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The Skinless Path to Spirit

by Paul Newham(more info)

listed in healing, originally published in issue 246 - May 2018

 

Falling

Twenty Years ago, I published an article Voice Movement Therapy - Healing Mind and Body with Sound and Song - in Issue 28 of Positive Health magazine.

I was feeling positive.
I was healthy.
And I felt big.
I wrote big books. Spoke to big audiences. Took on big cases. Taught big courses. And went to bed at night with a glass of port and a slice of big cheese.
Then ten years later the lights went out.
I fell over.
I had never felt so small.
And I thought I would never get up again.

 

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Big

I had always worked very deeply with people, many of them reeling in the aftermath of trauma or abuse.
And I had always worked beyond words, through breath, sound, and movement, reaching into the deeps of a psyche unable or too scared to speak.
And as my work grew bigger, so did the administrative infrastructure of the training school I established, so did my international travel schedule, so did my vision for the future, so did my worldly aspirations.
Then loving friends died, jealous enemies sharpened their tongues, and the ivory towers I built  became the echo chamber for back-biting and snide, moaning and berating.
In the midst of this rank cacophony, my soul got lost upon a sea of tirades and tribulations.
I was done and done in.

 

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Lying

The strangest thing was, I had somehow known something was not quite right for some time.
And I suspected it had something to do with the way I failed to openly or graciously acknowledge spirit.
I knew that those who healed deep wounds through their work with me did so by way of a visiting attendance: a sublime presence for which I was but convener.
But I did not want to acknowledge this, and instead toiled to ground my work in replicable techniques, illustrated with principles drawn from psychodynamics and cognitive psychology.
Meanwhile, in my personal life, I paid little attention to my own spiritual practice.
I lived on a wing and a prayer, and travelled far by such transport.
My ambivalence about ascribing therapeutic outcomes to a spiritual dimension emerged predominantly from embarrassment.
And fear of rejection.
I wanted to be respected, liked, and wanted among the scientifically serious and the discerning scrupulous.
That was a choice.
And it involved a kind of lie.
Now there were no choices and no lies.
For spirit had come to get me.
I will come back to that.
But first let me tell you about those I met in the dark

 

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Skinless

Whilst stumbling about in the absence of light, I came across a tribe of those who feel they have no skin.
They looked the same as you or me, but sensed things differently, because everything entered in.
They could not let things pass over them, or brush moments off with a glance.
They could not turn a blind eye, or listen with deaf ears.
Because these are the skinless ones, and everything cuts them to the bone.
To the skinless, your pain is theirs; and they feel it like their own.
To join this tribe requires a price paid with our own skin.
We must shed our costume and covering, and know how naked we really are.
Thereby, the thick skinned and impervious find it difficult to join the skinless, for layers of defence take time to fall away.
Meanwhile, the tender and the vulnerable are immediately at home, amongst a tribe of the unprotected and unarmed.
I was very much at home among the skinless, as I began to spend time with others who had fallen or broken, fallen apart or broken down, and were living day to day, moment to moment, wondering what on earth happened to who they used to be.
Some of them scratched away at their skin.
They cut it and pierced it, stabbed it and incised it.
This left them sore and exposed, with little filter between the world around their frame and the realm within.
Whilst some scratched away at the physical skin that enwrapped their bones, others like me did the same deep inside.
Through cutting thoughts and incisive ruminations, we skinned ourselves alive.
Through scathing self-reproach, we chopped ourselves to pieces.
With slicing self-criticism, we ripped ourselves to shreds.
With vicious inner voices, we attacked our own person, blaming ourselves for the mess we were in, until we had no cover left
Yet this was not without purpose.
For we each needed to reveal, to ourselves and those close by, how raw we had become.
We sought a way of saying: be kind to me and careful, for I am open, I am skinless, and I feel things to the bone.

