Transitions: Child to Adult—Mother to Person

A client asked me the other day, “As my children are beginning their lives, how do I take myself back and deal with the loss?” The first step is to recognize that you cannot get around the loss; the first thing you have to do is experience the loss, feel the sadness and mourn the changing reality.

This is something that women in particular need to be attentive to. They commonly ignore their lives and make children their whole focus (which is wonderful) but it is important to maintain a sense of personal identity with things, skills and activities that remind them of who they are. A lot of time when the kids go, many women feel like they are losing their whole identity. It’s not good for kids to be that central to the focus. It makes the children narcissistic and overly self-important little beings when they are the center of all that focus.

Personally, I see ‘mother’ as less of a doing role and more of a resource role, as somewhere the kids can go when they need it. In my view, when we make it such an involved role, it’s damaging to the children and it’s damaging to the mother as well because she does not really see her life as anything but being a servant or even subservient to children.

Honestly, I would compare this “loss and sorrow” to withdrawal from addiction. You are sad when the kids leave because you have not fully developed your own focus. It’s like you know something is no longer healthy for you and no longer part of your world and the only way to really go through recovery is to experience the loss of it. If you try to hang on to it, then you will not be satisfied. So, you really just have to take the loss and ask yourself what you want your life to be about now.

I recommend to every mother that in the first years they are everything to the child, and the ultimate practice of motherhood is to skillfully, gradually and artfully extract yourself over time. Let your children have more and more of their own lives so at the transition to their autonomy it is like there is no transition for them or for you.

Love,

Kyle

Opinion and Truth

There is a big difference between your opinion and the truth.

Opinions are imposed, truth is shared.

Opinions can be argued, truth cannot.

Opinions need defending, truth does not.

Opinions are thoughts, truth is self evident.

Opinions come from you, truth comes through you.

Opinions are arrogant, truth is humble.

Opinions are force, truth is love.

Opinions create separation, truth brings us together.

Opinions can be owned, the truth is for everyone.

Truth can be proved, opinions cannot.

Truth is found through inquiry, opinions are invented at whim.

You don’t get credit for the truth, only your capacity to hear it.

Truth told as an opinion loses its power.

We each have a choice which one to hold most dear, but they can never be equal.

~ Kyle Mercer

Inviting Others to the Mountain Experience

Many of you have been deeply impacted in one way or another by the Mountain Experience. For the majority of you it has been a life-changing event that, as I hear from many of you, you think about every day. Even if you have not attended the mountain experience, I encourage you to learn more about it and share it with your friends. In fact, we as human beings often want to share such a beneficial experience with other people that seem struggling or limited in some way as they could really use the insight that is provided by the Mountain Experience.

Encouraging or inviting someone to come can be a real challenge because we do not always have the tools or the perspective to share the Mountain Experience with another person. The opportunity most often occurs when somebody is suffering or challenged. Our typical habit when somebody else is suffering or challenged is to drop into telling, to advising, to comforting, to all sorts of different modes that do not really offer the support that someone else is needing. The most powerful way to interact with someone is through inquiry because they just want to be understood or heard.

If you find someone that seems to be struggling in some way, then you can apply inquiry with a desire to not fix them but to truly understand what is going on for them. When you do this, you will see them open up; you will see them go deeper into their awareness about what is happening to them. In that openness, if you can simply recognize the shared humanity, the shared underpinnings that we all have, and recognize what they have that you have, you will form a compassionate connection. Once you feel that connection, once you have recognized the shared humanities and struggles around life, then you can say “You know, I have felt that way personally and I still feel that way sometimes, and I did something, the Mountain Experience, that really made a big difference in how I see things and it really made it easier for me.”

Once you have shared that, you can stop, and just see if something lights up in the person with whom you are speaking. And if something does light up in them, they will usually ask you a question like, “Do you think that would help me?” At that point it is really important to only answer the question at the level at which they ask it. So, for example, if someone asks, “Do you think that could help me?”, the very best response is “I don’t know, it helped me, so maybe you should check it out- would you like me to send you a link or have someone call you?” And then it is essentially off your plate, as we here at Inquiry Method will take care of the rest.

