If you are one of those people that has more time than usual on your hands and/or you are using your social distance for retreat and self inquiry, and/or you’re just going coocoo, read on. I know that everyone who likes to offer advice is doing it these days, but this isn’t actually advice, it’s a tool. Not like I have never offered anyone advice or anything.

When I started studying psychology that was my aim, mostly- to collect and offer tools for transformation. Talk therapy is a pretty limited modality, y’all. Though there are many approaches to the same, I think most people have figured out that the actual healing or whatever you want to call it, is ultimately not the therapist’s job. Ultimately, we are learning to be responsible for ourselves, though there’s nothing better than an awesome therapist or counselor. A quality counselor will support self responsibility. Give a man a fish, and all that. Personal inquiry tools are therapeutic fishing poles.

So we land back at square one; self inquiry. The term makes some people squirm; it sounds painful, like putting oneself under a microscope slide, or maybe it’s like a mammogram or prostate exam. However, unlike those scientifically oriented probes, self therapy actually is an empowering, benign healing occupation. And it doesn’t cost a cent, as they say. You can do it in your pajamas. It does take time, yes. But it is worth it when you dig up treasure that you alone were meant to find on your personal treasure map of life!

Enough promotion. What is a processing tool, anyway? It is a way to change perspective on things in your life, things you don’t want, of course. We don’t need tools to deal with happiness and joy. Processing assumes that a certain amount of our suffering is indeed a treasure chest; jewels of wisdom and self love and compassion and creativity wait for uncovering. When we are most freaked out is the perfect time to take out our processing tools, because when we are in status quo mode we can’t reach deep into the pockets of the psyche. It’s our suffering that turns us to seek wisdom or healing, naturally so.

Leslie Temple-Thurston and Brad Laughlin. Boy, do they have nice teeth!

I spent a lot of time back in the day with Temple-Thurston’s Polarities. I learned the process from her book The Marriage of Spirit: Enlightened Living in Today’s World, written with Brad Laughlin. Temple-Thurston decided at some point in her life to secrete herself in a hotel room, if I recall correctly, and dedicate herself to that vague term, ‘enlightenment’. I define enlightenment as discovering who we are beneath our conditioned personas. Though Temple-Thurston went out on that limb and attained a different level of consciousness from the ordinary, her processing tools are universal. They will help alleviate psychological suffering for even the spiritually unambitious. Personally, I gave up spiritual ambition years ago. Maybe. 😉 Who knows.

Polarities is based on opposites, of course, the fundament of alchemy as I understand it. The alchemical universe begins with a split between masculine and feminine, the old yin-yang thang. The way that polarities entrap us and cause suffering is by encouraging us to imagine that we are on one side or the other of some duality. In the most simplistic of terms, that means we have been trained to a dualistic mindset in which we imagine that one side of a given subject is bad, and the other good. This is an immature state of existence, that works for training small children, right? But it causes lots of adolescent and adult suffering, because we are going to struggle to stay on one side or other of the coin, in part by making other people fill the role of the opposite. We will reward the good, and punish the bad, whether it’s self or other. Some people like being bad, of course. It pays off on the personality level.

Typically, processing is easier when you are in a stew about somebody or someone else, though we can also be angry or otherwise suffering in regards to circumstances. For example, I was angry about the restrictions of sheltering in place. If I was less “enlightened”, I might have made it personal; I might have gotten angry at politicians or other people in high places. It’s actually easier to do processing if you’re in blame so obviously. Blame is a very polarized condition, and the power of this Polarities processing is in the understanding that whatever we have been assuming is NOT us, is- to some extent. We find the “other” inside. And when that happens, the inner opposites creep closer to inspire healing, wholeness, and compassion. They step over the wall and get to know each other, maybe shake hands, or sometimes actually embrace. This embrace is the alchemical or inner marriage, the “happily ever after” event at the end of symbolic stories like Cinderella. It’s the marriage of Spirit that titles Leslie’s book.

So here goes. Step one: get upset. Step two: find some alone time and place. Step three: get a notebook and writing implement. If you are so far away from actual writing, go ahead and use a computer, but there is something more intimate about actual writing. A computer is by its nature less soulful, more externalizing or head trippy. We want to move more inward, not headward. Step four: write down in an unedited form, your stream of consciousness about this thing that distresses you so. Nobody else will see it, so lay it all on the line! Get passionate about it! Get emotional about it, get pathetic, get nasty, express it in as dramatic a form as you can. No holds barred. Don’t stop till you have drained every drop.

Step five: go back and underline or highlight the bits that hold the most charge, the most energy for you. Some of these will be single words, such as perhaps ‘hate’ or ‘danger’ or ‘grief’. Some will be phrases, as in “He should not tell me what to do”. Step six: make up a polarities page. Just draw a line down the middle of a page (or make two columns in your word processor formatting) and then list the words and phrases that you underlined on the left side. Step seven: find opposites for all the listed words and phrases, and write them in the right hand column.

