For a number of years I have kept a photograph of my stepdaughter near my desk. In the photo she is probably about 4-years-old. She is seated on her tricycle, looking out at the camera with a grin and a look of total abandon and joy. I know it is summer, because she is totally naked … and she is ready to roll.

When you look at this photo you know that in just an instant the streamers on the handlebars of her tricycle were going to be flowing in wind. There was no question that she was ready ­ for whatever. She is filled with joy. She did not doubt that she was loved, cared for or that she was enough.

I keep it near my desk to remind me of the joy that is possible, not just for children, but for us as adults. Maybe not nude bike riding, but deep joy. The joy of the spirit ­of the soul.

I have had moments, or maybe hours, of that kind of joy, but not often. But, way too often in my life I am twitterpated. This is a word we use in my family to express the emotional and physical experience of upset over situations that maybe really don’t deserve so much tight focus and absolute concern. It carries the sense that only I can make the situation turn out right. Maybe you are familiar with that feeling?

We are people working and studying Pathwork. We believe in a life of spirit. We believe there is a spiritual realm at hand every moment of our lives. And, we believe that spiritual realm is not only ready but desiring to aide us. And yet, it is so easy to become twitterpated. In a moment-to-moment experience of life, I forget that the my Higher Self resides within me ready to help and guide.

I need to be reminded frequently that the Guide has said that we have not been abandoned to live with only our Mask and Lower Self. The Higher Self is closer to each one of us than our next breath. We are indeed loved and cared for beyond measure. There is help at hand as we organize our day. There is help at hand as we deal with difficult situations. All we need to do is ask, listen, wait. Certainly a simple message, but not necessarily an easy one.

If you are having too many experiences of “twitterpation” in your life, then my message is one of encouragement. The Guide tells us we can know joy. If we consistently rely on Spirit, our lives can be filled with more joy in all of its forms. I bring this message with the hope that we will all have a few more moments this fall when the streamers from our handlebars blow in the wind!

By Judy Talbert

Of Love and Mercy

UniverseI recently was listening to an interview of a spiritual leader who said that the reason we work is to meet people and live out our spiritual lives in relationship.

I think there is a lot of truth to that. When I stay at home and interact with only myself and my husband, it is fairly easy to live an internally peaceful life. It is when I begin to interact with others … In fact, I don’t need to physically meet people, all I need to do is drive in rush hour traffic to see my peaceful Higher Self spirit wear a little thin.

I think we all know it is difficult enough ­ here ­ in the Pathwork community to move forward on projects and respond with love and care when what we have so proudly accomplished meets resistance or disapproval. And here we all have the same underlying spiritual values.

So put us in an office, a hospital, a factory with people who essentially are strangers. All come with different backgrounds, different viewpoints on the world, different ways of handling or not handling conflict. Mix in a little transference and countertransference, a big dash of Lower Self and the strong desire to protect our Mask Self and, VOILA, depending on your tolerance for differences you are bound to have problems. And maybe the kind of problem that will keep you awake at night.

It takes courage and faith in the Pathwork process to hold ourselves open to those who hold completely different views culturally, religiously, politically.

If in fact the spiritual leader is correct ­ that the reason we work is to meet people and live out our faith in relationship, then it’s possible that we work with those who are so different from us so that we can change and grow, that our hearts will have the opportunity to open to others. Perhaps, we are given difficult situations at work, in our neighborhood, within our own families, within our Pathwork community, so we will finally call out to Spirit. So we will not rely only upon our own ego, our own intellect and skills, our own pathetic humanness. Maybe it is our difficulties in relationships that bring us to the point where we will call out, “Spirit, please help me.”

There is a great deal that could be said about this subject. But, the message really does boil down to something quite simple. Our work is always the same no matter if we are working at a deeply fulfilling job, a completely unfulfilling job, if we are a student, are retired, or unemployed.

Our work is this. Each day we wake and pray and/or hold the intention for the courage and willingness to have our hearts and our minds open to all those we meet. To allow the work of Spirit, our Higher Self, in our lives and to do it knowing there will inevitably be pain and disappointment. Our work with the guidance of Spirit is to bring love, justice, mercy to all our interactions.

By Judy Talbert


The Man Behind the Mask

MaskBy Judy Talbert

The death of Robin Williams hit me hard. I was surprised by the impact and it left me wondering why. Why did he do it? Why was I so affected?

His brilliance was without question. I remember Mork and Mindy so well. He made me laugh with abandon at a time in my life when laughter was so needed. Several of his movies are ones I re­-watch when I need a guaranteed emotional pick-me-up. I loved his serious movies and along with millions of others, I loved his stand­up routines. But the question still remains why did his death hit me ­ and so many others ­ so hard?

Upon reflection, I think for me it was because underneath the brilliance was this sense of his desire to please. He put so much of himself out into the world in such an unguarded way. He really wanted to make you laugh.

It wasn’t till his death that I realized it was more than comedic brilliance that drew me to him. I was connected to some essential part of his humanity. I know that desire to make people laugh, to make them feel good and in return be approved of and maybe even loved by them. I think this is why I connected so strongly with him. Under all the wonderful humor, it is that unhealed part of us wanting love and acceptance that somehow made me feel connected to Robin Williams.

