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SELF-RELATIONS AND THE SUBTLE BODY

Dear List:

I want to revisit a topic we have explored before on the list, namely,


how we think about energy and the subtle body in self-relations. I am
interested in this topic because I recently read a book by Sanda Lee Davis, entitled
Embrace of the Daimon, that opened some new perspectives on the subject. I
may need several posts to adequately introduce this question. But eventually
I want to review this remarkable book for the perspective it adds on the
subject. First, let me reviews some key posts previously made to the list that
lay out some interesting perspectives regarding energy in self-relations.

Cindy Franklin observed, "In hypnosis as in martial arts, the


energetic orientation seems to be more strongly oriented towards "dropping down,"
deepening; and also connecting to others in an interpersonal emotional field
where interdependence seems to open up in a nice way. I think sitting with the
back supported favors this kind of sinking in and down experience, as well as
this psychic sense of 'opening to support.' All of which for me tends to make
it easier to access the belly and the whole mammalian world: including my own
connection to the 'unconscious' or more somatic and emotionally feeling parts
of the self, including soulful archetypal images, and the possibility of
releasing things through entering them and grieving rather than through
transcending them and leaving them behind. This dropping down feels more about the
"darkness of God" rather than the light of God.

She continues, "I was recently studying . . . about the Chinese


five-element system, and someone was talking about the postures for the different
elements. I was told I sit in a 'fire' position--one aspect of which is erect, with
energy rising like a flame, centered int he heart, which I think is perhaps
natural to me and a byproduct of my long meditation practice. When I sat back
into an 'earth' posture--just rounding over, leaning back into a chair and
letting gravity hold me--I felt an incredible sense of comfort, and also tears
come more readily in this posture, it seems. And as I go into this posture it
reminds me of how I am feeling more trusting in being able to be connected to
and supported by other people in my life, in general, and the postures seem to
support that unfolding, as well as supporting the unfolding of opening more to
the emotional and physical realms of experience.

"I don't know if this may be similar for others or not. But for me, I get a
sense that a typical hypnotic state is good for the 'deeper, deeper' parts of
trance, and a more meditatively oriented trance adds in the flavor of also
keeping connected 'higher and wider' --to a bigger field -- something like that.
Anyway, this is a crude attempt at a personal sharing on how I sense the
relationship, but in any case, I think these two orientations to entering that
deeper integrated learning state complement each very well."

Cindy's discussion was extremely helpful in deepening and expanding our


understanding of how trance, meditation, and other altered states relate to
somatic realities and energy states. It sparked several other posts related
personal experiences in drawing the traditions and practices of meditation and
hypnosis together, and, as we shall see, served as a useful foundation for
looking at how we join with and shape energy flow in self-relations. Because of
their length and similarity in content, I will summarize them rather that
provide their full text here

Continued in post II.

Dear List: (continued from Post 1).

Sharon Mijares addressed Cindy's communication in a post interestingly


entitled, "The Descent to Heaven." She shared that in the 80s before she met
Steve Gilligan and immersed herself in self-relations, she was devotee of a
particular form of Christian mysticism. Her spiritual practice tended to put
her focus on the heart chakra upward. Part of her struggle after become
involved in self-relations was learning to "dive into the learnings from the lower
chakras, trusting that I would not lose the 'higher' spiritual awareness' she
experienced through her involvement in Christian mysticism. She related that
her association with Steve and her work with Aikido helped her to become
increasingly comfortable with both the lower and higher chakras and began building a
lifestyle that was holistic, embodying a deep spirituality AND rooted,
centered physicality.

Her more recent experience with Sufi ritual and practice have provided a
container within which she has explored other dimensions in bringing the
"depths" and "heights" in relation through what she called . " .. .a deepened--and
embodied--recognition of our unity with the Divine." Her chapter in the
self-relations book edited by Steve Gilligan and Dvorah Simon further explores
this connection.

