Into the belly of the whale
A few years ago as A Course In Miracles entered into my life, so did the work of Dr. Robert Holden. Weaving humor and the wisdom of deliciously wide ranging mystical traditions into matters of spirit, Dr. Holden quickly became one of my favorite teachers of The Course. After years of following his work, I finally decided it was time to take the leap and sign up for Coach Camp – my virtual spiritual advisor was about to get real.
Luckily I didn’t have to go far. Organized by Kimberly Glick of the Karma Warriors, Coach Camp took place just a couple hours away at the beachside Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, and included three solid days of lectures with Robert, along with the lulling sound of crashing waves, bountiful catered meals and some really intense, “bendy” (as Robert so appropriatley called it), morning yoga.
Dr. Holden’s, often hilarious (we’re talking moonwalking!), multi-media lectures were broken up by partnered exercises that allowed for spiritual reflection and self-analysis, altogether making for a pretty deep dive into life’s driving issues and how they relate to divine connection, or a lack thereof. We talked about Happiness, Success Intelligence, Lovability and the Enneagram – the trajectory of inquiry Dr. Holden has pursued through his career. What these topics share in common is that they each lead us back to Love. Love being the direct line to the divine. To God. To Source.
Follow your purpose or focus on drama
Love is not just a feeling, it’s the soul’s energetic foundation. It’s the creative intelligence behind all of life. To operate from a place that isn’t rooted in truth and the resonant energy of love, is to be out of alignment with source. My most authentic self gobbles up these ideas and quickly ascends into the abstract. A place I find most comforting.
The beauty of Dr. Holden’s teaching style is that he stays firmly grounded while getting across the esoteric through humor and jargon free language. Coach Camp, a three and half day retreat, was in a sense an overview of Dr. Holden’s life’s work. A glimpse into his thoughts and research on the basic desires we share as spiritual beings. It seems that the messy web of human impulses largely distill into the pursuit of success as a means of acquiring happiness, and ultimately lovability.
Lovability comes from living our truth, from being engaged in a life that feels authentic. It’s the often illusive concept of living on purpose. If we forget that purpose resides within, the goal becomes to acquire something outside of ourselves naturally producing anxiety, or fear. The anxiety rooted in our perceived deficiencies and missing the mark in filling our own cup, pulls us towards drama. Drama fills the void created by fear. Drama gives us an excuse for failing to stay on purpose. It creates a lack of motivation and dims clarity. Like a sheath, it obscures the source of anxiety along with our potential. All the while fear is nothing but a call for Love.
Self-image blocks self-guidance
If we want to experience real joy we have to be willing to face fear and shed the skin of who we think we are. We have to be willing to die to ourselves. To experience showing up as our real Self and be loved for this and this alone. This is the great spiritual effort of the spiritual path. If you set conditions for how and when you become lovable, you’re withholding life. As Dr. Holden put it, you’re holding life ransom from God and it is, “you that must decide to let the eternal loveliness in.”
If you’ve been suffering this might mean letting go of something dark and deep that you’ve nurtured for a long time. It might mean seeing your identity and its psychology for illusion. Of being selfish, and taking greater care of yourself, embarking on a journey of growth or self-improvement. Experienced in the now, not in the pursuit of a future better imagined-self, these acts of soul nourishment can help reestablish connection to self-guidance by helping to strip away the layers of drama.
Tuning into the whisper of your soul’s guiding voice can be understood as a process of subtraction. One that requires you to surrender your wound riddled stories and your anger filled judgments. To prepare your mind and body for receptivity. If you approach the divine full – no matter if it’s with garbage or gold – where there’s no space, nothing can flow in.
Dr. Holden tells us that if you want a real Shift in life, you have to approach Spirit empty. Like a vessel ready for the filling. To let go of your own theories about the truth. To allow yourself to get lost. If you can’t bring yourself to let go – of what only you can know needs to be released – your suffering may very well swallow you whole. Finding yourself in the belly of the whale, there stewing in the acids, the hyperbole will finally melt away. So you have a choice, do it on your own terms or life may do it for you.
In either case, if you’re lucky, you will reach metanoia.
Ahhh met-a-no-ia! Possibly my favorite takeaway from Coach Camp, metanoia is your rebirth, your baptism, your metamorphosis – this is the Shift. It takes place just as you think you’ve disappeared into the abyss. Now beyond judgement, you can approach the divine as the empty vessel. Ready to receive, ripe with receptivity.
Putting it into action
You want a real shift and actionable steps. The best place to start is to read Shift Happens! and possibly investigate your Enneagram type. In the meantime, consider these tips from Coach Camp, but keep in mind that these are just a few action steps that jumped out at me over the course of about 24 hours of material. This is not meant to represent the experience of Dr. Robert Holden’s Coach Camp, these are just a few pointers to consider:
- Find stillness. Quiet your mind and body to open the channel of divine wisdom.
- Be ready to receive.
- Be willing to do things differently. Same doing, equals same results.
- Meet fear with love. Be compassionate with yourself. Ask your small self what it needs from your higher Self. Be aware that your higher Self is ever present.
- Remember that success is daring to be more of who you really are.
- Find ways to express more of your Self on a regular basis.
- See what’s there when you’re not judging yourself – you may uncover your Soul Gift!
- Review and debrief. Process your thoughts and experiences with gratitude lists and journaling.
- Ask yourself how you limit your own happiness – with things you do and don’t do.
- Strip away, strip away, strip way. Reduce physical and mental clutter.
- Know that the fulfillment you seek is at your core waiting to be discovered.
Like with any great reduction, the essence is always there, but can only be perceived once the excess mass has simmered away. Left with the kindling of joy found at your core, and without the anxious pursuit of happiness outside of yourself, you can begin to live a life on purpose.
We learn the way today
To leave behind a lifetime of drama, self-criticism and grievances is no easy task. It’s a commitment and something I personally have to work on each and every day. I’ve found A Course In Miracles to be my catalyst and greatest motivator.
If you’re still unsure of what it means to be still, or how to become a vessel ripe for receptivity, take it from The Course and simply do this
“Be still, and lay aside all thoughts of what you are and what God is; all concepts you have learned about the world; all images you hold about yourself. Empty your mind of everything it thinks is either true or false, or good or bad, of every thought it judges worthy, and all ideas of which it is ashamed. Hold onto nothing. Do not bring with you one thought the past has taught, nor one belief you ever learned before from anything. Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God.” A Course In Miracles, Workbook For Students, 360.7
With these thoughts in mind, considering saying the below mantra. Then close your eyes and sit quietly for five to ten minutes. Visualize yourself radiating with light from within your core. Rising up from your root chakra to your belly, a bright fire lighting your entire inner sanctum.
I am, that I am. My hands and heart are open to receiving Your gifts.
And when you’re ready, re-treat yourself! You won’t regret it.
Taking the time to work on yourself, or on tapping into a part of you that doesn’t get to express itself in your busy life can produce a small shift that you can build on. If you’ve never been to an event like Coach Camp, a retreat like this can be an incredible way to dig into whatever issues you’re going through, or to discover what core issues might be underlying lesser frustrations. It’s fast-track therapy.
You can get yourself into good retreat shape by reading any of Dr. Holden’s books that I’ve linked to in this post, but if your bedside table is stacked high with books start by listening to Dr. Holden on Hay House Radio. You’re guaranteed to stumble across some shiny nuggets of soul-inspiration.