Week 4: 29 November 2023

Dear Friends

Thanks for all of the deep and sweet engagement that we shared on Wednesday night. Elden, we missed you, and hope that the notes below support you in finding your way into the material. Monica and I send our love into all of your lives, recognising the unique challenges that each of us inhabits. Lets keep putting the class into the middle of the metta prayer, and holding each other close.

 

selective focus photo of plant spouts

 

Overview of Session 3:

  • We used the metta prayer as a way to include parts of ourselves that may not always get a look in, and then opened the space for the ‘all beings’ part of the metta to enable some open prayer. May your encounter with the metta prayer bring you great nourishment.
  • We centred ourselves biographically in the work of all that being in adulthood includes, and with a particular focus on our relationship with relationship. We looked at this in first year too, recognising that all that was imprinted into us in our early years is likely still impacting us, and may well still be forming our beliefs about relationships – all of them – and including our romantic partnerships. We described the work of living in our lives, whilst opening to look at what formed us, as one of the key tasks of adulthood. Tasks sounds less interesting than it really is! Keep on with this healing work – for most of us its an ongoing encounter within ourselves. Its not a one-off thing, and don’t let anyone make you believe its easy or ‘done’. And it is worth it!
  • We suggested that you create a Relationship Resume: listing your romantic relationships, and asking yourself the following questions, which you began to discuss in pairs:

How did it begin?

How did it end?

What were the challenges?

What were the learnings?
What is the gift?

  • After the break you worked in pairs on an issue that is typical of what a supervision session might inquire into, or indeed a session with a peer. We know that many of you are still learning what supervision is, and what the shape of a counselling/ accompaniment session can include. This is not a recipe but is a guide. You can use it again with you peer if you didn’t work it though on Wednesday – please do!

 

A supervision experience: 

A process to meet our own reactions and drop into inquiry;

in pairs, with open questions: 

name a recent time  you were angry or activated;

describe it; 

 have you had this / do you have this response or reaction to anything else in current or past? 

What does this remind you of – in your earlier life? 

What is the fear or core feeling that the current experience might be triggering about a past experience? 

What happened in that -describe it in enough detail to still feel you can hold yourself safely in the present? 

What did you need at that time? Can it be given now, in prayer or through some form of inner work?
How does this impact your feeling in the present? 

What resources do you bring with you now into the present situation?  

 

Marriage as  A Vessel for Transformation, and as A Gift and Service to the World.

In preparing for marriage, Elmer and I (Nicola) were blessed by an extraordinary guide, shaman, teacher, minister Sobonfu Some. Two of the key teachings that we received in the process follow here: 

 That marriage – or whatever we call any deeply committed partnership – is a vessel for transformation. The existence of a contract; the creation of a ceremony; the sharing of vows/ intentions;, the public knowledge –  all of these strengthen the vessel. And the vessel needs to be strong, because the work of two adults seeking to forge a space of sufficient unity is extremely challenging – and extremely rewarding sometimes – and requires deep support from all layers and levels of life. I could say more, as I am sure we all could. 

Secondly, that the purpose of marriage is not only for the couple (though of course it includes the couple). At a bigger/ deeper/ vision level, the sacred space of a marriage creates something that serves the world, in ways too many to name here. Essentially what two can do – potentially – is more than one can do – and the combined and committed ‘gift’ that arises from the two brings something new and unique to the world. This does not have to be big or glamorous or publicised -it simply is. And of course we also all know that ‘two’ can bring great distress too, if their partnership is not able to find a supported way to express love into the world. 

Again, so much more could be said, and we could all speak about this in droves I am sure, given that we are all embroiled in relationships, of all forms, some of them marriages! For now, let these contemplations ruminate inside and see how they land. What fascinating and provocative material we are in.

 

bouquet of assorted-color flowers hanged on brown plank with white textile

 

Preparing for Session 4 on 29 November

white and gold dome building

Thank you for your thoughts about when to start Islam. The trend was to stay with the planned dates. This means we have the joy of our guest speaker, Rev Masoumeh Melrose, joining us in our next session, to open the door to the mysteries of Islam. Please watch the interview that I did with Masoumeh a few years ago. It will help you to feel that much more ready for her joining us as our visitor. We are seeking to deepen our capacity to be communicators of Sacred Hospitality, remembering that our class group agreements seek for acceptance rather than agreement.

