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        Michael Reddy, Ph.D, CPC
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Monday June 26, 2017
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What US and Canadian Constellators Think

USCan flagsSix months ago I was still reading and hearing things like, “in facilitating a family constellation, you cannot have any intention.”  This, which seemed to exclude even any intention to be helpful to the client, plus the “phenomenological stance” would allow you to see “only what is.” 

So, apparently, clients were supposed to come to you for some surprising connection to an absolute truth, even though you could care less about their well-being?  Did that have anything to do with why constellation work lags the rest of the world so badly in English speaking North America?

US/Canadian Constellation Conversations—A Big Success

conversationIs that all history now?  Well, yes and no.  I sponsored and moderated eleven teleconferenced, 90 minute conversations that were subscribed to by around 40 dedicated and experienced facilitators from our two countries.  Between 15 and 20 were on the live calls regularly, and more followed and commented via the recordings.

A lot was cleared up in these calls.  No, I didn’t take polls or the like.  But, a little over halfway through, a more nuanced and grounded consensus was starting to emerge around various points. cultures around world

Clarifying How We Are Different

We saw that our point of view has shifted in some cases from what many of our early European teachers espoused or left out.  Two reasons for that.  One, we stand gratefully on their shoulders and see deeper at times.  And two, our culture is just simply different, and our ways of working need to fit that.

For example, many of us were trained by teachers who felt clients had to bow down and “take” both their parents—even in cases where one or both of them were heavy perpetrators, or even still active in that role.  Those who spoke in the teleconferences don’t necessarily subscribe to that.  In such cases, we seek support and flow at first further back in the ancestral family.

And what about that idea of "having no intention" when facilitating?

Spiritual Bypass--Devotion as Avoidance

A long time ago, in graduate school, I read Phillp Kapleau's The Three Pillars of Zen. It was one of the first books by an American deeply into meditation.

three pillars of zenI was totally fired up by it and started sitting in "zazen" half an hour or an hour a day. Eyes open, staring fixedly at a spot on the wall, I was going to "empty my mind"—scale the spiritual heights and "get enlightened."

I was on the rebound from rigid Catholicism and childhood abuse, and was also doing martial arts at the time. So, it all fit nicely with the need I had to forget the pain. Maybe it would rescue me.

Seeing God Through
Clouds of Guilt and Pain

Six years later, after moving twice across the country for my first teaching jobs, all that continuous, somewhat unguided meditation reached a kind of flash point.

dark-and-lightI saw god all right, but with the overwhelming experience of light also came rushing back the entire onslaught of guilt and pain I had grown up with and was in flight from.

After 48 hours in and out of my body in what seemed like purgatory, the message was pretty clear. "Hey," god was saying, "how about slowing down and healing some of this pain in and around you? You're trying to skip the whole reason you incarnated."

Spiritual Bypass Creates a
Shadow Side You Leave Behind

Things to AvoidThat was my own, typically extreme experience of what is now known as "spiritual bypass." It's something that can happen to otherwise devoted people who slip into using spiritual activities or accomplishments to avoid important, typically traumatized parts of themselves.

Unwilling or unable to face this or that, because it hurts too much, our public selves climb some holy ladder, but leave our wounded parts awash in pain, fear, or anger. 

Just Another Dangerous Addiction?

But wait—is this just simply a bad thing? Do we start pointing fingers now? Hey there, friend, you need to check out an SBA group (Spiritual Bypassers Anonymous). After all, isn't a person's movement towards spirituality inherently better than one towards, say, drugs or violence?

Though that seems obviously true, the reality is less straightforward.

Health and the Magic of Breath

In almost all languages and cultures, there's this connection between breath and something spiritual or magical. Our word "spirit" comes from the Latin verb "respirare."

bird in flightWhen we die, we "expire," or "breath something out," finally and completely. Great insights are "breathings in," as in "inspiration." Yoga philosophy talks of "Prana," Chinese medicine of "Chi." The air we breath is, after all, everywhere—invisible, moving, fluid, above all, and necessary.

Native medicine people use feathers as healing tools because they are especially adapted to create flow in this invisible medium. They can move that which is spiritual.


Breath Deeply Affects our Daily Lives

So what's this got to do with our health and well being in the rapidly changing energy climate breathe lungsof today's Mother Earth? Actually, quite a lot.

First of all, tied to sitting, looking at screens, driving, living in enclosed spaces filled with still, sometimes stale air—we don't breath enough. Most blood is pooled in the bottom third of our spongy lungs.

