Paulus may, at a minimal, be described as quirky, although some would say he was wildly eccentric. No cellphone. No electronic mail account. Making clay pinch pots that he returned to the Earth as a substitute of firing and promoting, Paulus was a pipe-smoking, barefoot-in-summer-grass, NPR-loving, dedicated to-slow-and-savor hermit of types. He was a queer artist residing the only life I’d ever touched—or, higher stated, that ever touched me.
However Paulus did greater than stay otherwise. Paulus revealed new worlds. This world revolved round a profound love of craft, however not simply any craft. Craft that centered round connection, belonging, reverence for the Earth, and wonder. Craft that was about course of over product. The how, not the what.
Once I first met Paulus Berensohn, I used to be 16 with a fresh-off-the-press driver’s license and a world that would nonetheless be packed into my knapsack. I knew nothing of his guide Discovering One’s Approach with Clay. I knew nothing of his work that furthered the notion that creativity is common. I knew nothing of the 1000’s of lives he’d touched by way of his teachings. To me, he was my fairy godfather (a title he coined and lived into with grace), and he was magic.
His home was filled with treasured handmade objects, altars, shade, music, and stillness. It was right here he launched me to journal making, working with clay, poetry, qigong, and a lot extra. Spending time with Paulus was like getting into an alternate actuality. Every thing he created and did felt infused with sacredness. His life was a prayer, a poem, a hymn. Of all of the influences he had on my life, what of this new world affected me most? His deep engagement with life and the uplifting pleasure of his unconditional love. With Paulus, something felt potential. In experiencing Love, that’s the way it goes. In unconditional love, chance is born. There it sings. In unconditional love, chance thrives.
In unconditional love, chance is born. There it sings. In unconditional love, chance thrives.
I used to be at a Gen X Dharma Lecturers gathering within the middle-of-nowhere Colorado after I intuited he was dying. A telephone name confirmed it. Expectant and heartbroken, I used to be within the middle-of-nowhere North Carolina by the following day. As I entered his post-stroke hospital room, I discovered him in awe. Fully consumed in surprise. Reciting poems with out phrases. Being moved by music I couldn’t hear. This wasn’t my first expertise being with somebody who had begun the method of transitioning from this earthly realm, however I had by no means seen something prefer it. Paulus didn’t say he had a stroke. He stated, “I’ve been stroked by life!” Eyes open, in each sense of it, Paulus had been stroked by life—and by Love, by awe. He was awake.
I spent the final week of his life with him, over 30 years after our first assembly, and his engagement with life shone extra brightly than ever. I’ll endlessly be moved by the dearth of resistance he displayed as he explored varied ranges of consciousness with ease and charm. He taught me, even from his deathbed, with out phrases. He taught me about endurance and acceptance. Most profoundly, Paulus taught me about Love.
The Coronary heart of Who We Are
In so many circumstances, how we do something is how we do every thing. For many people, as dying calls, we will be discovered clamoring, clawing, clinging to what we all know. Grabbing what we deem as “mine.” Greedy for what we imagine we deserve. Gripping the paper doll of id. This, after all, isn’t required.
We’re deeply habituated to worry dying. Our response to dying generally is a mirror for the way we face the challenges of our lives. Will we open? Or can we flip away in moments of problem? When love feels scarce—once we really feel minimize off from our very being—how are we conditioned to outlive our lives?
When love feels scarce—once we really feel minimize off from our very being—how are we conditioned to outlive our lives?
Survival methods (within the sense of preserving part of our interior self, our beliefs about who and what we imagine ourselves to be) are compensations for the felt sense of separation, the notion of falling from grace, when love feels out of attain or an total perception that we’re missing takes maintain. They’re the methods we develop, the actions we take, to not solely transfer away from the ache of a felt sense of separation but additionally to try to return to feeling complete. We expect we have to do one thing to get love as a result of we have now falsely believed that Love isn’t inherent. That we should do in an effort to belong. Survival methods preserve in place the felt expertise that we’re a separate self. There may be little thriving right here. Loads of surviving, nevertheless. These methods—ideas, beliefs, and actions—supply us simply sufficient to maintain our head above water as we navigate the circumstances of our lives.
Survival methods come up on behalf of the ego, and far is woven into their cloth. The interior critic, private and collective conditioning, our traumas—all turn into a part of the tapestry of who we mistakenly assume ourselves to be.
Seeing these methods for what they’re can create pathways for returning, for remembrance, for releasing into inherent belonging—into the center of who we’re.
Seeing these methods for what they’re can create pathways for returning, for remembrance, for releasing into inherent belonging— into the center of who we’re.
As Paulus moved towards his dying, he displayed an easeful divestment. Gently and with nice openness, he shed layers of himself that weren’t basic to his being. When transferring by way of life, he left no stone unturned. Bringing curiosity and inquiry to his expertise was his manner. As he moved towards dying, this continued to be so. He took his time. He listened. He opened towards quite than shrinking away. He didn’t depend on survival methods. Even in dying, Paulus selected surprise. He selected Love.
Recognizing Survival Methods
As a monastic, I discovered to acknowledge survival methods. This allowed me to obviously see the methods I discovered to maintain my sense of self intact in instances when my interior critic was at its worst, after I felt remoted, after I felt my survival was threatened—not bodily threatened however existentially; when belonging felt inaccessible. This seeing, the popularity of how I survived my life, has been a useful contemplative know-how for me.
