“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”
In recent years the question how can I help? has become meaningful to many people. But perhaps there is a deeper question we might consider. Perhaps the real question is not how can I help? but how can I serve? Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on inequality; it is not a relationship between equals. When you help you use your own strength to help those of lesser strength. If I’m attentive to what’s going on inside of me when I’m helping, I find that I’m always helping someone who’s not as strong as I am, who is needier than I am. People feel this inequality. When we help we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity and wholeness. When I help I am very aware of my own strength. But we don’t serve with our strength, we serve with ourselves. We draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve, our wounds serve, even our darkness can serve. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals.
Helping incurs debt. When you help someone they owe you one. But serving, like healing, is mutual. There is no debt. I am as served as the person I am serving. When I help I have a feeling of satisfaction. When I serve I have a feeling of gratitude. These are very different things.
Serving is also different from fixing. When I fix a person I perceive them as broken, and their brokenness requires me to act. When I fix I do not see the wholeness in the other person or trust the integrity of the life in them. When I serve I see and trust that wholeness. It is what I am responding to and collaborating with.
There is distance between ourselves and whatever or whomever we are fixing. Fixing is a form of judgment. All judgment creates distance, a disconnection, an experience of difference. In fixing there is an inequality of expertise that can easily become a moral distance. We cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing to touch. This is Mother Teresa’s basic message. We serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy.
If helping is an experience of strength, fixing is an experience of mastery and expertise. Service, on the other hand, is an experience of mystery, surrender and awe. A fixer has the illusion of being causal. A server knows that he or she is being used and has a willingness to be used in the service of something greater, something essentially unknown. Fixing and helping are very personal; they are very particular, concrete and specific. We fix and help many different things in our lifetimes, but when we serve we are always serving the same thing. Everyone who has ever served through the history of time serves the same thing. We are servers of the wholeness and mystery in life.
The bottom line, of course, is that we can fix without serving. And we can help without serving. And we can serve without fixing or helping. I think I would go so far as to say that fixing and helping may often be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul. They may look similar if you’re watching from the outside, but the inner experience is different. The outcome is often different, too.
Our ervice serves us as well as others. That which uses us strengthens us. Over time, fixing and helping are draining, depleting. Over time we burn out. Service is renewing. When we serve, our work itself will sustain us.
Service rests on the basic premise that the nature of life is sacred, that life is a holy mystery which has an unknown purpose. When we serve, we know that we belong to life and to that purpose. Fundamentally, helping, fixing and service are ways of seeing life. When you help you see life as weak, when you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. From the perspective of service, we are all connected: All suffering is like my suffering and all joy is like my joy. The impulse to serve emerges naturally and inevitably from this way of seeing.
Lastly, fixing and helping are the basis of curing, but not of healing. In 40 years of chronic illness I have been helped by many people and fixed by a great many others who did not recognize my wholeness. All that fixing and helping left me wounded in some important and fundamental ways. Only service heals.
By Rachel Naomi Remen
What is history? Is it the stuff we read about in books, written by the biased perspective of the winners? Or is there another more genuine history that we are heir too? There is history within us that is our birthright and our salvation. This is the visceral and intuitive history we feel in our bones, and experience within ourselves, and which we can discover and awaken through myth, legend and lore. Behind every mask, lies a deeper truth that can never be re-written or erased, awaiting our discovery. The DaVinci code is merely the re-telling of an old tale of alignment to archetypal truths available to anyone willing to make the journey within. Sometimes all it takes is noticing the subtle psychic and vibratory landmarks of experience when we visit a sacred site. Notice how myths take on new life and meaning as we advance spiritually, transcending outside imposed historical interpretations. The Mists of Avalon is a perfect example of Grail Legend retold at a truer and more heart-chakra level. A uniting of opposites, a sacred union of feminine and masculine.
Do we store within ourselves this more true historical and personally relevant information? I believe so. Are we born with certain archetypes already in place, at the cellular or DNA level? Or are they so embodied within the socio-psychic landscape of the human communities that we are heir to, that only the most intuitive and insightful can gleam their otherwise subtle, yet profound influence?
This is where the creative spirit has the most opportunity to flourish. Rather than live within the linear timeline imposed on us by other mythmakers more powerful than ourselves, we have the opportunity to “step out of time”, and tap into the mythic landscape ourselves.
Across cultures and time periods there are certain archetypes, which appear over and over again, uniquely interpreted through the culture in which they arise. My personal favorite is Elvish lore, eloquently expounded on by J.R.R. Tolkien. Elves kind of represent a tangible connection or “bridge” to the divine. They are physical beings, yet they are also immortal. They work within the physical world, yet are also beings of light, not having to work magick because they are magick. And lest we think that we are just human beings, remember that these archetypes are universal. That means they are a part of us, a reflection of our higher s-elves, outside of time and space. In other words, the mythic landscape is our doorway into our united self. By tapping in and embodying these archetypes, especially the ones we resonate with the most, we can transform and heal ourselves from all of the illusionary samsara of this world we somehow mistakenly believed to be a part of us. There is an old saying, “you are in this world, but not of it”. So it is through myth, that we can transcend our suffering and embody our true self.
