Contemplations and Explorations
by Whitney Bellingham
As we may know, Pathwork and the Pathwork Lectures are simply and profoundly one of many ways into the self, truth, healing and spheres of consciousness.
The lecture I chose to highlight in this issue is Sea of Life- the very first one.
“From the wider perspective of the spirit, human life appears as a tableau representing the form and substance of earthly life as a sea, an ocean on which each life is a boat.” This lecture takes on the literary element of metaphor describing this tableau or palette of experiences as the water, and our unique and individual lives as the boat. The destination, as the Guide says, is the World of Spirit. Our destination is the home within, and each journey through the seas offers us opportunities to become skilled, trained, experienced, at peace, helpful and courageous sailors.
In keeping with this oceanic metaphor, what is needed, states the Guide, to traverse these challenging and also, at times, calm seas is the energy of self-awareness and self-honesty. Truth becomes the land of which we seek. The Guide offers us refuge while we navigate the wild storms - the discipline to go into our inner stillness at any time and to make contact with God and spirit. This promise of sacred sanctuary and inspiration is the powerful message within this lecture.
Traveling and exploring deeper into the text of this lecture, the Guide describes an offering around development, stages and levels: doing, thinking and feeling. The Guide notes that the emotional level of being in Truth is the most difficult, because our real emotion often lies in the unconscious or below the seas. We are asked to challenge our thinking and explore the depths in which these feelings reside and “master” the art of facing oneself over and over and over. “When truth illuminates with its clarity, a previously obscure situation, there will be no more questions left as to what is the right attitude, what is just and what is the right action.”
This is a bold and daring statement- “When Truth illuminates..”, and I imagine it may spark the notion of duality, right versus wrong, shame, guilt, our God-image or feeling bad, and I can also imagine when these winds of disruption and the winds of Truth rip across our seas, our boat may strain under pressure. This lecture suggests we challenge ourselves and dive even deeper, maybe all the way to the ocean floor. With self-awareness, self-honesty, and the questioning of What is my part in the Divine Order, we may then float back up to the surface, breathe in the warm winds of spirit and sail through strengthened and enlightened.
I know I want to be the best version of myself, and I'm doing all this inner work, but in my day-to-day life I still find myself falling short all the time. Why is it so hard for me to do the things I know are best for me? How do I deal with the frustration of not being the person I long to be and feel that I could and should be.
Sincerely, Mortified Mystic
Dear Mortified Mystic,
It can be hard to do the things that we know are best for us because changing habits of thought and action is by its very nature hard work! Putting positive habits in place where once there were none requires us to overcome inertia, and changing negative habits requires us to shift the momentum of old habits – both of which require energy and effort.
This provides abundant opportunity for us to practice gentleness with ourselves – to honor the love, courage, and wisdom within that prompted us to undertake the difficult work of learning to embody our divine nature here in the 3D reality of earthly life.
One thing that can be confusing is that the call toward self-improvement doesn't always come from a positive place. It can come both from our higher nature and our lower nature at the same time. On one hand we know that spirit wants all good things for us. We can feel the call of our higher self asking us to be more loving, or to take better care of our health, or to use our gifts in a particular way. When this call comes from the higher self it feels like a magnetic pull, a gentle encouragement, an upwelling from within, something to strive for, and it feels good.
Yet the same beautiful vision of your potential, when in the grips of your lower self, will be used as a weapon against you. Lower self will point out all the ways you are not measuring up. It will offer these apparent failings as “proof” that you do not deserve all that is good in life.
When you find yourself overwhelmed with frustration, see if you can identify any negative messages your lower self might be telling you about the fact that the way you wish to be and the way you are now are not an exact match. Do these messages hold up under the light of divine truth?
The higher self views you with the eyes of love and infinite patience. It sees no harm in the fact that you are not currently the exact embodiment of your soul’s longing. See if you can soften into your frustration. A certain amount of “divine dissatisfaction” is necessary for growth. It lets us know that we want to be moving forward.
And so, dear Mystic, take heart. Nothing is perfect, and all is as it should be. The journey is long, yet your soul continues to call you to greater and greater fulfillment, coaxing you gently the whole way home. Waves of frustration will rise and fall with the weather. This too is as it should be. You are loved. You are doing sacred work. Keep sailing.
To submit a question, please click the button below.
Whitney Bellingham, a Pathwork Helper in Landgrove, VT and co-author of this newsletter, sat down to interview co-author, Alanna Hayden.
WB: Tell us a little about yourself.
AH: In addition to being a Pathwork Helper, I have worked in the field of early childhood education for about 20 years. I currently spend two days a week at Turtle Island Children's Center in Montpelier – a child-led, nature-based preschool. It’s an incredibly special place. Being outdoors on the nature trails with these vibrant little beings and with such a wonderful group of like-minded teachers who really understand and have deep respect for the sanctity of childhood provides such a wonderful balance to the deep, inner, one-on-one work I do as a Helper with my adult Workers.
WB: What are some of your favorite Pathwork lectures or concepts?
AH: I really love the reincarnation lectures. I love when the guide talks about the realms of spirit, the incarnational plan, and the soul contracts we make with others before we come into each lifetime. I love having that larger perspective of Earth as a school. The rules of this earth-plane reality provide a very specific and unique way for each soul to learn about itself, to recognize any distortions that we may have picked up, and to work to purify those distortions- to come back into truth. That broader perspective helps me so much when I find myself getting caught up in the minutiae of my daily life or getting impatient with the pace of my personal growth. Thinking about my life as one tiny link in an impossibly long chain helps me to be more gentle and patient with myself.
WB: What is one of your daily practices?