You can find the interview at the link here: Link: Interview recording

 

In relation to assignments, please tread lightly with yourselves. For the Buddhism assignment respond from your heart, with what is moving now, knowing that you have the rest of your life to keep learning. That is what your best looks like. And in this way we open to Islam whilst not putting Buddhism aside. It can all live together inside us in our vast hearts. Remember to be experiencing the Metta prayer every day in your practice, and to open to any other of Buddhisms elements that come your way.

 

Wider Housekeeping Notes

  • Thanks for booking your tutorials with Monica…and if you haven’t please do.
  • Thanks for updating us about Study Groups.  All blessings as this gets going.
  • Thanks as above for your thoughts about Islam and when to start.
  • Thanks to those who let me know if you want to be part of Angels and Mortals  – please update me if you haven’t
  • Week 5 of this Gateway, 6 December, is a Self Study week, giving you time to prepare your Wedding Assignment.
  • Week 6 of this Gateway, 13 December, is our Weddings Practicum AND is the last session for the calendar year.
  • Gateway 3’s first zoom is on 17 January 2024.
  • And a  question: we welcome the idea of the 5.45 pre-session attunement starting again, perhaps in January 2024. In light of the awareness we all have about the wars that rage, across nations and in families, we wonder (1) if you would take the lead, taking turns, in leading the 10 minutes of silence each week, and (2) if we might frame it as a Peace Attunement: directly to open the doorway into the zoom session that follows, and as a wider keynote of our connection into the global and cosmic atmospheres? We look forward to hearing your thoughts – perhaps on a shared class channel on random or wherever it best sits.

From Monica and me, with our support and love,
Nicola xx

 

white pillar candles on brown wooden table

Carl Jung and the Shadow: The Ultimate Guide to the Human Dark Side

 

To Carl Jung, the shadow refers to everything a person is not aware of or conscious of, about themselves, and the traits we do not want to own in ourselves. In this article, Jack E Othon explores these ideas about shadow in more depth…

Assignment: Case Study 1: Guidance

Case Study 1: Guidance 

Due 19 January

Case Study 1 is a guided review of your first sessions with your second year peer counsellor. It includes 6 sessions: 3 where you are the counsellor/ accompanier, and 3 where you are the client of your peer. Use the guidelines below to work through the assignment. Re-read all of materials in the Companion that relate to Spiritual Counselling/ Accompaniment, including the Peer Counselling Guidance notes in this Gateway, will help your attunement.

 

This work is rooted in your holding your client and yourself in a Sacred Contract in the Presence of the God of your Understanding. As you are invited to pray before, during and after any work as either counsellor or client, you will find that bringing that same stance to this Case Study 1 will  deepen it, and more likely make it easier too. In whatever way is yours, pray that your undertaking this Case Study 1 benefits you sincerely in your learning journey as a OneSpirit spiritual counsellor/ accompanier, and minister. That is the purpose of this piece of work: for you as a minister and counsellor- in- training to deepen your understanding of and confidence and competence in your practice. Your prayers will be answered. Whilst you have the privilege of being able to focus on a peer as your ‘case study’ the purpose of the case study is YOUR development. Your deepening understanding of your own learning journey will also benefit your client. Enjoy the process! It’s very satisfying, even if it’s a new field you’re ploughing here. You are ready.

Please follow this requested format, and with the headings noted in bullet points below.  

Upload your case study via the student portal by 19 January

Please submit your work in 2000 – 2500 word: approx 4 pages in total in size 11/12 font with normal margin, made up of the following  5 headings:

  1. Content Summary of the three sessions where you are the counsellor (max 3/4 of a page in total)
  2. Process Summary of the three sessions where you are the counsellor (max 3/4 of a page in total)
  3. Learning Review (max 1 ½ pages in total)
  4. Reflection on the learnings through the process of supervision (max ½ page in total)
  5. Reflection on the process of being a client to your peer for three sessions (max ½ page in total)

 

  • Record the dates and timings of the 6 sessions
  • Refer to your peer as ‘my peer’ or ‘my client’ or ‘x’ rather than using their name and when you are writing as the peer counsellor.

