Out of the Dark

iphone-screen-man-woman-cracked2JoAnn likes dark. She has eyes like a cat. I don’t. I can’t see well without good light. So that morning when I reached for the light switch, there was no way I’d have seen the rechargeable flashlight precariously balanced on the towel rack just below the light switch. It fell but didn’t break. Later that morning, JoAnn showed me the cracked screen on her iPhone, which, it turns out, broke the fall of the flashlight.

She was angry. To her very reasonable way of thinking, I destroyed her iPhone. This triggered a deep wound she has around people not respecting her things (e.g., when she was three, her brother performed oral surgery on her favorite doll).

To my way of thinking, I walked into a Rube Goldberg-styled booby trap she’d set. Of course I was sorry about her iPhone, and offered to share the ridiculously high cost of replacing the screen. But JoAnn wanted more. She wanted an apology. And maybe something more.

Enter one of my biggest triggers. Having been raised by a caustic, manic depressive stepmother, my father regularly had me apologize to her for upsets she created. “It’s not fair!” is an unconscious mantra of mine.

JoAnn and I were in a standoff that started with both of us screaming at each other and escalated to the point where neither of us was willing to talk to the other. For three days!

Normally, one of us, typically me (I’m very well trained; plus I have deep compassion for JoAnn having survived some unbelievable trauma), would “get off it” and make the peace. But I wasn’t having any. I was as angry as I knew how to be.

Thanks to my experience with Pathwork, I spent a lot of time feeling (and not resisting) my anger. I actually got off on it. I even convinced myself that I could live a long time, with JoAnn, not speaking to each other, and just both being really, really angry. But I also knew I was working on some deep-seated anger issues.

It’s a strange thing that happens when you get that upset. You reduce the other to the enemy. Every wonderful, amazing thing I love about JoAnn was gone. I created a true polemic – just collecting and piling on every negative thing I could about her. All her beauty (and she is a spectacularly beautiful woman), was out the window; I could see only a cold, angry, barely human person.

I know she felt the same about me. I know she thought of every bad thing I’d done over the past 10 years of our partnership, and none of the good things. This scared me and reactivated my abandonment issues. I felt like a defendant in the courtroom. The plaintiff’s attorney gave his opening arguments against me, and the judge said, “That’s really heinous. I don’t need to hear any more. Guilty as charged!”

It wasn’t fair! I thought to myself, this is it. She’s never coming back.

JoAnn and I have shared such a rich, challenging, but, on balance, truly wonderful relationship. We had a rough first four years, while I (at age 50!) was learning about what true devotion and commitment were. But the last six years have been miraculous. I am totally in love with this woman, even though I’d once convinced myself that no one could maintain being truly in love beyond a few months, or maybe a year or two.

Why it took so long to resolve the flashlight upset, I don’t fully know; sometimes it takes as long as it takes. Eventually, we both went inside for the answer. JoAnn was able to work on some early traumatic issues and so was I. On balance, the experience, while uncomfortable as hell, was curative. As a healed broken bone will often be stronger than before, she and I are now stronger – both individually and as a couple.

I realized the answer is never outside. I can take responsibility for every single upset we’ve had in the past 10 years and so can she. I’ve learned that when I’m in an upset that feels like it’s totally on my partner, I can rest assured that there is always at least a germ of something that I contributed, and may be continuing to contribute. A fire like that cannot burn unless both people are fueling it.

I’m learning to not be so quick to try to put the fire out. A good burn in the woods helps the long-term growth of the forest. I can allow myself to feel the heat. I can use the fire to put a light on my past. I can tie my current upset to the past and see what work there is to do on myself. Great love, joy and wonder are all around if I train my eyes to see it.

By Billy Weil

Everybody Loves Me, Baby, What’s the Matter with You?

AcceptancePathwork teaches us that our Child Consciousness processes life in absolutes, or 100%/0% – while in reality it’s 50/50. As a Love Type my Child Consciousness manifests as, “You either love me or you dislike me.”  Moreover, anybody who doesn’t love me is a threat to me, and, loving is a defense mechanism.

I’ve had hundreds of interactions with our beloved Spiritual Director. Sometimes, the way she interacts with me, I feel like the most loved and adored human being on the planet. Other times, I see an exasperation that seems to say, “OMG, could this person possibly be a bigger pain in neck!”  That used to hobble me. Now I accept it. 50/50. I’m OK.

The more I accept 50/50, the more I accept myself. Just because someone is upset with me right now doesn’t mean I’m not whole, magical, wonderful, etc. Just because I behaved like a jerk, doesn’t mean I am a jerk.

Recently my Pathwork Helper asked me if I thought I should love everybody.

I don’t think I should, like an obligation, but I do think that’s the opportunity here on Earth. Jesus didn’t just love some people.

I like to believe each of us comes into this world open to loving everything and being loved by everyone, and it’s only our defenses that keep us from loving. If I don’t love another, is that because of them or because of me?

