Eight of us gathered in a circle in Marcia’s living room for a “Giving and Receiving Love” advanced Imago training. I flinched, surprised at how startled I felt as our trainers, Marcia and Orli, vulnerably revealed their childhood coping mechanisms and the ways these sabotage their efforts to give and receive love. I had not entered ImagoLand for over five years because I retired as an Imago Relationship Therapist in 2012.
It was as though I was a fish who had been out of water for a long time. My initial shock at being plunged back into my natural habitat gave way as I relaxed and began swimming with the current.
In 2002, I learned something about the current in which I swim when I met Marianne Paulus and read her book, Four Paths to Union. Her first chapter titled “An Inner Urge” begins with a quote.
“Our hearts are restless until they come to rest in thee.” ~St. Augustine
Paulus writes about a deep spiritual impulse within all of us … a powerful force at work that motivates our choices and illuminates our differences from others. This inner urge reveals itself in ordinary ways through personality patterns, preferences, interests, and activities. These are easily recognizable when we become familiar with the four broad Pathways we paddle through when we become conscious of our desire for Union with the Divine. She goes on to describe each pathway in detail … the Paths of …
While these Pathways are not mutually exclusive, in each person one urge tends to be stronger than others and determines our predominant way of interacting in the world. I like to think of it as the way The Divine created us and calls us to offer our gifts to the world. It makes sense to me to be faithful to our “true selves.” Life seems to work better that way, though not always smoothly.
World religions grew up around these various urges and cultures arose out of the religious orientations that emerged. Paulus hopes that by knowing this, we will find it easier to respect other people and their choices.
I share her hope because after reading about these four impulses, I realized that my strongest urges reside in the Path of Self-Mastery, one of two paths (the other being the Path of Contemplation) that are least understood and respected by the Western culture in which I live. I declared to myself in astonishment, “No wonder I feel so different. No wonder I don’t fit in.”
It is no surprise that my Self-Mastery inner urge led me to United Theological Seminary, Living in Process, a twelve-step program, and Imago … all places where I would be challenged to evolve into my “true self.” Paulus says that our inner urge acts as a kind of homing device. In these settings, I could attend to my greatest challenge, changing myself.
Paulus says that our predominant urge is also our greatest opportunity, but because I was more focused on how I didn’t fit in, I wasn’t conscious of that until I wrote my memoir. In the writing, I needed to draw on the strengths found in the Path of Contemplation, a more cerebral path of using language to reflect deeply on the large questions of life. If one is determined to write with the depth and honesty requested of memoirists, and I was, exploring those large questions as they pertain to one’s own life is imperative … and for me exciting and enjoyable.
As I wrote about and reflected upon the meaning of my life, I discovered that my difficult circumstances had provided me with just the opportunity I needed to learn to give and receive love. As insurmountable obstacles presented themselves, I was forced to surrender to a power greater than myself. As I surrendered and received love from the Divine, my “true self” rose to the surface … the part of me who knows how to give love without conditions … even and especially to those who seemed responsible for throwing obstacles in my path. These are clearly important spiritual lessons. And without my predominant urge, I might never have learned them.
Those of us who follow the Path of Self-Mastery believe that mastering our own functioning will be our primary contribution to the world. And so it is, that my account of mastering myself forms the backbone of my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace. I can’t imagine any greater gift I could offer the world. I can’t imagine any greater gift I could offer to those I love up close and personal than to master the parts of myself that sabotage my ability to give and receive love.
And so, after my initial shock at being plunged back into ImagoLand’s ocean, I relaxed and enjoyed the flow. All of us self-mastery devotees swam in a current matching our personality patterns, preferences, interests, and activities … our natural habitat.
It felt good to be back. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. Larry spoke for all of us when he said of our experience, “I got to be a part of what is best about humanity.”
In good “self-mastery form,” I’m grateful for the opportunity to be enlightened about the parts of myself that sabotage my capacity to give and receive love … to be given another opportunity to master myself. I couldn’t have had better trainers than Orli and Marcia. They shared from their hearts as well as their intellects. And swimming with Mike, Margaret, Suzie, Deborah, and Larry in ImagoLand’s ocean waters … well what can I say. It was just so much fun to be back in my natural habitat.