When our survival methods are revealed, we see clearly that these methods are literally holding us from wholeness, from thriving. They promise a return to what’s inherent, however they can not ship. Thriving comes once we are seated firmly in ourselves, once we acknowledge our inherent wholeness, once we really feel and know our inherent belonging.
To make use of one in all my very own survival methods for instance: I discovered at a younger age that if I did issues effectively, if I received issues “proper” (in line with the conditioned commonplace round me, after all), I might obtain favorable consideration. That lens made getting issues “flawed” increasingly more insufferable. That’s not just because I used to be granted optimistic consideration as I did issues effectively, but additionally as a result of I perceived disdain, scorn, and rejection as the results of not doing issues effectively. Someplace alongside the way in which, “effectively” slid right into a conditioned imaginative and prescient of “perfection,” and “failure” grew to become the ultimate nail within the coffin. Not doing issues completely revealed my innate unworthiness, my inherent wrongness. Once more, all that is in line with a conditioned commonplace.
Seeing how we have now survived our lives is essential as a result of it exhibits us that sustaining our survival methods is an inside job. By way of our progress, it may be paramount to see this and absolutely perceive how survival methods—whereas maybe sparked by and validated by way of exterior occasions and circumstances— truly stay inside. They come up out of distortion and preserve distortion from the within out.
The excellent news about this? We can’t management the circumstances and occasions of our lives. We are able to have stewardship over our interpretation and due to this fact our expertise. Take into account the Chinese language Taoist thinker Chuang Tzu’s empty boat:
If a person is crossing a river
And an empty boat collides together with his personal skiff,
Despite the fact that he be a bad-tempered man
He is not going to turn into very offended.
But when he sees a person within the boat,
He’ll shout at him to steer clear.
If the shout isn’t heard, he’ll shout once more,
And but once more, and start cursing.
And all as a result of there may be anyone within the boat.
But if the boat had been empty,
He wouldn’t be shouting, and never offended.
Should you can empty your personal boat
Crossing the river of the world,
Nobody will oppose you,
Nobody will search to hurt you.
After we are recognized with a conditioned survival technique, our boat is full. Whether or not recognized with the “perfectionist” in an try to know our inherent goodness, or the “helper” we predict will make us lovable, or the “achiever” that can validate our worthiness, such methods have one factor in frequent: They start with the distorted view that we aren’t already basically good or proper, inherently lovable, and intrinsically worthy.
Every survival technique is an expression of a restricted psychological perspective on actuality. From this attitude, what’s inherent has been veiled. The labels “perfectionist,” “helper,” “achiever” are from the mannequin of the Enneagram, a instrument I’ve discovered to be notably highly effective for private and collective transformation. The Enneagram is a helpful framework of 9 distinct methods for regarding the self, others, and the world, however survival methods can take numerous varieties.
Think about that, as a baby, you had been reprimanded for having wants. You might need discovered to outlive by exhibiting the world that you could care for your self. You’re self-sufficient and self-reliant. Maybe, although, you grew to become hyper-independent in any respect prices. Or maybe you had been raised in a “Don’t be a crybaby!” atmosphere and also you had nowhere to convey your upset. Little alternative to be seen and held. You might need discovered that it’s worthwhile to be robust, to cover your feelings, to push ahead irrespective of your inner expertise.
A query so that you can mirror upon: Who did you turn into in an effort to survive your life? There’s no proper or flawed reply right here. Should you think about the expertise of presence, being absolutely right here and now, as being an empty boat, ask: Who did you turn into in an effort to handle the stress of life? What type stuffed the boat? Consider this manner (or varieties—for definitely there will be multiple) as compensations, varieties that got here into being as you felt you misplaced one thing that’s, the truth is, inherent.
The unique delusion is that, on a basic degree, we don’t belong.
The identical is true of survival methods. The unique impulse to have interaction in these methods arises out of our deep longing to attach with what’s most major and most basic—our very being. The distortion that we’re separate fuels the technique. We really feel minimize off. We attempt to reconnect. The unique delusion is that, on a basic degree, we don’t belong. We can’t expertise our inherent freedom and be recognized with this distortion on the identical time.
Acknowledge Your Unmet Wants
Beneath each survival technique lies an unmet want. Take into account while you had been a baby. What sorts of unmet wants had been current? And what behaviors did you interact in out of an try to satisfy these wants? Do any of those behaviors proceed in the present day? Some unmet wants that folks I’ve labored with have articulated through the years:
To really feel liked
To be accepted
To know that I’m worthy
To be seen and valued
Take a while so as to add your personal. What’s essential to acknowledge about survival methods is that they aren’t you. Simply as you aren’t your ideas. Simply as you aren’t your unfavorable self-talk. You aren’t your survival methods.
In our unique coaching handbook for lecturers at Peace in Colleges, we made this important clarification: “This isn’t a free cross for unjust, dangerous, racist, and many others. habits. For instance, ‘I did that dangerous factor however that’s not who I’m so I’m off the hook.’ This simply re-creates and reproduces struggling and violence; that is one other breach within the recognition of our shared being. The aim of recognizing that we aren’t our conditioning is to empower us to convey our actions into alignment with who we authentically are, to have our actions embody the popularity of our shared being and inherent interconnection.” What’s additionally essential to acknowledge is that we’re habituated to attempt to meet our unmet wants by way of exterior sources. It’s a recreation changer while you understand you can meet your personal unmet wants—that the therapeutic occurs inside.
Excerpted from the guide The Coronary heart of Who We Are: Realizing Freedom Collectively by Caverly Morgan. Copyright © 2022 Caverly Morgan. Reprinted with permission from the creator and the writer, Sounds True.
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