AH: The three voice meditation is the thing that completely changed my life. I use it every day. After practicing this for many years, I now find that in moments where my big emotions are activated, I am able to keep part of my awareness calmly present in whatever external conversation is happening, while another part of my consciousness is lovingly attending to the big emotions of my wounded inner child. This helps me stay present, grounded, and non-reactive in moments where I might otherwise have been hijacked by my big feelings. Instead of leading me into deeper reactivity and isolation, these tricky moments become opportunities for sweetness and healing.
WB: What is a theme that is showing up for you lately, and what is something you are working on or want to work with?
AH: The theme of using the active / expressive current in channels that require action is very present for me right now. By nature, I really love the realm of ideas. I love to take in and think about all kinds of new and interesting information. Information gathering is an expression of the passive / receptive current. I'm currently grappling with, “Okay, now what do I do with this information? How do I want to move forward in my life in practical terms? What does ‘right action’ in this moment look like?” Really breaking down the step-by-step is my growing edge.
WB: What is a ritual that brings you joy?
AH: One of the routines that I really enjoy is getting up to take a walk in the morning when it's still very quiet out. There is a bike path along the Winooski River right outside my door. When I first wake up, I’ll grab my earbuds and put on something inspirational – an audiobook or a Pathwork lecture – to get myself moving and headed outside. I’ll spend the first part of my walk soaking in these inspirational words. After a bit, I’ll turn it off and just be in the quietude of the morning, digesting what I took in and feeling the presence of the natural world around me. I’ll say hello to any little creatures I see: a chipmunk, a skunk. I especially like spotting different songbirds, as well as the great blue herons and the occasional bald eagle who like to fish on the river. I like watching the landscape change slowly as the seasons progress. Starting my day in this intentional way, grounding in both the sacred and the natural worlds, helps me to remember that they are one thing. It reminds me that I am meant to fully participate while I am here. That brings me a lot of joy. It sets the tone for my day.
Pathwork Vermont announces that a new administrative leadership and a board of directors have been established for Pathwork Vermont. Prior leadership and board members had been in place for up to 12 years following the initial leadership transition when PWVT founder, Sahra Aschenbach, retired in 2008.
Prior leadership included Anne Connell, Isabelle Meulnet, Ingrid Schirrholz and Alison Greene-Barton. Mary Jane Ihasz also contributed her leadership in earlier years directly after Sahra’s stepping down. Altogether this group comprised administrative and board leadership.
Two years ago we began working on leadership transition. At that time Vermont had a number of helpership graduates who were apprenticing and showing their commitment to holding up the community. We began a process of naming, listening, dialog, clearing, meditation and calling forth. We gratefully acknowledge the help from Lorraine Marino who guided our process.
The folks who have stepped forward join some old timers who remain. At this point the new administrative team and the new board of directors are in place and leading PWVT.
The new administrative leadership team are Jill Arace and Isabelle Meulnet.
The new board of directors are Jeannie MacLeod, President; Anne Bolger, Secretary; Anne Connell, Treasurer; and Directors Isabelle Meulnet, Ingrid Schirrholz and Theresa Hoffman.
Alison Greene-Barton stepped away from board duties and remains available in a role of spiritual elder (as does Ingrid). Blessings upon our elders!
In addition, Ali Graham, Marian Ackerman, Elisabeth Gardner, and Ellen Demers Wakefield have faithfully been giving support. We expect to add a 7th board member and continue replenishing the board of directors over the next year.
Those of us who held the board and admin work for many years are deeply grateful to everyone who volunteered to help run programs and nurture the community.
And those of us who are newly stepping into leadership are deeply grateful to our predecessors who so lovingly held the container of Pathwork Vermont for many years.
In 2020, we honor and celebrate our students and Helpers for their accomplishments and commitments.
Elisabeth Gardner graduated from the Helpership Development Program . Elisabeth is a yoga teacher, body-centered psychotherapist and entrepreneurial trainer based in Norwich Vermont. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Elisabeth and her colleagues were moved to provide free counselling sessions to first responders and essential workers in the Upper Valley. “I always wanted to marry East and West in my therapeutic work, and Pathwork has enabled me to do that.” - Elisabeth Gardner
Ali Graham claimed full Helpership. Ali is a therapist and Pathwork Helper based in Lincoln Vermont. Ali founded a non-profit organization to support healing and spiritual development called The Trillium Center. She is in the process of creating a physical home for The Trillium Center (in Lincoln, VT) and she wishes to support Pathwork Vermont with doing the same.
“I’m no longer afraid of my darkness … and I’m not afraid of my light.” - Ali Graham
Isabelle Meulnet stepped into Senior Helpership after teaching two courses of the Personal Transformation Program and serving as Pathwork Vermont’s co-leader for many years. Isabelle is a spiritual counselor, Pathwork Helper and Brennan Healing Science practitioner based in Montpelier Vermont. In September, Isabelle has further stepped into the role of Pathwork Vermont’s spiritual leader. “I feel connected to the whole … and I can still feel myself.” - Isabelle Meulnet
Anjani Thomas, Cyndy Shaw, Gardner Orton and Whitney Bellingham graduated from Helpership Development Program and Lana Hayden completed Advanced Pathwork Studies. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fourth year of our HD/APS Program, taught by Ingrid Schirrholtz and Alison Greene-Barton, moved to online classes that stretched over the summer and into the fall of 2020.
In September, these five beautiful beings completed the course and are bringing their light into the world, each in their own way. “We love being together!”
Thank you for your ongoing spiritual and financial support of Pathwork Vermont.
