The Center for Human Awakening Q&A

Center for Human Awakening Q & A
The Center for Human Awakening
The Center for Human Awakening
~ The Psycho-Spiritual Teachings of Richard Harvey ~
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Questions and Answers
Do you have a spiritual and / or psychological question? Would you like to share an experience and invite comments and feedback from the members of the Center’s community? Do you have an insight or words of wisdom to share? Q & A aims to provide a lively forum for the exchange and cross-fertilization of knowledge, wisdom, spiritual questions, psychological clarity, and personal and collective unfolding for the awakening of all souls. We encourage your participation and invite your wisdom.

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What further references can you provide for Character Strategies?

Olivier Schaller: I had a question for you. I am really interested to dive more into all the Character Strategies that Richard introduces in the Sacred Attention Therapy Training Course Level One, but I can only see one book reference that could be providing more depth (Shaffer, David R and Kipp, Katherine, Developmental Psychology: Childhood and Adolescence, Cengage Learning 2013). Does this book elaborate on the same Character Strategies (CS)? Or are the CS as defined in the course Richard's own definition and framework? Are there other good references? All other references in the module are about Bioenergetics and Bodywork.

Richard Harvey: The originating work and seminal reference for character strategies is Wilhelm Reich’s book Character Analysis, published in 1933. Reich’s work was further developed by John Pierrakos and Alexander Lowen in Bioenergetics practice and theory and even further developed by many others, perhaps most notably Ron Kurtz and the Hakomi Therapy alumni. In England David Boadella was the prime mover for the practice of character analysis (Biosynthesis). 

This is a very short summary of the developments in the field. It is perhaps important to understand that bodywork psychotherapy and character strategies are linked. Reich broke away from his mentor Freud on the issue of the need to work with patients’ bodies directly through touch, skilled observation and movement. Character analysis is grounded in the idea that character is expressed emotionally, energetically, mentally and physically. Since the body is the grosser expression of character, a skilled therapeutic bodyworker can work directly with the physicality of the client/patient and access even unconscious patterns and repressed emotions.

My own work originated in the skill and teaching of Richard Dror who was a contemporary and student of David Boadella. I trained with Boadella who had trained with Ola Raknes, one of Reich’s closest students. Thus my therapy in bodywork and character strategies is second or third generation from Reich himself. I recommend starting with Kurtz`s Hakomi Therapy to get a good grasp of the theory and practice of character strategies, followed by readings of Boadella and Lowen and, finally Stanley Keleman’s Emotional Anatomy.


Is the person I think about able to feel what I think?

Beth Chandler: When I think something that I deem as being negative about a person, is the person I think it about able to feel it in some capacity, for example spiritually?

Richard Harvey: The first thing to understand about negativity Beth is that it affects the one who is feeling negative. Regardless of who the thought or feeling seems to be directed towards the one who is experiencing the negativity suffers the consequences of feeling negative. Now when that negativity is projected onto someone else then most likely the negativity already exists in the relationship itself. Therefore the one who appears to be in receipt of the negative thoughts is already in a negative relationship. Negativity by definition is not healthy for mind, body, or heart, so it is as well that we have means and methods of dissolving it. Foremost is individual therapy in which we can discover the source of negativity and work to heal it. For an effective practice to begin to release your negativity I recommend an ancient exercise from the Indus Valley. It is called the Golden Light Meditation. You lie down and relax. Take deep breaths and imagine golden light entering at the top of your head. As you breathe out visualize black smoke flowing out of your body through the souls of your feet. Do this exercise for 20 minutes then curl up on your left side and relax for 10 minutes. If at any time you feel light-headed during the exercise reduce the depth and/or frequency of your breathing. Another effective method is to bring to mind those people who have wronged you, angered you or who you found hard to forgive and throughout the day spend a few minutes from time to time saying inwardly _____ (name of the person), I forgive you.


How is suffering part of our destiny as human beings? 

