The very first HAI workshop to come to Toronto back in the 90s was a one-day ‘Pathways to Intimacy’ led by HAI's founder, Stan Dale. Since then the Ontario HAI community has steadily grown until we are now up to five weekend workshops at the Ecology Retreat Centre in the verdant Hockley valley.
And last week another Pathways held in Toronto was a milestone of sorts because for the first time no one flew in from the States to lead it. Led by myself and Mardie Serenity, we were, all 40 of us, Ontarians.
For me it was a special milestone because Stan Dale was my dear friend and mentor. And after years of sitting at his feet, I now sat in his chair.
At that first Pathways pretty much the first thing Stan asked was for us to close our eyes and call out words to describe love. Folks responded with words like, “exciting”, “Warm”, “Sexy”, “Safe”, “Connected”… And then Stan asked, “Why would we take ourselves out of that feeling?” We had basically one answer: fear.
That exercise, which I've done several times in workshops over the years, never struck me as very significant, a rather rhetorical question the answer to which I already knew. But more recently the question has gained dimension as I’m gradually discovering the many disguises fear wears in my life. Judgment, insecurity, rejection, superiority, jealousy, blame, shame… to name a few… all have roots in fear. And I've been noticing that whenever these negative aspects of me begin to fade, the space they leave just naturally gets filled by love.
And the question, ‘what takes me out of love’, is gathering a different, deeper significance. Yesterday my partner went through a difficult day having received an angry blaming letter. In pain and frustration she spent hours trying to construct a response that explained her actions. She was in a conflict between being above it all, and needing to defend herself. I got involved, trying to help her through her process. But she wasn't resonating to my invitation that she notice how she was giving her power away by needing to be right. I felt my own frustration with her, and exasperation rising.
Then I heard a voice in my head, “Are you in love right now, Eric? What’s taking you out of love?”
O.K., the clouds didn't open and the sun didn't burst through with a shining epiphanal beam of light. But I did pause. I saw the futility of the situation, and much of my frustration turned to to sadness. I became free, or at least freer, of the conflict. And much of the jangled energy in my body calmed. I became aware once more of the love I have for my partner, which had never really left but was just ignored for a bit.
So what’s helping me is not so much to seek an answer to why I take myself out of love, but more to notice when I have, and then see if that noticing changes anything.
Well, the Pathways we held last week was very successful, very much appreciated, and so Mardie and I will be checking our calendars to see when we can schedule another in Toronto. Stay tuned. And for those of you living in Michigan, there’s a Pathways coming up.