Showing posts from 2010

Happy New Year

The Fifth Vow
Before those who walk with me
And those who have already walked
Before all beings living and non-living
Before my teacher
Who has lit the way:

I vow this day to stay awake
Body, speech and mind
For the rest of my life

That every one of my breaths sustain the rising sun
Of perfect awareness,
That every step I take be humble as a bow,
That I know each moment to be the expression of complete wholeness,
Sure of this Light that nothing can extinguish
Because it has shined since before the beginning of time,
That fear and uncertainty crumple like paper in the flames
Of this most precious gift:
To stay awake
I devote myself entirely and with gratitude
To unceasingly fulfill the four vows.

Le cinquième vœu
Devant vous qui cheminez avec moi
Devant tous ceux qui ont cheminé avant nous
Devant tous les êtres,
Devant mon maître
Qui a éclairé la voie:

Je fais vœu aujourd’hui de rester éveillée
De parole, de corps et d’esprit,
Pour le reste de mes jours :

Que chacun de mes souffles soutienne le soleil levant

On Moral Indignation

Tired with all these,
for restful death I cry,
As to behold desert
a beggar born

~ William Shakespeare

I am now capable of feeling humiliated, vexed, without any other feeling in me than the feeling of this state, and of remaining there motionless, my understanding having wiped out my reflex attempts at flight.
~Hubert Benoit 

What should I do when I have been humiliated, violated or disgraced by someone else’s actions? Does it make any difference whether the action was intentional, or not?

Objectively, there isn’t any difference. That is why, from a karmic point of view, one is responsible for the consequences of even unconscious actions. Subjectively, however, at the level of intentionality, there is a difference. When a harmful action is undertaken knowingly or, worse, deliberately, then, in addition to being responsible for its consequences, one is morally accountable as well.

When I trip over someone’s foot, it is relatively easy for me to pick myself up, brush off the incident and mo…
The torch of chaos and doubt -- this is what the sage steers by.(Chuang Tzu)

Homage to all seekers!
A prayer for sesshin

Lord, have mercy, give me Doubt!
That my cup o’erfloweth with the fire of my own thirst
Until I am thoroughly drenched with my own torment
Bewildered but unlost
The ship the shout the step away
From One divided

Amidst the bedlam and confusion
Into the gap between exile and home
Pray I hear
The sound of silence
Sing the ocean’s silver starried hush
And be myself
The hallowed hum of OM
O spring like crystal!
If only, on your silver surface,
you would suddenly form
the eyes I have desired,
which I bear sketched deep within my heart.
~John of the Cross
Spiritual Canticle

The myth of Narcissus tells the story of a beautiful young man courted by many women but incapable of returning the affection of even one. The goddess Nemesis takes pity on one of his rejected suitors and determines that Narcissus should fall in love with himself and remain unable to reciprocate, thus cursing him with the unrequited love that had afflicted his cortege of spurned lovers.

The next time Narcissus catches a glimpse of his reflection in a pond, lo and behold, he is transfixed by the sight of himself. Enamored by his own appearance, he cannot leave the pond and perishes trying to embrace his elusive reflection on the water.

This myth is about conceit. It was conceit that prevented Narcissus from loving anyone and conceit that, in the end, led him to embrace a mirage.

Conceit comes from the word …
The way out of suffering is through it

Shame is the flip side of pride. You cannot experience one without the other. We defend against shame as a threat to our integrity, as though it could consume us like flames. It even feels that way as it creeps up into our faces or down into our bodies, curling us up at the edges and setting our cheeks ablaze. We want to hide from its gaze branding us contemptible. What we wouldn't do to douse the fire of its judgment ripping through us like a meal! Yet the more we fight it, the more we stoke the fire by feeding it pride, what the Greeks called hubris. And like in many a Greek tragedy, it is this which precedes my eventual and total downfall. And I will remain alienated until my pride is leveled, until my nose touches the ground, and fear, fight and frenzy, exhausted, bite the dust. And the fire goes out.

Not by pride but by humility are we delivered from shame. As TS Eliot writes:

Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men…
Die before you die

Spinoza wrote:
"A free man thinks of nothing less than of death; and his wisdom is a meditation not on death but on life". (Ethics, IV, proposition 67) Yet while I meditate on life, say holding a newborn baby or gazing at the full moon or into my lovers' eyes, I ache. My joy is cradled in a heart that is breaking, like laughter in bruised ribs, and it hurts to know that the seed of life is also the birth of death, and that I’ll eventually be separated from everything and everyone I love.

Most people try not to think about that or, when they are faced with death or loss in their lives, respond by defending against distress, investing energy into overcoming it as an obstacle to their well-being. The psychotherapeutic environment is useful in that regard. By providing the scaffolding necessary for restoration or renovation, it enables the self to buttress itself against situational distress, promoting healing enough to move on.

