Elemental Emptiness Month 6: The Hermit and Fear

Posted on April 18, 2009
Filed Under Breathing practices, Buddhism, elemental work, emptiness, energy work, Experiments, identity, meditation, mystical journeys, Taylor Ellwood, XAH, zero | 8 Comments

3-15-09 I’m in a foul mood tonight. I essentially got told by my spirit guide for this working (one of them anyway) that I have to step up and face my fear of being alone, and accept the very real possibility that I may always be alone. He feels that this fear and the desire that goes along with it is holding me back from a lot of things I need to accomplish. I can’t even disagree with him, because I see his point. He’s right…this fear is holding me back and he’s pointed out that I need to work with the Hermit to deal with this fear…and I don’t want to. I feel really resistant and angry, because I just don’t want to go into this space. Yet I know I need to. This fear goes hand in hand with my fear of being consumed by my emptiness. I deal with one, I find the way to deal with the other. And I will do this, but tonight I just feel…angry, vulnerable, and yes, very, very alone. In some ways I’m finally realizing just how much some of my desires have lead me to attachments, which have held me back…and I feel pathetic for letting it happen…yet also realize a profound point I read just yesterday. “Thou are but mortal” I am mortal…I have my weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and attachments. And that’s part of the human experience…accepting that what you may want, etc., may never ultimately occur. It’s a place I don’t want to go, but I have to.

3-16-09 I started work with the hermit today and he wasn’t pulling any punches with me. He spoke with me about my fear of being alone and showed me the connection to my fear of being consumed by emptiness. Then he pointed out that a big reason the Sith mythos had come up a lot in this working is because of that fear, reminding me that the character of Darth Vader had his fall because of his inability to accept his fear, while acting on it. He asked me at the end if it would really be so bad if I did realize that I am alone in certain fundamental respects. I have no answer for him, but I do acknowledge just how much that fear has fed into expectations I have about relationships I get involved with.

3-17-09 Today the Hermit showed me how my fear of being alone links into the fear of being consumed by emptiness. The latter fear is fear of the loss of ego/individual personality, but the former fear is linked to the latter in the sense of not having anyone to connect with, in order to anchor that identity and also to stave off the emptiness. Convoluted? Yes…but interesting as well, because it does show how one fear can be linked to another or as Tsultrim Allione put it, how one demon is a relative to another demon.

3-19-09 Last couple of days has been crazy busy, so I ended up jotting down keywords to remember for this part of the post…On Tuesday, in therapy, got into a really long conversation, which essentially boiled down to me recognizing some very fundamental issues about my feeling of disconnect with Lupa. What I realized is that sometimes I don’t really feel she connects with me on an empathic level. And to be fair to her, I know sometimes I don’t, because I’ll get caught up in trying to find a solution as opposed to actually listening to her and what she has to say about a situation…as well as showing empathy for what she is feeling in that moment. And this issue extends fairly deep into our communication with each other. Sometimes she feels that when I tell her about some technique or experiment I’m doing, that there’s an expectation that I will want her to do it, while I actually simply want to tell her about something I find interesting. Realizing this, as well as realizing how this disconnect has occurred in other areas of our communication has given me a better perspective on how to handle communication on my end. I’ve caught myself several times starting to offer solutions, and stopped myself from doing it, realizing that I wasn’t listening to her like I really needed to. So I’m going to work on being more empathetic in my listening with her and with others.

The other day, after a date, I felt a large sense of emptiness. I’d had a wonderful time, really enjoyed my date, but I felt empty afterwards and I felt unsatisfied on some deep level, and I realized it had nothing to do with the date and everything to do with how I’ve approached relationships. And in fact the Hermit and Xah agree.

I’ve been asked by the Hermit whether I really know what enough means when it comes to relationships. What, he asks, is enough for you? When do you feel satisfaction with the relationships that you have? When do you stop seeking and start appreciating? And my answer is that I’ve never really stopped at all. I’m terrified I’ll miss out on an opportunity with someone if I do say enough…and yet I am missing out on my relationships with the people I do have in my life. I am missing out on those moments of intimacy and connection, because I am so busy trying to attain some “ideal” relationship, some perfect union…and never really stopping to see if I could already have it, or better yet, simply acknowledge what I do have and feel grateful for having it. If you always seek and never stop, what do you really have in the end? That’s what the hermit has asked…Both he and Xah point out that my fear is stopping me from enjoying a lot of my life as much as I could and also stopping me from getting to a lot of pursuits I could be doing, because of how much energy I’m putting into searching for some ideal magical partner.  Today a friend pointed out that if I stop looking and just be still, maybe what I’ve looked for so much will finally manifest. And maybe it will, but whether or not it does, I’d like to actually stop and appreciate what I do have…