Another post, by Jessie Shaw, tapped into yet another deeply


meditative tradition, ancient Daoist teachings. She lucidly explored the same question
introduced by Cindy Franklin and taken up by Sharon Mijares, namely, the
power and utility of opening up meditative states so that the "depth" accessed
through some form of embodied practice and the "heights" accessed through
meditation are combined. In Daoist teaching, she related, devotees are taught first
and foremost to focus on the DAN TIEN--the lower burner int he pelvic regions.
Qi gong and other body disciplines are used to awaken this part of the body
in a process that can take from 3 months to 10 years. It is only after this
work is accomplished that one is allowed to move up the body into the chest
to open the heart and throat. This phase of the practice can again take months
to years. Only then does one move finally up to the third eye and crown
chakra. It is believed that if one moves up the body prematurely, the practice
will lack the "appropriate grounding to support the opening of those upper
levels, and the perceptions and visions that accompany their openings."

Jessie related her fascination that, once again, this tradition is


trying to move the energy "up" while recognizing that it is essential to move
the energy "down" first. As she said, "What has been profound for me is that
when I do these qi gong exercises . . . that the experience of the world around
me changes. I am connecting very differently with the world and the world
reacts very differently to me--it's like I attract a very different type of
energy."

She further related that the effect of these transformative experiences is


that everything slows down and one begins to feel into the richness of
everything. The gift she has received through combining this form of meditation and
self-relations is
". . .about slowing down and noticing the obvious. They also have inherent
in them the idea of not changing anything, but simply noticing what is. It
is by this noticing (with an open heart and non-judgement) that transformation
occurs.

Continued on Post 3

Dear List (continued from post 2)

A third post, by Dvorah Simon, called "Ent time" related the idea of
"ascending" and "descending" energies to sexual magic and certain tantric
practices that explore the experience of ". . .kundalini energy that ascends up the
spine." She also observed that the former relationship of complementary
ascending and descending energies is also central to TAI CHI " . . . where we learn
a breath that brings energy up the back and down the front, but I think there
are many streams.

It is interesting to me that all these posts explore the potential


complementary healing energies of meditation and hypnosis--energies moving up and
energies moving down and the relationship of posture and language to these
movements.
The connections were nicely drawn together in posts by Kylea Taylor

" Cindy, I am so glad you articulated this difference and the


complementarity of the two--energies moving up; energies moving down and the
relationship of posture and language to that. Also implied. . .is that people need
different processes at different times and there seems to be some kind of Inner
Direction determining the order in which processes are needed in the evolution
of our organisms--what parts need activation, need to 'catch up' to the rest,
etc., a la Ken Wilber [Cf.,The Eye of
Spirit] And then there comes the both/and of integration of various levels
or chakras or cognitive/somatic learnings, like dissociated selves knowing
themselves, then integrating, I have often wondered about why people choose what
to process when, so this was interesting for me to think more about.

All these posts were nicely summarized by Saralee Kane who had initiated
the whole discussion a couple of weeks earlier with an important
consideration of the relationship between meditation and hypnosis. I will not include
her summary here because of its length but urge her to repost it here for those
interested in a lucid summary of the issues.

I would now like to review a remarkable book by Sandra Lee Dennis entitled
Embrace of the Daimon. which provides another interesting point of view on the
questions posed above.

(continued on post 4)

Dear List (continued from post 3)

Embrace of the Daimon: Sensuality and the Integration of Forbidden Imagery in


Depth Psychology, 2001 (York Beach, ME Nicolas-Hays). is based on Sandra Lee
Dennis' dissertation. It is a remarkable tour de force and set of
instructions for survival during a journey through the underworld. Dennis wrote
this book in an attempt to understand and survive the years when she was
tormented by unbidden images and characters that were obscene and disgusting that
came to her in ego states that perhaps could be best described as "waking
dreams." As she said (p.4):

