to call forth dimensions of himself, some of them represented by Anne’s own character, which he had not until then explored or allowed to surface, including his ability to love deeply.  His now greater presence allowed him to quell his initial intent to seduce Anne and instead open lovingly to her soul manifesting as flesh.  At the end he discovers that being fully present is equivalent to loving deeply.  When he breaks off the dialogue with Anne so she can go back to her life and eventually experience her death, he continues to encounter her powerful presence because he has not shut down, constricted his now expanded sense of who he is: “Hover, utter, still/a sourcing      whom my lost candle like the firefly loves” (ll. 457-8).

Thus, while I had discovered through Berryman’s Homage another use of Ultimate Presence—the evocation of profound love—there was more for me to learn directly about this phenomenon. When I started to explicate his Dream Songs, his major work, I found the poems often quite opaque.  One day, while working in Harvard’s undergraduate library, I started reading books about Gestalt Therapy, one of whose modalities consists of inviting the client to have dialogues between and among aspects of himself or herself.  One of Berryman’s syllabi—he had been a teacher at the University of Minnesota until 1972—featured one of these books.  As I read the text, I unexpectedly felt a rush of energy flooding my body.  I suddenly saw that Berryman was doing Gestalt dialogues with aspects of himself in the Dream Songs—he was discovering even more of who he was, thereby expanding his sense of his own presence beyond what he had learned in dialogue with Anne.

Likewise, by beginning to understand the new and greater dimensions of his presence, I, too, was becoming open to new aspects of myself, a process that allowed me to connect to him even more. For about two weeks after my initial discovery of his core poetic tactics, I started every day by reading in the Gestalt texts to get that rush of energy going that expanded who I was; then with more of me present to listen deeply to the Songs, I was amazed how easily they offered up their meanings.  I found that Berryman, in his quest to discover his full presence, was using not only Gestalt dialogues, but also many triple and quadruple puns to elicit and embody and present together many of his different and even conflicting voices/selves.**

Then one day, the energy became so expansive within me that I felt propelled out of my chair; pacing up and down the room I was in, I could barely contain the physical energy, as well as the mental acuity I was experiencing about what was going on in the Songs.  When I finally sat down and looked out the window, thinking that the rapid expansion of my identity might thereby be relieved or at least slowed down, I experienced just the opposite.  In a split second, everything in the room and outside became what I can call only super real, that is, super present.  The edges of everything, from the paper clip on my table to the stain on the brick wall of the building thirty feet away became at once very solid and very fluid, glowing without glowing, a combination of energy and matter, soul and body.  I was experiencing not only my own extended self, but also the expansive essence of each thing, its here-ness and there-ness, its eternal now.

And the experience went on.

A second wave of energy suddenly swept through me; and, abruptly, I was in a review of my life and remembered everyone who had touched me, positively or negatively and everything that had moved me, again happily or sadly…and all of that was…totally okay, completely right on, in a way I could only deeply encounter, but not articulate.   It was an experience of my totality, all my humanness and divinity emerging from a complexity beyond understanding but experienced fully in an instant.  In that instant I have no doubt I was consciously my multi-dimensional self.

And when the third wave of energy washed over me, my sense of my own presence extended to include everything around me, as I felt compassion (i.e., feeling with) beyond understanding, encompassing every single thing, including the dust mote dancing in the sunlight streaming through a library window, the thief stealing a wallet in Harvard Square, the ink blotch on a paper on my table, the reeking garbage in the wastebasket just outside the door, the spectacular colors of the descending sun. I finally understood and experienced for myself what Berryman must have felt when he was fully present for Anne’s death while also welcoming her continuing presence: “In the pain of rain and departure, still/Love…presides the sun and elfs from silence melody” (ll. 454-6).

In that sublime moment of ecstasy, in that flash of “standing outside” of my constricted self, I was experiencing Ultimate Presence…I was Love.

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So, Dear Reader, what are your most important experiences with presence of one level or another?  What was the effect on you and others?  Have you experienced still another dimension of presence?

*Names are fictitious to preserve privacy.

**Evidence of how fully present Berryman became to me through his poetry and I to him through my finding inner resources to listen more openly and closely to his presence were two things: 1) the fact that I once felt his actual presence in the library and telepathically heard him give me a clue about why he had committed suicide four years earlier, and 2) the comment made in a testimonial for me by Edward Fitzgerald, one of my thesis readers, a sometime friend of Berryman, and the renowned Harvard translator of the Iliad and the Odyssey;  “Joe has written about Berryman the way Berryman would have wanted.”

A Touch of Otherness

Memorial Day, 2007, was memorable in a way unusual for me–most often, I find time to meditate on and pray for the military dead and their families. About forty-two years ago, I might have become one of them during my Vietnam tour of duty. That experience was one of my major encounters with “otherness,” a sense of altered reality, albeit one mostly, though not entirely, of pain, horror and deep sadness.  But during that peaceful, warm day in 2007, wafted along by a gentle breeze, my wife and I were pedaling (yes, not paddling) our double-seated Hobie kayak about a third of a mile off the municipal beach of Lewes, Delaware.

We had cruised about a mile, relaxing and conversing while getting some gentle exercise. I was about to maneuver the rudder for our return to the embarkation point when Liz, pointing out toward the vastness of Delaware Bay, said, “What’s that?” What she was looking at approximately a quarter-mile away seemed to be the churning of water in front of a small cruiser. As we stared for a few seconds at the compelling sight, we soon realized that we were watching a pod of dolphins leaping in unison and coming straight at us!

To say that we were excited and even scared a bit is an understatement. We each had seen dolphins many times from the shore, from a large fishing vessel, and from the 25′ boat we had at that time. I had even “swum with the dolphins” in a tank in Florida. However, in all cases, including the tank experience, the dolphins had remained at a distance. But, this time, in a kayak rising merely nine inches above the water, we could do nothing but wait for these great mammals to do with us what they would.

And what they did can be described only as “playing.” Besides the two or three of them at a time making those leaping curves out of and back into the water, several others made direct advances toward the bow of the kayak, dipping under it just in time to avoid hitting us. Others swam up from either side, again diving just in time under the kayak, their beautiful shapes reflecting yellow-white sunlight from beneath the water. Several times, one of them, from about 6-8 feet away, would simply raise its entire head out of the water, apparently to look at us and laugh. What really intrigued me was the sound of several dolphins’ spouting water out of their blow-holes while they were out of sight directly behind the kayak and seemingly so close that I could have reached back and touched them. All of the dolphins were as large or larger than our thirteen-foot kayak and just as wide. Given that we also were gently pedaling and thus moving the two sets of flippers beneath the kayak, the craft must have looked like a member of a new species of dolphin that they were now welcoming!  But what most and deeply affected us was their staying around for nearly 20 minutes—they left only after we had first left them to break the spell that would have led us into the open sea. “That made my day,” grinned Liz. And mine, too.

But this awesome event also made more of my days as I began to feel even more deeply what the experience truly meant to me. Once again, “otherness” had overtaken me, but this time in play, joy and wonder! These dolphins were the embodiment of the sheer, utter presence of the “other.” They were not of my world but certainly enjoyed visiting it in their unspeakable wildness. Their undeniable factualness was wonder incarnate. They were here. And so was I.

As the days passed, I realized how much I need periodic experiences of such “otherness.” When I get stuck in mundane reality, limiting beliefs, in mental and emotional cages of my own making, I crave a sense that there is much more than what I currently think and feel. We all yearn for this “otherness,” this sense that we are a part, even a very small part, but nevertheless an indispensable part, of ALL THAT IS. This feeling is the essence of holiness, of the Whole, of the blessed, the sacred. Some of us get it by engaging thoroughly in a creative project, or meditation, or exercise, or music, or lovemaking or anything else that puts a significant “pause” into the non-stop, constricting routines of our lives.

A few days after the event, I looked up the meaning of Dolphin to Native Americans in Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson. “Dolphin teaches us how to use life-manna through our breath,” they say and then tell the story of Dolphin’s meeting with Grandmother Moon: Asked by her to swim to the “rhythm of her tide weaving,” “Dolphin learned to breathe in a new way,” thereby entering the Dreamtime. As a result of being given the new breath, “the gift of the primordial tongue,” Dolphin later began carrying messages to the Divine Otherness from the Children of Earth, who sought solutions to problems formed essentially from a feeling of separateness.  The Divine Otherness in response reaffirmed that “we are all whole in the eyes of the Everliving One.”  In other words, the Divine Otherness is “other” only until we are reminded that our limiting beliefs make it so.

Learning to breathe differently to enter Otherness or to allow Otherness to enter us (or, ultimately, to become aware that Otherness and we are One) is at the heart of what I am focusing on more and more and what I am helping others to do as a hypnotherapist. Dolphin came to me as Grandmother Moon had come to Dolphin: to give the gift of how to experience and explore Dreamtime/Otherness and thus expand consciousness. In place of the fractured, fearful, heavy breathing that accompanied the eruption of otherness in a brutal way into my life 42 years ago, Dolphin showed me a new way of breathing: easily, rhythmically, confidently, softly and deeply into my expanse of Spirit.  I can only pray that, into the lives of my Vietnam comrades, as well as into those of my brothers and sisters in Iraq and Afghanistan, this very different altered state, this Otherness, truly sacred and altared, will someday swim and spin and whirl and jump with utter joy.

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So, Dear Reader, what experiences of this Sacred Otherness do you have to tell?  How did they “altar” your life?

The Gift of Betrayal: A Meditation on Forgiveness

A few months ago, while working with one of my hypnotherapy clients who had been betrayed by his mother, I thought about Charlie*.   Nearly twenty-five years ago, Charlie had been my best friend.  He was also my betrayer.

We had met at a gathering of men interested in Robert Bly’s mythopoetic men’s work, which was designed to promote, among other things, renewed trust in male camaraderie.  Connecting quickly through humor and a sense of “familiarity” that had no basis in this lifetime, Charlie and I shared interests beyond those of the Gathering, like boating and fishing.  Soon we were planning outings on head-boats cruising for rockfish in Chesapeake Bay.  For my first birthday during the time we hung out together, he even gifted me, despite his meager income, a beautiful rod and reel designed for use on a boat, equipment that I still have.  Such gear and the fishing skills my father had taught me should have made me a fishing ace.  However, Charlie’s wide grin, framed by his curly blond hair, flashed repeatedly as he bested me time after time on our trips, hauling over the boat’s gunwale larger rockfish as well as bigger bluefish.  His success and his “ribbing” of me for my comparable ineptitude never bothered me, for I had not had as close and loving a male friend since my college years over 20 years before.

