The difference that makes the difference.
Over the last few days I’ve been thinking about why Live Conscious is different than other forms of psychology, self-help practices and group dynamics. I’ve been in therapy several times over the years— in my mid-thirties I did cognitive therapy—basically I spewed and my therapist asked questions and felt sorry for me and then told me that I was no longer a “survivor” of childhood sexual abuse I was a “thriver.” Then she suggested we write a book about our time together and the work we did—I declined.
The second time was what I called “kick and scream” therapy. To this day I don’t know what the proper name is—with this therapist I spent hours on a mat on the floor wailing and kicking and screaming at my abuser and then after 7 months I left-perhaps less angry, certainly more exhausted and definitely more broke.
The third time I went to Art Therapy—at least Art Therapy was fun—I let my inner “kid” color and my therapist and I discussed how scared my inner child was and how terrible my early life was and after a few months I had learned nothing new so I stopped going—again, poorer than before I started.
From Amma to Zeus
Soon after that I began going to alternative groups—I went to healing circles, drumming circles, sweat lodges, church, got hugged by Amma, went to Findhorn, did past life regression, studied the occult and went to hundreds of 12 step meetings and tried several types of meditation. I saw Osteopaths, massage therapists, crystal healers, Reiki masters, energy workers and had my cards read.
I’m not saying there is no value in all the stuff I did—I am saying what I did get was volumes of knowledge about my history, a keen awareness of my “issues” and a great deal of reinforcement of my identity as a victim. No matter who I saw or what method they used or what we discussed I always left completely convinced that I was and continued to be a victim of my childhood and although I was brave, smart, had great tenacity and inner strength, nothing really changed for me.
I still felt powerless, I was fearful and believed I was unsafe and I continued to blame my abusers for my current state. I was told repeatedly by my therapists and other practitioners that I had the self awareness to heal myself– armed with self-knowledge and a higher power I should be able to go out into the world and be a success at whatever I set my mind to—and yet, I continued to “fail.”
I continued to fail because the methods were faulty—but I didn’t know that at the time. Each time I went out and tried to “do” myself differently I ended up stuck in the same spot. Yes, I was healthier—I stopped drinking, I stopped using drugs, I stopped associating with my abusers, I stopped dating abusive partners, I stopped running from the law, but my insides really hadn’t changed much.
What was missing?
I continued to identify as a victim, my favorite emotions were self-pity and righteous anger and I continued to struggle to find any peace, balance, contentment, honesty or joy in my life. After 40 years of “working on myself” I still felt flawed and I continued to lie to you about who I was—because if you knew what went on in my head you would bolt out the door and never look back.
What I see now is that the piece that was flawed was not me it was the method—without exception each of the methods I tried emphasized similar practices. I was encouraged in each circle, office, group and practice to tell my story, learn more about my story and then work myself out of my despair by learning the lessons of my story.
In meditation I practice non-attachment to my pain (story), in therapy I talk about my history (story) and then develop compassion and forgiveness for my abusers and move on. In past life regression sessions I see that I’ve lived my story many times, my job is to rise above it. In sweat lodges I send my pain (story) into the fire and watch it leave me. In AA I tell my story over and over and over again and united in our powerlessness we stay clean. In Findhorn and other healing circles I gave my pain (story) to angels, crystals, energy meridians, big and little spirit helpers and gods ad infinitum.
What I didn’t get was a way out of my story—a way to shift how I create my identity—a way to stop being a victim and to feel safe in the world. And because I didn’t succeed I labeled myself as a failure. Did all those methods work for everyone else—if so, what was wrong with me? Why did I continue to fail?
When I finally found Jake and Hannah Eagle and Live Conscious I began to develop a more realistic view of the “self-help” world. I stopped blaming myself so harshly.
I was able to begin the work of really letting go of my story. With Jake and Hannah’s help I began to see that my story is just that—it’s a story and in less then two years I have shifted how I make meaning and how I relate to the events of my life. For the first time in decades I feel safe in the world and I no longer identify as a victim.
Two key pieces
The shift for me was two-fold—first Jake helped me see that how I relate to my story is a choice and he helped me learn how to nurture and grow myself up. With his help I was able to stop identifying as an abused kid and begin to live as a mature adult. The second piece came about from the very beginning of my contact with Jake and Hannah because they told me about how they struggled. We began our work with the honest assumption that as humans we “fail”—we lose ourselves, we struggle, we forget ourselves, we hurt ourselves and others and we stumble. We also find ourselves, remember ourselves, help ourselves and each other and move gracefully.
The degree of acceptance that I encountered when I began my work in Live Conscious astounded me. Many of the other practices I tried preached, wrote and believed in self-acceptance but I rarely encountered it. If a person drinks in AA they are welcomed back with open arms but they carry a stigma because they didn’t work the program “thoroughly”, if I continue to feel miserable in therapy I am given medication, if I leave a healer and still feel heavy, it’s because I am blocked, possessed or unwilling.
In the Live Conscious method I begin with the idea that freeing myself from my habitual story is work and it takes practice–remembering that I am a miracle takes effort and faith, staying awake in the present moment is a lifelong process. In my first session with Hannah she said to me, “There is nothing you can do that will make me stop loving you.”
When I would try and tell Jake what my family of origin was doing he would say, “I don’t care about them, I’m not working with them, I’m working with you. What I want to know is what are you doing right now with what is happening in your life right now?”
Throughout my first two years of working with Jake and Hannah whenever I slipped, lost myself, confused myself, depressed myself, made myself angry, sad, miserable or lost all hope they listened to me and honored me in whatever state I was in. Sometimes they gave me feedback, sometimes they reminded me that I was simply stuck in my story and sometimes they just acknowledged me as I was in the moment.
Yet, they always expected me to return to myself. They continually loved me, reflecting my health, and they held high expectations for my eventual return to a more mature state of awareness. They knew I would wake myself up and I felt them waiting for me no matter how far away I went.
I already spend enough time judging myself; I don’t need help in that area. What I need is help accepting myself, without praise and blame, without labels and without the details of my story. And I get that in Live Conscious, I get that at a Live Conscious Retreat I get that every time I talk to Jake or Hannah, and I get that when I engage in with the Live Conscious Community.
Stay tuned for upcoming retreats and i-Workshops— come see what real acceptance feels like, inside and out.