D. Patrick Miller
It doesn’t take any psychic powers to perceive that this country is undergoing a spiritual renascence. From the mainstream media we hear mostly about the extremes of Christian fundamentalism on the one hand, and new age mysticism on the other. But there is a new breed of uniquely American spiritual advisors who are proselytizing for a different, demanding creed: personal responsibility. I don’t know of anyone who passes on this message with greater clarity or tenderness than Patricia Sun, a forty-seven-year-old ex-family counselor from Berkeley, California.
Without the benefit of advertising, television, or a cadre of pushy followers, Patricia Sun has been criss-crossing the country for fifteen years, talking to thousands of people about a “new style of thinking” that she firmly believes will revolutionize human society. A psychologist and psychic counselor free of any particular religious affiliation, Patricia Sun challenges her audiences to realize that their potential for love, growth, and personal power is unlimited — as long as it is grounded on a foundation of self-knowledge and compassion. All we have to give up, she suggests, are outmoded assumptions and patterns of fear-driven behavior that don’t work anyway.
While she often appears on the new age lecture circuit, Patricia Sun has also spoken at such august institutions as the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of Madrid. She is frequently heard on the New Dimensions national radio network, and augments her personal appearances with a growing library of taped lectures. She is also at work on her first book, which will feature edited transcripts of her talks. [You can acquire the Patricia Sun tape catalog and information about future speaking engagements by writing Patricia Sun, P.O. Box 7065, Berkeley, CA 94707, or by calling (415) 524-5795.]
On the back of the Patricia Sun tape list appears the I Ching hexagram #57: “Sun/The Gentle.” The Richard Wilhelm translation of the I Ching says: “[Sun] has for its attribute gentleness, which nonetheless penetrates like the wind or like growing wood with roots. Penetration produces gradual and inconspicuous effects. It should be effected not by an act of violation but by influence that never lapses. Results of this kind are less striking to the eye than those won by surprise attack, but they are more enduring and more complete.” I tracked down this revealing information in only five minutes of research following an easy clue — but it’s just like Patricia Sun to make her modus operandi an open secret.
THE SUN: Let’s pretend that I have no idea who you are, I have no spiritual experience besides having gone to church as a kid, and I believe that what I see on the evening news is actually what’s going on in the world. How do you introduce yourself to me and describe what you do?
PATRICIA SUN: I describe myself in different ways according to the person, and intuit what language to use with each. So to someone like you I’d say, “It’s a little hard to describe what I do, but I lecture in an aspect of psychology. I teach creativity and intuition, and I help people solve problems with a new style of thinking — ‘win-win’ instead of ‘win-lose.’ ”
THE SUN: What has your professional training been?
PATRICIA SUN: I received two degrees at Berkeley: one in psychology, and the other in conservation and natural resources. So I had two spheres of interest: one humanistic, the other more scientific. For two years I was a family counselor at a family clinic in Berkeley, and I learned a lot more there than I did in school. My perspective was formed by experience.
THE SUN: Do you think conventional psychological training tends to work against the intuitive style that’s so important to you?
PATRICIA SUN: Yes. The main problem with conventional training is the idea that a therapist can make someone else better, as if the therapist could show the client the “right answer.” But when I was doing family counseling, in the process of listening to people carefully, paying attention to body language — all the normal things I was trained to do — other kinds of information would suddenly become available to me. It seemed that I had moved into a different part of my brain, where I felt soft and serene yet fully alert.
Experiencing that state of mind taught me the difference between being authentic and being “right”: I might be intellectually correct about someone’s family history and how that led to a certain kind of projection, but I would suddenly understand that the information wouldn’t be helpful at the time. It became more important to do whatever would be empowering to people, helping them to be more centered, more in touch with their basic selves, and able to make sound judgements on their own. That kind of information, and that compassion, came from the stillness of that other kind of thinking. This approach has shaped the kind of counseling I do.
I think we’re all evolving to a point where people can read one another clearly — clearly enough to know who’s good for them. The foundation of a therapist’s work has to be authentic communication.
THE SUN: How did your shift in perspective take you from conventional counseling to doing lectures, workshops, and tapes?
PATRICIA SUN: There was a period of about two years during which I experienced so many psychic phenomena — healing, clairvoyance, premonitions, knowing things about clients which they hadn’t told me — that I realized I could no longer play the game of “we can’t know these things.” I think these are very natural human abilities — they are not “occult” — but we hide them from ourselves. And I think we’re evolving to a point where they can be acknowledged in a healthy way, without causing fear or hostility. I began to explain these experiences to people, because I am scientifically minded but experientially mystic. I realized that I couldn’t milk such experiences for their power, but had to come to an understanding of them to recognize their usefulness, and also recognize the points at which it’s easy to get carried away.
