It was late December, the drifts were piling up in collusion against the rails of the porch. Little could be discerned above the sound of the wind, wrapping itself around the northeast corner of the house. Restless, it continued to bully what remained of the brittle branches of last summer’s honeysuckle, a loose shutter, and my grandmother’s wind chimes. In the midst of this late afternoon concert, the sun was descending unnoticed toward its mountain crypt. Already the sky was filtering the light with its angular sieve suggesting the beginnings of the golden hour. Soon it would lend itself to blazing oranges and finally a pastel pink adieu.
In that moment of silence, when the wind stops to take an in breath, I stirred. As I rallied myself from the daybed, throwing my coverlet aside, I grabbed the poker in hopes of being able to stir up the starving fire a little longer before an inevitable trip to the mud room. Arming myself with boots, gloves, and coat, I would soon enough be staggering out toward a chaotic woodpile in order to replenish the famished fire.
My thoughts were still troubled. Clouded and confused. The images, rich with texture, numinous with meaning, affronting my conscious sensibilities. Between worlds, as if stepping on the edge of a great secret, I found the strength to twist an aberrant piece of wood back on itself to re-inspire the licking heat out of tired smoking embers. How long had I been sleeping? Years…. or minutes? The sounds of branches against glass beckoned my attention outward.
The wisp of her hand, still reaching out to me…. the color of the garden hose, surrealistic in its green undulating wetness..… and the receding scent of roses…..
I knew it would be a mistake to surrender to my impulses now. The warmth I had managed to coax out of the fireplace would not last long. I gathered up my sweater and moved toward the boots in the anteroom, having accepted my fate. The cold awaited me now. If I wanted any comfort through the night, I must submit.
It wasn’t long before my hands were stiff with the cold and my nose running as I made my pilgrimage repeatedly from pile to door. “Why did I let my stash get so low? LAZY!! LAZY!” I found myself flagellating my wonton lack of strategic thinking during this winter vacation……
Drops of mud and the drip, drip, drip, sounds of snow melting off the wood beside the hearth brought me back. I had drifted.
“So you ver telling me sometink about da voman. Da voman who smelt of roses? An vat next happened in your dream?” He was looking at me with his pipe in hand, and an unrevealing straight forward gaze. The notepad situated carefully across his lap. I noticed a certain rigidness in his posture, as if he was holding something. Something inside, something he didn’t wish for me to see.
“Dr. Freud, I am feeling uncomfortable telling you this dream. I feel as if you are judging me.”
“So goot. Goot. Now who vould judge you?”
“I don’t know. I guess I felt judged every time I tried to tell my father anything sensitive.”
“Your fadder? Yes. Your fadder. And now back to da voman. Da voman in your dream. You said sometink about a garden hose? Da garden hose mid da vetness?”
“Yes. It was wet. Very shiny and wet.”
“Goot! Un did you ever have to vater a garden mid your fadder?”
“Well, I had my chores. We each had our chores back then. I sometimes had the watering chore. To move the sprinkler and to make sure I got all the corners of the lawn wet enough too. Father was very picky about making sure we got the corners of the yard wet enough so the grass would be evenly green and healthy.”
“Ah… Goot. So to da fadder vas very important you make all da grass green and even, ya?”
“Yes. We lived in a very nice neighborhood and appearances counted. He felt it was good to teach us to care for things and make sure they were well kept. Not only for appearances, but also for our own character development, responsibility, attention to details and all that. He was somewhat strict and perhaps judgmental, but he did succeed in raising responsible children.”
“So now ve can look at dis. You have had difficult feelings toward your fadder since a young age. He inspired sexual feelings in you and you didn’t know vat to do mid dem, so you displaced dem to the garden hose. He vas very strict and dis is why you continue to find fault in your own accomplishments. You are vaiting for your fadder to fulfill your needs for approval. You are shamed by your sexual attachment to him……”
I don’t remember leaving mud on the floor. I thought I had wiped it all up. Must have overlooked it when I was putting the last load of wood down.
I sat upright and noticed a strange scent in the air. It was as if I was in a different world. The wind was gone. In the silence, a serene light streamed through the soft smoky room. This was not the room I had been in only moments ago.
