It’s paying attention and growing in consciousness. It’s watching your energy—consciousness and energy cannot be separated. Energy manifests itself in your body in the form of physical sensations, usually because of an emotional response—joy, fear, shame, anxiety—to an inner or outer experience. It’s discovering, remembering your own truth.
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. C.G. Jung
Our bodies are energy. An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) measures the electrical activity in the heart. An electroencephalogram (EEG) measures electrical impulses in your brain.
People House spirituality includes watching that energy, befriending it, welcoming it, asking it what it wants. Much of it remains stuck down in our unconscious/psyche in the form of what we think is “bad” or “wrong” based on what we’ve been taught by often well-meaning parents, teachers, and religious and political authorities. We fear that which we’ve buried. This energy down in our psyche is still driving our lives—we just don’t know it. Every day we make decisions based on unconscious motives and desires and emotions and values and attitudes and beliefs.
Coming to consciousness is bringing that suppressed energy up to the surface and utilizing it for the good of ourselves, humanity, and the planet. That’s why consciousness/energy is transformative.
Stop. Breathe. Ask the Question.
A-It’s about paying attention to the energy coursing through your body. Our bodies are present to the here and now while our brains ruminate over the past and plan the future. Our body tells us when we are stressing. It gives off warning signals through the tension we feel in the gut, the shoulders, the legs, in sweaty palms, shortness of breath, a palpitating heart rate. Stress will kill us, or at a minimum contribute to sickness and disease. Steps to dis-ease are as follows:
1-Notice it. “Whoa, I’m stressed out about something, my gut is so tense.” Or wherever you feel it.
2- Stop and breathe into the stress. Even a minute or two of deep breathing begins the process of changing our unconscious responses. Your reptilian brain demands that you fight, flight, or freeze—an unconscious reaction. By bringing awareness to these signals you learn to respond and make conscious choices and thus break the automatic pattern. You do something different instead of just reacting to it. Our ancestors depended upon this reptilian brain to escape the saber-toothed tiger that wanted them for lunch. “Danger! Danger!” yelled instincts, and pumped the stress hormones adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine into the body to incite it for emergency action. Running then cleansed those hormones from the bloodstream.
Today when we feel threatened by our boss, the civilized human doesn’t have the option of running madly from her desk with a club in her hand, screaming at everyone to flee. Instead those hormones swirl inside her with no release, raising her heart rate and blood pressure—damaging over the long run. Recognizing that stress/energy and breathing into it with self-talk can help dissipate those chemicals, such as saying, “It’s OK. We’ve got this, it’s not the end of the world. I’m feeling threatened, what’s the worst that can happen?” It won’t be a tiger ripping you and your family apart from limb to limb. Breathing into that stress begins the process of breaking up that automatic chemical response.
3-Then ask your higher self, your inner guide, your spirit, “What can I do next?” It might be nothing, but to stay present to your body and breathe into those spaces where your energy manifests in the form of anxiety or anger or fear or shame—whatever is your go-to emotion.
You’ll notice that after a while, specific situations bring up stress over and over again—triggers, they’re called. Pema Chödrön, an ordained Buddhist nun in the Shambhala lineage, when asked if situations still triggered her, responded “Oh, yes. But now I’m curious. ‘Isn’t that interesting, I’m being triggered.’” A nun for more than 30 years, triggers for her become interesting, an object of curiosity, a learning experience—not something to berate herself for.
Alchemy: Transform Your Energy into Gold
B-Using various tools, skilled People House spiritual facilitators can work with you to transform that energy into that which is healthy.
1-Gestalt techniques: “Did you notice what you just did with your left hand?” I’ll ask my clients. “Tell me about that.” Their inner energy has manifested itself with a closed fist, or a hand wrapped with the other hand, or any myriad of physical responses reflecting an energy direction. By drawing attention to that, I’m helping them pay attention to something inner manifesting itself outwardly. A gestalt brings to the surface “a this and a that,” aiding the person to create something new out of what is often opposites.
2-We work with the NOW: “What’s most important to you this moment? What needs looked at, what needs loved, attention, right now?” If the past is impinging on the now, it’s up for discussion, but we don’t go digging it up if it’s not important to you NOW.
3-Dreams: What is your unconscious bringing up? What belief, attitude, or value is surfacing that needs looked at, that your conscious needs to recognize and incorporate into your outward life? That is valuable energy that brings transformation.
4-The enneagram: People House has many practitioners trained in its use, a tool to aid in pinpointing one’s automatic and unconscious go-to emotional and mental dialogue to life’s challenges. For example, a type three will see life as a series of failures and successes, with failure her greatest fear, along with an accompanying emotion of shame.
5-We look at one’s mythos, the stories and rituals we tell ourselves to make sense of our lives. Often unconscious, bringing them into consciousness aids us in discovering if they’re still serving us or not. If not, stress surfaces and we return to stop, breathe, and ask the questions.
Referring to Joseph Campbell (1), People House minister Wayne Tittes, Sr., says of People House spirituality, “Follow your bliss and the Universe will open doors where there were only walls,” and that “the voice of People House would say, ‘You can trust yourself to find your bliss and the courage to follow it. Your thinking mind doesn’t need to know how it’s going to turn out. That [finding your bliss] requires going inside and coming to know yourself. Community can help so much when you know you’re not alone on that discovery path’” (2).
May 2021 be a year of transformation for you as you make your unconscious, conscious!
Notes & Sources:
- Moyers, Bill. Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. Anchor, 1991. (p. 155, p. 194)
- Interview by text messaging, 12.30.2020.
- Kabat-Zinn, Jon. He defines mindfulness meditation as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. For more information, refer to his many published works.
- Kripal, Jeffrey. Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion. University of Chicago Press, 2007.
About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working, and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her spiritual connection at People House and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation.