Since November of 2019 I have been engaged in a journey through the layers of grief and release.
Lately it’s been tough:
I realized that an old anger has returned – but maybe it’s been there all along and I hadn’t wanted to see it until now. It’s somatic anger, a clenched jaw. Okay not only anger resides there, fear too, tension, anxiety and oceans of sadness and grief. I can easily see the locus of it all – originating in an oppressive family system, wounding from childhood sexual abuse.
In my work as a healer I was assisted in temporarily shunting the anger aside which meant relaxing my jaw and releasing the tension. The fear also jetted away. I held the sadness behind a dam in a distant neutral land while I filled my body with light.
What remained was love. Such an abundance of sweet love. Impossible to describe I was able to fall back asleep sometime after six am.
A Dream Came:
The headlines read:
300 billion automatic weapons worldwide have been turned into the UN
and melted down into scrap
People from everywhere the Americas to Asia joyously turned in their automatic weapons to UN Stations throughout the world where they are now being melted down into scrap.
The above was in the headlines of all the papers, all over the internet and on television. All the people bringing in the guns were doing so spontaneously of their own volition. They reported they were no longer as afraid and didn’t need automatic weapons. They still had shotguns for hunting.
Some Meanings for the dream:
On the surface a sweet vision.
Given the work I did of letting go of anger/fear/anxiety to immerse myself and my body in love – the love that was already there
And mix it with Light
It removed the fear and anger that had sequestered the Love and let it out and manifested as a dream of peace
I look at the dream as being a remedy to my thought-forms of exclusion and how my anger / fear and anxiety – as well as sadness / grief has contributed to a violent world (thoughtforms).
The dream, then was a manifestation of love healing angers, fears, anxiety and sadness in me and the turning in of the automatic weapons (with joy) [weapons as random angry thoughts – perhaps] into a world of love and inclusiveness.
Having extricated myself from the river of grief (and now on a boat floating on it)* I’ve also noticed its smudge is everywhere. Having done a small bit of work on my relationship to grief I see it now as slightly separate from me. There are few people who are completely free of grief’s smudge, though through denial we like to think that we are. It’s only those who are working on being present that may have overcome grief’s longer-term effects.
In the hierarchical epoch of the patriarchy everyone is in a state of grief or loss
Many become fully immersed in the river of grief and never fully release it, but think that we have done so. It’s more likely that we live it’s smudge without knowing its stuck or smeared on us and we carry it with us everywhere. We’ve resigned ourselves to it, accepted it and cognitively reframed grief as a fact of life to assist in our survival.
In the hierarchical epoch of the patriarchy everyone is in a state of grief or loss throughout the life span. Only those who have achieved a modicum of mastery or a state of transcendental enlightenment may have overcome the savagery of grief’s toll.
Symptoms from the smudge of grief:
Longing for / romanticizing the old days and angry about current life in juxtaposition to the old days. Anger becomes a way of life possibly oscillating between grief (sadness), fear and anger. Attachment to the old romanticized “past” to the point of putting the brakes on politically and a desire to return to the promise of simpler times.
Giving up or trading in on simple happiness in the present for a perfectionist idealized past or future.
Addicted to a substance outside ourselves (not drugs or alcohol per se) that we believe will make us happy and feel secure (more money, better job, etc.). Existential addiction is about filling a hole inside us that has grief as one of its contributing emotions.
Rationalizing and compartmentalization of grief experiences. We often unconsciously model our expressions of grief based on our parents’ behaviors, attitudes and beliefs. The greater the intellectualization / fearfulness of “weaker” emotion states such as vulnerable emotion states – crying when sad, or frustrated then the more shame and constriction may become part of the grief process often truncating the process.
We often have expectations that the stages of grief happen “in-order” one time and “we’re done” with this.
I’ve seen many people in mid-life 40s to 60s (possibly younger) where grief is interrupted – a person shuts down their grief process and gives up on their inner world collapsing into their parents’ belief systems partially or whole-heartedly. It is at this time that they begin to romanticize their past and adopt old-world belief systems to cope with change.
For the people that allow for grief or any emotion such as love or joy to come and go they have loosened their attachment to past and present experiences and can face the fear of change in a less rigid fashion. However due to our ego we are all subject to attachments that grief and/or loss creates to one degree or another.
Loss is an intrinsic part of our lives.
Grief is closely allied with attachment. The very nature of being human is an identification to an idea, a person, a relationship – in short to the “stuff” of life. Attachment is the foundation of identity and memory is its tool. Attachment is at the root of unnecessary suffering. The greater the attachment to a person, wife/husband/partner, a child/son/daughter, a family, a community; a job, to an idea, to a belief and so on the more grief surrounds the loss. As humans we are all programmed to avoid feelings of loss to one degree or another based on our identity and beliefs.
Humans cannot bear loss.
Loss is an intrinsic part of our lives. Some loss we choose, such as quitting a job or relocating, this doesn’t seem so bad because we feel in control of the nature of the loss. Nevertheless, we still feel it. Deciding to move out of a relationship and although this is a loss we control it can break our heart. Other losses go deeper. The loss of a loved one through death is one that immediately comes to mind. When we experience early childhood trauma such as mental, physical, spiritual and/or sexual abuse by a parent or relatives perhaps this is the most pernicious grief of all. A parent with whom we feel love perpetuates an act of sexual abuse or worse. There is the love and there’s the violation, the confusion and the grief. This is loss and grief based on intimate attachments.
Loss and grief have become systemic in an increasingly divisive world of the hierarchical system of the patriarchy. In this kind of world there are winners and losers. The winners appear to be the super-rich and the powerful who sometimes even without knowing it oppress those without money and/or power. Many are driven to become winners through achievement and there is nothing wrong with this. It becomes insular and selfish when “others” who may be termed as losers through attributes of laziness, stupidity and are therefore cast out of the privileges of the winner-loser competition. Those deemed to be unworthy of playing the winner loser game are the invisible people, the poor, the people in prison, the homeless, women, minorities, immigrants, the list goes on; under the heel of racism, sexism, ageism, leftism for example. The class system in the USA has always been apparent to those left out. The struggling middle-classes bear the brunt of the heel of oppression by the rich by accepting less wage parity, while clinging to the myth of “work hard and you’ll succeed”. The winners are also losers because of attachment to and /or the addiction in this situation because of the need for more power, more money, more fame. There is never enough. Slavery to “more” makes the so-called winners, losers on an endless wheel of acquiring “more”.
our birthright is happiness and enlightenment
Humans cannot bear loss. Addiction is a prime example of how loss is unbearable. When therapies focus on what’s in the way of a healthy lifestyle in order to assist with healing an addiction this leads to an inevitable confrontation with loss. Looking at loss in this way is emotionally overwhelming. Healing the addictive process through a focus on obstacles fails. We can’t bear loss. This spans the gambit between addictive substances and relationships. In order to confront loss and the grief we feel from loss, we must replace the loss with something positive. When we focus on the positive replacement of the loss in present time then loss can be slowly ameliorated.
