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The Emotional Work of Enlightenment in Aging

While mystical experiences (direct, first-hand experiences of the divine) can happen to anyone at any time, the progressive movement into mystical consciousness requires both psychological and spiritual work. Because emotional wounds distract and disrupt our spiritual growth, we need to understand and heal them. Specifically, we need to address both our current and our historical wounds, for there is no "end run" around them into enlightenment.

Current wounds involve the conflicts we have in our current relationships with our spouse, family members, bosses and co-workers, friends or neighbors - anyone who has the power to upset us. We need to identify these troubled relationships and find coping strategies to better manage them. Sometimes this involves just talking through the problem with the other person; sometimes it involves seeking guidance from friends or professionals.

Historical wounds typically involve the deeper hurts and traumas of childhood. Because we were younger, more vulnerable and more dependent, and because the wounding relationships may have gone on for years, the wounds were more profound and now affect how we live our lives. Interestingly, our more significant current problems nearly always open up these historical wounds. Old wounds also take longer to work through - in fact, we usually work on them our whole lives in different ways at different stages.

One of the ways we can do this emotional healing is through "inner child" work. Whenever we are traumatized as children, we cope by cutting off our natural needs and feelings, hiding them in the recesses of the unconscious. These needs and feelings do not go away even though we may totally cut off awareness of them. So our work is to find the inner child that still feels the wound and let him/her back into consciousness to express those cut-off feelings. This is usually the work of psychotherapy, because most of us hide our childhood wounds even from ourselves, and defensively believe we had "Leave-it-to-Beaver" childhoods.

If all this is thought, can't we just stop thinking and let it go? The problem is that the levels of thought embedded in deep emotional wounds are both far more extensive and resilient than we realize. The majority are also unconscious, hence we experience their impact when they trigger emotions but don't see their operation. Getting inside the wounds, therefore, necessitates finding and understanding the inward path back into childhood, which often calls for therapy.

In aging, we have the time, wisdom and lifelong perspective to see how all this operates and to make great strides in both healing our wounds and dismantling thought patterns that pollute and conceal divine consciousness. We can more easily heal our old wounds, forgive the past, and spend increasing amounts of time in awakened, thought-free consciousness. Then the magic happens and we discover a freedom never before possible.
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