I recently read something about him in the Rolling Stone magazine that drew my attention and made me even more grateful to have Pathwork principles in my life.

The article stated, “Underneath it was as if he always felt he wasn’t worthy enough. It was almost like a big secret that they’re going to find out one day: “They’re gonna find out I’m really not that good and not that talented. Man, Have I fooled everybody.” The article went on to say, “To be that guy, to always be on … must have been exhausting.” “He was an incredible hider … It was defer, deflect and go back to making people laugh.”

If these statements are true, then he must have had a very strong Idealized Self Image. At least part of his ISI was that of a man who needed to make people laugh. After reading the article, it sounds like in most situations he was fearful of just being himself. He needed to be ‘on’ with most people.

We in Pathwork know we ALL have a Lower Self that we have tried to hide most of our lives. It has been an incredible relief to me to admit that I do have this Lower Self that can be embarrassingly small, ugly and disgusting. It has been quite comforting to learn that is not all of who I am. We each have our Higher Self within us to help guide us into a more healed and light­-filled life. As we are able to bring more and more of our Lower Self out into the open, we are healed. We then have more access to the Higher Self and our creative intuition.

I am saddened by the loss and the realization that Robin Williams must have suffered so greatly. Why did he take his life? Certainly fighting depression and addiction is no small matter. And when a person is finally diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease there is already considerable damage that has occurred within the brain. The knowledge of the physical symptoms to come combined with the substantial depletion of dopamine in the brain could be a big part of what brought him to his decision to commit suicide.

But, maybe things would have been different had he more understanding that we are so much more than our Mask, ­ that person we strive to show the world. It really isn’t only the Lower Self behind our Mask. Maybe had he experienced connecting with the wiser, more peaceful center of himself, his life may have ended differently.

Of course, this is all conjecture on my part. However, the one thing I do know is in Pathwork we have a clear method of finding what lies beneath our ISI and our Lower Self. Doing the work that is needed to live more fully from our Higher Self brings a richer, fuller, deeper life for those who continue on the path. What a wonderful realization with which to live!

Autumn Prayer

chrysanthemumChrysanthemums are replacing the petunias at the farmers’ markets, and the open-aired bins are filled with brightly-colored, plump tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and the sweetest of fresh corn. The time of ripening and unfolding is at hand.

Through the connection with the sun, the soil and the water – the rhythms of creation, life has unfolded and ripened naturally. We didn’t make that unfolding happen. We couldn’t make it happen. Given the right conditions, the right nourishment, the miraculous process unfolded on its own.    

We cannot make ourselves ripen and unfold either.   We can, however, open ourselves up to be nourished by the background animating presence of life that surrounds and is within us and will ripen our souls with the same natural rhythms.

Problems arise when we pridefully think that we are on our own here and it is all up to us to make it happen.   We become so engaged in the pursuit of worldly comfort, safety, security and spinning in our problems that we lose sight of the natural rhythm to our own lives … that we are a part of a Divine universe that wants to nourish, heal, ripen and unfold us.  

We easily lose sight of the vital goodness that surrounds, and is within, us and wants to give to us as the sun and the soil give life to the unfolding of the plants. 

The Divine is at hand … is close, nearby and within our own hearts … right here with us now, lovingly and patiently waiting for our reaching, our asking, our seeking.   The Divine’s animating presence is in all matters trying to use everything, no matter how dark and ugly, to bring us into consciousness and into truth … to teach us about the ultimate reality of love, compassion, justice, tenderness and mercy.  

We must step with faith into the same infinite mystery as do the plants as they turn their leaves to the sun, sink their roots into the soil, absorb the sustenance of the wet earth to unfold themselves and fulfill on their purpose.   We must sink our roots into the Divine and lift our innermost selves to the light within and without so that, just as the plants take a bath in the grace of nature, we can take a bath in the grace of the Divine that is right here with us now.

Recall a time when you felt profoundly loving, when you felt open-hearted joy for no reason, when you wept for the cause of justice and the pain of injustice in the world, when you grieved for someone else’s loss, when a sweet tenderness rose up in you that almost took your breath away. Recall a time when you felt moved, when you threw yourself into a situation with abandon because the need was great, a time when you stood up for the truth of love and justice when it was risky to do so.

These are moments of the animated presence of the Divine within you, within us, longing for a connection with us. It never leaves us although we leave and lose access to it and separate from it because of the negative condition of being human. Being pathetically human never disqualifies us from reaching for that place of goodness of Divinity within us, and without, again and again.

Let us search out and connect with this exquisitely loving, compassionate flow so that we can be nourished into the unfolding and ripening that is our heart’s deepest yearning. 

Prayer: Great Spirit.  We know you are here with us now … in every breath we take, every tear we shed, every upheaval we suffer. May we repent again and again, and yes, again, by turning away from the negativity that has us be human, toward your light, your holiness, which flows in the background of our lives as certain as the redness of the plump ripened tomatoes and the sweetness of the fresh, yellow corn. Amen.

by Sue Van Doeren

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