10 June 2007, FUUNCO
by Liz Steele
I had a dream…..my dream was that you were bored! But then I went to dinner with some friends and they were watching me talk—enjoying my animation and Italian expression….and I thought how many of my parents came back to my weekly parenting talks and I remembered that often I would use examples and become very animated when describing a challenging parenting issue. So if I find the energy waning—I know that I always have my Italian arms to wake you up!
Our title this morning is Spiritual Transformation and Healing
How do we “Dance despite Darkness” and Thrive when “Flames of Fire” are at our heels? Are there some spiritual higher truths that can we can draw on to help us in our most challenging nights of the soul? I will be drawing from the inspiring works of Jacquelyn Small, The Sacred Purpose of Being Human and Joan Borysenko PH.D Fire in the Soul, A New Psychology of Spiritual Optimism--to take a look at how our we can use life’s messy circumstances on our journey to TRANSFORM at soul levels.
First movie that came to mind was, “Little Miss Sunshine”—where we had a glimpse into the mundane everyday life of a series of characters, suffering from depression, addiction, selective mutism, and misguided notions of what it means to be beautiful and successful. Literally, through a chaotic journey of individual and collective crises, somehow the whole cast gets transformed around a simple principle of what it means to be REAL and support a little girl’s dream in the most unlikely of ways. They just agreed to the trip, stayed the dreary course and when the time came, they each easily reconnected with a part of deep truth …and they would never be the same—they rose above their own suffering and remembered that they were on a larger journey and reconnected to their way back home—to selves and to each other.
A founding premise in the spiritual psychology literature is our Dual Existence—
Many of us accept that we are deeply spiritual beings having a human journey—or at least have a connection with that theme. And there is plenty of support for the Light inherent in all of us—Many of you saw “What the Bleep do we Know” at our church—
Subatomic physicists tell us as well that from a scientific point of view, that at the center of every human atom is light energy. Brain researchers say that we live in a holographic universe, which means on the level of energy, the whole is contained in every part and every part contains the whole. We already have the entire cosmos in our minds; kind of like a drop of water containing the same elements from the oceans of the world—from our children’s story we can see that Higgins related that simple, but profound concept—we are all connected; we are all part of the same source. Jungian psychologists say that all human beings identify with archetypes in a “collective unconscious” relating to a sacred core self. Conventional religion says that “the kingdom of God is within.” Even twelve step programs recognize recovery on a higher spiritual path—recognizing that what is needed through Dark Nights is not pathologizing behavior but growth toward our true core self—
It seems that science, psychology and modern spiritual guides tell us of this intrinsic nature that centers on the full development of our nature as Human and Spiritual (some call God or Divine—both within us and greater but connective to all of us).
It is the purpose of this talk to glance at how our human journey of trials and darkness can lead us to personal growth and soul transformation--as we are ultimately forever reconnecting with our mission and unique purpose in life (some call God’s plan or our divine potentiality).
Our preschoolers of 800 just graduated and their simple song was ….. “I am a promise; I am a possibility; I am a promise, with a capital P and I’m a great big bundle of Potentiality—and I am learning to hear my own voice and I am trying to make the right choice; and I am ready to be anything I am called to be.” How’s that for a basic lesson in our dual nature of being human and spiritual. –Making the right choice with our ego-selves and listening to a deeper inner voice and call. That’s the simple version…the more complex version is that in order to live this dual nature--
We have to honor our human experience, live our lives, have our experiences through dark nights, feel the flames and our feelings, deal with our ego needs (to be safe and meet our basic needs); deal with our shadows; honor our unique self and mission as we continue to awaken to the Light or a higher plane of soul or psyche.
To give an example of how this looks –Imagine Spirit—or the Universal Source of Love-Above Us and All Around Us; and Deep inside is our Human soul; next to our Human Ego. In the middle of course is the heart –where things get transformed.
During Dark Nights of the Soul— we seem to disconnect with our inner peace and are forced to look at deep pains or fears.
“Our suffering somehow offers a process of cleansing and burns away the stuff that is in the way of our soul light. It offers opportunity for growth and deep and transformative healing,” says Jacquelyn Small. Just as the old alchemists transformed lead into gold; Transformation happens for us when we recognize the lead rigidities in our lives and allow the dissolving away of anything that is not good for us—and then through our hearts we extract our gold from that experience. “You must have suffered a great loss when you went to prison as a young man, I said to a recent client”; “Yeah, it was hard,” he said, “I got out and felt like I lost my kindness, but it saved my life and I feel like I am here now to help others.”