I’m grounded in the notion that everyone has something vital to offer. I’m also clear that what I reject in others is almost always something I reject in myself.  If I’m awake, if my Adult Consciousness drops in, I can see that any disdain or irritation I have for another is the opportunity to do some work on myself. In Pathwork, we call that a “Beautiful Problem.” It’s the opportunity to take on that if you’re sad, irritated, rageful, etc. that’s about you, not the person or the situation that triggered you. That’s the true gift of annoying people. But truly!

The way I express myself (I’m told I come off as arrogant – must be the yawning chasm of my insecurity) often irritates people. It’s something I’m working on. But I’m working harder on self-acceptance. Not minding. Being at peace with not everyone liking me and not always being “gotten.” Being more and more present to the reality of 50/50.

A wonderful friend of mine will take what seems like five hours to tell you as nicely as possible that you look fat in that dress and might want to consider something else. It’s fun to watch when you have time, and annoying as hell when you don’t. If you ask me if you look fat in the dress, I’m going to tell you.

I’m doing the best I can for now. If that’s not good enough for you, I hope you’ll stick around. I’m working very hard to do better.

In the meantime, if I piss you off, you might take that on as a beautiful problem. You’re the one who’s triggered, not me.

You’re welcome.

By Billy Weil 

The First Rule of Improv

I’m a big fan of improvisational comedy – it’s great fun to watch how the actors play off each other and how creative they can be when they do. My kids and I have watched hours of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and marveled at the talents of Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles. I’ve never done improv and I’ve always wanted to try it. The only thing I know about improv is the “First Rule” which is to never say “No.”


In Pathwork, the guide teaches that we’re programmed to respond autonomically – more of an involuntary, unconscious reaction – despite how conscious we may think we are being. Moreover, we have an overwhelmingly negative bias.  So many times we respond with an automatic “no.”

Most of us live more like life is scripted, than improv. I know I do.  If something doesn’t flow right into my comfort zone, I’m too often an automatic “no.” Or at least I’m a “no” first. Maybe if you come back to me, I’ll open my thinking, but if you don’t, the subject will be closed.

Saying “no” shuts everything down – the conversation and the energy. As with improv, it doesn’t allow your partner(s) to move the scene forward.  It stops the flow.

Often, this is our vain attempt at control. Saying “no” is safe. Saying “no” gives us the final answer.

But as the guide teaches us, having control is really the booby prize. It has no intrinsic value, and it robs us of a more free and flowing energy and connection with others, and with the universe.

In Pathwork, our first main step is to become conscious and actually see who we are and how we function.  It could be powerful to see how often we automatically say no, and how this creates an illusion of safety.

What delights might be possible if you were always a “yes” first, rather than an automatic “no?”

Can you imagine the difference in your energy level, happiness and feelings of connection if the people in your life responded to you with “yes, and…” (not “yes, but…”) instead of “no” on a constant basis?

So much happens in the pauses in between – in that fraction of a second when someone says something to you, and your brain (mostly unconsciously) makes up its mind how it’s going to respond. What if we just took a breath in that pause? What if we just considered a “yes, and” – how might that change things?

This is my New Year’s Prayer. I’m setting an intention to take a pause after people speak with me, observe my tendency to respond negatively, and make more conscious choices about how I do respond.

By Billy Weil 

Spiritual Hunger

Most of us who are blessed to have sufficient resources to live reasonably are spiritually hungry and do not know it.  We can’t exactly pinpoint the subtle  but pervasive feeling of emptiness and deadness that comes from the hole in our soul because we are cut off from our spiritual nature.

We are hard wired to organize our lives around the material and psychological world- our physical needs and the needs of our individual and collective egos for security, gratification and approval.  We frantically manage our homes, jobs, cars, wardrobes, finances, health, relationships and our sense of self and personal viability as they get established in all of these responsibilities.  We feel anxious and overwhelmed by all that is on our plate and console ourselves with excessive food, chemicals, shopping and television.  This over involvement  in our physical and psychological identities cannot touch that place deep inside where we feel empty and dead.  Only spiritual nourishment can. Our souls are bereft because our priorities are out of balance.  It is not that our needs to survive, to make our way in the world and for personal viability are unimportant.  They simply are not most important.

We hunger for love, connection, compassion, peace, brotherhood, acceptance, and serenity but do not sufficiently invest our resources in bringing these spiritual realities to bear in our lives.  There is a major discrepancy between the investment we make  in the material and psychological world and the world of the spirit.  Our human resistance to spirit tells us that we don’t have the time or money to invest in spiritual self development, spiritual practices, giving of our time and financial resources to serve the cause of spirit and justice in the world.  But this isn’t true.  We do – we simply must lay claim to our resources through positive intention and conscious choosing to make certain that we keep a foot in both worlds – our earthly life and the life of the spirit, and stand upright and live a more spiritually based and balanced life.  The more we invest in our spiritual development, spiritual practices and allocate the resources of time and money to serve the planet, in other words, the more balance we achieve between the physical world and the life of the spirit, the more all that we do will be infused with efficiency, calm, light, purpose and joy; and the greater contribution we are to the planet.  Matthew Fox and Andrew Harvey,  modern day mystics, call this the birthing of the divine human which we must accomplish if our species is to survive.  The Pathwork Guide teaches that this is our calling.  May we answer the call.

