When life-threatening disease strikes, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Strong swings in feelings often combine with a sense of overwhelm to create additional stresses that do not support the healing process. Sometimes our well-intentioned recommendations just add to our confusion and emotional volatility. We end up not knowing what to do to help ourselves and those that we love the most.
It’s important to remember that the most valuable help we can give is to create a stronger connection with the wellsprings of health and life within. This we can do by asking for three life issues and interviewing the personification of the strongest feeling that comes up. If we do so, we can create a sense of empowerment and inner peace that can make the best of misfortune and approaching death.
Derek’s cancer reminded him of the colors orange and yellow. They in turn congealed into a wrench. Why? Who knows! I certainly didn’t. Dream or imagery dictionaries were highly unlikely to do anything but to provide someone else’s best guess about wrenches in general, but certainly not about Derek’s wrench. Integral Deep Listening asks, “Why not interview the perspective of the wrench itself and see what it has to say?”
Wrench: “I’m your common, adjustable wrench in America but I am called a “spanner” in England. I’m big, red, and made of solid steel. I have a wooden handle, which is kind of neat. I also like that I am useful, strong, adaptable, and adjustable. I am made of steel, don’t bend, can take enormous pressure and won’t break. I fill the bill. However, I’m a bit heavy. I’ve kind of led a mundane life. I don’t get out much!”
Normally, people sit back and think, “Aha! So Derek is describing himself! Look at what he is revealing about his personality.” This is the typical approach taken by therapy. Therapist and client then have fun exploring all these “associations” and what they say about Derek. However, that is not what Integral Deep Listening does. Instead, it requires the therapist or teacher to drop all such projective interpretations in favor of taking what Derek’s wrench at face value for the time being. There will be time enough, after the interview is concluded, for both student and teacher to express their own opinions. This saves embarrassment, as you can pontificate about such things only to be contradicted by the wrench. This sort of thing has happened to me so many times that many years ago now I gave up trying to outsmart the innate intelligence of such perspectives.
The wrench said, “I represent the utilitarian part of Derek’s life.”
Since the wrench is imaginary, it can change in any way it wants, if it would like. Would it like to change?
Wrench: “I would be a beautiful girl on Maui! Red hair, green eyes, nice white skin in a bikini, beautiful body! I like that I’m pretty! I’m very seductive. I’m bright, no weaknesses. I’m not really physically strong. Not a large enough wardrobe!”
It is normal in IDL interviews to ask, “Wrench, are you sure that is you that wants to change and not Derek?”
The wrench responded that indeed it did want to become a beautiful young girl on Maui. This is such an incongruous change from what Derek looks like and how he acts, that it is totally unexpected and an example of what IDL calls “cosmic humor.”
While this beautiful young girl scores herself a five in inner peace and a six in witnessing, she scores herself an eight in wisdom and compassion and a ten in acceptance and confidence. If she scored tens in all six of these qualities she “would be more relaxed and more satisfied with myself.” This would be the same for Derek if he scored as she does. He would be more relaxed and at peace, at ease with himself. “I recommend that he take a few deep breaths with the stuff he’s having to deal with. There isn’t too much left of the hard part. He can relax into it a bit more. Don’t get too up tight about it. He doesn’t have enough data to make the final decision about it, but don’t worry; it will be there. Regarding his girlfriend Amy, he needs to relax more with her; the she will be more relaxed around him. He won’t make so many faux pas. I would have him focus on relaxation, enjoyment, and awareness. That wrench is heavy!”
The beautiful girl is representing a life perspective that it contends is more therapeutic than the one he has been holding for himself as a person with a cancer diagnosis. She recommends that he imagine that he is her “when he gets going too fast. Think of me, take a deep breath, and enjoy!”
“He’s slowing down from the hyper stuff he was involved in. He needs to get his act in order so that when he’s doing the things he’s doing he is making the clearest and wisest decisions that he possibly can. I can help him by keeping him relaxed and aware in situations with physicians so he knows what to ask and what sorts of answers he wants to get from them. If he gets relaxed and focused he’ll remember to write up questions for his doctors.”
What did Derek hear the wrench and beautiful girl saying to him?
“I’m on the right path. I just need to take it easier and feel more confident in being who I am with these physicians. It is telling me to have patience!”
At this point Derek’s doctor from Los Angeles called to tell him that his PSA (prostate-specific antigen) had increased dramatically since it was taken in October, indicating to the doctor that the cancer had already learned to defeat the low testosterone levels created by the previous medication that Derek had been prescribed to slow the growth of the cancer. This meant to the doctor that the cancer was entering a virulent, quickly spreading stage and that the hormone therapy was not going to contain it. He recommended starting chemotherapy soon. At that point we continued with the following interview:
Which life issue brings up the strongest feelings for you?
“Cancer: Aggression, anger, malice, murder, mayhem.”
This time the cancer had a bright red, burning color and sensation which turned into a fireball!
