I passed by this gate the other day on a walk in the country and could not resist taking its picture. There was something about it that spoke to me. It felt so odd and so familiar all at once. Like the haunting image in a dream, I felt a need to be with it as it reminded me of how perception plays out in human relationships.
It is a beautiful gate, carefully constructed with obvious attention to detail. But why?
In the middle of nowhere, a gate at the side of a walking path leading out to a field. You could say it serves the purpose of keeping you out or letting you enter the field beyond it. If we just look at the gate, that might seem obvious. But what if we widen our view? What if we include in our perception the gate’s surroundings - grasses, plants, open fields and … no fence! It has no fence attached to it! What does this mean?
What purpose does this gate serve? Our rational minds may enter here, defending the existence of this lovely gate. It must be a first step toward a fence, leading the way for future construction. Or is it the remnant of a fence that once was, a representative of the past? Future or past? What about the present?
I am fascinated by the similarities between this gate and how we so often live our lives, informed by past experience, preparing for the future we fear. How often do we actually meet ourselves and each other in present time?
In my work with people, we frequently encounter structures like this gate interfering with current relationships and activities. For example, paralyzing feelings of being criticized by a boss, romantic partner or even a friend may be reminiscent of an abusive or critical parent or teacher as a child. Fear of speaking in front of a group may be a vestige of the early prenatal experience of not being fully welcomed in the womb. Like the gate without a fence, there is a persistent though not currently relevant need to hide, to remain as small as possible to avoid being discovered. We unconsciously deny ourselves what we most need and desire in desperate attempts to not feel the pain inflicted upon us so many years ago.
Overeating or other addictions are often habitual attempts to numb intolerable feelings related to abuse, rejection, neglect or simple human confusion and overwhelm. We come into life expecting to be received in our wholeness, welcomed and celebrated for just being here, according to our original blueprint. Instead, we may have encountered a field of ambivalence, where our parents felt overwhelmed by our arrival, ranging from surprise and feeling unprepared to have a child, to considering or attempting abortion or opting for adoption. While these are natural understandable reactions for parents in difficult situations, we must acknowledge their potentially devastating effect on the baby in question. Research has shown that unwanted babies run a high risk of developing mental health issues, learning difficulties and even criminal behavior.
Little ones in the womb are highly sensitive and aware beings. They have been seen in ultrasound to avoid or push away a needle during amniocentesis. They are known to be appropriately terrified when their presence isn’t welcomed. Their survival depends on their mother’s attitude toward them. Their sense of welcome or rejection is accordingly registered as a life or death issue. It is challenging to just rest and be when one’s very life is in question. Annihilation may be just a thought away.
Such feelings become like the gate without a fence. When these babies are capable adults no longer dependent on mommy’s acceptance, they may still act as if they are about to be aborted, being hypersensitive to rejection or criticism, always hyper-vigilant in wait of attack. The little one’s terror may persist as unexplained anxiety or phobias still standing strong like the gate, prepared for what horrors the future may bring.
Orienting to Wholeness and Health
We expect to be treated as we were in our first relationships. Unconsciously attempting to maintain order in our psyches, we project our feelings onto others, transferring our experience of our parents and other authority figures onto unsuspecting others participating in our play of life. We re-enact the past again and again, wondering why our current relationship or partner seems so similar to the last one, and the one before. What we don’t tend to acknowledge is that our re-enactments are done by us, as an expression of a deep, essential intention to heal.
As I viewed the gate without a fence, I was reminded of the power of a perceptual practice in Craniosacral Biodynamics of widening our perceptual field and orienting to wholeness. Our clients often arrive focused on the gate - a pain in the back, chronic headaches, depression or anxiety. The structure in focus blocks their passage into the field beyond. Their entire system orients to this blockage. Widening our perceptual field to include not only the problem but also the entire field it sits in shifts the perspective. The gate is no longer a blockage. There are many ways to proceed. The path is as wide as the entire field, offering potential we were previously unaware of.
Widening our view in Biodynamics, we sense deeper, more essential forces. The problem is suspended within a larger whole. We perceive the intelligence of the system in building this structure to contain old unresolved forces until such time as they can be resolved. We also perceive the depth of health that becomes accessible, providing the resource required for resolution. Our perception of wholeness facilitates this shift in orientation for the client. Where there was only a gate, there now is a whole picture, often with such a beautiful background!
Imagine if we all could live with this kind of perception? We are taught in school to focus in and lose our natural ability to hold the whole. What do you see when a friend is complaining? What do you hear when a child cries? The gates constructed limit our perception, perpetuating suffering. Without conscious awareness of this structure or our process of focusing on it, we tend to automatically repeat the past, controlled by unconscious, shadowy echoes of our history. It may even be obvious to all around us that the gate no longer serves, but, until we are aware of this ourselves, it remains in shadow in our consciousness, destined to rule our lives. The simple act of widening our view, opening our senses to what we have ignored or been too busy to pay attention to may be the magic key opening a long closed gate, or even dissolving it.
As we widen our view, including the surround, the gate loses its dominance in our field. While this mindful awareness can be liberating, it can also threaten our very identity. No wonder we so often resist the one thing most likely to set us free.
It is a simple gate. I was just taking an innocent walk. But no moment is that innocent. The truth of our being is always there, beckoning, available, a simple gate opening to a field of presence.