Once I decided to allow my intuition to function fully, everything seemed to happen by itself. I don’t advertise or promote — I never did — and what people know about me spreads by word-of-mouth.
Actually, I started doing workshops because people would invite me to dinner, but they wouldn’t let me eat! I’d be answering questions all night long. Finally people began suggesting I give a class. It started that way, and it grew all by itself. I’ve given thousands of workshops in the past fifteen years.
Part of the new style of thinking I talk about is simply maturity; it’s time for people to start growing up and stop looking for a mommy or a daddy or some 30,000-year-old disembodied person to tell them what to think.
In the first session, you should feel a connection with the therapist. If you don’t feel great when you leave, that therapist is probably not right for you.
THE SUN: So you’ve been on the road as long as a number of more controversial teachers who give spiritual guidance. One who’s been in the news recently is Zen Master Rama (Frederick Lenz) who now has ex-disciples charging him with sexual aggression, self-aggrandizement, suspicious finances — the usual can of worms. These freelance mystics always seem to be in trouble, and the media love to go after them. Why hasn’t any of this happened to you?
PATRICIA SUN: Because I’m straight! I don’t do anything to get into trouble. No one’s disgruntled with me; I don’t force anybody to agree with me. I’m not coercive, I don’t make big promises, I seldom even announce what I’m going to do. Even if people disagree with me, they can see that I believe what I’m doing, and they can feel my earnestness. I avoid the guru trap by trusting God, trusting that we’re all unfolding as we should, even when we make mistakes. In becoming conscious, you must make mistakes; that’s part of what free will is about.
The press is not interested in all this because it’s not scandalous. I’m just teaching responsibility.
THE SUN: How can people tell who’s worthwhile and who’s dangerous among the spiritual teachers?
PATRICIA SUN: Almost everyone who’s teaching or promoting a way offers something of value, or no one would be attracted. People want to have someone to follow. I always have to keep reminding people not to give away their power. To study with me is to come to a workshop and see if it’s useful for you; if it is, you can buy a tape and listen to it again. That’s all. Part of the new style of thinking I talk about is simply maturity; it’s time for people to start growing up and stop looking for a mommy or a daddy or some 30,000-year-old disembodied person to tell them what to think.
You have to tell the truth and stand on your own two feet; that’s how I define an authentic person. One way that I describe authenticity in my workshops is to suggest that people start assuming, from this moment forward, that everyone can read their minds.
THE SUN: Well, it was nice talking to you. . . .
PATRICIA SUN: [Laughs] That’s right! That always gets everybody. But I believe that this authenticity is part of the evolutionary leap we’re about to make.
THE SUN: What advice do you have for people approaching therapy for the first time?
PATRICIA SUN: Before you go, delineate your problem for yourself. Don’t go in acting like you don’t know anything, like you’re looking for a parent to fix things for you. You’re not a sick person; you’re a smart person with problems, and smart people go where they can get support to solve their problems.
In counseling, I’d always say, “The first order of business is to acknowledge that you know what’s good for you. I can only give you feedback to the best of my ability. You still have to decide whether I’m right or wrong. If what I say feels great to you, it’s probably good. If it actually feels empowering, that’s doubly good. If it feels funny or you’re not sure, it’s probably one of two things: I might be wrong, or you might not be quite ready to hear it yet. If that’s the case, put it on the shelf, and say ‘maybe wrong, maybe later.’ ”
That way you don’t have to throw anything away — you can let everything in. The bottom line is that you decide what’s good for you. Never give that up. If you have to give that up, you and the therapist are doing something wrong.
The next thing I tell people is that, after defining their problem, they should define their goal. What do you want, and how do you want a therapist to help you? Do you want healthy feedback, do you want to learn assertiveness, do you want to communicate better with your lover? In the first session, you should feel a connection with the therapist. If you don’t feel great when you leave, that therapist is probably not right for you. Anybody who’s good for you should be able to give you a lot right away.
THE SUN: I can imagine a lot of therapists saying, “Wait a minute! That’s a lot to expect in a first meeting.”
