with a Purpose
Written in loving memory of Roger Woolger, in appreciation of his remarkable capacity as a Western Shaman. He opened the gates of the imaginal realms to many others as well as to me,
and is much missed by his students.
If you find this section too concentrated to be easily digestible - as is likely if you are relatively new to this work - feel free to skip over it for the moment.
Return to it when you have imaginal experiences of your own to compare to it - then it will make more sense - and hopefully, then, even be quite fascinating!..........
In the Autumn of 1995, I was concluding a long Psychotherapy training and had therefore been working at depth with an exceptional therapist for some years, delving into my personal history and undergoing much transformation; altogether I had a sense of being relatively ‘sorted’! Looking back, I see that the Jungian and Buddhist bias of my therapists then gave me profound experiences of working with dreams, ‘active imagination’ and mindfulness, which were rich and valuable.
When someone lent me Roger Woolger’s ‘Other Lives, Other Selves’ – subtitled ‘A Jungian Psychotherapist discovers Past Lives’ – I was intrigued and felt drawn to experience this new territory. Little did I know that I was embarking on a roller-coaster adventure that continues to this day!
What I propose to describe here is the experiential learning made available to me through participating in this work, and the gradual expansion of my perceptions and spiritual understanding which resulted. In retrospect, I see that it has fitted me to attempt a particular kind of healing work – Universal Ancestral Healing – which is still in process of development. This article describes some of the foundation work.
Plunging into the psychodrama and bodywork of ‘Past-Life Work’, as it was then called, gave a shock to the system that it would hardly be possible to exaggerate! What became available were a succession of HUGE releases and transformations which had previously been inaccessible; and emotional residues accumulated in the body – of grief, of anger, of fear – could be cathartically and meaningfully (because of being linked to a ‘story’) released.
Roger liked to quote W.B.Yeats – ‘There is for every man or woman some one scene, some one adventure, some one picture, that is the image of our secret life; for wisdom first speaks in images, and this one image, if we would brood over it our whole life long, would lead our souls, disentangled from unmeaning circumstance and the ebb and flow of the world, into that far household, where the undying gods await all those whose souls have become simple as flame, whose bodies have become quiet as an agate lamp.’
Historical Miscarriages of Justice – now perceived for what they were
My story, which surfaced repeatedly in difference guises, was the archetypal fate of the so-called ‘Witch’ or ‘Heretic’. It had seemingly endless variations but the essence was of being scapegoated for something which the authorities at the time judged to be a crime; where some important truth was at issue and in which my refusal to recant brought me into opposition with those currently in power and determined to remain so. ‘Evidence’ was invariably rigged and they attempted to ‘persuade’ me by force, threats and violence, not by any kind of principled arguments. Since I courageously maintained my resistance, the upshot was being condemned, and punished and/or killed in a gruesome and ingenious variety of ways. Such scenarios generated a wealth of residues to clear, not only in the body, but also in terms of relationships, ethics and values.
I repeatedly re-entered, realistically re-lived, and cleared these ‘memories’ – in the process, what did I learn? That any individual lifetime, however horrible, does not last forever, but that consciousness does go on. That after each lifetime comes a time of healing: that a change of Light and in the quality of the atmosphere facilitates separation from what has given pain so that there can be a letting go of the negative and an incorporation of the positive from any lifetime. That each lifetime happens for a purpose - to give an opportunity for learning and Soul growth, often in the face of supremely testing challenge. That figures of Light do reside in higher planes – as described in the literature of all the great spiritual traditions – and they will come to help if called. That there can be a process of progressive illumination through contact with mystic lights. Finally, that the repeated experience of annihilation gradually wears away the essential fear of death – it definitely does not glamorise it, or make it in any way looked for before its time, but I became reassured by a sense of a familiar process. I have survived it many times and will do so again – it is not the end of the world! Such unshakeable trust is a great gift from this work – comparable, I understand, to the absence of fear in the face of death felt by many who have undergone a Near-Death-Experience.