As he leaned forward from his small ladder I could see that familiar profile. Dr. Jung seemed to be putting a book back up on a high shelf. “So you were telling me why you left your analysis in Vienna and came here to speak with me. I am not surprised. I respect the man very much. He was once a friend and mentor to me. I value the tremendous contribution he made to the field and to my own studies. Freud pioneered a great deal with his insights and willingness to work with such unknown and difficult populations. Did you try the trance cure?”
“Yes. It was some of what we did, but he spent a good deal of time with me just listening and asking about my father. I guess there was a lot going on in my latency period. I realize now that my relationship with my father was more impacting and meaningful than I had before known. Perhaps it is tied in to my sexual dysfunction with my current husband. I have repressed a lot from my childhood and based much of my current life on denial and rationalization. Now that I know my problem is based in my projections, I have some understanding and my symptoms are not as overwhelming. But it doesn’t change the fact that I felt somewhat uncomfortable with his analysis and continue to question myself.”
“What you are saying does not surprise me. The man was convinced that it was always the sexual impulse or the death impulse. My own scientific research leads me to see that the unconscious is more dynamic and rich than he understood it to be. Let’s go back to the dream. The one you mentioned when you first came in . Tell me again about the woman, and the wet garden hose.”
Suddenly the images were spinning. I found somehow, that there were new ways of looking at this woman. This woman who smelled of roses was holding the garden hose. She was not separate from it. She was not afraid of it. She was simply holding it as the water moved out over the garden. And the roses…..They were growing quite nicely on the side. There was one bush. One bush that seemed to be shriveled. One rose bud on a withered bush. She seemed to take no notice as she moved the wet hose from bush to bush, singing.
“I believe you have much potential here. What was the shape of this garden?”
“Well now that you ask, it was interesting. It was a round garden. There were walkways that made it into a sectioned circle with four quadrants.”
“Yes. Yes. I would like you to draw this garden for me. Do a painting or drawing and bring it in for us to look at. Please, enjoy this. Take your time. The hose is bringing the necessary water in to feed the life of your soul. Was there anything else in the dream?”
I was falling. Fast…Dark…..Falling…falling…falling…. down into a moving sinking world of spinning sides that seemed to direct and channel my fall. There was a whirring noise and a fogginess and the fall continued as if there was no end. As if I was falling to the center of the earth and out the other side. I had no sense of time, only direction…down….down….down………
“Keep breathing now…. Yes. That is right. Keep your breath moving in the area of your eyes. And now in this area. See how this area is so immobile. Yes. You can breathe into it. Don’t worry. Breathe!”
He seemed so confident as he sat next to me. The sensations of my body shifted, moving here and there. Sometimes stuck and holding in my head or my arm, screaming… screaming with contracted agony.
“It is fine. You are releasing trapped energy. You must stay with it. You are a cultural and political prisoner of all that you were born into. Breathe now. Just breathe. I have not put up with Freud, gotten thrown out of several countries, and continued with my theories in the face of so many small minded beaurocrats for nothing. I know what I am doing. Continue.”
Suddenly I found that perhaps Freud was right about something. Now as I continued to breathe, I could feel my libido, my life force, rising. Rising out of not one area of my body, rising from several places. Moving, stopping, and changing direction as I found more pain and then release and then actual ecstatic moments of release.
“I must leave you now. They have come to arrest me. My colleague, Dr. Lowen will continue with you.”
I tried to rise and reach for my street clothes.
“Yes, I am Dr. Lowen. No need to get up. Keep going. You are welcome to meet me. I am happy to see you are doing such important work. But now I would like to ask you to please continue to breathe as you bend over this chair. There is still much body armor to work with. When I look at your body I can see that you are holding in. Your anxiety is simply energy you have not discharged. Yes, holding much in. We can work well together. You need to reestablish your orgiastic potency. We can work with that. Keep breathing. You are doing quite well. Don’t try to speak. Just breathe. That is where we will process the ore. I have other colleagues who will help you also. Doctors and lay people who have studied with me and my students. Yes. Relax now. Enough for one session.”
I opened my eyes to find myself exhausted and spent on the daybed. My fire was out. It was cold in the darkened house.
Strange. There was a greater sense of peace. No, not peace. More of a sense of, well, strange… That is to say a difference. More movement. There seemed to be more space and freedom in my body. I was exhausted, but somehow more alive, and slowly beginning to shiver with awareness of the cold.