Before we make-wrong our own physical history, lets look at our own existence and how we came about. Here we are today, living within all historical currents there ever were. Our very conception represents the most sensitive coalescing of of events there ever could be. We are the product of one sperm out of hundreds of millions, and one ovum out of hundreds of thousands. A woman is born with already existing ovum. Lunar and menstrual cycles, diet, mood, and action then contributed to when and what ovum is released during a menstrual cycle. The slightest variation in any of these variables results in an entirely different ovum than ours. With the father, this is even more so. With so many hundreds of millions of sperm, what are the chances of the single one that unites to conceive us? A man’s sperm production is an on-going process that fluctuates constantly, every second. Such sperm production is even more sensitive to environment, arousal from a passerby potential mate, sleep, and diet, even the slightest exertion of walking a few feet.
In other words everything had to happen precisely the way it did up to our conception for us to have ever been born. To make our history wrong then would be to make our very existence wrong. Instead, gratitude for all that has come before us puts us in alignment with what and who we truly our. This can be both a discovery of beauty, delight and gratitude at our cultural heritage as well as one of somber humility and atonement for wrongs committed by our ancestors.
So no time to waste, gratitude is the first step. You’ll feel a whole lot better once you recognize this simple fact around your own conception. You are here, and there is a reason you are here, and you are meant to be here. You can’t change the past, but you are here now in the present, and that in itself is beautiful. So rather than be a prisoner to your past and most especially to everyone else’s (!), embody now in your present your most highest self. In this way you transcend so-called “history” and begin to embody the truest history there ever was, the mythic landscape of your soul.
Teetering on the edge… identity, self, being here now… so precious, so fragile… the slightest breeze, and your GONE. The protections, the self, those around you, who you thought you are, were, gone… to be replaced by ANYTHING. Are “you” now a chipmunk, a rock, that “weirdness” you were afraid of in other people? Now you become all of that. All that you held sacred, gone too, nothing there, total loss.
How often have you experienced something like this? A profound death, a deep, overwhelming explosion into your psyche, your emotions ill equipped to handle the overload and rapid changing flux of ontological warpage? A whiteout void into total oblivion and/or timeless eternity….
Coalescing out of the timeless whiteness, a sacred breath, a touch of grace perhaps, an emergence of something altogether new, different, alive, glorious, with memories, a past, present and future once again. How weird is that? Archetypes abound, a wizard or an elf perhaps? A feeling of empowerment. For you have gone to the netherworld and returned a hero! A celebration is in order, a round of drinks for your comrades in arms, a fellowship indeed. Ground control to major tom, your home, welcome back!
But that thought lingers in your mind, “back to what?” Is this my life, have I returned or is this my first time here with memories implanted or inherited? Does it matter? Can I do anything about it anyway? Is the solution to kick warp drive back into high gear again? I don’t know. What I have learned is that all the warp drive in the world won’t change this basic buckaroo banzai fact, “wherever you go, there you are”. You can try, so many have tried, to escape the tyranny of the self. Yet, there is this something, Hindu’s call it karma, that keeps bring you back here. And somehow, the more you avoid the here and now, the more you are missing the one thing, the body-being, present moment at the crossroads of spirit and matter, your bodyship that is in fact the very wellspring of the liberation you seek.
Ok, so you hope you took on a better birth than the one before, but you also suspect this time you might have taken on a stray passenger, an alien, or sub-daemon now working its way into the engine room of your root metaprograms. Are you going to be alright with this? Do you have a choice? If we are a collection of programs, and our free-will magickal skills are not all there cracked up to be, what choices do we really have? This is the dilemma, the existential angst, the harrowing horror that you glimpsed on the way out and the way back in. But wait!
The Buddhist say that all of this, all of the programs, metaprograms, crazy out of your mind stuff, the chaos under the hood, it’s all an illusion. What is a seeker supposed to do? Desperate times call for desperate measures. My god, why have you forsaken me? LOVE!
Feel. What you can always do, what you always have a choice to do each and every moment is feel. Feeling is healing. Feel ALL of it, surrender to it. It is in that feeling, that being there for yourself, that healing, true unconditional love truly begins. I can’t say it’s going to be easy. I can’t say what kind of rebirth you are now in, or what it portends, there is no way to know. This is the same for everyone. Too little time to envy those who “seem” to have it altogether, who seem to have everything. Envy gets you nowhere. Perhaps they are none of those things. You are what you are, right here, right now, in this moment, a body inhabiting the physical plane. . Surrender to this moment, the experience of being in a body. You don’t deserve to exist in darkness anymore, but your body knows… Light is right here with you, right now, NO MATTER WHAT ELSE happens, despite the injustice of your situation. Love like there is no tommorow. Love, and you will be set free.