His and our spiritual journey is accepting the life lessons of our human condition to transform the pain and gain the love and wisdom at deep soul levels. Jacquelyn Small says, “We have to do our part in unfolding the Divine Plan for humanity—When you feel trapped by your conditions and go unconscious, you are failing to spiritualize what is happening to you. To make something spiritual you examine all pieces creating the situation, then make a decision to seek out the sacred meaning and higher purpose in your life. The things we experience in life are never ‘just personal’. Anytime you heal and make sacred some issue that has troubled your life, you are bringing more light into humanity’s one collective psyche, and therefore help all who are wounded similarly.”
So when the darkness comes ask… “What lesson is here for me? What is my soul’s intention in this situation?”
There are two kinds of dark nights that we will talk about—one comes from our internal ego; and the other from life’s messy circumstances. First the ego—We need a healthy ego first–meeting our needs for self preservation, self gratification and self definition; before we can meet our soul’s higher needs. But
It’s when we have these little selves that create darkness for us—they show up—these little subpersonalities in our human life–our ego shadows that encourage us to feel despicable, unworthy or unlovable—they are sometimes called the addict; the victim; the critic; the wounded child—now understand that these are instruments of transformation, so don’t get frustrated at yourself —they are just messengers that point us in the right direction for transformation work! …..
You may recognize some clues that you are projecting your unacknowledged shadow pieces onto someone else…(Adapted from Small, Sacred Purpose of Being Human).
* You perceive someone as an “enemy” and yourself as a “victim.”
* You perceive someone as a “savior” and believe this person holds the key to your salvation.
*You become obsessed with someone else’s problems and set about to “do” this person’s life. You are always there for them meeting their needs. (outside of children).
* You fall in love with someone who is not available or appropriate.—In that case get Patti’s book--
*You put self or others down when they behave in ways that you don’t approve.
* You are arrogant. Impatient. Always trying to be too “perfect”-- or let emotional reactions run rampant over your life.
Small suggests that in order to transform these shadow needs, we need to say to these parts—“you are part of me; but you are not me”….
Then ask—“what do you want; what do you need; what are you afraid of?” I was once relating a story to a professor of how I played out a scene with a person in anger—my classmates thought that the guy was acting like a jerk and that he deserved my confrontation. Looking deeper I understood that my anger was misplaced and my shadow victim was at work —I needed to acknowledge that this was an expression that I really felt about my own father—in order to transform my self-righteousness to put this guy in his place, I really had to look at what was going on with me…..and working through old pain and fear, I could ultimately come from a place of love—a higher self so I could heal—and not continue to hurt others (even if they seemed to deserve it).
Transformation comes again when you…
*Bring to consciousness—identify what is causing your reaction and claim the issue as your own.
*Discharge the pent-up feelings appropriately by talking to a therapist of friend. Or, express feelings through tears, an angry journal, or a workout.
*Transform the energy that remains into positive expression. Work, write a poem, draw, paint or garden. Realizing a better way to handle these shadows; they can be expressions of our uniqueness—We can move from healing self to healing others in healthy ways—perhaps working against oppression of minorities because of our passion –fueled by the fire of our old wounds.
We learn to heal the unloved parts of us, and to help each other in our struggles, so we can feel more healthy and whole—and reap the lessons in love through our transformation.
In addition to our ego shadows that appear regularly, there are Other Dark nights of the soul stemming from circumstances like crisis, depression or trauma. While we often see these nights through the limiting lens of fear and want to rid negativity as fast as we can—demanding that the problem be fixed; Our author guides tell us that we can instead search our souls for the gifts of the circumstances. Possibly in our meditation, you began to feel the difference between our human fear in circumstances; seen by our higher self with compassion, love and wisdom. Growth and potential can come from these deeper sources of wisdom and meaning tapped during these dark nights—and once again, we can bring back wisdom and love to the circumstances of life.
Depression and grief and pain are human; there is a source and when looked at and felt—experienced—fully expressed, because it keeps coming round until we are able to fully express it—Get to the feeling part; not denying; dismissing or getting over it!
But acknowledging it—Wow—those are feelings of…I am unworthy…where does it come from? And most of us know that these deep feelings resurface—different intensity, but when they surface, we can use the same questions that we used to talk to our ego shadows to talk to our wounded selves, lovingly and kindly…. “What do you want”; “What do you need?”
One of the teenage girls I am working with said that she felt so depressed because she blamed herself for an assault toward her; once she realized that what she wanted was to understand that that this was not her fault; she could then acknowledge what she needed to be cared for and healed –and she is finding ways to nurture and heal herself –her skull art pictures have turned to butterflies.
There was a time that I didn’t understand what was meant by “the dark nights will make you stronger”….How? –the well deepens with pain, hurt, loss, sadness—the dark well deepens and therefore, said my friend, after working through the darkness there is more space to fill up with joy.
