I apologize for beating you with my fists and feet when you were small and vulnerable. I apologize for wounding your body temple. I apologize for burning your hands, breaking your finger, scarring your flesh. I simply couldn’t see you, laying there in a pool of blood and sorrow. Blinded my own repressed rage, I saw an easy mark for my aggression. I saw a new host for my pain. I now understand that my abusiveness was a smokescreen for my own woundedness. A habit entrenched early in life, it felt easier to repeat the abuse than to heal it. And, in many ways, your aliveness reminded me of my own deadness- I had to shut you down so I could remain asleep. Below it all, I had so much love for you, my sweet child. I just couldn’t manifest it. I don’t ask for your forgiveness- you must be true to your own process first- but I do ask that you grant yourself permission to heal and to live a life that is liberated from my effects.
I apologize for attempting to dim your beautiful light. It was so bright that it threatened my own unmet need for attention- who would notice me, in your enlivened presence? Although I was chronologically older than you when we had you, I was actually emotionally regressed, trapped in an unhealed primal consciousness that ruled my behavior. I had grown up in a family of love starved narcissists, each of us clamoring to see our individual reflections in a too tiny pool of validation. With our lights hidden under a bushel of shame, no one ever felt seen. Stealing other people’s light became my misguided path of self-elevation, a misplaced attempt at boosting my diminished self-concept. I am so sorry for this attack on the integrity of your being. You had every right to embody your magnificence with dignity. You had every right to shine.
I apologize for vilifying and scapegoating you. I am sorry that I actively blamed you for my own misery. I couldn’t hold my self-hatred any longer- I needed to pass it on to someone else. You were the perfect recipient for my frustration- you couldn’t defend yourself. And, I remember the worst of it- telling you that my life would have been better if you had died instead of the daughter I lost. As I read these words, I find myself almost turning away from your picture- it is too much to imagine that I could leave you with that- but I stay and face your image. I face it not because I can change what I have done, but because I owe it to you to stay in the fire of my own regret.
I apologize for mocking you and repeatedly calling you names. I should have known the scars that insults leave on a vulnerable being- mockery was fundamental to my family dynamics. In the heat of desperate survivalism, insulting each other was a momentary relief from our chronic state of hopelessness. I am sorry for perpetuating that pattern at your expense. I only wish I could reach inside of you and take back the words I left there. I know that you internalized many of those insults and believed them to be true. I know that it shaped your lens. Please know that my message was entirely my own stuff. Please know that you are beautiful in my eyes. And, more importantly, please know that you are beautiful through your own eyes. Please heal the remnants of my madness.
I apologize for turning others against you and pitting you against your siblings. Lodged in a competitive world view, my reality was divided into territories- threats and protections, enemies and friends, them and us. The demons of duality- ne’er the twain shall meet. Through this fearful lens, differences were equated with threats to survival rather than opportunities for learning. Like snorting animals on the prowl, if you didn’t behave like us, you were the enemy. Because you were so different from the rest of us, I identified you as an enemy. I forgot our biological connection, our shared humanness, our karmic engagement. I forgot the bridge that existed between our hearts.
I am so deeply sorry that I left you alone in your developing years. I apologize for abandoning you when you needed me most. I remember your cries for contact, your tireless efforts to connect, your tearful eyes through the living room window as I drove away. I looked away, but I still felt you. I just couldn’t do anything about it. In many ways, I confused you with the bad marriage that produced you, a marriage that I longed to escape from so desperately. When I had you, I was so emotionally immature. There was so little space inside me for another person’s needs. As I grow into my real adulthood, I am able to empathize with your heartbreak. In the last years, I have spent much time growing into the parent you deserved. Please know that I have taken that journey seriously.
I want you to know that I see you better now. I see the fear that I left you with. I see the ways that it impacted on your life choices, emotional availability, patterns of self-distraction. I see the ways that self-doubt prevented you from fully owning your power. Despite my madness, some part of me noticed the ways that you shut down to cope- the shallowing of your breath, the armoring of your heart, the reluctance to be seen. But I also see the ways that you overcame. I see the ways that you championed your own cause. I see the ways that you converted your fear into hope. I see how hard you worked to grow yourself. I am proud of you in ways that words can never express.