For example: I chose to breath cleaner air when I weaned my way off of smoking cigarettes. The clutching, grabbing neediness in me began to fade. It’s been 37 years since I chose to breathe cleaner air instead of inhaling smoke from cigarettes. That was easy compared to the heartbreaking work of releasing grief from the wounds of incest.
Underneath loss and grief is love. Love holds all other emotions. I also remember the words of Malidoma Somē – grief is the most common human emotion.
Attachment can only be released for a very short time.
Grief is the most common emotion because our lives appear to be about loss. As children of Western Civilization, we a trained to look outside ourselves for happiness. Even in the US The Declaration of Independence we are encouraged to push for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We don’t necessarily see that our birthright is happiness and enlightenment and that we are peeling away the illusion that prevent us from feeling it. We assume that feelings of fulfillment, peace and enlightenment are “over there” to pursue.
Corporal life is temporary, life of spirit transcends death. There is small love and big love, neither of which can be compared with the other. Small love may feel big when we have a partner with whom we are bonded and they pass away, cheat, or betray us and/or themselves. Big love will always hold a connection with one that has passed that seemingly impenetrable boundary of death. The longing may be excruciating and unbearable, staying present and reaching out to friends and professionals for help is one step in staying present. It’s not the only path.
Emotional maturity (EM) can be characterized as being able to hold contradictory emotions in awareness without a strong attachment to either emotional state and feel okay or neutral about our self. Cultivating a witness self leads to emotional maturity through suspending judgement and observing ourselves and our behaviors.
Attachment can only be released for a very short time. When we think or say “I” ego returns to claim an experience that the witness has observed. That is not a bad thing it is only the way of attachment. The witness may observe our being feeling grief and joy simultaneously. This is a paradox to be sure.
I awoke letting the convoluted dreams from sleep dissolve without pressing my intellect for possible meanings.
A short time later I began breakfast preparations. I felt the warm swathe of sunshine permeate my small abode – across the kitchen floor and into the bedroom. I gazed at the off-white stone tiled floor and felt a profound peace and happiness in the smallest of details.
I smiled to myself and thought / felt:
I am here.
My heart is full.
Happiness in the stillness of
A morning in sunlight.
It wasn’t an “overnight success”. It took 15 years to live, skirting a mess of miserable emotions; 6 months to jockey for position; 3 months of letting go of everything including my life in preparation for the death of my body* and 6 days of resurrection into that which continues to unfold.
During the 15 years I wasn’t such a dire mess as described above. I was floating in a boat in a becalmed ocean of slime feeding on the fleeting happiness of rarefied airs. In other words, I was an expert at compartmentalization and was kept alive on the higher aspects of my work. Intellectually its difficult to fathom how excruciating physical pain was (is) held in place by unresolved – stuck grief. Emotionally easy.
*I had to die to be reborn. This was not suicide, but it was a relinquishing of everything without hope of a solution,
taking the pressure off of going to sleep by going for optimal rest.
Covid-19 Update Notes
Doctors have been writing that sleep is the best restorative aid for our immunity especially now. Stress levels are up, binging TV shows and movies as a distraction leads to later nights throwing off sleep schedules.
Add higher temps in some parts of the world and this may become even more stressful with regard to throwing off sleep patterns.
A few weeks ago I was binging watching a ’90s television show that I had never seen. In the 1990s I choose not to have broadcast, cable or satellite television. Having been off of caffeine except for an infrequent dark chocolate bar, I decided to have a cup of black tea the next day.
Not a healthy move.
Succumbing to late morning early afternoon black tea has been enough to throw off my sleep schedule by creating a second wind around 10 pm. Two nights prior to this writing I woke at 4 am with a nightmare – unable to go back to sleep I stupidly “liked” social media posts almost indiscriminately and went back to bed around 5 am. I meditated in bed falling into fitful sleep until 8 am.
Resetting Sleep Pattern with One Day of No Caffeine
I did not have any caffeine at all yesterday and did not binge on Netflix or Prime and I was able to reset my pattern of 8 hours sleep.
My ordinary day-time schedule was nullified.
Without sleep, thoughts were jumbled I felt and acted stupidly throughout the day.
Work from home was impossible. I reminded myself several times no tea or chocolate. And no Netflix, Prime or long You-Tube videos especially in the late evening.
Staying at Home – a plan is needed
For those that are at home and don’t / can’t work from home a constructive plan is needed:
Watch television, especially news in the day time
Sleep or nap during the day – not even on the weekend unless you have had a vigorous work-out
Stop daily task activity – stare at the walls or perseverate / worry about the future
Keep to the same or a similar schedule as when you were working and the activities associated with waking-up in the morning and falling asleep at night.
Pick an activity you can place into your schedule on a daily basis. Examples: reorganizing – sorting through clothing you haven’t used for a few years and put them in donate piles/bags; reorganizing – files and paper; deep cleaning. Art-work or a creative project especially one that may be able to be turned into a business from home at a future time. If you have something to look forward that is somewhat under your control you’ll feel better).
writing a story (for yourself) about your life so far. Or a short fiction story or some poetry. Or painting a picture.
Eat two to three meals a day – clean-up afterwards
Go for a walk or run in the morning and/or evening
Don’t watch the Main Stream News. Read News from sources you trust on-line (Facebook and Twitter are NOT News). Social Media outlets may have uplifting reports that inspire – read those. Skip political posts presently unless you are an activist with a network.)
Develop a phone tree of friends and relatives that you check in with and chat with. Remember if you want to help the person on the other end – listen and respond. Refrain from offering advice unless they ask for it. Even then what you might do and what they might do may be vastly different in other words – they may not necessarily follow your advice. Try not to get irritated when they don’t follow your advise. Consider stop giving advise and say – “I don’t know what to tell you.”
We all know the incredibly stressful world we now are required to function within at our best. There’s no way to maintain a stress-free life all together unless you engage in a prolonged meditation retreat – maybe. One of the best ways to cope with stress, anxiety, sadness or any other negative emotion is a multifaceted approach:
Tolerance – building a tolerance to stress and anxiety
Cultivating a compassionate neutral witness within
Meditation for an anchor to peacefulness / mindfulness throughout the day
Paying attention to and heeding our bodies
We put pressure on ourselves constantly. Some of this pressure is good when we need it to accomplish tasks and goals. Pressure becomes counterproductive when we threaten ourselves and our bodies with too much of it. This could be true of when we get ready to go to sleep at night; the pressure we’ve put on ourselves during the day spills over into the night and sleep becomes difficult and sometimes impossible. If we have chronic difficulties falling and staying asleep we may reach for prescription pharmaceuticals / supplemental sleep aids to fall and stay asleep, or we may use street drugs.
Taking downs to get off to sleep And ups to start you on your way After a while they’ll change your style I see it happening every day
Oh spare your heart Everything put together Sooner or later falls apart There’s nothing to it, nothing to it
The downs can easily translate into alcohol or a prescribed medication at night and coffee and/or energy drinks throughout the day.
After I became caffeine free the first time and my energy level balanced out I saw that coffee didn’t give me more energy, it just took the energy I had and bunched it up because there was always an inevitable crash. My sleep patterns were the worst for it too. Working swing shift and nights didn’t help either.
