Opening our Hearts to Pain
Rick Phillips - Excerpted from a talk given in Texas, U.S.A.

My life is about helping people expand their awareness into life and empowering them to take responsibility for their own healing. The basis of empowerment is our relationship to Spirit. Spirit exists within the unified field but unfortunately, our ordinary awareness usually exists in a field of separation. Our senses project us out to the superficial world: the world of form and matter.

In this field of separation, we have polarities at work here. Everyone has to question these polarities, for example, material and spiritual, light and dark, and the judgments we associate with these polarities. Obviously, duality is the primary issue that we need to examine. The cycles of life and the Yin and Yang are as fundamental and as natural as we can find. Without the experience of one, we cannot have a point of reference to the other. We attempt to discern between the light and shadow. We are taught to assign value based on society’s cultural biases.

“This is good. This is bad. This is right. This is wrong.”

We are taught by parents, by society, by the consequences of our actions, and by the current rules of the particular culture we are living in. But have we questioned deeply what this dichotomy of life is truly about? Do we see how it evolves through time? Do we appreciate the importance of “personal choice” in a dualistic reality? Do we understand how choice is a powerful tool of freedom, how it plots our course of karma, how it determines the lessons we have come into life to learn. Because, without a doubt, our personal choices in life effect every living soul in the universe!

Choice is made possible by duality. Do I choose this or that? Do I see the yin and the yang of this possible choice? Am I free to look from the opposite point of view? Am I able to exchange places and switch roles? And whatever I choose, the experience will be what teaches me about life. Does my action expand my understanding of life? Does it teach me a vital lesson for my evolution, and what are the consequences? Do I hurt others through this choice? Do I hurt myself?

Most, if not all of us, are not so conscious about our choices. We just act, sometimes paying little attention to what we are doing and their consequences. We do it the way we have been taught or programmed. For example, we may not recycle the aluminum can because we were taught to just throw it in the trash. We do it unconsciously, because it’s easier to be unconscious.

We raise our voices in anger. Or we say something hurtful to another rather than be compassionate to them. Why? Because it’s easier to be unconscious. And even now many of you will judge yourselves as failing to act the way you think you should based on what I’m saying. This tendency to judge yourselves or others is a fundamental issue and a big challenge for us all. How conscious are you of your judgments? Do you see how you unconsciously repeat this pattern of behavior and therefore perpetuate separation? This unconsciousness of ours diminishes our clarity of choice and diminishes our appreciation of all the possibilities an experience may provide us.

This is true for judgment also. When I judge, I separate from whoever or whatever I judge. If I judge another person, watch how this person immediately defends him/herself. How does it feel to be judged by another person? Do you close yourself down or start to fight against this subtle or not so subtle attack?

The most painful type of all judgments is self-judgment. Because to judge yourself is to deny the Spirit within. When I feel that heavy judgmental energy directed toward myself, its separating influence immediately triggers the ego in all its infamous glory. It pushes the true Self out of the picture. “I’m bad, I’m evil, I’m not good enough, I’m ashamed.” How can Spirit, my very essence be evil? Judgment tries to convince us of that. And if it succeeds, we will live life as hell. The tragedy of judgment is the number 1 issue that I work with in people. It is the ultimate challenge, because it mirrors our separation from God.

I’d like to share a recent experience with you that illustrates all these ideas I’ve been talking about. In September, my wife Rachel and I were invited to do a tour for my first book in Poland. We have traveled to a lot of places, but I never thought I would work in Eastern Europe. So I was eager to go. Rachel had not been there since 1972 when she was working on a film project about the Holocaust. All she said about Poland was that she remembered it as very “grey.” Now that there has been a radical political shift, the people have more freedom to seek their truth, and continue their collective healing. We found them hungry for anything spiritually nourishing. We had large crowds showing up for our lectures and workshops, and we had a lot of people in deep pain from decades of abuse -- harsh child rearing practices, a lot of repression of feelings, a history of defeat, and the list went on. It was exhausting for us, many times frustrating, the collective depression is imprinted deeply.

In the middle of our trip, Rachel wanted to take a group of people to Auschwitz as a spiritual pilgrimage of remembrance. When she was there 24 years ago, she had no governmental permission to travel, so she covertly hired an illegal taxi to take her to Auschwitz. It is different now. Auschwitz is a museum. It is clean, the propaganda is evident, but if there is a place on the earth that triggers immediate unconsciousness, this is it. Just the thought that you are walking into a meticulously engineered place of human extermination is enough to send you running for the hills.

Even though I thought I was prepared, I was not prepared for the need to shut down, the need to not feel, and the need to withdraw into safety. What a test! How do you keep your heart open in the midst of such overwhelming energy? What would happen if you were able to feel the pain of just one prisoner’s fear, not to mention millions? The need to go unconscious is the ego’s need to protect itself. It is instinctual, it is automatic, and it is easy. When there is pain, we run away, shut down, or try to fight it. It’s the fight-flight mechanism of our sympathetic nervous system. This reaction to pain is not taught. It is genetically coded and is as old as life itself. How do you stay open and conscious when your body is being pumped full of crisis hormones? Is control the only answer in a situation like this? Is shut-down the answer for pain?