But the truth is: w…
Who am I
Drops from the tree
Like an apple
Or a tear from the eye
Round and clear
But still
Holding the querent
Until it bursts
The heart that wants to see
And cries out while dying
Fists clenched in a dumb roar
Against the sky
The echo of whose call
Across the canyon
Its empty husk
On the calloused ground
Beneath its feet
William Blake
(1757– 1827)

O Féminin

O Vierge
Au regard amoureux
Imperturbablement asexué

O Mammifère
Qui déborde de lait et de sang sa générosité maternelle
Paradoxalement vorace

O Prostituée
Soumise à la volonté de puissance de l’homme élu
Médaille d’honneur, honneur vaincu

O Amante

O Reposoir

Qui tu es
Femme particulière


Que ton destin soit

Ni cela
Ni cela
Ni cela
The Briar Wood
Edward Coley Burns-Jones

The Prince makes his way through the briar patch growing around the castle that had denied entry to others before him. He is the hero that intends his fortune, the Prince that manifests his Princess, bound by a vow, not to her but to the Light within himself, the only beacon that he needs. For he is Love.

The bramble is tangled and spiny like a wrathful Castellan. It jealously guards the red rosebud that will open inside the grand delusion wherein everyone sleeps. For she is Wisdom and she too was intended to unfold under the right conditions.

The Princess thrilled to the wheel. She couldn’t help it, she was young. And as the spinning faltered at her touch so she buckled and fell, piercing herself with forgetting. Exiled but undying was her curse and blessing.

And now the Prince has endured and in enduring found what in faith he knew was always there. The two are conjoined in The Kiss. And as the wheel is set on its axle once again…
The Awakening of Adonis
John William Waterhouse

Crisis and change. The one begets the other. This is how things evolve. It's a curse when you want to hold on to something good, and a blessing when an untenable situation gives way.

The word “crisis” comes from the Greek krisis which means turning point, the point that Hippocrates thought was decisive to one’s surviving or succumbing to an illness. Crisis is the harbinger of a cure whether that cure is life or death.

An existential crisis is essentially creative in that it can give rise to a more concerted engagement with a bad situation, as a quest for its resolution or for salvation. Sometimes it culminates in a conversion or rebirth.

Sometimes, though, a bad situation just stagnates, giving rise to that oppressive sense of being "stuck” (like a baby whose head is engaged but cannot descend into the birth canal). It is a dire predicament in which the parties involved, instead of feeling a sense of urgency or crisis, …
Its total presence was my total absence, body and soul. Lighter than air, clearer than glass, altogether released from myself, I was nowhere around.
~ Douglas Harding, On Having No Head

Without egotism, the mind is as large as the universe.
~ Helen Keller, The world I live in

No eyes, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind: no color, sound, taste, touch or what the mind takes hold of.
~ The Heart Sutra

Where am I, the locus of my mind, where the ego arises in consciousness? When I am awake and close my eyes, it feels like I am hovering vaguely behind them in the darkness, still peeking out at the world through the mind’s aperture. But what if I were blind? Would “I” be more likely to be found spiraling along the dark and noiseless maze of the inner ear waiting for sound? And if I were both deaf and blind? Maybe “I” would have completely migrated from my head into the palm of my hand that “binds me to the world” anticipating touch (Helen Keller)? And if sense deprivation completely divested m…
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion. Aflame, I tell you, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs.
~ Adittapariyaya Sutta (The Fire Sermon)

We used to define addiction as a disease resulting from dependency on an addictive substance. Then the list was extended to include dependency on the objects of normal appetites such as food and sex when pursued in excess. Now we acknowledge that people can also get addicted to computer and television, or to relationships, as in so-called codependent personality disorders.

The state of mind sought by the addict is not necessarily the high of a drug-induced bliss but is more commonly a sort of mindlessness or “zoning out” intended to extinguish the flame of unfulfillment. Moreover, this unfulfillment is not created by a force exerted on me by things outside of myself, but by my own belief that I am lacking something I need.

As TS Eliot says “We think of th…
When birds fly in the air and fish swim in the deep,they do not do so with any conscious art. (...) if they knew this, and set their minds on doing it,they would inevitably fall down and be drowned

(from William Scott Wilson’s introduction to Chozanshi’s
The Demon’s Sermon on the Martial Arts)

When we are preoccupied with ourselves we cannot trust. We second guess with second thoughts the unspoken agreement between ourselves and circumstances. This creates a gap where the winds of doubt rush in to fill the void, resulting in turbulence.

To close the gap we must forget ourselves.
Where Am I?
You have forgotten me
Or you love someone more than me


Loneliness arises in solitude.