PATRICIA SUN: It’s based on my experience. If I can’t do that, I shouldn’t take your money. But the point is that you can tell. We’re tricked into thinking we can’t tell, because from childhood we’re trained to discount our intuition. You need to trust your instincts about whether your experience with someone is empowering, healing, wholesome. Are you connecting, becoming more intimate? A good therapist will give you feedback that empowers you honestly. It’s that simple.
Of course, in later sessions, things will come up that are hard to face. When things get difficult, a reliable therapist will say something like, “I suggest you look at this.” Therapists shouldn’t play a power trip; they should offer, but not prescribe.
THE SUN: Why do very intelligent, rational people sometimes sign their lives away after one or two mystical experiences facilitated by a teacher?
PATRICIA SUN: The problem is that super-rational, linear-thinking people have disconnected themselves from certain intuitive, psychic phenomena. When they suddenly experience these things at the hands of a guru, their either-or thinking tells them that if this person knows how to do this, then he or she knows everything.
There is a healing energy that can be generated from the body. I do it a lot in workshops, but I explain it, and why I’m doing it: how it helps integrate the two spheres of the brain, how it helps people think in different ways. I really feel the presence of God in this energy. Its effect on people is powerful. Unfortunately, some of the people who can generate this energy are misguided — some are even crazy.
I think some discrimination is necessary, and can be developed, to understand the nature of this healing. Research scientists generally dismiss the “placebo effect” as some kind of accident, but I’ve always wanted to know: why aren’t we studying the placebo effect? No drugs, no surgery, only belief, and people are getting well: how does that happen? I think it is the untapped potential in human beings.
We are learning how to sort this out and use it. It will change how we teach children, and improve our understanding of how medicine works. In a recent lecture at the Stanford School of Medicine, I asked the doctors, students, and professors to imagine what it would be like to have all their medical knowledge working along with their healing powers. When they have a patient with a broken leg, for instance, they can bring their experience and mechanical knowledge about setting a leg into the situation, as well as their ability to generate love and imagery from their hands. They could slow down the patient’s blood flow and reduce the swelling in order to place the bone properly, and have a clear, intuitive knowledge, without X-rays, of how to turn that bone correctly. Imagine the kind of doctor who could do both kinds of work, instead of one or the other.
THE SUN: Isn’t there a temptation to see the intuitive healer as someone with a special gift from God — something that’s beyond the capacity of most people?
PATRICIA SUN: The feeling that “I did it, and you didn’t” is actually a denial of the way it works. There was a period during which I did a lot of very dramatic healing — slipped disks, smashed fingers, pain, cancer, all sorts of physical ills. But I never sought out the opportunities; they came to me. There seemed to be a Tao, an order of nature at work in that. I realized that the people who came to me were ready for healing; both I and the person experiencing healing were contributing equally. If you say the healer does it, you’re denying the other person’s power; if you say the person was getting better anyway, you’re denying the healer. I realized that the truth was that I contributed 100 percent and the other person contributed 100 percent. We came together when we both were able to allow this healing energy to flow.
Because I’ve done it with many people, and the other person may be healing only his or her particular problem, I do have a different kind of insight. I’m more comfortable with it; it feels easier and more ordinary. I would admit that not everyone has it at the same level, but everyone has it. Of that I’m sure. It’s just asleep in people who think they don’t have it. So I see myself as someone who wakes people up when they’re ready. I don’t encourage people who aren’t ready to come to my workshops.
All of our social problems — AIDS, pornography, sexual abuse, drug abuse, war, pollution — are directly related to not looking, and not telling the truth. In other words, fearing the truth and denying our power to be responsible.
Even when we’re being very cruel and unkind to one another, it’s out of our own insecurity, our own fear, our own lack of self-love.
THE SUN: What do you think are the major blocks for most people in tapping this energy?
PATRICIA SUN: Fear of it, and the outmoded belief that the energy will lead to power over people instead of love that enables people. We tend to think that either I’ve got the power or you’ve got the power.
That kind of thinking prevents us from seeing certain things.
If you have a pizza and there are six people in the room, normal thinking will tell you it’s fair to cut six slices. But that’s not fair if two people are allergic to pizza, two just ate dinner, and two are starving. It’s fairer to divide it based on what’s really happening; that’s the wholesome thing to do. Equality and fairness are not the same thing; fairness means what’s wholesome.
Determining wholesomeness is easy. If I offer you three pieces of fruit, and one is rotten, one is green, and one is ripe, you know which one to take.
THE SUN: But most people experience their psychological dilemmas as much more complicated than that.
