Wikipedia defines Transpersonal Psychology as “a school of psychology that integrates the spiritual and transcendent aspects of the human experience with the framework of modern psychology. It is also possible to define it as a “spiritual psychology”. The Transpersonal has been defined as “experiences in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond (trans) the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche or cosmos.”(Wikipedia, 2011) Through this approach, one comes to view one’s healing not only in personal terms, but in terms of how one acts – and reacts – within the entirety of creation in ways ranging from the internal to the mytho-poetic.
In the forward to Alan Bleakley’s insightful book, Fruits of the Moon Tree: The Medicine Wheel & Transpersonal Psychology, Peter Redgrove talks about healing as the process of “…becoming thin–skinned, like the shamans reported by Eliade, who have scraped and scraped the old skin off with pumice until they obtain visions of immediate truth. The armor is off, and it is a brave man who dis-arms himself in this world.” (Bleakley, 1984)
I came to these words at a moment of relevance the other morning as I thumbed through the book passing the time before my first appointment with the Elder who facilitates our monthly sacred drumming circle. These circles are a source of wisdom and a wellspring of powerful and often deeply cathartic release. Although we are taught various techniques and theories associated with the drum, we are mostly encouraged to do our own work, and to provide compassionate witness and support for the other members of the group.
During my individual session with our teacher, he commented on the fact that I build a wall around myself in the presence of the group, and how that wall prevents me from experiencing the type of healing release I’m hovering just at the edge of. I agreed with him, and committed myself to be more aware of it the next time it occurred.
As I arrived home after the session, I pulled into the driveway only to find that the wall surrounding the flower bed in front of our house had partially collapsed due to the heavy rains we’d been experiencing. Obviously, there were larger forces at work.
At our circle the following day, I took notice as my personal walls came up, and made a focused effort to bring them down. As I decided to place myself completely in Spirit’s hands, I was aware of the loving presence of Mother Bear placing her huge paws on my shoulders and drawing me into her warmth. This has happened several times, and so I knew that something important was about to occur.
As we started to drum, the Elder instructed us to go deeply within, and to free ourselves of those things which no longer served us. Within minutes, my head tilted back and a series of deep growls arose from inside me. The growling changed into laughter, then tears, then back into growling. As he reminded us to focus on our breathing, a spell of dry heaves shook my body. These finally subsided as the drumming died down. I was altered and tired, but also aware that I’d stumbled across an old wound hidden in the darkness and opened it up to receive the light of healing.
Turning again to Bleakley: “The unacknowledged and unknown is the dark part of us, our other self (wyrd) or shadow, the part that we are to become or individuate to. The wyrd is then our destiny, which is open to choice. Because it is unacknowledged or remains unconscious, the shadow naturally distorts and disables, and then carries ‘negative’ content…To raise this to the light, or to descend with illumination and enlightenment to our ‘other’ part, our depths, is a task for which we have many guidelines from older psychologies such as mythology, fairy tale, legend, and alchemy…” (Bleakley, 1984)
While this was by no means a resolution to years of psychic damage brought on by living in an impoverished household with an emotionally abusive and binge alcoholic father, it was undoubtedly an important step in the Wounded Healer’s Journey.
When I returned to the book a couple days later, I came across the following: “In the first chapter we argue that the shadow, as vulnerability or wound is also opportunity in disguise, a gift. And that the receiving of a wound by the male hero in myth, usually a goring by a boar in the left ‘thigh’ is parallel to the ‘given’ but ‘hidden’ menstrual wisdom of women. If the wound is left as openness in character, a place where feeling and value ‘speak’ directly, rather than closed over prematurely, then we may engage with the shadow through this wound, and in this, energy is released for creative application.” (Bleakley, 1984)
As I type these words, I’m reminded of the oval shaped birthmark on my own left thigh. I see the healing that has already taken place, and recognize that a good deal of work still lies ahead of me. I find strength in this, and I know that facing whatever I need to will only further prepare me to serve as a vessel and compassionate witness for the healing of All My Relations. . .
Bleakley, A. (1984). Fruits of the Moon Tree: The Medicine Wheel & Transpersonal Psychology. London: Gateway Books.
Wikipedia. (2011, April). Transpersonal Psychology. Retrieved from Wikipedia.