Right from the start this was a shared experience with my contemporaries in the professional training – facilitating the process for others was practised in parallel to being on the receiving end oneself, and insights into possibilities for healing would come directly from the transformation one had undergone oneself. It was not something one ‘did’ to someone else. But because of working very deeply with a range of individuals, one did become familiar with all the key traumatic stories of humankind, not as abstract concepts, but reliving them with all their emotional and spiritual power, resulting in a progressive cultivation of the heart and, to some degree, an increase in wisdom and compassion. In totally grasping the principle that ‘the meaner and nastier a person is the more they are hurting’, one can develop the capacity to listen and attend to Shadow ‘characters’ as well as apparently ‘innocent’ victims, so that inclusive and comprehensive work becomes feasible. No-one, ultimately, will be ‘beyond the Pale’ - though it might require the learning of multitudes of incarnations to acquire the necessary learning for all Shadow sides to come to consciousness and to transform. All of us still in incarnation do still have something to learn and contribute. Humility in the face of this is always appropriate, alongside a willingness to continue to scrutinise our own behaviour......If we are co-creating an evolution in human consciousness we must be discriminating in our choices over and over again – they are bound to shift with time as some behaviours become no longer acceptable.
Expansion of consciousness
In workshops, Roger had always been selfless in his willingness to demonstrate his work before the group and one frequently had the sense that work ‘in the centre’ was not only personal – it was representative work for everyone, for each individual there and for the collective. The culmination of my work on torture scenarios was one such piece, when an extreme and terrifying death by torture was healed in the presence of a huge energetic being of Light, quite palpable to many who witnessed it. Those present could see the marks on ‘my’ body as they changed and healed. The power of that experience initiated me into another level of the work as after that I stopped seeing it in ‘personal’ terms. For the healing and resolution of this scene I had been guided to such a heightening and expansion of consciousness that I was permanently affected by it. I knew such healing was possible: I had lived it. And the result was an extremity of joy and radiance.
Vernon Watkins, in his illuminating poem Taliesin and the Spring of Vision’ says
‘The measure of past grief is the measure of present joy’.
In other words, the heights are only accessible authentically when you have had the capacity to plumb the depths with conscious awareness – as in the torture scenario. The process of getting there had involved the progressive training of the ‘muscle’ which is the whole body, until it is capable of co-operating with expressive emotional release without any self-consciousness.
Around this time, Roger coined the phrase Deep Memory Process for this work – an improvement on Past-Life Work as it more accurately captures the sense of being engaged in something dynamic and transformative involving the depths of one’s being. It was not until I reached this point that I felt myself ready for graduation as a DMP therapist and presented my case-study and portfolio. But I sensed that I could continue to grow through this work, continued to attend workshops, and began to assist Roger. Two subsequent pieces of work were especially memorable and lifted me to new levels of consciousness.
In 2003, I felt I needed to work again ‘in the centre’. I have never shared this experience except with those who were present at the time, as it seemed truly beyond anything I could express – no words seemed adequate to do justice to it, and it seemed disrespectful to the experience itself to attempt – and fail – to convey its splendour. But if you have had similar openings you may understand.
I embarked on a grisly story of humiliation as a despised cripple at a late mediaeval court, eventually being dragged around behind a cart for the jeering amusement of my tormentors. However, to my astonishment, instead of the healing sequence I expected, I experienced a spontaneous enantiodromia (the technical Jungian term for a swinging round to the opposite) and went into a bodily experience of ecstatic joy – the trembling of fear was transformed to that of bliss and ecstasy. The ‘life’ that I then revisited was one of crystalline beauty in which I was not bounded by the normal limitations of time and space. I felt capable of ‘magic’, according to ordinary notions of what should be possible, with the capacity to evaporate through rock and be in different places at once, with an ultra-sensitive awareness. The tears of many of those who witnessed the session testified to its authenticity. It definitely felt like an experience of a higher reality, not a fantasy or escapist one. Roger said that such a thing had not happened before in his experience of his work – he felt that it signified a coming to an end of a particular line of karma which, it seemed, had worked itself out.
The second memorable piece of work was the culmination of Roger’s first ancestral workshop in England, in 2003. The ancestor I was working with was my paternal grand-mother. Embittered by the disappointments and limitations of her life, confined by a parochial and domestic existence and quite lacking the education and opportunities which her intellectual potential deserved, she spent her final years cursing and criticising. Given the opportunity to vent her rage and share her grief, she had the relief of being listened to with compassionate understanding – but alongside a whole multitude of other embittered, cursing spirits – mainly women - who had never been listened to and encouraged to tell their stories. Roger, though facilitating, coughed and spluttered as his embittered grand-mother also flew by!