The main thing to remember here is you should not try to fix them or say they need the Mountain Experience; it is much better to present it as an opportunity or invitation. You should convey that the mountain experience worked for you when you were dealing with similar issues, and say you hope it will do the same for them. The very best outcome is to get their permission for someone to call them, and then let us know, and we will be happy to follow up and have an initial conversation with them to see if attending the Mountain Experience would be a beneficial endeavor.

The Power of the Talking Stick

Following up on the last blog about the power of being real, I wanted to share an exercise that I give as an assignment to couples that I work with. You may have heard of it before. It’s called the talking stick exercise. The talking stick exercise is one of the most basic and fundamental and profound tools that we can use in relationships. And it goes like this: something comes up in our relationships, something we need to talk to about, and we tend to get into an argument or fight about. In other words, the situation usually tends to escalate in some way. Instead of allowing it to escalate, we should turn to the talking stick exercise. And this simply means that someone is going to be the speaker and someone is going to be the listener.

We give the speaker something to hold and this represents the fact that we are putting all of our attention on them and none on ourselves. In this exercise, whatever the subject is, we can fully hear someone out without formulating or generating our own response. And we can really understand what is going on in their insides; what they’re experiencing. So, we say to ourselves, “Alright, I’m ready to listen to this issue, whether it’s with money, with kids, whatever it is, I really want listen.” And then we have the speaker tell us anything they can possibly imagine about the issue and let them totally empty their tank about it. And then we pay close attention to what they are saying, without pushing back, without judging, without anything else, so that they get to fully get out whatever it is that is going on with them.

A great question the listener can ask at the end of the exercise is “Is there anything else you are feeling about this?” The listener can ask this multiple times to make sure the speaker has nothing left to say. Moreover, depending on our skill level, if we do not understand something, we can ask about it without pushing back. For example, this is like, “You mentioned this, and I don’t really understand what your concern is about it; can you help me understand what your concern is about that?” and go a little bit deeper. The idea is if we can allow somebody to be fully heard with no feedback, then solutions and answers and feelings of closeness and compassion will undoubtedly follow.

Once we are all completely done with this, once somebody feels like they have completely been heard and we feel like we completely understand them, we can either take a break and wait for an hour to let the conversation digest, or we might be ready to switch turns and hand the talking stick to the other person and essentially switch roles. Remember, this is not a solve-each-other’s-problems’ situation and it takes discipline to do this.

Finally, once both people have shared, it’s really helpful to give the issue some space. For instance, let the conversation sit until the next day and then continue with another talking stick conversation. You will be amazed at how the energy has shifted or at how differently you view the idea after hearing from your partner.

It’s very hard to listen to someone fully without completely understanding them. This is because we all have good will, we all have the best interest at heart, and want to ask questions. And it’s also very hard to not be moved after you yourself have been heard, because it can often be difficult to have to hear yourself out fully.

While it may be hard, once you have mastered the art of the using the talking stick, it is an incredibly profound, powerful, life-changing exercise.

The Power of Being Real

I have been aware lately, through listening to my clients and even just watching our culture, how we have been taught to protect and hide what is going on inside of us. There is this egoic aspect of ourselves that wants to project out a certain image, or face, to the world. We have been taught and think that doing this is going to give us the most control or power over life, but this is not entirely true. We end up relating to each other’s external shells, and because they do not match the inner situation, it ends up creating a lot of problems and miscommunications and misunderstandings.

I have watched a few TV shows lately, and I have just noticed how all of the problems, whether in a sitcom or a drama, do not come from people being bad or evil at heart; they come from miscommunication. Almost every show is about how things are miscommunicated and then go wrong. I have noticed this even in myself- I am very careful and precise about how I say things, but others may not be able to accurately hear and understand what I am trying to say due to their own personal filter’s and interpretations. And that’s why in Inquiry Method™ the focus is on paying particular attention to what somebody is saying—and even the energy behind it—and truly just listening to them. It is also even about getting curious about what is underneath the shell that we present to the outside world. This idea is about showing the inside on the outside.

I was just speaking with a client about her relationship with her daughter and with her mother, and every time we came back to my client’s desire to take care of one of her family members in some way, we realized her issue around this would be solved so much easier by her expressing her own inner struggle around it. So, this would be like instead of trying to fix her daughter’s problem, she could say “You know, as a mother, I am having a challenge right now because I would really like to support you right now and I do not know how, but do you have any ideas?” That is showing inner vulnerability, and it seems so simple and obvious, but it is not the thing that we say. Instead we give advice, and try to fix, and try to push our agenda on someone else, which usually just makes things more complicated.

