What do you do when you want to shift your relationship from the mundane towards something more transcendent? Is this something you could experience with just anyone? And if not, how do you know if your relationship has this potential? Also…what happens when the podcast guest starts interviewing the host?! In this week’s episode, we’re diving deep into the question of conscious relationship a bit differently, through a conversation with writer, seeker, and spiritual activist Jeff Brown. Jeff is the author of the books Soulshaping and An Uncommon Bond, and director of the documentary Karmageddon: The Movie. His words and wisdom shine light on the journey of becoming more and more who we are meant to be, should we choose to follow that path. It’s not meant to be easy, but it is totally worth it – and in today’s episode of Relationship Alive we detail some of the important steps along the way.
Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome, to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. On this show, over and over again, we’ve been talking about the topic of conscious relationship. What does it mean to evolve your relationship to some place new, some place different? How do you recognize the patterns that are just about unhealthy relating, things that you’ve inherited from the culture, from your parents, from your friends, from your karma and how do you identify those things and get to a place where you can move past them to unchartered territory – that’s about coming together clearly with your partner and helping each other, heal, grow and have a mission in the world, that’s maybe something you do together or maybe it’s supporting each other in your separate missions, but in the end, wanting both you and your partner to shine more brightly in the world and to do that in a way that enhances your connection as opposed to growing you apart?
Neil Sattin: On today’s show we are having a very special guest, Jeff Brown, who is the author of An Uncommon Bond which is a novel about conscious relationship. He’s also the author of Soulshaping and he is followed by thousands and thousands of people on Facebook and elsewhere who tune in to the way that he writes and how it evokes new insight, new states of consciousness and it’s a real pleasure to have him here with us today to talk about his book, to talk about conscious relationship and to talk about soul shaping and how we can craft our growth and development in a way that’s generative for you and for the world around you as well. So thank you, Jeff Brown, for being here on Relationship Alive with us today.
Jeff Brown: My pleasure Neil. I’m also quite grateful for this amazing work you’re doing in the world, trying to raise awareness of conscious relationship and really deepen into the dialogue. I think it’s such an important step forward for all of us.
Neil Sattin: Thank you. Thank you, yeah, it’s something I’m incredibly passionate about and it’s always a pleasure to have, to be able to sit down with someone like you who also is equally passionate about, thinking about where we’re going along with where we’ve been. So maybe we could start by just, I’ve already mentioned your books and, oh by the way, we will have a show guide for this episode so if you’re interested in downloading that, you can visit Neilsattin.com/soulshaping or you can text the word ‘PASSION’ to the number 33444 and follow the instructions and we’ll get that show guide to you. So, let’s maybe just start with, what is soulshaping? Since that is at the core of your work.
Jeff Brown: Soulshaping was really, I mean, when I had begun to write my first book, I was just trying to make sense of my own experience and what ultimately made sense to me at that time was that, as I looked back on my life, it seemed that I had some internalized what James Hillman called the innate image or what I have come to call ‘soul scriptures’, that I had some encoded sacred purpose, that included key relational figures, particular callings to certain work in the world, certain archetypal transformations that I was here to go through as though I was somehow shaping my soul towards wholeness and as I looked at every stage of my life, there were a lot of seemingly insignificant experiences in moments but there were these very fundamentally relevant and significant moments, externally sourced but also often coming from within, that seemed to be pointing me in the direction of a particular encoded path that I was here to walk in order to move in the direction of a more inclusive and whole centered consciousness.
Neil Sattin: And so part of your work, I know you do soulshaping sessions with people as well, so you’re writing about it and then you’re also helping people discover that path for themselves?
Jeff Brown: I am but I defined it very broadly. I think what shifted for me when I began, is I was very focused on callings. The calling to write Soulshaping, your work in the world right now. You know, Oprah Winfrey has worked to bring that message, whatever that message is or was, to the world and what I’ve come to believe and understand and so much of my session work is focused on, is really dealing with the unresolved emotional material. Because for me, I grew most in my spirituality through the evolution of my emotional processes. For me, emotional maturation and spiritual maturation are synonymous. I don’t distinguish the two, that’s why I’m so deeply opposed to split off or dissociative views of spirituality, ideas of enlightenment that exist, independent of the emotional body, the unresolved ego, the story that is yet to be processed, because for me, this is where most of the transformation happened.
Jeff Brown: At the end of a deeper profound emotional process, I found that I was able to hold the space for the everything in a much more inclusive way. So soul shaping for me now is more than callings and archetypes. It’s really, really about getting into that material that we hold individually and that we bring forward from the unresolved collective and doing the work that allows us to transform our individual and collective consciousness, so that we could move individually and collectively in the direction of a more inclusive or whole centered consciousness.
Neil Sattin: And that’s one thing that I really appreciated in reading An Uncommon Bond and I think you even mentioned it in your own notes at the end. This need to bring spirit into your embodiment, and so much of what I talk about and what my partner Chloe and I work on in the world is, allowing your body to be included in that experience, not in a way that is dissociating from your body, but where your somatic experience is actually intrinsic and gives you such a wealth of information about what’s happening with you on those more subtle levels. I like how you did that in your book, and emphasize that…
Jeff Brown: Well, I don’t even understand how one has any experience of anything independent of the body. I think that all of that is just nonsensical for me. If I look back at the experience that inspired An Uncommon Bond that profound opening, all of it happened through my somatic structure. I felt as though I entered and opened and we opened together into some kind of a portal of experience, that seemed to transcend my embodied experience, but I’m not so sure that’s true, I wasn’t trained in the art of ecstasy, when ecstasy came my way, I didn’t know how to hold it or contain it somatically and somehow imagined it was happening independent of my body.