Although this was ‘my’ ancestral work in a sense, it opened a portal of understanding about the potential reach and import of the work. The personal ‘stuff’ was only a way in, to enable us to help great numbers of spirits, similarly distressed to the one who came forward from my own ancestry. All were enabled to go ‘to the Light’ together, and there was a very significant clearing of accumulated negativity. It was palpable in the atmosphere to all present.
Residues of war
The stage was then essentially set to embark on some of the most urgent clearing required in the world – that of the residues of war in 20th century Europe. A conference was arranged for this purpose in June, 2007, in Graz, Austria, a location very central to the activities of the Nazi Holocaust, but I was unable to be present as my husband was ill. I had, however, booked to go and, as a postscript to the conference, intended to take a train from Vienna to Krakow – a very attractive place to visit, so I’d heard……….I wasn’t even aware, consciously, that Auschwitz was there! When I realised, the train ‘jaunt’ from Vienna to Krakow took on a different colour entirely, and I knew that my contribution to work on the theme of the conference necessitated a trip there.
I knew, this time, that in choosing to go there would be work for me to do. It was elective service. I knew I could not visit such a place without being sensitive to residues, but felt that what I had learned about being a clear channel and having a capacity for energetic bodily release and change, could make a contribution to some of the clearing still required there. But I did not know what form it would take.
As usual, it was something of a surprise. It seemed to me that the Jewish part of the story was already in very good hands. What I learned for the first time, and what touched me most intimately, was the largely untold story of the Gypsy block at Auschwitz. My excellent guide didn’t know much about them, and said there were no books especially devoted to them. The Nazi records gave their numbers and names but with no personal stories.
On my return, I tracked down ‘The Destiny of Europe’s Gypsies’, one of a series of studies in the ‘Dynamics of Persecution and Elimination’, which partly explained why I felt such an affinity with them. But I, nevertheless, didn’t feel that it was because of a past life as a gypsy that I felt the connection – rather that I could offer myself to work on their behalf because I had already healed the wounds that were similar to theirs and therefore had the strength and compassion to do it.
The healing required was of a little gypsy girl, distraught because of being separated from mother, father, and all the rest of her family – all equally distraught and lost in a seemingly interminable grey and numb post-Holocaust bardo. It was actually the frantic calling-out of the child (using my voice) which enabled huge numbers of them to waken up and reconnect with one another, prior to moving on. This work was completed as part of the November, 2007, professional Trauma training – and this, in turn, gave me the expertise and knowledge necessary to complete a very intricate piece of post-holocaust bardo work with a Jewish child who had lost her Mummy, when I assisted at an introductory DMP workshop soon after.
With these experiences behind me I helped to plan an Irish Conference on the theme of ‘Exile and Return’, feeling that, although I do not, as far as I am aware, have any Irish ancestors, I could nevertheless offer to be of service in helping to heal aspects of Ireland’s troubled history. By tuning into exile/migration/displacement experiences in my own, Scottish, ancestry, my heart could open in empathy with those suffering equivalent distress, and allow my body to be used as a clearing-house for the distress of those who continue to recycle painful feelings but no longer have physical bodies through which the suffering can be expressed and therefore finally finished with.
I feel it is a great privilege to be able to be used as a channel in this way. With practice, it becomes something which is not a strain, from which you do not need to be ‘rescued’ and from which you do not need to ‘recover’. But it does need practice, and fairly extensive cultivation of the necessary skills.
With this capacity to clear more-than-personal historical residues in place, I became an enthusiastic participant in what Roger then came to call ‘Ancestral Field Work’. I was keen to teach others what I had learned so far and began to run trainings at Eastcott Barn in Devon, so that a small, but skilled and dedicated, group emerged, able to develop the work further. Two specific projects were initiated by me – in Liverpool in 2009-10, and in Western Scotland in 2011. This was a time of profound learning – partly about the positive potential and reach of the work, but also about the pitfalls that have to be negotiated in order to bring it to full fruition. The roller-coaster has continued............
To read about the astonishing healing that was creatively facilitated as part of the Liverpool project, see Page 11 – Clearing Residues of Liverpool’s History.
I hope, too, that I have already said enough to reassure people doing comparable work of the authenticity of my process – and that it can be replicated by others to good effect by following the guidelines below...........
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