3-21-09 The last few days I’ve been watching/observing/monitoring my awareness and I’ve recognized that sometimes I get really caught up in seeking, in trying to find a person, so caught up in it that I don’t enjoy the moment I’m in. Catching myself in this behavior is unpleasant…It’s not a behavior I care for, but consciously acknowledging that part of me is always trying to find someone to fill me up is important. The hermit tells me that this is where so much of my energy has gone, and I see it, in my awareness of this seeking on my part. I’ve always tried to find something in someone else to fill me up, to somehow complete me, yet nothing I’ve found has ever done that.  I’m reminded of a scene in one of my favorite fantasy books, where the character has just killed his mistress and his cousin who was sleeping with his mistress, after discovering that they were sabotaging his company. He is called out by his best friend on the fact that he finds yet another woman desirable. That friend tells him that he’s really just trying to fill up something in himself with those people, but not looking within himself at all. And that sounds like me (sans the killing part). I’ve looked and looked and looked…I’ve caught myself wondering if such and such person was going to be the magical partner I was always looking for…and I’ve neglected in the process some of the most important relationships I do have.

It’s hard to admit that, and hard to face the fact that some part of me has been so desperate to fill myself up with something and that I’ve looked for so long to other people, put so much of my energy to finding someone, without really asking myself why or what it was accomplishing. Recognizing this is the first step and recognizing how it’s tied to my fear of being alone and being consumed is also part of why I’ve looked so much, to find someone who somehow takes all that fear away. But no one can do that for me, except me. It’s time to stop looking so much and start appreciating what I have and also find in myself, the resources I need to handle my fears and the emptiness.

3-22-09 The Hermit is the seeker, which is ironic I guess, but in a ways perhaps not, because who better to know when to stop seeking than the seeker? Well he seems to know that anyway. I’m still learning that I don’t have to continue seeking, that it might be unhealthy to do so. I’m also learning to let go of the past…because what was can sometimes hide what could be.

3-24-09 Therapy today provided useful for externalizing some of my internal stream when it comes to how I deal with romantic possibilities. The fact is I’ve devoted a fair amount of mental and emotional energy to finding the idealized one…right down to fantasizing what it would be like to date this person or that person. I’ve caught myself doing it a few different times this week and when I catch myself doing it, I don’t punish myself, but instead ask what it is I really see in that person that makes me think whatever it is I’m thinking. And usually it’s illusion of some kind or another…little hopes flittering about, but not with much in the way of substance.

The other thing I’ve been realizing is that I can give myself permission not to have sex or be involved with someone just because that person feels interested in me. I haven’t always realized that…or rather I haven’t always had good boundaries about it. I’ve felt that if someone showed interest, I should show interest in return, even if I wasn’t really interested, because maybe I’d miss out on an opportunity or maybe this person would be the idealized lover. Needless to say, this kind of choice or behavior on my part isn’t exactly healthy and has hurt some people as well as myself in the past. So realizing I can say no, realizing I don’t actually have to sleep with someone is really powerful. I can say no…I can choose to let an opportunity go by and better yet I can simply appreciate the person as a friend, instead of having to make her into a lover.

3-27-09 “You live too much in the future” I was told that last night by the Moon Goddess. In meditating with the Hermit today there was some agreement, a noting that looking toward the future so much is its own sign of seeking for something to fill me up, and again the question, “When is what you have in this moment enough? When do you know you have enough?” I’m left with no answer, because I don’t know. I just realize that both the Moon Goddess and the Hermit are right. I do spend a lot of time in the future, as opposed to just appreciating the present. And I recognize how much that behavior has created my seeking, as well as feeding my fears when it comes to being alone. I realize that part of me seeks stability, seeks some kind of grounding in the relationships I have with people, but also attempts to fill this void up within me with those relationships, while not actually standing still and being present in the moment. I suppose I always looked to the future, because in the circumstances I grew up in, I always wanted to get away from the present I lived in. Now though, I don’t know if that’s so wise or helpful…when is this moment enough?

3-29-09 We went hiking today and while we were hiking I experienced my fear physically. I could feel myself shaking a bit. I felt this fear and I realized it was the experience of the fear I feel on a really deep level. This fear pervaded every part of me and when I felt it, I recognized it as that fear of being alone. I also recognized it as what has motivated me so often to focus on the future, instead of living in the present. That fear has pushed me to try and stabilize my life with relationships or plans that allow me to predict and control the future and consequently the present as much as possible. The key word is control. I’m sure I’m not alone in doing this, but I don’t think it’s been so good for me or others. I reflected today that marrying Lupa was motivated by fear of her leaving. By marrying her, I made her a more stable part of my life, insured she’d stay in it longer. I didn’t live, in the moment, with her. I didn’t experience the present as it actually occurred, because I was so busy trying to plan it, and project my expectations into it. When I realize all this, I don’t try to judge or blame myself. There’s not much use to doing that. Instead, today I felt the fear and I talked about it with Lupa and I acknowledged how I felt about spending so much time planning my future out so much. I don’t like how it makes me feel. I don’t like planning my relationships so much. So I’m going to do my best to live in the moment, and accept it for what it is.