Jeff Brown: But in fact, every single piece of that experience was happening through the body and the self hood, that was the container for the experience and I’m not so sure that we’re going to get anywhere, particularly if we’re trying to break through the patterns that obstruct our ability to actualize love between ourselves and others, if we don’t go deep back into the somatic structure and work the selfhood and work the story and work what’s held in the cellular structure, in order to transform it in the direction of being able to be more open and available and sustaining of love when it arises.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, I think for us, one thing that’s been so profoundly transformative has been what happens in the quietness that, when Chloe and I are together, and I’m just speaking from my experience here, in the quietness and paying attention to what arises, what sensations arise, and even just speaking to those without labeling them, but just saying like, “Oh, this is where I’m experiencing some tension right now.” or “I’m feeling this heat in this part of my body… ” Those sorts of things end up becoming… The word that’s popping into my head is transportational. They bring us somewhere to different levels of experience that wouldn’t happen if you were focusing on the kind of intimacy that’s just about getting each other excited and getting each other off.
Jeff Brown: Right.
Neil Sattin: I’m curious for you, the title of your novel is An Uncommon Bond and I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit more about what that even means, to have An Uncommon Bond?
Jeff Brown: I think we may have to rely on definition, it’s a little bit lengthy but maybe the first part of it. I had an experience in ’98 and I had no words for this experience but this experience changed my life and I was doing a masters at Saybrook. I was at Saybrook University in San Fransisco doing a Humanistic Psych degree, a masters and it just so happened that, right at the seeming end of that connection, Jeanne Achterberg, who had written about uncommon bonds and had co-defined the term, I believe with Donald Rothberg, I was doing an Uncommon Bond weekend and I was oblivious, I had no language for this profound experience and I was in a really profoundly confused place and walked in that room and suddenly felt like somebody understood what my experience was. Let me just read the first paragraph maybe of the definition.
Neil Sattin: That would be great.
Jeff Brown: Yeah, “Uncommon Bonds are love connections that are sourced in the transcendent and transpersonal realms. The couple feels destined to have met, their connection is sourced in grace. This often leads to an experience of parapsychological or paranormal events, such as synchronicity, soulendipities, and non-local communications that defy known laws of time and space. There’s a knowing of pure recognition of the other, a feeling of being cut from same cloth, a sense of having occupied the same body in a previous life, or perhaps one soul residing in two bodies. The lovers experience a prayer of gratitude and a sigh of relief as though coming home after decades of wandering, a transpersonal energy dances within and between the couple, spiritual practice is important to them, since the relationship is often experienced as the premiere spiritual engagement, an outgrowth of a relationship with the absolute.”
Jeff Brown: And then it goes on to say that, “The relationship polishes the rough diamond of the soul, for this reason, the relationship is sometimes dark, arduous, complex, accompanied by many dark nights of the soul. At the same time, there’s a sense of the soul work could not happen in any other way than through the relationship, repeated dancing back and forth, no self, no disappearing wave to particle and back, characterizes the growing, changing, polishing and refining process.”
Jeff Brown: It’s the profound crack open in the presence of another who feels destined to have walked your way in this lifetime. Feels deeply familiar even if you don’t believe in past lives, you have this experience and you’re certain that they existed and at the same time, at this stage of human development, because of where we’re at in terms of understanding the shadow, they are remarkably difficult to sustain and particularly if one or both people in the dynamic are not egoic-ly strong enough to hold to their center and the merging, usually the studies indicate, Jeanne’s studies that usually they end up breaking up unless they encounter each other or re-encounter one another at a much older age.
Neil Sattin: Interesting.
Jeff Brown: It’s just too much to hold. It’s just too much to hold.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. And I think because, and this is why these kind of connections can sometimes just knock you on your ass, it’s like it can… It takes you to that place where you have to recognize at some level, your dysfunction, as well as those transcendent states of, oh my God! I just met the most amazing person and they’re… If it has all those feelings of reconnecting on a deep, mystical level.
Jeff Brown: And that’s part of the problem. And what you said earlier was true, they knock you down to your ass. Basically, they pull you up and out and that may just be because we just don’t know how we get to orient that experience or to have that experience in a way that’s integrated with our humanness, right? We don’t have that training and I just don’t know if we’re at that stage developmentally where we can hold all of that at one time, that’s the work. That’s the work of conscious relationship. To be able to bring together the… Something called the transcendant, if in fact there is any way to transcend and the imminent. And in my experience, that’s exactly what happened. Was a transport of experience or what you call a transportational experience but the opening into the light, the light was so powerful and profound, it could not help but reveal the shadow. And of course, not only our shadow, we were walking into the collective shadow in that experience because you can’t have one without the other. You can’t have a spirituality that only allows you to have ecstatic experience without also having the portal open to the shadow, the emergence of the shadow.
Jeff Brown: So we entered into both of those places and then it just simply becomes a question of whether we’re equipped, whether we’re supported, whether we’re capable and how toxic is our unresolved emotional material. Because if it’s too toxic, if there’s too much in the way of an abandonment wound, or a jealousy wound, or a betrayal wound, or whatever it is that you’re carrying, it becomes almost impossible to sustain it because it just becomes too painful.
Neil Sattin: Now, we spoke a little bit before the interview officially started and I come down pretty strongly on the level of, not that everyone has to stay together, like if you find someone and you fall in love that somehow you’re like, you have to be together for the rest of your lives, that’s not where I am. However, I do feel like there’s a journey of skill building and opening and healing that could actually bring most people to this transcendent place. That’s just my belief and I’m curious to know where you come down on that in terms of, do all connections have the potential to be Uncommon Bonds versus not.
Jeff Brown: Yeah. I’m writing about this on an individual level in my current book. It is very similar to what people are doing individually, they’re trying to pull up and out of the humanness in order to have some kind of an ecstatic or inclusive or unity consciousness experience. And then they find it’s unsustainable when they try to come back into the world and they have to integrate with the world, and they have to confront their material. The unresolved material that they’re actually carrying in their bodies.
Jeff Brown: I think that the problem is this, if I think of dynamics I’ve had that started really on a ground or pragmatic level, they didn’t have that element of pull up and out. They didn’t have what we might call a mystical aspect. Usually, there’s not enough charge in the connection to want to go through that process or to believe that you’re gonna land at a place where you’re going to have an expansive experience together. So usually, it starts with something that pulls you up and out that feels like there’s some profound joy potentially waiting for you, if you can do some work along the path.