Ahhh there….fire is so good. So elemental. So attractive. As I finished with the poker and relaxed in front of the fresh flames, I continued to marvel at the greater energy in my limbs. It was as if more of my body had come alive again. Alive after a great sleep. And more hungry for living. Now how did he have me do that? That breathing? None of this intellectual talking nonsense. I was moved from one reality to another. It is the inhibition of my breathing that has been the source of my personality problems. I must do more.
But now my stomach is making a racket. I best get myself to the kitchen and rustle up something warm and tasty. It is, after all, the season!
Is there any brandy in the pantry? Perhaps a hot toddy and some cookies as I enjoy the night. Yes. Here we are. Soon as this kettle whistles I can take these goodies back to my wonderful fire.
There you are you old Mutt! Snoozing under the kitchen table. You look so peaceful. You look so content. What? Well, look at that! Your paws are twitching! You are dreaming, for heavens sake! What on earth could you be dreaming? I guess we all have something to dream about, huh? Maybe those Jungians are right when they say we dream so that in the world of symbols we can work out our adaptive problems.
Adaptive problems? I have plenty of those! Isn’t that the nature of life on earth? Oh, who cares! I have a fire just waiting for me and my toes can’t wait to be toasting next to it! I’ll just set this little plate down here and pull my coverlet over myself. Where is that pillow? Oh, there. Let’s see, my cookies, my toddy, my coverlet, my fire, what could be better? A perfectly serene moment. Ahhhh…..
Uhhhh…. What is this? Something isn’t right. I can’t seem to really enjoy. Relax. Here I am with all I want. Peace and quiet and such a great scene. What is going on? I just can’t seem to…..
“OK, just relax. Relax and notice inside. Just pay attention inwardly. In your body. Notice what comes there when you ask, “How is my life going? What is the main thing for me right now?” Let the answers come. Sense within your body. Don’t go inside it. Just sense it. Notice it. Now say to yourself, “Yes, that’s there. I can feel that” Now notice what else is there. Notice that. Acknowledge and feel that. Put it aside. And continue to do this. There may be a several things. “
“Now, from among what came, just select one of those problems. Just one. Focus on that one. Don’t go inside it. Just notice it. Focus. Stay outside of it. There may be many sensations. Just stay with all of it. Just notice it. Let yourself feel the sense of all that.”
“It’s the paper. The paper I am suppose to write over the break. The one I am not doing. The one I am avoiding! I feel it. All sorts of things in my body.
“Great. Now what is the handle? What is the word that would describe the quality of this felt sense? Try different things and stay with it till it feels right.”
“Hmmmm…. Anxious? Yes, but not all. Hmmmm….. resentful? “
“It’s simpler than that. Stay with the felt sense, not your interpretation. Is it sticky? Contracted? Hard?”
“Hmmmmm……tense. Tense and tight. Yes, tight. Sort of heavy. Well, not really heavy, but a pulling down tension. Restless. It is sort of restless. Like I want to move and I can’t and I can’t sit still and relax. Hmmm…. Kinda’ grabbing. Yes, grabbing.”
“And what is it about this paper that feels grabbing? What makes the whole problem grabbing?”
“It seems to be grabbing like, grabbing my energy. I feel tired. Yes, tired. It seems to be grabbing my energy and I am just tired, but not able to relax.”
“Do you feel a felt shift with that?”
“Yes. Actually, the grabbing changed. It seems to have let go a little and moved into a different sensation.”
“So notice that. Notice the felt sense you have now and stay with that. What is that, what would be the word to describe what you are feeling now?”
“It’s a feeling in the bottom of my stomach. A sort of caving in feeling. No, not caving in. More like it already has caved in. Like the stomach acids are up and there is a hole or a cave in. “
“There… that’s it. I don’t know what my instructor wants. I feel like I don’t know what he really wants, so I can’t deliver. It is so open ended and I don’t want to put in all this energy to doing something that might be wrong. Might be unacceptable and only mean I spent my energy for nothing, when I really want to be able to just do what is required and relax and enjoy the holidays.”
“Oh, yes! That is it. I feel different. I get it! Maybe I can’t resolve the whole thing, but I feel different. Thanks, Dr. Gendlin.”
“My pleasure. I will see myself out.”
The cold wet swashing of Mutt’s tongue across my face jerked me from a lying position straight upright. The cup falling over, splashed the last cold ounces of my toddy across the rug.