The only area in which I excelled compared to him was in having relationships.  I was living with Marcie*, a woman who would be my significant other for eight years before our intractable issues separated us.  I also remained connected in a fairly deep way with several previous girlfriends, one of whom, Francine*, was the individual I had seriously dated prior to meeting Marcie.  In a context I do not recall, Marcie and Francine had met in my presence; as a result, Marcie concluded with some distress that Francine was still a rival for my affections.  It was Charlie who became my confidant about this matter, though he had little useful advice for me.  Perhaps that was so because, for reasons I could never fathom, Charlie did not score well with women despite his apparently caring nature, intelligence and reasonably good looks.

Still, over time, he seemed to get closer to Marcie.  Coming to the house for one reason or another, he started spending more time with Marcie than he did with me, making her laugh in a way I could not.  Though I was beginning to get a bit uneasy over this behavior, it was not really disturbing to me until Marcie took me aside one day to express her concern that Charlie was flirting beyond friendly teasing.  I do not remember if I spoke to him about the matter, but I do know that Marcie, with my encouragement, spoke directly to Charlie; he was a bit embarrassed but backed off.  I viewed his behavior as simply the result of awkward and inept efforts to connect with a woman.

On my next birthday, Charlie arranged a head-boat trip with me and two of my other male friends.  Picking up all of us at my home before dawn so we could travel to the embarkation point in the same car, he was more late than usual with no convincing excuse. When he summarily and a bit condescendingly dismissed my concerns about missing the boat’s departure from a dock fifty or so miles away, I thought something was bothering him.  But he soon clammed up.  An hour and a half later, after scrambling aboard two minutes before the boat’s mates pulled in the dock lines, I soon forgot about the matter as the boat glided through mirror-like water and as the rising sun painted the sky in brilliant gold and red.

Around 5:00 p.m., we drove home, tired and a bit scruffy, but glowing with sun-braised skin and the triumph of hauling in an abundance of now freshly filleted rockfish.  As we approached my home, I noticed an unusual number of cars parked along the street but dismissed the perception as unimportant.  As we made our way to the back entrance, I sensed something strange was going on.  Sure enough, when I opened the six-foot high door in the surrounding fence, a chorus of friends yelled, “Happy Birthday!” Marcie had planned and now executed the first of many surprise birthday parties she would stage for me during the following years.  Soon it became apparent that Charlie was her accomplice; she had assigned him the task of getting me out of the way so she could set up the festivities secretly.

And, of course, Francine was not there and had not been told about the party.  About a month later, when I was visiting her, she suddenly became quiet and looked intently at me, obviously struggling about whether she should say something.  In the next moment, she told me that she had known about the birthday party.  Startled and horrified, I asked her how she had found out; she told me that Charlie had told her before the party occurred, for he knew from Marcie that Francine would not be invited.  When I asked her why she had not told me before now, Francine said that she had not wanted to short-circuit the surprise of the party for me; she added that, although she was hurt, she had said nothing before now because she was afraid that the disclosure would cause a rift between me and Charlie.  Now, however, because the secret had made her somewhat distant from me, she needed to tell me.

After acknowledging her understandable hurt mixed with her awareness that her exclusion was also appropriate given how Marcie felt about my relationship with Francine, I went home and told Marcie about Charlie’s betrayal.  Despite her dislike of Francine, Marcie felt compassion for Francine’s pain, as well as anger at Charlie for his cruel disclosure.  I noted to Marcie that Charlie also took the risk that Francine could have shared with me her awareness of the party before it took place; if she had done so, and I had then told Marcie, Charlie would have indirectly injured Marcie as well.  Suddenly, I realized that Charlie had also passively aggressively flirted with the idea of failing to take me out of the way by his being late for our fishing venture; had we missed the boat, there was nothing to keep us from coming home and thereby upsetting the preparations for the surprise party and consequently hurting Marcie.  In the end, for no apparent reason, Charlie had hurt not only me, but also two women I loved.

I was beyond shocked and outraged.  What devil had possessed him?

When I confronted him a couple of days later, I was shaking with anger.  I outlined the list of cruel actions he had taken and demanded to know what in hell made him be so malicious.  In response, he got really angry, mumbling that this was my fault, too; yet his reasoning was at best incoherent.  In turn, with tears streaming out of her fierce eyes, Marcie let him know how much he had wounded her.  We then asked this obvious miscreant to leave our home immediately.

A couple of days later, Charlie called to ask that I accompany him to see his therapist.  I already had wanted to dismiss him altogether, but I agreed reluctantly, not willing to let go of an erstwhile good friend if there existed some mitigating reason for his behavior that he had not been able so far to articulate.  After we had arrived at the therapist’s office and I had recounted what had transpired, the therapist focused on Charlie, asking him what was going on for him.  It took over an hour to do so, but the therapist finally concluded that Charlie’s motivation was sheer jealousy of my having loving relationships with women, of my having a career instead of the kind of mundane job he had, of my having more money than he had, and of my living in a beautiful house (owned by Marcie) in an upscale neighborhood so different from the shabby apartment he shared in a lower middle-class area that was becoming prone to crime.  In rebuttal, he implied that I, too, was at fault for having what he did not have.  His words made no more sense to the therapist than they had to me.

After meeting with the therapist, who I felt validated my view that Charlie was a nasty and spiteful individual, I summarily ended my relationship with my former friend.  Over the next year, he made overtures of reconnecting that I abruptly ignored. I considered him untrustworthy, abusive, toxic and, I must admit, a bit crazed.  And I had done absolutely nothing to deserve his disrespect and even hatred.  “I did nothing wrong” soon became my protective mantra.  It was an open-and-shut case of his guilt.  After a year, I happily never had any contact with him again and soon pretty much forgot about our connection and disconnection.

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That is, until a few months ago while I was figuring out what hypnotherapeutic modality to use with my client who had been betrayed by his mother.  Charlie’s grinning face suddenly floated into my awareness, and I knew immediately but without any clarity that what I was saying to the client was relevant to what had happened between Charlie and me.  That night, feeling perplexed and a bit apprehensive, I decided to investigate the reason for Charlie’s appearance.

Soon it was clear that his emergence in my awareness had to do with my rethinking the concept of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is usually viewed as releasing the alleged victimizer from blame and guilt and the alleged victim from anger, resentment and vengefulness.  However, as I meditated on Charlie’s actions and purpose in my life, I developed a more complex understanding of Forgiveness, one that involves four stages, each of which represents a different level of consciousness, the last being the most comprehensive.

Stage 1 Forgiveness

Not long after I had cut off Charlie, I went into Stage 1 Forgiveness.  This is the stage in which the aggrieved individual tries to harbor no ill thoughts about or intentions toward the betrayer, as long as the latter is completely gone from the environments frequented by the aggrieved, including his or her inner environment.  The reason the aggrieved person gives for being forgiving in this way is that it is not “Christian,” “humane,” or “civilized” to refrain from forgiving.  However, very often, despite often herculean efforts to suppress recollection, something may trigger remembrance of the betrayer along with one’s shock, outrage, and bitterness at his or her transgressions. Or those feelings may arise later in similar encounters with other individuals.  In my own case, while Charlie, after awhile, did not really make an appearance in my inner world in any substantive way (until a few months ago), what he represented had appeared before he came on the scene, in instances of betrayal regarding loans I generously and naively made to two other very close, supposedly accountable friends in the fifteen years before I met Charlie.

Stage 1 Forgiveness is then mostly an intellectual, politically correct attempt to do the “right thing.”  From another perspective, it is a veneer of charity barely covering unprocessed feelings that may pop up unexpectedly in diverse ways.  This is especially so when the aggrieved feels absolutely justified in his or her anger that borders on self-righteousness.  Often, friends or other individuals (like Charlie’s therapist) readily acknowledge the unremitting toxicity of the betrayer and thereby enable the black-and-white thinking of the aggrieved.

Sometimes, the aggrieved–either plagued by the popping up of irrepressible feelings about the betrayer, upset by the lip service of Stage 1 Forgiveness, or persuaded that being morosely unforgiving is really more harmful to the aggrieved than any betrayal could be–seeks help and deeper resolution from a mental health practitioner.  One of the more popular therapeutic modalities today is often called “Cutting Cords.”  The core of this process, however it may initially be presented, is the notion that psychic cords/connections, like umbilical cords, keep the aggrieved tied to the betrayer.  To remedy this situation, the aggrieved, with therapeutic help, first learns to empower himself or herself—to become not only a survivor, but also a thriver,  and thus to overcome the feelings of victimization by owning his or her self-worth no matter what the betrayer has done.  At this point, it is time to cut those cords (and in one variation, burn off the cut ends).  Through visualization, the now supposedly empowered individual gets to use some often impressive cutting device to sever those bindings forever and move on, free, finally, from the betrayer and his or her noxious actions.

Still another modality used today involves having the aggrieved individual really empty out those hostile, otherwise suppressed feelings; he or she does so by screaming profanities while pounding a pillow with fists or using a batoka (foam-covered plastic bat) to whale on a punching bag until the individual is spent.  It was the latter modality that I exercised one afternoon, nearly breaking the unbreakable batoka—How dare he do that to me and to two of my other friends!  Afterwards, I felt wiped out, but less tense and, paradoxically, more energized to move on from Charlie.

Unfortunately, the positive effects of these processes very often do not last.  The negative feelings return or persist to one degree or another, and therefore out goes any sense of a deeper forgiveness of the transgressor.  When some of the aggrieved realize that these modalities do not have lasting positive effects, they go on what feels like a pilgrimage to find the Holy Land of Forgiveness, trying along the way this process and that without much success.  Such processes might include writing a letter to the betrayer clearly and confidently indicting him or her for his or her misdeeds and then sending it, or, better still, to avoid starting a useless interchange, burning it ritualistically.  Another possibility is to visualize confronting the betrayer with his or her transgression and then envision some kind of punishment taking place.

Two other processes are notable here: Soul Retrieval, a shamanic process popularized by Michael Harner and Sandra Ingerman, and Calling Your Energy Back, which appears in several variations in New Age/Spiritual Circles.  Both processes focus on taking back the power the individual lost to the other person when the betrayal occurred.  In soul retrieval the shaman enters the spirit world on behalf of the client and retrieves the lost part of the soul; this aspect of the soul is often imaged in the form of a child who is often reluctant to return to what it conceives to be an uncertain fate with the shaman’s client, who had abandoned it many times before in the face of trauma brought by others.  Today, many individuals take their own journey of retrieval guided by a shaman in person or on CD.