Jeff Brown: But what I do believe, what does make sense to me is that something happens in the earth bound work, the relational work, the work that you’re doing in your partnership, I’m sure, around the unresolved material that emerges, the social anxiety, the discomfort. All the levels of triggering that are happening in dynamics that have some charge to them. That if you can see that process through, and I don’t think a lot of people have. We don’t have a lot of love elders to talk to about this yet Neil, but I think that they do, that I have a feeling that they do integrate back into an experience of that ecstatic union in a way that feels more real to me, more sustainable for sure and may have a remarkably different tenure or resonance than the experience, for example, that I had in the initiating Uncommon Bond experience.
Jeff Brown: I’m stuck with this. I’m not exactly sure which way to go with… I can’t really fully answer your question because I’m still trying to figure that out myself. But I do know for sure that if you don’t come back and do the earth bound work and you don’t weave all the threads together within you and break through all of the obstructions within you that, for sure the experience that you’re having is unsustainable.
Neil Sattin: Can we get really practical for a moment and talk about what that process of resolving could look like for someone? And maybe even what’s a step or two that someone could take after they listen to this episode of the podcast that would help them move along that journey.
Jeff Brown: Okay, so let’s say you’ve met somebody and you’ve had this awakening, we’ll call it an awakening experience with them. And you feel like you’ve entered into some portal that feels beautiful, delicious and at the same time feels vulnerable and terrifying, or something. Then I think, probably what you would begin to do if you wanted to sustain it and deepen it and grow through it without knowing necessarily if this is someone who’ll be with you for life, you don’t know that really yet, is you would begin to work probably somatically to uncover all of the levels of material that are getting in the way.
Jeff Brown: So for example, if you find yourself in that opening, suddenly feeling super triggered by the fact that this other person is presumably looking at other women, for example, and they may feel like they’re just looking at them as they passed by them on the street, but a jealousy trigger might arise because now you have so very much to lose because your heart is so deeply opened. You have two choices, you either continue to sustain the reactivity that comes up rising in the trigger, or you decide you’re going to work on your historical material. Past life aside, working on that, I don’t know so much about that, but working somatically with a somatic-based psychotherapist, maybe a bioenergetic or core energetic or somatic experiencing therapist to really go deep into the caverns in the body to find out where the material is sourced, where it comes from and to try to work your way through to a more healed or transformed experience around it, so that when you re-engage in the connection and your partner happens to look at a woman walking down the street, you’re not so triggered that you’re going to obstruct the development of the connection.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. So there’s so much there in terms of being able to recognize that you have a trigger even happening and going through some sort of process to resolve whatever is stuck there that’s causing the trigger. And with a jealousy trigger, it could be that there’s something there, there’s some reason that your safety radar is activated and that would be something to address in your coupleship.
Jeff Brown: And to determine whether or not it’s based in reality, or whether it’s based in your holdings, right?
Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.
Jeff Brown: The way I think of it more broadly is that if I think of my grandparents or my parents, they were organized relationally around a survivalist construct. They defined who they were by what put food on the table, and whatever roles or duties have been culturally conditioned into them, and the way that the system held that. Now, we’re at the very beginning of this bridge crossing. And as a result of that, moving in the direction of authenticity as our orienting principle, that is we relate on the basis of who we really are, not on some basis of some role, duty, adaptation, disguise, or mask that allows us to get through a survivalist world. We’re opening the door to a whole range of material that was really never been attended to by mostly anybody in historical terms. Certainly not in our family lineage, at least not most of us. This is the hardest time for everybody because it means if you’re going to go on what we’re calling a conscious relationship journey, which for me is an authentic relationship journey, you’re going to confront a gigantic tsunami of unresolved material that you’re holding and that’s deep within the collective.
Jeff Brown: You need to be brave, you need to be patient, you need to be incredibly realistic. And a lot of people are not realistic, they’re dealing with fire, they don’t understand what that really means. It means it’s gonna go on for years and years and probably always be part of your interface because we’re the first path travelers crossing the bridge towards an authentic connection. And we’re carrying an enormous amount of baggage with us.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. I’m letting your words wash over me because… And I’m thinking about how our parents and grandparents, because they were oriented around survival, then that was an orienting principle that allowed them to brush things under the rug or to live in pain without resolving it.
Jeff Brown: They had a system. They had a system and a number of premises and beliefs that just allowed that to happen. “Don’t look back.” There’s a million cliches that relate to that experience. They didn’t expect anything different. They have no idea that anything else could even exist in that world and probably it wouldn’t have been congruent with the way the world was organized. It’s still really not. It takes a lot of time that we don’t have to do this deeper work. And my concern is that people get an unrealistic vision of possibility for how quickly they’re going to get there. I think that we need to understand we are doing the work of generations, we need to not be so damn hard on ourselves when we can’t quite work a piece out, we need to allow ourselves to just step back and celebrate our little tiny victories ’cause in collective terms, they’re humongous and not hold to some vision of possibility that’s not sustainable or possible sociologically in one lifetime. That’s not to be discourage us from doing the work, it’s beautiful, it’s beautiful work. But let’s also be realistic about it.
Neil Sattin: I was like, and yet we’re gonna try. And there’s…
Jeff Brown: Absolutely.
Neil Sattin: And there’s some tension in there too because the temptation would be to, now that you’re not orienting around survival necessarily but you still have to maintain. So you still have to somehow survive…
Jeff Brown: We’re still in a survivalist world Neil. We still have to adapt and mask and make a living and the whole culture economically is built around masking and branding and putting on a show and putting away your feelings and not throwing tantrums in the marketplace and all that stuff. It’s mostly inauthentic. So that’s hard stuff and then you gotta come back home to and wanna reconnect to the subtle realms, you wanna do conscious armoring, you wanna reach a stage where you go into the marketplace, you put on the armoring you have to, but you’re conscious enough to know to come home and take it off. Not always that easy to take it off if you’re trying to make a living and striving and grinding it out in the marketplace. And sometimes I know couples that get into this place where they’re so impatient with each other because the partner comes home and they’re saturated in the energy of the marketplace. Well, that’s because we’re just at the beginning of authenticity as a way of being and our social structures and economic structures aren’t even built around any of this yet.
