Psycho-Spiritual Development: The First Two Stages

How do we answer the profound question which birth and early life asks? Everyone should attend to the life-orientating task of devising a personal cosmogony. Look at the self-imposed limitations of your life; the ones that may cause you to look back when it's too late. Change is natural and, as we return to our true nature, we harmonize with the natural flow and rhythm of change and it is here that transformation takes place.
Birth and Early Conditioning: Devising a Personal Cosmogony

Two wise men attempt to inspire us to answer profoundly the question which birth and early life implies. First, Rainer Maria Rilke in the Duino Elegies warns us, "Do not think that there is more in destiny than can be packed into childhood." Second, the Indian saint Ramana Maharshi asks, "What is the use of knowing about everything else when you do not yet know Who you are? Self-enquiry is the one infallible means, the only direct one, of realizing the unconditioned, absolute Being you really are."

Arguable everyone should attend to the life-orientating task of devising a personal cosmogony if they are to avoid the pitfall of acting like sheep.

As we become involved in the field of time so our consciousness becomes attached to things - to events and to characteristics - and is finally enticed and subsumed entirely into the world of form, the energetic level of matter to which the reality of the formless and the limitless is construed as a threat by the small separate self. We cling to our separate identity as if it were a life raft. If we are fortunate it becomes an efficient vehicle in which we journey through life safely - defended and protected. Later, however, it proves less useful as its restrictions and demands take over and we are prevented from embracing the new freedom that lies in our ability to be independent and autonomous beings.

When we choose to turn the light of awareness back on to ourselves, we begin to realize the enormity of the limitations imposed on us by our characters. As we challenge the assumptions, the deeply-held beliefs and habits it becomes clear that we are protecting the vulnerable child within us who has not been allowed to grow and who is in possession of our deepest truth. Our emotional, physical and spiritual development has been stunted; our abandonment of this child is the abandonment of our authenticity, of who we really are. The emotional opening that occurs when we discover this begins the healing of our deep wound and the grief that follows this discovery opens us to the experience of life in all its richness and mystery. The joy of uniting the two parts of ourselves heals us and we are empowered to go on with integrity and wholeness. Those who have yet to embark on the journey to the self feel an expectancy, a longing because the birth of the self is the true birth - the psychological and spiritual birth - of ourselves. For those who have taken even one foot-step on the path to the self there is already a sense of belonging, of home-coming, of rightness and straightness: you have made a commitment to truth.

Character Patterns and Defense: Waking Up through Transformation

The psychotherapist Ron Kurtz in Hakomi Therapy put it this way: "What truly helps a person to understand and modify his or her character is a search for the way that beliefs, dispositions and habits guide and organize ongoing experience. More important [than memories of traumatic events] are those core beliefs and physiological strengths that evolve into and support particular character strategies." And Martin Buber starkly stated, "All real living is meeting."

Arguable everyone should look at the self-imposed limitations of their life; the ones that may cause them to look back when it's too late and say, "I missed it!"

As a result of early experiences we adopt a character strategy which is defensive and designed to protect us and gives us a false sense of security in what we now perceive as a hostile environment (which is modeled on our family life). The character defense which we adopt is unique to us, however typologies may help us to recognize and identify its parts and engage with the essential work (for personal growth) of becoming acquainted with character as something other than ourselves, which opens up a line of enquiry whereby we can begin to be more objective towards ourselves and our lives.

We must discover how these same defense systems are inhibiting our full experience of the world and see how this gives rise to feelings of disconnectedness, dissatisfaction, depression and longing. We need to examine our set beliefs about the world and see how we create our own lives through these restricting beliefs. Emotional patterns and patterns of relationship, which are all restrictive and conditional, emerge as our old habits of acting, thinking and feeling are brought into consciousness. As we clear these patterns and the feelings which give rise to them, we create the conditions for love, compassion, passion and vibrancy in our lives.

Patterns are the link between conditioning and character. We can 'know' our character through its results in our lives - how we live, what we do, how we relate, how we deal with fear, rage and need and next through asking what have we created in our lives and what does this say about our character. Patterns are conditioning in action, expressions in our lives of the tried and the tested - the known, which is associated with an illusory safety.

Although we may desire change in our lives, the cost of real change is always high. We must usually let go of a part of our character and we are mostly identified with character until we have worked sufficiently deeply to see ourselves objectively, with compassion. Only then is change possible and still we may have to cultivate favorable conditions in which change can occur before anything transformative takes place in our lives. Our hold on ourselves and our illusion of power and control in our lives is such that, even when we may think we have let go, we are still holding on. Change is natural and, as we return to our true nature, we harmonize with the natural flow and rhythm of change and it is here that transformation takes place.
Published: 6/4/2011
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