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.
I AM NOT MY ‘STORY’
Wisdom– In the right context, this perspective can invite us beyond our habitual, linear, localized and neurotic perspectives into a vaster framework of perception. We are, so often, so much more than our stories. We need to transcend and re-frame ‘story’ in moments of great difficulty, when the pain and confusion are unbearable, or when we sense that our lens is incongruent with reality.
Perils– If taken too far, this perspective can detach us from the reality of who we are and becomes a reality bypass technique. We may not be only our stories, but we are also our stories. In the heart of our stories are the personal identifications, emotional material and unresolved issues that are the grist for the soul mill for our spiritual expansion. Without karmic clay to work through and with, our expansion is stalled.
Grounded Perspective– I honor my story as the karmic field for my soul’s expansion. I value the cacophony of circumstances, archetypes and experiences that I chose or that were chosen for me in this lifetime. The Schools of Heart Knocks and Heart Delights is my primary school for expansion. At the same time, I choose to look beyond my habitual range of emotion, and see my story and my life experiences from a broad, imaginative and multi-layered perspective. I see my story from a localized and a universal dimension. Not identifying myself as my story, but interfacing with my story in a way that humanizes and transforms my consciousness.
DO WHAT YOU LOVE AND THE MONEY WILL FOLLOW
Wisdom: This optimistic saying can have the effect of inspiring us to honor our callings and follow our dreams. This encouragement may be just what we need to finally make “a leap of fate”- a stepping forward into the pre-encoded life we are meant to live. In some cases, that stepping forward opens the door to abundance.
Perils: If followed too literally (and too hastily), this saying can lead to disaster. All too often, individuals make the wrong-headed assumption that what they love to do will necessarily meet their economic needs. Or they abandon their practical career before they have done the foundational work necessary to earn a living at their calling.
Grounded Perspective: Do what you love, and the money MAY follow. Some callings are inextricably linked with financial abundance, others may not be. Although I envision a day where society will be structured in such a way that we survive economically doing what we love, we aren’t there yet. Some of us still have to honor our divine purpose while making our money doing something else.
The SPIRITUAL BYPASS
Spiritual Bypass: A term first coined by author John Welwood, the spiritual bypass is the tendency to jump to spirit prematurally, to turn to God as an escape hatch. Spirit becomes a crutch rather than an expression of a natural unfolding. The bypasser looks outside the body for spirituality rather than in the heart of it. He turns to God reactively, in a determined effort to get away from here. The deeper ocean feels safer than the riptides of disappointment and grief on Mother Earth. The bypass has many possible indicators i.e. the starry eyed bliss trip, radical detachment from one’s self-identifications, premature forgiveness, ungrounded behaviors, wish-full thinking. The opposite of ‘Ascending with both feet on the ground.’
Wisdom: In a world of pain, the spiritual bypass is an essential mechanism. For some of us, this mechanism actually allows us to survive and momentarily transcend unbearable aspects of earthly reality (i.e. practical challenges, traumatic events, unresolved emotions and memories). Without it in place, some of us would perish in the heart of unbearable pain and suffering.
Perils: Sometimes bypassers forget to come home. On a pogo stick to the stars, they float off to outer space and lose contact with Mother Earth, detaching from their personal identifications and emotional lives to an extreme extent. By turning away from old pain, they have simply shackled themselves with their unresolveds. Sometimes, reality brings them back to earth with a harsh and deadly thud. But not always.
Grounded Perspective: The bypass is an unrooted trip-out rather than a solidly rooted trip-in, a form of openness that is not actually open, because there is no structure to ground it. It may be a necessary survival tool for a time, but real growth demands that we come back down to earth and work with what lives inside of us. ‘Ascending with both feet on the ground’ is a model of grounded spirituality that invites to connect to the Godself from the ground up. 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. As we develop a healthy egoic foundation and work through our chakras, we become organically present in our bodies and in the moment. From this stable foundation emerges a natural and sustainable movement upward, toward God. Instead of settling for the occasional peak experience, we are now capable of sustaining a more heightened way of being.