"A love/hate relationship with the images developed as I confronted an


apparently irreducible tension between two poles of experience, If I distracted
myself away from he revolting images (a very tempting alternative, which often
prevailed when the imaginal scenes were too overwhelming), along with them went
the blossoming, life-giving, force--the evocative realm--in which they moved.
On the other hand, if I pulled myself together to attend to the offensive
story or characters, yet more intolerable episodes drew me into a discomforting
intimacy I could barely endure. For in this daimonic realm, I, myself, ached
as the dismembered child; took delight in the power of the sadist; coiled,
swayed, and struck as the cobra. I was no more my previous self, but became a
devouring, poisonous, scaly creature; a laughing demon bent on cruelty; a
torture queen; or muck, slime, a grand turd. These images were usually
accompanied by intense physical sensations that added to their quality of being real,
including sharp pains, a sense of strangulation, prickling or itching, putrid
smells, frozen panic, sensual and sexual arousal, or, perhaps the worst
dismembering disorientation.
Later (pp. 5) she added, "Having no explanation and no one who would
remotely understand what was happening to her," she was agitated and concerned
for several years, wondering if she was unearthing unspeakable childhood or
"past life" memories, discovering basic character flaws, or worse, simply losing
her mind. " Luckily at one point she read C.G. Jung's description of his own
madness and the way the unconscious at times breaks through into consciousness
in utterly incomprehensible ways. She found his writing to be like an "oasis
in the desert" and returned to her doctoral program intent on looking for some
explanation for these experiences. An archetypal framework for understanding
these images gradually formed in her mind and became the core passion and
centering focus for her dissertation. As she said (p.6-7):

"I have come to see the images as a reflection of a still larger reality,
a world loosely described as archetypal, ' an ordered expression of certain
primordial essences' or universal constraints revealing themselves at all
levels of experience. Though I still do not eliminate the possibility that
imaginal processes are colored by earlier events of personal life, I sense with
growing certainty their connection to forces beyond the personal, and their
emergence as part of the natural unfolding of the farther reaches of the psyche."

"This archetypal framework for understanding these images formed gradually


in my mind. I saw that the numinosity and connectivity of the imaginal realm
were its most significant features that, over time, commanded more interest
than the fluctuating images, however disturbing. In addition, too many images
emerged that required fantastic metaphoric stretches to be translated as
biographical events. Even when the biographical implications of the material were
confirmed and worked through--for instance, with some threatening images I
came to terms with my terror at my father's temper--the images would subsequently
reveal connections to ancestral or collective realms. Images of one family
secret (ancestral), a grandfather I had never met or even known about began to
appear; later a Hitler figure (collective) made a number of appearances, all
emanating from a similar somatic source near the heart and solar plexus.
Through events like these I arrived at an archetypal understanding of the images,
and I came to label them "daimonic" in honor of the visionary world from which
they arise, and to which they grant access."

To be continued (post 5)

Dear List: (continued from post 4)

To bring the discussion back to energy, the subtle body, and self-relations,
I would now like to review the chapter on the "subtle body." From my point
of view this is the strongest and most lucid chapter in the book. Dennis
presents an overview of the current use of the term "subtle body" in depth
psychology. Jung called the subtle body a medium of realization that is neither mind
nor matter, but the intermediate realm of subtle reality (Collected Works,
Vol. 12, Psychology and Alchemy). For Jung imaginal knowledge comes through
subtle body perceptions..."psyco-spiritual" senses that have an "immaterial
materiality, a corporeality and spatiality of their own, which are not purely
intelligible." The subtle body is an "organ of knowledge". . . a kind of sixth
sense, the bodily basis of intuition that orients us through the mazes of
life's invisible realities. As Dennis points out (p 23):
"A number of others have used some concept of the subtle body to elucidate
their work. Jungian analyst, Nathan Schwartz/Salant, (The Borderline
Personality, 1986), stands out for he recognizes the critical role of the subtle body
in the therapeutic transference relationship. He feels healing comes about
between two people through contracting the imaginal symbol of union, the sacred
marriage or alchemical CONIUNCTIO. In these moments of intimate contact,
the subtle body serves as a medium for healing the split between body and mind
in both people. He describes the subtle body as a palpable energy field that
emanates from the physical body, invisible to the eyes, yet visible to
imaginal sight. He sees it as a middle realm, a background subliminal field of
energy, partaking of the physical as well as the psychic/mental/spiritual."

