Going Inside & Trusting Myself – Part 1 of 2 – Karl

Going Inside & Trusting Myself – Part 1 of 2 – Karl May 27, 2024

Going Inside & Trusting Myself

(From our new book, Evolving From Religious Trauma. June 4th))

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For most of my life, religion told me not to trust myself, especially my feelings. We were taught what to believe based on the accepted belief systems and encouraged to trust that we were correct even when it did not feel right. The reason for this was the base reasoning that the body and our feelings were inherently bad because of sin.  

This ignorance led to several unhealthy results, including shame and other toxic beliefs. We prayed for miracles to happen to our bodies instead of tending to them. We missed all the messages our bodies were trying to give us, hoping for supernatural intervention. We thought the answers were out there somewhere, and we did not know how to look inside. Even though we knew our bodies healed themselves, we did not trust anything inside because we were convinced that all of it was bad.  

This toxicity affects every area of our life. When we believe that “there is nothing good in us,” we miss the good things we could experience, and we heap more shame onto our already traumatized existence. We carry the wounds from ourselves and others and feel the only answer is to beg God to “take it away.” In this type of belief system, how could we ever imagine that we could be a part of the solution?  

Recently, I have been discovering that my old belief system was misguided. By addressing my trauma and going within, I find healing not from a magical, external source but from somewhere inside me. My body gave me clues and tried to tell me what was wrong and how to improve. But, because I ignored it, looking for an easy solution, it only worsened because the remedy was ineffective. The shadow got bigger, the trauma dove deeper, and it caused more significant issues, including more physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms.  

Jesus hinted at this when he said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” The passage emphasizes that we do not need to look for it elsewhere if the Kingdom of God is as close as the cells of our body. The Divine is present in our brain cells, heart cells, and every blood and oxygen molecule that flows through our body. That is what Jesus was trying to tell us. It is one of the reasons I am investigating the thought that we are OF God.  

Since divinity is in every cell of our bodies (the Kingdom is within us—entos in the Greek), some even say we are Divine. I still feel separated from God because of the references where God and Jesus say, “I am.” We also portray a certain identity, but part of our identity is that divinity that exists. I love that we can be individual and collective. We can be fully human and divine.  

When considering God as Source, I think humans are proceeding from the Divine. Just like my son is a Forehand and OF me, I am OF God because even at the cellular level, I proceed (come forth) from God. This does not mean I am perfect because things get muddied or happen to me. But, at the core–at the deepest levels, I am not only connected to the Divine–I am OF the Divine. For me, it is a little better to say we are OF God than to say God creates us.

Because I have Christian roots, it helps to think about what Paul said when he talked about Christ filling up everything. We get confusing messages about God in Christianity because we want to classify things so that we can manage them. If God resides somewhere, we imagine we can better manage everything. But, even in the Bible, there is adequate messaging about God always being with us and the promises never to leave or forsake us.

In whatever ways that we imagine God, it is prudent to understand that the Divine is present in all things. The more we learn from science and physics, the more we know that every cell has intelligence and may even communicate in ways we could previously have only imagined. We find space in every cell and even at the subatomic levels, and we see every living organism working for the preservation and thriving of itself. We do not find evil and destruction there; we only find a steady hum of energy that we struggle to identify.

I still love my example of sprouts. When I sprout seeds in my kitchen, I get the seeds wet, and they quickly grow into miniature versions of a plant in about three days. I am told that the nutrition for these little plants is concentrated in the tiny little sprouts. I like the Broccoli and Friends version, which has broccoli, alfalfa, clover, and radishes. It is delicious! And it is packed with nutrition!

But the amazing thing to me is that everything the plant needs to know to grow into a large broccoli plant is inside that tiny seed. The informational plans on how to build a broccoli plant are in that seed. The food to grow it to a certain point is all contained in the seed, and later, it even knows to draw in sunlight and minerals from the soil until it becomes a full-grown plant. Eventually, it returns to the ground, where it will be reborn as nutrients for other things.

The challenge I have for everyone is this. Let us assume there is a divinity somewhere. Is it somewhere out there orchestrating the several hundred seeds in my sprouting jar, or is it more likely that the Divine is in every single cell of every living being and everything like those seeds in my kitchen? Could it be that creation is also evolving and that we are OF God more than we are FROM God? I know I just jumped across a lot of boundaries, but the old man in the sky makes little sense to me anymore. My garden and my sprouting jars teach me much more than my theology classes ever did.

Even the animals I observe in nature teach me about this inner knowing present in all living things. Animals trust their instincts as if they are responding to a drumbeat or hum in the universe that we still do not fully understand. They follow ancient patterns without understanding them. They have not been to church, so they do not yet know to distrust themselves.

I know I am different from my dog and my sprouts. Humans are more complex and have distinct instincts, intuition, and information to work with. But this, even more, convinces me that I am OF God and that the Divine is within me. My intuition, feelings, and inner knowing are present and flow through me like the hum reverberating through the Universe.

The fantastic thing about all of this is that I have discovered that we can heal ourselves from trauma that has plagued us for most of our lives. Those feelings that I was told to ignore are indicators trying to tell me something about how to heal from past experiences. I described this in my book, Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authenticity. I was able to recover from past trauma, but it required me to feel it so that I could heal it. I tried to bypass the pain and pray for miracles for 20 years as a pastor, and the trauma remained. But when I trusted myself and went inside, the trauma got better, and the shadow became integrated with me.

Listen again to what Eugene Gendlin says.

“What is split off, not felt, remains the same. When it is felt, it changes. Most people don’t know this! They think that by not permitting the feeling of their negative ways they make themselves good. On the contrary, that keeps these negatives static, the same from year to year. A few moments of feeling it in your body allows it to change. If there is in you something bad, sick, or unsound, let it inwardly be and breathe. That’s the only way it can evolve and change to the form it needs.”[1]

In other words, when we ignore the feelings trying to help us heal, we guarantee they will stay the same and not get better. But, when we are present with the parts of us that are stuck, we experience the real possibility of them shifting, and, as Gendlin says, “it can evolve and change into the form it needs.” This is where I have found healing in recent years. It has not been from connecting with something out there—it has been from trusting my feelings and being present with those wounded parts long enough for them to heal. I also believe all of us are connected and that it matters. Carl Jung thought that we have instincts and that there is a collective unconscious that we have access to. I will not pretend to understand this fully, but it fascinates me to think about it.

The collective unconscious consists of the sum of the instincts and their correlates, the archetypes. Just as everybody possesses instincts, so he also possesses a stock of archetypal images[2]

I spent the first half of my life trying to connect with something vague that is out there instead of looking inside. However, I also searched for connections only through physical groups where I could touch, see, and feel people. But now, I envision it slightly different.

These days, I can do focusing sessions with someone across the world, and Laura and I can feel what they are feeling. We observe our instincts as leading in the same direction. We cry together. We are connected! I feel this occasionally when I feel my grandfather and sense that something about him is near me. It used to frighten me to think like this. I was warned, inside religion, that this would expose me to dangerous things. But the opposite is true!

When I am open to this broader world, I feel empowered and like I am evolving into a way of thriving and being that leads me forward in a positive and enlightening way. We are learning how trees in a forest are connected, and I realize that most communication only happens when I am open to it.

Religion and belief systems teach us to be closed. Our dogma shuts off communication so that only one voice tells us what we should think. I now see my life with “all communication lines open.” I still get to choose what to pursue, listen to, or learn from, but I trust myself increasingly every day to interpret these messages.

If God ever did speak directly to people, then He/She/It still does. If the Divine spoke through a donkey, then it can speak through my ancestors and the collective unconscious. If the writers of the Bible were inspired during the 1800-year period when their words were penned, then we can also be moved to capture new and empowering truths today!

At some point, we decided everything would be easier to control if we gathered in a building and limited the stream of information to one guy reminding us of what to think. We selected a portion of men’s writings and decided to focus on just those communications. Of course, all of this was influenced by our culture, but we chose to ignore that and keep trudging along in our certainty. All the while, mystics of all faiths tried to encourage us that there is more out there, and we mostly did not listen.

These days, I am encouraged by people of all faiths, and I am opening the communication portals to go inside and trust myself. Sometimes, those things are challenging to describe, but we find ourselves knowing that we can access something more profound and more ancient than before.

Over the past few years, I have been discovering something inside that some call invincible preciousness. I described it in my book, The Tea Shop. Others, like James Finley from the Center for Action and Contemplation, tell us that we can go within and beyond to touch the hurting parts with love. Others might describe this untouched part of ourselves as where our authentic self exists. Personally, what I find inside is something simple, yet limitless that connects me to everything good and perfect.

My wife, Laura, likes to talk about self-actualization. Maslow identified it at the top of his hierarchy of needs. It is a realization of our potential. We will never be fully human until we discover these missing pieces. Society and religion taught us a form of selflessness even though Jesus was very self-actualized and self-aware.

Instead of connecting to the collective unconscious, we decided to adopt collective dogma, which kept us static and stagnant with creeds and belief statements and ways of believing and behaving instead of channels of discovery. We limited our holy books to one period and only a few authors. We developed liturgies and practices that were acceptable and cultural, ignored the imagination, and settled for the manageable. We traded mystery, nuance, and wonder for certainty, order, and control.

We hosted a conference subtitled, Becoming Fully Human. This is a goal that I am willing to pursue. My friend Kyle Butler says, “I don’t want to let anything take away my self-worth and my divinity.”

Sometimes, I feel like an archaeologist, removing centuries of debris and discovering things that highlight the magnificent things about humanity and the universality of divinity in all of us.

May we all find this self-worth and self-actualization that leads us to eternal and universal things. May I once again learn to trust myself and my own invincible preciousness!

As I see friends of mine begin to live more beautiful lives, I also notice a presence and authenticity in my life that I did not embody before. I have tapped into things that are eternal and divine, and I see this expressed in the way I treat others. Living into the reality that I am OF God changes the model of fear and control to a life of being and becoming what I have always been.

A disclaimer. Sometimes, when we go inside, we discover the trauma left oddly enough by ignoring what was there. Either we did not understand, or we could not handle it at the time it was inflicted, and our systems taught us to bypass and ignore it. Exploring the catacombs of our inner self reveals the eternal and life-giving truths, and we also encounter the reality of our trauma.

As I mentioned earlier, facing this trauma is necessary but often painful. It requires our focus, and usually, it helps to have a companion along to help us process. Even though facing these things is not what we expected and is harder than we hoped it would be, it is most definitely worth the effort. Shifting or healing these stuck places releases even deeper understanding and self-trust.

Be where you are, Be who you are, Karl Forehand

[1] https://www.eugenegendlin.com/quotations

[2] https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/carl_jung_717966 It’s Going to be Okay

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https://www.amazon.com/Evolving-Religious-Trauma-Karl-Forehand-ebook/dp/B0CWMJWY48/ https://thedesertsanctuary.org/leaning-forward-2023/ This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-1.png Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Out into the Desert, Leaning Forward,  Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart, The Tea Shop and Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authenticity.  He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary podcast and community.  He is married to his wife Laura of 35 years and has one dog named Winston.  His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply!  You can read more about the author here.

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