Ellie Inskip:  I have been pondering many questions since I last saw you. But there is one that I would really like your thoughts on. At the group session on Saturday I asked you about destiny and whether you thought everyone had one. I liked your response – it appeals to my need for a sense of purpose and safety. But once I step back from this I am left wondering: How is suffering part of our destiny as human beings? I am thinking of my recent trip to Calais where there are unimaginable levels of suffering, as there are all over the world. How does this fit with spiritual destiny? Why do some human beings suffer so terribly where others don't?

Richard Harvey: Your question may be summarized as What is suffering? or What is the nature of suffering? or How do I understand suffering? I thank you for the opportunity to respond to this question. Perhaps all the great spiritual masters have addressed the very same enquiry. So we find ourselves in the august company of, for example, the Buddha who proposed that life is suffering and that the cause of suffering is ignorance. Or, in a further example, Jesus of Nazareth who taught that in suffering we should see God’s revelation. But what do these insights mean and how can they be applied today in the face of the unspeakable suffering we hear of and sometimes witness in the world?

It is surely not enough when faced with the suffering of the refugees in Calais, of the daily bombings in Syria, the sickening murders and disappearances of young women in Mexico, to name only three, to offer that the cause of suffering is ignorance or the revelation of God’s plan for salvation? There is such a thing as spiritual distancing and offering spiritual homilies in response to severe human suffering is patronizing and trite.

You ask, Ellie, Why do some human beings suffer so terribly where others don't? The Buddha would say that all human beings suffer, that to be human is to suffer, not merely when you fall on hard times but all the time! What does that mean? Here am I with shelter and warmth, relaxing music, Netflix, a glass of fine wine if I wish, and a few hours’ drive away women, men, children huddle in inadequate shelter in winter conditions, hungry, country-less, and forgotten.

How we respond to such suffering as this depends on our nature, does it not? For some there is the hands-on approach. Such people will run a truck down to a war torn or famine hit African country or, like you, volunteer to go to Calais and do whatever good you can to alleviate another’s pain and suffering. Others will reach into their wallets or bank accounts and send a donation, attempting to help in their way. Others will mutter and turn away perhaps feeling overwhelmed by human suffering and feeling helpless to make a difference. They may blame others – politicians, the international community, big business – for being the cause of the suffering. They may feel angry, sad, or vengeful, or simply distract themselves with entertainment of some kind and try to shut out and not think about human suffering in its myriad forms. Still others may be callous and uncompassionate, uncaring and cold. They may rationalize that each has to deal with their own fate, look after number one, and that it is enough to care for your immediate loved ones and what does the plight of other more distant souls matter to them.

Ultimately, these are different kinds of human responses to suffering. We might summarize them like this.

  • Lack of love – uncaring, uncompassionate, cold-hearted
  • Some degree of care and concern for your fellow human, including helping at a distance (donations etc.)
  • A degree of care and concern that prompts active involvement and/or action (activism, volunteering, etc.)

What is it that characterizes these modes of response? What do they have in common? Although they are different responses they share a dual perspective; that is to say that there is a certain distancing in each response. When we seek to relieve another’s suffering from an objective perspective or a view that assumes that we, the subject, respond to the condition of suffering in the other who is the object of our care and concern, we divide the world. We identify, we objectify, and in this way we distance. In fact the distancing is in place before we have even witnessed the suffering. Distancing is inherent in the personal perspective; the subject that is self-identified always experiences the condition and the other as separate from his or her self.

But the spiritual human being, the person who is spiritually oriented, either aspiring or practicing from a truly realized perspective sees suffering very differently and in seeing it differently responds completely differently. In fact the spiritual practitioner or adept does not view suffering from a perspective. Spirituality has no perspective as such or perhaps I should say that authentic spirituality has no perspective and allows no perspective. What does this mean?

When I say authentic spirituality I mean a spiritual sensibility that embraces the thought, feeling, and orientation of a life that is aimed toward the understanding of Truth. Truth is that which is utterly unassailable, that remains when all else all that can be is taken away. Truth is the answer to the age old questions: What survives death (or fear)? What is unchanging? What is beyond the fleeting state and forms of an individual human lifetime?