It is just amazing how just the most obvious vulnerable thing that is going on inside of us can allows the situation to move forward. It is the same thing when I am working with couples; if we can just say the thing that is going on inside of ourselves—not so much the emotion, just whatever is happening—not only does that help someone else understand us better, but then we can also put our finger on our own problem too.

In a big-picture view, Inquiry Method™ seems so simple, yet at the same time ‘simple’ is so not what we do. Sometimes I feel bad about the fact that my work in and of itself seems so simple, yet the results are always extremely profound, which is how I know I am doing things right.

Essentially, to improve all of our relationships and interactions in life, the best thing we can do is to get our insides on the outside.

Giving Self-Away Part II

As introduced last week, this idea of giving yourself away can have negative effects on all types of relationships. Marriages have some of this quality, where two people lean on each other and are seen as co-dependent, rather than as two whole individuals relating to each other. This also often happens between parents and children, and creates a situation where the children are kept small and weak and not taking responsibility for their own lives. This can often happen between employers and employees, when there are games and patters and family like patterns in a business.

As we mentioned last week, you can also give yourself away to materials or large corporations. Surprisingly, this can even happen between someone and their money. One way to know if you have given yourself away to your money is by noticing how you react to certain events. For example, if you put money and the stock market and it goes down, your sadness can reveal that you have tied some of your soul or spirit to your money. The same applies in a business. If you feel like you have to serve the business, or if it owes you something or that it is a burden, you can tell that you have given yourself away to the business.

This is one of the most complex subjects that I teach in the Mountain Experience. I help recognized that they have attached to another person, then help them detach. And I see that when they recognize and take themselves back, they usually feel immediate relief.

One time, I had a coaching session with a woman who had just gotten divorced. We could tell that the event had clearly taken a part of her, and were trying to figure out why. First, I asked her if I had given herself away to her husband. When she said that she hadn’t I then asked her if she had given herself to her marriage. The woman started to cry as she realized that she had given part of her spirit to the concept of marriage, and she released the grief and the loss, she saw that she could be whole in her life despite not being married.

One time I had a young man who was about 30 years old. He came to me and told me that, for the past ten years, he had not been able to keep a girlfriend or a job. He didn’t understand why, because ten years ago he was a successful man with a girlfriend and a great job. He said, “it’s like a part of me died.” I said “interesting,” and asked him to reflect about what may have occurred ten years ago. After reflecting he shared that his grandfather died 10 years ago. I explained that part of him died with his grandfather, and he suddenly started crying. He could clearly feel it in his emotional body that something had died that day. As I worked with him to take his spirit back, as his grandfather did not need that part of his spirit, and he had taken some of his grandfather’s spirit as well. This young man regained his spirit. About two weeks later, he sent an email sharing that he had a great girlfriend and a new job, and attributed it to regaining his life by getting his spirit back.

These stories reveal our capacity to put our spirit in something else. They show that we need our whole spirits to feel whole. It also shows that it is surprisingly easy to fix, since we can actually take ourselves back from other people.

It can be hard to completely stop giving yourself away. Society has told us that it is a loving and caring act, as well as many other things that make it seem like a positive thing . As such, I am simply asking you to try. When I walk through the process, try to give yourself away then take it back, and see what it feels like. Normally, when people do this test drive, people get this on an emotional level. They begin to see that giving yourself away does not create healthy context.

As you go through your process you may want to explore, “who have I given myself away to?” It may seem difficult, but it can actually be easy to determine. If you feel great when they are in a good place, and feel terrible when they are struggling, you will know they have a part of you. If you feel the need to make sure they’re okay, or believe that part of you would die if they died, a part of you is attached to them. You can also tell if you have an ongoing fear about their well-being, need to control them, or a sense of resentment. In each example, you see the person as non-separate from you, and therefore feel what they feel.

Once you learn more about this subject, you can help in two ways. First, you will clearly feel more whole once you have taken your spirit back. But there’s also a second part; if you have this knowledge and know the symptoms, you can give others their spirit back. If you feel them attaching to you, you can learn to detach from it. This is not done by saying something to another person: they can just feel it. That’s because giving yourself away is beyond the level of intellectual understanding. It is not something you can write down, but something you feel.