Then I began taking control of my sleep which meant taking control of other aspects of my life too:
The Ultimate Sleep Hack So Far
Change the name of going to sleep to Optimal Rest instead of pressure for sleep. If you fall asleep during your optimal rest period it’s a good bonus.
caffeine can disrupt your sleep up to 11 hours after you drink it
I’ve worked for over 20 years in the mental health field facilitating groups on relaxation, meditation, and sleep hygiene (no, this does NOT mean washing yourself while you sleep).
Sleep is part of a daily cycle. Children and teenagers need more sleep sometimes up to 10 or 11 hours. Adults average about 8 hours up to the age of 55. Those over the age of 55 can get by with less sleep – about 6 hours, yet 8 hours is still optimal. These figures are not set in stone and there are always exceptions to every “norm”.
Your bedroom should always be slightly on the cool side
Since the time of the industrial revolution mainly the advent of electric light and more recently television, computers, smart phones and the internet the natural rhythms of our bodies have been disrupted due to light pollution.
Immediate Preparations for Optimal Rest
Before Sleep – The Experts Report– Our bodies adjust to light dark cycles so if you’re having trouble sleeping at night you may want to consider making changes to your daily routine:
Exercise – in the morning or afternoon. Avoid exercise in the late evening especially when its dark (absence of sunlight). Exercising after sunset or in the dark can signal your body to become more awake or alert. Exercise is important for a good night’s sleep even if it is a short or long walk in the morning, afternoon or early evening.
Caffeine – The experts report that caffeine can affect your body and disrupt your sleep up to 11 hours after you drink it. This can affect your ability to fall asleep and your ability to stay asleep. If you’re on a daytime work schedule consider stopping all caffeinated beverages at 11 am. Some keen observations of the effects of caffeine backed by science basically report that stimulating the body takes the energy that one ordinarily has and pumps it up leading to an inevitable crash if too much is ingested.
Television, Smartphone or Computer/Tablet use – excites the brain. Sleep experts recommend to stop using these devices at least 2 hours before retiring.
Snacking – Sleep experts recommend that you wait 3 hours after eating to go to sleep for a better night’s sleep. Two factors are implicated in this suggestion. Because your metabolism slows at night our bodies have difficulty digesting food and sleeping. Also there is a nighttime body metabolism at work and eating right before bed can effect this metabolism and disrupt sleeping patterns.
A Technique – If you do sleep poorly and assuming your morning is sunny you can re-set your body clock by sitting in the sun from 40 to 60 minutes soon after you rise.
Sleeping Timing – experts suggest going to sleep at the same time each night. I have observed that this has to do with body memory. Disrupting body memory where we experience a burst of energy hurtling passed our ordinary bedtimes usually comes from caffeine or a late-night snack of sugary foods or refined carbohydrates.
No Alcohol Before Bedtime – I almost did not include this because many people already know that while alcohol can put you to sleep it can often wake you up several times during the night. A drink or a glass of wine or a beer with an early dinner is okay.
Minimize Electrical Gadgets in your Bedroom – a lamp is good with an incandescent bulb and is best for reading and a feeling of warmth. An alarm clock without excessive lights if you need one is okay but not an alarm on your electronic device. Watching television in-bed, surfing the net from your smartphone or tablet is bad for your sleep hygiene. Best to turn off your cell phone or tablet if you are keeping them in your bedroom.
Light and Temperature – Your bedroom should be as dark as possible, no light at all. But if you startle waking-up in a dark room, a light in a different room or a very dim nightlight is okay. If you have equipment such as a CPAP machine prescribed for your sleep then of course that’s okay. Your bedroom should always be slightly on the cool side, in summer and winter. Our body temperatures drop at night and by cuddling with ourselves under the covers we warm to an optimal sleeping temperature.
muse on your day, begin the letting go process
Sleep Position – The best positions for optimal rest and/or sleep is sleeping on your back*, left and / or right side. Sleeping on your back is best for your spine, neck and head less likely to experience pain. It helps lessen acid reflux with your head elevated on a pillow. *People with sleep apnea – sleeping on the back could be dangerous and lead the tongue to block your esophagus. Sleeping on your side is the popular position and reduces acid reflux. Snoring is reduced as well. Sleep on one’s side are the best positions for those with sleep apnea.
One to Three Hours Before Sleep – These are nightly rituals, that when I use them, they assist me in getting a better night’s sleep. Admittedly I don’t use them as much as I could. Before you begin Your Wind-Down sit with a pad (not an iPad, Tablet or Smartphone) and make a list of what you want to do tomorrow (if that’s your thing). Writing pen to paper is a way to disconnect from electronics and their effects.
Most people in the post-modern world have acidic diets. These kind of diets contribute to and may exacerbate inflammation – chronic pain especially at night during sleep. I’ve been experimenting with sometime a friend suggested: 1 teaspoon baking soda combined with a glass of fresh squeezed lemon juice from one lemon. I was told that it turns your body alkaline. Take at night before going to bed. If you experience chronic pain at night this is one more way to help reduce that pain. I find it helps somewhat.
Your Wind-Down – Begin with a hot beverage – an herbal tea, or warm milk, or A-Non-Alcoholic-Hot-Toddy-for-Sleep while sitting on your couch or in a favorite chair. As you begin to enjoy your beverage muse on your day, begin the letting go process. I spend at least five to ten minutes feeling the relief of putting the day into perspective and allowing the anticipation of surrender into sleep. Then I may engage in reading a book and / or listening to soft music, though this can also be done after bathroom prep – while in bed.
Bathroom Prep Before Bed and What Remains to do: Next take care of brushing your teeth and all those to-do things before lying down to engage in optimal rest. If you take medications or supplements that aid in you in resting / sleeping more effectively know that there is a 30 to 40-minute period of digestion before they take effect. If you take sleep aides and push yourself beyond the 30 to 40-minute digestive cycle the medications will either be less effective or won’t work at all.
By getting in bed at least during 30 to 40-minute period before closing your eyes, plan on reading, listening to music or doing some breath work, but ideally this should occur after taking medications and/or supplements.
LET GO AND BREATHE
Immediate Preparations for Optimal Rest
I may first intend that I will let go into sleep and sleep straight through the night without waking up, feeling refreshed in the morning upon awakening.
These other techniques can be used in preparations just prior to closing your eyes or if sleep doesn’t come.
The Body Clench – this is a systematic clench of muscle groups and their release in your body. Begin by scrunching up your feet and clenching your toes. Don’t let go. Next tighten your calf and thigh muscles, then tighten your butt muscles, your chest and abdomen. Next make fists and tighten the muscles in your forearms and biceps, stretch your neck by moving your head towards your chest and scrunch up the muscles in your face.
Then LET GO AND BREATHE.
The idea is to make your body tighter so you when you release the tight tense muscles also release and allows your body to move into a more relaxed state.
Don’t beat yourself up because you’re supposed to be sleeping.
Close your Eyes – (30 to 40 minutes after taking your medications and/or supplements) When you close your eyes there may be an automatic response for you to think about everything your worried about, or to criticize yourself in some way. Worry may manifest as thinking about something repeatedly (obsessing) – trying to figure it out. Or maybe you’re trying to solve a problem or review something that happened that day.