As a psychospiritual counselor, I can tell you repression only buries or covers it up. Repressed pain does not go away; it just grows unconsciously inside of you. You may have been successful in covering it up, or denying that there was a problem. But, even the small problem can fester and grow into the demon. I deal with this in people everyday. There is only one thing that I have found that works.

In psychology there is an important teaching for dealing with pain. As I said the instinct is to go unconscious. So the teaching says, where there is pain there is the need for attention. Pain is a warning signal. It is calling awareness to it. So go into the pain, go deep into the pain and correct its source. Emotionally, this is the only answer that works. When people go into their pain, only then can they find the source, maybe the purpose, and hopefully the teaching of this experience.

As I walked into Auschwitz, I realized that I had a challenge on my hands and a choice. Do I ignore the pain? Do I walk through the crematorium as an objective scientist studying the architecture? Actually there were a few people doing just that. Maybe that is what we have to do to avoid the suffering. Isn’t that logical? Isn’t there enough suffering anyway? Why open to more?

This was the choice to make. But I also know my ego and how it likes to go unconscious and not feel at a moment like this. This trip to Poland and to Auschwitz was about working with pain, about healing and about expanding consciousness. So if I could not do it, how can I expect others to do what I am unable or unwilling to do? This was one of those important moments in my life: to transcend my ego’s fear, to go beyond animal instinct and take a chance to embody Spirit and to choose to trust Higher Self in a time of challenge. To break out of the norm and risk a different way.

So I’m standing at the front gate of Auschwitz looking at the infamous sign that says, “Arbeit Mach Frei” - “ Work will set you free” and I realize that I have to work, right now. I opened my heart to the pain and it rushed in and my heart broke. I should not say it broke, it shattered! The pain was multidimensional and I became aware of several levels of reality. First, I felt like I was one of those Jews being destroyed because of religious judgment and racism. That I was being eliminated because of judgment. Second, I saw myself as the victimizer. I was the Nazi, and my humanity was overcome by programming, by fear, by power, and I was forced into unconsciousness by this heavy weight of pain. Thirdly, I then became the collective, the world humanity, addicted to the pain of the victim and victimizer throughout history, unable to let go of my vicious games of polarity and denial of Spirit. And lastly, I was Rick, crying in this moment of unbelievable pain.

Yet, in this moment I was still conscious, still alive, and still here in this difficult moment but I realized I was OK. I hadn’t been destroyed. As a matter of fact, I was fully alive and one with the deepest part of me. My broken heart was only the personal heart which was already rebuilding, somehow resilient from a deeper place of strength. And My Divine Heart was responding to this situation with incredible love, with incredible compassion, a Divine Presence that had not been overshadowed by the pain, but had stepped forward into the pain. At this moment God was present in Auschwitz. Instead of a place of darkness, I felt it as a place of Light, a holy place for us to know God, to learn the deepest karmic themes that Earth can give us. Instead of judgment toward our dark side, I could view it with compassion. I looked down and I saw a rose garden filled with red roses. I picked one as my token of healing and renewal. But it was what I carried in my heart now that I will forever treasure and that is what I offer to you today.

We are not separate as our ego identity would like us to believe. We are part of a whole. We are the world and we are one consciousness. This unified consciousness when manifested in our world becomes a duality. The One splits in two, into the Yin and Yang. Because of this energy of separation, this power of duality, we lose awareness of the underlying interconnectedness. We lose awareness of our source and the ultimate reality. When we lose awareness, we suffer. We enter into judgment which polarizes us even further; it separates us from our source.

Separation is the first imprint into the collective consciousness. It creates duality and then we assign value to each polarity. Judgment is the emotional energy that perpetuates separation and negates unity. It is the pain of judgment that shuts our heart down. It is that shut down that diminishes the voice of Spirit within us. Then we only hear the screaming of ego, the pain of separation. Some people walk into Auschwitz and only hear the fear within and the panic of self-preservation. Others open to their true voice within.

The difference here is consciousness. Have I done my homework? Have I worked on my unconsciousness and my fears? Have I confronted my pain? In other words, have I worked on my emotional issues? If I have not, then the ego defenses will many times run the show and a closed heart will be my response to the challenges of life.

I can tell you without hesitation or doubt, that there is an answer to this human predicament. There is an answer to our wounds of the past and to our history of suffering. And you already know this answer. The answer is Spirit. There is no doubt that the Spiritual energy is the greatest healer. The energy of Spirit is the highest vibration, it holds infinite love, infinite forgiveness and infinite possibilities. Just a moment of that energy can dissolve our attachments. But we have to choose it. We have to call it in.

Jesus Christ, Buddha, or Krishna, it does not matter who, are prepared to offer you infinity with open arms, but if you say “no”, if you do not choose to accept their offering, no healing will occur. It is up to you. You have the power to heal yourself; it is your choice and only your choice. I ask you to make this choice, to take this step for yourself and for the world. When you heal yourself, you set in motion a wave of healing that affects all of creation. You are the World! Open your heart, open your consciousness, and ask God to set in motion the opportunities for healing. That’s all it takes to start the process. And when those opportunities present themselves, go for it! And realize, your choice to be here today, is a choice to go for it!