PATRICIA SUN: A lot of that complexity is just programmed fogging. Inherently we are all able. We have disabled ourselves by defense mechanisms that say we can’t see, we can’t know, we can’t tell, and we can’t get there from here. It’s the same thinking that tells us win-lose, either-or, who’s got the power over who. The saying that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is not true if I have all my power, and you have all yours, and everyone has all his or her power. What happens then is that we have heaven on Earth. We fight power because we can think only of using it against each other; thus, we handicap ourselves, set ourselves up for feeling vulnerable to each other.
THE SUN: Then I have a big question: how did we get this way? Why do we fight over power that we can all have?
PATRICIA SUN: [Laughs] Well, I have a great big answer to that, which I give in workshops. I think we’re in the middle of an evolutionary leap, a leap predicted by religions all over the world. Buddhism calls it waking up. Christianity and Judaism call it the Coming and the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s based on the realization that we’re not all here, not functioning well or using all our parts. I’ve met some very actualized people who feel this frustration even more keenly than most; they’re especially aware that they’re not using their full abilities. So we’re in the middle of a leap in our consciousness and capacity to perceive; the way we think and the way we take in information is changing. Psychic phenomena, intuitive ability, healing, and creativity are all a part of this leap.
Jesus said that in the days to come there will be no more secrets, the covered shall be uncovered, everything that is hidden shall be seen. I think that’s a premonition of our becoming very conscious, not lying to ourselves or one another anymore. We’re frightened and fighting that leap, kicking and screaming, because we don’t understand it and we fear we will lose control.
The last great evolutionary leap was the one called the Fall. Before the Fall we lived in the mind of God, with no choice, like the animals; we lived, had babies, and died with no regret, remorse, or blame; life moved from one moment to the next with no loss, but also no consciousness. We just did it. The next level of evolution was choice, the power to say yes or no, which is the power to make mistakes. That’s either-or thinking, which was new and useful then, but is now what I call “old-style” thinking.
I hate to say words that can so easily be misinterpreted, but I do think America has a spiritual destiny of freedom. Real freedom is the choice to be wholesome, to see the world in kindness and in innocence. That’s also called growing up. All of our social problems — AIDS, pornography, sexual abuse, drug abuse, war, pollution — are directly related to not looking, and not telling the truth. In other words, fearing the truth and denying our power to be responsible.
THE SUN: Are you politically oriented?
PATRICIA SUN: I’m not political in that I want everybody to get it, not just some. Because I care about human beings, and the world, and our country, I need to comment about these things — but from a healing point of view. I really believe that Jesus meant it when he said, “Love your enemies.” When you start loving them, you don’t have enemies anymore. That’s not a simplistic ideal; that’s psychological maturity. Saying it is quite simple; doing it means getting rid of a lot of very old conditioning. You don’t have to feel bad about it because there was no way you could escape it. What you gain by learning how to give up that conditioning is your own health, your own power. Enlightened self-interest is the realization that healing yourself is healing the world.
THE SUN: Do you answer questions about specific spiritual practices, or recommend any particular spiritual paths?
PATRICIA SUN: If I’m asked I say. “Do what you think is wholesome.” I have no interest otherwise because I think you have to be it, live it, and do it.
The Harmonic Convergence, for instance, was wonderful because at a certain moment people were considering the possibility of everyone overcoming the past and becoming more loving. There was nothing to fault in that. On the other hand, it’s clear that people like to talk about things rather than do them. Saying true things is far from enough; you really must live them.
THE SUN: I think that one difference between a religious belief and a spiritual path is that the path, or “living it,” as you say, leads you right into your shadow. Perhaps some people were skeptical of the Harmonic Convergence because they’re aware of the dark side of humanity, and they don’t see how converging on a mountaintop addresses the evil in the world.
PATRICIA SUN: If you’re talking about the truth without living it — without facing yourself — you’ll get criticism. It will anger the people who don’t talk about it or live it, because your inauthenticity points up their own. That’s why it’s so easy to be cynical, to tear down. But to live it takes courage, and quietness, and quite possibly not getting credit. Sometimes you don’t talk about it, but you do it anyway.
To believe is a verb like to love — it’s a movement, an energy, a feeling. When you believe something, you be-live it; you don’t need to persecute someone else in order to defend it. I grew up in New Jersey in the Forties and Fifties, in the McCarthy era, and saw a lot of people defending beliefs by pointing fingers: “Are you a Communist? Do you believe in God?” First of all, it seemed obvious to me that God had given us the ability to doubt. Second, do people go around worrying about whether the ants believe in them? Probably not. So I couldn’t imagine that God was worried about our beliefs. Third, either you believe in God now, or you don’t and you will later, so what’s the problem?
