Questing, Requesting, and Questions
On a vision quest a few years ago, I sat in the woods within a 10-foot diameter circle made of dried tobacco, mugwort, and bear root sprinkled on the ground. Without distractions and going without food and water for three and a half days, I requested a vision from Spirit. Though I had beautiful, insightful experiences on other vision quests, this quest was vastly different. The vision I saw was my own psyche: the good, the wonky, and the prison. Being shown my personal psychology was way more difficult than any physical challenges previous quests had brought, such as enduring baking in the scorching sun.
Along with the vision of my psyche was a message I received from Spirit: if you want to live and love more expansively, you have to see and deconstruct the prisons you have created; if you want freedom, you have to know where you are holding yourself captive and find the key to release yourself.
I understood that Spirit was not showing me how I may have been programmed by external influences like media, education, religion, or society; this was the internal program that had developed over years of experiencing my life. Spirit showed me areas where I had internally tethered myself.
Over the three and a half days, I ventured into the cul-de-sacs of my psyche and witnessed how I can, often, perceive life based on past experiences instead of perceiving life from my essence; perceiving my life from my ‘personality structure’ instead of my Presence. By 'personality structure,' I am not referring to personality types such as introvert, extrovert, sanguine, choleric, melancholic, artistic, realistic, etc. Instead, I think of each person having their very own unique personality structure made of a combination of behaviors, physical states of being, feelings, and thoughts that have been shaped by one's past experiences. I include physical states of being as being part of the personality structure because our bodies experience the biochemistry of our hearts and minds.
What I realized on my vision quest was that, in part, I had allowed my essence to be overshadowed by my personality structure; psychological norms, and their corresponding emotional and physical states of being. It gave a new meaning to “losing oneself in thought.” The “self” that I was losing touch with was my essence. It was very apparent how I can live more from my personality structure and less from Presence by allowing myself to be taken over by an aspect of my psychology that is not reflective of my essence.
My quest brought questions: how do I break free from holding my essence captive by my own psychology? What is the key to getting out of psyche prison?
Spirit showed me that my essence is the key. The key is not in the hands of my personality, as the psyche cannot release the psyche, only my essence can. I have come to view our human multidimensionality as having many aspects, some of which include: our bodies; our hearts; our minds (our cognitive structure that can be downgraded or upgraded with external influences and internalized beliefs); our souls (the mediator between mind and spirit, our essence); and our spirits (the divine force that connects us and reflects our ultimate I Am). While on my vision quest, Spirit emphasized that it was imperative that I connected with my essence in order to make any significant changes in my personality structure.
A Death of Old Ways of Life
Recently, friends and clients have been sharing that they feel that they are bumping up against walls they, themselves, inadvertently created. Many have shared with me that what is unfolding for them feels different than the inner work they have done in the past; the heavy-duty trauma work, the deep painful processing of past experiences. What feels present, in quite a loud way, are the limiting beliefs, emotional patterns, and behaviors that fell into place as life unfolded. I can relate!
A few clients have articulated their recent experience as the patterns that bring any degree of ‘death’ are dying off:
I feel like I am going through a death process of ways of being that were slowly killing me.
I grew up believing that I was born to serve others at any expense to myself; this worked for decades, and now I feel it is killing me.
It used to be easy to swallow my truth, but now I feel the impact of doing so. It is soul-crushing. How have I not felt the weight of this all along?
If it was not safe to speak as a child, we might have established a belief that followed us into adulthood that speaking is not safe. What kept us safe as children has the potential to become a type of internal prison in adulthood. What protected us in the past can limit us in the present, keeping us from being the full expression of ourselves.
A plethora of beliefs can be formed as we navigate through our lives. It is amazing how we can journey with our formed personality structure that worked for us in one decade of our lives but not in the next. There can come a time when patterns that we could not only endure but barely notice start to feel like a suffocating weight impaction our well-being.
One way I have described my own experience is that I can be running a personality program written by how I have thought, acted, and felt on a daily basis over a long period. Sometimes, I have handed over some of my free will to the personality program. This awareness does not bring dismay, as the understanding comes from my essence as if my higher self is illuminating my default settings. The illumination brings a sense of expansiveness beyond confinement.
For myself (at the personality level) and others, it feels like a necessary unraveling, a significant developmental milestone of letting go, fine-tuning, and emerging. Though challenging, it feels like a rite of passage into choosing the next version of who we want to be; from running on our default settings to consciously cultivating the next version of ourselves!
Adapting or Adjusting?