Give yourself a chance to reflect on all of this through inquiry. What or who have you given yourself away to? What is the price? What is the perceived benefit?

Taking yourself back can be a life-changing experience.

Giving Self-Away

The subject of giving self-away could, and may eventually be, a book in and of itself; it is such a profound and meaningful subject. Giving self-away is a process that we do in our culture, with families and friends, and even with material things such as cars and money, and even concepts. It is a coping mechanism, and it is also a form of an attempt to materialize the self, to extend myself beyond myself into things and concepts around me.

Giving self-away is when I take part of my source or spirit, and invest it in something outside of myself. Meaning that I tie my well-being, happiness, or self-worth to something that is outside of my control or present experience.

When I give myself away, and tie myself to something outside myself, I may identify it as love, dependence, responsibility for, or accountability. It is often done out of extreme goodwill, the desire to help somebody else, a function of neediness or a lack of self-worth; but it is not the positive thing we make it out to be.

Imagine if you could take a part of your soul or spirit, and attach it to another person. Imagine a part of your spirit connecting to them, perhaps you can imagine with a thread or a string attached from your heart to the other person. In this arrangement, everything that happens to them, everything they do, say and experience feels like you are experiencing it with them. Even if you are not there, you may imagine what they are going through, and in this case, there is a hyper awareness and dependency on their experience for your well-being. At times, when things are going well for them, this may feel great. Other times, if they are suffering or challenged, it will likely feel terrible.

Now imagine they reciprocate, where they do the same and give themselves to you. When this happens, I call it entanglement. Entanglement is when I have given myself to someone, and they have done the same for me, meaning our well beings are now tied to the well-being of the other.

In our culture, we often view this as care or love; when my loved one suffers, I suffer. In fact, I have found in my work that the more compassion, or understanding that I can be towards someone, that can be more helpful. However, if it is given in the form of empathy, and the person is going through the emotional ride with them, it tends to diminish the help or support that is given. Because both people are now feeling the struggle and both need help in processing dealing with the struggle. Studies have demonstrated the dramatic difference on the brain between compassionate understanding and empathetic distress.

When I draw this diagram of entanglement during The Mountain Experience, it is clear that these entangled nets of giving self away and interdependence creates substances. When you have this web, you can see that if anyone is in an emotional reaction, it tugs at everyone in the web and makes everyone less present. Again, you often see this in families that when one person is struggling, everyone is in the struggle. In every example, it is clear that it is better to be empathetic than to actually be entangled with someone else’s pain. It is wonderful to be empathetic to understand someone else’s experience but it is not helpful if we are immersed in someone else’s experience.

While it is still viewed as a positive and loving thing, this act can have detrimental effects on both parties. When you give yourself away to another person, you tend to want to control that person. Because your spirit is attached, you have an emotional involvement in what happens with them. When they are not behaving as I wanted, I then tend to resent them or want to manipulate them. When I have given myself away and the person is succeeding, I either feel jealous, or feel that I am succeeding and start to take some of their energy or success from them. When someone else has given themselves away to me, I can often feel fearful or dependent on them. If they leave me, I am at risk, I may lose some of my own strength or capacity, or can become dependent, weak or needy.

Next week we will continue this blog and explore the effects of giving self away on relationships.

Boundaries

As an adult I have the full right to create a boundary for myself.

Creating a boundary for self is safety.

Creating a boundary for others is control.

The Distance from Love

Recently, I have started doing yoga again. I have found an amazing weekend class with an exceptional teacher in LA. Just like the Mountain Experience, he creates an environment full of sanctuary and care with peaceful music and his calming presence. I was recently doing my practice when I started to become aware of a quality of love within myself and love for life. At the same time, I also recognized that I had a barrier from life; a separation that held me back from fully engaging with that strong love for life.

I started to become aware that the biggest aspect of this disengagement or distancing with life had to do with fear. I felt that I could not fully or would not fully engage with life because of my fear of losing love. I was scared that, if I truly let myself love life, that the inevitable loss of this love would be too much to bare. My whole life, I have been completely aware that loving is intimately tied with loss. In the past when I experienced love, I would always dread the ultimate loss that I knew would ensue. Furthermore, I started to realize that such a loss didn’t have to do just with life, but with everything: appreciation, connection with others and myself, self-acceptance, a particular experience, etc.