With difficulty walking, and half-blinded from torture by the Brazilian military dictatorship, 79 year-old Roberto Freire continues to develop somatherapy, completing his life’s work. Incorporating the ideas of Wilhelm Reich, the politics of anarchism, and the culture of capoeira angola, Soma is used by therapists organized in anarchist collectives to fight the psychological effects of authoritarianism. Nick Cooper traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Bahia, and São Paulo to find the exercises, principles, voices, and movement of somatherapy. I’m glad to have discovered this work. My own work with Vivation delves deeply into Riechian principles of body armouring and suppressed emotions. As Riech said, the real problem behind fascism and authoritarianism is severe body armouring. A dissolution of body armor results in things like pleasurable body-centered emotional integration, polymorophous sensuality, sex positive and loving personal and communal relationships.
From the site:
In 1964, the military in Brazil carried out a coup d’etat supported by the CIA and local right-wing groups, inaugurating a bloody dictatorship. It was during the dictatorship that a clandestine anarchist activist named Roberto Freire, who also was a psychoanalyst, (anti)psychiatrist and author of books and plays, confirmed the destructive effects of repression on people’s behavior and psychological and mental health. Freire believed that micro-social relationships are the genesis for macro-social authoritarianism and he aimed for understanding the politics of modern society through people’s behavior in their everyday life. He realized that the fact that one believes in a certain ideology and has a libertarian view of the world doesn’t always lead one to have a libertarian behavior in his/her personal relationships with his/her fellows – there is something else, like an unconscious barrier, that determines the attitudes of the individuals towards life and other people. Freire, then, broke with psychoanalysis and over the next decades researched and developed Somatherapy – a therapy form in shape of a pedagogy, or a kind of pedagogy with therapeutic effects. That means that the way of dealing with neurosis is shifted from a medical perspetive to an educational one. The goal is to liberate those who have been subjected to repression (all of us). Somatherapy supports itself in theory and praxis with the social and corporeal psychology of Wilhelm Reich, Antipsychiatry, Gestalt Therapy, Anarchism and with the Afro-Brazilian art form of the people called Capoeira Angola.
The technique that he created consists of assembling a group of people to form a collective with limited duration (about a year and a half) that, through self-managed and non-hierarchical dynamics, will search to explore, understand and develop their capabilities to be creative, self-regulated, to love and to be loved and to be confident in the defense of their own desires and needs towards a society hostile to independent individuals.
All of this happens in a methodology composed of four elements: (1) experience of exercises created by Freire and carried out by the therapist in charge of the group (Freire or a disciple of him); (2) meetings of the group without the presence of the therapist (that guarantees the group’s and each person’s independence and responsibility for the therapeutic process); (3) practice of Capoeira Angola; (4) interaction of the group’s members in various social activities, either for fun or any kind of collective work.
The exercises created by Freire usually are body exercises, following Wilhelm Reich’s realization that neurosis is located not only in one’s mind, but also in his/her body. Reich realized that the authoritarian social structure and its mechanism of repression shape people’s personality, creating a neuromuscular character armor. That means a chronic rigidity in the muscles that obstruct the full circulation of the vital energy. Then it becomes a lifeless body, unable to act spontaneously, to feel pleasure, love or true emotions.
Reich was positive that this illness has social causes, that it is implanted by systematic suppression of instinctual needs of sex, pleasure and love carried out by authoritarian mechanisms that enforce all of us, starting in the first days of life, to adapt ourselves to patterns of social behavior. “The millenary subjugation of impulsive life created the ground for the psychological fear of the masses to the authority and the submission to it, for an incredible humility, on one side, and a
sadistic brutality, on the other side – and that’s why in the last 200 years the capitalist economy of profits could expand and survive” said Reich.
Roberto Freire is a forerunner of Reichian Therapy in Brazil and one of the few people in the world who kept the unity between social-political and psychotherapeutic approaches against neurosis. Opposing ideologies of sacrifice (neurosis), Freire maintains that the healthy human condition dwells in what he called ideology of pleasure. The exercises that he created bring the participants to bodily communicate their barriers and difficulties, at the same time they provide bioenergetic relief, release of creativity and stimulation and
awakening of the senses. They have simultaneous diagnostic and therapeutic effects.
Following the principle of pleasure, Freire refuted the tendency in traditional psychology to relate therapy with discomfort, suffering and formality and strove to create ludic, playfull and pleasant exercises that, based on theatrical techniques, stimulate sociability and new ways of interaction.
