The Path is Hard

Why therapy needs to complement internal work

I've been starting to do some internal work on an issue that was brought to my attention by my significant other. I also decided to book an appointment with my therapist. Back when I was doing the Emptiness working, my ex told me near the beginning of it that she needed me to go see a therapist as I worked through it, because it was clear to her that I was digging through a lot of emotional wounds. She was right. Since that time I've realized that while doing internal work is important, having someone to go to share that work with who isn't emotionally involved is also equally important. An objective perspective can help you keep on track and also help you deal with the rough times that inevitably occur as you deal with the internal work. A therapist can provide that, provided s/he understands the kind of work you are doing.

It is important to explain what kind of mediation you are doing, how it works etc., so that you can provide some context for how you are arriving at the conclusions you have.

The therapist I go to has been invaluable for raising perspectives and helping me understand some of the emotions that have arisen as I've dealt with my internal issues. The meditation I do has helped me unearth those issues, but having the therapist available has helped me make sense of them and come to a place of resolution with them. So if you're doing a lot of internal work, it can be useful to also see a therapist in conjunction with the work you do.

The connection between internal work and external reality

Today I got to meet Paul Levy, who kindly enough gave me a copy of his book The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of our collective psychosis. It was a real pleasure to meet's clear we are on similar journeys of internal exploration and change. His work with the concept of the awakening dream is really interesting. We both agreed that to see change occur in the external world, we had to change the consensus reality on the internal level and doing that involved a lot of work with meditation, but also with cultivating conscious awareness of our actions and the effect those actions have as well as actively working with the shadow self instead of repressing it. Later today, one of my magical brothers made a post about how people criticized his concern for political issues as a distraction from doing internal work. He rightly noted that doing internal work necessarily should impact the relationship a person has with the external world. That, I might add, includes one's concern and activism with politics. I'll also just say I have the utmost admiration for this person and the charitable and activist work he does. He's one of my role models, actually.

Although I've only skimmed Levy's work, he makes an interesting point when he argues that Bush is a dysfunctional archetypal manifestation of the collective consciousness. His actions and words are representative of the overall psychosis that infects all of us, and yet is representative of the shadow work we all need to do, in order to not let someone like him come into power. He notes similar parallels with Hitler and the Germaqn people manifesting a person who embodied the dysfunctions of the time in his actions and words. Now, frankly I feel that doing internal work is important in terms of changing not only one's own internal landscape, but also the collective consciousness at large...but for that change to really be felt action has to occur in the external. In fact, if you are doing it right, you will find that your internal reality aligns you with the external reality that you not only need to experience, but also that which needs to experience you.

We are connected. The internal work is not divorced from the external work. They are a continuum of interaction. So when someone is doing political activism don't presume to tell him he's not doing his internal work. For all you know that's his external manifestation of that internal work.

Enlightenment does not take you off the hook!

Sometimes people have funny definitions of enlightenment, as in if I'm enlightened I can do no more wrong. I've never thought of enlightenment as that. Rather to me is it: Once you are aware, i.e. enlightened, you can no longer use ignorance to excuse your actions. You have to take full responsibility. In Psychology without the self, by Mark Epstein, this is phrased much better: "Before Awakening, one can easily ignore or rationalize his shortcomings, but after enlightenment this is no longer possible. One's failings are painfully evident. Yet at the time a strong determination develops to rid oneself of them...Continuous training after enlightenment is required to purify the emotions so that our behaviors accord with our understanding."

That's pretty much the truth of enlightenment. You wake up and suddenly you recognize the effect your behavior has on you and others and you can't hide behind it anymore. The path is hard because once you recognize your failings you have to face them. And continuous training is a reality of enlightenment. Just because you are aware doesn't mean your behaviors automatically stop. I'm an excellent example of that because while I can definitely say I'm more aware of my behaviors, I'm also really having to work hard to change those behaviors and isn't easy. Knowledge does not equal wisdom...wisdom is only found after a person has actively chosen to change those behaviors by using that awareness to mindfully temper how s/he interacts.  And that tempering usually involves making more mistakes, facing in full how you act, and then motivating yourself to change because you realize you don't want to be that way any more.