Let yourself do this for a few minutes. Make it okay. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re supposed to be sleeping even it goes on for five to ten minutes or so. Also you might want to engage in some soothing self-talk such as: “I’m a gentle person”, “I’m applying compassion towards myself first and then others” “I like _____ about myself” or think of a peaceful scene in nature – a sunset over a lake or behind a mountain, floating or flying over fields, seeing waves at the beach.
It’s okay… it’s okay… I’m safe. I can let go.
Then tell yourself that it time to dive deeper into optimal rest.
This process uses your attention to scan your body for any areas where your holding tension and imagine breathing them out (with your out-breath). Let go. Try being soft and easy with yourself as if you were holding an infant in your arms.
Next, focus on your breath. Usually, what happens when we begin to focus on our breath is that we take control. That’s okay. Breathing in this way soon becomes work. When you start to realize that it’s work, then begin to watch your breath as it moves in and out of your body without trying to control it. You’re just matching your thoughts with what’s happening in your body automatically, that can be a lot easier.
I may just practice watching my breath achieving optimal rest
Your mind may wander back to your negative or problem-solving thoughts without you realizing it. If this happens let them go and move back to your witness mind watching your breath. Sometimes a peaceful symbol – like looking at a mountain or waves crashing on a beach can be useful in releasing a worrisome thought. The rhythm of your breath is similar to waves coming to shore. As you imagine your breath like the waves you may feel the peace of waves as you picture them in your mind.
Focus on your breath in this way for at least 20 to 40 minutes. Usually what happens for me is I fall asleep, but I only know this has happened when I awaken the next morning. I realize I have released and fallen asleep.
Sometimes it doesn’t happen and I catch myself on the edge of letting go and pull myself back into a wakeful and circular thought process – a knee-jerk response. Here I may do some soothing self-talk (silently saying to myself):
“It’s okay… it’s okay… I’m safe. I can let go. I can be a deep diver. I can let go. I am letting go, letting go…”
If after 40 minutes to an hour and I’m awake I may just let myself be satisfied with continuing to watch my breath and drop into a deeper level of meditation. Or I may get up and go to the bathroom and return to bed and matching my thoughts with my breath.
Try being softer with yourself. Allow your mind’s awareness to meet the automatic rhythm of your breath. In, out, in, out…
* so far – meaning that as new information for a better sleep hack becomes available it will become an on-going ultimate sleep hack…
It’s important to be acknowledged and validated. Through skillful uses of vulnerabilities our innocence may be revealed establishing a greater presence concurrent with strengthened sensitivities and a renewed connectivity.
The necessity of heralding the benefits of innocence and vulnerability originates from a society that buries these qualities under masks of suppression and repression to project false fronts of strength and as a result makes secrets. This breeds an unhealthy emotional life that is systemic in this hierarchical culture. Part of the old guard – example – the New England mindset was never to show weakness – shed a tear, admit making a mistake and so on. Many modern peoples believe weeping to be a weakness when sad. One of the meta-rules of modern culture is not to show vulnerable emotions such as tearfulness or weeping in any setting. The one exception may be a man shedding a tear in the presence of a woman partner.
innocence and vulnerability have been denigrated throughout systemic patriarchal culture
The human culture has been one of projecting strength while denying vulnerability particularly in men and also in woman especially as they gain leadership roles in business, as professionals and in government. Due to the suppression or repression of innocence and vulnerability secrets grow in strength and unconscious aberrations of these secrets are vented as a result.
A simple form of unconscious venting is projection. One day when my mother came into my bedroom and was about to say something I burst into tears for no apparent reason. She said – don’t cry, act like a man. The grief I had felt wasn’t my own and she then shamed me for it and I felt confused and shamed. When simple projection becomes projective identification, the person receiving repeated projections is passive and may feel the identity of the other within themselves (see note at the end of this piece).
innocence at the core of the individual emanates from the essence of the person
In short innocence and vulnerability have been denigrated throughout systemic patriarchal culture. What happens when innocence and vulnerability are taken out of the closet and are utilized in daily social interactions?
What is innocence?
At the core of almost every individual innocence abides throughout the corporeal existence between birth and death. Innocence belongs to the infinite and is a part of being (see diagram below).
The loss of innocence as described in psychological theory and in literature confuses infinite innocence with innocence reframed by ego. Innocence (from Being) remains and is forgotten. It is forgotten because ego, linear space-time and language in the finite world rides roughshod over innocence that appears ephemeral and illusive because we have no language for it.
masks that give the appearance of strength, dull emotion behind the fear / avoidance of hurt
Shoshin a word from Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind” denotes an attitude of openness, a boundless thirst for exploration and a lack of preconceptions. “Beginner’s mind” is innocence that springs from an eternity in the present or a beingness.
A shamanistic perspective of innocence at the core of the individual emanates from the essence of the person. The essence is a frequency of light that runs near the spinal column to the skull. It enters through the top of the skull and streams out of the end of the spine at the tailbone. The essence is the core of a person separate from ego that is most evident in a child before language develops and up to age seven when ego-identity is fixed. It is usually at this juncture that essence and innocence begin to fade.
Setting strong and flexible boundaries, allowing for times of vulnerability can lead to skills of navigating
Essence and innocence appear in many peoples’ lives but almost always by accident because ego appears to exercise control in the finite realm. On occasion when ego becomes lax innocence and essence appear and a sense of magic, mystery and the divine seem to enter.
A spiritual practice and daily inner work are necessary for cultivating a space to exercise essence and innocence to grow and mature.
What is vulnerability?
Think of innocence as a state of being and vulnerability as a kind of fluidic action that opens to innocence. Vulnerability is a kind of currency that moves from the seeming closed and acceptable state of so-called “strength” of the finite world of ego to an opening of innocence in the infinite world of essence.
Continued masks that give the appearance of strength, dull emotion behind the fear / avoidance of hurt. The muscles of emotion along with the balance of beginner’s mind atrophies reducing sensitivity and connectivity. Individuals that are maturing emotionally can begin to take risks to be vulnerable, get hurt and recover. This is about utilizing and strengthening ego on the way to mastery.
finding a safe space within oneself
Setting strong and flexible boundaries, allowing for times of vulnerability can lead to skills of navigating in an emotional landscape even amongst those who are expert at hiding any feelings behind logic and reason. Even those who wield the mask of logic and intellect have emotions that are hidden and perhaps locked away. Sometimes by skillfully allowing oneself to be vulnerable it tacitly gives permission for others in social settings to relax their guard. Sometimes vulnerability when coupled with humor whether that be a witty or self-effacing comment, the armor that others hold can be loosened. A vulnerable leader can get a sense of the emotional temperature or climate of a social space. This can be useful in either attracting someone that wishes to share or someone that craves contact.