Jung divides the unconscious conceptually into two parts--the somatic


and the psychic unconscious. He pictures the unconscious on a continuum
stretched between two poles. He theorizes that if the entire psyche, including
conscious and unconscious contents, could be viewed objectively, from afar, a
continuum of psychic life would fit the following schemata, which he associates
with the spectrum of light. Jung's model of the psyche and subtle body might
be represented thus:

Jungs's Model of the Subtle body

(subtle body) (spirit)

Somatic unconscious --- Body/Mind --- Psychic Unconscious

Infra-Red --- Visible Spectrum of Light --- Ultra-violet

Dennis goes on to point out (p. 28): "Consciosuness corresponds to the


visible spectrum of light, while unconscious material falls out of the range of
vision into the somatic infrared or the psychic ultraviolet. Although for
practical purposes he divides them in this model theoretically, Jung views the
psychic and somatic unconscious as ultimately the unified field. . . . For Jung,
the subtle body actually appears to be another description of the Self, that
enduring aspect of each person that exists beyond space and time and guides each
individual life. Thus the subtle body is mainly theoretical for him, in its
local sense as the somatic unconscious and also in its larger use as one
description of the Self."

In Dennis' model the subtle body does not conform so precisely with
the darkness of the somatic unconscious as Jung seems to suggest, not does it
correlate with the guiding Source or Self. It is more accessible to us than we
might have imagined. In Dennis' model we discover a meeting ground of the
somatic and psychological unconscious at the "edge" of preconsciousness for both
the somatic and the spiritual aspects of the psyche. As she says, (p. 3l):
"When we play the inner edge of consciousness, we invoke the daimons into our
world, and open our subtle eyes. An image that brings both the body and mind
into consciousness becomes daimonic. . . . The daimonic embrace with body
and soul encourages an amazing unfolding of the psyche. For this affect-laden,
soul-infused image now moves to reconnect with he body in a further, more
profound union of body and soul (unio corporalis). This second meeting take
place in the containing medium of the subtle body. Following Jung's schema, the
subtle body, rather than being aligned with the somatic, is thus better
represented as falling BETWEEN the two poles of unconscious material--the
bioinstinctive and the archetypal."

She represents this profoundly important revision of Jung schematically thus:

Somatic/ Subtle Body/


Psychic/
Instinctual --- Imaginal Sight --
Spiritual
Unconscious
Unconscious

Dennis' Model of the Subtle Body

Somatic/ Subtle Body/ Psychic


Instinctual -- Imaginal Sight -- Spiritual
Unconscious Unconscioius

(UNCONSCIOUS) (PRECONSCIOUS) (UNCONSCIOUS)

Infra-Red ----- Visible/sensorial ---- Ultra-Violet

The importance of this revision is that it provides an avenue for moving


beyond the dualisms that obscure our awareness of the centrality of the subtle
body realm in healing work. It is thus highly relevant to self-relations
practitioners who are interested in working with energy states in the body and
psyche together. I will turn to these implications in my next post.
(See post 6)

Dear list: (continuing from post 5)

Dennis shares many assumptions about the nature of deep psychic work with
self-relations. She joins with self-relations and many other postmodern
therapeutic orientations that recognize that insight into recurring emotional
patterns seldom changes associated behaviors unless there is a way of joining
and staying with the body's various energy states. With many body oriented
therapies she assumes that in adults there are distinct highly-charged negative
energies, stored in the tissues, chakras, and organs of the body that require
release through specific body-centered methods, including body focus, cathartic
release, breath work, or touch. But, with self-relations, she also argues
that bodywork alone can be as one-sided as talk therapy. Body oriented work
that ignores the imaginal realm, is in danger of releasing the somatic
unconscious without regard to the corresponding psychic image. As she says (p. 33)" We
are left open and energized, but without the understanding uncessary to
effect lasting change in our destructive inclinations. . . .Our inclinations,
especially our pathologies, help define our individuality, and can point us toward
the most creative sources in ourselves. From addiction, perversion, and
madness, to our everyday irritability, these pathologies hold promise to unfold
our destinies with following as the daimonic spirit-infused guides they can be.
If we pay attention, we find that each pathology has an abiding imaginal
counterpart waiting to be acknowledged and brought into the world."