Most of the greatest achievements on the planet are unknown to others- private overcomings, silent attempts at belief, re-opening a shattered heart. The real path of champions truly lies within- the transforming of suffering into expansion, the clearing of horrifying debris, the building of a healthy self-concept without tools. The greatest achievers have found a way to believe in something good despite being traumatized and fractured on life’s battlefields. You are one of them. You overcame me. No matter what else you accomplish in your life, you are already a champion.
I am grateful that you disconnected from me many years ago instead of coming back for more abuse. You realized that I couldn’t meet your parental needs and that you had to look elsewhere. You were so very right. By choosing to protecting yourself, you also created the conditions for my own transformation. In your absence, in your determined refusal to enable my patterns, I was forced to recognize my impact. At first, I resisted the learning, but the love I felt for you penetrated my defenses and left me with no other option but to do the work. That work took me far back in time- both to our time together and to my own early life. Ah, the Power of Then- the impact of unresolved feelings on our now consciousness. Try as I did to disarm them by witnessing them, it was entirely ineffective. You cannot heal and resolve your emotional material with your mind. Your emotional material does not evaporate because you watch it. You can only heal your heart with your heart. I had no choice but to go back down the path and re-claim my feelings. In this way, you were my greatest teacher- the one who gave me back my heart.
Over the years, my own emotional armour has melted away. I have lost the energy that I once had to distract from my truth. I have grown tired of my falsity, denials and projections. And something has grown within me- a willingness to see what I have done and to acknowledge where I have failed. I don’t know if I will have another incarnation to do it better, but I want to set a loving intention before I die. I want to be living in truth when I close my eyes on this lifetime. And some part of the truth is horrifying to me. I know what I have done. I know the violence in my heart. And I know the causal factors: the desperate survivalism that plagued my family line, the shutting down of my emotional current, the build-up of resentment. But I also know that I had a choice. I could hear the voice of love calling me away during those acts of violence, but I chose to continue. I was influenced by my childhood, but I alone chose my path. Before God and before you, I am accountable for those choices.
As our society crosses the bridge from survivalism to authenticity as our way of being, I have every faith that we will one day move from love. I have done it, and I feel confident that others will follow. As part of that process, I call on all bullies to step out of their comfort zone and make determined efforts to shift their abusive paradigm. To find the courage to face the source of their rage. To break the lineage of toxic conditioning. To find constructive ways to soften their edges. To steer the collective (un)consciousness in new directions. To learn healthy ways to channel their aggression. Don’t do it only for those who you are harming. Do it for yourself as well. There is no life with a closed heart.
I do not know how God will judge me. I do not know how you will judge me. I do know that I have done all I can to own my actions and to open my heart. I am on my knees before truth. Know that I understand if you choose to remain disconnected. I truly do. You have to be true to your own process. But also know that I am here for you if ever you choose to open the gate again. Nearly 50 years late, but the way is clear.
A former criminal lawyer and psychotherapist, Jeff Brown is the author of “Soulshaping: A Journey of Self-Creation,” and the just released “Ascending with Both Feet on the Ground”. Endorsed by authors Elizabeth Lesser, Oriah Mountain Dreamer and Katherine Woodward Thomas, “Ascending” is a collection of Jeff’s most popular spiritual graffiti—quotes, soul-bytes and aphorisms frequently shared in social media. He is also the author of “Apologies to the Divine Feminine (from a warrior in transition)” and the producer and key journeyer in the new spiritual documentary- Karmageddon- which also stars Ram Dass, Seane Corn, David Life, Deva Premal and Miten. You can connect with Jeff’s work at www.soulshaping.com.
With his permission, I want to share some of the highlights of a profound dialogue I just completed with Ram Dass, the brilliant author of 'Be Here Now'. Fantastic!