Finally I realized that those who were questioning others’ beliefs were the ones who didn’t believe in God. If you believe in God, you be-live God. Then, when someone says there’s no God, all you can do is smile and say, “Gee, what a nice surprise you’ve got coming!” You don’t want to burn them at the stake, ostracize them, keep them away from your kids — not at all. If you really believe God, you only love them all the more. You exemplify love.
The time is coming to tell the truth. I’ve felt it coming on for about fifteen years, but I didn’t want to talk about it at first. Now I’ve been giving interviews because I think people are ready to hear this: it’s time to be courageous and tell the truth, not self-righteously and shaking a finger, but as an offering. That way people can use what you have to say, or they can pass, but there’s no loss. It doesn’t matter, when you’re in the spirit of healing.
A Patricia Sun Workshop
Edited excerpts from a Winter Equinox Workshop with Patricia Sun, Berkeley, California, December 22, 1987.
Copyright © 1987 by Patricia Sun. All rights reserved.
The human race is right now in the midst of an evolutionary leap of consciousness. Our capacity to perceive reality is expanding — as if we were all overcoming a sort of color-blindness. What I try to evoke in these workshops is an experience that gives you an intuitive sense of the next level of thinking. You feel it. A great measure of this new capacity is in feelings. Through your feelings you know God, you read other people, you know what’s really good for you; through your feelings you are able to love and heal.
Our old style of thinking is sequential, logical, black-and-white. That kind of thinking likes to capture information. The new level of thinking, which has so much to do with feeling, is in the process of being born, so we’re in a crisis time. The crisis affects every nation, every culture, the whole human species. As I’ve traveled around the world in the last decade, I’ve been able to see the changes; people are going through great internal turmoil because it’s hard to let go of the old style of thinking.
That outmoded style has no confidence in the process. It’s like yanking up little seedlings to see if they’re growing. The new style of thinking has to do with trusting our feelings, letting go, trusting that the universe is unfolding, leaning a little more into our moment-to-moment sensing of what people are doing, feeling, wanting, asking, being. We’ve all been programmed to believe that we can’t know what people are thinking, or what their motives are, or what they’re really saying. We have given away our awareness of what we are, what we need, and what we think, instead of trusting our inherent goodness, the love God has written in our cells, our guts, and our hearts.
Anytime you believe that you can’t tell what somebody’s motivation is, or what he or she is thinking, or what you need, you can be sure you’re in the middle of some drama, acting out defense mechanisms — what I like to call “tapes.” But it’s very important that you be kind to yourself, that you accept that you’re a little crazy — we all are.
You can find the tight answer in any situation by following what you earnestly feel. Of course, your earnestness will sometimes be contaminated by your tapes. But if you don’t risk being genuine, part of you goes numb. Your capacity to perceive is slightly disconnected every time you go on automatic pilot, instead of being present with your gut, your mind, and your heart.
It’s actually relaxing when you realize that you have to handle only what comes up for you day by day. You don’t have to handle the whole thing, because it’s all connected in a very organic way. Sometimes just doing one or two things that may take years to complete will put you in line for a hundred other things to fall into place. One thing that’s a little off can make your connection to everything a little off. As you straighten out that one pattern or defense mechanism, a tremendous number of other things fall into place effortlessly. So it’s worth doing: it’s worth being alive and healthy; it’s worth telling the truth.
Of course, most of us won’t realize till three days after any given experience that we didn’t tell the truth about it. And that’s if we’re quick! We have to be kind and patient, and support one another. It’s always easier to spot someone else’s problem, right? The best thing is to set up agreements to let each other know kindly, softly, honestly. Feel the difference between saying, “I’m right, I know, and I’m better” and “I love you, you’re my friend, I know how this is, and do you know what I’m seeing? I think it might be this. . . .” Which would you rather hear?
Be genuinely supportive; ask for support genuinely. If people offer support in a way that isn’t good for you, let them know right away — not assuming that they’re nasty, but that they’re unaware of how much they’re hurting you.
Most of the time we’re operating out of defense mechanisms. Even when we’re being very cruel and unkind to one another, it’s out of our own insecurity, our own fear, our own lack of self-love. It makes sense to be authentic, to tell the truth close to the quick, as close to the essence of it as we can get. The more we intellectualize it, the more it will start to translate into a defense position, and we’ll start making a case for that position, trying to justify it. We never have to justify how we feel. Whatever emotion we have is always necessary, and it’s always real. Where we get into trouble is our translation of it, our communication of it, because we try to justify it. Instead, we can just innocently say, “It didn’t feel good when you said that. I don’t know why.” We don’t even have to wait to figure out why.
