Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Ancient Paths Experience

i first came across it two years ago, when i was in another city attending a conference on regional culture. it was a sleepy early afternoon, and i walked out to get some breeze. while walking around the university grounds, this streamer for "Ancient Paths" caught my eye, and i joked to my colleagues later on how i was tempted to gatecrash that seminar instead of attending my own conference, if not for the fact that when i inquired, the Ancient Paths seminar was full and couldn't accommodate me any more.

then, last july, when my sister accompanied me to receive my book award in manila, and we took a boat trip instead of the usual plane flight, as we had the time to spare but not the budget, she told me about this Ancient Paths seminar she recently attended. she told me about how it helped her see our family issues in a new light, and how she healed some deep ancient hurts in some way, as the seminar touches on intergenerational family issues and healing.

the boat trip was a healing, welcome trip too. as we couldn't anything much for a day and a half except walk around the ship deck and/or eat, we talked and connected again in a way we had never done ever since our college years and before we were married.

so anyway, i told her i was interested in attending one too and for her to let me know if another one was available.

and so finally, this january, she forwarded to me this text invitation to another Ancient Paths seminar and i signed up for a slot.

***

it was interesting how i started.

they required a paid reservation and i frankly told the coordinator in charge that i couldn't pay yet until the second day of the seminar when i get my pay. could they accommodate me still?

i was touched by the lady coordinator's generosity. she offered to pay for me her self with me paying her back on the day i get my pay. : )

i thought that was a good sign for me to go ahead.

***

i had my initial trepidations.

this was sponsored by a Christian church. as a lapsed Catholic who haven't gone to church for a long time except during special holidays (Christmas, sometimes), and someone who has had her religious-seeking phase in her late teens, experiencing quite a sampling of different other churches but finding mostly form but less substance, i was wary.

the opening night of the seminar, the introductory "ministry" part took 45 minutes! we were asked to stand up and sing, as we followed the lyrics on a screen. i sat on the first pew and stood up cooperatively but just read the lyrics with my eyes and enjoyed the singing of the other people. after ten minutes, i got tired of standing and sat down. at the back of my mind, i was already thinking that if some righteous church member here forced me to stand up again and sing and dance (!), i'd walk out. : )

gratefully, that didn't happen. and so my anxieties were eased up and i began to relax for the seminar itself.

***

it is called "Ancient Paths", for ancient, universal ways of being and relating that lead people back to themselves, and God.

the seminar basically focuses on how people's identities and destinies are formed by their family cultures, mainly through how their parents treated them-- whether in an affirming (they call it "blessing") way or in a negating ("cursing") way. and the thesis of course is that most people are so lost and wounded and broken today because they have been cursed (negated) by the very people who are supposed to be their haven of love, peace, comfort and joy.

so the small group interactions and prayers after the one-hour video lectures by Craig Hill are designed to help people express their woundedness, as well as to ask the Holy Spirit for healing and cutting off of "cursed" ties.

one other thing emphasized by the seminar is the concept of topical vs. relational communication. it discusses how most curses (negations) and relationship conflicts arise from the fact that people focus on topical communication--which actually comprises only 7% of real communication-- as opposed to relational communication--which comprises the other 93% (55% body language, 38% tone of voice and attitude of the speaker).

that was a key insight for me-- how we most often stew in hurt and pain over heated and negating arguments and conflicts with people we care about because of the topic (what/who is right/wrong), when the more important thing is the underlying value of the relationship (if we value the relationship, we can disagree in a non-threatening and even loving way, affirming the identity and worth of the other even as we disagree on ideas, behavior or performance).

***

parents are supposed to have key spiritual obligations to their children as special agents of God. they are supposed to impart blessing to their children, affirming their identities and thus creating happy destinies for them, as God has meant everyone to have. especially crucial are seven key times in one's life when the impartation of blessing is most significant--

1. conception
2. pregnancy
3. birth
4. infancy and childhood
5. puberty
6. marriage
7. old age

as one enters each phase, whether a blessing or a curse has been imparted determines the quality of one's later development. so people who were conceived and borne in lust and not in love tend to always have the feeling of unworthiness at simply existing, etc. the mother is supposed to have the primary task of birthing and nurturing.

at puberty, the father is supposed to have the main obligation to impart gender identity to his son and daughter. if he is not able to do this, or do this well, he releases his son or daughter into a world confused instead of confident, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually wounded and limping instead of strong and bold. and so on, and so forth.

***

anyway, my own personal insight and learning from the seminar is this: that i missed out on my puberty blessing.

that is why i still keep seeking for affirmation of my self, especially as a woman, from men who are much like my father--emotionally withholding and negating. add to that the fact that while i was growing up, both my parents were so engrossed in the business of keeping us and their stormy marriage alive that i was basically left to parent my self emotionally and psychologically. at puberty, my mother, whom i see now was still also uncomfortable with her own womanhood at that time, treated me like the little girl she probably wished i would remain forever, and neglected to teach me the ways of womanhood.

at 12, i had the body of an 18 year old, but the emotional maturity of a 6 year old. today, at 36, i have the body of a peaking thirtysomething but am still working on catching up in the emotional maturity department, especially when it comes to romantic entanglements.

no wonder i get so clingy and needy and insanely jealous when i fall in love and when i'm still unsure (and i am never sure!) about my beloved's affections for me. in many ways, i still keep longing for the affirmation of my womanly worth that i was never blessed with at a crucial time in my life!

it struck me so suddenly and clearly that i wept.

i've always "known" something like that, and i've begun to wonder about the patterns in my relationships, but it has never been that clear to me, the cause and effect of it all.

i have forgiven my parents long ago, around the time when i also left my marriage and finally took responsibility for my own life. but the insight that i gained from the seminar is that i have never really truly grieved over what i was cheated out of.

thus, the blockage i feel in emotional relationships with men even though i have moved on in all other areas of my life. although i am an empowered and accomplishing 36-year-old in managing my finances, work, career, talents, hobbies and in nurturing my friendships and social support systems, i revert back to a confused 13-year-old (if not further back to a clingy, needy, self-centeredly jealous 2-year-old!) when i start falling in love!!!

anyway, my small group prayed for me and with me, and gave me my long-overdue puberty blessing. : )

so im a full-fledged woman in her own right, in her own skin now. : ) first, the physical empowerment via the self-proclaimed beach vacation... and now this emotional, psychological and spiritual empowerment!

***

so in that sense, the seminar was a journey of self-discovery and healing for me. thus, the valentine gifts to my Papa and the ex... for forgiveness and closure and moving on.

***

a friend told me i have a different, lighter aura now, and i feel it too.

i am less prone to jealous attacks even when the bait is dangled right in front of me, for starters.

i am also less prone to taking things way too personally, imagining all sorts of doomsday scenarios, suspecting the man of mean intentions.

i am more forgiving and tolerant of a man's adorable inadequacies ("oh dear heart, he is JUST a man! : >) and i actually love the way he is more, starting to finally relax into true friendship with him, seeing him at last as not The Enemy who is out to get me, trip me up, con me, and/or use me if i don't let down my guard, but a fellow journey-er in this mystery of loving and living. in short, i have more compassion for him now.

***

the rage is finally spent.

even the "hunger" is not so all-consuming anymore. hmmm...

***

i am not afraid-- of me, of life, of men-- at last.

blessed me.

God is good, indeed.

: )
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