By Raphael Cushnir
Am I Done With My Personal Work?
Short answer: No
Nuanced answer: As most of you know, last year I presented an online interview series called Teaching What We Need To Learn, in which 46 leaders in personal and spiritual growth shared their own “growing edge.” During the series I went to great lengths to share my own ordinary humanity. I wanted it to be abundantly clear that no amount of spiritual transformation eliminates the need for ongoing personal growth.
But I didn’t talk very much about how, in my view, that kind of growth best occurs. I believe that we’re not meant to do that work alone; even, and perhaps especially, as teachers. So the first thing I’d like to share in this regard is that I work regularly with someone very skilled in doing the exact same work I do with my own clients.
The next thing to share is that we don’t do anything advanced or fancy. We employ the moment by moment work of Emotional Connection, relying on the very same principles and practices described in my book, The One Thing Holding You Back.
Here’s a super-fresh example. Recently my growth partner and I met by Skype. I described a very old feeling that had been resurfacing lately. It causes me to slump and curl inward. It makes me want to give up, and stirs a deep, old belief that I’m doomed to be separate, unseen, unloved, and also to be shamed and vilified for the very things that are best about me.
As soon as I described the feeling, I knew that the belief connected to it wasn’t true. But it was still necessary for me to allow the feeling my full, compassionate attention. So I relaxed into that attention and let the wave of emotion take me over in real time. I also let it further express itself in my posture. I noticed my lower lip begin to jut into a trembling pout. I not only surfed this pout, but in addition exaggerated it. Suddenly I felt like I was all pout, like a toddler in a quivery tantrum.
Once I was in toddler mode, an image arose of myself around that age. It wasn’t exactly a memory, but came more from a story that had been told to me many times, about how I, extra-verbal Raphael, stared at the world glumly for my first two years and didn’t say a single word.
It didn’t matter to me whether the image was from an actual experience because the felt sense of it was so real. As the feeling cascaded through me, and the image remained as well, I found myself saying, out loud, “I didn’t do anything wrong!” I repeated that phrase, over and over, louder and louder, and felt a corresponding surge of energy.
I said, “Stop hurting me!” and the energy grew. I felt bigger, more animated. Then I said, “Leave me alone!” and once again hunkered down. The energy that was so vividly present now almost instantly disappeared.
Through this process, and the reflection that followed, I saw very clearly how my pattern of retreat to safety from hurtful intimacy has continued, all these years, and contributed to a periodic deflating of my life force. I saw how important it was for me to redouble my intention to stay present, to keep showing up, especially when this pattern activates.
1)The greatest gift of this process was that it came as direct experience. I used Emotional Connection to get into it, and to move through it. The insight about my energy states, and how they connect to hurt, intimacy and safety wasn’t merely conceptual. I knew more than ever the visceral truth of it, and I also knew exactly how to to work with that energy for the purpose of continued healing and expansion.
2)None of this was new. It was a well-worn point of my personal journey, revisited anew at a deeper rung of my life spiral. It would have been easy to throw up my hands and walk away, to cry out, “This?! Again?! I thought I was done with it years ago!” It would have been just as easy to see this recurrence as proof that I’m back where I started, no different or better off than when I first began to address my issues consciously.
What kept me from retreating in despair was my internal sense of the exact opposite feeling. I was engaged, excited, more fully alive than when I began the session. The body doesn’t lie, it’s true, but energy is an even more reliable truthteller. In the aftermath of the session my energy was equal parts grounded and vibrant. I was wide awake to new potential.
And, I was profoundly grateful. I still am. And I’ve offered this window into my own personal process in the hope that it may inspire you, too, to keep committed to your own personal work no matter how far you’ve come on your corresponding spiritual journey.
The emotional realm is the nexus between self and Spirit. Whatever is in the way, is the way. When you stay with what might feel old, forever-stuck, hopeless, when you revisit it with a trusted and skillful partner, miracles do happen. And the greatest miracle of all, perhaps, is the deep knowing that you’re right where you need to be…
Here. Now. Home.
Raphael Cushnir is an author and a faculty member of the Esalen Institute, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, and the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies. In addition, he coaches individuals and teams at Fortune 500 companies, governments, religious organizations, and leading non-profits.
Join Raphael for his Hollyhock Program on Cortes Island, Total Immersion For Total Transformation, July 26 – 31, 2013.