Copyright Jeff Brown (Author Soulshaping: A Journey of Self-Creation; www.soulshaping.com)
JUDGMENT IS BAD (wow, that was a judgment !) (The anti-judgment mantra)
Wisdom: Judgment has been a divisive and destructive force, often wielded as a weapon against those deemed different. It separates us, it undermines us, it perpetuates a dualistic framework of perception that fractures rather than heals. It is one of the primary roots of the poisonous tree. It is essential that we become conscious of our own judgmental tendencies and seek a more compassionate approach. Compassion is a much healthier and more productive path, one that enheartens humanity and brings us into connection with each other.
Perils: In its extreme forms, the anti-judgment mantra can actually perpetuate the dualistic madness it seeks to avoid by nullifying one’s freedom of thought and expression. It becomes a spiritual bypass mechanism, one where individuals repress valid and fair-minded perceptions because they fear that they are being “judgmental” toward others. When this happens, the individual becomes split between an unactualized inner knowing and an adaptation to an externally influenced “idea” of appropriate behavior. The anti-judgment mantra often works to the benefit of those who are seeking to repress freedom of expression and deflect personal responsibility for their own actions.
Grounded Perspective: To make a distinction between arbitrary, malicious judgment and grounded, intuition honouring, meaning-based discernment. The former destroys, the latter honors our intuition and supports our efforts to create a healthier reality. Not everything fits with who we are, or who we are becoming. The important thing is to enhearten our processes of discernment so that we are both honouring our own right to choose and emanating from a compassionate source spring. In other words, to do the least harm when we are making distinctions between what resonates and what doesn’t.
DESIRE/ATTACHMENT IS THE ENEMY OF A HEALTHY SPIRITUAL LIFE
Wisdom: For those of us who are so lost in our desires/attachments that we cannot stop getting in our own way, there is value in this extreme perspective. To be sure, there are times when well-boundaried detachment is necessary: when we need to be reminded of something beyond our localized lens, when we need a peek into a vaster reality, when we need to distinguish between that which serves us and that which derails us. Some of us need to detach from our desires in an extreme fashion in order to recognize/heal our pain bodies and come back to centre. This is particularly true for those with addictive patterns, and those unable to break destructive relational cycles.
Perils: When not implemented in a balanced manner, this perspective dissociates us from the heart of spiritual life- our felt experience. One of the rancid prongs of the spiritual bypass movement, the anti-attachment mantra becomes a technique for self-avoidance that can go too far, inviting seekers to define spirituality in heady, disembodied terms. Radical detachers often end up manifesting as automatons, seemingly calm and reasonable but not integrated in their humanness, a bubbling cauldron of repressed and unresolved feelings and memories.
Grounded Perspective: Selective attachment is the middle way. In the context of Soulshaping, ‘selective attachment’ is the process of sifting everything through an essential filter, connecting only to those experiences and relationships that support true-path. If something fits, we bring it on. If it doesn’t, we stay away. We embrace the idea that certain desires and attachments are healthy and soul-affirming under the right circumstances: How will we learn our lessons if we do not get involved? What is wrong with pleasure as a path? And we embrace the idea that non-attachment is the right path at other times: Why stay connected in the heart of unbearable suffering? Is separation not essential to individuation? Although we embrace the value of detachment practices as essential to the journey, the grounded perspective recognizes that to live in perpetual detachment is to miss the moment altogether. It is to trip out of the body that carries the karmic seeds for our transformation. It is to leave earth before our time. At some point, we need to come back down into our bodies and our personal identifications and work with what lives inside of us. Not identifying ourselves as our stuff, but identifying our stuff as a key to our transformation.
THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF SPIRITUAL LIFE IS (something called) ‘ENLIGHTENMENT’
Wisdom: Healthily characterized and construed, the quest for enlightenment is a noble path, reminding us that we have access to a wondrous and vast consciousness.