“Stop it! Stop it!” My protests seemed to only inspire more wet enthusiasm all over my face. Tail flying, and front paws tackling me back down to the floor with laughter, muffled barks, and squeals.
The sound of one exploding cookie dish, finally inspired the needed shift in my mood and voice.
“NO! Stop! Stop! “ I stood up, pointing my hand to the ceiling, palm in, “Sit!” There was immediate obedience. In perfect attention she looked directly at me from the floor, tail moving under her, like a controlled giggle in church.
“That’s better now. Let’s clean this mess up.” She watched me collect the broken chards and upended mug. As I walked into the kitchen, she trailed me silently, tail still giggling.
“Dustpan….Dustpan…..Maybe in the pantry? Yes. There it is. Broom? Ah, yes. Now, paper towels. Life is messy, my dear. No matter how much we try to clean it up. Always something!” I enjoyed the sound of the beat, beat, beating of her tail against the doorway tapping out it’s own rhythm as I cleaned up the last evidence of our fun.
“So, who wants to work with me now? I’m available.”
I looked at this man and thought to myself, “Another crazy German Jewish physician! What’s up with that?”
My time with Carl Rogers had been so soft. His non-invasive style had been quite gentle. Never had I been so impressed by the hidden power of questions asked with acceptance. Although he was not an overtly spiritual man, there was a sort of wisdom to his approach. He behaved as a person. I felt his personhood. This was something quite unique and different, as I hadn’t felt it from any of my previous therapists. He seemed to be genuinely interested in understanding me. Really allowing me to bring out what was true inside myself, instead of interpreting it for me or pushing me into some body position or other technique in order to get somewhere. I found that when I could give voice to my feelings and have him fully understand and accept them, I could accept them too. And somehow myself and my feelings would then change, effortlessly.
His client centered approach affirmed me, the client, and my inner capacities for insight and self healing. I felt that I had entered into a very genuine relationship with him and as a result, with myself.
After this mild mannered Midwesterner, California with it’s Big Sur coast line, naked hot tubbers, and the famous Fritz Perls was a bit of a culture shock. I quietly chuckled inside
“So who has some unfinished business or perhaps dream they would like to explore?”
I don’t remember how I got myself into the hot seat, but here I was.
“Now be the garden hose. You are the wet garden hose. Tell us what it is like being this garden hose?”
“Well, I feel very, uh, alive. There is a lot of juice running through me. I am just bursting forth with what I have to offer.”
“It feels really nice to have her, the woman, holding me. She has nice hands. I like her singing. I can feel her warmth. It’s quite sensual really. Yes, I feel quite sensual!”
“And now, will you please be the withered rosebud.”
“I am almost dead. I am dead, but somehow I am still conscious. But I am dry and brittle. I have little to hold me. I have nothing to offer, because I am so empty of life. I am different from all the other beautiful rose bushes here. They are all thriving. But I am shriveled. Dried up and shriveled.”
“Could you talk about this more? It seems to be something very important. Your being different from the others. Being shriveled.”
“Well, I don’t like being here. I don’t like this at all. I am not happy. I am almost dead. But it doesn’t seem to matter. I am depressed and ugly and useless. All the others seem to have all they need to thrive, and I am not able to be like them. It is so distressful for me. . Something is missing in me.” There was a lump in my throat now. My eyes were dry. Like the dry bud, I didn’t even have enough of what I needed to cry.
Mesmerized by the flames, I added more logs to the fire. The colorful dancers undulating from the wood seemed to be having a party. So many costumed souls. It was an incredible party. Everyone was invited. Everyone? Yes. Everyone in their most essential form. A parts party. People where dancing and singing and flying and doing all sorts of hilarity and celebration. I moved through the crowd. Jokesters, Magicians, Emperors, Priests and Priestesses…….It was like walking through a living Tarot deck. Things were so mobile and multiple. Groups of two or more gathered to exchange and express themselves and then moving apart to form other groups with new dances, songs and activities. And there in the midst of the crowd I saw James Hillman, laughing, joking, smiling, signing books.
I moved on into another room and saw a different set of furnishings. Several people were sitting quietly. Some reading. Some writing. Some painting or drawing.