Now some people can’t handle all of this, and you’ll know when they can’t. Try it first. If you tell people how you feel without hostility or judgement, and they’re still going into overload, they just may need to take a break from you. Now this brings up tapes of, “Oh, I’m so alone, and I can’t be who I am because everybody will leave me.” That’s a big one! But you need to do it anyway — give them a break, give them time to process, because it does take time. And you will feel better just for having told them. There will be a great surge of release inside you — if you don’t add the expectation that they should understand and say, “How wonderful you told me.” Just go on with your life, enjoying the feeling of being free, then they can change more quickly.
We often still operate as little children, trying to join in and be acceptable at the level of powerlessness. We haven’t realized quite yet that we’ve grown up, and that no mommy or daddy is going to come and fix things for us. We are going to do it ourselves. We each need to be responsible for the child within us who feels vulnerable, who mistrusts, who is very needy. And as adults, we need to provide the opportunities, the protection, the consideration for that inner child.
Don’t beat it up; don’t hate it as your weakness. It is your connection to the human race, which isn’t finished yet. The human race is in a stage of development, and the way to the next level — the key to the kingdom — is the compassion, kindness, and insight to be adult to yourself.
You’ll feel the part inside that says, “Well I don’t care, and I don’t want to.” You can carry on with that as long as you like. But the process of gaining your power is available to you. It won’t happen by accident; it won’t even be too difficult. All the fear and all the difficulty is in the antcipation. The actual process is quite exciting. It’s delightful, like when a little kid learns how to put something together or tie a shoe or climb up to the cabinet where the cookies are. It’s quite exhilarating.
To a woman whose lover doesn’t want a “bonded” relationship:
That’s like a little kid with chocolate all around his mouth saying, “No, I didn’t eat it!” Can you feel the fear in that? Wouldn’t you feel compassion for a kid who’s terrified and who’s lying with the evidence all over his face? That’s all it was: he was getting close, he started to love, he got scared. We all have the same experience in childhood: we all love our parents, and we are all violated by our parents because they were violated by theirs. So we’ve all been violated at the very peak of the most in-love love you can imagine. We adore our parents, and there always comes a moment when we feel the betrayal, the lie, the violation. And then we begin to create defense mechanisms to protect us in the world so we never get caught in that place again. And you know what? It’s just a big drama. It might take years to dismantle our defense mechanisms, but it’s important to try. Because they keep us from our power.
If you knew this when your lover said it, you’d just chuckle. Just like with a little kid, you could say, “Now are you sure you don’t want a bonded relationship? It might be nice!” But if you match his fear with yours, watch out! Everybody’s in terror and goes off screaming and roaring — that’s called “matching energy.” The terror becomes real because you make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you can avoid buying in to the fear, you can start to dismantle it. The way you undo it is not to match it.
People who are getting close know each other’s nerve. You must be respectful of that, and know when you inadvertently touch someone’s nerve. But be kind about it; don’t match the reaction, and don’t buy in. It’s that simple. It’s not so simple remembering all that as it’s coming up; I understand that. But as you recognize the pattern in all your episodes, you can start to dismantle it. Know that it can be dismantled, because that’s where freedom is.
To a tearful woman who can’t “figure out” her body:
You’re overwhelmed because you’re trying too hard. It’s simpler and easier than you think — much more basic, nitty-gritty, and organic. It’s like learning another language: we get convinced that it’s a mystery. “Oh, I could never do it!” Well, you already talk, so you’ve learned one language. You can learn another one if you give yourself the same amount of time, freedom, lack of pressure, and exposure. The only reason you think you can’t learn as you get older is that you’re so self-critical.
For you to claim your body back you need to enjoy it, own it, and like it. Use it, have it — it’s that simple. You have emotional traumas connected to your body, and you are entitled to take your time exploring them. The most helpful thing is not to push yourself, and to love yourself as you are for your beauty, your aliveness.
Any time you feel overwhelmed, know you’re pushing too hard, and do something light and silly. Dance around your house and run up and down the stairs — anything. When you start to think that you can’t know something or figure it out, that it’s a mystery, know that it isn’t.