 

Further guidance on each of the 5 headings above follows below.

 

  1. Write a Content Summary (max 3/4 of a page in total) from the perspective of the counsellor of all three sessions, seeing all three as a whole, using your session notes to guide your input.

 

Please include:

  • the presenting issue: what is the overt, usually directly expressed theme or issue, or cluster of themes/ issues,  that your peer brings to the sessions. For example: conflict with partner or someone else; ongoing anxiety or any other health challenge in self or others; overwhelm with the course or work or life; etc

  • the underlying issue: what is the issue that you sense, or that your client may also express or may not be aware of, that is under the surface, and is perhaps more at the root of the presenting issue. For example: having no control over health outcomes of others yet being personally impacted; present time conflicts being based in early life distress with a key carer; loneliness; a life pattern of experiencing rejection, etc

  • the primal lie and the main defences of your peer client: what is the core mistaken identity (primal lie), or wound or negative self- concept that your client maybe holds? And in what ways does your client protect themselves (their defences) from feeling the pain of the negative self- concept, by whatever name you give it? Examples of primal lies: I am nothing, I am not good enough, I am wrong, I am too much, I am not enough. Examples of defences: continually busy, rescuing others, condemnation of others, othering, bias, reactivity, stuck in victim, persecutor or rescuer roles, cynicism, all addictions, judgement, projection, arrogance, false humility, gossiping, passive and overt aggression, control, etc.

Please write about your own impressions of these areas and what brings you to these conclusions in a way that doesn’t breach the confidentiality of your peer through unnecessarily disclosing private information.

The content summary, when read over, will give you a good overview of the territory you were in with your client, and a very broad summary of the shape of the session/s, as well as the attempt to name the elements requested above.

  1. Write a Process Summary (max three quarters of a page in total) from the perspective of the counsellor of all three sessions, seeing all three as a whole, using your session notes to guide your input. Please include, along with your other reflections, your tracking of the way in which you received guidance (or whatever your language is for this impulse) before, during and after the sessions. Where the Content Summary is a bit like laying out the framework of what is above and what is below the surface of the ocean, the Process Summary is a bit more like the ocean itself. It is the inner process, the feelings, the shape, the less rational, the tone, the mood, the whole environment of how your client body and its posture in the world, their timing, their mood, and so forth. It’s a deep observation of what you see, hear, sense, intuit and notice, including things that appear to be juxtaposed, or incongruent, or for some reason drawing your attention. The Process Summary is also the place where you describe the impact of your holding of the session and the impact – as you observe it through your client’s response – of your reflections, warmth, empathy, questions, and so forth.

 

  1. Meditate upon your development as a student of spiritual counselling/ accompaniment and then write a Learning Review on the basis of the following four headings: (max 1 1/2 pages in total). These headings follow a structure known as the Conscience Competence Learning model, which you can read about here: https://www.revolutionlearning.co.uk/article/conscious-competence-learning-model/

 

  • Those things that I have integrated into my learning (unconsciously skilled – they have become second nature): for example: I now really understand why we contract and would not begin without one; I can now accurately practice reflection

  • Those things that I am presently consolidating (consciously skilled – I have to think about it, but I do this): for example: I’m much closer now to asking questions that help the client to deepen rather than feed my curiosity; I have a checklist that I keep my eye on that keeps me focussed on slowing down and inviting a deeper listening than my usual mind

  • Those things that I am developing my understanding of more fully (consciously unskilled – I’m actively working towards being able to do this). For example: I’m seeing how positively different I am in a session when I have spent a few minutes before it centering myself and opening to Spirit – and I’m still struggling to value this enough to overcome my habit of rushing from thing to thing; I’m seeing how my own worldviews and my own need to be wanted and liked wants to dominate the way the session unfolds: learning to be fully with my client is a big learning discipline

  • Those things that are opening up to me (just emerging from unconsciously unskilled– it’s come into my awareness that this is something I want to be able to do) For example: I’m just opening to the impact of my own spiritual practice, and its impact throughout my day, and thus on my sessions too, and want to deepen this; I’m becoming aware how much I still tend to give advice and talk about my own equivalent material and feel as if I need to have an answer; I’m seeing that I’m a habitual rescuer and have so much to learn to heal myself in this stance so that I can sit steady with my client

 

  1. Reflect on the learnings through the process of supervision, recording your learning through the supervision you received (max 1/2 a page), whether from a peer, or a formal supervisor.

