Friday, August 14, 2015

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

We love our egos, don't we? We get along so well together. And what a relationship! It’s been life-long, predictable, we’re safe—more or less. 

OK, fine, we get angry, we feel hurt, we challenge our constraints but, oh, the seduction of familiarity. 

And, typical of any long-standing relationship, breaking up is difficult—no matter how strong the desire to end it.

I’ve coached many clients to observe and break free from habitual patterns. But I must admit, for them and for me, ego much prefers to wear its mask.

Years ago I was scheduled to be in a workshop where I'd be videotaped describing my lifelong change process, and one of the questions would be about Enneagram style Nine’s fundamental belief: I don't deserve to exist. Though I didn’t consciously feel this way about myself, I knew the story was in there somewhere, and spent weeks prior to the workshop being mindful of clues to that belief. Slowly, I began to see evidence.

As a small example, I became aware how fast I read, even when enjoying fiction or poetry for pleasure. I heard, as if magically radioed in from my past, Mary is such a good girl. She does exactly what she’s told and she does it quickly. I remembered being praised for how many books I could read in a week. That expanded to memories of being praised at work for how quickly I completed projects. I saw how this fed my unconscious story: If I do things quickly, people will praise me, I’ll feel worthwhile, and deserve to exist. 

But I didn’t experience the belief, it was still an idea. This continued up through and past the workshop — interesting insights, a deeper level of awareness, a new perspective on coaching clients by looking for their fundamental stories. Still, I hadn’t yet experienced the truth of my story.

Several weeks later, I received the DVD of my interview, eagerly turned it on, and boom! I saw myself as fat, old, and BLAND. I was completely crushed. I could not identify with that woman on the screen!

For a full day my ego danced around looking for ways to accept the external evidence that contradicted my self-image. I read about strategies for embracing growing old. I considered following the path of aging boomer artists Alice and Richard Matzkin (The Art of Aging: Celebrating the Authentic Aging Self) and painting a self-portrait, warts and all — still feeding the story by trying to refute it: I am worthwhile as I am! 

Then, on the second day, I experienced the fundamental story that had been deeply unconscious until that moment. I am worthless. I don't deserve to exist. I felt it down to my bones, my heart was full of shame, and I knew it to be true.

On the third day, I fell through. The phrase fell through is inadequate to capture the experience. I can, however, describe my reaction when I again viewed the DVD of my interview. I felt compassion and even delight, a feeling akin to Oh, so that’s the body and mannerisms my soul is riding in

Since then I've seen significant changes in myself. My defensiveness dissolves more quickly — and in a way that’s very different from tamping down feelings — a sensation of lightness, each molecule more alive. 

I’m not saying I’m transformed, of course. In the immortal words of Valentine Michael Smith from Stranger in a Strange Land, “I am only an egg.” 

Thursday, August 6, 2015


To a yogi, no symbol is more powerful than the syllable OM, as witnessed by these words from the Mandukya Upanishad:
OM: this eternal word is all what was, what is and what shall be.
In the Sanskrit letter the long lower curve represents the dream state, the upper curve stands for the waking state and the curve issuing from the center symbolizes deep, dreamless sleep. 

The crescent shape stands for Maya, the veil of illusion, and the dot for the transcendental state. 

When our individual spirit passes through the veil and rests in the transcendental, we are liberated from the three states and their qualities.