Using mild humor, witticisms, self-effacing statements or lines where laughing is elicited is a way of managing when you may have been too vulnerable. Laughter like crying releases emotional distress. Laughter, of course is socially acceptable while crying is not. Humor and laughter cannot be planned (unless you take the ultimate leap of stand-up comedy – but no guarantees). It takes self-trust and a willingness to release something unexpected in a social context even if it is only one to one communication. Enrolling in an improvisational acting and or humor class can be helpful in accelerating uses of vulnerability in informal social settings as well as being “a ton of fun”.
In the beginning of exploring emotional landscapes one might work on finding a safe space within oneself, then expanding that space to one or two others. As a man who arose from extreme social awkwardness it took me many years to begin to access the emotional temperature of others at a party for instance. It wasn’t until my mid 40s that I began to tolerate and trust myself enough to explore my vulnerability in social situations. It took work throughout my 30s, 40s and 50s. And the work is never completed.
when ego has gained sufficient maturity can vulnerability be used skillfully
As an empath I tend to absorb the chaotic, joyful emotions and the vibrations of those drinking, smoking marijuana or using other substances though I no longer partake – am clean and sober. Now when I attend parties I arrive late usually in the middle of the evening and leave early. I contact the host or hostess to say a brief “hello” upon arrival. They’re usually busy serving and checking in with guests. I wait until I find one person of interest. Though the last time I was at a gathering the person found me. If I am at an ebullient party where wine and MJ are being imbibed, especially to excess I get a contact high off these energies (and I am nowhere nearly the smoke). If I am there from one to two hours at most then it takes me one to three hours of being alone to detox from the vibrations of the gathering.
Only when ego has gained sufficient maturity can vulnerability be used skillfully. However, the very nature of using vulnerability to open to innocence there is always a risk of emotional injury. Most people dare not expose themselves to avoid emotional injury and remain a person wearing a mask or shield. A young person in the throes of naiveté exposes themselves without regard to consequences. This is not being vulnerable – more a wild abandonment – a shot out of a cannon.
Some End Notes
Navigating emotions in social situations takes a modicum of self-awareness, trust in one-self, a strong ego with flexible boundaries and willing to take risks (become vulnerable). Taking risks means a willingness to be hurt emotionally and knowing you will recover and gain nuance in the skill set of vulnerability.
In the beginning it may be good to have an intention or a goal for possible vulnerability so you can get “the hang of it.” As you become more skilled with a higher functioning ego choosing when and how much to expose by being vulnerable will become easier. However, the risk will always be there.
Working with vulnerability, innocence and being is an art form that requires continued practice.
Ever since I was very young I saw my mission to help relieve suffering in the world. I wanted to be a therapist and work to relieve suffering one person at a time. I studied Psychology in college and received a BA.
I began as a counselor.
In 1990 I received a calling, a mandate from God.
One night before retiring I asked God what I was supposed to do with my life. In the morning I had a waking experience that lead me to a woman that was thinking of killing herself. I listened with acceptance and did not offer advice. I was about to give her the names of therapists and groups to which she replied:
“The universe put you out there to hear my call and that’s all I needed.”
She chose to live and is alive today.
As a counselor and later as a healer I have encountered peoples’ many personal realities. As a counselor in alternative mental health facilities for over 20 years I learned to listen deeply to others problems.
In the course of that work I began to let go of judgment.
When I felt their helpless I allowed myself to feel helpless with them without necessarily saying anything. Sometimes that appeared to have helped them.
All my life I have had bizarre experiences that have been “out-of-this-world”. I never spoke of them for fear of being condemned and shamed as “crazy” or “weird”.
When I moved to California in 1982 I felt that the land and the mountains accepted me and that I had arrived home. The east-coast Connecticut Yankee critic in me was very harsh regarding the “foo-foo” impressions and thoughts running through my consciousness at that time. I continued to engage in inner “spiritual” work and observed this new consciousness within me.
In 1984 was a bizarre time for me. I saw light running like blood through trees. I had x-ray vision into my left arm where there was blood pumping there was light. A nearby plant extended its light over that very arm. I decided I was crazy – I closed my eyes and prayed for normalcy. When I opened my eyes, everything returned to normal. For more follow the link: Connection to Nature via the Heart
A couple of months later I moved a pool skimmer that was caught-up on a wave-gutter of a backyard in-ground swimming pool without touching it – for more follow the link: Gateway into the Light
I saw a white-light come from friend’s heart to my heart about 20 feet away. I felt love and the warmth of friendship.
Not normal experiences.
As it has always been with my work as a crisis and half-way house counselor the information shared remains confidential so it is with the many clients I have seen in my healing practice.
Clients have come for a wide array of problems ranging from a concern over future events, physical / disease problems, opening to other worlds and many more. The intimacy I share with people is very sacred to me and I feel honored and blessed to be trusted so. I have found that there is something in me that always has transcended the Connecticut Yankee skeptic and critic inside to completely accept, honor and embrace a person’s reality with kindness and compassion. This has been a great blessing.
Each person brings the gift of their dilemma and with that a teaching for me. This completes a cycle of assisting them to solve a problem or problems while receiving a teaching. The cycle of giving and receiving is completed within each session that in-turn creates many blessings for me and the world at large.
Continually letting acceptance flow from me has taught me to embrace the shadow within, and to apply love and support to the parts of myself that I dislike and fear. The cycle of acceptance is a grace from a higher place where we all long to dwell.
When I complete a session, I feel vulnerable and in a trance of higher vibrational energies. The acceptance spills out imbued with love and compassion to include others throughout the world in a new kind of inclusiveness.
Learning is the foundation for peak cognitive processing, interpreting modes of perception and whets the appetite for knowledge. Knowledge is the foundation for understanding and lays the groundwork for transformation through the four sources. The four sources  are:
Understanding the function, process and structures of thought is a beginning to perceiving the place of cognition in a quest for knowledge. Understanding and developing cognition is a good first step in exploring consciousness on all levels. Thought and cognition lay the groundwork for all learning.
Let us start where we are.
The Function and Process of Thought in Learning
PREREQUISITES OF CURRENT HUMAN THOUGHT PATTERNS:
Without a verbal language thought may not exist or exist in a way vastly different than we can currently comprehend. Written language assists in associative memory and an imaginative re-construction of “past” memories. When memories fall outside immediate personal experiences it is referred to as history. Belief often springs from the recording of mutual so-called “past” experiences or histories. All of human thought in our current stage of development is linked associatively. Associative thought is a binary linking of one thought with another. The legacy of associative thought is predicated on memory, without which identity is severely disabled and may even be obliterated. As you might surmise memory and time are linked within the context of an unfolding present moment. Within the context of associative thought the Western Mind presents two different sets of logic: deductive and inductive. A sense that is not connected to a specific biological function that is necessary for comprehension and memory is attention. Vision for example is connected to the eye and interpreted in our neo-cortex. Attention and memory cannot exist without the other. Nevertheless attention is a key process that aids in thinking, but there is no “Attention” organ that acts as an intermediary (like the eye) to the neo-cortex. Attention utilizes many perceptual inputs – from eyes, ears etc. and are organized as a continuum of unfolding memories.
[Note – the “past” doesn’t exist in the “past” it only exists as memories in the present. The “past” is a construct of language and time, which are inventions to manage life efficiently.]