If you would like to make a donation to support our ongoing programs, please send a check to Pathwork Vermont, PO Box 15, Montpelier VT 05601-0015.
We are a U.S. 501(c)3 public charity. Your donation is tax-deductible to the full extent permitted by law. Thank You!
It’s been some time since we’ve been in touch, and we feel the longing to reach out and connect with you. We wanted to update you on our programs, news and activities, and invite your reflections and suggestions.
We had a provocative and supportive summer retreat with Lorraine Marino in August, called Finding Your Call to Spiritual Activism. The retreat was held in Manchester, VT. Participants reflected on what we stand for and times we’ve been silent in the face of injustice, and explored intentions for spiritual activism, which varied from personal, to community, to global. It was wonderful to have folks from the Philadelphia, Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Vermont Pathwork communities join the retreat and have the opportunity to share news and experiences from our respective communities.
The Fall of 2018 began with a new Pathwork Transformation Program (PTP1) , which we’re very excited about. The class is being taught by Isabelle Meulnet, in Bristol VT, and supported by three Pathwork VT apprentices. In the class, “Awakening to the Authentic Self,” PTP1 students are beginning the exploration of their basic misunderstandings about self and life in a world of duality, as well as building a container of trust and mutual support for this tender work.
We also entered the third year of our Helpership Development Program (HDP3), taught by Ingrid Schirrholz and Alison Greene-Barton. This year’s class is being held in Manchester VT and supported by four Pathwork VT apprentices. The theme is “Tuning In to the Soul’s Journey of Your Worker.” While deepening understanding of the Pathwork material, the focus is now on the other. Students are working on their skills as evolving Helpers, giving individual helper/worker sessions to each other, and continuing lecture study classes.
One year ago we made the decision to move our small classes out of Bishop Booth Conference Center in Burlington VT and said a heartfelt “Farewell for now” to the managers there. We were both sad to leave the place that has held and nurtured so many of us during our Pathwork journeys, and excited to consider new possibilities of meeting places for Pathwork VT.
So far it’s been challenging to find a venue that holds us and is convenient and health-supporting for both students and teachers. We hope to be able to be able to gather our two classes in one location in the future. Our board of directors and program committee, composed of Isabelle Meulnet, Anne Connell, Ingrid Schirrholz and Alison Greene-Barton, have been working hard to hold the Pathwork Vermont entity, organization, classes and the apprenticeship program, while staying grounded in and inspired by the Guide’s teaching. And Jeannie MacLeod, Apprentice Helper, has been helping with logistics for many years.
This fall, we began a process of leadership transition that aims for new leaders and leadership structures in the next two years. Isabelle, Anne, Alison and Ingrid have begun working with Lorraine Marino, a 50/50 Pathwork Helper and organizational development expert from Philadelphia. We started by meeting in September to reflect on our different roles in Pathwork Vermont, and on where we’ve been, where we are now and where we’re going.
Stay tuned for updates on progress and on how to become involved in this process which will ultimately include the entire community.Pathwork Vermont is evolving, including both letting go and answering the call to new possibilities. As we feel our way through the next round of creation, we are committed to staying open to what arises from Spirit - and humans!
We welcome inspirations, ideas, thoughts and prayers from all of you who are - and have been in the past - a part of this community. Please share your reflections and suggestions with us by responding to this email. We will be most grateful for your input.May your holidays be filled with tenderness and joy, and may we continue to shine the light of God’s love.In peace,Isabelle Meulnet, xxAnne Connell, xxIngrid Schirrholtz, xxAlison Greene-Barton, xxJill Arace, Apprentice and Communications Helper
Sahra Aschenbach is a student in her third year of studies in the Helpership Development Program (HDP3) of the New York region when she envisions and creates Pathwork Vermont (PWKVT). The year is 1996.
For the next ten years, PWKVT is run like a personal business, and Sahra operates as its sole proprietor. The upside of this arrangement is that it keeps things simple; the downside is that, as every year brings more students, PWKVT is growing beyond the point where one person can realistically manage it.
Also, on the financial level, the lines between Sahra’s personal and PWKVT’s accounts get sometimes blurry, as Sahra does not hesitate to use her own money to fund a program, a workshop or a class.
In 2006, Sahra -approaching 71 years - is facing the reality that she is aging. Although she is doing all that is possible to keep this aging process healthy and graceful, she is realizing that there are no 100% guarantees that her good health will last as long as she might wish for Pathwork Vermont to be a viable and growing organization. Holding all the roles has become too challenging now that PWKVT has grown significantly and is offering PTP and HDP programs as well as Summer Retreats, Lecture Study groups, workshops, and intensives. She needs help.
All throughout that year, she inquires into: What does the future of Pathwork Vermont look like? Who are the next leaders? What will the transition of leadership look like? Sahra intends to undertake this venture thoughtfully and without the pressure of time.
In April of 2006, a vision emerges of stepping down “sometime during the next few years; of being replaced by existing members of the Pathwork VT community, who will be answering the call to leadership. My longing is for Pathwork Vermont to thrive as I begin the process of letting go over the next four years. My vision is that I will remain actively involved as Pathwork Vermont becomes a fully functioning organization that has its own vision and mission, its own governance, a stable financial foundation, and is a visible presence which is attracting students to study and become part of our growing community. I am also holding a vision that Pathwork Vermont will remain an active and vital presence in the North American Pathwork Association as well as in the Pathwork worldwide, which it is now.” (Excerpt from a letter sent by Sahra to the Pathwork Vermont Community in April 2006)
What follows is a description of Sahra ‘s process of passing on the mantle of leadership.