In Calling Your Energy Back, the individual must be ready to retrieve, own, embody, and ground the energy/power he or she had lost to the betrayer who used it to affect the individual adversely.  In some cases, the individual acknowledges that he or she may for various reasons have even given up his or her power or not fought very hard to keep it.  In any case, the betrayed person first sees the betrayer in imaginal space, then senses the power he or she lost or gave up and sets the definite intention, invigorated by strong emotion, to take that power back.  In continuing this ritual, the betrayed person begins to overcome the sense of betrayal, realizing that the betrayer’s actions now have no power to harm him or her.

In the latter two modalities the aggrieved appears to take a small degree of responsibility for what has happened to him or her; for in each process the individual may acknowledge that he or she has given up some of his or her power to the betrayer.  Nevertheless, the focus is still primarily on getting away totally from the nefarious betrayer.

Stage 2 Forgiveness

Many of those who start out with Stage 1 Forgiveness do go beyond giving lip service to forgiveness, for they believe that forgiveness is possible and in order only after going through one of the modalities listed above.  They reason that only if they get emotionally far enough away from the betrayer can they forgive.  Unfortunately, forgiveness developed from these exercises often falls apart, disintegrating because it depends almost exclusively on protecting one’s power and building walls against the demonized betrayer.  While boundaries are very important, relying solely on them to free oneself from the other person in order to forgive often breeds more fear as one wonders from time to time if the boundaries will hold.  And, in fact, often they do not, because all of them derive from a level of consciousness where the concept of victim-and-victimizer prevails.

But, to paraphrase Einstein, the same level of consciousness that created a problem cannot resolve it.  When the aggrieved is literally at his or her wits’ end after using one or more of the modalities above—which provide mostly temporary relief—the individual may experience a shift in consciousness that pushes her or him into a more compassionate stance, that is, Stage 2 Forgiveness; now the more open individual goes to visit in imagination the world of the betrayer, seeking understanding of how he or she could become such an abusive figure.

When I entered Stage 2 Forgiveness after first demonizing Charlie, I started wracking my brain to understand, from his perspective, the mess he had created; it wasn’t hard to see at least some of the conditioning he had endured from his verbally and physically abusive father and smothering mother.  A couple of months before the betrayal, I got a hint of what was churning in Charlie, for I accompanied him as moral support when he went to trial for pulling a knife during an altercation with a co-worker. Because Charlie had no priors and had simply brandished the knife, his lawyer was able to convince the judge only to fine him and put him on probation with no jail time.   I was uneasy when I heard about Charlie’s potential for violence, which should have forewarned me about what he was capable of doing; yet, I did not give it much thought until after I had entered Stage 2.  When I did, I felt some compassion for his pain and had a dim awareness of what it was like for him to grow up deprived and thus become jealous of my good fortune.  In looking back, however, I now realize that my momentarily legitimate compassion soon tuned into pity and condescension instead of forgiveness.  For a part of me was, consciously or not, still in Stage 1 with my not-fully-processed anger and self-righteousness, as is ultimately the case for many of those professing Stage 2 Forgiveness.

Another way Stage 2 Forgiveness can go awry occurs when the aggrieved individual not merely rushes to “forgive” while repressing hostile feelings, but also and immediately focuses exclusively on the frailty, deprivation, lucklessness, and cluelessness of the “poor” man or woman who could not really help being a betrayer.  This will happen most often when the alleged victim lacks self-love, fears confrontation, worries about being abandoned, or fears that some transgression of his or her own will be found out.  When any of these conditions prevails in the aggrieved, the compassion/forgiveness is as hollow as that in Stage 1 Lip Service Forgiveness.

A variation of the Stage 2 false forgiveness is playing the martyr; the aggrieved engages in a perversion of “turn the other cheek” with the poor, misguided, unfortunate betrayer who cannot help his negative reactions.  However, such martyrdom is often really a self-righteous power trip designed to keep oneself innocent and the betrayer guilty.

Stage 3 Forgiveness

In its best form, which at least allows the aggrieved to move in a momentarily compassionate posture beyond his or her own world to visit that of the betrayer, Stage 2 Forgiveness is a step up from the coldness and emptiness of Stage 1 Lip Service Forgiveness.  Yet, even when it does not devolve into outright pity, false compassion, or martyrdom, Stage 2 Forgiveness is still divisive, still productive of a “me vs. him or her” mentality:  “I am still innocent, and he or she is still decidedly guilty, but now I understand where he or she was coming from.”

Several years ago, when I was training to be a practitioner of a type of hypnosis called NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), I discovered in one of its modalities, “Releasing Enmeshment” (RE), what I would now call Stage 3 Forgiveness.  Enmeshment in the view of NLPers is being stuck in an unforgiving posture.  Releasing Enmeshment (RE) and therefore allowing forgiveness may seem at first glance to be similar to the Cord Cutting I described above, but RE’s presuppositions are very different, as I shall explain later.  In this process, I induce in the client a closed-eyes, light trance that deepens on its own as the work progresses.  Next, I ask her to imagine the betrayer in imaginal (sometimes called etheric) space, noticing the person’s overall condition and appearance.  Then I ask the client to ask her subconscious to help her conscious mind to sense, see, feel or imagine lines of connection between her and the betrayer.  These may appear as cords, ropes, or other modes of connection of varying material, color, thickness, etc.  Some of these cords may be connected to the same portion of the body in each person, e.g., eyes to eyes, right thigh to right thigh; the ends of other cords may connect to a different part of each person’s body, e.g., right elbow of the client to the solar plexus of the betrayer.  All of this symbolic detail helps the client to understand, at a level much deeper than the conscious mind can fathom by itself, exactly how the client is connected, even bound, to the betrayer.

Then I ask the client to imagine feeling each cord in turn with her actual hands and thereby gain more information about the nature of the each connection, i.e., how strong and old it is; what its exact nature is; and, most important, who “plugged” it into whom.  After that usually long part of the process is completed, I ask the client to ask the subconscious part that made or accepted a particular connection to disclose its positive intention in doing so. This disclosure is often very revelatory for the client, who thereby deepens her awareness of what has been going on from both sides.  Next, I direct the client to ask the subconscious if it is willing to give up continuing what has become a destructive connection if it can be shown how

to get what it needs in a different, constructive way.  When the subconscious assents, I ask the client to imagine her Higher Self (which appears humanoid) standing beside her and to view the betrayer’s Higher Self forming to stand beside him.  Before the process of disconnection occurs, I ask if there is any part of the client unwilling to go along with the disconnection; if there is one or more, I help each part to find a palatable way to assent to the upcoming change.

Then, I invite the client to do one of two actions: one is to unplug from a part of her body the cord put into her by the betrayer and put the now unplugged end into the same part of the body of the betrayer’s Higher Self, e.g, from the client’s right hand to the right hand of the betrayer’s Higher Self.  The other action is to unplug a cord the client had connected, for instance, to the heart of the betrayer and then attach the now unplugged end to heart of the client’s Higher Self.  The idea is that, either way, the client and the betrayer will each get from her/his own Higher Self what she/he was inappropriately getting from the other person.

After all the connections are redirected to the Higher Selves, the next step is to ask the client to declare that each individual is now free from the other to pursue her/his own direction.  The other person may respond, positively or negatively, and then they separate.  While this process is done in imaginal space, it may have a significant impact on both parties in the waking world.  For instance, the client may find that the energy between her and the other person has changed so that they may reconcile with apologies on both sides for the misguided connections that had been made.  Or the client may feel powerfully at ease with the awareness and ending of her part in the former enmeshment and thus be able to let go of the other person with true compassion if the other person has a need to continue in his old posture.

The ways in which this modality and level of Forgiveness is different from the previous two levels may already be obvious.   First, there is no divisive, holier-than-thou attitude on the part of the so-called victim; in fact, no real victim is acknowledged since the problem between the parties is co-created—each choosing to make or accept all of the troublesome connections.  (This is so even if the one casting himself or herself as victim cannot see or acknowledge the fact of the co-creation.)  The discovery and owning of the co-creation of what were or became toxic connections and the acknowledgment of making some of them oneself is often deeply transformative for the formerly aggrieved individual.  Second, the acknowledgment of an original positive intention behind the accepting or making of a connection, even if it was or turned into a negative one, keeps the parties away from blame and self-blame, the latter usually militating against acknowledgment of co-creation and thus affirming the victim-vs.-victimizer level of consciousness.

Third, the manner of the disconnection is changed from the rather violent one of aggressively cutting cords to a more caring one of redirecting the flow of energy to and from the Higher Self for each individual.  Unlike in the cord-cutting scenario of Stage 1 Forgiveness, the originally aggrieved person does not summarily cast the erstwhile betrayer away to a fate totally unknown and uncared about.  The formerly aggrieved individual cares enough about the other that he helps the other find in the other’s Higher Self what the other can no longer get from the formerly aggrieved person.  This action is truly compassion, truly forgiveness, going beyond the mere stepping into the other’s world found in Stage 2 Forgiveness.

Finally, the metaphor of redirecting energy involves the taking of significant self-responsibility, much more than does the notion of cutting cords.  Picture the snipped cords still waving around, ready to attach in the same way to another person and thus attracting once again negative enmeshment.  In this metaphor, should the individual with a waving, severed cord make an entanglement with another person, the entangler usually does so subconsciously without taking any responsibility for doing so.  After all, the first person, in cutting cords, has already gotten rid of any possibility of further entanglement, hasn’t he?

I did not undergo a Releasing Enmeshment process with Charlie’s image, partly because for very many years I did not know about this modality and its presuppositions, partly because I had forgotten about Charlie, and partly because, when Charlie’s face did float into my awareness a few months ago, I was already equipped to go into Stage 4.  Yet it would be worthwhile to do the process of Stage 3 Forgiveness, for I am sure I would learn more about how we were connected subconsciously.  Still, by entering into Stage 4, some of what would have been revealed in Stage 3, would also emerge in this final stage, though with an added layer of awareness, as you shall see below.