About chronic shoulder tension:
When you feel stress in your shoulders and neck, it has to do with taking on too much responsibility — carrying the world on your shoulders. Question yourself when you’re tense: “What have I taken on I don’t need to? How can I give myself a twenty-minute vacation where I let go of all responsibility?” Give yourself that break. It may not seem easily undone at first, but you have to practice even when you think you’re not succeeding, even when the tension is still there. For a while, it may even feel like you’re pretending, but you can remind yourself that you’re not. Know that that’s part of the process.
To a woman whose lover has another lover:
You might want to look at the pattern that makes you pick someone you can’t have. I would bet you that the minute he really wanted only you, you wouldn’t want him. What is the attraction in picking someone you won’t be able to have? Why do you like it, why do you stay in it? It might protect you from having a real relationship — where you could get really hurt because you really wanted it. Can you feel the fear in that? That’s the real issue: the grief of really loving someone who maybe won’t be there.
I remember a woman who once said, “I’m still in love with my ex-husband.” She was in total suffering. She’d been divorced for seven years and hadn’t seen him for five years. I said, “You’re not in love with this man. You don’t even know who he is. You’re in love with a wonderful image — he can be perfect forever, and you can suffer forever. He can be everything you want at every moment because he’s totally inaccessible.”
Whenever you’re suffering greatly from loss in a relationship, it’s because you’re in love with someone who isn’t there. Because if you’re in love with a real person who can’t be there, you know why, and it feels right. Of course you’ll have moments of missing that person, but it won’t be such a drama. These breast-beating dramas are figments. It’s a relief to realize that you’re in love with someone who doesn’t exist. Then you can move on to somebody real.
To a lesbian who is attracted to her woman friends:
I think it would be really empowering and healthy for you to take a break from relationships at the sexual and romantic level. The situation is fraught with connections to your own insecurity, sensual, sexual, feeling, beautiful, healthy, physical, alert, able, and functioning. At all those levels, begin to feel love inside yourself, and try to hold it, like a battery; try not to spend it. That doesn’t mean you can’t radiate; but as you draw energy to yourself, just say, “Thank you, that’s nice.” Just build it up with the purpose of learning to appreciate yourself, so that your battery gives you energy to nurture yourself when you run into traumas. Be your own loving mother and loving father.
Let yourself be six years old, and nurture yourself like you would a child. Let sex stand aside, as it would if you were six years old. Let yourself develop.
About hurt feelings:
Having your feelings hurt is a drama, a tape. Nobody can hurt your feelings — people are only being who they are, like the kid with the chocolate on his face. To pout about people being who they are is a no-win situation, because everybody’s got stuff to work on. You will be disappointed if you blame people and assume that they should be fair, should understand, should give you what you need; the fact is that they do when they can, and they don’t when they can’t. Healing is accepting what they are. When your feelings are hurt, you can dismantle the pain by making the choice to be healthy and centered. You have the power to bring in what you really want right in the midst of the pain.
Feelings just seem to come upon us, but that’s because they’re coming from an old script. Analyze the situation, even if it takes you twenty, thirty, fifty times. Do you know that uncomfortable feeling of letting go of your dramas? It’s so comfortable to go back and be right, like a little kid. So be kind to the little kid, but say, “This doesn’t get us anywhere. This doesn’t get us what we want.” Building a new structure for creative response lets you be alive and present, authentic, and lets you speak the truth.
To a teenager who injured his ankle just when he’d gotten into shape:
The reason that you’ll sometimes take ten steps forward and then three back is that you need more information, but you’re impatient. The only way you’ll become aware of what you don’t know is by having to slow down for a few months. Be still with yourself and notice what you’re going through. If you’re upset and blaming yourself, you have to notice that.
Also, ankles have to do with flexibility and the direction your life is going. So perhaps some part of you is not being flexible about what direction you’re taking. You might have a script in mind about what this new healthy body’s going to do for you, but it’s not actually where you’re going. You need to lighten up and ask, “Where will this take me?” Make use of where you are without trying to make everything fit your images.
We’re going to discover the world all anew, and make it new, but that requires being much less sure about where we’re going. The linear mind doesn’t like that at all. There are more options and paths than you can dream of, and the paradox is that, as you stop trying to control where you’re going, your earnest and well-meaning self will take you to more places that are better than you ever imagined.
To a woman in a difficult relationship with her father:
You have to let him be whatever he is. He may not ever give you recognition, or maybe he will — it’s irrelevant. This is an effort to have love through pain — the old idea that we can have love only by picking at each other.