Perils: Although enlightenment has been broadly defined in the spiritual literature, it is often interpreted as a kind of pure consciousness; a 'heightened' and purified state of being that is detached from our everyday concerns. In its own way, this interpretation can actually invite us away from the karmic field of expansion itself- our daily life. On my journey, I have been exposed to all manner of definition- enlightenment as seen through the eyes of the head-tripper (mind as path), the bliss-seeker (en’light’enment= fleeing the pain-body, pleasure as path), the radical detacher (bypass as path), the all-knowing guru. Unfortunately, the head-tripper has removed the heart from the equation, the bliss-seeker mistakes the delights of self-avoidance for wholeness, the radical detacher has left the planet, and the all-knowing guru is usually too egoically bloated to taste from the tree of enlightenment. Its fruits only fall on those who have the good sense to know how little they know.
Grounded Perspective: A more grounded and balanced perspective would invite all aspects of the human experience into the equation. I prefer the term “Enrealment”, fundamental to my understanding of Soulshaping as path. Enrealment is the quest for a more inclusive consciousness, one that makes no distinction between our spiritual and earthly lives. It is about living in all aspects of reality simultaneously rather than only those realms that feel the most comfortable. Instead of tripping out of our earthly experience to find God, we find God everywhere – shadow and light, subtle and gross realms, grocery list and unity consciousness. Through this lens, spirituality is just another word for reality. The more authentically connected we are to all elements of reality, the more spiritual our experience. Be Real Now. Entirety as path..
Jeff Brown, Author of Soulshaping: A Journey of Self-Creation (www.soulshaping.com)
(A) BY THINKING MORE POSITIVE THOUGHTS, I WILL ALTER MY EMOTIONAL STATE, POSITIVELY TRANSFORM MY REALITY, AND ATTRACT THE ABUNDANCE I SEEK
Wisdom– There is an interface between individual and universal consciousness. Let’s call it the ‘soulular phone’*. Too many of us have not been able to recognize this connection because of the circumstances of our lives. Under the right circumstances, positive thinking & positive energy can directly impact this relationship, and our calls for greater abundance may be met with open ears. The fact that so many people are willing to embrace this perspective suggests that some measure of optimism is beginning to creep into our inner landscapes. That we are even open to the idea of a benevolent listener, a Law of (Positive) Attraction, manifestation itself…is a positive sign. We are becoming more faith-driven, more hope-full, more open…
Perils– All too often, the positive thinking movement becomes a bypass of reality, a skimming of the surface of our inner lives. Too many have followed this approach to transformation and lost their way, making major life changes without the foundation to support them. The universe responds to authentic transformation- nothing feigned will do. If our positive thinking is incongruent with our emotional reality, if we have not done the real work to ready ourselves for humanifestation, then our wishes will fall on deaf ears, falling to the bottom of the fountain with the rest of the pennies. We need to get our emotional world consistent with our "positive thinking" in order for our requests and visualizations to be taken seriously by the “Universal Broadcasting System”*. If we are all blocked up with pain and anger, our "positive thoughts" will not be authentically sourced and organically positive. The more emotionally unresolved we are, the denser the message we transmit. Even if we get what we ask for, it may not come with the positive outcome we imagine (i.e. the guy who asks for a Rolls Royce, and then drives it into a hydro pole because what he really needed was to wake the f*#k up).
Grounded Perspective– There is a relationship between positive energy and humanifestation. The key to fortifying that link is to work through our barriers to positivity. Just thinking in another way is not enough for most of us. Instead, we do the painstaking inner work to clear our emotional debris and to learn the lessons that will ready us for our ultimate path. The clearer and more unified the inner channel, the more effective we are at humanifesting our callings and dreams. The real secret to humanifestation is being true to your soulshape, whatever that means to you. Abundance is simply that- the path we are each here to walk. When you make a request of the universe, be sure that your feelings, thoughts and spirit are truly aligned. Be sure to know who is doing the asking (who am I, really?) and make the request when you are truly ready to receive it. One important thing is ensuring that we align our requests with what we actually need on our Soulshaping journeys. Not what we “think” we need, but what we genuinely need to expand in our spirituality. The universe- the listening ear- knows the difference.