I have been seeking to develop a model of Spirituality that somehow integrates the wisdom of the West with that of the East. That is, a model that weaves the Eastern quest for the Eternal with the Western quest for Emotional and Mental Health. A Soul-Ego bridge, if you will. Unity Consciousness meets Self-concept on a bridge across forever. I have become disenchanted with the models that emanate from the sky down, and have been seeking a model that works from the ground up.
In writing Soulshaping, I brought myself some way down that road, but there remained areas of uncertainty. For example, I was confused about the seeming conflict between Ego and Soul-based models of development. In Western culture, we put tremendous emphasis on the development of the Ego. Feeling strong and well-integrated on an egoic level is considered a healthy step, necessary to our efforts to deal with the world confidently. Yet, I frequently meet individuals who see the Ego as the enemy of a truly spiritual life. They contend that if there is too much Ego, the gateway to a Soulular consciousness is impeded. Through this lens, the key to our spiritual advancement depends on the dissipation of the Ego and our capacity to move through our lives from the Soul outward.
The way I have resolved this seeming tension is to imagine it all happening in steps. We begin with the Ego. We clear our shame, build our self-concept, assert our power. We become healthily boundaried- we know where we end, and where the other begins. Then we let our obsession with the self go and naturally begin to seek something vaster, a connection to our Soul's path and to the broader Universe: 'All one', 'I am that, too', etc. Ram Dass himself expressed this philosophy: "You have to become something before you become nothing…"
But this isn't working for me anymore. If unity consciousness means anything, it means that everything is part of the ongoing equation. My intuition is that the Ego and the Soul are not actually as far apart as we imagine, at least not in 'the world as it ought to be.' Perhaps it is not the Ego that is the illusion, but our belief that the Ego is everything that is the illusion. The real issue is our difficulty linking the Ego's function to our ultimate transformation. At times, I see the Ego as the Soul's ongoing worker-bee, instigating and over-seeing the foundational work necessary to sustain our connection to Soul. The Ego clears the debris and manages the world so that the Soul's light can shine. At other times, I actually see the Ego and the Soul as indistinguishable. If you believe (as I do) that we come into each life with particular lessons and callings, then does the current state of the Ego not reflect the current stage of the Soul? For example, if one of my lessons is the healing of my Mother wound, does not my fragmented Ego with respect to this issue reflect the as yet unformed shape of my Soul? Ego-shape = Soulshape? Hmm…
Ram Dass and I discussed this. I played Ego's Advocate, Ram Dass-Soul's Advocate. Ram Dass acknowledged some responsibility with respect to the perceived Ego-Soul split in the West . When he wrote 'Be Here Now', he was reacting against the Egoic nature of Western Culture- the materialism, the headiness, the marked disconnect from a Soulular Consciousness. We were identifying ourselves as our Ego rather than understanding the Ego as our vehicle for spiritual transformation. His calling demanded that he put the Soul's journey front and centre, in order to help bring us into alignment. We needed a strong shot of Soul to wake us up. But now, 35 years later, I believe we need a more integrated approach. Ram Dass didn't agree with my contention that the Soul and the Ego are indistinguishable ('They are two planes of Consciousness'), but he did agree that they are not naturally anti-thetical. There are times when they are in opposition -God knows!- but they are also complimentary and intrinsic to each other's functions when we are moving through our lives in a conscious manner.
Through this lens we interpret our personal traumas and challenges in terms of their ultimate lessons rather than through a narrowly psychological framework. Instead of dismissing the self as secondary to our spiritual path, we recognize that it reflects the exact incarnation material that we need to work through to grow spiritually. Our Soul expands when the EgoSelf processes and interprets the material on the Soul's behalf, converting our personality issues and experiences (the stuff of our incarnation) into the Grist for the Soul Mill at their source. Soul Food.