Enlightenment doesn't take you off the hook. It demands more of you. Edited to add: As an interesting side note, just as I finished writing this post, I got thwacked by reality over something that definitely falls into this category. never get let off the hook.

The Path is Hard

I'm reading The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire by Storm Constantine now, for my pleasure reading, but also to get reacquainted with a magical system I work in, called Dehara. There's a lot of magic in the books themselves, but continuing to develop a magical system around those books is something I've felt called to do lately. Some of that actually relates to a couple of my previous posts about service and deity, and being pinged about this particular matter. But more on Dehara later...this is a post about something else. I've been thinking lately about the characters in the Wraeththu series, and in particualr Cal's journey. I have a lot of empathy for Cal, because I definitely feel like I'm on a similar journey of purification and self-knowledge. At one point Cal is told, "The Path is Hard," when he complains about it.

Yep...the path is hard. Really hard sometimes. A person might be tempted to say, "Well it's only as hard as you make it". A flippant response, but not entirely incorrect. There is some truth that the hardness of any task is at least partially determined by the person doing the task. But even when a task could be easier, that doesn't mean it's not hard. A good example, for me, comes from earlier today, when I meditated and was confronted by an aspect of myself, which essentially said, "Stop pretending I don't exist, or I'll continue sabotaging you." Certainly it was easier to dialogue with that aspect, then continue denying it. But that didn't mean it was easy to face that aspect. Suddenly, I was facing again all those times where I hadn't really been honest with myself about it or the needs it embodied, and well...some problems occurred, because of actiosn I took. I'm responsible for those actions and the effect they had on others, but moreso I'm responsible for the effect it's had on me. The denial I've caused to myself inevitably inflicts harm on myself, and so while my path is easier, it still involves facing that harm, coming to peace with that as part of coming to peace with the aspect.

Throughout the original trilogy and even to some degree in the second trilogy, Cal is portrayed as a toxic character. He embodies what happens when you do not know yourself...the toxicity he spreads is chaotic. He shakes up the lives of everyone. Even in the process of learning to be honest with himself, to cleanse himself, to come peace with everything that occurred in the past, he's still a chaotic influence, but he begins to stabilize as he continues on this path of self-realization.

Sometimes I think what makes the path so hard is that awareness of toxicity in myself. I can be toxic, to myself or to others. The potential is there for everyone. I can be a toxic flower, beautiful to behold, but taste of me and I will surely wreck your life. That's one way to look at it.

But I also have to remind myself that it's growing pains, don'tcha know? Really. I'm not always toxic...I might not be at all. I'm just someone muddling my way on this path I call life, learning as best I can...It's far easier to be hard on myself than to recognize that in fact I don't have to be that hard. So where does magic fit into all of this?

Magic, in my experience of the last few years, involves a lot of internal work, a lot of internal change. I can't say I always felt that way...For a long time I considered magic to be more or less external. Some internal awareness was there, but I was mostly concerned with getting results. I could summon up entities, do sigils, etc, and get results, and that was all that mattered. Magic was great for solving external problems, but I didn't really think about where the root of those problems was coming from (or at least my responsibility for those problems). Only in the last few years did my magical approach shift to the internal, so that I do most of my work internally and then let the changes manifest externally. Doing the internal work meant really starting to be honest with myself about why I was even doing magic in the first place and what it was I was hoping to get out of it.

I've come face to face with a lot in the last few years. I'm currently working with the element of love and facing all of the internal demons associated with that concept for me. And so, just as Cal discovers, the path is hard...but it does get easier as time goes on. Because the more you work through, the less baggage you have holding you down, and the easier the external situations get...and then you realize the real strength of magic isn't found in the neat special effects or even in making results happen (Though those are always nice perks)...its found in really embracing the reality of yourself on all levels, without attachment...without lust for results...

Not being...not doing, and in all of that finding something we could call freedom, self knowledge, enlightenment...whatever you want, or not. I'll call it a lifetime of adventure, discovery, and experience. Or walking the does get easier, really.