Interview with Fax for Trillium Awakening Newsletter

Elijah Petersen is currently the youngest Trillium Awakening teacher.  He works as a PhD level environmental scientist in the Washington D.C. area where he lives with his wife.  After exploring a range of spiritual paths for several years, it was the much-needed teaching and transmission of this work that allowed him to embody Being more fully and have the Awakening he deeply wanted.  Elijah has been involved in this work since 2010.

Fax:  Maybe we can start with a summary of your spiritual seeking.Elijah:  Things really got kicked off for me when a friend told me about Spiral Dynamics, which is a model for understanding different stages of development. Consequently, I looked into Integral Theory, which is a theory of everything, and got hooked by the combination of multiple different ways of knowing from hard science to psychology to spirituality.  The complexity satisfied my cerebral nature and got me through the door to meditating every day.  I did a lot of Integral Theory events which typically had teachers from multiple different lineages, which I loved.

Fax:  What was it you were trying to find in searching in these different directions?  What impulse motivated you to try all these things?

Elijah:  Integral Theory introduced me to other dimensions of my Being that I hadn’t known were there.  I think it was kind of like, if you didn’t know you had hands and suddenly you found you had hands, and, wow, what is this about?!  How do I explore this?  I had some religious inclinations through Christianity but I always had some uneasiness around it since it is most often taught in a fundamentalist way.  The integral approach was congruent with my nature in a way I had not experienced until then, and this was eye opening and profound for me.

Fax:  I like that word “congruent” – that some aspect of your being that had been dormant woke up to itself in a way that meshed with the rest of you. What then attracted you to our embodied awakening work?

Elijah:  I had a friend I really trusted who was on this path, and I saw how quickly he was changing and having his own awakening.  I thought, wow, I don’t want to be left behind!

Fax:  What did you see in your friend?

Elijah:  I think it was the efficiency of the process. Other paths of awakening seemed to take decades or even lifetimes.

Fax:  So you saw some rapid change in him?

Elijah:  Yes, and there was something that was sticking with him beyond just passing experiences.
I sensed something was shifting in him that was deeper and irreversible..

Fax:  Or, in the language of Integral, it was more of a realization or stage of development than a transient experience or state that comes and goes. That’s about the limit of my integral knowledge!

Elijah:  Yes, exactly. Well put.

Fax: If you can remember, what specifically catalyzed your awakening in this work, what recognition moved you into that awakening?Elijah:  I remember quite distinctly, I had been working with Jean Marchand, a Trillium Awakening teacher.  It was Christmas eve, and I was asked when talking with a friend in this work: can you find that part of yourself that doesn’t need a teacher? That sparked a recognition of who I am.  Things were never the same after that.  That began a process where things clarified and came online.

Fax:  Beautiful.  That kind of question could precipitate a consciousness awakening into who you are as consciousness, the Knower.  When you say “things then came online,” it sounds like the process of embodying or living and integrating your conscious nature?

Elijah:  Yes, the realization deepened in a universal way, and as time went on exploring and deepening through different retreats, I landed more in my body in a different way.

Fax:  What strengths do you feel you bring to teaching?  What approach do you take?

Elijah:  In my work with students, I find I’m comfortable with a broad range of reality, whether that is helping people through shamanic work, following my intuition, or moving about in altered states or other ways of knowing.  The people I work with also often appreciate my comfort with mental complexity and the way that some of us try to understand the world by grappling with it at the mental level.

Having lived for about a year in Finland and being married to a German woman also helped me get the ways in which my view of reality has been colored by American culture (and my experience of it as a white male).  I think this helps me work with people from different cultural backgrounds.

One thing that is still challenging and very scary for me is experimenting more in my teaching, to step forward in this way.  It definitely takes me outside my comfort zone yet I feel compelled to continue to explore and innovate ways I can help our community evolve.  Some ways I try to experiment are an approach I developed called “inner mutuality,” as well as with using Spiral Dynamics.  In the world today, depending on our preferred worldview, we see reality in a very different way.  There’s such a broad range in how people perceive what’s happening, and I want to increasingly draw on these insights from Integral Theory and developmental psychology in my work as a Trillium Awakening teacher.

Fax:  What is an example of how something like Spiral Dynamics would bring a person to more of an integration of the disparities in the world?