Stage 4 “Forgiveness”

Stage 3 Forgiveness may seem like the ultimate forgiveness because it absolves the other person’s actions from being wholly responsible for the mess; because it shows mercy and compassion; and because it overcomes the coldness, pity, blame and self-blame that variously mar Stages 1 & 2.  Nevertheless, there is, as I alluded to above, a fourth stage, one that goes beyond all that has been said so far because it undermines the very notion of conventional forgiveness with a more embracive concept.

In Stage 3 forgiveness, the formerly aggrieved person ultimately sees that there is enough accountability to go around; but what she does not see is that she actually asked on the soul level for the alleged betrayer to do what he did.  In other words, the betrayal did not occur by chance; instead, the parties chose and planned the situation–just about every aspect of it (while always leaving room for in-the-moment, even significant changes). Achieving this awareness is Stage 4 Forgiveness. Here I present once again in one of my posts the Sethian notion that we create our own reality—no exceptions.  Moreover, what happens to us when with others is always a co-creation, no matter if our lower level consciousness is appalled by and totally disbelieving of that fact.

These co-creations are the result of soul contracts made by the individuals during the Pre-Birth Planning phase of their Inter-Life experience.  Each agrees to play a role for the other that will bring the other the experience the other needs to deepen his or her understanding of how to use energy.  Often this involves one person’s being the “bad guy” for the other, though this role can also serve the Bad Guy’s development.

I am reminded here of two of the characters in Neale Donald Walsch’s The Little Soul and the Sun.  While in Heaven during his Interlife experience, the Little Soul is imaged as a little boy who wants not so much to know about Forgiveness as to thoroughly experience it; but God tells him that in Heaven there is no need for Forgiveness; in fact, He says, the only way to do that is to incarnate and experience in it the three-dimensional world where someone does something to him that he can then forgive.  Up steps the Friendly Soul imaged as a little girl; she offers to contract with the Little Soul to help him experience what forgiveness is.  When the Little Soul asks why she would help him, she replies that he has forgotten that they have helped each other countless times to experience fully what they may at first only know intellectually.  But then she grows quieter and says that there is one thing they must remember: she may have to make her energy so dense and dark to do the horrible thing to him—which he would then have a chance to forgive—that both of them may forget who they really are: light beings lovingly helping each other understand the ins and outs of energy manifestation.

When I entered Stage 4 Forgiveness regarding Charlie’s betrayal, I pushed myself counter-intuitively to ask, “Why did I ask him to betray me?”  When I broached that question to my Inner Self, I encountered simultaneously two opposing feelings.  The first was incredulity that I could even ask such an apparently stupid question, since, while in a less expansive consciousness, I knew that I was a totally innocent victim.  The second feeling was one of relief and relaxation, for a wall dropped away so I could see my part of the contract we had made.

I began to see that in several ways, Charlie’s presence and actions in my life provided a mirror to me of some of my own questionable actions at the time, actions that I was willfully blind to.  So, I reflected, if I summoned him to be a mirror, then that means I am a betrayer, too.  Wow, that was hard to acknowledge, but the awareness gradually became clearer, if at first not more palatable.  I realized that I had not fully ended my romantic relationship with Francine, something I denied to myself, but which Marcie picked up and grieved over.  For a few months, I would insist on visiting Francine on Friday nights, as Marcie cried with fear that I would not return. I told myself that if I did not get physical with Francine, I was doing nothing wrong despite the romantic feelings I still had for her, which she tried to draw out of me without a lot of resistance from me.

However, the possibility of my becoming aware that I was, indeed, betraying Marcie was dimmed by the downright exhilaration of having two lovely women wanting me at the same time.  As I look now at that fact, I am aware that until just before I met Francine, I was almost as unsuccessful with women as was Charlie.  In not wanting to remind myself of that fact, I likely distanced Charlie in some unclear way, contributing to his sense of being isolated and “different” from me, and thus provoking him to some degree to retaliate.  And I may well have had a bit of condescension in my voice when I tried to give him relationship advice.  While my present acknowledgment of my contribution to his perspective and actions does not absolve him of understanding why he summoned me to cut him off, nevertheless, as I contemplated what Charlie was mirroring back to me, I gradually understood that he had been right in his inarticulate, but spot-on declaration that I, too, was “at fault.”

Had I not been able now to discover what I have outlined in the last paragraphs and had I still felt uneasy about what had happened between me and Charlie, I might have sought out a hypnotherapy colleague to help me go back to the contracting period in the Other World.  In doing so, I would have been privy not only to the contract’s details, but also to what we took from a past life (lives) together to develop further our awareness of the dos and don’ts of energy manipulation.  And, depending on whether my Higher Self believed that I had discovered, through knowing the details, the core wisdom generated by the contract or, in contrast, believed that there was more for me to learn from going on with it, I would have either ended the agreement on my side or re-contracted in imaginal space with Charlie to make some changes, an action that would have positively affected us both on the earth plane.

Even though I did not then have the awareness that I have now, in a couple of months I did, indeed, bring much more closure to the relationship with Francine.  (And, of course, Francine and Marcie were also co-creators, for their own reasons, of their experiences with me and Charlie and with each other.)  But if I had accepted then that I had co-created Charlie’s betrayal of me, I would have owned more easily my own darker side and its effects on Charlie and the women and possibly have mitigated those effects.  Moreover, Charlie and I might possibly have deepened our friendship; or, at the very least, had he not been able to step out of his own limiting beliefs, I would have wished him well and been very grateful to him as I pursued my own journey.

Still, beyond all the mirroring he provided of my own darkness, the greatest gift Charlie gave me through his betrayal was the chance to experience forgiveness fully and concretely.  He did for me what the Friendly Soul had done for the Little Soul, giving me the opportunity to experience and then truly let go of blaming, victimization, black-and-white thinking, self-righteousness, resentment, anger and vengefulness; for I now see that these feelings were always beside the point, even though I had first to experience them until their uselessness to heal me brought me to a place where a shift of consciousness was possible.  And, perhaps, given that Charlie probably felt that I, in turn, had betrayed him by cutting him off so self-righteously, he, too, will discover or has already discovered that in the three-dimensional world, the true meaning of forgiveness most often arises from first experiencing, often very painfully, what it is not.

What is left for me to do, clearly and sincerely, is to thank him: “Charlie, thank you for agreeing to be the ‘bad guy’ in my life at the time; thank you for being willing to sacrifice our friendship to provide an opportunity for both of us to grow in consciousness.”  Given my belief that we are all always linked intimately at the soul level, I have no doubt that Charlie is somehow aware of my change of heart, of my moving beyond any conventional notion of forgiveness, given that he had done only what on the level of Spirit I had asked him to do.

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So, Dear Reader, what has my post invoked in you?  What memories of being betrayed arise, asking for resolution through a more expansive consciousness?  What have you learned on your own about the essence of forgiveness?

*Everyone referenced in this post has a fictitious name to preserve his or her privacy.

Source of Linked Hands Image: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3574/3397030047_f2442c1bcd.jpg

Karma: What It Is and Is Not

         In 2012, in an unusual appearance for early March, major tornados wreaked horrific damage to the Midwest and South.  As I watched news clips and read newspaper accounts of the utter destruction of homes, buildings and even entire small towns, I felt enormous empathy.  And, at the same time that I listened to an elderly man weep over the complete loss of his property, I started thinking, for the umpteenth time, of the notion of Karma.

Many people would likely think it inappropriate, if not downright scandalous, to be contemplating such an “abstract” concept while such devastation has concretely diminished, if not flat out destroyed, the hopes and aspirations of those affected.  And those critics would be absolutely correct in the short run, especially if anyone  carelessly and rudely broached the notion with, for instance, that elderly man who is trying so desperately to cope with the end of his world as he knows it.  But the critics’ viewpoint would not be useful in the long run because the “abstract” notion is in fact very concrete and practical since it affects people’s thinking and thus their future manifestations.  Even so, some critics would still object because they would not want to inflict such a notion on a suffering man, a concept which they consider cruel and blaming of the victim.  Yet, such is a crude understanding of the concept.

For many of those new to the concept of Karma and its connection to reincarnation, it may mean simply that one action breeds another, particularly in terms of the old (Biblical) saying, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”  This definition focuses on sin, on apparently negative actions only, and thus does not suggest that any good that is done in one life will bring about good in another. Moreover, this definition of Karma, focused as it is on bad deeds committed in this life or another, suggests what amounts to psychic revenge: if you do something bad to me in one life, I (or someone or something else on my behalf) will do the identical thing to you in the same life or a future one.  This is compensation, “pay-back,” of the most literal sort.

So, now, if I imagine talking about Karma as outlined above at any time to the pained, elderly man, I could understand how I would be combining insult with injury, adding to his intense feelings of victimization and powerlessness the feeling of being punished:  “See, old man, what you created by your sins!  You have only yourself to blame—it is entirely your fault!  You made this bed, and now you have to lie in it!”

Besides blaming the victim, there are at least three other problems with this conceptualization of Karma: First, if Karma is supposed to facilitate major soul learning, there is very little learning involved (basically, do not do the bad deed again…or else!) that might help the person evolve into higher consciousness.  Second, because individuals who are suffering terribly physically or emotionally are immediately and judgmentally seen as having been “very bad” in this or another life, the observer may feel it justifiable to withhold compassion and to distant himself or herself from the “bad person; unfortunately, with such a decision, a major opportunity for both individuals to advance in consciousness is lost.  Third, as Karl Schlotterbeck says in Living Your Past Lives, if a person is always in reactive mode to what he/she or someone else has done in the past, there seems little way to get out of that reactivity and start something new.

Another view of Karma is that it is a manifestation of cosmic cause and effect.  While this conceptualization is similar to “an eye for an eye,” it is less personal, less moralistic, and thus less judgmental. It is more mechanical, suggesting a blind, universal law, such as Newton’s view that for every motion that is a reaction.  So, again, think of talking with the elderly man altered forever by the tornado:  “See, ol’ buddy, it is even worse than you thought—you are not even being punished, which might have a meaning, however horrifying to you.  Uh-uh, there is no meaning except that this horror just happens indiscriminately according to some meaningless, merciless law.”  That would go over quite well, don’t you think?

Yet, as Schlotterbeck notes, this view does not satisfy also because it seems to be only a part, like the view of pay-back, of a larger picture. If one shifts to a slightly different view of Karma, that of “balancing,” there is still a problem, says Schlotterbeck.  In the balancing conceptualization, bad deeds in one life may be balanced, “made up for,” by good deeds in another or by “creative suffering” often idealized by certain religious bodies.  The idea is to always balance good and bad.  However, what if you do a lot of good in one life?  In this view, in order to balance all that good, you would have to do a lot of bad in another life. Accordingly, I can say to the nice, older man, “Hey, mister, you just have to know that all this pain happened to you in this life because in another, you were just too good—how about that!—we gotta keep that balance going!” Now, that’s a kicker!