(B) THE ‘YOU MUST FORGIVE’ NEW AGE MANTRA
Wisdom– Frequently advocated by the new age movement, “The forgiveness mantra” wisely reminds us of the value of forgiveness. When we are able to forgive things that have happened to us, we are able to live more freely in our daily lives. Toxic emotions can do tremendous damage to us in every area of our life. And we can potentially transform our consciousness by moving through the emotions that lead to forgiveness. In the heart of the process may be key lessons that need to be learned, and shifts in our way of understanding reality.
Perils– The ungrounded spirituality movement often encourages people to forgive independent of organic emotional processes, as though forgiveness is merely a thought, or a concept. Some even go so far as to suggest that you must always heal the connection directly with the wrongdoers, and remain connected to them. The “forgiveness bypass”* (the tendency to avoid unresolved emotions by feigning forgiveness) is a self-distractive path that can lead to all manner of internal and relational distortion- internal splitting and confusion, passive aggressive behaviour, the toxic impact of unresolved emotions. The truth is that we cannot will ourselves into forgiveness. If we try to forgive before we have moved the feelings, inauthenticity blocks our path. We cannot be in the real, because we are not emotionally real. Our cells are still back there.
Grounded Perspective– Attempt forgiveness wherever possible, but not in a way that is unreal and premature. The challenge is to ensure that the forgiveness is authentic, and not a concept that we impose on our felt experience. Authentic forgiveness requires a genuine working through of the emotions and memories related to our experiences. If there is a chance of truly letting go, we must first see the processes of healing all the way through to their completion. At that stage, forgiveness may organically arise. In some cases, it will not. And that is perfectly fine. The most important thing is to be true to our own experience.
(C) WHATEVER HAPPENS IS INTENDED FOR THE HIGHEST GOOD/ “IT’S ALL GOOD” (THE ‘HAPPINESS BYPASS’)
Wisdom: This perspective can be particularly helpful to those of us who have a tendency to see the glass as half empty or those going through a particularly difficult time. Sometimes it is all good, and we cannot see it because our consciousness is too burdened and/or we are too lodged in our own experience of victimhood. And sometimes an experience reveals its benefits much later in time, or becomes more obvious as our understanding of the relationship between challenges and expansion gets more refined. If we learn to stay in the fire long enough, we will often find the needle of goodness in the heart of the karmic haystack.
Perils: Intrinsic to this perspective is the idea that the universe is always pulling the strings, intending every act for our ultimate good. Although this view can feel very comforting, I have my doubts about this. Sometimes it is not all good. Sometimes it is just plain bad. In the wrong context, the happiness bypass can detach us from our authentic emotional experience and float us down de-nial river, where we drown in our unshed tears. Even if there is a beautiful lesson at the end of our process, we may not recognize unless we can really feel into the tragic elements of the event(s). Shallow-dippers and bliss-trippers love the “All Good” Mantra because it feels momentarily pleasurable and allow them to bypass some of life’s challenges. But..
Grounded Perspective: Sometimes its all good. Sometimes its all bad. Sometimes its somewhere in between. Because the collective unconsciousness is still at a stage where its awakened by harshness, Its easy to make the assumption that every tragedy was Gods will. It isn’t. Sometimes people are just acting out their malevolence and manifesting their disconnect from true-path. Sometimes acts are just tragic errors in judgment. We may be so shocked by it that our armored hearts open, but that doesn’t mean they are acts intended by the universe for our highest good (if every tragedy is ‘all good’, why develop laws that protect humanity from insane behaviour?). There is necessary suffering, and there is also needless suffering. As we become more acquainted with our inner lives, we get better at making the distinction.
© Jeff Brown, Author of SOULSHAPING: A JOURNEY OF SELF-CREATION (www.soulshaping.com)
Those terms marked with an * are taken from the Soulshaping Dictionary at the end of ‘Soulshaping’.