 

  1. Reflect on the process of being a client: what have you learned from being a client that will help you as a counsellor/ accompanier (max ½ page). For example: What does it feel like to be a client? What is the work the client has to be willing to do? What are the things a client can do to make it harder to reach their intention, and easier? Are there defences you’ve noticed yourself using as a client that keep you feeling more in control or safer but also maybe more risk and learning and healing averse? What do you know about the roots of your defences,  and what helps them to soften?

 

 

 

Not biting the hook – an excerpt from Practicing Peace

Getting Hooked

In Tibetan there is a word that points to the root cause of aggression, the root cause also of craving. It points to a familiar experience that is at the root of all conflict, all cruelty, oppression, and greed. This word is shenpa. The usual translation is “attachment,” but this doesn’t adequately express the full meaning. I think of shenpa as “getting hooked.” Another definition, used by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, is the “charge”—the charge behind our thoughts and words and actions, the charge behind “like” and “don’t like.”

Here’s an everyday example: Someone criticises you. She criticises your work or your appearance or your child. In moments like that, what is it you feel? It has a familiar taste, a familiar smell. Once you begin to notice it, you feel like this experience has been happening forever. That sticky feeling is shenpa. And it comes along with a very seductive urge to do something. Somebody says a harsh word and immediately you can feel a shift. There’s a tightening that rapidly spirals into mentally blaming this person, or wanting revenge or blaming yourself. Then you speak or act. The charge behind the tightening, behind the urge, behind the story line or action is shenpa.

You can actually feel shenpa happening. It’s a sensation that you can easily recognise. Even a spot on your new sweater can take you there. Someone looks at us in a certain way or we hear a certain song, or walk into a certain room and boom. We’re hooked. It’s a quality of experience that’s not easy to describe but that everyone knows well.

Now, if you catch shenpa early enough, it’s very workable. You can acknowledge that it’s happening and abide with the experience of being triggered, the experience of urge, the experience of wanting to move. It’s like experiencing the yearning to scratch an itch, and generally we find it irresistible. Nevertheless, we can practice patience with that fidgety feeling and hold our seat.

YOU CAN ACKNOWLEDGE THAT IT’S HAPPENING AND ABIDE WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING TRIGGERED, THE EXPERIENCE OF URGE, THE EXPERIENCE OF WANTING TO MOVE.

In these moments, we can contact the underlying insecurity of the human experience, the insecurity that is inherent in a changing, shifting world. As long as we are habituated to needing something to hold on to, we will always feel this background rumble of slight unease or restlessness. We want some relief from the unease, so when shenpa arises we go on automatic pilot: without a pause, we follow the urge and get swept away.

Mostly we don’t catch shenpa at an early stage. We don’t catch the tightening until we’ve already indulged the urge to scratch our itch in some habitual way. In fact, unless we equate not acting out with friendliness toward ourselves, this refraining can feel like putting on a straitjacket and we struggle against it.

Staying Fully Present with Shenpa

The best way to develop our ability to stay fully present with shenpa and to equate that with loving-kindness is in meditation. This is where we can train in not getting swept away. Meditation teaches us how to open and relax with whatever arises, without picking and choosing. It teaches us to experience the uneasiness and the urge fully and to interrupt the momentum that usually follows. We do this by not following after the thoughts and learning to return again and again to the present moment. We train in sitting still with the itch of shenpa and with our craving to scratch. We label our story lines “thinking” and let them dissolve, and we come back to “right now,” even when “right now” doesn’t feel so great. This is how we learn patience, and how we learn to interrupt the chain reaction of habitual responses that otherwise will rule our lives.

THIS IS HOW WE LEARN PATIENCE, AND HOW WE LEARN TO INTERRUPT THE CHAIN REACTION OF HABITUAL RESPONSES THAT OTHERWISE WILL RULE OUR LIVES.

You can also begin to notice shenpa in other people. You’re having a conversation with a friend. At one moment her face is open and she’s listening, and the next you see her eyes glaze over or her jaw tense. What you’re seeing is her shenpa, and she may not be aware of it at all. When peace is your goal, this is an important observation.