Finding opposites was more challenging back in the day when I was doing this a lot, since I didn’t use a computer. I had a thesaurus, and my wits. Sometimes the act of finding a polarity is enlightening in and of itself, if you are not used to thinking in terms of opposites! So, I advise not going to the computer unless you can’t come up with the proper word or phrase on your own. Don’t give that job away out of hand, because the point to the processing is self empowerment, right? We are learning that we do have the answers. And that means we might have to do some “work”. We might have to contemplate a bit.

However, if you spend too much time thinking about it, you’ll lose the emotional charge that’s so important in the process. So if you feel the whole project slipping away, either look the word up or go on to the next word or phrase. Sometimes there is no clear opposite, of course. If you have a word like ‘turtle’, an actual thing, for example, you will perhaps have an opposite that is very personal. For example, turtles are famously slow, so the cultural opposite is the hare or rabbit. Or maybe the turtle is there because it carries its home about, and the opposite would be a worm, an animal that has not much covering or protection.

In the case of phrases that describe the actions and behaviors of self and other, opposites might be simply that the person did not do the thing described. In my example of “He should not tell me what to do” the simplest option is “He should tell me what to do”. I can also list what I want him to do instead, such as “He should approve of my behaviors”. If I wrote “I should know what I am supposed to be doing”, then I could counter with “I should not know what I am supposed to be doing”, or maybe “There is nothing that I am supposed to be doing”. You will know which one is right by the feeling of it. When you get important opposites right, a liberation light bulb goes on! Again, don’t get into struggles to find opposites. Not all of the material is worth fussing about. If you get even one insight, it’s been worth it. And you can’t get it wrong. Unlike an argument with someone else, you are always right.

Step seven: review all the opposites by going down the list and comparing them again, feeling whatever comes up; thoughts, memories, emotions. If you wish to, record your feelings and thoughts for later reference and possible future processing. Step eight is the act of releasing the process to the quantum field, the Universe, God or Goddess, or what ever have you. Temple-Thurston’s version is thus:

Oh Eternity, please take all of these states of mind which are imbalanced in this pattern and balance and clear them. Do this so that I may see more clearly and find my way back home more easily. I give thanks knowing it will be done.

The point is just to acknowledge that the deliberate or active part of the process is done, and now, just as one waits for bread to rise or seeds to sprout, we are giving the healing or transformation over to Gaia, or our soul, or higher self, or angels, helpers, guides, etc etc. You can come up with your own angle on this. This release of action signals us to trust that a thing is done, and it is good, like the seventh day of Creation. It may be that, in the next few days, we will feel some form of lightening of the load, some release, or new understanding. This is the polarities coming together in the psyche.

Paradise by M. C. Escher

So there you have it! The Marriage of Spirit includes a couple more processing techniques that take off from Polarities; Triangles and Squares. I used a lot of squares. Byron Katie’s The Work is similar, but Temple-Thurston’s methods work well when we’re upset about something that is not an action of another human. Katie’s is best for when we are upset with other humans; she calls the worksheet for her process the Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet. I recommend checking her teaching out because it’s important particularly when we have thoughts like “He should not tell me what to do”.

Katie’s particularly useful insight is that he should, because he already did! If we fight with things that already happened we are wasting our time wrestling with the manifest reality. That’s not only an energy suck, it keeps us from getting to juicier levels of understanding by remaining on the level of the dramatic storyline. Katie features this specific teaching in the title of her bestseller Loving What Is.

A promotional photo for Seeds of Light, Temple-Thurston’s orphanage specifically

Leslie’s Corelight website is pretty informative in regards to her work. She does training, and sacred activism. She is from South Africa and has an AIDS orphanage project, Seeds of Light, and animal prayer circles. At this time the site is new and the prayer circle content is not up. On the activism page here there is a sort of introduction video where Laughlin talks about Leslie’s ability to transmit shakti energy, and I can testify to that. The only time I was ever in her physical presence she did so to me, by looking in my eyes from quite a distance away, which she did for all the satsang participants. Two days later I was able to enjoy 24 hours of “enlightenment” in the sense of oneness, absolute peace, and joy. Here is the introductory video on Vimeo if you want to listen:

So check out Leslie’s offerings, if you are interested! I also found her book Returning to Oneness to be very helpful. It’s about chakra work. As I said above, “oneness” doesn’t have to mean a heavy duty spiritual aspiration. It just means a more wholistic, more compassionate, wiser way of living. I think it’s a human birthright many of us are learning to appreciate.

I do have permission to use this material from Brad Laughlin.