Guest Post by the wonderful, brilliant and endlessly compassionate Chaz Franke.
As a therapist I consider the area where I meet with the other to be sacred. I want the world to fall away while the heroes I meet one hour at a time allow their journey to unfold. Every step of the way is to be treated with a reverence that is unique in my life. In my practice I try to do everything possible to create a space that allows for all the connection, insight, care, and compassion necessary for change to be present. I want that small corner of the world to be sacred.
It is the nature of this sacred space that caused me to question the ability to create that experience.
What are the traits of something sacred?
What are the factors that allow for openness?
What are the areas of connection that allow for expression?
What does every hero need to fully accept their status as the protagonist of a journey that only belongs to them?
In this writing I am going to unfold three of the major components that I have found in this process of reflection, connection and experience. We are going on a journey together to find out how to create our sacred self. It is time to begin the journey of self care that allows us to see our own sacred nature as it unfolds minute to minute. It is time to bear witness to an aspect of our true nature that can only be found through honest exploration, extreme acceptance, and an appreciation for ourselves that cannot be duplicated by the external.
In this reflection and introspection there are three main characteristics for creating a sacred self:
Compassion, Curiosity, and Creativity.
In no specific order we will look at these skills that can allow us to truly appreciate the opportunity to care deeply for our profoundly unique self.
Self compassion is a trait that has been gaining ground in the world of psychology, psychotherapy, and most frequently spirituality. The reason for this momentum is the continuing body of work that supports the need to improve our ability to accept suffering in a way that strives for alleviation and support.
Many of us understand the ways in which we can do this for others. We see the struggle of another and we want to reduce the struggle, unburden the load, and become the constant companion of the sufferer along the path. For many of us this is second nature. This begs the question, "Why do other people receive this understanding while I refuse it for myself?”
Self compassion is a something that is dependent on our ability to accept our inner critic without always giving it VIP access to the decision making process. It is perfectly acceptable to have a part of ourselves that is not accepting of certain weaknesses, or a part of ourselves that is willing to push past the status quo. Without compassion this part of us will become a painful reminder of failing as opposed to an understanding motivator. In psychotherapy terms the morally idealistic part of ourselves has historically been called the,” Superego,” but when that superego is hypercritical and hurtful we often use the phrase, “Punitive Superego.” Meaning that the main goal of a significant part of our personality has been to punish us until we learn a lesson.
As you may have guessed this punitive process does very little for our goal of accepting ourselves as sacred. Implementing self compassion is rooted in our ability to create a space for understanding and acceptance. We have to be able to create an internal relationship that allows for questions, warmth, patience, and the ability to see direction without demanding speed.
Self compassion emerges out of our ability to see difficulty and imperfections as an experience and not an identifier.
When we have compassion for someone else we do not see their suffering and decide that suffering is all they are. We witness their suffering in a larger context of their personality, greatness, beauty, and presence. Then we hold that view for them so they can experience what ii is like in the presence of another person who sees the whole self.
This is a space we need to create for ourselves. We have to find skills that allow us to look inward, and to see that anything we are feeling or experiencing is part of a large picture that includes our strength, warmth, gentleness, and resiliency.
We can create these compassionate moments for ourselves by utilizing meditation, mindfulness practice, seeking a therapist, allowing vulnerability in the presence of a trusted other, or merely turning inward and asking, "What do I need?”
After we have built the ability to patiently inquire what we need then we can see the unfolding of the second part of creating a sacred self: Curiosity. Nothing is more neglected when we begin relating with ourselves than our ability to be simply curious.
As a therapist I have no greater tool than my, seemingly, unending curiosity about the experience of the person sharing space with me. There is no detail too mundane and no story too trivial in the experience of therapy. Erich Fromm, a prominent psychoanalyst, used to discuss the importance of Freud and his creation (Psychoanalysis). In that discussion he stated that Freud was the first person who was willing to acknowledge that all people were deserving of a life that could be explored in great detail over the course of an extended time. Curiosity is at the center of our human experience. As compassion develops we position ourselves to be more curious.
Often times I would notice that I could listen to any detail about other people, but internally I assumed that no one wanted to hear anything about me in such great detail. This led me to question why I had such respect for others while treating myself as if I needed some big reveal to garner interest. The simple answer is that I saw the sacred as something outside of me, and I was refusing it internally. This is the shift we have to make to help ourselves see how expansive we are.
In the process of developing the sacred self we use curiosity to appreciate detail. Now that we are combining this trait with compassion it reduces the possibility that curiosity can become criticism.
Curiosity helps us see that any story that is in our mind is an individual experience that will never be had by another person in the history of this planet. It is ours. Our details belong to us. Our priorities are ours.
What we consider to be the most important moment in a conversation is a beautiful moment in time suspended for our viewing. To learn how to be curious is to learn how to appreciate the beauty of a moment.
We have to cultivate this skill through practice. We would not consider something sacred if we felt we knew everything about it and its possibilities. This is the same for us. We do not know all things we are capable of, and we do not understand all things about ourselves. We must use a caring curiosity to ask the question, "How can I understand in a way that respects my beauty?”
The final piece to our acceptance of our luminous nature is creativity. I have to admit that my appreciation for my own creativity came from an external source: my father. One evening after dinner with friends my father and I were walking back to the hotel we were staying in during this particular trip.
We had dinner with some of the most endearing and intelligent people in my life and suddenly my father said,” You know I realized tonight that you guys are all just creative for a living.” In this instance the table included an art director, a film director, and me (a therapist). I was overwhelmed with this moment. I realized that a skill I had denied myself for years was present in me to the extent that it was visible. Since that time I have always used meditation as a time to see how I have been being creative.
Many of us choose to neglect the unique and creative ways we solve problems throughout our daily experience. This is because creativity is so innate that it flows from us as we manage situations no one else has ever approached.
This creates good news for our ability to see our sacred self. Creativity is to be noticed and appreciated, not cultivated. We do not need to develop a gorgeous innate skill. We only need to see where we have been utilizing it. We have to take the time to reflect on ways we approached something with novelty. In this novelty is often the assumption of skill. We do not do something creative without an understanding that within us there is the skill to complete a task. This is a wonderful opportunity for use to truly developing a caring and appreciative relationship with ourselves in the same way we would appreciate anything that has the courage to be novel.
We have to reflect to find the ways we create new space and skill through our creativity. We have to see our unique expression in our environment. This is our creativity. Our ability to be a presence that expresses authenticity.
It is through the consistent practice of Compassion, Curiosity, and Creativity that we can create a sacred relationship with ourselves. We can see that we are deserving of a level of internal intimacy that we have only reserved for the largest parts of our lives and our spirit. I do not propose many exercises for these skills because that would reduce the chance for true acceptance. Begin asking yourself what you need. Begin looking for details that create a beautiful moment based on your true presence. Begin seeing the ways your creative expression shapes a world. Then you will inevitably be introduced to your sacred Self.