Schlotterbeck, as I do, sees all of these explanations of Karma as still manifesting a tinge or much more than a tinge of the notion of reward and punishment.  He offers a different view: Karma as action that promotes healing, that is, remembering both the Oneness of all things and the individual’s being part of that Oneness. When someone does a “bad” deed, he (or she) creates the illusion of being separate from that which he harms; in time this separation brings about pain based on the “loss” of connection, pain that can last lifetimes if it is not experienced as what it truly is.  While this process seems to suggest compensation and punishment and balancing, it is much more than that.  The process suggests that there is something in all things which moves towards Completeness, towards Wholeness.  Thus the individual who feels the pain of separation is constantly moved back toward Oneness by something within him that repeats the painful pattern of the “bad deed.” In this way the individual has countless chances really to face the pattern directly and thereby to “wake up,” to break the illusion of separation he himself created and realize himself once more as an aspect of the One.  Moreover, he learns that, when he harms another who like him is an aspect of the One, he is not separate from his harm, for he harms also himself as part of the One.  From this perspective, Karma is the repetition of a painful pattern whose primary purpose is not punishment, but recollection of and reconnection with the One (or, more accurately, awareness that the separation never took place).

This perspective on Karma seems at first much more appealing since there is no blaming the victim and no automatic, impersonal, indiscrimate, merciless and ultimately meaningless cause and effect, and no equally impersonal, distressing balancing act.  So, I now can say to the elder beleaguered by the explosive tornado, “Sir, in time you will see that your current pain is really an illusion and is based also on another illusion, that whatever you did in the past divorced you from Source.  But that separation never really happened!  Once you recognize the illusions for what they are, pain disappears and you realize you did not ever separate from the One.”  Somehow, even if this is a positive conception of Karma, I doubt the poor man, looking for a place to sleep tonight, would be interested in such a high-level, metaphysical perspective. Moreover, something here still seems incomplete and even a bit strange.  For, there is still the implicit view that something happened back then that is still affecting now; moreover, there is no satisfying understanding of why these illusions should occur in the first place!

Still Another View

         There is, however, still another view of Karma: it simply does not exist!  Let me explain.

         According to Seth, channeled by Jane Roberts, time, comprising past, present and future, is one of the “root assumptions” that frame our earthly existence.  So is space.  Here in three-dimensional reality, we operate as though time and space were absolute realities, even though they are root assumptions just of this reality and thus really distortions of what truly is.  They are, in fact, illusions—they don’t exist beyond this reality.  It is perfectly appropriate, while we are here, that we operate within these illusions, as long as we recognize them as illusions developed so that we can learn what cannot be learned without them.  This is especially true when we think of reincarnation, the notion of which is based on time.  As Seth says: “We have mentioned reincarnation hardly at all, yet here let me state that that theory is a conscious-mind interpretation in linear terms….it is highly distorted” (The Nature of Personal Reality, p. 153).

This “conscious-mind interpretation in linear terms” is also the paradigm that informs Newtonian physics, which buttresses the idea that what goes around comes around, that effect follows cause, that for every action there is in time a reaction, and that, extrapolating, retribution follows sin inevitably. In contrast, quantum physics, born at the turn of the twentieth century, disputes the notion of time so enshrined by Newtonian physics and thus, inadvertently, aligns with Seth’s view of time as an illusion. (Quantum physicists have actually found elementary “particles” that go back in time!) Likewise, nearly all mystical traditions say that time, as we conventionally describe it, does not exist; or, to put it another way, all time periods are simultaneous.

If all events occur simultaneously, then Karma, based on the notion of cause-creating-effect, cannot exist.  Cause-and-effect is an essentially time-bound concept: the past essentially creates, then, the present and future.  But if all time is simultaneous, a “bad deed” in the “past” cannot create Karma for the “present” and “future.”  Moreover, simultaneous time means that all events are causes AND effects at the same “time.”  One implication of this view is that the so-called future can “cause” a problem in the so-called present and the so-called past.  Another implication is that the so-called past is not “finished,” done with—in fact, it is still going on and can be changed by the so-called present and future which exist “side-by-side” with it.  There is, then, a constant interplay in the same moment of all “time periods.”  In Seth’s own words:

Those who believe in reincarnation will ask, ‘What about past-life beliefs?  And even if I forget the idea of guilt, am I bound to follow the rules of karma?’

Since all is simultaneous, your present beliefs can alter your past ones, whether from this life or a ‘previous’ one. Existences are open-ended.  Now with your ideas of progressive time and the resulting beliefs in cause and effect, I realize this is difficult for you to understand.

Yet within the abilities of your creaturehood, your current beliefs can change your experience; you can restructure your ‘reincarnational past’ in the same way that you can restructure the past in this present life (The Nature of Personal Reality, p. 374).

Furthermore, says Seth:

Your religious ideas have often told you that deformities at birth were the result of the parents’ sins cast upon the children, or that another kind of punishment was involved in terms of ‘karma.’….The entire idea of reincarnation has been highly distorted by other religious concepts.  It is not a psychological arena composed of crime and punishment.  Again, you have free will in the conditions of your life, given the characteristics that are your own (Dreams, ‘Evolution,’ and Value Fulfillment, p. 310).

This emphasis on free will is very germane to the notion that karma does not exist in any of the terms I have discussed in the first section.  And free will is also at the very core of the central notion in Seth’s metaphysics: Each of us creates his or her own reality…without any exceptions.  To believe otherwise is to disempower yourself, to allow feelings of victimization to drown you in powerlessness and despair.  As Seth says:

…many schools of thought over-emphasize the effects of reincarnational existences, so that often they explain present-life circumstances as a result of rigid and uncompromising patterns determined in a ‘past’ life. You will feel relatively incompetent to handle present physical reality, to alter your environment, to affect and change your world, if you feel that you are at the mercy of conditions over which you have no control….You are not under a sentence placed upon you for original sin, or any childhood events, or by past-life experience….They affect you as any experience does.  Time is not closed, however—it is open.  One life is not buried in the past, disconnected from the present self and any future self as well (Seth Speaks, p. 58).

But, hold on, doesn’t the belief that we create our own reality bring us back, once again, to the notion of blaming the victim, a disempowering situation?  It is absolutely true that each of us chooses what we experience in our world, no matter how horrible or positive.  But choosing what you create is not the same as inevitably, inexorably, unavoidably suffering the consequences of your actions.  Rightly understood, self-creation is utterly empowering, given, as Seth says above, that we have the power to make any changes we desire at any time if we discover that our self-creation does not bring us what we want. He continues, “You cannot justify or rationalize present circumstances by saying, ‘This is because of something I did in a past life,’ for within yourself now is the ability to change negative influence” (Seth Speaks, p. 181).

We are here, then, NOT to endure the inescapable suffering of karma conventionally conceived, but rather to learn all we can about how we create our own reality.  Outside of three-dimensional reality (3-D), our creations would be instantaneous; thoughts would be immediately realized into being.  Here, in 3-D, our creations take time to materialize, giving us a chance to understand the intricacies and implications of what we create and to modify or provide alternates to what we form. As Seth says, “You may have brought negative influences into your life for a given reason, but the reason always has to do with understanding, and understanding removes those influences” Seth Speaks, p. 181).

Still, why would we choose to create dilemmas and disasters for ourselves if, it seems, we do not have to, if we are not being punished for an “earlier” transgression?  The most fundamental reason for creating and experiencing the negative, as well as the positive, is what Seth calls “value fufillment.” This is the innate, Divine impulse in any entity, from every god and oversoul to every sub-atomic particle and vibrating string, to realize its infinite potential in any and all dimensions and manifestations.  Value fulfillment is the cosmic equivalent of the Army slogan, “Be all that you can be.”

Furthermore, says Seth, without forming both positive and negative creations, we would not really get that we create our own reality, that we have free will, and that we always have choices: “If only your ‘positive’ beliefs were materialized then you would never clearly comprehend the power of your thought, for you would not completely experience its physical results” (The Nature of Personal Reality, p. 99). Abraham-Hicks make this idea a cornerstone of their writings: the contrast between getting what you want and getting what you do not want sharpens your perception of what you want, spurs your creation of what you most desire, and makes much clearer that you are choosing what you experience.

The only reason for creating suffering, says Seth frequently in his books, is to learn that you have the choice not to create it.  Moreover, he goes on to say, even with all the destructiveness that has accompanied humanity’s striving to recognize and understand that we create all of our reality, there is much that is achieved: “The self-discipline learned, the control, the compassion that finally is aroused, and the final and last lesson learned, the positive desire for creativity and love over destruction and hatred–when this is learned, the reincarnational cycle is finished” (Early Sessions, #9).

The compassion and love Seth speaks about emerges from individuals’ seeking together their value fulfillment.  Before each incarnation, we make soul contracts with others to develop our potentials as far as possible in the upcoming lifetime.  This often involves one person’s being the “bad guy” and other the “good guy” to provide the contrast for each to learn more about who he or she really is.  The fact of soul contracts is another major reason why karma does not exist, since each soul freely enters into the tragedy and/or comedy that will soon be staged in 3-D.  There are then, ultimately, no victims or victimizers, and thus no karma.  Dick Sutphen says this eloquently:

We are all different as to intelligence, health and talents, and yet we are one.  We are all saints and sinners and no one is anyone else’s superior or judge.  We have all experienced suffering and we have all caused suffering.  And it is time to let go of the past.  Can you understand now that you create everything…that you are totally responsible for everything that happens to you? (Past-Life Therapy in Action, p. 103).

True forgiveness of self and other is then the achievement of what Seth calls “high intellect,” the intellectual-intuitive-emotional wisdom to realize that at the soul level, no apology or forgiveness is really necessary or makes any sense, since we all create or co-create whatever happens to us–NOT so we can grind ourselves to bits with the consequences of our actions, but so we can realize more and more of who we really are. Thus, the ultimate purpose of the notion of Karma is to realize its non-existence.

