“Familiarity breeds contempt.”
Intimacy is about a deep connection, a connection between the divine source, the indivisible and immortal ‘self’ in each. It is a dissolution of boundaries. When we thus connect, we do so beyond the ‘persona’, which is our role with regard to another, beyond the ego, which is separation itself. We experience oneness. In this oneness is source, healing, power to alter reality, to manifest. There is in this oneness, complete acceptance, abundance, and infinite reassurance that we are enough, that we have enough. There is gnosis, the ‘secret knowledge’ that we, the spark in us that gives us life, the dispassionate ‘observer’ of this life in the material world, are forever and indestructible.
“Heaven and Earth last forever.
Why do heaven and Earth last forever?
They are unborn,
So ever living.”
-Tao Te Ching 7
Intimacy is a sacred state of being. It requires a clear and unguarded state of mind. It demands immense vulnerability and innocence. This, quite ironically, makes it much more difficult to achieve with someone we know, particularly someone we know well, than with someone we don’t know. In the practice of massage, as in the practice of medicine, there is recognition of this in the ethical cannons. This is referred to as “dual” relationships. If someone is also your spouse, also your boss, also a co-worker, also a friend, also a sibling, then there is more than simply the therapeutic relationship, the sacred, healing relationship, the communion. Such dual relationships are not forbidden, though some may try to tell you this is so. But it does require a conscious separation of those relationships by both participants. If either is unable to do so, then there can be no therapeutic relationship, no deep intimacy. It requires a greater level of consciousness to achieve this state with someone we know. This is true regardless of whom we are. Jesus was famously rejected by the people of Nazareth, his hometown.
When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" And they took offense at Him. Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household." And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief.
Further, in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas 31, Jesus says, "No prophet is accepted in his own village; no physician heals those who know him." This concept is reflected in the axiom “Familiarity breeds contempt.” It is a common phenomena.
“Other men regard me as the equal of the gods, and some of them even as a god, but until now my own country alone ignores me, my country for which in particular I have striven to be distinguished.”
-Apollonius, letters to Hestieaus 44
Apollonius’ comments help us to see that the distance in the relationship has two components. The ‘familiarity’ of the others, and the attachment our ego has to winning their approval. This attachment amplifies the projection of persona, and keeps the true, divine self at a distance. With such attachment, we are unwilling to become vulnerable, to risk rejection. The more important this relationship is to us, the greater the risk of vulnerability, of rejection, of judgment. We protect our jewel by hiding it. We front with a false persona. Usually one we think will win approval, but sometimes we seek to fulfill our own expectation and we project a persona certain to be rejected. We are still protected, as this persona is a ‘straw man.’ It isn’t the real self. We never risked exposing our truth, so we don’t suffer from the rejection. But our relationships are not real either. Mask to mask, we dance at the ball uncertain of who we are and who we are with, protected by our own anonymity.
We do this because we do not trust the other, and because we do not trust in the unassailability of our self. We have lost our childlike innocence, which means we have lost the sense of our own power. “Who does not trust enough will not be trusted.” Tao Te Ching 17. If we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable, if we can risk, then we can re-experience our divine self, our wholeness.
The truth is that our divine self is infinitely beautiful and attractive, yet infinitely terrifying and repulsive. It is beautiful to the divine self in every other living creature. It speaks to and resonates with the innocence in all of nature, all of the universe. It is terrifying to ego, persona and separation, because in it they see their inevitable death and dissolution. Ego, persona and separation are temporary and unsustainable. They are a costume we wear to pretend we are separate. Intimacy is an unmasking. As an innocent, as a child, we freely make ourselves vulnerable. We have not learned the pain of judgment and rejection. We have not learned shame. We must return to that state to risk connection, to be authentic and vulnerable. This is the state of redemption, of communion, of intimacy.
This is easy to talk about. We might even have some experience of what this is like, a transcendent experience in our past. This doesn’t mean we can turn it on and off at will. Entering this state requires us to face, and overcome our greatest fears. It is not a matter of life and death, it’s much more important, and frightening than that. Countless have chosen to go to their deaths “unconfessed.” When I say unconfessed, I’m not referring to a litany of misdeeds, but rather the revelation of who we are.
A few can touch the magic string,
And noisy Fame is proud to win them:-
Alas for those that never sing,
But die with all their music in them!
-The Voiceless, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Confession, like Communion, has a more primal and personal meaning than the rituals suggest. Confession is ultimate, fearless, authenticity.
If singing breath or echoing chord
To every hidden pang were given,
What endless melodies were poured,
As sad as earth, as sweet as heaven!
-The Voiceless, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
In 12 step programs, this begins with the fourth step, “made a fearless and searching moral inventory of ourselves.” While some of the 12 steps focus on those attributes we don’t wish to have, therein called ‘defects of character,’ we also come to an understanding that our nature, our self, is not defective. We let go of our shame by separating the wheat from the chaff, our true self from our pretense. We begin by confronting guilt- the result of choices that violated our authentic self. We continue by releasing shame- giving ourselves permission to be as we were created. We honestly face who we are and deliberately choose to be authentic, come what may.
He who is filled with Virtue is like a newborn child.
Wasps and serpents will not sting him;
Wild beasts will not pounce upon him;
He will not be attacked by birds of prey.
His bones are soft, his muscles weak,
But his grip is firm.
He has not experienced the union of man and woman, but is whole.
His manhood is strong.
He screams all day without becoming hoarse.
This is perfect harmony.
Tao Te Ching 55
Intimacy is such a choice. While intimacy requires the willing participation of two, one can initiate it. In every relationship, there is a tension, a dynamic. In a star, there is the enormous energy being released from the fusion reaction within, this force radiates outward. Opposing that force, keeping the star from dispersing into space, is the force of gravitational collapse. When these forces remain balanced, there is stasis. The star burns, but neither collapses nor explodes. It is in this state that the common elements are formed, slowly. Yet ultimately, balance fails. In many stars, the end result is a supernova. A supernova is a massive explosion. In that explosion and only in that release, the heaviest, rarest, and most valuable elements are created.
In relationships between people, two forces remain in constant tension, balanced against each other, the fear of vulnerability and the need for connection. This is the state of most relationships. To take a relationship to the next level, the balance of forces must be disrupted. The need for connection must exceed the fear of vulnerability. There are several ways this might happen. A spiritual crisis might increase the need for connection. Spiritual growth might decrease the fear of vulnerability. The first, we are unlikely to seek. The second may take years or even decades of committed practice to achieve. Yet, there is another way to break the stasis. We can create safety in the relationship that discharges the fear of vulnerability. As soon as either participant begins to do this, the balance is disrupted and the stage is set for the massive energy release of intimacy, of communion. Make no mistake, sustaining this reaction requires a commitment to spiritual growth, continual self-examination and to the relationship, but the spark can be struck in an instant. Either of you can choose to be responsible for creating safety. This is the spark. Kindling that spark into a flame and tending that flame becomes the work of two.
Intimacy is a conspiracy between two people to be real.
This is one of the topics we explore in the Intimacy, Connection Healing Series, a workshop for all those in the healing professions. Massage Therapists, Acupuncturists, Yogis, Counselors, Social Workers, Nurses, Breath workers, Energy workers and anyone with an interest in connecting more powerfully to heal.
We explore the powerful connection that sources healing and arises naturally in all healing work. Florida CEs for LTMs, LCSW, LMFT, & LMHC. New York CEs for LMTs.
Join me for my first workshop in Costa Rica, at Living Forest Retreat Center November 11-17
Follow this link for more information, cost, lodging, meal and transportation options!