I. Old Leadership structure: 1 leader
a) Brainstorming Process In 2006 , all throughout our residential weekends, students from both Transformation and Helpership programs are invited to join Sahra in informal breakfast meetings to brainstorm and envision the future of PWKVT. Sahra proposes the re-structuring of PWKVT into a non-profit organization and the creation of a Leadership Team. She patiently describes all the many roles she has been holding for the last ten years- the “hats she wears” as she says- such as financial administrator, program director, curriculum designer, summer retreat creator and registrar, contact person for PWKVT, outreach person and visionary. “I believe that what I am proposing is essential for Pathwork Vermont to continue to grow. I think it is very possible, if we start the work now, to have all of this in place by 2010 or 2011 I truly believe that we have the spirit and enthusiasm, vision and ingenuity, courage and integrity to embark on this exciting journey together.” (Excerpt from a letter sent by Sahra to the PWKVT community in April 2006)
By June of 2006, out of the committed collaboration of the members of a Re-organization Team, Pathwork Vermont’s mission and vision statement is created. During the summer of 2006, Sahra contacts a lawyer and an accountant/CPA specializing in non-profit organizations. With their help, she begins the complicated and lengthy paperwork process required by the IRS.
b) Turning point: International Pathwork Conference in Mexico
In July 2007, Sahra - whose eyesight is rapidity failing - MJ and I - “her seeing eyes” as she calls us - fly to the Mexico International Pathwork Conference. Our mission is to learn how other Pathwork regions/countries have organized themselves. The Mexican Pathwork reveals itself to us in two beautiful and inspiring ceremonies:
1. The Opening Ceremony – “ In the Alchemy of the Crucible, Pathwork Mexico was born - is led by Andre Leites, founder and director of Pathwork Mexico. Andres tells of his 20 years long, and at times difficult, journey to bring the Pathwork Guide teachings to Mexico. He shares the history of Pathwork Mexico: how it came out of the split from the Phoenicia Center after Eva's death; its struggle to stay alive; the conscious choice, ten years ago, to separate from the rest of the Pathwork world and the isolation that followed; its current state of 84 helpers, 20 teachers and 600 students and the longing of its members to reach out and re-connect with other pathworkers; which guided them to organize and create this International Pathwork Conference, bridging themselves with the Pathwork worldwide.
Throughout the week, the Vermont Team mingles with Pathwork leaders from all over the world. We ask what works and what does not work in their organization. We are curious to find out which regions are thriving / expanding and which ones are struggling / diminishing and why. We seek the advice from Pathwork elders. From them we learn that what best support expansion is the ability of leaders to surrender their self-will to the highest good of the group. We notice that successful and thriving regions include Process Group time in all their meetings and gatherings, and if they can’t do it on their own (i.e. too much dissidence within the group members or too many masks of leadership at work), they ask for an outside facilitator to come to teach them about authentic leadership and when necessary, how to successfully engage in loving confrontation.
2. In a moving and inspiring Closing Ceremony, we witness Andre Leites, stepping down as founder and director of Pathwork Mexico and passing over the leadership “baton” - in this case an ancient and majestic gong - to the upcoming leader, Olga Tanaka, and her executive team, all emerging from the new generation of Mexican Pathworkers.
II. Transitioning Process and the Building a New Structure: From 1 to 3 leaders.
a) Creation of two entities: Board of Director and Leadership Team In August 2007, PWKVT acquires its 501C-3 status and officially becomes a non-profit organization. A Board of Directors is created. Its primarily task is to manage the financial aspect of our organization. It has four members: three leaders-in-training – all HDP3 students - and Sahra Aschenbach.
The remaining tasks - which extend beyond the mere management of running a school - are now officially managed by theLeadership Team, which has four members (same members as the Board of Directors).
b) Requirements: Inner and Outer Preparation.
To support her Stepping Down process, Sahra knows that at a certain point, the very young Leadership Team will need outside assistance and guidance. When the time comes, she contacts Lorraine Marino to facilitate two 3-Day Retreats, in which we are to explore leadership on both a personal and collective level. To prepare for these retreats, the apprentice leaders are invited to inquire, meditate, and explore the following questions:
On a personal level , we ask ourselves:- Where am I in my response to the call of Leadership in Pathwork VT? How willing am I to take on responsibilities and be of service? What are my Yes and my No currents? - What are my transference issues, if any, with Sahra? - Where is my individual fit on the Leadership Team? (e.g. what are my responsibilities & fears ; where am I on my exploration of personal will vs. Divine Will?) - How do I keep functioning boundaries with other members of this team? How do I avoid experiencing separation, enmeshment, or loss of self when in a position of power and in relation to other leaders?
As a leadership team, on a collective level, we investigate: - How to create a container of the highest vibration, which nurtures both individuality and community. - How to move gracefully from a 1-leader organization to 4- leader (2010-2011) to 3-leader organization (June 2011, onward). - How to identify and define the roles needed to manage Pathwork VT. - What leadership qualities to develop or support in one another. - How best to work together.
c) Chronology of the Stepping Down Process: a summary April 2006: Sahra realizes she needs to prepare Pathwork Vermont for a transition in leadership. She envisions a Leadership Team guiding Pathwork VT and writes a letter describing this transition process to the Community. September 2006: three HDP3 students answer the call to Leadership and join Sahra in becoming the first members of a Leadership Team.
August 2007: PWKVT acquires its 501C-3 status- Sahra sees herself “passing the Mantle of Leadership, in a ceremony, sometime in the next four years.”
May 2008: Sahra steps down as sole Pathwork Vermont Leader. She remains consultant to the newly formed Leadership Team.