By Sue Van Doeren

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The Rest of the Iceberg

icebergThe obtaining of one’s quest for authenticity, wholeness and enlightenment, does not require lightning flashes or the discovery of some holy grail. It simply requires a slight shift in position, namely, owning our negative thinking.

The mind is receiving and reviewing many hundreds of negative thoughts each day, and will continue to do so for the rest of your life. The challenge isn’t in not having these thoughts – that’s impossible. The challenge is in:

1.  having the consciousness to recognize that you are having these thoughts, and

2.  choosing to own these as thoughts you do not wish to empower.  You simply acknowledge their presence, thank the mind for “sharing,” and choose to allow in divine guidance.

What’s at stake is one’s relationship to all of life. The universe is constantly streaming us love, guidance and wisdom.  It’s in and around us all of the time. And our negative thoughts act as a force field preventing us from allowing these streamings to enter our consciousness.  When we own our negative thinking, we instantly (at least momentarily), dissolve this force field and allow the wonderful streamings to enter – at least until the next negative thought enters. The game is to get better and better at quickly identifying, owning and releasing these negative thoughts.

Our experience of living, especially in our western materialistic culture, is a tiny fraction of what is available to us – the tip of the iceberg. When you repeatedly dissolve the negative energy force field, over time what you will experience is an amazing abundance of love, energy, wisdom and joy. At every moment you have the ability to bring this about. Set a reminder on your computer, put a post-it on the fridge, conspire with your friends, but find a way to constantly remind yourself that owning, vs. empowering, negative thinking is the gateway to a wonderful, abundant, miraculous experience of living.

By Billy Weil

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It is Only Love That is Worthwhile

family-feet-in-front-of-fireplace-600x350The election is over and Thanksgiving has ushered in the holiday season.   The negativity of the campaign stood in sharp relief to the background of the candidates’ desire to serve, contribute and to right social wrongs.    We saw too little higher self expansiveness – powerfully standing for one’s truth  and honoring  that  right for the other.   We suffered instead the candidates’ attachment to winning and thereby seeking to gain advantage by shaping the truth to fit the situation and by crushing the opponent.  This negativity represents pieces of the worst in the collective and individual human ego:  our self serving ways, the attachment to results, the need to be in control and to be right –  every man and every woman’s plight.  We absorb it from the culture that surrounds us and it is exacerbated by the wounds of our childhood.  We must admit  our darkness in order to transform it.

Over the longest holiday season of the year we will pay homage to our connections to our friends and family and the Creator of our understanding as we celebrate the Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanza.  As the year turns into the next we are called to honor our relationship to ourselves by reviewing our days and setting our intentions on who we aim to become in the new year.

As we head toward the Winter Solstice, the elements of long darkness and cold blowing invite us to close the shutters,  wrap up, turn to the inside for warmth and safety.   To enter the interior life of the psyche is a sacred time – the season to examine how the collective human ego lives and operates in us, and let there be no mistake, it does. The holy challenge is to face, own and allow this darkness with compassion without holding it against ourselves or acting it out upon others – and when we do,  and we will, to make an amends to oneself or the other.  “I was in error.  I am sorry”  In Matthew we read, “First take the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly the speck from your brother’s eye”.

Lovingness lives in us to be liberated by admitting with acceptance unlovingness  which is the learned condition of being human.   As we move forward, may we, in the words of Nina Simone, await “When the whole world learns it is only love that is worthwhile”.

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Embrace Change and Celebrate Your Capacity for Growth

As the days cycle into changing weather and fall begins to pass into winter,  hints  of  the holiday season are in the air.  Cinnamon scented pine cones are replacing the mums at the grocery stores and The Salvation Army is on air inviting our giving for the holiday season.  Already I have ordered the  20 pound organic turkey from a local farm and I am rolling over in my mind the Thanksgiving dishes I’ll prepare from my grandmothers, through my mother to me and now to my daughters and their families……”those ties that bind”.
As I reflect upon my gratitudes,  at the head of the list with my daughters and their families and all those “ties that bind”,  I am most grateful for our capacity as human beings to grow, heal, transform and change. Not that we can be counted on to exercise this amazing capacity, but it is life’s gift to us nonetheless, whether we use this power or not.  As a matter of fact, there is that condition of being human within us that actually resists and fights the very change that is possible and that we long for.  Let us become conscious of that part of us that resists change and wants to keep things the same – that part of us that is afraid and would rather feel secure in the known even though it is unsatisfying and in some cases, actually painful.  May we comfort, support and extend acceptance to this frightened part so that it may gradually relax,  soften and melt slowly into the change that we long for.  As we approach Thanksgiving 2012, may we celebrate our capacity for growth, healing, transformation and change.
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