Elijah:  From my own experience, learning this was probably the single most important thing I did to expand my understanding and become less judgmental and more genuinely inclusive.  This allowed me to feel into different aspects of my being in a new way, which opened my capacity to accept others with different world views.  Progressives often think of themselves as inclusive, which I think is partly really accurate particularly with regards to welcoming in previously marginalized groups.  At the same time, there is often an antagonism towards, for example, evangelicals or certain types of people in business.   I’ve found that some people may not be interested in doing mutuality with you.  When I’m coming from this orientation, it takes off some of the bite.

Fax:  Is that somehow synonymous with moving out of the mind?

Elijah:  I think it’s more moving away from our favored perspectives.  There are different ways you can investigate these ideas and different dimensions of our being, yet most people start with mental.  If I were to put myself in the place of someone who was primarily concerned about security, for instance, I’d probably have a different perspective and preferences than I do now as Elijah.

Fax:  Since your whole being awakening, are there any gifts or directions that have been manifesting for you?

Elijah:  Being a teacher is the most obvious thing. Before Trillium, I had assumed there would be a substantially longer time period to awaken, never mind teaching others.  There’s something in the efficiency of this work that is so profound that needs to be shared with people.

Fax:  I understand you also practice the shamanic art of helping people energetically connect with their ancestors.

Elijah:  My capacity to be of service in others’ awakening and growth has taken different forms.
I started doing shamanic work around the same time as getting involved in this work.  With shamanic work I became aware of different dimensions of my being and began to see that the blueprint I got for who I am as a Westerner was so inadequate for my well-being and for defining who I am.

Fax:  In this you activate and enliven energies, to give students an experience of a greater dimension of who they are?

Elijah:  Yes.  There is more of a focus on the energetic side, healing and integration, ancestral work.  There are dimensions that are complementary but quite distinct. Shamanism is a separate modality from Trillium.

Fax:  What do you feel that Trillium can offer the world now?

Elijah:  Many things.  I’ll focus on a few: one of them is resilience through knowing Being.  There’s a way that knowing who you are as consciousness, as being, that brings a lot of relaxation and the ability to persevere through uncomfortable situations.
So when I get upset with, say, a recent political event, I can slow myself down, take some breaths, notice the dimension of Being that expands beyond this body and time, and find some relaxation, at least most of the time.  People who don’t know themselves as Being, who haven’t connected to this area, can feel much more uncomfortable throughout life.  There’s such a value to this Trillium work.
Those of us with capacity for awareness can offer how to open space within ourselves so that we can understand what it’s like to be in a small town in Kansas, for example, where the economic situation has been deteriorating, and progressive values are perceived as a threat to that community’s way of life.  Even though I might disagree with their political orientation, I can feel a lot of compassion for that community’s discomfort.  If you really see the divinity in everyone, that includes these people.
So dropping the liberal condescension toward these groups would be a huge move in the right direction.

Fax: In light of the need in the world for mutuality, how have you been digesting all the changes in our organization the past few years?

Elijah:  I’m not sure what to say.  I do feel a kind of curiosity about this.  Do the events that have transpired indicate a limitation of mutuality, or does our definition of mutuality need to be expanded to include shadow work in a new or deeper way?  How does it fit into the Trillium model?  While there’s the ability to be with uncomfortable feelings, I think there’s also a need and opportunity for additional shadow work and healing in the Trillium Awakening culture.
There’s magic to mutuality such that, when I practice it, there’s a shift in my perception of the other, and also a shift into more relaxation.  This process can take months or can happen in a flash once some openness is allowed.  And yet, perhaps shadow work would be more appropriate than mutuality when dealing with dynamics such as the “drama triangle”. There is real magic, too, in healing things at a deep enough level that they no longer grip us consciously or unconsciously.

Fax:  One last question: What do you see as most important to energize this Trillium Awakening work right now?

Elijah:  There are ways that, as a teachers’ circle and in the overall community, we can become more integrated, or more adaptable to the situations in which we find ourselves now.  How can the teachers’ circle self-organize such that it uniquely fulfills the energetic functions previously activated by Saniel? For example, he was passionately agentic in promoting the value of this work.  What will it look like when we passionately champion our work? Clarifying and enacting that agentic function is likely going to cause us to stretch, and it’s going to look different. And we have an opportunity to realize fullness as individuals and as a community by leaning into this stretch.  We must do it, because the time is calling for it. While it scares me, it’s really an interesting time and an interesting opportunity!

Fax:  Elijah, thank you so much!

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