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Roxanne Howe-Murphy

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Does Awareness Mean an End to Emotional Reactions?
by Roxanne Howe-Murphy   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, April 06, 2009
Posted: Monday, April 06, 2009

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Do you believe the spiritual myth? How caught up in patterns are you? What does being aware mean? What is true spiritual darkness?

 Stumbling to Enlightenment

by Roxanne Howe-Murphy, , Ed.D., Teacher, Author, Coach

"We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen".

 -- Thomas Merton

I love this quote! It speaks to the pervasiveness of our automatic conditioning, even in the midst of waking up to our true r nature, to the Light that We Are.

Those of us on a path of psychological and spiritual evolution can be caught having an ideal view of ourselves as having outgrown certain limiting patterns. It seems that once a troublesome issue is recognized and addressed, that it is 'supposed to go away.' But this is not how life works.

I remember finding myself in a most humbling situation. I realized that I had been arguing, trying to have 'the upper hand' with one of the people I most love. I was very clear with what I was asking, and he ignored that. I said 'no'. I asked him not to continue, I demanded to have him listen, and he didn't. I felt myself get mad and madder yet.

Who was I arguing with? Are you ready for this? My beloved little grandson. Of course, he was doing what little three-year olds do: he was asserting himself and challenging limits set by those having responsibility for him. And here I was, the so-called 'adult' having my buttons pushed. Can you relate?

Thankfully, through a moment of grace, I was able to see that I'd been hooked by something that had nothing to do with my grandson. Once I had enough presence, I was in a position to ask myself, 'what in the heck is going on here'?

As I stayed with my internal experience of this situation, I recognized that one of my core issues had been ignited. At the time of this incident, I thought I had worked out this issue. Wasn't I DONE with it already!??! Apparently not.

The spiritual myth at work here is that the more awake one becomes, the less that old emotional hooks and automatic reactions will occur. What actually happens is that the more awake one becomes, the more we recognize how pervasive these patterns are. They show up in many arenas and dimensions of life. What IS different is the degree to which we identify with the reactions. We tend to recognize that they are there, but we don't necessarily get hooked or don't take them as seriously. That is, we are less likely to act them out.

You may have seen the movie, A Beautiful Mind, and will remember this scene. John Nash (played by Russell Crowe) has just accepted his Nobel Prize and delivered his acceptance speech. He walks with his wife into the foyer. Nash's three internal 'characters' (his roommate, the niece, and CIA agent) wave to him from a distance. Noticing that he is distracted, his wife asks him if he is ok. He looks back at her, waves off the characters, and indicates that all is fine.

It's a powerful scene, and one that we replicate every time we recognize, "Oh, there's the pattern again," but THIS TIME, we don't get caught by the pattern, or at least do not get caught as long.

So, when you recognize that, "yes, I did that again", celebrate that you wouldn't not have recognized it if you were in the spiritual darkness. Rather than sit in judgment of yourself, let yourself be touched by the grace in this moment of presence.

 Roxanne Howe-Murphy, Ed.D., principal of LifeWise Learning Institute is a veteran Enneagram coach and teacher. She is the author of the internationally acclaimed book, Deep Coaching: Using the Enneagram As a Catalyst for Profound Change and is the founding teacher of the Deep Coaching Certification Program. She also directs the Enneagram Institute of the San Francisco Bay Area. For information on her teachings and products, visit 

Web Site: LifeWise Coaching

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