But shallow chest breathing, which does not lower the diaphragm, keeps most of the fresh air away from most of the blood. Not the best. Stress and failure to stretch muscles of the torso further constrict the vital flow of oxygen to all parts of the body.

Sad Results of Shallow Breathing

So what happens? Well, several unhappy things, but let's just focus on one.

Low movement, low oxygen, and long term stress imprint the muscles and sheaths of fascia that organize them. Muscles weaken and shorten. Instead of staying lubricated and slippery, the fascia gum up and glue together.

vicious circleNow the postures and physical feelings of stress, anxiety, or more serious trauma are being echoed constantly back to the brain by the body itself.

This nudges us into feeling stressed, even when there are no outside threats or pressures, and we would otherwise feel great. The brain, trying to make sense of these now habitual physical sensations, starts looking around apprehensively.

Well—there must be some threat somewhere out there to explain this feeling. And, often enough, it will magnify the risk of something rather neutral or even supportive to account for them.  It's a vicious circle.

But There's Lots of Good News Too

Bad news, right? Well there's a very bright side to this as well. woman breathingBreath is magic. If you don't use it, troubling things happen. But if you do (and you can, easily)—then awesomely good things happen.

Intention and Phenomenology in Family Constellations

scratching headApparently many facilitators believe that holding a "phenomenological stance" and "having no intention" in constellations allows them to see "only what is."

These can be confusing ideas even to people quite familiar with constellations--not to mention outsiders. What do we mean by these? Can we somehow language them so that what they mean is more easily understood?

Last Chance to Join Us
Before the Start Thursday

This subject comes up soon in the US-Canadian Constellation Conversation, starting Thurs Feb 19th. Join us now in these via either the live sessions or recordings you can hear anytime.

"Phenomenology" Has Some
Phenomenally Different Meanings

paradox foundationWikipedia has 6 separate articles on different meanings of "phenomenology" in various areas. The philosophical article says trying to define it is "dangerous and even paradoxical," which may "disorient anyone" who wants to do so.

Still one theme is the study of structures of raw personal experience. Here, phenomenology agrees with psychology and cognitive science that these are always subjective. Basically, no one "sees only what is." Instead they rather see whatever a vast system of subconscious personal and cultural filters passes in to their awareness.yes no

So isn't saying a "phenomen-ological stance" helps us see "only what is" in a constellation a contradiction? Phenomenology seems to say we can't do that.

If We Can't See "What Is,"
What Does "Have No Intention" Mean--
And How Can that Possibly Help?

Again, this unqualified phrase is not helping us. Compare these three different "healers"

  1.  One who doesn't care at all whether what he does is helpful--he's worn out that day, or maybe just a charlatan to begin with

  2.  One who cares deeply that what she does be helpful to the client, but is

    • Not trying to "rescue" the client
    • Not overly involved having her approach be right & create needed change
    • Not overly involved in being the right person to help

  3.  One who is bent on rescuing the client, or wedded to his approach being successful, or ego-involved in having the right stuff

Wouldn't most people say #2, who has a definite intention, is the person they want to work with?

What Happens if We
Language This so That Everyone,
Even Scientists, can Easily Understand?

multiple hypothesesWe don't have to use these confusing phrases. What if we said the intake interview creates one or more "leads" or "hypotheses." And that the constellation itself can be best described as an "experiment," which may confirm, or else reshape, or even deny these leads or hypotheses.

In honest, empirical science, this is most often called "the method of multiple, working hypotheses."

The Leads or "Hypotheses"
Don't Have to All be Conscious

benzene ringEven the history of great science, they are not all conscious, but just as as often highly intuitive. The ring structure of benzene came when Kekule dreamt of a snake eating its tail.

"Phenomenological stance" can be understood as an open-minded, soft-focus attention to the whole system, and a willingness to patiently let previously unobserved patterns emerge. Even if these fly in the face of the leads currently in the conscious or subconscious working space.

What are the advantages or disadvantages of using these more accessible explanations? Find out in the coming Constellation Conversations.

Let's Start Some Discussion Now
Before the Brief and Busy
San Diego Conference

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  • Enjoy recordings and the private Facebook group if you need to miss live sessions.

Interested in Systemic Constellations?
Then You Are Invited

These conversations will look at some of the major features of systemic constellations. Click here  for the schedule of dates and topics. We'll explore similarities and differences in how major facilitators interpret them--especially in the US and Canada.

Remember, this is a Pay-What-You-Want offering, and recordings of all sessions are posted for you on a private web page. So you can take part and benefit without attending the live sessions.

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