Our human lives awaken or reawaken to deep spiritual truths—I once said that I had found the secret of life after a healing journey of deep grief—my own soul was left with the wisdom—not just the words—the wisdom that “love never dies” and that “this journey is meant to be fun and meaningful!”
Our dual nature is so resilient—we hit the bottom of the well and it is so dark—but we come out stronger finding meaning and a connection to the light; our own true source.
The wounded have become what Jung calls the archetypal “wounded healer.” Borseynko writes, “I believe that each wound we suffer and eventually heal from is a soul making experience with potential to awaken our willingness to participate in the healing of our world.” --It is part of our spiritual journey--
Many of us are wounded but we have great teachers that led the way—Victor Frankl and Anne Frank and Mother Teresa—“only the strongest souls get the hardest lessons” (Small). They lived through the most difficult human experiences yet discovered the sacred meaning and higher purposes in their lives because of all of their dark nights. In Jesus’ own life, suffering and death—he was reborn to a spiritual being that always lived in Him and in each of us forever—. He met up with shadow personalties, faced his fears and anger, but through understanding and forgiveness in the darkest Night of his soul; reconnected to the higher power of Spirit—he actually rose up to meet Spirit and through the power of love, he still speaks to us today—bringing light for 2000 years into our collective psyche.
We have to remember our own unique spiritual journey as we dance with darkness and the flames of fire are at our heels.
We are called to ask ourselves, “What is my unique mission? What is the purpose for our life on Earth?” I remember Sr. Lois starting a retreat at the Cenacle with that opening –Now it’s not something that you don’t have a clue about—you won’t be completely surprised—but you need to call it up once in a while—tweak and alter what continues to grow and evolve. At the time, the mission statement that rang true for me was, “Bringing joy and healing to children”—including my own inner child. And certainly I got to that statement by using the fire of my own childhood wounds –to recover from a role as hero child; to recover from emotional neglect and abuse driven by family addiction and to feel the power of transformation as I worked through a young adult depression –let go of those false selves, of having to please and be a caregiver only for others—I needed to feel deep anger, loss—many childhood losses and grief and heal to a place of wanting to be a healer—knowing that if I could make it through that darkness, I could help others make it—but knowing it at a soul level.
As Jacqulyn Small said earlier, “Anytime you heal and make sacred some issue that has troubled your life, you are bringing more light into humanity’s one collective psyche, and therefore help all who are wounded similarly.”
Borseynko continues....“We each need to adopt a framework that reminds us that we each have something unique to offer the world.” And it is up to each person to use the fire of their wounds consciously—to heal, to work for peace, to transform our world.
Here are ten survival tips from Borysenko in the meantime….
Survival Tips—Practicalities of Soul Making for when we are going through a dark night……
1. Pay close attention to your physical needs—breathing ; stretch breaks; Daily exercise and mindful walking. Eat Well—Drink water. Sleep regularly. Play music instead of tv
2. Time each day to be alone to garden; go into nature.
3. Find support you need—to grow and change, not be victimized and dependent.—Id yourself as victim is fine in the first steps of healing when you are grieving losses and expressing anger; deeper healing requires you to let go of being a victim and to move on and pick up your power.
4. Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can and The wisdom to know the difference.”—the hard part
5. Follow the four rules for living from Anthropologist Angeles Arrien
- Show up
- Pay attention
- Tell the Truth
- Don’t be attached to the results but (Intend the good)
6. Good to be Alive! Remember a holy moment—focus on the moment of peace, energy safety. I am alive and I am grateful and today I will….for the benefit of myself, my family and all beings.
7. Practice loving-kindness. Begin with respect and love for self; affirming
“May I be at peace, May my heart remain open, May I know the beauty of my own true nature. May I be healed.”
8. Remember that you have the right to be happy. The best outcome of crisis is a return to our own true nature, the inmost center or Higher Self (some call Divine). The attributes of that peaceful core are not only wisdom and compassion but also joy and happiness.
9. Ask for what you need both in dialogue with self when ego shadows appear; and when you are in a dark night—What do you want ; What do you need?; and Do your share to bring about positive changes. . . “What lesson is here for me? What is my soul’s intention in this situation?”
10. Pray for strength and courage to endure the passage—Ask the Universe for help.
(Adapted from Joan Borysenko, Ph.D. Fire in the Soul—A New Psychology of Spiritual Optimism).
Closing Words adapted from Joan Borysenko
Let any suffering kindle our love, any loss deepen our understanding, any hurt or pain open the eyes of our hearts. We extinguish our flame but not the care and loving kindness that continues to kindle our light of love within -- by that light May we see our way home and serve as beacons for others along the way.