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Release, the appeal

May 5, 2011

Release — is it fun?

I know, I asked the question. And here’s a more useful one:

Is it release that we want and need? Is it what we hunger for? Crave?

I’m saying yes.

I don’t think life is about getting along. It’s not about flat-lining. I think life is about expressing our inborn impulse to learn, grow, expand.

I’ll come right out and say it:

I believe that, as humans, we’re in the evolution-of-consciousness business. When we feel that impulse activating our lives, we feel a fundamental satisfaction, even in the midst of turmoil and disappointment. When we don’t feel that activation, then nothing — no matter how fancy or extravagant — satisfies.

(Note to self: Where does this evolution of consciousness take place? Where does this expansion of awareness take place? Mind? Heart? Or…?)

Okay, what follows may be a bit conceptual. Bear with me, though, and we’ll get to forgiveness. We’ll come to the interplay between heart and hara — these lovely, luscious bellies of ours.

During my years of training and practice as resident yoga teacher and holistic health educator at Kripalu Center in Lenox, MA, I absorbed a theory of experiential learning that elegantly and effectively supports personal growth. The theory nods to German idealist philosopher Georg Hegel and what’s called the Hegelian Dialectic.

When opposites — in Hegelian terms, thesis and antithesis — collide, what occurs is catharsis, aka release. What emerges from catharsis is synthesis, a new and broader field of awareness.

Of the many modes of talk therapy, two stand out to me as readily facilitating change. They map out and put us on a collision course. They require us to do what Jungian analyst Marion Woodman calls holding the tension of the opposites.

One approach is Re-Evaluation Counseling, a method of peer co-counseling. The counselor listens with delighted attention as the client identifies their distress.

As the counselor suggests a contradiction to the distress — a wildly “other” thought about or attitude toward the client’s situation — the client experiences discharge. Such discharge enables the client to perceive their situation with greater clarity and a broader array of possibilities. They re-emerge, ready for rational thought and effective action.

Another approach I appreciate is Byron Katie’s “The Work.” In this process, stressful thoughts meet their opposite numbers, called turnarounds. The collision leads to what Katie terms loving what is. This reality check, drenched in compassion, leads to peace of mind.

Here’s another way to express the interplay of opposites, the path from either/or to both—and. Taking an energetic perspective, the Asian healing arts understand the manifest world in pairs of attributes. For every hot yang there’s a cool yin. For every moonlit yin, there’s a sunny yang. As yin and yang collide in the context of a neutral force that embraces both, we move toward the origin, the source of all that is, and our consciousness evolves.

By the by, you can see these and more slides in a Powerpoint presentation. Titled A Paradigm for Personal, Social and Organizational Change, it’s material I developed for Initiation 2012: Awakening Your Sacred Center, the online course I offer through Susun Weed’s Wise Woman University. (This presentation emerged in conversation with the self-validating, self-empowering, and enormously talented organizational development consultant Jodi Lasseter, whom I am proud to call friend.)

And then (not forgetting that we’re on our way to forgiveness), there’s what happens on Everett Ogawa’s bodywork table in the process of Integral Bodywork.

When I was on his table and he was pressing into the connective tissue surrounding my various muscles, Everett was inviting me to bring openness to what had been closed. Elasticity to what had been tight. Mobility to what had been rigid. Sensation to what had been numb, presence to what had been long gone.

Opposites were colliding left, right, and center.

Release, catharsis, discharge, reality check — whatever you want to call the colliding, it was happening as heat coming off my body, images coming to mind, yawning, humming, vocalizing, chills, sweat, laughter.

In the context of Everett’s great skill and compassion, and my own intention to enter into greater wholeness, what emerged from all this colliding was a greater, more spacious, more joyous sense of self.

And what about forgiveness?

Isn’t forgiveness a release, a discharge, a reality check, too?

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