Like in Plato’s great myth on the origin of love, I am oriented to what I am not. Beyond the gash of separation, ever nostalgic for the two-headed beast we once were. Singularity born to be reunited. No choice but to be consumed. No cure. (Sappho says to Eros, “You burn us”). But what a blessed flame uplifting us like flowers, fragrant with longing.
Socrates: [...] you might have known with certainty before you came in contact with me, but now you're certainly non knowing.
Plato, Meno

A person comes to psychotherapy because of suffering in one form or another. Part of the problem is not knowing the origin of suffering, not its cause or why I am suffering (which is usually misattributed to something external to myself, e.g. my mood or bad habits, my relational conflicts, miserable job, or troublesome children), but its source, or how suffering has come about.

When someone breaks through to seeing the origin of this suffering, he or she usually has an Aha! moment. Something comes into focus that was never realized before, and it is simply seen without judgment. For example, I see that I am unhappy in my marriage, not because my husband is a mean guy, but because I have gone along with married life as a passenger rather than a co-pilot.

This is insight, or understanding. It is a humbling moment, as well as a liberating one. Humbling…
Helper and healer, I cheer - Small waifs in the woodland wet - Strays I find in it, wounds I bind in it - Bidding them all forget!
~ Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (Ch. 7)

Consciousness is often described as a stream, like time is described as a river. In which case, memories would be those things floating about in it like debris and psychotherapy rather like trawling.

But is this what consciousness is? And is remembering necessary to healing?

My work with EMDR has allowed me to observe (in a kind of time-lapsed photography way) the relationship between memory and healing. In EMDR, “reprocessing” is remarkably quick, catalysed by using bilateral stimulation (originally, in the form of bilateral eye movements). The therapist asks the subject to recall a traumatic memory while simultaneously calling attention elsewhere. At some point, the intensity of the traumatic experience subsides and the memory slips into the background, to the “back of t…
Parents who were abused as children incur a debt that’s hard to part with.

Called to Love their own children, the debt becomes a dam that blocks the flow and, like their parents before them, their children pay the price, either as hostage to the trickle of care they can still afford, or as scapegoat sacrificed in exchange for the debt still outstanding. This is intergenerational transmission, when a debt of Love is visited on one's children “and on their children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7).

Daily I come across children of dammed loved that reflect the two distinct outcomes I have identified as the scapegoat and hostage situations.

The first, the scapegoat, is the child who carries the burden of parental shame, often expressed in the form of physical and verbal abuse, and is cast off to roam far and away from home. The scapegoat usually does leave home in mid-adolescence, cutting off prematurely from the womb but with a vitality and sense of sur…
A secret turning in us
makes the universe turn.
Head unaware of feet,
and feet head. Neither cares.
They keep turning

~ Rumi

In my work with couples, I teach them how to listen, using an exercise derived from Jung’s concept of the imago. Sometimes I refer to this exercise as a mirroring exercise when in fact it is a listening exercise.

I discovered the word “otology” this past week, the science of hearing. I was struck at how close it is to the word “ontology”, the study of being. In French, the word understanding is translated as “entendement”, as hearing versus, say, “illumination” or enlightenment.

When we listen, we are present in a way that mirrors without seeing. It is mirroring with our inner ear turned to the other while also inwardly attuned to the mystery of ourselves. We go through the spiral corridor of being when we go through the door of listening.

The turning leads to vertigo and a kind of madness from being decentralized. How difficult it is to hear someone in their own …
Look at the flowers, so faithful to what is earthly,
To whom we lend fate from the border of fate.
And if they are sad about how they must wither and die,
perhaps it is our vocation to be their regret
Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus (XIV)

We talk about “survivors” of abuse instead of “victims”, because the former seems to buttress the empowerment we believe to be vital to healing.

But who exactly survives abuse? Surely not the same one as before.

Abuse cleaves us from our power. Victims know this. Retribution tries to redress the imbalance, but it cannot. Not because it heaps wrong upon wrong but because integrity, once broken, cannot be restored. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men…

Healing arises in knowing that emotional pain bears witness against the violation, not as a call to avenge it, but as the heart’s regret, grieving transgressions.

Wholeness cannot be taken away because we are woven into something of which we cannot be dispossessed: the web of being that connects us all …
We are followers of the light.

Longing for the salve of a wounded existence, a cure for the affliction of being separate and alone, we pursue sources of light that pose as prophets, absolutes, promises of wholeness and of dreams coming true, rainbows and all that glitters.

We fall in love, bedazzled, and become as children innocently drawn by the anticipation of empowerment and enlightenment, aspiring to become gold by association. In this fertile attraction are planted the magic seeds of devotion. Yet in trying to get as close as possible to the Light, by some perversion of alchemy we find ourselves unable to discern the line dividing blameless surrender and blind faith. Our power is relinquished to holy men, healers, heads of state or organizations, to heroes, superstars, gurus or just to ordinary people we believed were extraordinary. And so, good turns into evil and, like a moth lighting up with the flame, we melt into One and become a power supply.

The ancient legends of Jatay…