Within the context of associative thinking is deductive and inductive logic or reasoning. Deductive logic follows from a premise seeking truth. A statement can be logical but not true:
The police wear dark blue clothing.
That woman is wearing dark blue clothing.
Therefore that woman is a policewoman.
The logic is valid but the premise is not specific enough to illicit truth therefore the argument is unsound.
Doctors at ERs wear white lab coats, carry stethoscopes and talk to a patients about medical diagnoses.
That woman in the ER wearing a white lab coat with a stethoscope is talking with a patient about a medical diagnosis.
Therefore that woman is a doctor.
The logic is valid the premise is specific enough to illicit truth therefore the argument is sound.
Traditionally inductive logic observes data within a field and draws conclusions based on that data. In a revised definition of inductive logic the results may be proved as false based on some premises. Results of inductive logic are probable and are thought of as “strong” or “weak”. If they are ‘strong” they are either cogent or uncogent. If they are weak they are uncogent.
“Learn for the sake of learning!”
A teacher of mind was fond of saying.
In other words:
Learning is its own reward.
When learning arises from an on-going thirst to know and renew, then the process of continuous learning becomes an aim belonging to infinity. Aims are goals that can be repeated endlessly without being completely fulfilled and are inherent rewards. A goal has a beginning, middle and end. Goals belong to a finite world and could be about learning a skill where instruction is primary for example. Goals under the rubric of learning are not about “knowing” or connecting with people of knowledge but are about learning with a small “l” often learning by rote. Learning with an aim in the process of eternity in the moment is a creative leap that is self-renewing. When goals are connected to aims they help support continuous learning. Infinity learning is “learning for the sake of learning”. Learning is fueled by play and curiosity, which aid in the work.
Both finite and infinite learning are necessary for navigating our world. For the purposes of this exposition I am excluding most finite and infinite learning that does not pertain to transformation processes.
Infinite learning has many qualities that originate with childhood pre-language skills. Children when brought into a room without toys begin to play reflecting the facile and developing application of curiosity and invention. Below are some of the qualities of infinite learning:
Answers that lead to more questions
When infinite learning is applied to truth seeking or a quest for truth a certain kind of knowledge is sought. In the past when a seeker read a book by a person of knowledge they would seek out the author to study with him or her, as in the time honored tradition of student-teacher. In our current time this is rarely true because of the volume of books published and the self-proclamation of the author as an expert. An expert may seem like a person of knowledge but if they are promoting it, it is usually not the case. A teacher can only teach a student when the student enters the relationship with “beginner’s mind”. If a student has too much information or has a bravado that purports to have more or as much knowledge as the teacher then the relationship won’t work. Students and teachers must have a “good fit”.
Here are some guidelines to learning when in search of truth:
A good first step in reading a book that speaks to “knowing” is to test this knowing on one’s own experience. Do you trust the source of the knowing? If so then the knowing may be accepted or temporary accepted until more evidence is gathered. Can you verify it? If you cannot, use your intuition to choose whether to discard it or put it aside until more information or experience is gathered.
There is no final or permanent knowing. All knowing is subject to change based on an array of variables including changes in your perspective.
Cross-reference what you have learned in two ways: 1. Compare information within the same system or the same “teaching” with one another; and 2. Use your intuition along with your common sense to verify the information or bit of knowledge that you’re examining.
Cultivate and practice a compassionate and neutral witness within without indulging in “likes’ or “dislikes”. Work to avoid theorizing. Theorizing takes you out of the present into worlds of imaginative speculation, illusion and fantasy.
Begin to utilize your intuition with your rational mind. Besides cross-referencing, intuition can go straight to a truth without “rational steps”. Later as you exercise the intuitive muscle you may open to a deeper method of exploration or utilizing somatic or “body” knowing.
Use the action questions of “how” and “what”.
5.1 – Banish “why” questions from your vocabulary. Why questions are about ultimate answers. “Why” questions linger in a transcendental higher consciousness state which cannot be accessed at the beginning or middle of the journey towards truth. Why questions are intellectual traps that keep us cycling in a “cognitive only” understanding, which is ultimately limited due to its continuous circular focus. Avoid re-wording “why” questions into “how” questions.
5.2 – “How” questions and “What” questions are inexorably linked. Knowing “how” could result in endlessly doing something without purpose unless you know “what” you are doing.
5.3 – “How” questions belong to the practical and are instructional. “What” questions initially belongs to the theoretical and meaning. If I know how to do something and what purpose I am doing it there is a completion process thus closing a loop.
Growing in knowledge is never completed. Even if you cannot grasp where a fragment of specific or partial knowledge belongs in a bigger picture doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to expand yourself to meet its challenge. Beware of theorizing about partial knowledge – this can lead to imaginative fantasy and illusory beliefs.
Sharing what you have learned with others is valuable because it grows with interpersonal interactions. Teaching what you have learned when done from “beginner’s mind” exponentially increases new learning in both teacher and student. 
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines attention:
1. a : the act or state of applying the mind to something Our attention was on the game. You should pay attention to what she says. b : a condition of readiness for such attention involving especially a selective narrowing or focusing of consciousness and receptivity. Students, do I have your attention?
2. : observation, notice; especially: consideration with a view to action, a problem requiring prompt attention
Attention is an action of the mind, the will, of short sets of time linked by memory and strung together along the lines of binary association. When our attention is said to wander does this not break the bonds of a focusing of consciousness on a topic or line of reasoning through tangential and/or straying thoughts? When attention becomes focused we can follow the rigors of a logical deductive discourse or gather evidence to make an on-going argument with inductive reasoning to make a strong cogent conclusion.
Modern culture and primary education does little to support the cultivation and the skill of focusing attention. Understanding attention is a building block towards free thinking, superior reasoning, mastery and higher consciousness. Elementary through secondary education the word “attention” connotes a harsh disciplinary action or punishment delivered by teachers to students. Modern culture through the tech of smart phones, tablets, laptops, chats, social media and internet searches contributes to shattering attention spans in order to condition students into consumers under Predatory Capitalistic models of behavior. A vicious cycle occurs for developing attention spans into smaller diffuse focused packets and thus destroying opportunities for critical thinking, free thought and creativity.
Building attention is not an easy task even under the best of circumstances. Consumer (or predatory) capitalism is about dividing and pulling attention with lures of immediate gratification whether that be the allure of sexuality, sensual imagery, solving puzzles and mysteries, or the greed / lust to know more. The Internet as playground is a good example of attention reducing stimuli to manipulate and shorten attention along the paths of tangential thinking. This kind of conditioning is designed to hook the user / viewer into buying stuff. Maybe the reason you started an Internet search is lost by the time you’ve allowed your attention to dissolve into whims pulled by desire down the rabbit hole.
When I was in college my housemate gave me a book to read that she thought would be exciting for me. It wasn’t. The writer made it nearly impossible to read the book – very loosely – a science fiction novel, but it was more an allegory than anything else. He wrote paragraphs in long run-on sentences. My fascination with the book was supposed to whet my appetite to go to group meetings of this “cultish” group. It became clear that she wasn’t going to leave me in peace until I went to her group where I could then tell her I wasn’t interested.