Banished

This state of openness is familiar to monks and contemplatives, mystic artists and luminary visionaries, and those among us who have touched the deep void of darkness that can enwrap us in entirety.
This swallowing enclosure is often called ‘the dark night of the soul’.
But for most of us, it lasts many hundreds of nights, and its quality of darkness goes way beyond that of even the harshest night.
For we seem to be on the outside of everything, as though everyone else is somehow within, while we remain without.
They are in love and in shape.
They are in work and in the loop.
They are in favour and in the money.
Meanwhile, we hover around the periphery of life, peering in as though somehow banished to a place of excruciating isolation.
The world of others seems full and fertile; ours is hollow and barren.
During these times, the book of life begins to weaken at the spine, the papyrus crumbles, the text fades.
And our story fragments as the plot breaks apart into scenes and scenarios linked only by the inescapable sense that it is I and nobody else to whom this is happening.

 

paul-earle

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Grasping

At such times of deep despair, we long for someone somewhere to hear the voice of our call, as we listen for a word or prayer, sound or song that may lighten our heavy heart with hope.
Yet beneath the weighted silence that follows, we find ourselves haunted in a room full of shadows.
With a weight too much to bear, yet impossible to put down, we yearn that anything or anyone might lift us, hold us, and save us.
Meanwhile, we wish to be anywhere but alone in the naked truth of our frailty and solitude.
We want to be somewhere else; we want to be someone different; we want to embrace life as if for the first time, unencumbered by memories we struggle to forget.
Therefore, we reach for new friends or lovers, new possessions or pastimes, new ventures or vacations, in search of a space or place, person or predicament that will heal the ache and fill the void within.
And when every distraction that we grasp fails to satiate our hunger, we sink into pervading sorrow.
We sleep without rest and move without intent.
Whilst awake we ache for sleep again; and when we rouse in wakefulness, the taste of futility clings to our tongue, and the smell of hopelessness covers our shape.
Connection is lost; lights are dimmed; and we are suspended somewhere between dusk and twilight, as though bearing penalty for something we cannot remember.

Spirit

Yet, whilst this banished place of skinless sensitivity is painful in extreme, it simultaneously opens us to a spiritual presence that alone can heal our deepest wounds.
For it is only by way of such thin skin that a healing spirit can enter in, and find home within our soul.
Sadly, such a state also makes us susceptible to intrusion by all kinds of energies and influences that do not wish us well.
And our journey teaches us to protect ourselves from such unkindness.
Yet if we defend ourselves too well against the possibility of hurt, we may survive unwounded, but we will also prevent spirit from passing into us, so we may not only survive, but rejuvenate and flourish in the light of a spiritual healing.

 

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Healing

Spiritual healing is the experience of relief from burden and affliction by a sublime presence, which replaces doubt and desperation with faith and anticipation, substituting fear and fragility with courage and resilience.
For some, this presence is a saint.
For others, it is an angel, or an animal.
For some, it is the memory of someone still loved but long gone.
For others, it is the touch of a grace beholden in the here and now.
For some, it is the vitality of nature personified.
For others, it is an apprehension of God, or celestial semblance.
For many, it is an exquisite luminosity that sometimes seems absent, though it is known always to be.
For everyone, it is a marvellous attendance, which speaks to us, and hears our response, eliciting awe and hastening deep healing through a magnificent encounter.
We may not see the presence, and we cannot make it show.
Yet we can hear it, if only we listen to the voice and learn the language this presence speaks.
Then we may come to know that for all our pains and perils, in all our despair and desperations, throughout all our days, a presence comes to touch us, to speak with us, and to heal us, even in the hour of our death.

