I know you as a brilliant therapist and spiritual teacher, but I also know that your interests are broad and varied. Can you please share what you do? How do you describe your work and how did you come to it?
I help free people from the grip of old wounds, get them centered in themselves, and reconnect them to the things that make them flourish. I do this through a process of guided, compassionate self-inquiry called Inner Work. There is a Rumi poem that says, “Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” This poem represents a fundamental truth that belies my work. If we are willing to do the work to remove the obstacles and heal the wounds, what waits beneath is a bounty of love, self-love and love for others. This may require a leap of faith for some, but I guarantee it is true.
I came to this work organically. Like most healers, I was drawn to it because I myself was wounded. I originally turned to Buddhism and the yoga practice as balms for my suffering, and ways through it. Though they were immensely helpful, it turned out that they weren’t enough on their own. I needed to do some deep work that was more personal to my story. Through that personal work, I found an understanding that allowed me to drop into the ocean of all beings, not as an escape but as a true entrance. Along the way, I became so bedazzled by the ways of the universe and how they operate through the human psyche that these explorations became my primary interest. Now, I’m immersed in this work everyday, helping others find their own way to openness and fulfillment, and I love it.
You rely on Jungian psychology, Buddhist teachings, Process-Oriented psychology, and nature in your work. Can you explain how that looks when working with a client? Jungian psychology, Buddhist teachings, and Arny Mindell’s Process-Oriented Psychology have a lot in common. They each have their points of emphasis, methodologies, and language but as I like to say, there are many doors to the house of god or the house of wholeness. These complimentary schools of thought are all tools in my toolkit and I may draw from one or all of these sources while working with a student. For example, let’s say a person has a wound that causes them to constantly overextend themselves or try to please everyone at their own expense. I may use Buddhist practices to help that person stay more present with their fear of making a mistake or of not being loved. The aim here would be to minimize the suffering that surrounds the wound and to start cultivating inner strength and stability around it. In another session, I may use Jungian techniques such as Active Imagination to engage with the wound that is perpetuating the fears and the resulting behaviors. The aim there is to heal the wound over time by compassionately but honestly looking at it, understanding it, and teaching and practicing another way. It’s sometimes invisible to the student which modality I’m drawing from. It’s a fluid process, guided by the moment and what a student is presenting.
I’ve found that without personal inner work, spiritual teachings alone can have the inadvertent effect of encouraging avoidance tendencies, or they can create an increasingly painful divide between who we are in real life and who we present ourselves to be because we can’t figure out how to bridge the gap between our spiritual ideals and the pain or anger we feel inside. Similarly, personal inner work without spiritual teachings on mindfulness, interrelatedness, and compassion can leave us feeling okay about ourselves but still lacking the greater connection, lacking a sense of meaning and purpose. That’s why I do both together.
Your career and interests span many different disciplines. How do they impact and influence your work? I like to play creatively with beauty. I used to write music that seems, in retrospect, to have been largely about transcending the darkness through beauty. And currently, alongside my primary work of Inner Work, I do design some interiors. The spirit that ran through me and into my music is the same spirit that runs through me as a teacher and healer. Inner Work is creative work too, and in many ways very much about drawing out beauty, about reminding a thing of its inherent loveliness. The human psyche is quite poetic. You can see it in dreams, serendipities, verbal and physical “accidents”. I find that having this creative perspective allows me to help people tap into something deeper within themselves, something beyond the obvious and the rational. The subtle background feelings and beliefs that a healer brings to the work, what he or she believes is possible, for example, these things have quite an influence on the results. These beliefs loom and are transmitted from one psyche or one heart to the other.
The Nature-Based Map of the Psyche that you teach is such a powerful practice. Can you elaborate on what it is, how to use it, and how it’s beneficial both during therapy and afterwards? I learned this wonderful map on a vision quest several years ago and have since tailored it to the suit the particular work I do. It’s a synthesis of ideas that span from modern psychology to indigenous societies. The map teaches that each of the primary forces of nature and all of the universal archetypes are within us. It organizes these forces into four primary quadrants. When a wounding occurs, we can become closed to the quadrant in which that happened. We might also begin to overcompensate in other quadrants. Wounds can be personal, stemming from personal experiences or relationships. They can also result from socio-political factors or even just our modern way of living so apart from nature or what’s natural. (A wound is by definition a great separation.) The underlying premise of the map is that we are happiest when all four forces are embraced. The map helps us see where to work.
If someone isn’t able to commit to therapy right now, do you have suggestions for practices they can incorporate into their life on their own? Absolutely. My first suggestion is to work incrementally. For example, make a list of your triggers and break them down into small, medium and large triggers. Then work on abiding peacefully with the small triggers when they happen. Start with something simple like not reacting when you stub your toe. This will create the inner strength that allows you to move on to medium and large triggers.
My second suggestion is to learn and practice Active Imagination. This is a practice of conversing with your inner voices. For example, when you feel the urge to say or do something that another part of you knows is not wise or good for you, stop and ask yourself why. Turn the inner monologues into a dialogue. Inquiring compassionately and respectfully with your inner voices is key, just like it is when you are conversing with another person. Active Imagination has the potential to create deep inner shifts. It can literally change what the inner voices say to you. There is a book called “Inner Work”, by Robert Johnson, which explains the practice well. Read that book. (This book also gives some precautions about working with Active Imagination without a guide. It’s fine and helpful to do so in most cases, but please do observe the advice given.)
What does a day in your life look like? I keep my mornings slow and full of space. I really like to take the time to greet the day with some gratitude and quiet, and set my intentions, so I’ve made sure to design a life where that’s possible. The bulk of most days I’m working with students, either in person at my studio, or remotely through the interwebs. I take tea breaks, writing breaks, yoga breaks and doggie walking breaks. Any interior design projects I have are fit into the spaces between students, but I usually only take on one design project at a time. I really prefer to feel present and not overwhelmed. So my days are full but pretty balanced. The evenings get quiet again, and tend to be when I meditate, read and reflect.
You and I both share a deep connection to animals. How does this connection impact your work, your day to day life, and your place in the world? Animals constantly show me what unconditional love and absolute presence are. I feel deeply connected to them, grateful to them, and hugely protective as well, because these beings pay a high price for how far we as humans have strayed from the tapestry of life. The love and adoration I feel for animals certainly underscores my motivation to help my fellow humans, because I know that the more whole and healthy we are as a species, the less harm we will do to others.
What are your 5 favorite products from CAP? I love everything at CAP, literally everything, and I love where CAP is coming from. Here are some of my personal favorites: In Fiore’s Lustra Exfoliating Floral Compound Linne Activate Body Wash May Lindstrom’s The Honey Mud Kahina Giving Beauty Kessa Mitt Tata Harper’s Replenishing Nutrient Complex