So, we were in agreement, or thereabouts. But I was still confused. It all made sense on a conceptual level, but HOW does the Ego process the Grist? In my own experience, this has not been a cerebral process- I have never been able to transform my Soul's Consciousness through intellectual means. There had been moments of insight, to be sure, but they always seemed to emanate from the emotional body below: Felt experience ignited awareness. Every time I reached the next plateau in my consciousness, I got there by surrendering to and working through the emotional material generated by my experiences. I needed to submerge myself in the material (not drown in it…but dive into and through it!) to convert it.
In Soulshaping, I refer to this process as "Cell your soul": the idea that the body is the karmic field where the Soul's lessons are harvested. In order to grow spiritually, we must bring our suffering and our joy through the cells of our bodies until our spiritual lessons are birthed. Repressed emotions are unactualized spiritual lessons. To grow spiritually, we have to see our feelings all the way through to completion. Once they make it all the way through the conversion tunnel, the lesson is revealed and the Soul evolves to its next stage.
We worked with an example from my own life. Some years ago, I attended a holotrophic breath workshop with Stan Grof. There, I tapped into a childhood memory of being pinned down (symbolically) by my Mother, the sense that she was always on my back. As the breathwork intensified, I felt the need to simulate this in physical form. I asked the assistants to lay on top of my back, and I repeatedly threw them off of me. It was a profoundly cathartic emotional experience- (semi) free at last! – and created enough space inside for me to then open to the next plateau of spiritual awareness. Psych and spirit inextricably linked. Grist for the Soul Mill in action.
I have discussed this experience with many seekers. Many suggested that I was wasting my time getting lost in my material. It was egoic, self-centered, narcissistic. Some said that I needed to simply forgive the past, let it go, focus on the light. Others contended that the trick to spiritual transformation is to bypass the incarnation material, to see my personal issues and memories as distinct from our ultimate transformation. But where is the Grist that transforms us, if not in our daily lives? What does it mean to love the world, if your heart is filled with unresolved anger? What does it mean to be in the moment, if you continue to feel obstructed by the past?
Ram Dass was much more balanced about it. He agreed that the body is the Soul's temple. We live our incarnation material through our bodies, and when we are done, our Soul moves on to the next birth. But he was resistant to the idea that working our material through requires therapeutic process. He was wisely concerned about our tendency to get lost in our emotional material, to wallow in the psychological without making spiritual progress. Fair enough. It's a fine line between self-pity and a healthy working through of the material. At the same time, I am not sure how we can shape our soul to the next stage, if we don't deal with the emotional material that emanates from our experiences. What else grows us from the ground up?
By the end of our talk, our perspectives were close. I was a little right of Soul, Ram Dass was a little left of Ego. But close. It seemed to me that the meeting place is somewhere inclusive, something I called ENREALMENT in Soulshaping: "The idea that a more "heightened" consciousness is not all about the light (as enlightenment implies) but is about becoming more real, more genuinely here in all respects: shadow and light, earth and sky, grocery list and unity consciousness. It is about living in all aspects of reality simultaneously rather than only those realms that feel the most comfortable." In other words, if you think that the stuff of your incarnation is all that you are ("I am sweeper, I am Lawyer, I am unhappy person"), then it is all that you are. But if you stay connected to the fact that your stuff has both a localized and a universal dimension, you are on the right path. Not identifying ourselves as our stuff, but identifying our stuff as the key to our transformation.
At the heart of 'Enrealment' is a vision of a human being that ascends with both feet on the ground. We grow by coming down into our body and our personhood and learning the lessons necessary for our expansion. We begin with the root chakra- the quest for Om begins at home- and we work our way up from there. It is not enough for our feet to merely skim the ground. The mythic life begins with our feet planted on Mother Earth. With our soles firmly planted, our Soul has a leg to stand on in its efforts to go higher. Once the root chakra is satisfied, we proceed to the next chakras. As we heal, there emerges a natural and sustainable movement upward, towards God. This philosophy bridges the Eastern emphasis on the Soul with the Western emphasis on psychological health. Alexander Lowen meets Neem Karoli Baba, Localized lens meets Archetypal Wave, Sole meets Soul on sacred footpaths. ALL one.
(Soul)food for thought…