 

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Unmentioned

My experience of close proximity to spirit as I recovered from despair led me naturally to seek knowledge and understanding of Spiritual Healing.
And yet it was conspicuously absent from most sources.
In older texts, the subject was embedded in traditions of either shamanic ritual, or Christian Faith Healing.
Meanwhile, among contemporary sources there seemed to be no shortage of books and podcasts, videos and seminars on divine purpose and spiritual growth, angel communication and energy medicine.
Yet I found nothing serious or significant on the nature of spirit and its relationship to healing.
Furthermore, I wondered how many ‘spiritual’ authors and teachers proffering guidance actually knew the taste of suffering and despair that their advice was intended to relieve.
And so began a whole new journey to the dawn of human history, to the heart of Jainism and Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism, to sacred texts of the Christian mystics, to the lost meditations of Sumeria, to the Sufi libraries of Istanbul, and the desert caravans of Arab nomads.
And among a plethora of treasures, I found the sound and music, words and verses, memoirs and mythologies, upon which those from all traditions have depended to invoke the presence of a healing spirit, pure and perfect, incorruptible and invincible.
So it was that I created the program I wished I had found when looking for spiritual insight, inspiration and healing.
It took almost twenty years to go from falling and crawling in the dark, to completing my audio course in Spiritual Healing.
And it is only now that I can see that I had to fall, had to crawl, had to lose my skin, in order to fulfil the calling to produce it.
I said earlier that if you disregard spirit, spirit comes back to get you.
That is what happened to me.
The demons came to get me back on track.
Unstoppable and unrelenting in their wrathful form of love.

Demon

We have disfigured demons with misunderstanding, forgetting their purpose in leading us home to an authentic life.
For a demon was originally a guardian who ensured our rightful destiny, forever reminding us that a life of contented abundance awaits.
Our demons know there is one true path through the maze of tempting possibilities.
This path keeps us committed to an authentic journey for which our soul is suited.
Yet finding the path and pursuing its direction requires that we listen and respond to our demons.
And when we do not, havoc happens.
When we stray too far from true home, a demon rises up in the form of accidents and diversions, difficulties and crises, seeking to steer us back on track.
If a demon sometimes seems monstrous, it is because we will often refuse to acknowledge anything less severe than those atrocious occasions when we find ourselves stopped short amid dimly lit wilderness, clinging to a single beam of light.
Nothing less than the demon of despair and depression could have wrenched me from my worldly path and place as an accomplished therapist and trainer.
For whilst stressful and often ‘not quite right’, it was a devil well known.
However, the demon comes to remind us that whilst our trail may be comfortably familiar, it often leads us further away from our calling.
A demon is therefore nothing more nor less than the force and friend of destiny.
And a demon will take any form necessary in ensuring that we remain faithful to our calling.
Thereby, we are wise to remember that seemingly unfortunate difficulties are often hard loving demons of destiny in disguise.
And their becoming reminds us that somewhere amid the interior clamour is the lost voice of our soul, which we once heard so clear and held so dear.
Spiritual Healing is really as simple as listening to that voice, letting it be heard, and finding the faith and fortitude to act upon it, undistracted by the hubbub and its allure.
Some learn that the hard way.
Others the hardest way.
Yet many learn it gently and are troubled but mildly from time to time.
It is perhaps important only that we learn it, so we may walk always toward the light.

Comments:

  1. christine said..

    Thereby, we are wise to remember that seemingly unfortunate difficulties are often hard loving demons of destiny in disguise.
    There is nothing more certain than what is said in this sentence.
    Live each day, the past is over, and the future does not exist, make the most of today, it is what you did for deserving.


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About Paul Newham

Paul Newham has worked over the past 30 years as a trainer and facilitator, manager and mentor, using artistic and creative activities to nurture independence and enhance the health and wellbeing of highly vulnerable people. His clients and students have included young adults with special educational needs and disabilities, elderly people with significant neurocognitive disorders, and communities disenfranchised by social exclusion. He is particularly noted for his contribution to the Expressive Arts Therapies and has trained practitioners from multiple disciplines. His text books are required reading on professional courses. He may be contacted on Tel: + 44 (0) 7392 463330; paul@paulnewham.com    www.paulnewham.com

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