From your side, you can keep going in the conversation, but now with a kind of innate intelligence and wisdom called prajna. This is clear seeing of what’s happening.

Without being blinded by your own story line or trying to get some ground under your feet, you simply recognise your friend’s shenpa and you practice patience—you give the situation some space. You have the innate intelligence to realise that when you’re discussing something that needs to happen in the office, or trying to make a point with one of your children, or your partner, that nothing is going to get through right now because this person has just been hooked.

Our Wisdom Becomes Stronger

So simply by recognising what’s happening we can nip aggression or craving in the bud—our own and that of others. As we become more familiar with doing this, our wisdom becomes a stronger force than shenpa. That in itself has the power to stop the chain reaction. One method of doing this is to bring your awareness to your breath, strengthening your ability to be there openly and with curiosity. You might also change your way of talking at that point and ask, “How do you feel about what I just said?” The other person might say, curtly, “It’s fine, no problem.” But you know enough to be patient and maybe non-aggressively say something like, “Let’s talk about this again later,” understanding that even simple words like this can avert two people from going to war.

Our training is to acknowledge when we’re tensing, when we’re hooked, when we are all worked up. The earlier we catch it, the easier shenpa is to work with; but nevertheless, if we catch it even when we’re all worked up, that’s good enough.

Sometimes we even have to go through the whole cycle and end up making a mess. The urge is so strong, the hook is so sharp, the habit is so entrenched, that there are times we can’t do anything about it.

But what you can always do is this: after the fact, you can self-reflect and rerun the story. Maybe you start with remembering the all-worked-up feeling and get in touch with that. You can re-experience the shenpa very vividly and experiment with not getting carried away. This is very helpful.

We could think of this process in terms of the four Rs: recognising the shenparefraining from scratching, relaxing with the underlying urge to scratch, and then resolving to interrupt the momentum like this for the rest of our lives. What happens when you don’t follow the habitual response? You’re left with the underlying energy. Gradually you learn to relax into that shaky, impermanent moment. Then you resolve to do your best to keep practicing this way.

I once saw a cartoon of three fish swimming around a hook. One fish is saying to the others, “The secret is non-attachment.” That’s a shenpa joke: the secret is don’t bite that hook. If we can learn to relax in the place where the urge is strong, we will get a bigger perspective on what’s happening. We might come to see that there are two billion kinds of itch and seven quadrillion types of scratching, but we just call the whole thing shenpa.

https://www.shambhala.com/not-biting-the-hook-an-excerpt-from-practicing-peace/

Dr Gabor Maté: Why are you addicted?

DR GABOR MATÉ – WHY YOU ARE ADDICTED

 

 

 

Adulthood and its phases

Adulthood and its phases

 

Some of the soul gifts of adulthood are often disguised in unwelcome events or strangely wrapped parcels. If we have time we will reflect on the gateways, the phases, the processes, the portals that we can recognise – through experience – in adulthood, and bring our love and shared attention to these. So much attention is given to the phases of early human development. In the first year we revisited the landscape from conception through to 21.

As we move into the ceremonies and the inquiry of “adulthood”, what does this mean to you?

If you designed your own view on ‘the phases of adulthood’, what would it be? 

Spend some time in reflection, and draft a series of phases, or processes, or insights, about this question, including the aspects of your experience – or what you observe in life around you – that might not have been given enough visibility, and maybe share these in your study group.

Reflections

What strikes you now about the span of life that we might call adulthood? 

How does your reflection on marriage, and the journey of committed, intimate partnership, stir this question? 

What are the ways in which your inner being, your soul and presence, comes to life? 

When you bring these questions out of the mind, and into the presence of nature, of your body, of making food, of music, of poetry, of stars and moonlight, what happens……?

Resources that might be helpful:

  • Richard Rohr’s book “Falling Upwards”
  • A website focussing on women’s menstrual cycle and menopause as major spiritual teachers “Red School”
  • The concept of Biography Work, founded upon the work of Rudolf Steiner: google will bring many concepts forward.
  • Karen Maezen Miller’s  book “Momma Zen”

Meditation and Prayer:

Do you have a meditation practice?