To the right, there was another room. In it was a slide show. I could hear the voice of Arnold Mindell. He was explaining the dreaming body. But someone was standing now, raising their hand. It was Dr. Stan Groff. His impressive size a contrast to slight little Arnie. He was reviewing his research on drugs and experimentation that led to his latest breath work. Arnie was patiently smiling. “Yes, and that is also a contribution to our world community. I would love for you to present. What is your secondary process as you wait now? Stan, I look forward to your contribution.”
There was a musky scent somewhere nearby. I noticed a stairway at the far wall. A cellar! I descended. Lit dimly by candle sconces, the steps were stone. No they were wood, but old wood. Old petrified wood. As I descended they became larger and turned to granite. At last I reached the landing and looked down to discover Dr. Jung on the lower floor.
He was looking down, and as I followed his gaze I observed what he was so intently watching. A man. Someone who looked like Merlin, pouring over a book with symbols strewn around the room and on the walls. There was a deep pool beside him, and in the pool the moon and stars and all the cosmos seemed to be reflected.
Upstairs behind me I could hear the clicking slides and lecturing sounds…..beyond them, the muffled revelry of the party. But below me was a focused almost undisturbable silence that seemed to emanate from the magical pool.
And then I noticed it wasn’t a silence at all. Imperceptible at first, I realized it was a sort of hum. A hum that seemed to carry both silence and sound. Light and darkness. Something so numinous and mysterious that it took me into itself and carried me further in. Further back. Back to visions of cave paintings with shadows of men dancing like animals. Dancing in the firelight before these magnificent ancient paintings. Pulsing, beating sounds. Drums. Pulsing. Pulsing. Pulsing…
The sound pulled me into itself and now I was the paintings. I was the bison. The lion. The mammoth. The deer. Peering into the night. Peering into the flint blade that was drawing blood from my side. Running. Feeling every sinew in my body moving and flowing with life as my blood moved and moved me forward. I was running with absolute abandon. Running with intention. Running for miles and miles through veins and arteries. Running into capillaries. Exchanging with cells. Giving and receiving. Life and death. In and out. Moving faster, faster, faster. Whirling and orbiting around a center. Around THE center. And going still faster, I was breaking through the barrier, the barrier of sound, through time, expanding ….exploding….into light…. into silence…. into space….into the cosmos….into infinity…. into…..Ein Sof.
Staring up from depths of the pool, I flew into Merlin’s eyes. Upward, penetrating Jung’s countenance. Leaping into the hands and arms that were gripping the rail of the landing above him. Turning back to ascend the stairs, as this body made its way through the room of students, filling everything, bursting through the slide presentations and lectures, into the celebrating crowd. And there I was with all the dancers, reveling. Among them so many familiar faces: Virgina Satir, Milton Erikson, Fritz Perls, Carl Rogers, Richard Bandler, and so many others. We were all dancing together. Dancing on the floors above the pool. Always moving together and apart in kinetic ecstasy. So many of us. Bodies were dancing all around me. The heat of everyone’s body warming my own. Raising my spirit. Raising my heartbeat. Raising my temperature. Burning.
I jerked back, banging my head and back against the day bed, the odor of singed hair invading my senses. Mutt was immediately at my side, anxious, excited by the sudden movement and strange smell.
“It’s OK, honey. I’m OK.” I wrapped my arms around her soft furry body reassuring myself .
“My hair. My singed hair! My hot skin.” I suddenly felt the loneliness here, by myself in this house. Me, the dried up single middle aged woman. Separate. Alone in this isolated environment.
Suddenly, she was beside me. Standing above me. Singing. With her hose. From her arms the great wet green snake was gushing water through its open mouth. Pouring its wetness all over me. Penetrating my singed hair, onto my head, cooling my face, running in rivulets everywhere down over my body. Over every inch of my body.
The water kept pouring forth. Penetrating, deeply into places inside of me. I could feel it soothing my skin. Deeper, something inside was filling. And from the bottoms of my feet, through the floor, as if from the earth itself, the spent waters were moving upward into me, into my tissue; muscles and bones.
I was growing fuller and richer. Something mysterious, something special, was expanding inside. Something important was reaching me. A thirst being quenched all the way into my groin, my belly, my heart, and up into my head. I was coming alive. Opening. Blossoming forth. Bursting with energy. The smell of roses everywhere; in me, around me, from me, permeating the world.
The early morning light penetrated my skin, and as I opened my budding self to the new day, I awakened to the fresh bouquet of roses on my nightstand.