Of course as you might have guessed I became interested. I had to wade through prejudices I had about the “spiritual”. I was invited to listen as this book I had previously tried to read was read aloud. I was called to read some aloud too. It tended to confirm my suspicions that the people there seemed insane. When I thought the group was winding down there was one more part of the session that changed my mind about the meetings.
Later I discovered that reading these paragraphs long run-on sentences that strained my comprehension of the material at the very least stretched the capacity of my attention and increased my ability to concentrate. The book was written by G. I. Gurdjieff and was called “Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson”.
I learned how to focus and shift attention. I read many books on spiritualism, Sufis, and the Gurdjieff Work. I learned through experiences and through books that attention was the first building block to higher consciousness. Although there is no such thing as multitasking it is possible to shift attention rapidly from one focus to another. The rapid shifting of attention gives the illusion to the person that they are multitasking when they are not engaged in doing something that is impossible. This harks back to binary – associative thinking.
All of us are trained to reason and rely on mind or cognitive activities to the exclusion of emotive and somatic processes. We know (cognitively) that we have emotions and that we have a physical body but we objectively identify them intellectually rather than acknowledge and explore these emotive and somatic sensations. The ego / cognitive self believes that it exists in a certain way so that it obscures emotional and somatic elements that it doesn’t want to acknowledge so that illusions can be created to view so-called reality. The ego engages in deductive logic looking for what it believes itself to be both positive (to grandiosity for example) and negative (to fears and depressive emotions) states. Beliefs that are personal, generational, cultural, genetic, and species oriented float in an unconscious realm where ego seeks to find truth. The truth that is discovered is transitory and impermanent. Ego must continue a life-long search that becomes fruitless. Ego proves what it believes based on fears, prejudices, biases, and so on.
Attention is the key to finding a place in our self that may become a semi-permanent steward in a continuing quest for learning, effective struggle, help and surrender/sacrifice. The Steward is close to the core of our being and helps ego find an enduring peace and a compassionate neutrality instead of the temporary gratification that is never sufficient.
The use of attention is essential to learning, effective struggle, help, and surrender/sacrifice of which memory is the binding force. Memory is a content and process oriented sensation. The content of memories are obvious and basic to identity: “I remember my name.” “I remember who I am based on…” The process of memory is time, which has been conveniently defined and invented as linear: past, present and future.
Transformation by J.G Bennett p. 27-60, published by The Claymont Society for Continuous Education copyright 1978.
Transformation by J.G Bennett p. 32-33, published by The Claymont Society for Continuous Education copyright 1978.
It takes practice to set your own slower pace in a world that is hurried, stressed and frantic. Part of our collective stress can be found in driving patterns and increased volumes of traffic. (Bravo to those who don’t own cars and use public transportation).
If you own a car and drive / commute to work or drive in traffic at any time of day or night there is an increasing tendency to drive faster on interstates and secondary roads. There is a tendency to run lights that are yellow and red. It could be built-in to the predatory capitalism and a me-first attitude on the roads.
Rush hour is no longer just an hour. Weekends and holidays exacerbate traffic and impatience to get their first. “Half an inch, half an inch,” out of a Monte Python sketch or a Jerry Seinfeld bit of inching ahead in traffic at a stoplight. This is all a part of the out-of-breath frantic rev-up for more stress and anxiety fixed by a pill.
Smile and make eye contact
Breathe, slow down, hurry slowly, and practice patience.
Allow yourself 5 to 15 minutes extra time in traveling to your destination so you are ensured of being on time without a frantic dash to the finish line. Add extra time if you are traveling with someone else or with children. Begin by practicing slower breathing in tense situations, or in heavy traffic, especially bumper-to-bumper.
In lines of any kind such as the supermarket, the post office or in picking up your coffee shift your weight from one side to the other, bend your knees slightly and practice breathing slowly. Strike up a conversation with your line-mate if it seems right. Smile and make eye contact.
If you’ve been working on a goal that doesn’t seem to be manifesting you may need this kind of help. Rituals are meant to augment what we are already doing on a practical level to fulfill our goals. This ritual by itself is not a magic bullet for success. It is here because it may help you that extra amount towards what you seek. Any ritual may or may not work and is not a guarantee for success.
Emotional receptivity is a precursor to a new way to manifest what we wish to happen. In the new world that began in 1992 (paradigm shift) – a world where every being is in relationship with all others, manifestation takes on a whole new meaning. The motto of this new way is: “Energy first, Manifestation second as aligned with Higher Self and Community at large.” That being said, working with the emotional receptivity of the lunar cycle is the next step. The Full Moon is a way to charge an object with its receiving power. When the papers are charged under the light of the Full Moon a way is made to give birth in the dark of the new moon.
Full Moons are always the opposite of the Sun sign. This ritual is most powerful when your Sun or Moon is in the sign of the current Full Moon or its opposite. Full Moons are doubled in power during a lunar eclipse.
However the following ritual can be beginning with any Full Moon.
WHAT TO DO WHEN THE MOON IS FULL:
Place a new, blank sheet of paper under the light of the Full Moon [outside, in a window, on your dashboard] you’ll be using on the next New Moon. If a Full Moon occurs at dawn for instance you can put your papers out the night before or the night after. Don’t worry if there’s cloud cover under the Full Moon – the luminosity of the Full Moon will still reach the paper. As in all things receptive it is not an exact science, more like an art. So you’ll need to experiment to see which works best for you. IF THIS IS YOUR FIRST TIME WITH THE RITUAL – After having left the paper out at night bring it in and dry out if need be and put it in a safe place or on your altar. You will need to take it out in approximately two weeks at the New Moon. If you park your car outside at night you could put your paper on your dashboard for “catching moonlight”.
ON GOING – At each Full Moon after you have written your wishes on the last New Moon you need to sit and see which came to pass and which did not. If a wish did not come to pass – was that wish in alignment with your Highest Good? Does it need editing – re-writing? Or does it need to be put aside or discarded?
WHAT TO DO IF THE MOON IS NEW:
Take the blank sheet of paper that you put under the light of the Full Moon from and write down your wishes from 1 to 13. You may only have to wait until the next Full Moon if you align yourself with your wishes. Write the wishes during the night of the new moon (with 24 hours of the beginning of the New Moon) when birth of a new cycle is imminent.
I grew up inside a Terrorist Regime: in my family of origin where my father was the dictator and his word was law.
When I was a pre-teen he would shout me down into submission when he disagreed with something I said and end with telling me I was being illogical.
This was worse than death, torture of my dog.
He would continue to castigate my mother by telling her she was “irrational”. More often than not she was intuitive and non-rational
Around that time we adopted a stray dog: Peewee. He went everywhere with me – on my walks in the woods and to the reservoir. We never tied him up when we weren’t home. He ran with a pack of dogs that ate sheep. The sheep owner told us we would have to tie him up. We did for a while and then not having the heart to keep him tied up we let him go and he ate sheep again. My father was to take him to the vet to be put down. At dinner that night my father said:
I took Peewee to Yale to be experimented on.
