Illustration of a Neanderthal Woman: John Sibbick (with permission from the artist)
Ellen Korman Mains came up with this title as she reflected on her week and how she’d been relating with a disturbing part of herself. Diana Scalera and Ellen engaged in a conversation about being with difficult experiences of ourselves with the help of our spiritual and focusing practices.
Diana Scalera went to Catholic school until the 8th grade when she gave up on Catholicism and organized religion in general as a spiritual practice because most of what she experienced from her Catholic education was demeaning treatment, punishment, and fear. It was not until she began focusing that her connection to spirit emerged. In one of her first sessions with Kevin McEvenue, a Neanderthal woman became present in her body to support her in a situation in which she felt weak and powerless. Diana was able to sense into how strong these bones were and how they were being offered as a gift to guide her. From that point on, Diana let go of a traditional idea of spirituality and became open to her own innate connection to spirit.
Ellen Korman Mains grew up in a Jewish home of Holocaust survivors where ties to previous generations seemed completely cut. At the age of 19, she met a Tibetan Buddhist teacher who emphasized trusting direct experience over dogma or wishful thinking, and this began her spiritual journey. Twenty years later, illness and energy work broadened her sense of connection to the invisible world and to the “larger system” that Gene Gendlin referred to. Later still, traveling to Poland to embrace her family’s past led to extraordinary openings described in her book, Buried Rivers: A Spiritual Journey into the Holocaust, as ancestors began showing up to support her. Since 2011, both Focusing and meditation have been important venues for trusting her direction and spiritual connection, and helping others to trust theirs.
In the video below, Diana and Ellen discuss how both spirituality and focusing live in their bodies and how they support their struggles with the “Little Monsters” with a sense of befriending what’s there by holding both with equal regard.
Thank you to John Sibbick for allowing us to use his wonderful drawing of a Neanderthal woman.
We hope you enjoy this conversation about how two individuals find their way.
I attend a meeting where I suddenly find myself vigorously, downright angry, opposing an initiative to determine “who will be accepted to our group, and who won’t”.
I Do Not Want Everybody In!
After the meeting, I am with my own anger. Ashamed. What is this about? Why do I feel such strong anger in a matter that is essentially just a matter of conversation?
I start to feel a strong lump in my stomach. The lump is not just a lump. It has boundaries. The walls that guard. Disqualify.
There is a small me inside the lump, who is aware of the boundary because not all should be allowed inside. The lump is not just me, but it is us. “They” belong outside. Those others. Those who are dubious. Different. Those who don’t belong to us.
The lump pushes the diaphragm so that it is difficult for me to breathe. There is right, and there is wrong. Just those two. I don’t precisely know the rules for right and wrong, nevertheless, a part of me feels I should know who belongs to us, and who doesn’t.
There is somebody outside of me, who is part of us and who knows…and is now testing me if I know it too, because I MUST know.
A situation happened recently that felt so uncomfortable that I couldn’t leave it alone. I just had to address it and so I did. It was a very familiar event—having dinner with somebody or a group of people and walking away feeling so unsatisfied, hating every moment of it.
In fact, I realized I could kvetch for days and I would still remain unsatisfied. This time, I did something quite different. I paused and found a safe place to ask my body what was so unsatisfying here? And when I could pause like that, I could feel my body appreciating the question and it felt very present in a different way than the usual chatter of thinking about something I don’t like, and why!
This is what came, being with that kind of ‘background feeling’ at a dinner gathering where I came away feeling so very unsatisfied wondering why, again! What came was a real surprise and left me feeling in a very different place!
Join me here and see what comes for you in this kind of situation where you’re feeling either uncomfortable or more—unsatisfied.
Actually, they might feel slightly different. Feeling unsatisfied often points to the possibility of what it would feel like to feel fully satisfied. Feeling uncomfortable seems more like doing something, like making a list about what to do about it, but not necessarily point to something that could change the body experience, more like a quick fix to get rid of that feeling.
In this recording, I discover something very different as a possibility I never dreamed of.
This exercise allowed me to connect with my own warm and the people that are warm around me. It also helped me to connect to the hostility that was there when I grew up and my struggle to get a bit of warm.
After listening to the intunement for a second time, I have been dancing with both, the hostility and the warm, and I am surprised that I am able to find that warm place in me not only for me but for others, no matter their hostility.
Inviting my body into the warm makes me feel like I am in my own cocoon and I feel less threatened. I can always come back here and make the choice to engage with other human beings who can be warm and nice.