William Bloom and the Spiritual Companions Trust have very recently published Meditation Masterclass which can be downloaded (for a small fee).

‘How to Meditate’, in Momma Zen by Karen Maezen Miller  is recommended – it shares a practice of the simplest kind: breathing in and out to the count of ten, repeated. The work of The Lorians brings many rich resources for finding our way into an inner life that is congruently framed in terms that resonate now.

The vast subject of Meditation and Prayer also opens the door to the subject of Forgiveness. A few treasured prayers below bring some of these concepts into view, including Binnie A Dansby’s work with Forgiveness as a living practice, and arising from A Course in Miracles. This work has been and is of huge influence, and brings together the spiritual and the biographical in ways that make it clear that they are inseparable. A Course in Miracles focuses profoundly on the process of forgiveness as a metaphysical inquiry into the mind.

Binnie Dansby on The Process of Forgiveness:

You are invited to do your own research, and to write your own prayers. Let get as real as we can with each other about where you / we really are with your/ our inner practices.

It’s time to deepen, together. For most of us that means it’s time to start.

Again, and again. And again.

 

When the heart is hard there is no love

in the house no sap to bend the tree

no song to greet the rising sun

no dance, not free.

like a shrivelled hardened nut

it hides within its shell

it knows no overflow, 

it feels like hell.

But life in all its compassion knows

it will have to fashion mighty blows

to crack, to shatter open, 

to bring into the light this heart.

In these awakening moments

rivers of tears are cried

and hours of pain felt, 

very delicate moments

regaining a vulnerable state.

A softened heart bathed in tears

knows the enfoldments of the love of All love

and no longer needs to hide

pp61 Silently Within, Modern Sufi Poetry

Deborah O’Brien Bell

The labyrinth

The labyrinth is found in traditions around the world and has emerged spontaneously in different cultures for the last 4000 years. There are many different patterns and shapes. The pattern we are using was laid into the floor of Chartres cathedral in France in the 13th century. Chartres cathedral is renowned for its sacred geometry and emphasis on the feminine, including a black madonna. This pattern combines the circle with the spiral in a meandering, purposeful path, representing the journey to our own centre and back again into the world.

There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth. At times you seem close to the centre and then you find yourself on the periphery.

Most walks around the labyrinth take the shape of a three-fold process…releasing, receiving and returning. Moving toward the centre is a time to notice the breath, the contact of your finger with the  path, finding your right pace, letting go of the details of life, shedding thoughts and distractions.

The second phase, of receiving, is the time in the centre. This is a time of deep quiet, self-reflection and looking inward to see what emerges from within. Once you reach the heart of a Chartres style labyrinth you will find the Rose at the centre, with 6 semicircles, known as petals, laid out in front of you. These are sometimes said to symbolise the unfolding stages of creation: mineral/elemental, vegetable, animal, human, angelic/ancestral and spirit/cosmos/the all.

The final phase, returning, is the journey home, carrying with you what you have received. The return path is the start of embodying new insight or a new commitment, a return to life renewed, refreshed and connected.

When walking a finger labyrinth, of paper or wood, it can be helpful to consider whether to use your dominant or non-dominant hand, which finger or thumb to use. If you have a wooden labyrinth you can close your eyes and feel your way along the path. Sometimes moving around the outside edge of the labyrinth, before or after or instead of a walk, can be powerful too.

The paper labyrinth can be downloaded and printed, or traced on the screen from:

https://zdi1.zd-cms.com/cms/res/files/382/ChartresLabyrinth.pdf

Wooden finger labyrinths can be bought from Rowan HumberstoneEtsy or from www.dasfingerlabyrinth.com.

Depending on size they tend to cost between £50 – £100

Spiritual Accompaniment Process and Questions

Study group

Study group

Maintain a broadly 4 weekly rhythm for these meetings.

The group should be held by a different member each month.

Create time for deep sharing, for including a sense of ‘sharing a cup of tea’, for spiritual practices, discussing the set readings and arranging visits together to sacred sites if possible, or encouraging each other to do this in your own vicinity.

This is also the space in which to practice your ceremonies, and is both important and very moving. Study groups typically meet for a minimum of 3 hours, and often for considerably longer in the second year.