Still, because most of us have a long way to go before we can achieve this “high intellect,” we make use of the notion of Karma the way we make use of Newtonian physics.  In the macro world, which is the world of 3-D, Newtonian physics works well enough, until it doesn’t.  When we follow the root assumptions of the 3-D world to their depths, those assumptions prove baseless, especially in the sub-atomic micro world of strings and D-branes.  Yet, if we stay focused in the area where it seems to “work”—the arena where space and time seem to be what we usually imagine them to be—much can be and has been achieved with regard to understanding the dos and don’ts of using energy to create reality. Saying in another way what he constantly says, Seth notes, “Generally speaking, you are here to expand your consciousness, to learn the ways of creativity as directed through conscious thought” (The Nature of Personal Reality, p. 142).

In our learning the dos and don’ts of consciously manipulating energy, the illusory 3-D experience of linear time can be very useful (unless we forget that 3-D is not Ultimate Reality). In articulating the use of such experience, Seth comes closest to any sense of traditionally-conceived Karma by describing what he calls “natural guilt,” that innate sense of justice and integrity:  “Natural guilt is…highly connected with memory, and arose hand in hand with mankind’s excursion into the experience of past, present and future….Any previous acts that had aroused feelings of natural guilt were to be avoided in the future” (The Nature of Personal Reality, pp. 144-5).  But he is quick to say also, “It does not carry with it [as does traditionally-conceived Karma] any built-in connection with punishment as you think of it.  Once more, it was meant as a preventive measure.  Any violation against nature would bring about a feeling of guilt so that when a like situation was encountered in the future, man would, in that moment of reflection, not repeat the same action” (The Nature of Personal Reality, p. 145).

If someone who is now, for instance, a criminal had fully distinguished in childhood between natural guilt and artificial guilt, that person would not later have broken the law.  Artificial guilt is based on deep shame, on the notion that the individual who violates is at core rotten, horrific, incapable of redemption, totally unable to reflect and cease to violate again.  Through such an extremely limiting belief about oneself, either started in the current life or carried over from a past life and reinforced by an abusive family, the individual keeps creating a reality that expands his or her sense of worthlessness and self-loathing with the consequent, often violent, outward manifestations of various kinds.  If our laws and their execution were truly humane, we would, indeed, halt and incarcerate those who grievously violate, not ultimately to punish them, but rather to give them the time and space to do, with a lot of help, the kind of reflection that leads to wisdom and self-forgiveness and awareness of how we create our own reality.  Moreover, if their victims are to find ultimate release from their own rage, hatred and despair, they, too, would need to go deeply inside and finally understand how they are not, at the soul level, victims at all, but rather creators of realities filtered through limiting beliefs about life and their own power and nature.  Dick Sutphen’s words are again pertinent here:

Can you accept that wisdom erases karma?  These past lives [or past events in the current life] no longer need to affect you.  They do so only because you allow it…because you have not forgiven yourself!…Can you make it all right with yourself to release and rise above the past…the past of being a victim and the past of being the bad guy?  Can you let go of all the past situations you’ve lived and suffered?  If you are ready to truly forgive yourself, you can release all the undesirable effects right now.  You can wipe the slate clean and move forward into your present life, clear, focused, in balance and harmony (Past-Life Therapy in Action, p. 103).

Recently, I was called to be a juror; and, like many others so called, initially I was not happy to be summoned away from my life, especially since I had a doctor’s appointment for my injured toe, a meeting that might then have to be cancelled.  But I also started to feel an energy, a flow, that told me that I was going to be doing, not just my civic duty, but, more important, my duty to a soul contract.

I became Juror #11, called to render judgment on a DUI case. The defendant, a middle-aged man, was accused of driving while under the influence of alcohol, eluding police, driving recklessly, and driving 130 mph, double the speed limit, with the result that he crashed his car into a ditch and was severely injured.  Though the memories of a couple of police officers conflicted a bit, though the young prosecutor had to be helped by the judge to ask the proper questions about the chain of blood evidence, the State’s case was quite strong. While the Defense did not call any witnesses, their story was that there had been a second person in the vehicle who was the driver, while the defendant was a hapless victim of the recklessness of that driver.  But too many details provided by the prosecution made this story too fantastic to be credible.  The defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

When the foreperson orally delivered the verdict, the defendant hardly reacted, maintaining the kind of vacant, clueless look he had displayed for two days.  He wasn’t fully present, for his subterfuge created a distance between him and the proceedings.  As I watched him, I knew not only that I and my fellow jury members had done what we were supposed to do, but also that we had done what, on a soul level, he had contracted with us to do.  After the verdict, the judge told us that this was the defendant’s second trial, that the first ruled only by a judge also resulted in a conviction.  Given the incredible nature of his story and his first conviction, it seemed reasonably clear that the defendant had not wanted to acknowledge responsibility for his actions at any level. The substantial injuries he had sustained after crashing into the ditch had not been enough for him to awaken and start the process of owning his creation of his reality in any way.  He needed us, the jury, to quell our distaste for bringing judgment and pain to another human being and instead help him stop his recklessness and to do so even if it meant requiring his incarceration.  Such would become the most compassionate action we could take, even though he might not see it as such at the conscious level. Again, on the soul level, I saw what would happen to him now not as punishment, but rather as a very much needed opportunity to finally take responsibility for and open to his true self.

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So, after all this meditation, what am I to say now to that elderly man who apparently lost everything to the tornado last March?  Should I outline to him the argument I just made above to disprove the notion of karma as crime-and-punishment?  Well, of course not!  To do so would be to erect a wall of words between him and me that would not help him in any pragmatic way.  Should I then think to myself, “Well, he created this disaster with the help of the tornado for some learning rather than for some punishment; therefore, I do not have to help him”?  Seth would say no. In another example, he says “You cannot say, ‘The poor are poor simply because they chose poverty, and therefore there is no need for me to help them.’  This attitude can easily draw poverty to you in the next experience.” (Seth Speaks, p. 181). What Seth is saying here is not that you will be drawn to poverty as punishment, but that you will have missed an opportunity to learn about your own capacity for compassion, as well as for poverty, and thus will be drawn to it again in another life. (If there was not already an attraction to being poor, you would not have been thinking so much about it in the first place. The attraction might be present because, for instance, you might be wealthy in the present life and wish, at the soul level, to experience its opposite.)

The argument I delineated above is, then, not for the elderly man–it is for me, so that I can understand in general what is happening and avoid any kind of judgment, so I can develop my compassion further, and so that I can render him in the moment what he believes he needs. I would offer my compassion and other assistance, and listen to him to know where he is emotionally. After a lot of connecting through various kinds of help, I might possibly develop a hint of why he might have created this disaster.  I might wonder, for instance, if he had lived several lives living securely without anything tragic happening to him; if so, he (along with others in the area, but for their own reasons), might then have summoned the tornado to give him a chance to understand how he could develop a higher sense of security, a basic resiliency, by facing immense difficulty and getting through it. Or he might have chosen the tragedy to develop his capacity for asking for help and receiving care and caring from others, after lives of being self-sufficient and giving without opening to receiving.  Or, beneath his immediate pain, he may have wanted, by feeling the power of the tornado, to revitalize his waning interest in life through “fighting back” to rebuild.  Or he may have wanted to simplify his life by living in minimal conditions so he could move without distraction deeper into his internal life.  There are many other possibilities to account for his creation.

No matter what, however, I would do my best to stay as long as I could in the state of “high intellect,” being consciously in both the 3-D world and beyond, and understanding the validity of the useful ficiton of the 3-D world while not being completely blinded by it.  In that way, Spirit would guide me to know in just what ways I could meet the terms of our soul contract and aid my companion soul in his value fulfillment while thereby advancing my own.

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Roberts, J.  (1986). Dreams, ‘Evolution,’ and Value Fulfillment, Vol II.  Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall.

_______.  (1997- 2000).  The Early Sessions, Books 1-8.  Manhasset, N.Y.: New Awareness Network.

_______.  (1974). The Nature of Personal Reality.  Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall.

_______.  (1972/1994).  Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul. Novato,CA.: The New World Library.

Scholotterbeck, K. (1987). Living Your Past Lives: The Psychology of Past-Life Regression.  New York: Ballantine Books.

Sutphen, Dick, & Lauren L. Taylor. (1983, 1987). Past-Life Therapy in Action. Malibu,  CA.: Valley of the Sun Publishing.

A Meditation on Judas

Though I am no longer what I would consider a Christian, every Easter I think about Judas.

Growing up Catholic, around age 12, I attended religious instructions to prepare for my upcoming Confirmation, the process by which Catholics consciously affirm that they are willing to die for their faith. But, while I was always drawn to things Divine, partly because of a pious mother, I was starting to think for myself, starting to wonder about whether the concepts I was being taught by the nuns were making sense.

During one of the weekly lessons, I recall when our nun—was she Sister Mary-Joseph?—started to talk about Judas, the Arch-Nemesis of the Good. In her rendition of him, which embellished a bit on the Biblical text, he appeared as a thin, pale, anemic and angular man permanently hunched over the way most villains have been melodramatically portrayed. How could he not be such, this infamous excuse for a human being who would dare to betray the Son of God for any reward, not to mention the legendary thirty pieces of silver? Suitable gasps of horror escaped the lips of my fellow students, while the Good Sister, nodding approval, pursed even more her already pursed lips.

I, meanwhile, sat deep in thought, thinking about how other presented doctrines, particularly the omniscience of God, squared with Sister Mary-Joseph’s portrayal of Judas and his actions. If God, I remembered thinking, is all-knowing, then He had to know from all eternity, that Judas was going to inform on Christ. Moreover, if Judas had not brought the centurions to the Garden of Gethsemane and kissed Christ to point Him out, there would have been no Crucifixion and no Resurrection, the latter being the most important event in all of Christianity. Somebody had to take on that role. Somebody had to take the rap and be cursed throughout the succeeding centuries. That person did not have a chance—he was set up; he could not have not chosen to be the Betrayer. So why was Judas the “fall guy” for this betrayal of betrayals? What had he done to deserve this horrible and crushing fate? Nothing in the Gospels suggests that he was a heinous individual before the betrayal.

While I am certain that, when I was twelve in that classroom, I could not have said anything quite as articulate as the reasoning above, I did raise my hand and, when recognized, did stand up and say something about what seemed like the grossest unfairness of the situation facing Judas. I was truly perplexed, hoping that my mentor in black and white would make sense of what seemed horrifying nonsense. But I recall that a chilling silence immediately prevailed as I looked at the immobile nun, arms interlocked at chest level, who must have experienced, for a moment at least, what I would now call “synapse failure,” a disconnect in the brain. Then, after an interminable second, only her lips moved, barely, as she voiced in an even, but hard tone, “Sit down!”