4-01-09 Therapy, yesterday, proved helpful in further exploring the fear I mentioned above. A lot of what I came to realize/process is that the fear arising out of my early childhood no longer serves a purpose in my life and actually distracts me from being present with myself or anyone else. I catch myself daydream, flitting into the future a lot. It’s startling to recognize just how regular this activity is…and underneath recognize the fear that informs it. My fear doesn’t need to define my relationships, if I don’t want it to, or me. In therapy I discussed how I’ve been recognizing this fear of being alone, of being consumed by my emptiness as something which has made me plan out so much of my life in order to create an illusion of safety and control for myself. It’s terrifying to give up that safety and control, but exhilarating as well, because if I’m not holding on so tight, then perhaps in letting go I can really start to appreciate the opportunities and situations for what they really are, genuine moments of being present and alive and with myself and anyone else I happen to be with in that moment.

4-3-09 This seems to be rather accurate about my life, for the moment. Or rather it’s another message which correlates with messages from other independent sources. Then again…if you look for a pattern long enough, you’re bound to find or create one. And this is a bit new agey.

4-5-09 As I continue to sit with my fear this month, I find the emptiness less harsh than before. By burrowing down so far into my own issues, and into the feelings which inform those issues, I’ve also set free a lot of the emptiness within me. There are days where I can barely feel it, where it’s just a ghost of how it usually feels. I don’t pretend that the emptiness will go away, but I will admit, not feeling it as much is something I wouldn’t mind continuing to feel. Yes I wish to be more comfortable with it, to accept it for what it is. Sometimes I’m not sure if I can do that, and other times I think I can.

4-6-09 And then there are days, like today where I feel really empty, hungry, desperate…where it seems like nothing I do makes that emptiness feel better. The hermit and I talked about this quite a bit in my meditation today and he noted that it felt as if I was trying to run from my emptiness, by doing any and everything I could not to feel it. He’s absolutely right…yet nothing I do takes it away, and in some ways it only deepens it. I feel like a shriveled husk today.

4-7-09 In therapy, we ended up getting into an interesting discussion about the history of some my methods for dealing with feelings of emptiness. Aside from coming away with an appreciation of just how much I have changed as a person, as well as recognizing that I have developed healthier methods for encountering my emptiness, I also realized I am at the right place, right now, to work with the fear I feel when it comes to sitting with my emptiness. I’m encountering layers of progression in this work…Obsession to surrender, anger to compassion, fear to whatever it may or may not lead to. There is evolution here, even if at times I have trouble recognizing it.

4-10-09 In therapy, something we reviewed was some of my sexual behaviors and while I’ve already in some ways realized this, the following clicked into place in a way it previously hadn’t: I use sex to escape my emptiness. Not all the time, but it is a way for me to establish a sense of identity, or rather reaffirm that identity, whilst also feeding my emptiness something which isn’t me. I know I’ve said that one way or another before, but it made more sense this latest time…it’s realizing that just like when I used to be a cutter, where I’d use pain to deal with my emptiness, so too has sex been another way to deal with that feeling and fear of emptiness. Not the best way, not necessarily healthy, but what I developed as a way to cope with that fear. But I don’t want to do that anymore and so I’m continuing to use the feed your demon technique to help me process how I relate to my emptiness and my fear. Here’s a quote relevant to this topic from Toward a Psychology of Awakening by John Welwood:

“When we have shut fear out of our awareness, it remains frozen deep within the body, manifesting as background anxiety, tension, worry, insecurity…Seeking a “fix” cannot lead to genuine healing because it keeps us in the same mind-set – wanting our experience to be other than it is – that created our dis-ease in the first place. Our natural healing resources become mobilized only when we see and feel the truth – the untold suffering we cause ourselves and others by rejecting our experience, thus shutting down our capacity to be fully present. When we recognize this, our dis-ease starts to become conscious suffering. As our suffering becomes more conscious, it starts to awaken out desire and will to live in a new way.”

I would have to say that this accurately represents my process right now. I am realizing that the “fix” is just causing me and others more suffering, and also realize that to truly relax into my being involves actually experiencing the emptiness, the fear, the suffering and being present with it as it is, so that I can discover how to live in a new way where I’m more aligned with the harmony of my life. Needless to say reading this just makes some of my experiences sink in even more, for recognizing just how much I’ve run away from feeling my fear and emptiness, or tried to, and ended up suffering more for doing so.