My head sank. This was worse than death, torture of my dog. I was so sad and down.
I thought you liked science – my father said.
Not anymore – I said starting to get angry.
But I couldn’t show my anger otherwise I’d get in-trouble so I stuffed it.
After dinner beginning in my early teens we played Ping-Pong every night after dinner. He’d use psychological tactics on me to goad me to become angry, throw me off balance so he could win. One night, I thought – this is supposed to be fun. I decided not to get angry and started winning games. Once that happened he stopped playing and admitted that I had been a better player than he was and that by using psychological tactics he knew he could win.
he would bait others into Republican ideological arguments and then shout them down when they didn’t agree with them
When I was a teenager my father would bait me into arguments that I was emotionally invested in and then use his premise to make me feel wrong and confused. I’d fall for his debate tactics every time. When I was in my twenties I began to disagree with his premises and all “debate” ended.
My mom came to me and asked: “What am should I do about your father?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well you know how he is.”
My mother’s friends never came over anymore because he would bait others into Republican ideological arguments and then shout them down when they didn’t agree with them.
“You could see a therapist or minster,” I said.
“I couldn’t do that,” she replied.
“You could get a divorce,” I said.
“Oh no, I couldn’t do that,” she replied.
“Well, I don’t know what else to tell you,” I said.
My sister and I would spend all daylight hours outside of the house away from my mother and father and that I supposed was normal. We lived surrounded by bucolic regions of farms, fields and woods. My father would use his booming voice to call us for dinner while we were at least a mile away. He had had a lot of practice bellowing.
He told me once that he promised never to hit us like his father had done to his mother, him and his two sisters. But he broke his promise a few times. However he made up for actually physical violence by terrorizing us with verbal and non-verbal threats.
He often accused and never apologized even when he made a mistake.
He oscillated between sometimes being a looming or threatening boss to be a playful child albeit isolating. He was jealous of my mother having any recognition and acted passive-aggressively to quell her recognition: My mother would play the piano and we would sing folk songs and Christmas Carols after dinner. My mom also painted some. My father decided he could paint too. He painted some squares and a triangle on a canvas and put a mahogany frame around it. He hung it over the piano. When this happened I felt a profound shame and the childish jealousy of my father. My mother’s only visible protest was never to play the piano again. We all knew and my father had won his petty little game.
Our father yelled from the other room to “Stop it,” in his booming voice. We furtively glanced at each other snickering under our breaths and then began bickering again:
“Yes it is,” I fired out.
“No it isn’t,” my sister came back.
And on we went…
Our father appeared in the door of the kitchen his face red with rage, fists clenched he spewed in a vitriolic manner:
You kids cease and desist this instant!
I thought blood would spurt from a vein in his forehead. He glared at us full of fury and rage. I had to bite my tongue so as not to speak or laugh. Many years later my sister told me she was so terrified that she had wet herself.
In my arguments to my father about the Vietnam war – I returned from college and told him I was against the war: he punched me across the face with a 1-2 punch and then in the stomach. He opened the front door of the house and threw me into the bushes and said:
Don’t you ever set foot in this house, again.
I was shaking and crying. A moment later he came out and invited me back inside saying:
I guess I didn’t brainwash you good enough.
I knew my mother had stood up for me in that moment.
I learned to bring emotion into our debate and was able to stop many debates cold such as: The Vietnam war is wrong because killing for any reason is wrong and that’s how I feel.
my father was extremely obnoxious … after drinking in the afternoon
Later when I was going through a very rough time and we were in family therapy without my sister who was in college out west my father agreed to be nice to me. For about a year and a half he was nice. And then he changed back.
When I asked him about the change he said: “I can see that you were okay so I decided to be myself again.”
I offered to do some hands-on healing.
My father would have an occasional beer and an after dinner liquor when his friends came over for dinner. Once I had lunch with him in New Haven in the 1974 when we both worked in the city (it was the summer that Nixon resigned). He had a pitcher of beer with lunch. He seemed the same before as he did afterwards. At that time I wasn’t as aware of the various shades of alcoholism as I became later.
In the 1980s my sister visited with my mother and father. I met them for lunch. I was to meet them later at their Bed and Breakfast and then we were to meet up my woman lover at a restaurant in Glen Ellen. When I met them at the B&B my father was extremely obnoxious: grabbing a magazine article from my hands while I was reading it, ignoring my protest, telling me I had to listen to him etc… Later I learned that he and my sister had gone to a bar after lunch and had been drinking. My mother probably just watched – she didn’t drink due to health issues.
I felt satisfied that I was able to help him and that he had accepted my help.
They moved from Connecticut to North Carolina and I visited them in 2000.
My father said out of the blue:
“They’ve discovered planets in other solar systems.”
“Good for them,” I replied.
“How does astrology explain that?”
‘Oh brother here we go again.’ I thought
“Sounds like your trying to make fun of my profession as an astrologer,” I said going to the end point.
“Ah, no, no I wasn’t,” he said and dropped the whole thing. I was relieved and he seemed relieved as well.
He often accused and never apologized, ever.
By August of 2005 my father was on oxygen from pulmonary fibrosis – a lung disease. Even on O2 he had difficulty breathing, gasping for air. Towards the last hour of my stay I offered to do some hands-on healing. I thought he would refuse since he rarely praised me and denigrated my actions, choices and accomplishments at every turn of my life. I was surprised that he agreed.
For the next 45 minutes while I was there he breathed normally and appeared thankful though he said nothing. I felt satisfied that I was able to help him and that he had accepted my help.
He died in 2006 on my birthday from from pulmonary fibrosis.
END NOTES: I learned much about the frightened Conservative stance towards the world through my father and his strong patriarchal ideals. Underneath all that bluster, anger and rage was a frightened boy who had never recovered from the abuse at the hands of his father. My father acknowledged the beatings that my grandfather had meted out on him his sisters and his mother. I’m sure there was sexual abuse that was repressed and / or supressed by alcohol abuse and acting-out rage, just as my garndfather had sexually abused me in horrific ways.
Beyond the unhealed abuse and fear that caused him to shift from an expansive man who had voted for JFK to one who embraced Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushs. Nixon was elected in 1969 when my father was almost 50. This is sometimes the period that people wither or break free from their parents belief systems. Or they become dissillusioned with the ideals of youth and fall back into what they know. My father embraced conservativism because it was about the past – government unresponsive to the needs of the many and only able to see the needs of the privelged and the elite in which he identified.
Fear is a breeding ground for greed, having enough, believing government stood in the way of making as much money as possible for himself. He was angry at those in civil service work because they made almost as much as he did as an executive for Ma Bell. Manual labor was beneath him. The intellect was all powerful and deserved the best of the elite. The common man – the middle class became superfluous, invisible and therefore inconsequential to him.
He belived in the platitudes and the American Dream and thought that all had access to it through hard work. He was sexist and racist and homeophobic. He was a sad broken man who took out his wounds on others.
I am happy to have survived my childhood with my heart intact though it took me many years to get in-touch with my emotions. I have forgiven my father for all the wounds he had perpertated on me. And I trust that his consciousness is growing in a life beyond his mortal coil.