Her perspective here echoes strongly our orientation in self-relations to


let the symptom guide us toward solution. She argues that our recurring
fantasies, dreams, pathologies deserve our respect and attention. She argues that
they are the "guardians at the gates" of our connection to ". . .an
Underworld of sacred beginnings, a wellspring of meanings that nourishes our souls."
Just as we strive to do in self-relations, she is committed to following the
pathology or symptom to its daimonic core occurs most effectively through the
subtle body where we can work most sensitively and playfully at the boundary
between the physical and the psychic.

I look forward to sharing more glimpses into this remarkable work and
exploring other common threads that connect and differentiate her approach from that
of self-relations.
In a message dated 2/19/2004 1:43:04 PM Eastern Standard Time writes:

I had a question that you might wish to reply to Rob. Can you expand
what is meant in your comment about "post-modernism" and mind/body
therapies? I struggle with my understanding of post-modernism and those
particular approaches to therapy. Post-modernism in my mind conjures up
ideas of very intellectual, narrative approaches to therapy. I look
forward to your response.
Edward

Dear Edward:

Thanks for your questions. I think I may have been guilty of throwing
around these terms rather loosely. In using the term "post-modern' therapy I
think I was referring to an approach that attempts to construct solutions based
joining and exploring a client's world or "reality" rather than assuming
that there is some absolute reality or truth to which a client must somehow
learn to adapt or accept. In the former the therapist is an ally and guide in a
journey of exploration, not an "expert" who diagnoses and treats "illness."
Certainly within this frame, "narrative'" approaches such as that of Michael
White would qualify as a "post-modern" approach. The self-relations
orientation -- emphasizing the symptom as a solution, experiential flow, and a more
relativistic approach that mistrusts "fundamentalism" -- would also qualify as a
post-modern therapy. This is a gross oversimplification and much more
could (perhaps should) be said on the topic. I welcome other people's
comments.

Body-mind approaches, again perhaps simplistically, are those that attempt to


move beyond various body/mind dualisms and see that the body as having a
"language" of its own. Body/mind approaches attempt to help clients' get out of
their heads and experience the flow of feelings in relation to thoughts,
energy states, and their own "being" which connects thoughts to the body and so
much more. Again self-relations would definitely qualify as a "body-mind"
approach. This is also one reason I am interested in any approach that attempts to
deal with the "subtle body" which explores the area of being where mind and
body, being and non-being, the imaginal and the real meet. This is one of the
reasons why I introduced Sandra Dennis's fascinating book.

In community,
Rob

In a message dated 2/19/2004 11:53:03 AM Eastern Standard Time writes:


I am grateful to your posts, they relate somehow, I await the murky waters
clearing in my mind. I have not forgotten what you have written. Thank you,
MaryRae Means

Dear MaryRae:

I am still in somewhat murky waters in thinking about this book too. All
I know is that it was particularly useful in helping me be with a client --a
body worker who is exquisitely tuned to other people's energy field-- who was
having trouble staying with her own process in dealing with her traumatic
past. I started doing EMDR with her some weeks ago and she got into some
extremely heavy memories of ritual abuse. We both felt very shaken by the
experience and each time she would dip into the experiences, would recoil at the
possibility that her parents were capable of doing such horrible things. Although
she is very well-versed in the trauma literature and knows the difference
between memory as literal "truth" and figuratiive or "narrative" truth, still
the power and disturbing quality of the experiences haunted her. Reading
about Dennis' experiences and her discussion of the subtle body, helped construct
a frame that I think is turning out to be very useful in helping my client
stay with these experiences and process them through. Time will tell.
Will keep you posted. This is where I am in this murky territory right now.

In community,
Rob