Jeff Brown: So we have to be realistic. Let me just say my experience… My initiating Uncommon Grounds experience taught me two things, two amazing things in all of that suffering and all that ecstasy. One is the possibilities that exist between two humans, in my view are so much more profound. I mean all this work that’s been done around Wilber sketching models of consciousness with men sitting in meditation caves, I’m not interested in any of that. To me that is just patriarchal spirituality, it’s safer, it’s easier. I know why they focus there but to me it’s the tiniest fragment of possibility compared to what’s possible between two hearts. Because my experience was not only did we open to another portal, I felt as though there was a way in which if we could have kept going we could have actually co-created some aspect of this universe with love as the transformative device for that. It is… We’re singing about love not knowing what the hell we’re talking about, but we’re moving in the right direction. I mean there’s a reason why we’re here and we feel love for one another. It is the direction to go. We’re not just here together to keep each other company, we’re here together to show each other God.
Jeff Brown: The other thing I learnt is how far we are for being able to sustain and deepen into that experience because of the stage we’re at in the collective. Because the shadow is everywhere. Everyone is a trauma survivor if we compare their human experience to the realm of the most subtle humane vulnerable heart open possibility. So, we’re going in the right direction, we got a real super long way to go and then we just have to decide if it’s worth the energy that it’s gonna take to get us some part of the way there.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, I think it’s worth it. I totally think it’s worth it.
Jeff Brown: You do, yeah, well, that’s why you’re doing this podcast. And I think it’s worth it, and I also understand why some people who are carrying too much stuff or have too many practical challenges or don’t have enough relational support because there is very little relational support out there for this kind of work, I can understand why they say, “Fuck it, it’s not worth it. I’m just gonna have a more practical connection and put my energy somewhere else because the relational field is so challenging.” It’s all most people can do to manage and identify their own material. To put that two people in a room trying to do that and then weave the dynamic piece together and what comes up in the dynamic, it’s extraordinary. Hard, brave, profound, terrifying work.
Neil Sattin: Something that I think is ironic, ’cause I’m just pondering like well, why… How did we even end up here in conscious relationship land? And I think that the irony at least as I’m seeing it right now is that, it’s the the cultural idea that you can meet someone and they can be your your hero, you can have that love that lasts forever, that engages you in like the practical question of well, how is that really possible? And especially if you’re not willing to settle for… Well, my grandparents were together forever but they never had a kind word to say about each other or that sort of thing. Or frequently had an unkind word to say, [chuckle] let’s just say it that way. So it’s diving into that question around what gets you to the long term that I think takes you out of the common way of experiencing relationship which we center around – like how much dopamine we get from it, how much exhilaration we feel, how romanced we are and it moves us because that in and of itself isn’t sustainable. Its sustainable when you merge that with the kind of healing work that you’re talking about that takes energy and attention and intention ’cause it doesn’t just happen on its own.
Jeff Brown: Right.
Neil Sattin: I didn’t mean to monologue there.
Jeff Brown: Oh it’s no problem. I didn’t wanna respond I think what you said was absolutely true.
Neil Sattin: So it gets me wondering then, if that’s true, from your perspective, how would a partner bring attention to this, to… Like if you’re in a relationship and you’re caught in, like the first part of your book “An Uncommon Bond”, I was frustrated, it was almost like how… Because it’s portraying, this aspect of relationship and it… To me it almost felt like how there are all these songs on the radio that I can’t even listen to anymore, that used to be themes for my life but now I just… I hear it and it just… I’m kinda like ugh, I don’t wanna listen to that. So there’s this question, if you know you’re in that dynamic what’s a pathway? What’s a step in the right direction? Especially how do you bring that to your partnership?
Jeff Brown: Sorry, define that dynamic?
Neil Sattin: If you recognize like “Oh, We’re just all over the map and we’re getting triggered left and right and what we need to do is actually come to a recognition that what’s required is attention and intention on our healing journey as well as our romantic journey. How do I bring that to a partner?
Jeff Brown: Well, that depends on the partner. Probably, gently at first but at some point probably very directly. There really isn’t a choice. If you’re not going to fall back to a survivalist framework for a dynamic. The term “conscious relationship” doesn’t work for me ’cause consciousness is so bloody relative, you know? And it implies everybody before was unconscious and like “we’re conscious”. And I mean, compared to where we’re gonna be in 300 years, we’re also unconscious. So, I think of it as just getting authentic, an authentic form of relatedness, and I think that every couple decides how far they’re gonna go in the direction of authenticity, of getting real with who they are and what lives below the surface and all the stuff that they see flying around in the dynamic and taking it seriously and understanding that it’s real. Not looking at it through the lens of ungrounded spirituality which pretends that everything about the personality is unreal, but the ecstatic experience is real, well that’s just ungrounded and nonsensical. And not moving in the direction of pragmatism, where you decide to just accept that’s just the bullshit of life and you’re gonna keep yelling and screaming and abuse each other and keep moving forward.
Jeff Brown: But every couple has to decide that, they have to have the conversation, somebody has to have the conversation, and we’ve all been part of that. I’ve been part of that conversation when I absolutely and utterly refuse to do the work. And I’ve been part of the conversation and the experience that initiated bond that then inspired Uncommon Bond, with somebody who absolutely refused to do the work. I had both experiences. At some point you just have to decide, you’re either gonna break up, you’re gonna embrace survivalism as a way of being, or you’re gonna move in the direction of an immoral wakening, and authentic connection. Just initiate the conversation as gently as possible, it will often end up being a shouting match, because somebody very often, this was the experience with the Uncommon Bond studies. One partner wanted to really go forward and deepen into the shadow work and the other one absolutely and utterly refused to. It’s rare to find two people who in a dynamic that is super charged and brings up the light in the shadow in really intense ways where both people are absolutely and utterly willing to do the work on the deepest deepest levels. I’ve encountered very few couples like that in my life.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, it’s something where I certainly feel blessed when I realize that with my partnership.