It may be true to say that few are genuinely interested in authentic spirituality, because it entails death in life, an immersement into a prior condition, a reality beyond the personal perspective of ego life. Since there is no benefit in spiritual practice for the delusion of separate selfhood and its concomitants separation, division, desire, and fear, there seems to be little if anything to lure people into the practice of authentic spirituality and indeed that is the case. If however you long for Truth, Reality, the Divine in an irrational and possibly early experienced urging of the soul to meet its authentic ground, the ground of being, beyond arising forms and the vacillating changes of relative existence, then authentic spirituality is the only pursuit that matters.

As I have often said before the ultimate spiritual Truth that may be expressed in words is this: I am the Consciousness in which all things arise. Inherent in this statement is a lifetime of spiritual practice – actually lifetimes! Everything arises in Consciousness because Consciousness is All.

When we say that everything arises in Consciousness we mean to indicate a matrix of the totality that admits no object whatsoever. There is nothing that is not Consciousness, nothing exists outside of Consciousness, and practicing spiritually as Consciousness objects appear and disappear and we cling to none of them. The only reality is their nature in Consciousness as they appear and disappear as fleeting forms that come into being and go out of being. The non-dual, all-inclusive, or unified nature of Truth, Reality, and Consciousness (traditionally called God) is simply this: All is Consciousness and nothing exists outside of it. You are Consciousness, I am Consciousness, and everything we see, meet, and which exists is in Consciousness.

Suffering as ignorance or as the revelation of God’s plan then is merely the belief in delusory self-identification. We see ourselves as separate and thus self-identified we fall into the compromised and illusory condition of separation and division. The contraction of the belief in the self designates that all others and the conditions, like suffering for example, of all others are somehow not ourselves. But that is a spiritual error. All is One, all is God, and all is Consciousness.

Now how can we see, witness, and ultimately understand that this is the case? Through suffering. The suffering that is inherent in our belief in personhood, the contracted small self, or ego self appears to us as the suffering of others. Only when we see that suffering in ourselves do we begin to see truly what is really the case. There are no others suffering, no conditions of pain and hurt and misery and unhappiness that we do not ourselves participate in through our connection with all things, all others, and all conditions.

This is the meaning of the oft quoted and offered spiritual dictum that suffering is grace. If we are participating in one of the three kinds of responses that emanate from the dual perspective (see above) then suffering seems like anything but grace. However to the spiritual practitioner suffering is the means to awakening.

To behold unbearable suffering without distancing, without creating the appearance of subject and object, to let it in truly we have to go beyond our personal limitations. When we say I can’t deal with this, it’s too much to bear we reach a point where either we withdraw in the self-contraction of unawareness in order to avoid relationship to what is or we press on into the void of shedding self-identification, anger, control, and fear – all the things that fuel the resentment that creates our sense of separate self-differentiation and desire to create an image of the world as we would like it to be.

In short we die into the suffering; the identification with a self-image of our own making yields to Truth, to the illumination of Divine wisdom through embracing the reality of suffering.


How do you tackle doubts after accepting your life purpose?

Lucia Nwabueze: Concerning what you said [about life purpose],* how do you tackle doubts after accepting your purpose. That is before the second stage when you become really sure. What if you stray from it because of the doubts and limitations?

Richard Harvey: The question seems to be principally addressing doubt and limitation with regard to life purpose in the first stage of awakening. The first stage of awakening is and should always be understood as being full of doubt and limitation also a complete absence of balanced, wise choice since all decision-making in the first stage is predicated on early life conditioning. Therefore what should we do with doubt, indecision, limitation, and so on? Learn from it, see it for what it is, don’t try to tackle it and manipulate yourself to see its brighter side or compromise your deeper truth or knowledge of your innate purpose or calling. Rather put all your effort into releasing yourself from the prison of the first stage of awakening. In the freedom of the second stage your relationship to purpose is reversed and you may allow with certainty and confidence your purpose to find you. Unhampered by thought and assumptions, egoistic desires and the need for individual accomplishment, life purpose comes to you as naturally as breathing and movement. You are here to be and from that inner sense of being the inner and outer sense of purpose manifests as naturally and as surely as you trust your life.