4-11-09 Sometimes it really does take some hard realizations to make you realize that what you are doing doesn’t work. A moment of clarity arrives and you are present in that moment and you realize: This behavior is helping me, it’s hurting me and everyone around me. It’s just deepening the suffering I already feel. That’s what this month feels like for me. In another way, I feel like I am all consuming being that offers nothing back to anyone, beyond my own detritus and rot. I’m so busy consuming, so busy trying to fill something up, I haven’t stopped to feel what it’s doing to me or note how it’s killing me. In Toward a Psychology of Awakening, Welwood essentially says that you don’t really become conscious until you actually feel what you’re stopping yourself from feeling, and allow yourself to experience for what it is, instead of how you interpret it.

4-12-09 I’ve always found it amazing how I read exactly what I need to read, as it applies to this amazing journey I’m on, called Taylor’s life. As I continue reading Toward a Psychology of Awakening, I’ve come across some more information about emptiness and all this work I’m doing which tells me that I’m definitely on the right path for me. Welwood says,

What shuts down the heart more than anything is not letting ourselves have our own experience, but instead judging it, criticizing it, or trying to make it different from what it is. We often imagine there is something wrong with us if we feel angry, needy, dependent, lonely, confused, sad, or scared. We place conditions on ourselves and our experience.

He says of Emptiness:

Emptiness is a term that points to the ungraspable, unfathomable nature of everything. Nothing can be grasped a solid object that will provide enduring, unshakable meaning, satisfaction, or security. Nothing is ever what we expect, hope, or believe it to be…Emptiness-the ungraspable, open-ended nature of reality-need not be depressing. For it is what allows life to keep creating and recreating itself anew each moment. And this makes creativity, expansiveness, growth, and real wisdom possible.

When I read both of these quotes, I recognize several things. First, I recognize how resistant I am to feeling emotions such as fear or sadness. Not that I can’t feel them, but that I have resisted feeling them so much. Second, I recognize that my perception of emptiness has sometimes been exactly what has created so many problems for me. My fear of being consumed, instead of really being acknowledged by being felt, has been run from, abstractly approached, and other suppressed. So today, in meditation I did something I’ve never really done before. I allowed myself to fully feel my fear and just feel it, without judgment, without interpretation, without running. And eventually I realized it wasn’t that scary to feel, and that by feeling it, I might just find some closure on some of the wounds I’ve finally been facing in this year’s work.

4-13-09 Today when I started to distract myself from feeling my fear, I stopped and asked myself to just feel it. And it feels like a heavy weight in my stomach. Feeling it was feeling a sensation of turbulence, of dis-ease…Yet as I sat with it, the turbulence did diminish a bit. I just held my space instead of trying to find a way out.

4-15-09 I did some breathing meditation tonight and felt it begin to dissolve some of the fear, loosening up structures of tension in my body. It was a subtle, and deep feeling. I also did some thinking today about the relationships I’ve been involved in for the last six or so months, i.e. the potential lovers and such and realized that on some level or another I saw some patterns, which made me wonder why I’m attracting those patterns into my life, as well as what I can do to stop attracting those patterns in my life. I looked in myself and acknowledged that my insecurities are as much an attractor to certain people as the rest of me is. Continuing to work on and work through my insecurities is already yielding some good changes in my life, so this is just another layer to add to that.

4-17-09 This month was probably the hardest month of this working. Today the moon goddess and I talked. We’d had an argument, and we ended up working it out, but in the course of that I talked about how for a very long time I’ve operated out of a scarcity mentality. And at the root of that scarcity mentality is my fear. This month, for me, has been about realizing just how much my fear has informed my actions and choices, when it comes to romantic relationships, business, and life in general. This month I dealt with fear in a variety of forms: competition, jealousy, and being consumed by my emptiness. And I realized I made a commitment (actually a number of them, but this one was fairly recent) from a place of fear, from trying to secure a stabilized identity/future/whatever…but in the process missing out on living in the moment. My fear has motivated me to rush into and through relationships instead of just experiencing them in the moment…and I know that I need to slow down and live in the moment.

Living in the moment means embracing my fear, actually feeling it, living it…accepting it. Today, instead of trying to run away from my fear, I just sat with it, felt it in my body, and let it express itself. And I was scared, terrified…and free. I’m going to keep working with fear for a little while. It’s only the last few days I’ve tried to be present with it, so I’ll keep trying…see what happens…and know that all this shadow work is leading me to a better place…I’m rotting…but I’m also being refined.

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