Jeff Brown: If you got that, you’re blessed. But it also means that you’re gonna have a… In some ways a very hard path. A beautifully fulfilling path if you guys can see the process all the way through and not stop half way.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. There are moments where it’s really hard, and then there are moments where it’s really beautiful.
Jeff Brown: You’re doing the work for my Bubbe and Zeda. Of course it’s hard. You’re doing the work for everybody. Really, that has never been able to do that work, or even be aware of that, existence of that work. It’s really amazingly remarkable, couples who do this work really need to just go out and have congratulatory dates and just give themselves a break when they can’t quite get it right just because they’re doing the work for everybody.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. And there’s something that’s coming to me too around how the container of your relationship is so important too… And establishing that container is often one of the most challenging initial parts of a couple embracing this kind of journey together, is creating the safety that allows them to do that so that, when I look at my own experience, the things that are hard now are still hard but they’re not hard in a way where I feel like everything is just gonna potentially fall apart like I did in those initial hard moments.
Jeff Brown: Because your container is solid.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, Exactly. But it took a lot of work to get there, to the solid container.
Jeff Brown: And what would you define as the key elements of that container?
Neil Sattin: Key elements of the container. One, well there are the prerequisites to the container, so first is developing your presence and by that I mean an embodied presence. Although I think there are times when a more dissociative mindfulness can be helpul, particularly when you feel your trigger coming up and you’re right there with your partner. But for the most part it’s the kind of presence that is about really being solidly in your body and knowing what is coming up when you’re with your partner. So that’s pre-requisite number one. And number two is establishing your communication, the kind of communication that’s based on presence and that already has a backdrop of establishing safety. So you’re shifting your communication paradigm where you recognize, okay, how we talk to each other about whatever is coming up for us. Like, our mission is to keep each other safe in that conversation. Not that we avoid things to keep each other safe but we bring things up in a context of safety. And if you get knocked off the rails, you figure out how to get back in line.
Jeff Brown: Got it. So it can be uncomfortable but not hurtful.
Neil Sattin: Exactly. Exactly. Or if you slip and you’re hurtful you’re like, “Woah! I fucked up. Sorry”. Willingness to bring that into your awareness of how you communicate.
Jeff Brown: So the capacity for self reflection is very important in this process?
Neil Sattin: Exactly.
Jeff Brown: Okay.
Neil Sattin: Those two things along with a whole bunch of curiosity, I think get you to a place where you can start looking at the container. And that’s both in terms of how you close your exits…so that means even seeing what your exits are in your relationship. The way that you put energy elsewhere or leave the relationship… Especially in the hard moments. And then on the flip side of container, it’s like imbuing it with the beauty of your vision and what you want and what you crave and what you hope to embody together, or what you wanna amplify that you already have. It’s a combination of those two things that I think get you to a place where now you can dive into harder work and that structure holds you.
Jeff Brown: And what do you feel… I know I’m turning this around on becoming the podcast questioner…but you have the wealth of experience in it. So how do you feel about the whole question of boundaries in terms of creating a safe container around monogamy versus polyamory. Can this work happen if one or both parties is engaged in the polyamorous lifestyle?
Neil Sattin: That’s a great question. I think that it really depends on the couple. I have friends who are happily polyamorous. And I’ve had some clients who are happily polyamorous. But happily polyamorous also includes always being or, I shouldn’t say always but very frequently being stimulated in the way that your partner being with someone else brings up your abandonment trauma or your need to be acknowledged or seen or… There are all kind of ways that that can still tap into your deep primal issues around safety. The question in the couple is, are you in agreement around it? And can you… If you’re in agreement around what you’re doing then you can have conversations that either restore your safety because something did jeopardize it in terms of being polyamorous.
Neil Sattin: Or you recognize like, “Oh, what I’m experiencing right now actually isn’t about my partner at all. It’s this deep issue that I’ve held within me that has no relationship to my partner except that they’re stimulating it right now. And I’m gonna deal with that.” That being said for myself and for a lot of people, the path of monogamy focuses energy in a way that I think is just… It’s different. And I’m coming from a place too where I have two young kids and honestly, I can’t imagine having the time to deal with all of that. I’m gonna do this conscious relationship thing but with more people in the mix. It seems on a practical level really challenging.
Jeff Brown: Yup.
Neil Sattin: And opening up to challenges. All the challenges around… And you brought up the word boundaries so maybe we re-visit that in a moment. But I think it introduces a set of challenges that create amazing growth. But that is not the growth that I personally choose.
Jeff Brown: Yup. I think it really depends on where you’re wanting to go. And I think if you’re wanting to go to the place of trying to explore and possibly develop the capacity to sustain the most profoundly inclusive kind of love experience. One that opens the portal to the everything, one that explores the portal to the everything, that it cannot happen in a polyamorous union. What I think they’re exploring is more a preliminary stage work which for many of us is absolutely and utterly necessary. But I think because of the collective carry forward in terms of abandonment, betrayal and jealousy material, that you absolutely have to have a monogamous container if you’re wanting to go all the way. Whether that’ll be true in a thousand years, once we clear some of this debris, I don’t know. Although I suspect it will be. I feel like what’s happening in the poly-community is, apart from the whole self avoiding aspect of that for many of them, which is shrouded in all kinds of spiritual fancy talk. I just think they’re not going to the same place because I don’t believe humans can hold that portal open, that most profound deeply vulnerable portal open unless there’s a monogamous container.
Neil Sattin: I think there’s also a biological shift that is part of evolving a monogamous relationship. The way that the dopamine pathways in your body start to change where polyamory could potentially be counterproductive to that because… Well, here’s where I come at it from. There are a lot of clients that I work with where their relationship has grown stale and what they long for, they think, is the rush of how it felt to meet and to be romanced and to have that huge sexual charge that I would say most people, not all but most people do experience in the beginning of relationship when they connect with someone. And they long for that and it’s not there. And the challenge that I think… And so those people often come to me and say, “Do you think we should open up our marriage, so that we can get some more of that spark happening?”.
