Through the Dark Woods and Into the Light


Jul 09

I am working on the last few chunks of the book I am writing on Integral Recovery, and this weekend I wrote a brief bit called the “The Integral Recovery Relapse Prevention Kit.” In this piece, I wrote about the traditional AA wisdom of quickly removing yourself from the scene that is triggering the cravings, calling your sponsor, and getting to a meeting. This is good advice. But in the spirit of the Integral approach, we include this time-tested intervention—and a lot more.

One of the truths that I have been finding in my own practice, as well as with those with whom I work, mostly recovering addicts, is that in times of increased stress (which for the chemically dependent is the most vulnerable time), we must increase or ratchet up our practice. This goes against the grain for most of us, as we tend to say, “I’m too busy today; I’ll practice tomorrow.” In the Integral Recovery model, I teach that relapse happens when we stop practicing—not just when we ingest the drug. Relapse does not happen in a vacuum. It starts with a passing thought about using, then one entertains the thought, and starts to remember the “cool,” good feelings associated with using. ‘Euphoric recall,’ we call it. One remembers all the good things and conveniently forgets the feelings of being toxed out, down and out, burned out, and in despair; those little items. And so it goes… the addictive trance takes over and you are off to the same old races.

Well, all this is to say, this weekend I was writing about this and, as usually happens to me, I got the Kosmic boomerang effect. Whatever I am writing about or teaching comes right back at me and hits me in the forehead. This morning when I woke up, I was feeling FINE—fucked up, insecure, neurotic, and emotional—brought on by some things that had happened the day before. I made my coffee, sat down in my favorite chair, put on my headphones, and started the Holosync binaural meditation track (I’m currently using Purification 3, Level 3 for you cognoscenti out there.) My mind swirled around with ‘To do’ lists for a few minutes and then the work started.

A major pain emerged in my chest that felt like a hot, open knife wound. I’ve been doing this stuff for quite a while, so this is not totally new, but the intensity of the experience sometimes is  rather amazing. I have various techniques that I use, from the Sedona method to the 3-2-1 Shadow process to simple mindfulness. I recalled something Sally Kempton teaches that Rabbi Marc Gafni talked about in a workshop a couple of weeks ago. Sally says:

  1. Find the hurt (boy, did I!).
  2. Listen to the story (it related right back to an incident in my teenage years—or my misbegotten youth, as my big brother is wont to say).
  3. Let go of the story.
  4. Stay with the feeling.

As part of the story part, I did a quick 3-2-1 Shadow process, which went very quickly from 3rd to 2nd, and back to 1st person, where I just stay with the pain. I have learned that you don’t do anything with the feeling, you just let the feeling do whatever it needs to do to release. Which it did. I began to breath deeply and quickly as the knife-like wound feeling intensified. Then after about an hour, I became very tired and began to yawn deeply. After fifteen minutes of this, I became very present and alert, the feeling released, and I was left with an experience of depth and luminosity in which thinking was truly optional. I could have stayed in this state for hours, but I do have things that need doing. Anyway, this experience of peace, spaciousness, serenity, and bliss is how we know the stuff has been released.

Marc Gafni said in his talk that we have entered a virtual Copernicum revolution in our understanding of how to deal with our shadow aspects. It would seem to be so, as I find that insights into shadow and trauma, and techniques for their release, transmutation, and transformation, are popping up all over the place, seemingly independently and concurrently. It has certainly caused a revolution in my life and those I have taught this stuff to. To sum it up, it goes like this:

Our pain, our shadow elements, our most terrifying places are the Dharma gates, the doorways to God, the base lead that our mindful and conscious awareness transmutes into the radiant gold of expanded mind and evolutionary, erotic growth. They also free us from the unconscious control of our conditioning and unhealed wounds, which, in Integral Recovery, comprise some of the main stumbling blocks that lead to relapse after relapse. For those willing to take the plunge into their own greatest fears, they will find the darkness a mere surface, and the depths luminescent and endless.