So I sat down. But I didn’t shut down. For years the enigma of Judas’ fate and the nun’s response continued to annoy, unsettle, and intrigue me. Looking back, I now know that the nun’s reaction was perfectly created to set me on the course I needed to take: to find my own answers in sources other than conventional authority. Yet, as my general education became broader and broader, I still could not find anything that could come close to granting me a satisfactory answer, even if I had known what “satisfactory” meant.

Then one day, I went to see Zorba the Greek playing at the local theatre. I was enraptured with Zorba’s (and, by extension, his creator’s) zest for and exuberance in life. So, I sought out another of Kazantzakis’ works and found The Last Temptation of Christ. As I settled down to read this magical text, I found myself in a powerful trance that, nevertheless, felt more like reality than the reality I had known. When Judas came on the scene, I was transfixed.

For here was a rendition of the man that Sister Mary-Joseph could never have imagined, or, if imagined, would have had to reject or face possibly a permanent synapse failure. (While I did not check my memory by skimming the novel before writing this post, I am telling you here what was imprinted on my consciousness about Kazantzakis’ portrayal.) If Sister Mary-Joseph could embellish the Biblical account, so, too, could Kazantzakis. Onto his scene strode, not the mousey, sniveling Judas of St. Mary-Joseph’s imagination, but rather a behemoth of a man, a mountain-man type, with huge muscles and stalwart stature.

This Judas was not only a disciple, but also a confidant and protector of Jesus. As a bodyguard, he accompanied Christ everywhere and swore allegiance to Him.

While this image of Judas was startling enough to me who had been programmed to think of him as extremely different, there was one scene between him and Jesus that brought shivers and tingles to my body, that made me jump from my chair and walk with great energy, arms gesticulating in triumph, around my room.

In this private scene, Jesus tells Judas that he has something very important and very sad to tell him. Wanting to ease Christ of any burden, Judas is very eager to hear the disclosure. Jesus goes on to tell him that he, Christ, is going to be betrayed, arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Upon hearing this news, Judas is outraged by what his beloved Master is about to endure; and he is immediately ready and willing to crush the betrayer, fight the authorities and even take Christ’s place and be executed.

With great compassion, Jesus looks up at this man who, to confirm his faith in the conventional way, was more than willing to give up his life for Him; Jesus then says, “No, Judas, you have the harder thing to do…you have to betray me.” It still chills and thrills me to repeat those words.

Finally, I had found the answer I had craved in my youth. My intuition that something was not quite right with the conventional story of Judas was validated by an author who wrote, not from doctrine, but from the deepest well of his heart. In betraying Christ, Judas was not acting as the demonic figure he has been labeled as, but rather as the most loving friend who sacrificed his public honor and legacy for the sake of his Beloved Master and His Mission. Judas then agreed to, chose to, do what on the outside was viewed as the most despicable act, but whose true nature was not discovered and articulated until the heart of one, Kazantzakis—who loved life, often, like Zorba, in the face of death—dared to speak it.

Such was the Sacred Contract, to use Carolyn Myss’ words, that Judas and Christ had with each other, the former probably in order to experience and pledge the deepest love possible, the other to set in motion a covenant of Love, no matter how distorted it would come to be by his followers. In effect, Judas went through his own Confirmation by sacrificing, not his body, but rather something more important—his good name—for his faith; if he had not betrayed Jesus according to their contract, if he had not believed Jesus knew exactly what he was doing and asking, Judas would truly have betrayed Christ and disconfirmed his faith.

So, now my Confirmation of Faith validates the belief that nothing happens without purpose, however as yet unknown; that, as Jane Roberts’ Seth says, we choose all that happens to us; that the Heart knows that which the Mind knows nothing about, and that we co-create freely and deliberately, often with love and atypical (even counter-intuitive) sacrifice, all of our shared reality. This is the New Understanding that rises, Easter-like, again and again, from the death of no-longer-useful and thus limiting beliefs.

Source of Judas Image: http://us.cdn1.123rf.com/168nwm/candyman/candyman1004/candyman100400183/8511695-judas-on-engraving-from-the-1800s-perfomed-by-george-lechner-in-the-oberammergau-passion-play-publis.jpg

Creating My Own Reality: Health

A few weeks ago, in an online course facilitated by Rick Stack, one of Jane Roberts’ original students, I read a quote from Seth that fixated my attention.  In one sense, it was nothing new to me, because it was a reiteration of his core principle that we all form our own realities.

But there was a bit of a twist in this iteration:

When that point of awareness strikes you truly—when beyond what you are told, beyond what you hear and read—you understand emotionally, intuitively, intellectually that you do indeed create your own reality—then, in your terms…a new kind of consciousness is born in you…You feel the birth of intellect and intuition together in a high intellect…It will come again and again, until it becomes a second, newer nature (from Seth Class Session).

What riveted my attention was the word “emotionally,” for I realized that I accepted the notion that I create my own reality intuitively and intellectually, but very rarely emotionally.  Seth was saying that without acceptance on all three levels, an individual cannot move fully into a “high intellect” that empowers the individual on a conscious level to direct his or her life in a total manner.

As I thought more about this issue, I realized that I, like many other seekers, have had moments of “high intellect” that, unfortunately, did not last.  One such occurrence took place almost six years ago while taking an advanced course in medical hypnotherapy.  I suddenly felt that I had to do something about my chronic health issues, and sought the services of “S,” one of the trainers.  Below are my notes from that experience.

Notes from Hypnotherapy Session with “S”, 8-15-06

I went in with the idea that I had to do something about my health.  I tried to get into one statement the feeling I was intuiting about my health and came up with, “I don’t want to take care of my body.”  The emphasis is not on my wanting someone else to take care of me; it is rather on not wanting to bother caring for my body.  I also felt some anger at having to care.  And maybe some fear.  “S” asked me where I felt the anger/fear in my body, and I said, “Around my abdomen.”  I also felt my hands clenched.

“S” helped me create an affect bridge with these feelings and body sensations.  She tried to take me back to a scene in this life, but I went to a scene in 1642 in England.  I was in a dungeon in England.  I was bound by steel/iron bands around my waist, wrists, and (as I discovered later) around my neck.  I was going to be left to die.  I was a member of an outlaw gang and had been caught without my family’s (wife and child) and perhaps my band’s knowing about it.  I was very dirty, with only a kind of loincloth around my genitals.  I had a lot of dark, black hair and a big beard.  I was 42.

It seems that I was probably being left to starve to death.  I was fighting against the restraints; and, when I realized that I was also bound around the neck, I started to panic.  I was trying not to believe that I was completely restrained because that belief, I thought, would make me go crazy.  I wished that I was let loose and given a chance to move and run, even if I was cut down or speared.  Being restrained was the worst fear.  I remember thinking that if I did not have my body, I would be free, free from bodily suffering.  I was angry that I had to worry about my body.

Then, when “S” asked if I saw my captors, I told her one man was approaching me with a metal cup of water, which I drank, but hated the taste and the fact that the water dribbled out of the corners of my mouth.  At that point, I flashed to an image of Christ on the cross being offered a drink on a sponge by one of the Centurions.  Then I realized that I was nailed or roped to a cross for crucifixion as one of the thousands of slaves led by Spartacus, who were crucified along the Appian way when the Romans foiled their great rebellion.  I did not stay long in this incarnation, only long enough to notice that, once again, I was restrained until I died.  Having a body was, once again, the means to suffer.

When “S” asked if I visualized any other experiences of constraint, I flashed to when I was a kid and, one or two times a year, found myself trapped under the covers that my mother had tucked in tightly.  I would wake up and feel trapped by the covers (though I did not know where I was for a moment or two) because my head was near the foot of the bed and my feet near the head of the bed.

Then “S” rolled my head and took me away from all of that and asked me to see myself in a chair a few feet in from of me and talk to me.  She asked me to consult with me.  After the suffering part of me said with anger and anguish to the other that this was not okay, etc., the other part said that it kept creating incarnations for the suffering one because it was “weak,” had not fought back against the constraints, etc.  The suffering part angrily said that it could not fight back with such constraints.  The other part said that the suffering part should still fight back, but the other part did not know any other way to offer the suffering part.

As Joe in 2006, I said that I knew I had created all of the incarnations, that I was the one who was restraining me.

Next “S” asked me to summon and picture a wise figure.  I saw a guy with extremely long white hair and beard, both of which covered his face so I could not really see it.  She asked to talk to him directly.  When she asked his name, he said, “Joab.”  As I spoke for him, I could feel him quite amused.  He told “S” that Joe’s incarnations did not see that this was all pretense, a game, to get Joe to see in a deeply real way that he created his own reality, his own restraints.  He said that Joe was quite bright, but a bit dense about all of this.  He told “S” (paraphrased):

The problem with Joe’s food intake is his belief that food makes him gain weight and maintain his chronic illnesses.  He does not realize that this belief helps him to create the ILLUSION of constraints (that to get better, he has to restrict his intake of food and bind himself to the notion of exercising).  HIS BELIEF THAT HE WAS CONSTRAINED CAUSED HIM TO SET UP THE HEALTH SITUATION WHEREIN HE WOULD FEEL CONSTRAINED (HAVING TO DIET AND EXERCISE) IN TRYING TO OVERCOME IT.  If he dissolves the other belief that he is only strong if he fights against constraint, he will find that he can eat any food he wants and exercise little and BE HEALTHY.  But because he now so believes that only diet and exercise can help him out of his health situation, he will stay unhealthy if he does not diet and exercise.  So, for NOW, he needs to diet and exercise to convince his conscious mind that he has power.  In time, he will realize that he has far more power than he has ever thought; and then the focus will not be on how much exercise he does or how much food he takes in; it will be, rather, on which beliefs he will choose to manifest in his body.

He has worked minor miracles for others, but he now needs to work for himself a miracle around his health to move to the next stage of his spiritual development.  All this setup over many incarnations is his soul’s way of getting him to see in a very concrete way that he creates his own reality, to own that his body is his creation and that he has control over its processes.  That he is sick is an illusion, but he believes in his sickness, so it manifests.