September 2009: Sahra unexpectedly finds herself in a hospital, facing surgery. Her health is deteriorating more rapidly than was expected. She accepts that her four-year plan has now become a three-year process.
February and August 2010: two Leadership Transition Retreats facilitated by Loraine Marino bring on board a senior Helper,Ingrid Schirrholz, who becomes a consultant to the Leadership Team.
May 2010: During a Community Gathering, Sahra passes the “Mantle of Leadership” to the new Leadership Team. She is honored and celebrated in a beautiful Good-Bye Ceremony. In August 2010, Sahra, feeling that the young Leadership Team is now in good hand and council, takes her final step back: she resigns from her position as president of the Board of Directors, permanently retiring from Pathwork Vermont.
September 2010: the new Leadership Team - freshly graduated from the Apprenticeship Program - solely runs Pathwork VT. Its three main members are Isabelle Meulnet, Mary Jane Ihasz and Anne Connell. One additional member, Ingrid Schirrholz acts as senior consultant and advisor. III. Testimonies from Past and Current Leaders
From Sahra Aschenbach: " I am astonished that a vision, which came to me in 1996, has turned into the reality of a vibrant Pathwork Community. Over the last eighteen years, 46 students have graduated from our Transformation Program, 20 from our Helpership Development Program and 10 have claimed Full Helpership. As I reflect on this amazing creative journey, I find myself so grateful to the NY region and its many teachers who helped shape me as a Pathworker and contributed to the creation of Pathwork Vermont. My deepest gratitude goes to:
Judith Garten, who came to Vermont to teach our original Intro Workshop, which contributed to the formation of our first PTP class. From New York, she traveled to VT to bring her active support to the Vermont Pathwork. When I invited Judith in 1996, I had no idea that almost two decades later, students would still be enrolling to study, learn and practice the Guide’s teachings. Throughout the years, Judith stayed with us as teacher, mentor, and advisor.
~ Heda Kohler who, in 1996, skillfully taught our first Transformation Program. ~
Ingrid Schirrholz and Mel Sadownick, who, in 2000 came to teach, lead and help create and organize Pathwork Vermont. They were core participants in creating our programs and curriculums and became our next longtime teachers. From other Pathwork regions, my sincere appreciation goes to: ~
Gene Humphrey for the role he played in influencing my vision. Throughout the years I knew Gene, he never ceased to remind me of the few things I was leaving out and needed to attend to. He was my mentor in realizing the importance of the integrity of a Pathwork organization. What Gene showed us was that we needed to be aligned with spiritual and secular guidelines and laws in order to be a legally recognized non-profit organization.
~ Brian O’Donnell who came to show us, what it meant to have a lower self and the difference between lower self and negative intentionality. His mastery brought us deeper in touch with the final step to being our real selves.
~ Lorraine Marino, my kind and dedicated helper, mentor and supervisor, who for years, supported my growth as a teacher and leader. She became the guiding force behind the process of our leadership transition. When it became apparent that we could not do this alone, I reached out to her. Lorraine kindly took me by the hand and - being a facilitator in Leadership and Organizational Development - skillfully guided us through the process. Letting go and stepping into Full Leadership was a process that was both enlightening, and at times, uncomfortable. This was a period of deep learning, as the new leaders found the courage to step forward. It took as much courage for me to step down and experience the grace and the pain of Letting Go and Letting God.
And finally, to the Pathwork Vermont Leadership Team:
~ Isabelle Meulnet , Mary Jane Ihasz and Anne Connell:“ Thank you for being able to embrace and carry the vision that came to me and more deeply, the vision of Eva. I am so grateful that the Vermont Pathwork continues to grow under your visionary, creative ability to manifest just what is needed.” I feel honored and blessed to have been part of a community that had the gift of leadership, which allowed Pathwork Vermont to go on as a teaching and spiritual community, nationally and internationally.
" From Isabelle Meulnet: "What I witnessed in the International Pathwork Conference in Mexico showed me that Ingrid Schirrholz, Sahra Achenbach, and all the teachers they have brought to the Vermont Pathwork are top notch teachers who artfully blend the teachings of the original Pathwork from Eva Pierrakos with the 50/50 Illuminations from Moira Shaw. I am deeply grateful for the exquisite leadership skills, patience and love every one of these leaders model and transmit to everyone they train. On a personal level, I am learning that leadership starts with self-management and self-regulation. I am learning to manage the omnipotent ruler within and surrender more often than not to true authority. As a Leadership Team member, I am constantly looking to foster flow, balance, and harmony within our team. I am discovering that these qualities are the result of: - creating and upholding Basic Rules of Conduct and Ethics that uphold “ the highest good”. - doing group process with one another during our quarterly Leadership Team retreats. - aligning with, living by and applying Universal Laws. - aligning with positive intentionality. - creating a playful and relaxing environment for all our Retreats and Community Gatherings that nourish the development of everyone’s highest potentials. - offering mutual support and appreciation for ourselves and for all potential leaders : the ability to focus on and appreciate our strengths and make friend with our differences."
From Anne Connell: "Sahra had a four-year plan that took about three years. The main areas we focused in were learning the tasks of leadership and running non-profit school; and processing our interpersonal relationships in the three spheres of reality as we all moved into new relationships. Sahra led the way with her vision and was decisive up to and including when she realized she would step down earlier than expected. We envisioned a time when we would be ready, then God decided it was time. The energy was more “let God & let go” in order. A little later Ingrid officially joined us in leadership, as she had always been a trusted advisor. Out of this time came a sort of template for working together. Using Pathwork & 50/50 process, acknowledging that our work is sacred, is super productive. It brings awareness to our divinity and ideally this should always inform our efforts (anywhere, anytime). How we work together now sustains us as we hold leadership of Pathwork Vermont."