Jeff Brown: No, they should enreal themselves and enreal their dynamic and go deeper and clear the debris so that when they connect sexually, they’re actually present in a way that they never were able to be in the beginning.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, so let’s go there. Talk about enrealment.
Jeff Brown: That’s my bias. Right? And I’m just writing a chapter about it in my new book and yeah, I just think that it’s very easy to go to staleness and then go to spark, staleness, spark, staleness, spark. It’s a life, right? It’s a way of life but they need to at least have one experience of their lifetime of trying to go deeper into the shadow material together, clear the debris and develop a container or capacity, an experience of intimacy that’s quite a bit different than the one that happens in the beginning when you don’t really know one another. You don’t know one another’s shadow. For whatever reason we’re transported to a place where we bypass that or crack through that or avoid that, whatever we’re doing. But I think to move to the next place where you’re actually deeply seeing of the other on every level. And if you’re doing the work together loving them, devotionally, beautifully ’cause you have so much regard for the courage that they bring to the moment to moment experience of the connection doing that work, I think that the intimacy just starts to flow from a completely different place.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Jeff Brown: But because there was no space to do that work and there’s no modeling for doing that work and there are no love elders out there who can really support us in doing that work, we’re at the beginning of that journey, it’s easy to understand why they go back to spark because something’s alive because the other spark, the spark I’m describing is the more sustainable depth-full integrated embodied woven spark that travels through us on every level. And to get there as you know, you have to do all the individual work to be able to be integrated and woven best between mind and body and all your aspects as an individual. It’s so much work to get to that stage. You understand why they run away and go to spark again. But I think now we’re having this conversation because we’re at the beginning of trying to lay down the framework for how we go back to a different kind of spark while staying inside of the same union and beautiful but…
Neil Sattin: Yeah, there’s a reason we’re having this conversation and…
Jeff Brown: Yeah.
Neil Sattin: There’s a reason you’re listening to this conversation and I invite you, if you’re listening and you’re poly, from my perspective, I’m in no way gonna say, “Oh, you can’t experience transcending conscious polyamorous relationship”. I just invite you to examine the dynamics that are at work and see if that’s what’s happening or not.
Jeff Brown: Well you can have all kinds of extraordinary experiences. I mean, for a lot of people and it may be true for most of us at this stage of human development, not really individually prepared for the kind of work required by one monogamous connection. The poly’s the path to gather information about who we are from various types of dynamics, to explore different portals, how different connections bring out different parts of us is beautiful, magnificent. Don’t misunderstand me but if we’re wanting to go all the way through to that uncommon bond experience sustainably, that’s what I was saying, I don’t think we can do it in that form. Can I ask you a question Neil?
Neil Sattin: Of course.
Jeff Brown: You mentioned earlier, you were talking about this idea that maybe what we need to do is do this groundwork, the shadow work, the working through the material work in order to have a more real experience or a more truly sustainable experience of say, great love. Right?
Neil Sattin: Yes.
Jeff Brown: When you ask that question, then I ask the question to myself, where does this sort of thing that just exists between two… ‘Cause when I hear that I think well you can throw any two people into an elevator and if they both have the willingness to do the work, we’re assuming that they can go to that place. And I’m not sure that’s true because I do think there has to be something that exists between the two people. And I always ask myself, what is that thing that needs to exist between the two people? Because it can’t just be any two people. At least it’s my experience it can’t be. And what I came up with when I was writing the Uncommon Bond was fascination or what you may call curiosity. That with some people you just have this intrinsic fascination about this. So let me read you a quote. I’m interested to hear what your experience of this is.
Neil Sattin: Great.
Jeff Brown: You can connect from all kinds of places. Energetic harmony, sexual alchemy, intellectual alignment, but they won’t sustain love over a lifetime. You need a thread that goes deeper. That moves below and beyond the shifting sands of compatibility. That thread is fascination. A genuine fascination with someone’s inner-world. With the way they organize reality, with the way they articulate their feelings, with the unfathomable and bottomless depths of their being. To hear their soul cry out to you again and again and to never lose interest in what it is trying to convey. If there is that, then there will still be love when the body sickens, when the sexuality fades, when the perfection projection is long shattered. If there is that, you will swim in love’s waters until the very last breath. So that’s from an Uncommon Bond. How do you feel about that? Does that feel true? Or do you feel as though sustaining fascination with another’s inner-world for a life time is unrealistic?
Neil Sattin: Well I remember reading that and actually doing the translation… The way I translated that was curiosity. Or and now that I think about it even more, it’s like, the word that comes to me is willingness… And part of that maybe involves the will because sometimes it is an act of will to bring yourself back and to remind yourself that there is a reason that I’m here. But what I also like about willing is that it implies for me, some vulnerability and openness. And that to me, leads to the curiosity. So it may be that and I’m just… This is just what’s coming to me right here in this moment, I think it’s true though especially that you’ll do a different dance at different times. You’re not gonna tango from now until the end of time although if you’re Sue Johnson maybe you will do that cause she’s really into the tango but I think that you are… There are moments where you are in your sexual realm together. There are moments where you’re in your emotional realms, there are moments when you’re in your intellectual realms, there are moments when all of those things intertwine and yes there are moments that will challenge us around illness, or if not… Between in you or in your partner, could be in a loved one or the way that what’s unfolding in the world affects us.
Jeff Brown: You’re right.
Neil Sattin: Things that require us to be called back to… Oh wow yeah there’s something even deeper than that, that springs out for me and [chuckle] you know people who… You’ve been listening to this show for a while then you know I’m kind of a mystical guy so I’m really glad we’re having this conversation Jeff, cause it allows me to go there.
Jeff Brown: But Neil, let me ask this.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Jeff Brown: I guess what I’m asking is apart from the safe container, apart from my view that to go all the way to that most expansive thing monogamy is required, which many people won’t agree with. I’m already ready to receive the emails of disagreement.