Moreover, he must understand that his body is his instrument in this three-dimensional reality, that it enables him to enjoy the beauty of, for instance, the mountains of New Mexico.  Without this instrument he could not love concretely or be, himself, part of the beauty of the landscape.  He does not have to suffer in his body to prove that he is strong; rather he must show he is strong by being willing to recognize as such the illusion of believing that his body is fundamentally ill or ill-suited for his needs in three-dimensional life.  Had he not adopted these beliefs, he would not have been a slave to his own illusions nor an outlaw from the norm of Life itself, and thus he would not have ‘suffered’ those deaths while ‘constrained.’

I was the agent of the “blood incident”** today.  When he was most relaxed and non-defensive, I was able to cause him to bleed so that he could see that he could stop the bleeding by imagining and willing it.  If he can do that, he can stop the diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.  He will see that he created them for purposes that were well-intentioned to gain him strength, but which had the opposite effect of weakening his sense of his fundamental power.  He does not need these illness any longer; in truth, he never “needed” them.

Joe needs to remember the bleeding incident.  He needs to eat and exercise in the “healthy” way his conscious mind knows UNTIL he gets it completely that what is the root issue is his negative belief(s) about his control of his body.

I then told “S” that Joab was laughing, asking me if he had done well in his “get-up” of the Wise Old Man.”  I told her that I told him that he should get a haircut!

“S” then gave me a lot of relevant suggestions about living in my body for the joy it brings and its use as an instrument of transformation for me and those people I have yet to help.

**Blood incident:  This bizarre incident started right as “T” (the facilitator) was counting us out of the group hypnosis designed to send healing energy to people not in the room (such as “L” and “C” last November).  I felt some “liquid” running down my back on the right side, over my kidney.  I thought someone sitting in back of me had spilled some water on me.  But when I reached back, touched my shirt, and then looked at my hand, two of my fingers were covered in blood.  I was a bit freaked, and put my hand under my shirt in the same place, only to get more blood on my fingers.  So I immediately got up and went to the bathroom.  Synchronistically, one of the other students who is a doctor, “happened” to be in the hallway at the same time, and I asked him to come into the bathroom with me to investigate the bleeding.  When I took off my shirt, I found it soaked in blood (even staining, I found out later, the back of the chair I had been sitting in) and my back smeared with it.  I wondered if I had cut myself.  The doctor, “G,” wiped away the blood,  looking for the source and said, finally, that he thought a mole had come off because there was a minor “indentation” at the site of the bleeding.  He applied pressure and then led me hypnotically to imagine he was placing ice on the site and that the capillaries were capping and my blood was withdrawing from the site.  Well, I had some trouble imagining the ice until I touched the cool sink and was able to do some imaging.  Much to my surprise, the bleeding stopped in about a minute and a half, which is highly strange, given how much blood had dripped out and given that I am on a daily dose of aspirin which thins the blood and extends the time needed for coagulation.  I now believe, as Joab, said, that I was supposed to see that I could control my body.  And I could not understand how the mole got ripped out.  I do NOT remember any scratching of that area; and even if I had done so unconsciously, it would have taken a lot of painful digging to get the mole out.  Just amazing!

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So many of the individuals who now come to me for spiritual hypnotherapy have significant  physical ailments (some of which have no medical cause) or simply do not want to be here, do not want to be embodied.  As with me, many of the people have had incarnations where they were abused in body for promulgating a new spirituality.  My experience noted above might be useful for them to know, for the best antidote to the fear of repeating such abuse is to realize, once again, that we are creating all of that because of “past” limiting beliefs that are fully present.

As I reread the notes for the umpteenth time, I, of course, wish that I could attain and retain that level of awareness I reached during the hypnotherapeutic process. I am relieved, however, to note what Seth says: “It will come again and again, until it becomes a second, newer nature.”  And that high intellect will have to come again and again and again and again.

The Safe Universe

A couple of days ago, Rick Stack, one of Jane Roberts’ original students in the ’70s, was lecturing online about the facts that each of us creates his or her reality and that the Universe is safe. Even after studying the Seth Material for over 30 years, I have had some doubts about the complete validity of these concepts, especially the latter, as have many other soul-journeyers.  Rick was telling the story of how he came to have a startling experience of just how safe the Universe is. While going to a restaurant with other students after a Seth class, he had “accidentally” walked through a plate glass window of the eatery and had shattered it.  He had sustained a couple of cuts that required just a few stitches; but most people, as you could imagine, might well have been very seriously injured, if not killed.  The next week, when Rick went to class, Seth, speaking, of course, through Jane, told him that he (Rick) had created this incident so he could experience what Seth has always said: that this is a SAFE universe.

Atlanta, Georgia

This past Tuesday, when I was driving to the Atlanta airport after finishing a business gig, my GPS suddenly lost juice (ostensibly because, I found out later, the rental car socket for the charger wasn’t working properly); I found myself in the midst of six lanes of very heavy and seemingly dangerous traffic in the middle of Atlanta.  I did not really know for sure where the airport was, but I hoped I was probably going in the right direction.  Still, I have to say I could feel major panic starting to rise in my gut.   Thankfully, instead of giving into my growing terror, I surprised myself, asking what else I had available.  When I noticed my iPhone, I squeezed over to the shoulder and stopped–not always a good idea–clicked on my blinkers, and typed the address of the airport into the iPhone’s GPS.  It was not going to be very efficient because of the small screen and my difficulty in looking at it while trying not to hit anyone.  Then I called in the angels, big time, and told them I would stay on the main highway until I, hopefully, saw a sign for the airport.  And, after 20 minutes, that was what happened.  Then I realized that I needed to get gas or pay heavily for it at the rental place.  But I realized that if I got off the main highway, I might not find my way back on.  So, I resigned myself to paying $8.00 a gallon and just followed the signs to the rental center.  When I got there, I told them what happened with the charger.  Well, they did not charge for the gas, especially since, to my surprise, I had used only about 3 gallons!!

While it all worked out well, I had to ask why I had created this potentially dangerous situation.  Even when it was going on, I had the sense that I was creating what happened because of my chronic fear of being away from home in an unknown place and having to depend on various technologies to guide me to my destinations on time.  Moreover, before I left the rental car place, the attendant had warned me that the charging socket might not work in this kind of car, but I did not fully check out that possibility since the charger light was steadily on!  But there was another level to my creation, as I found out when I suddenly remembered Rick’s story and realized that I had created my own dilemma to experience the very same thing: the safe Universe!  The next day, though I was very tired from my trip, I felt better than I have felt in a couple of years, more energized, hopeful, grounded.

Barcelona, Spain

Reflecting on my experience in Atlanta reminded me of another, earlier incident, this one in Barcelona that had a less happy outcome.  My wife and I were taking a cruise in the Western Mediterranean last October and decided to stay in Barcelona, the embarkation and disembarkation point, for a couple of days before the cruise.  I was hesitant to stay in such a big city known for its pick-pocketing, but I did so to please my wife.

The first day went generally well, but it was evident to both my wife and me that my fear of being in strange places where I did not speak the language was at an all-time high; my fear adversely affected our fun as I nixed some of my wife’s ideas about leaving the relative safety of a bus tour to wander in sections of the city.  Later, after preparing to go out to dinner, we walked to Rambles, a very busy, pedestrian section, and went into St. Joseph’s Market, full of brightly colored fruits, vegetables, candy, and meats.  I began filming and taking pictures, while checking every minute or so for my wallet in my left front pocket.

Suddenly, I could not touch the wallet—it had been stolen without my feeling anything!  I was outraged, shaken and scared as I realized that the wallet contained about $900.00 in cash, two blank checks, two credit cards, my medical cards, and my license.  I could hardly contain my feelings of violation as my wife and I walked a long way to the police station to make a report.  While there, I used a toll-free phone to cancel my credit cards. Later, when I got on the ship, I used a cell phone at great cost to contact my bank to cancel my checking account.  After getting home 10 days later, I got a new license and had to make several calls to my medical insurance sites to get new cards.  In short, restoring some of what I lost was a monumental hassle.

But more was going on beneath the obvious: very shortly after the theft, as I was walking to the police station, I struggled to avoid falling into victim consciousness. I pushed myself into owning that I had created this reality by drawing the pick-pocket to me though my strong, long-time fears of being robbed in a foreign country.  As I kept reminding myself of Seth’s view that there are no accidents, no real victims, only manifestations of our own negative, limiting beliefs, I managed to prevent my slide into a deep, dark hole that would have ruined the rest of the trip.  What helped me claim ownership of what happened was the realization that I had done something unusual before leaving the hotel: I had carried with me all those things I listed above as stolen, when, usually, I would bring to dinner only one credit card, perhaps my license, and only enough cash to cover the check; and I would have kept those things in a carrying case hanging from my neck inside my shirt.  I was thus in a deep, ungrounding trance caused by my negative beliefs.

Yet, another, positive belief, that I could indeed prevent complete catastrophe, was also operating and prompted me to leave the rest of my money, my iPhone, and my passport back at the hotel.  I had also “arranged” for the theft to happen when I was with my wife, who helped me settle down and retained her own credit cards.   Moreover, these positive beliefs also allowed me to collect from our homeowner’s insurance almost half the cash I had lost, an opportunity I had not known was possible until my wife wondered about it.

Because of the Barcelona incident, I believe that I handled the Atlanta situation in a better way because I saw more quickly what was emerging from my negative beliefs and changed them by believing that I had more resources than I would have thought.

Truly believing that the Universe is safe is definitely NOT second nature to me; hence my creating, repeatedly, situations that offer opportunities to really, deeply tune into the notion.  As Seth has said, embracing the notion that we create our own realities must be achieved on all levels, not just intellectually.  While I firmly grasp the concept on an intellectual level, embracing it emotionally is much, much more of a challenge. Through the experiences in Atlanta and Barcelona, I did get something more of an emotional as well as an intellectual understanding of that seemingly elusive belief.

Fully embracing the notion that one creates ones reality has everything to do with acknowledging that the Universe is safe.  When I am feeling that the Universe is unsafe, it is because I am viewing it though a complex of limiting, negative beliefs.  What I am experiencing then are all the manifestations of my own fear.  The greater the fear, the greater the reinforcements of that fear in the outside world.  When fear is rampant, it blinds me to anything else that I might experience in that moment that would alter my perception and enable me to feel and be safe.  My fear sends out a vibration that brings to me that which is, indeed, fearsome.  But, if I believe fully that I create my own reality and believe that I am safe, I will be so, no matter what is going on in the outside world for others.

By the way, I have often wondered what was happening within my co-creator, the pick-pocket.  The contract we made served both of us!

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