What power you’ve given this old man you don’t really know! You’ve made him into a bogeyman. But I’m sure he feels quite powerless, because he’s just like you, dancing with his phantoms and what’s been handed down to him. You need to look at him closely in order to see him as a part of you, and see the family drama. Maybe you can give it up for the sake of your own life, for your children, and even for your father’s sake before he dies. It would be nice just to say, “Hi, and who are you?”
You’re dealing with a big facade and you don’t even know who’s in there, like the Wizard of Oz who was a tiny man behind a facade. It would be very healthy for you to go see your father with the intent of seeing who’s really there, aware of the story that goes along with the reality. His dance is something that has nothing to do with him. You’ll be able to see him doing it, and that might give you some compassion for both of you.
About the roles of men and women in the new style of thinking:
What I have to say about that may surprise you. I have a theory that men and women really do think differently, and part of the evolutionary leap is that men will think more as women think now, and women will think more as men do. When you’re in a yin, female body, your dominant mental style is yang: logical, linear, verbal, cause-and-effect, sequential thinking. Our culture says that women are intuitive and emotional while men are linear, but I think it’s just the reverse.
Women are verbal about their emotions and verbally expressive of their intuition, so they get the credit for it. If you look at a little boy and a little girl playing, you’ll hear the little girl saying, “Now I’ll be the mommy and you be the daddy, and we’ll go to the store, and we’ll buy food and make dinner, and we’ll put the babies to bed, and la la la la la. . . .” The little boy just picks up a truck and hits her on the head. He goes into total overload, because the little girl is totally ordered — she knows where everything goes; she’s socialized and verbal before he is. Men’s dominant style is spatial — whole thinking and feeling. They’re more immediately in their bodies: that’s why the little boy picks up the truck and hits the girl. He thinks, “Enough, stop,” and he stops it. He doesn’t know how to tell her why he wants to play with the truck. When little boys try to tell why, the girls say, “Well, that’s not what you’re supposed to be doing!”
If you start to notice this, you’ll see how women run roughshod over men verbally. Because the hemisphere men are working from is poetic, not linear. Of course we all have both hemispheres, and part of the evolutionary leap is that we are all becoming more integrated. The paradox is that as women learn to think in a more yin way — like men — they will become more feminine, and as men learn to think in a more yang way — like women — they will become more masculine.
Basically women don’t like to run the risk of seeing things as they are; they’re always organizing for how they think things ought to be. Men have been programmed by their mothers to believe women must be right, because women are sure they are: right-wrong is their dominant thought pattern. They’re innocently trying to solve problems by being right. That’s why when women talk about men, they say, “How did it go, and then what happened, and what did you say, and then what happened?” They want to understand; they want to know techniques, methods, and judgements to make things work. Men get together and basically say, “Was she good? Did it feel good?” They’re immediately physical. I think men need to learn to plan, to think ahead, to feel commitment, to say the contradictions they feel.
One of women’s major complaints about men is, “I ask him what he feels and he doesn’t tell me.” Well, he doesn’t tell for two reasons. One, it’s harder for his basic style, and two, there isn’t one answer for him. But he knows that you know there’s one answer, and he believes you’re right because his mother convinced him; she knew the right answer and every woman he’s ever met has known the right answer, too. I think women need to soften some and ask that question only when they’re really willing to hear the truth, and not because they’re gathering material for the script they’re innocently writing of how the relationship should work. What happens when you ask authentically is that whatever the man is most afraid of is going to come up first. He may censor or channel it somehow, but that’s what’s going to be there — and it’s the last thing the woman wants to hear.
Once, when I was in Paris, I got the feeling something was wrong at home with the animals, and I called and got my ex-husband, who was taking care of the house. I asked him how everything was going, and he said, “Oh, fine.” I asked if all the animals were OK, and he said, “Sure.” But when I hung up I still had the feeling something was not right. So I called back and got my youngest son on the line. The first thing out of his mouth was, “We killed the birds, Mom. We starved them to death.” He felt so bad. He loved the birds. But everybody got busy and forgot to feed them, and they died. He’s very psychic, and he felt my caring and worrying about the birds; I didn’t even ask him — it was the first thing he blurted out. It wasn’t the way a woman would tell it, like, “Oh, I have some terrible news. We got so busy and forgot to feed the birds, and then they died.” He said it the way he felt it: We killed the birds. We starved them to death. Can you feel the emotional wholeness of that response?
Part of the change in thinking is that women are going to have more respect for that capacity in men. Women will be less demanding and more vulnerable; men will be more open and vulnerable. We’ll start to risk being friends, being authentic, and respecting the differences in how we see the world.