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Personal Story: Let’s Get Real About Thorny Problems

If you’ve spent a long time struggling with one big problem that seems to take over every aspect of your life, limits your personal progress in every area and which even meditation can’t cure, this personal account might speak to you.

“Imagine that a giant gnarled tree has grown up through your house and almost destroyed it. You cut down the tree. But you can’t rebuild the house, because the stump and all the tangled, impossible-to-dig-out roots are still there, and so the tree keeps trying to grow back.

“That’s where I've been for the last several years.

“It’s not important right now what that tree was. It is important that you know that if you have such a pervasively crippling pain in your own life, you’re not alone.

“If you do, then, you may have tried more approaches than you can count to deal with it. Some of them may have cut off a branch here or there. It probably grew back.

"You may have felt profound shifts at times. And then you went back out into the world and found the same old patterns were still there, as strong as ever, with all the anxiety and frustration that brings.

“You may have even identified the root cause, the inciting incident, and worked hard to deal with it, and the dozens or hundreds of compounding incidents that have given it more and more power over time. You may have cut down your tree. But the roots are still there, tangled through every part of your life. The old patterns are still there, and it might feel like they always will be.

“Here’s my abbreviated log of what worked and what didn’t in my attempts to remove those roots, in the hopes that you can use it to see your own resolution a little more clearly.

Watchfulness of thoughts: For a short time, I thought I was making some progress with this basic meditative practice. Detaching myself from the thought stream for any amount of time was useful, but then it became painful in everyday life as I realized that it wasn’t causing a shift in what I was thinking and feeling. On reflection, detaching myself from my thoughts in meditation was not a sufficient tool for detaching myself from my own everyday reality. It is only now, much later, that it is starting to have an impact.

EFT: Zero long-term impact. No matter how often I did it, with whom, or what formulae I used, any shift lasted no longer than the time it took to get up and go out into the world.

The B.E.S.T. System: Profound short-term effects. There is no doubt it did something – you will feel it in your body afterward. But long-term shifts in everyday life were lacking. I still use a self-administered version to deplete lingering mental-emotional processes, but that’s the extent of it.

Dispenza: This was the method, admittedly my own abbreviated, discouraged version, that led to my first real breakthrough, when I cut down the tree. It wasn’t during the process itself, but as I was falling asleep afterward. I suddenly had an intense awareness of the precise inciting incident in my childhood, and what its impacts had been. It was not just an abstract revelation. I saw it as a parasite clinging to the back of my neck, head and spinal column. I felt that parasite being encompassed in radiant, cool, blue light, and I felt that energy start to peel the parasite off. As I said, it wasn’t a permanent solution, and it didn’t break the old patterns, as much effort as I put in to make it do just that. I wanted to remove that parasite root and branch. But I still use Dispenza’s practice of offering up particularly thorny aspects of the problem to the Absolute.

Water School Dissolving: I learned the most basic version of Bruce Frantzis’ Water School dissolving method, and it worked better than anything I had encountered before. The precise sequence of localizing tension within the body, with or without clear emotional roots, visualizing it, saturating it with qi and then allowing it to relax, was quite powerful. Most importantly, it got me used to systematic dissolving of mental-emotional tensions accreted within the energy system. It is a continuing source of frustration that Frantzis hasn’t made the more extensive method available in a practical form (the process described in the books being very difficult to replicate).

Important Note #1: This was the point at which meditation actually started to work in a meaningful sense. Previously, whether I was practicing consistently or not and regardless of which method I was using, it amounted to a brief vacation from my problems and nothing more. This is why people with complex traumatic programming and other thorny issues need to learn dissolving first. Otherwise, more time spent meditating is simply recharge time and nothing else.

Tonglen: This Tibetan practice, and particularly one form of it, takes dissolving to the next level: transformation. You breathe all instances of a problem you’re experiencing into your heart, from yourself and everyone else experiencing it, and exhale it as light with the intention of transforming it into tranquility for everyone who is likewise afflicted.

Eckhart Tolle: While I always found that listening to Tolle could ground me very quickly in presence, the lack of a thorough somatic approach combined with the lack of method in his teachings have meant they took a while to sink in. The ability to make tranquil presence a default state of mind, and the ability to dissociate yourself from your historical existence, are essential mental components for opening up new possibilities. Of course, it takes time if your experience of the universe has led you to distrust it profoundly.

Guided Visualization: I had encountered many versions of this which didn’t work so well for me. Michael Sealey’s work was an exception, especially one particular recording. I’ve used this practice consistently to dissolve tensions connected with particular thoughts and future events, especially those localized in the major chakras/dantiens. Another practice from this series, breathing into areas of tension while visualizing the in breath as light and the out breath as the smoke-like energy of the tension, has also proved effective.

Important Note #2: It was only after practicing these guided visualizations for some time and combining them with Dispenza’s and Frantzis’ methods, as well as Tonglen and the practice of presence, that willpower became a meaningful force. Willpower is the direction of spare energy toward a goal. Previously, there had been no mental or emotional energy to spare.

“Learning to find, be present with and dissolve accreted emotional energy is the key skill that has helped me create some measure of mental and emotional freedom from my old patterns.

“A few other key points:

  • Forgive: If not for their sake, then do it to free yourself. Human beings are the primary torment of other human beings, but dwelling on it simply saps your strength. I haven’t managed to forgive everyone, and certainly not completely, but I am now basically content with the idea that they will all expire in due time.

  • Change Your Environment: Get out of the city and into the country, even for a little while. It will help take your mind out of its habitual spaces, especially if you do it on a regular basis.

  • If over several sessions with any practitioner, you feel that their approach is either marginally helpful or worse, that their own preconceptions are causing you harm, get out. A lot of people who have never been in your shoes or in any comparable situation will think they can help you, and very few of them are right. Many will try to impose their own programming and baggage on you.

“I hope that some of you will take solace in knowing that you’re not alone in your struggle, and perhaps some inspiration to try new approaches.”

If you have personal stories about dealing with your greatest inner obstacles and would like to share them, please email us at

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