Jeff Brown: But… And that’s fine, I’m open to that. But apart from all of those things that we put in place to hold it safe so we can do the work, whether it’s in monogamy or in polyamory, whatever it is, does there have to be some fundamental spark or some soul essential feeling, forget love at first sight ’cause it doesn’t have to happen in at moment but does something have to exist, some kind of energetic or soululer or karmic or cosmic charge that just some thing that pulls two people together that they feel like they’re meant specifically to be doing this hard ass work together?
Neil Sattin: So, I think I missed your question initially, which was kind of like…
Jeff Brown: Not two people in an elevator…
Neil Sattin: Right, right.
Jeff Brown: Not just two people in an elevator, who make all these agreements but they don’t have that thing or does that thing not really matter if you do this work with any other person, what about chemistry or what I call “karmistry” or “karmastry”, I mean it’s multi-languaging but what about that piece, where is that piece in all of it?
Neil Sattin: Yeah well then the question comes up for me like what led those two people to be in the elevator at the same time in that moment?
Jeff Brown: And my answer is one of them works on the 11th floor and one of them works on the 8th floor.
Jeff Brown: But anyway…
Neil Sattin: Exactly. What led to that and what led to that? That’s where I get my mind blown on occasion when I think about how circumstances lead to where we exist…
Jeff Brown: But what about attraction, Neil? Clearly they’re on the elevator… I’ll go with you… They’re on the elevator together for some reason, it was all destined, it was encoded, it was all… Fine. That doesn’t mean they are supposed to be intimate partners. So where does attraction, where does…
Neil Sattin: Agreed.
Jeff Brown: The organic attraction fit into all of it? And where does attraction come from, in fact?
Neil Sattin: Yeah…
Jeff Brown: That’s a whole other show, I’m sure.
Neil Sattin: It is, in fact I was just thinking, wow we just had our 100th episode with John Gottman and Sue Johnson. It was totally focused on attraction and even their take on attraction was just their take on attraction.
Jeff Brown: Right.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, I… Okay so I harbor the thought that it’s possible that if two random people on an elevator really opened their hearts that they might experience the attraction or the spark that I think is necessary for it to lead to this, to create the energy that sends two people off in this direction. They had one trajectory or they each had their own trajectory and it takes a little extra energy coming into the system to send their trajectories off in parallel or intertwined directions. So yeah, I think it’s necessary and at the same time, there are people who are convinced that they’ve lost the spark with a partner and rediscover it. And how different is that from two people who just aren’t open to the spark with each other but they could be? I’m not sure, I would love to do that study.
Jeff Brown: You have a powerful mind Mr. Sattin. These are all good questions. To me, the important thing is that we keep the inquiry open at this stage. I don’t think most of us know much of anything, and I might include myself in that. But these are the right questions to ask, what is the basis for attraction? What are we moving from? Is it just societal conditioning? Is there something karmic and internal that really knows this is one of the beings we’re here to encounter? And then the next question, is this somebody who we’re supposed to do a short amount of work with or appear at a time as part of the journey, Or is this the person we’re supposed to do decades and decades of work with? And how do we distinguish the two?
Neil Sattin: Yeah. How do we? Do you have a thought on that?
Jeff Brown: I have all kinds of thoughts on that but I don’t have a definite answer. I do think there’s something to be said for a knowing. And that we have to be careful, we have to have gone through enough in our own experiences to know the difference between sort of an immature knowing and one that’s really a seasoned knowing, like an informed innocence rather than just a naïve innocence. And you do enough work and you’ve had enough experiences and you’ve learned enough lessons and been through enough disappointments that you do reach a stage where it’s clear and clearer, where it’s sustainable and where it just… For me, when I had the initiating Uncommon Bond experience, I couldn’t imagine, it was unbearable to imagine that that was only there for a short period of time. Impossible.
Jeff Brown: I couldn’t even hold that in my consciousness for more than it is, it was too painful. And it didn’t make an ounce of sense to me because based on my experience, my limited experience with crack open love and my societal conditioning, if you had that kind of experience, of course you were supposed to marry and have children together. The only possibility that made any sense.
Jeff Brown: Now having been down the road a little longer and written a book about these processes, I can very safely and clearly say that I was absolutely not supposed to spend my life with her. No way. No how. Not possible, that’s not what that was about. But you only know that by living.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. And I love how you address that in the book too. The rush to… Like, “Okay, now it’s marriage”. And then it’s babies and it’s like there is something in us that wants to… I don’t know what that is, I think you say, control, it’s about controlling that experience to make it last.
Jeff Brown: Well, it is and it’s also not being trained to know what to do with that amount of feeling so it wants to move somewhere, it wants to express itself in other forms and some people make the mistake of thinking that form has to be marriage and family life, which is not always true for every dynamic and…
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Jeff Brown: Because when that feeling comes and you haven’t had an experience, an uncommon bond experience, very few people have had that experience. It’s all you can do to figure out where to send that energy because you’re just not trained in the art of holding it.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. There is one passage that I actually dog-eared here in my book that I wanted to read ’cause I think it speaks to what we’re talking about, which is, may I?
Jeff Brown: Yeah, of course.
Neil Sattin: Quoting Jeff Brown. “You don’t measure love in time, you measure love in transformation. Sometimes the longest connections yield very little growth while the briefest of encounters change everything”. Maybe two people in an elevator, that’s not in the book. “The heart doesn’t wear a watch, it’s timeless. It doesn’t care how long you know someone, it doesn’t care if you had a 40 year anniversary, if there is no juice in the connection. What the heart cares about is resonance. Resonance that opens it, resonance that enlivens it, resonance that calls it home and when it finds it, the transformation begins.
Jeff Brown: Somebody made that into a song, he had a singer sing that. I love the song version of that piece. And how do you feel about that piece?
Neil Sattin: I hate it. No, just kidding.
Jeff Brown: Yeah. I hate it a little too sometimes.