*See Richard Harvey’s YouTube presentation Life Purpose


Are enlightenment and self-realization the same thing?

Cathy KnightAre enlightenment and self-realization the same thing? You use both terms in your teachings; is this a case of semantics, or of subtle differences? I'm probably being pedantic but would appreciate your thoughts. My own are jumbled and saying it's all words, mind inquiries etc. Maybe it's all to do with the East versus the West. I hope anyway that it's a reasonable question which others may also be asking. 

Richard HarveyEnlightenment is the ultimate true condition of all things and All Consciousness. Everything is Light. Everything is Light and expresses itself as Truth, Love, Peace, Tranquility, Acceptance, Compassion, and Awareness. This is because the very matrix of Consciousness, in which all separate arising forms appear, exist for a while, and die, is unified, total, and complete.

Self-realization is similar and in some ways the same since within the enlightened state there is no separation and division. However, Self-realization considers enlightenment from the point of view of the individual self or conditioned adaptive form of the human being. Conditioned because subject to the conditions of space and time; and adaptive because, while all forms arising in the matrix of Consciousness potentially or actually exhibit pure Consciousness or perfect enlightenment, they are destined to present and fulfill themselves in their true nature or the nature appropriate to their given form. Thus a stone participates in stone nature and appears to be different to a tree and so on while at the same time a stone is no different from a tree in essence since the essence of everything and all is Consciousness.

Thus the individual self has the promise, through the realization of potential, capacity, and destiny, of realizing the Truth that is the Self andso entering into the stream of enlightenment, the realized condition of true Understanding, the timelessness of enlightenment, of Reality itself.


What is emptiness? Should it be fulfilled?

Agnès Bussière: I have been through symbolic death. I am aware of my role playing and defenses. I feel closer to my true nature. For a few weeks now, I feel an emptiness. Sometimes, because of this emptiness, I am looking for the fear, the sadness or the anger I used to feel. But I do not feel them anymore. I know when and why they came to see me in the past, but I do not feel them. Only love, compassion and devotion remain. What is this emptiness? What should I do with it? Should this space be fulfilled?

Richard Harvey: The emptiness you speak of is the very goal of spirituality. You have arrived at a most blessed place in your journey. As you occupy and deepen into this emptiness you will discover a fullness, the most complete emptiness. This emptiness is the matrix of existence and while it appears as emptiness or the void it is simultaneously the most magnificent fullness. This is the experience of the mystic: to discover that within, at the heart of total emptiness, there is a great fullness. You cannot have one without the other. Any more than you could have love without hate, dark without light, or day without night. You say, What is this emptiness? This emptiness is All, the totality. Gently and sensitively occupy the void. Do not be put off or discouraged. Simply sit in and with the emptiness. You have had the experience of filling this sacred space with drama, the drama and excitement of living. Fear, sadness, and anger have passed now… and there is only emptiness and because of your associations with emptiness, you may experience resistance or aversion. The associations are that nothing is there or no one is there, nihilism, barrenness, or depression. Whatever associations arise for you do not fear them, simply breathe and let them go through you. You must withstand these apparitions of delusion in order to stabilize in this inner fullness. Persist and doors will open. As you rightly say, then only love, compassion, and devotion remain. You ask, Should this space be fulfilled? Yes, let this space be fulfilled. Do not fill it… let it be fulfilled.

Agnès Bussière: What could help to go deep in this emptiness?

Richard Harvey: See and practice the Meditations on our YouTube channel (scroll down to the Playlist titled "Meditations and Satsangs"). Sit still and let love, compassion, and devotion be present without thought. Deepen into the emptiness, go through fear and limitations of any kind... there is nothing you have to do for love and devotion to be there because they are the natural state.