After each exercise the participants make use of verbal communication, but in a peculiar way. Sitting in circle, each person reports the sensations that she had, the barriers that she perceived in herself and other people, what kind of pleasure she felt or what kind of fear and difficulty came out. The way to report the experience should follow the theories and methods of Gestalt Therapy, which prioritize an objective and practical approach, trying to acknowledge (how it happened) rather than interpret (why it happened).
Based on studies of human perception, Dr. Frederick Perls, precursor of Gestalt Therapy, sustained the fundamental significance of living perceptually alert to the present moment. Perls believed that the unmediated perception through the senses allows the spontaneous and natural mechanism of self-regulation. Rational abstraction prevents this spontaneity from occurring and creates another mechanism that is alienation and self-censorship through acceptance of external values and judgments (coming from the family, society, etc.), which are settled in the conscious and unconscious.
Gestalt Therapy determines the practical way in which the anarchist therapy of Roberto Freire happens. Somatherapy is neither clinical nor confessional. It does not deal with traumas of the past, but it does deal with
their manifestations in the present, through the situations experienced during the exercises and everyday life. Freire understands that one of the many problems that people have is related to inability to define what they want and like. He believes that spontaneous self-regulation is achieved by the search for pleasure and by the discovery of each person’s own unique originality.
Because neurosis is born in social relationships, group therapy is more efficient because it creates a micro-social lab in which a variety of relationships may happen. In Somatherapy, it’s the self-managed and non-hierarchical dynamics that effectively make the therapy happen, on the personal level (self-
awareness) and on the social level (new strategies for living together), in so far as it establish a state of collaboration, cooperation and complicity between the members of the group.
Also, only in a group is it possible to deal with damaging forms of communications brought to light by Antipsychiatry. Somatherapy doesn’t work with schizophrenics or people in advanced states of emotional unbalance, but it uses those studies of Gregory Bateson, David Cooper and Ronald D. Laing that have prophylactic uses for neurosis.
Antipsychiatry makes use of the studies in pragmatics of human communication, which prove that paradoxical ways of communication in a context of strong emotional and affectional ties can lead to deep psychological disturbances in one’s personality. Somatherapy allows one to realize how his personality is shaped by the paradoxical communications used against him by his family when he was a child, as well as being able to perceive when it happens in the present. It makes possible the creation of strategies to defend oneself against emotional blackmails and teaches the importance of choosing sincere and direct ways to communicate and prove how useful metacommunication is (communication about the situation in which interaction takes place).
One of the last elements that Roberto Freire added to his technique was Capoeira Angola. Unlike other styles of capoeira that spread out all over the world, Capoeira Angola is an Afro-Brazilian art form that combines playing music, dancing and fighting – it’s a theater and a playful game. It has its origin in African tribal rituals and dances. In Brazil, aspects of martial arts were introduced, so that black people could prepare
themselves to fight their oppressors: the slave masters and the Portuguese (and later Brazilian) Empire. Freire found in Capoeira Angola an excellent bioenergetic exercise, that enables body awareness, teaches how to keep all senses alert, and wakes up the ability to confront, which is very necessary in the struggle to defend oneself against repression and to affirm a free personality.
With its anarchist perspective, Somatherapy brings to psychotherapy the concept that neurosis is a deviation in natural and ecological human behavior. Traditional psychology manifests in its praxis the attempt to adapt one to the social rules in
force. Somatherapy helps the individual to recover her capacity to satisfy her needs and desires by defending herself and struggling against a psychotic society that denies her the freedom to exercise her own unique originality.
For Roberto Freire, the human being must be understood in his unicity: the individual is the indivisible and non-hierarchical unity of his body, mind, emotions, memories, expectations, desires, culture, social behaviors and actions that he does at every moment. In western societies, the aspects of life are fragmented. Freire created Somatherapy with the aim to struggle for the totality of being, for the unity that allows the natural principle of spontaneous self-regulation. He conceived his technique for revolutionaries, challengers of the status quo and anyone who feels libertarian, as a tool in the struggle for a life directed by joy, beauty and pleasure.
Acting on the level of subjective ecology, which is understood as living accordingly to biological impulses, Somatherapy shows a different path in the struggle against patriarchy. Helping to liberate an individual from the barriers that prevent him from his own self-determination and freedom is consistent with the idea of not intending to construct a new world, but giving people the opportunity to create this new world by themselves.
Radical changes of behavior that enable the experience of pleasure and love are the reconciliation with our own nature, and that’s a step towards the utopia of a society that is not harmful to individuals or their environment. “Civilized society is at risk of disintegration by the primary hostility of men towards each other,” said Wilhelm Reich. “Only the liberation of the natural capacity for love in human beings can master their sadistic destructiveness.”