You cannot travel the path until you have become the path. Gautam Buddha
What does it mean to work at depth, to make lasting change and transformation? It has been said that by working on a purely psychological level, that we are merely re-arranging the furniture of our mind. For some this may be enough if the issues are relatively superficial. For others, this re-arrangement may give a sense of change, leave us feeling refreshed and that we have achieved something, but often this change is short lived. Repeatedly attempting and failing to make lasting change by staying at this level can undermine our hope for change and leave us feeling we are stuck with our lot.
For a deeper transformation we actually need to shift the place from which we are seeing and experiencing ourselves and our world. A useful metaphor here is that of the ocean. If we are only aware of what happens on the surface, then there is a constant change, sometimes stormy sometimes still and all this dependent upon external conditions. Peace and rest become elusive and we can feel a lack of control. If however, our awareness also includes the depths of the ocean, then we become aware of the calm, stillness and peace. This is not dependent upon the external conditions and is ever present. When our point of seeing and experiencing comes from the deeper place, we become more able to hold a sense of the ever-present calm, whilst remaining in contact with the surface ups and downs. In this metaphor, being the whole ocean and not just that which is on the surface.
What obscures us from contact with the deeper sense of well-being is our habitual defensive tendencies, or deeply held shock and trauma. Through developing this deeper sense of awareness, we become more able to slow down and see through our habitual reactions to the environment. With contact to the deeper place of calm we are more able to hold these reactive tendencies and soften their grip. Our habitual tendencies have the effect of pulling us out to the surface and out of connection to that which is inherently well and at peace. The process of deepening awareness enables the possibility of a transformative shift in the energy of the defensive pattern, further enabling healing through a re-connection to our core state of peace and well-being.
Just as the ocean may appear uninviting when stormy, so too does the thought of entering into our own depths when we are in distress. There are times in therapy when we just need to ride the storms and have support to gain our own confidence to do so, ideally from someone who has worked through much of their own process and knows the territory. The deepening process cannot be rushed. Layers of patterned defensive personality traits, shock and trauma need to be worked through at a pace and manner unique to each individual. By resourcing at deepening levels of awareness, our patterning can become seen through and integrated.
Whilst this general framework is true for many of us, there are also those of us who may have experience of the depths and prefer to stay here because the world "out there" appears so uninviting. This may be a habitual tendency or one brought about through a breakdown or spiritual breakthrough/awakening. For those with a strong pull to the depths, the journey may be one of learning to integrate this deep resource and find our way back into the world.
And you? When will you begin your long journey into yourself? - Rumi