From Mary Jane / MJ Ihasz: "It has been both challenging and a privilege to journey thru this transition of Leadership with Sahra, Isabelle, Anne and Ingrid. Sahra had been my Helper and Ingrid my Teacher for five years. In my second year of Helpership I heard a call to be of service – to take over some logistic tasks – so it began. Sahra held her vision with great care and continued to tend to it every step of the way. Her transparency with us was ultimately a wise model. I feel blessed by the opportunities and support I received so that I might come into my Leadership. I have found my unique way to hold each Leadership sister, Pathwork VT and the students with Love, Faith and Trust. On the phone or in person we celebrate each other’s gifts and wisdom while creating a spacious, thoughtful container for The Guide’s wisdom to inform and transform."
From Ingrid Schirrholz: "Knowing that leadership transitions can be challenging, and when not handled well, undermine and weaken an organization, I can appreciate Sahra's foresight and wisdom, her determination and steadfastness in this transitioning process. During the beginning of the transition Anne, Isabelle, and Mary Jane were students in the Helpership Development Program that I was teaching. It has been personally rewarding to see three of my former students growing into competent and inspiring leaders. This certainly helped me in shifting my role from being their teacher to becoming a co-leader and a friend with each one of them. My joining the leadership team after our teacher-student relationship had ended has been a harmonious and enriching experience. I am impressed with their maturity, their passion for the Pathwork, their willingness to give to the community and their graciousness."
The glue that held us together throughout this conscious process of transitioning from one to four leaders – the Leadership Team - was our willingness to be malleable throughout the envisioning process. It was our ability to surrender again and again to a process of rethinking and restructuring ourselves. It was our willingness to trust, listen to, and answer the call of this entity called Pathwork VT. It was to enter a deeper level of purification and transformation. We asked for help and received advice and recommendation both from humans and spirit. We followed, so we could lead. We confronted each other when necessary and when we were, at last, willing to let go of our self-will, of “having our way”, we could open up to see and hear what else was possible for the future the Vermont Pathwork.
(written by Isabelle Meulnet - May 2014)
On March 6-11, 2007, Sahra Aschenbach, Mary Jane Ihasz and Isabelle Meulnet, from Pathwork Vermont, traveled to Ixtapa- Mexico, to attend the 2007- International Pathwork Conference, called “Building Bridges on the Path”. More than 300 Pathworkers worldwide gathered to learn, share and challenge one another in our understanding and experience with the Pathwork teachings.
The conference, presented simultaneously in Spanish, English and Portuguese, had two parts: a leadership part and a general conference part. It was created and expertly orchestrated by three teams: the Mexican, the International Pathwork Foundation and the Design teams. A. First three days: Leadership Conference The first three days of the conference brought together 60 worldwide leaders, who gathered to present, assess, explore and challenge the state of Pathwork around the world.
The unveiling of Pathwork Mexico ~ two beautiful ceremonies ~
1) ”In the Alchemy of the Crucible, Pathwork Mexico was born...":: This opening ceremony was led by Andre Leites, founder and director of Pathwork Mexico. Andres told of his 20 years long, and at times difficult, journey to bring the Pathwork teachings to Mexico. He shared the history of Pathwork Mexico: how it came out of the split from the Phoenicia Center after Eva's death; its struggle to stay alive; the conscious choice, ten years ago, to separate from the rest of the Pathwork world and the isolation that followed; its current state of 84 helpers, 20 teachers and 600 students; the longing of its members to reach out and re-connect with the Pathwork worldwide.
2) Stepping down Ceremony: In this very moving ceremony, Andre Leites, stepped down as founder and director of Pathwork Mexico and passed over the leadership “baton” (it actually was a ancient and majestic gong) to the upcoming leader, Olga Tanaka , and her executing team, Perla Barabak and Yolanda de los Reyes, all from the new generation of Mexican Pathworkers.
Pathwork in the World: Connections and Relationships
1) Bio-dancing with Amanda van Bowen, president of the Foundation: Amanda taught us the simple art of creating intimacy without words. Through gentle movement, music and eye contact, held by the universal language of the heart, we experienced deep contact and love with one another.
2) Exploring the Evolution of the Pathwork: “Who are we today? Who are we becoming? What does the world need from us?” This group discussion and brain storming session was led by Michael Roblee and Gene Humphrey, two long-time Pathworkers from Michigan and California.
During that time, we also explored the meaning and the importance of strengthening our ability to name and hold “our tension fields”. A tension field arises when our healthy adult ego is able to name that our child consciousness / lower self has been triggered and is in an emotional reaction, while, at the same time, maintain its own alignment with the God-Self/ Higher Self within. Holding a tension field, with integrity, patience and without forcing an outcome, allows an organic healing process to emerge.
During this section of the conference, we collectively created and held an incredibly charged and potent tension field. This field had been over thirty years in the making, and had arisen out of the unresolved splits and pain of exclusion held by many of the original Pathworkers (before and after Eva’s death.) At the beginning of this session, Mary Jane and I (both graduates from the Barbara Brennan School of Healing), and 4 others, had volunteered to hold and ground the boundaries of the group. In the safety of this sacred container, a tension field emerged and grew steadily, energetically charged by all our unconscious and unresolved issues. As the group’s Lower Self was released, a lot of negative and painful energies lashed out all over the place. In the end truth telling, sobs, tears and every one’s willingness to own their part brought about a remarkable healing for all involved.