Our physical bodies can be conditioned to the everyday emotions we feel and the thoughts we think. The emotions we feel and the thoughts we think create chemical signals that our bodies grow accustomed to. Our bodies can be so conditioned to receive specific chemical signals that our cells will crave them if they are absent. For example, we might have felt the feeling of resentment for so long that our bodies are accustomed to the chemical signals created by feeling resentment. If our bodies feel the lack of chemical signals related to resentment, it can send a message to the brain. We can then have thoughts and feelings of resentment, bringing our bodies back into the state they are accustomed to. This is the case for any set of thoughts/emotions we have felt over long periods: fear, anger, jealousy, feeling less than, feeling unworthy, etc.
The mind, body, and emotions are connected, linked, inseparable, and inextricable; they are impossible to separate. Therefore, it is not just belief systems we may need to release but our emotional habits connected to those beliefs and the physical body's norms related to thinking/feeling in a certain way. This ensures that we are not mind-locked, heart-locked, and body-locked by our personality structure of thoughts, feelings, and physical states that are not for our highest good and expression of ourselves. This is a reason why a daily practice of connecting to our essence can be vital. A daily routine can serve as a preventive and transformative strategy, not allowing the psyche to glorify itself as the total existence.
I have used the expression ‘fairytale-nightmare’ to describe the experience of everything being good in one’s life (healthy relationships, meaningful work, etc.) while negative thoughts and emotions (fear, resentments, etc.) run in the background. It is the experience of, life is good, but one is conditioned to the past mental and emotional habits—an external fairytale of love and blessings and an inner nightmare of habitual thoughts and emotions.
I have been genuinely amazed at what we, as humans, can adapt to, habituate to, and normalize. Adaptability is a skill that allows us to acclimatize to changes in our lives. We can adapt to a new normal such as caring for a loved one who became ill and accommodating their needs. We can also adapt to a high stress level and establish elevated stress as a norm. At some point, we may need to ask ourselves, does the norm I have adapted to need adjustment?
Just because it is a norm doesn’t mean it is healthy as a norm simply means a pattern has become a standard, the usual, or typical way of being. Also, just because the majority agrees with an experience, it does not mean that the experience is the most healthy or appropriate. We can settle into new norms temporarily, but if not questioned, a norm can become a way of living that can last years. I feel it is essential to allow our essence to shine a light on our norms so we may ask ourselves, is this necessary or just normal?
I feel we can over-identify with our thoughts and emotions. We can get used to thinking/feeling a certain way that we know ourselves (at the personality level) by how we think/feel about ourselves, our world, our reality, and others. But when our Presence knocks at the door of our personality, we know we are not how we perceive ourselves and the world through our personality; we are much larger. Acknowledging our multidimensionality can allow the frequency of love to direct our perception.
Personality and Presence
In my daily life, I am feeling more and more that my essence is observing myself at the personality level. It is a loving intelligence that I am learning to be more present with. I am learning to get myself (at the personality level) out of the way for the power of my essence to be able to do its thing in helping me outgrow aspects of my personality structure that are hindering me. To me, it feels like the dance of the ‘I’ and the ‘I am’; the personality and Presence; the form and formless; the weight and the weightless.
I feel that our eternal Presence can provide guidance, assistance, and required energy in shifting confining aspects of our personality structure. Our life-giving essence can point to a necessary process of deconstructing what is not bringing life. It can help us redesign ourselves to our original design; to assist us when our emotional / mental / physical makeup is ready for a makeover! If our personality structure has entranced us into any hypnotic rhythm of thought and emotional patterns, I believe our essence is the key to freedom.
We might be hardwired to a personality program but not forever confined by it. We are changeable and adaptable! If we can adapt to stress, we can adapt to new norms of joy. Our soul, our essence, is much stronger, wiser, and brighter than any personality program. It is a part of us that can bring the preciousness of all life into focus.
There are many ways to connect with our essence, such as meditation, art, dance, prayer, play, breathwork, and being of service to others. Another way to anchor into our essence, to allow our essence to be more present and expressed through our personality, is to feel the feelings of our essence, like joy, love, connectedness, and gratitude.
Years ago, I was taught the power of practicing positive emotions like appreciation. It had never crossed my mind to practice emotions, as emotions were feelings that came and went like they had a life of their own. The practice of feeling positive emotions is not about bypassing difficult emotions that need to be felt but about not allowing those difficult emotions to become the norm, as well as establishing a new emotional baseline.
Love, joy, and gratitude are feelings of connectedness: feeling connected in our hearts, connected to others, connected to life beyond ourselves. In this space, we can experience feeling more open and expanded. In this space, our Presence can intersect with our personality in a profoundly healing way.