Fireball: “I am burning. I am white hot in the center and throwing off fire in every direction. I am inside Derek. I’m systemic in his body, particularly in his pelvis and the surrounding bones. I can kill anything. Nothing can stand in my way, I’m murderous. I can do anything.There is nothing I dislike about myself. I probably have weaknesses but I don’t acknowledge them. I represent the parts of Derek that he doesn’t want to acknowledge. The dark side of his soul.”
When asked if it wanted to change, the fireball said, “Not particularly. Maybe a devil, but a fireball’s fine.”
This fireball scored itself a ten in confidence because “I feel like I’m indestructible.” However, it scored itself a “zero” in the other five qualities. “I am a zero in compassion because I have none, a zero in wisdom because if I consume this body I will die. That’s a stupid action. I am a zero in acceptance because I don’t want other cells; kill them. I don’t need self-acceptance. I don’t need inner peace or witnessing. If I scored tens in all these qualities I would be completely different – calm, friendly, joyful, alive, uplifting, I’d be embracing, happy. I’d probably be a blue lake. I don’t want to be that.”
“If Derek scored tens in all six in all of these qualities he would probably be able to outmaneuver me. He would find a way to contain me and change me. The deeper he accepts himself the more irrelevant I become. He gains the ability to change me by being so deeply centered in himself that I have no power over him. I would turn into a blue lake. It would be something that would be so transformative that he would be able to do that for himself and others too. I don’t want him to do that. He’d stop fearing me. I draw a lot of energy from his fear.”
“I wouldn’t live his life differently if I were him. He’s doing an amazing job! The universe is setting things up so he can succeed at a depth of being most people can’t even imagine! He’s got to run the course of action that science provides. He has to heal from within in so many ways, so rapidly, so well. He has the training, the background, the understanding, and the desire to do it! I recommend that he focus on me and learning how to heal me. Learning how to stop my aggression and then learning how to change me from within. Gathering all the inner allies and strengths that he’s got and mold them into one very powerful healing force. He needs to not allow his mind to become confused, depressed, or terrified. He sees those things as illusions of the mind. He can change me by changing his mind.”
“It would be useful for him to become the blue lake, not me the fireball. Whenever he has fears and illusions of the mind it would be good for him to become the blue lake and to work with it as a meditational and dream image. I am under the fireball. I’m just aware of it. At some point I would like to let the fireball cool in my cold waters. If Derek let that happen, he’d heal.”
Fireball: “That’s frightening. I would be something that I’m not. I would be afraid.”
What would happen to you if you chose to go into the lake?
“The Blue Lake is cold. It’s dark! It’s all encompassing! If I stay in the lake I become a regular ball and just float. It’s pleasant. It’s a nice day. There are cool waters. I don’t have to die anymore because I don’t kill my host. I like the choice of floating. That burning energy is all-consuming. It’s got an unpleasant material end. It might be better for me in the end to be a floating ball.”
“I am in Derek’s life because he has to learn through the toughest experience in his life how to be kind, joyful, loving, and equananimous. With that power you can heal yourself, me, and so many people.”
Blue Lake: I am in Derek’s life because I am the thing that can transform Fireball. He can learn from me to relax, be aware, not to panic, stay calm, and focused. I’m like the Girl on Maui in that we are aspects of the same thing. He needs to become whichever one is appropriate at the time he needs help. If he sees a pretty girl or a pretty lake, both will remind him to be cool and calm.”
Floating Ball: “I’m a goal. This whole thing can turn into floating on life, floating on existence. To help others to do so he has to do it himself from a very deep place. Otherwise, he can’t help others. He can dream of me! He can feel the pleasure of me just being here in existence, how wonderful it is! He can feel the presence of divine love – that’s what’s most important. He can transform himself and the energy around him into God and love.”
Fireball:” It’s desirable. Very desirable. Love is beyond anything. I support being transformed into the Floating Ball. I’d be honored. Once I see that I’m afraid of being dunked in the Blue Lake and learn that fear is an illusion, I can give that up.”
What conclusions can we take away from this interview? Interviewed emerging perspectives are much more interested in quality of life than quantity. They themselves cannot die, so they appear to be relatively unperturbed by imminent mortality. This is difficult for most of us to understand. Don’t our soul, God, the angels, the universe, want us to get well? Apparently, not so much. What is much more important is to live life to its fullest and with deep inner peace. They offer no magical cures or sure solutions, only advice about improving our own acceptance of where we are in our lives so we can make the most of it. Amazingly, this seems to be very comforting to people with terminal disease. They relax and stop fighting and open themselves to the possibilities that are theirs for the coming day.
It is now some four years after that interview. Derek died of his metastasized prostate cancer this last April, in 2014. Do I think this interview added a day to Derek’s life? No. Do I think that accessing the perspective of the beautiful girl from Maui, the Fireball, the Blue Lake, and the Floating Ball improved the quality of his life? Undoubtedly, yes. We all want to live forever; we all know we will die someday. What matters is not the quantity but the quality of our lives today; what can we do to increase that quality? Like you and me, Derek didn’t want to die, but his last years were good, full of meditation, love, laughter, and acceptance of the transitoriness of life. Can miracles happen if we grow fully into confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing? No. But the quality of the life that creates itself through us can indeed feel miraculous.