3) Pathwork in the 21st Century:
This leading edge discussion-meditation was presented by Brooks Greene-Barton, from California. Brooks talked about the evolution of humanity and of the opportunity for Pathwork to be a leader in the 21st century. He asked us to meditate on the question“How do we - Pathwork - want to be seen by the world?” and feel into what it would be like to take full responsibility for how other people experience who we are. He described the importance of finding unity within us, among us and with Higher Consciousness /God. He showed us how this task was essential for the survival of humanity and how a positive future absolutely depended on it.
The first part of this conference ended on two profoundly moving and hopeful notes: the reunification of the International Pathwork Foundation with Pathwork Mexico and Andres Leites on one hand; the telling of truth and reconciliation among some of the original participants of the first Pathwork Helpers class / community on the other hand. B Last three days: General Conference
The last three days brought an additional 250 participants, one third Mexican students and the rest Pathworkers from as far as Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, USA, Canada, Majorca and Israel . Opening ceremony (Similar to the Unveiling of Pathwork Mexico from Day 1 of the conference) This was a festive, exciting and moving ceremony among Mexican Pathwork teachers, leaders and their students and the rest of the world! Sahra, Mary Jane and I participated and Pathwork Vermont was honored as one of the representatives from the United States. What an amazing and beautiful demonstration of love, passion and heart connections among all! It was truly a joy to witness.
- "Creating New “Families":
In this exercise we were divided into 20 groups of 15. All fifteen members of each group came together as a family. Each family had the same family names (" random" names picked out of a fish bowl). Some appointed time each day was spent in our individual family with the tasks of connection, communication and relating. Sahra picked the "Power" family; MJ, the "Spirituality" family and I, the “Positive Intentionality" family. One of our tasks was to talk about "why we picked this particular name/family!”. Another challenge was to communicate: tough task within family members who did not necessary speak the same language!!! From this simple exercise came an opportunity to learn about our specific place and experience in our own family of origin.
- “Writing a love letter to your frightened child/fear”, with Barbara Azzarra, from California Pathwork. We had the opportunity to hold and embrace, from our God-Selves, the “frightened, tender little one within”, who had just learned that s/he was now a part of an unfamiliar family which did not speak his/her language. For many of us this further deepened our connection with “family of origin” work…its wounds and the healing of the wounds.
- “The heart dance/ meditation”, with Peg and Gene Humphrey, Pathwork California. This moving meditation was powerful. For me, it brought up insights on many levels. The dance was done four times, each time facing one of the directions: East, South, West and North. Each direction connected me to 1) the future and what is possible; 2) the past and the teachings of my ancestors; 3) the present and the teaching of what is present now; 4) the center and the teaching of my heart. This meditation also helped me to feel at the cellular level the power of my own heart. I deeply listened to and heard its rhythm in its expansion and contraction phases.
Through the opening and closing movements of my arm and heart I connected to the experience of giving and receiving of love. I saw the choice I have, every moment, to say YES and NO to life. The repetition of the simple movements of this meditation brought about a trance-like feeling. It forced me to let go of the mind and connected me to my heart and the ultimate simplicity of life. It reminded me of the truth around giving and receiving: that the more you give the more you receive. This heart chakra meditation done by 300 people all gathered in one room doing exactly the same movement, at the same time, brought forth the experience of one heart, one breath, one movement, one focus, one humanity. Within 15 minutes, without one spoken word, among 300 other beings, I knew unity; I remembered Oneness. - "International Dancing" with music from all Pathwork countries. Similar to Bio-Dancing, this dance was done among all of us: no words; just movement, music and heart.
Panel discussions and workshops
- Presentation from various Pathwork Centers: Brazil, Uruguay, Holland, Mexico and others presented and answered questions about how they began, what worked and what did not work
- Pathwork Workshops: One dozen various Pathwork workshops were offered in the afternoons during the last two days of the conference. Sahra Aschenbach and Madeline Dietrich presented one called “The Challenges and Opportunities for Building Community in small Chapters and Groups”. Workshops attended by Pathwork Vermont attendees: “Pathwork and the Kabbalah: The Great Paradigm of Relationship”” presented by Iris Markham", a helper and teacher form the Great Lakes Region. AND ” Create and Believe” taught by Olga Tanaka and Perla Barabak is the workshop I attended: more than anything, I wanted to experience “the Mexican touch”.
International Pathwork Foundation (IPF)
1) Intro / presentation, with Amanda van Bowen and most of the Trustees. They presented the history and functions of the Foundation, and described its current vision: “To create a spiritual container for the worldwide Pathwork that helps us to live the teachings and bring them out in the world.” They invited us to participate in designing its future role, and mission.
2) "Stepping Down" Ceremony, where Amanda stepped down as president of the Foundation. This was a beautiful and touching ceremony where Amanda recounted her calling during the 2004 International Pathwork Conference in Brazil to step forward and become the president of the Foundation. She described her journey of the last three years, what she had held, “birthed” and what she was leaving behind (“this beautiful infant!”). She introduced the trustees, her support team and ended her heartfelt presentation with her current call to step down.
- Group Discussions In these small groups discussions we explored how we could, individually and collectively, best “Build Bridges on the Path”. Eight groups were formed and brainstormed on what was needed to spread the teachings of the Pathwork worldwide. In our English-speaking group we summarized our exploration into three words: Cohesiveness (through the Guide Lectures), Connection (through love) and Communication (through the Internet). We created a mantra out of what we had learned, and Linda Farrell, from Pathwork Vermont and Pathwork Michigan added an energetic- movement component to it .I was impressed by the creativity, diversity and uniqueness of all presentations!