Neil Sattin: Well, it has that… There’s the potential, right? Of just being, “Oh, you know, it was meant to be” or this is the silver lining talking. I’m just gonna say this… I had to grow from this and it was only meant to be, whatever. I spoke those words a lot when Chloe and I were going through our break up. Break ups, I should say ’cause it happened several times. I guess, this is what was meant to be and I guess this is what I was supposed to learn. But on a deeper level, the way that that speaks to me, is less about the time element of it and more about the resonance, the way that it brings our attention to how do we foster resonance. That’s, I think, so key to the longevity of a connection, is your ability to foster it and I think that is through what we were talking about at the very beginning which is, how do you embrace your embodiment? How do you bring yourself right back into your body in the way that it and your partners bodies and experiences vibrate in resonance with each other and where they don’t and how do you address that with each other?
Jeff Brown: And the absolute necessity of it. If you’re just gonna do the transcendence bypass together, you’re gonna be crashing down to earth pretty hard and harsh, right? You absolutely have to bring everything back into the body and we know what happens when we open the lines in the body, you don’t have to do a bio energetic session with Al Lowen to know that it’s gonna break everything up that’s held within the container. This is the work right here and you’re doing this work and this is the work that John Welwood’s been writing about. Steven and Ondrea Levine have been writing about for years. Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks have been writing about for years, which is what we do when we come back down to earth. And how willing are we to do the work to get back into our bodies and deal with what lives inside of us?
Jeff Brown: At this stage of human development, resonance is… We need resonance in order to be… Feel the energy or the willingness or the hopefulness to go back into the shadow and do the work and hope that there is something in that connection that will still be there or even more deeply there later. But what we need more than anything are models and blueprints for what relational consciousness looks like and how we deepen it and how we sustain it and what has to be cleared through. This is the work of our lives and I’m fairly convinced that if we keep focusing on individual path, whether it’s economically, as an economic accumulator or master of the economic realm or spiritually, individual practice and the meditation as road to God, that we are going to take ourselves farther and farther in the direction of the destroying this planet, ’cause we’re not aware of anything horizontally outside of ourselves. And we’re not going to know this realm of possibilities that exist between us. The profound realms of possibilities that exist between us, we have to develop blueprints for doing this shadow work and for knowing what embodied presence feels like and knowing how to hold to it and sustain it without running away from one each other in dynamics and that’s the work right now that has to be developed.
Neil Sattin: One thing I loved about and An Uncommon Bond was how it transformed from something that was really frustrating me, into a healing journey and so much in the middle towards the end part of the book is about the healing path and how important that is.
Jeff Brown: Because Lowen had a choice – as did the author who was inspired to write the book. Either go back to armor and see the ending of the connection as more evidence of how impossible love is in this world and God knows we all have experiences that would fortify or support that belief or, and I remember the moment of my own experience when I had to decide, am I gonna walk away from this and close down and just stay shut down for good or am I gonna somehow find a way to walk right into that web of pain and try to find my way to love that experience forward in some other way in my life. And that’s the moment of decision we make as individuals in a breakup and that’s the moment of decision we make in a dynamic when the connection gets difficult.
Neil Sattin: And for you, where did you find the courage to make that choice?
Jeff Brown: It just didn’t make sense to me, Neil. That… I guess I’m just not cynical enough or something. It just didn’t make sense to me that this experience which seemed so… On so many levels, things happened that I didn’t even put in the book that any normal person in the world would think that I’m insane to describe them, as true. Things happened that were radical. It’s like we entered another realm and all kinds of things happened that never happen otherwise. And, it just didn’t make sense to me that all of that could have happened just for me to spend my life suffering. There had to be some positive reason for this. And you know, I had beautiful grandparents who kept bringing me back to the light in my life, despite my difficult and challenging parents and they had something to do with that. I had enough of an experience with the light to know that there was some possibility that this was intended to take me to the light in a way that I could not possibly foresee in the heart of the darkness. I just believed it, I leaned towards that maybe 53% versus 47% in the other direction, that was enough.
Neil Sattin: The word that I didn’t speak when I was mis-answering your question before was, there’s a lot of faith and you could call it belief or you could call it faith but…
Jeff Brown: I had great faith. And I have great faith in humanity and I always, despite Donald Trump. I still have great faith in humanity.
Neil Sattin: Me too, me too. Jeff I’m wondering if you can just tell us a little bit about what you’re working on now and how people can find you and find more out about you?
Jeff Brown: I’m writing, probably my last long book, a book about spirituality where I challenge through my own journey on grounded spiritualities, things that we’ve talked about a bit here and I make an effort to try to craft a model or a framework or more relational inclusive grounded framework going forward. So I’m hoping to have that book out in the Fall of ’18. I’m continuing to publish other authors through Enrealment Press, you can see our books at enrealment.com. We just published Andrew Harvey and Chris Saade’s book “Evolutionary Love Relationships” which I think you would love.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. He was on the show to talk about it, actually.
Jeff Brown: Oh. He was. Okay, great. And I’m teaching at Soulshaping Institute. I’m gonna develop that quite a bit more after the book is done and they can find me at soulshaping.com as my main website or on my fan page on Facebook.
Neil Sattin: Great. And I’m reminded too of your movie that you did which I haven’t seen yet. I watched a few trailers and excerpts from it. It looks like it’s fascinating. But it’s about this question of spirituality and…
Jeff Brown: Yeah. And what is… It really, that is the question and it weaves the personal into it as the movie proceeds. It’s a very intense watch. Definitely wear a tin foil hat while watching. But it does endeavor to speak to through the journey, this question of “What is real spirituality? Grounded spirituality? And what is dissociative spirituality?” I mean, that’s really at the heart of the film.
Neil Sattin: Well, Jeff Brown, thank you so much for your time today and I feel like we could easily just talk for another hour which I’d love to do. But I know that you have commitments and I have commitments too. But that being said, I hope that we can chat again.
Jeff Brown: Great.
Neil Sattin: For the podcast. And if anything has come up for you listening, reach out. You can get in touch with Jeff through his website. You can always reach me, neilius, N-E-I-L-I-U-S, @neilsattin.com. And if you want the show guide that summarizes this conversation and along with takeaways, you again can visit neilsattin.com/soulshaping or text the word “Passion” to the number, 33444, follow the instructions and we’ll get the show guide to you. Thanks again Jeff.
Jeff Brown: Thanks Neil
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