What are the Center's teachings regarding past lives?

Lakshmi Sandeep: Kind of eager to know about your stand on Past Life. Could you please share the same?

Richard Harvey: I meet people where they are dear Lakshmi. If a person believes in past lives, it's fine. Broadly in spiritual teachings there are exoteric and esoteric teachings. The exoteric teachings are concerned with morality, behavior, and social interactions. The esoteric teachings are concerned with Eternal Truth. From the perspective of the exoteric, past lives have some credence because there is a central belief in individual, separate existence. From the perspective of the esoteric, past lives have no meaning because everything is Consciousness.


What are we letting go of?

Justin Kwan: To be clear, when we speak of letting go of everything, we are talking about attachments (to emotions), not the emotions themselves. Is that correct? Otherwise we wouldn't be able to feel the emotions humans are supposed to feel. When I think about letting go to the attachment of an emotion such as fear, completely letting go of the attachment seems to mean feeling fear at the appropriate times, not living a life full of fear. Is that right? What about happiness? It sounds a bit more difficult to discern when it is appropriate to feel happy. Shouldn't it be appropriate to feel happy anytime? How does the idea that letting go of everything, not being in the realm of sad or happy relate to this? Are these two different stages - with feeling emotions at the appropriate time relating to letting go of the psyche's dependence on the primary relationships while transcending sad / happy is a different stage of transcendence?

Richard Harvey: We live in unnatural times Justin. Our behavior, our thoughts, our feelings, and our responses are all automatic, based on past experience and limited by fear, desire, and self-identity. Consider very young children. Even in these unnatural times it is possible to perceive their natural responses of emotions that are authentic, spontaneous, and uninhibited. We look to very early childhood for a pointer to how we can release ourselves from the damage of early life conditions and indoctrination in later life. Human beings need to belong, to fit in, and in contemporary society we feel compelled to adopt a level of low-functioning emotionality, really a semi-depressed state, and to consider this the norm. This way we may be acceptable to others and appropriately negative and predisposed toward criticism, feeling long-suffering and carrying some background resentment. If this seems a bit extreme or harsh, ask yourself how many people you know who feel happy, satisfied with their lives, and blessed to be human beings. How many of these people express this positivity unreservedly in their lives or infect others with their positivity and depth of emotion? I doubt you know many… or any.

Inner work and psychotherapy or counseling takes us into the realms of self-honesty where we confront these fundamental issues of the human situation. Letting go is, as you say, releasing attachment… to emotions, but not to emotionality. However you must bear in mind that conditioned, automatic emotions are not authentic. We only feel as much as is safe to feel and that line is drawn at the point we conformed and, in order to fit in, accepted that genuine emotions were unacceptable and not allowed. In order to please our primary carers we learnt to feel only as much as they were able and willing to receive, Childhood is all about reflection and what is reflected back to us is what we become.

Once this process of inculcation, conditioning, and conforming is completed it is highly questionable to speak, as you do, of “the emotions humans are supposed to feel,” or “feeling fear at the appropriate times.” Conformity and conditioning are so strong that people have used their innate power to create a world which reinforces and conforms to their psycho-physical defenses. The world most people by far inhabit is a world of their own creation that justifies their inhibitions and survival strategies. There is only one thing to do and that is to apply yourself to inner work until you have penetrated and understood deeply the origins and evolution in expression and experience of your early life narrative. When you have thoroughly performed this task it may be possible with a competent, skilled therapist to disrupt your continuity with past experience and enter into a new phase of naturalness and spontaneity in your life (in Sacred Attention Therapy we call this the second stage of awakening). In this new existence, emotions take on a freshness and a vividness which you never experienced before. In fact they merely become natural, not reactive, not conditioned, not inhibited, not limited, not inauthentic… but merely natural, genuine and real.


What does it mean to you to be yourself?