And, I became aware, and am now aware, of this idea that loving is also intimately tied with loss. As soon as we experience the loving, we also experience the ultimate loss, as we know that this experience is transitory and will end. Such a threat creates a hesitancy around and a distancing from loving and enjoying and engaging with the present. We as humans do not want to bear, fear or recognize the knowledge of imminent loss.

For the same reasons, some spiritual teachers encourage us not to focus on the high points of life. They explain that every peak experience will ultimately lead to an even larger loss. They say it is better to have a completely even relationship, and that the consistency will lead to you uncovering a deeper love. I have begun to understand that there is a continuity of love past death. That there is a quality of life and living that is separate from my personality and my identity. That is what these spiritual teachers are talking about. They are talking about participating in something that is more than just the “I”.

I speak about this when we talk about levels of participation. When we cross the “I/We barrier,” we start to participate in something larger than ourselves. There’s a certain quality of tapping into this universal field. The more that I identify with it, the less concerned I am about this transitory nature of love. More immature loving, which is below the “I/We barrier”, is beautiful, pleasant, exciting, and inspirational. However, the more we move into the “We,” the more we participate in and love the world.

We explore this in the Mountain Experience. We share an experience where we are not so self-conscious, where we have collective wins or losses, and where we are engaging in this larger field of love. The same thing happens when we create vulnerability during coaching sessions.

This awareness of a universal love or connection is what actually creates our loneliness. It creates awareness that there is a deeper love and experience out there that needs to be accessed. On some level, we all know it subconsciously. Despite our personal wins or successes, or our communion with friends, there is still nagging awareness that there is something more. I am starting to see that that awareness is actually positive, because it draws us forward into our consciousness.

It is innately human to believe there is something more in life. In all of us, it creates a delicate and potent suffering. However, it hopefully encourages us forward to a deeper experience of life. It is like a light in the distance that continuously pulls us towards what is possible. It engages, helps, supports, and develops a capacity and connection with what is possible and the fullness of this life experience.

We are all sharing that suffering, that love, and that path together.

The Power of Victimhood

At the Mountain Experience, I introduce the map of consciousness I call Levels of One Self.  On this map I introduce Level II: Exchange.  Among other aspects of being at this level of consciousness, Exchange is when we make conscious and unconscious agreements with each other in order to get what we want and need from each other.  This is the level at which we entangle with other people, where we feel controlled by others ups and downs, and where we resent others for not being better than they are.

There are so many implications to understanding the impact of imbalances (giving self away) at this level that it could be its own book.  However, I wanted to share one aspect that has become so evident to me recently.

The primary currency at the Exchange level is guilt; in Exchange, if I give myself to you I become a victim to you, I become a martyr to you without your participation.  Now, because I have given to you, you owe me.  The classic line that demonstrates this is: “After all I have done for you, the least you could do is…”.

When we are participating in life at this level we often collect and archive debts in our relationships, like little “victimhoods” all around us, and then look to collect them. You can create these debts without the other person’s permission or even knowing and then hold it against them.

On a larger scale, we can even collect “victimhoods” against life, society, God, businesses… many of us make a lifetime habit of this.  It interferes with relationships and the worst part is the effort and suffering it takes to continue to carry the burden of our victimhood.

If you are going to create contracts with people, it is better to make open contracts that are clearly understood and agreed to by both parties.  If you are going to give, give without expectations.  As for the rest of the world, do you really want to walk in life as a victim of anything, such as the economy, politics, traffic…?

Start noticing your victimhood, or your collection of debts and unfairness’s, and write them down and keep track of them (at least this way you won’t have to keep thinking about them as you have them in a safe place). See if you can become aware of the burden you experience by carrying them, see if you can recognize the damage they are doing to your relationships.  Over time keep adding to your list so you can track your habit, as you become more clear of areas where you may perceive yourself as victim, you may want to authentically cross some things off your list forgiving yourself and others.  Note what you feel when you cross something off your list. Over time, you may find that instead of growing, your list is shrinking.  Freeing yourself from victimhood is a powerful step in your evolution.