- Closing Ceremony : Making bridges out of balloons
At the end, we energetically integrated the material of the conference by building symbolic bridges out of balloons, goodwill and a lot of laughter. Pathwork Mexico had welcomed and received us well! We returned home, uplifted, enchanted and filled to the brim with generous gifts of connectedness, expansion, love and inspiration.
C. What I learned:
- On being a leader: After the first two days at the conference my first realization was that I was among peers. I was a leader. After many years of studying and learning from the Guide’s teachings it felt empowering to stand up and own this leadership. I realized that my Pathwork training had been first class, and that the programs that Sahra Aschenbach and Ingrid Schirrholz had designed for Pathwork Vermont were truly the top of the line! I learned I had moved through the three Pathwork stages. From 1) being nurtured, I had moved into 2) learning self-nurturing and was now in 3) the nurturing of others. On exclusion: I know that on one level, it was no coincidence that I happened to be present when this charged tension field arose in the leadership group and was followed by this powerful healing. As my personal tension field arose, I searched within myself how I had contributed to the collective human pain of “exclusion”. I examined how and where I excluded myself, first between the various aspects of my own self, secondly within the context of the Pathwork Vermont community, thirdly within the world at large. I connected to my own pain of having been excluded and excluding others. I became curious about exploring the ramifications of such original exclusion that began in the Pathwork of Eva’s time. I wondered how overtime, energetically, this pain had drifted down, and in subtle ways had affected all of the subsequent Pathwork regions. I understood then about the energetic creative power held in one’s family lineage, and how any unresolved emotional issue held within the “ancestors” structure will continually affect and bind all of its descendants until it is addressed.
- On building bridges/on reaching out:
Pathwork Mexico’s longing to reach out into the Pathwork world for connections was what fueled the creation of this stunning conference. For me this reinforced the power held in one’s intentionality, and how when we are aligned with our heart’s longing and follow it through “miracles” happen. I realized that I could use this theme of “building bridges” as a reminder to keep on connecting my Lower Self with my adult self and my Higher Self; as an invitation to reach out and keep on making closer connections and exchanges within my own community, and with Pathworkers worldwide; as a possibility of co-creating a “new Foundation” (i.e. as in participating in the upbringing “the “infant” left by Amanda) and establishing new, stronger ties with it.
- On essence and form:
As a body, energy, consciousness worker I am fascinated by the relationship between consciousness and energy. During the course of the conference I noticed how energy follows consciousness. For example I saw how becoming conscious of one’s longing (Pathwork Mexico reaching out to Pathwork worldwide) become the precursor to manifesting that longing (the creation of this conference). I also saw how glitches, mistakes and obstacles that occurred during the conference first had to exist in the consciousness, or most likely unconsciousness, of all participants before manifesting into form or current reality. I saw clearly, especially during the Heart meditation/dance led by Peg and Gene Humphrey, that form – i.e. we, in our human form- can re-member oneness, formlessness, by allowing our heart energy to guide us. I realized that to change the form- the creation- we first must change the consciousness; which is just what the Guide shows us how to do.
- On holding the Feminine and Masculine principles:
It was interesting for me to see how tension fields arose and dissipated from event to event. I was able to see how tension fields exist on many levels and how they are absolutely essential on our journey of evolution. I realized that on this earth plane, on the level of matter, consciousness seems to need two apparent “opposite” poles in order to manifest. I noticed that tension made up the very strength of the fabric of the conference; that every healing or growth that happened during the conference happened because tension fields were created and held between two strong “opposite” poles. For example, the structured pole (represented by Michael and Gene) was held alongside the unstructured pole (embodied by Amanda); the masculine principle was held with the feminine principle; the manifest (form) with the unmanifest (essence); matter ( humanity) with void (divinity). I realized then that it is by holding both poles that we actually hold unity. I finally understood viscerally what the Guide meant when he talked about “the sacred marriage” between the divine masculine and the divine feminine; and how this lead to the experience of God! I understood that the human journey is not about choosing or siding with one or the other side of any two” opposites”, as much as holding the tension field that arises, and allowing what needs to happen to happen. (Usually an energetic release!)
- On the power of “holding the tension field”:
During the important healing that took place during the leadership conference, I was challenged to hold and name my personal process, my own tension field, and the group process. It was intense. It was powerful. Sometime I could hold both poles at the same time, other times not. All the while however, I could watch and name my process. In the end, I felt privileged to have been part of such healing! (within me, and within the group). I knew I had witnessed a sacred and profound moment in the history of the Pathwork! I have seen manifest how, with clear and sincere intentionality, most family’s unprocessed pain and inner split can be named and brought forth to truly begin its healing process. I saw that when we are able to identify and own our pain- both in its giving and its receiving aspects- and give back to our family what does not belong to us (the giving and receiving aspects of pain held by each and every other member of the family) we create an energetic container that becomes a potential portal for awakening and healing for all. I realized that the existence of tension fields provide the opportunity to explore our attitudes toward them, find the territories within our psyche that remain unexplored and continue our work of mapping the uncharted.
- On the power of the heart:
I explored the many levels of communications and connections held within my heart. Pathwork Mexico modeled a very important one: that of direct heart connection, of creation of intimacy without words. Throughout this conference I felt my heart expand. I experienced union: union within self, with other and with Oneness. I also experienced how, to avoid feeling pain, my heart contracts. My task is to allow this natural rhythm of my heart to happen, and to be aware of it as it happens. The deeper I am involved in this dance, the closer I pay attention, the more I am awed! I see clearly that as long as I think I have to choose one pole over the other, my “beautiful problems” surface. Only by remembering to insert feeling into the equation will a “beautiful tension field” arise, and, given time, organically dissipate of its own volition. The result: healing and growth of consciousness.
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