Bozena Sawa: As early as millennia ago the Greatest Minds emphasized the most important thing for MAN to achieve is TO BE HIMSELF. Q: What does it mean to you TO BE YOURSELF? Do YOU believe it is important? Why? Why not? Q: Are you yourself? How does it manifest itself if you are ? (or aren't) Is it important to you to be? My own answers cannot be disclosed now because it would be unfair to the future readers of the 2nd volume of my book series "Life Wisdom" which I am working on (to be entitled "Be Yourself"). The 1st volume largely about the people who are not themselves (look at the cover) has just been published. Best regards, Bozena Sawa

Richard Harvey: Dear Bozena, before you can be yourself you have to know yourself and before you know yourself you have to know who you are being. We live in complex times and the true nature of human beings is hidden from many, if not most, people. However, human beings are distinguished by their inherent ability to self-reflect. Inevitably self reflection leads to exploration of the psyche or that sense of “I” which we have developed over our early life conditioning. In order to know yourself then you must, first, enter into a process of deconstruction of your false self, which is a product of your conditioning. Once the false self is adequately understood, honestly confronted (primarily in yourself), and psychologically released, it may be possible with great courage to live according to your true nature, i.e. to be yourself. This experience leads some to a further challenge, which is to transcend the human condition through profound soulful practice and discipline in order to live in the world as an essentially spiritual being, mediating between time and eternity. Essentially you must die to this life to become who you truly are. This then is the condition of truly being yourself and it involves fulfilling your potential and capacity and living your divine destiny with awareness. The individual self is not the real self, rather it is a vehicle for the being-ness of the soul and the spirit. Once your attachments to self-identification, separation, and division are released you may realize your True Self. Thank you for your question.


Life as an opportunity to let go of identity

Trinity J Jordan: I worked with you, and a real sense of connection to life was the foundation; as 'I' see life as a opportunity to let go of identity, how is the world doing based on your travels?

Richard Harvey: This is a very insightful question and I appreciate it, thank you Trinity. Yes, our work together was really based on a life connection. And, yes, life is an opportunity to shed identity. In order to shed identity most of us have to work through our holdings and attachments to the past. Our early life conditioning adheres us to the “I”-sense we created in childhood and developed through adolescence and “adulthood.” Personal therapy can heal the scars of the past and open up a new vista, a fresh life of heart-opening, authenticity, and compassion which in Sacred Attention Therapy we call the second stage of awakening. The central challenge and activity of the second stage is to shed attachment to the childhood ego as we have developed it. It amounts to self-identification or a sense of ourselves as an agent of a life led separate and divided from all other arising forms. Yet in Consciousness we are One – really no different from one another or from anything else. Although in appearance we are individual and unique, our essence is the same. This was beautifully expressed by Anandamayi ma when she met Yogananda who she called Father:

“Father, there is little to tell.” She spread her graceful hands in a deprecatory gesture. “My consciousness has never associated itself with this temporary body. Before I came on this earth, Father, ‘I was the same.’ As a little girl, ‘I was the same.’ I grew into womanhood, but still ‘I was the same.’ When the family in which I had been born made arrangements to have this body married, ‘I was the same… And, Father, in front of you now, ‘I am the same.’ Ever afterward, though the dance of creation change[s] around me in the hall of eternity, ‘I shall be the same.'” – Paramahansa Yogananda quoting Anandamayi Ma, Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 45.

My travels spanned various European countries and I was fortunate to encounter some marvelous human beings. But then people attracted to psycho-spiritual practices tend to be unusual. Even more rare are those who commit to a path or a way and, rarer still, see it through to its culmination in higher states of consciousness. My experience of such commitment was naturally mixed. While I would love to see more people engaged in spiritual life with earnestness and dedication, I nonetheless remain optimistic for our world. As more of us embrace the opportunity to shed identity, through transcending separateness and division, cooperation and tolerance may grow to usher in a time of peace and compassion in a world where the authentic sacred-spiritual life becomes the central essential condition of humanity and existence.

Thank you for your question.