Jeffrey Backstrom

Interning Teacher

Welcome Message


Awakening is self-sustaining

More makes room for more again

Identifying as the knower.

I like to play with words. New meanings arise when we look at them from different angles.

“Awake” for instance. Lots of meanings. The most common, just to contrast with asleep. Literally conscious-at-all. In our work, “awake” is a key concept, arguably the key concept. It names the goal or objective. But also “awake to”, “aware of”, … our personal connection, integration of that thing.

And also, “holding space” for another’s process: It is a phenomenon worth noting, that witnessing, a.k.a. “holding space”, serves the one who is in process! The very idea … that one person can be consciously, perhaps energetically “held”, and that this makes a difference, whispers to us of the power of attention.

Going forward, we increasingly identify as “That”, and thus see our challenging aspects as “that part of me”.  So it’s pretty interesting that we spend so very much of our time together working on the very difficult aspects of being here, being human. Sometimes it may seem like we seldom get around to “awake” because there’s so much of wounding to engage us,

I think there’s an ironically lovely subplot here, a something-more going on, and a great blessing: once begun, the awakening/healing process is self-sustaining. In every encounter with the difficult material, there’s a chance for something beyond that to come along. Not only is there an opportunity for healing, but right there, when the encounter with “that old stuff” we’ve been carrying gets lively, the witnessing self grows a bit more powerful. It is a little like weight lifting: a little at a time, we can lift a bit more. The way lifting a little more each time leads to magnified strength, so in encountering more difficult parts of ourselves, we become stronger, more resourceful. 

Hence it really is okay to save some of the bigger stuff for later!. 

We have long-lasting stories. “My uncle (parent, spouse, whomever) would do that thing …”  and the remnants of that event carry on. The remnants become facets of our personality. They show up unbidden. They leap into the room and make new messes. But with time we come to see them as facets of ourselves, or as “partial selves.”  When we can say, “Ah yes, there’s a part of me that gets triggered by that”, we’re already getting closer and getting skillful!  “A part of me is young and vulnerable”, or “wounded and unhealed.”. Right there, in noticing that “part of me”, we start to truly live in recognition of the partial self … and the witnessing being becomes more self-aware, and stronger and steadier. 

I spent some time with an indigenous teacher in the Amazon region. He shepherded us through many hours of quite intense inner work. All kinds of material could arise, personal, cultural, familial, perhaps even from other times and places. He earnestly taught us to remain vigilant about holding the watching, studying, witnessing position … not to be pulled into the story. He advised us to ask, “What do you have to teach me?” So it is with our awakening. The witness-consciousness is not some goal over the horizon; it is already the means. When we can acknowledge that “a part of me” reacts in a certain way, or has certain fears or limits, then we are already stepping into the freedom of the awakened life. The witnessing Self arises in-the-act-of knowing/seeing/freeing from the restriction of the partial self.

When we glimpse the first tiny glimmer in the East, it’s more than a herald of the day. It’s not a prediction. It is dawn, it is dawning. Though more is to come, that glimmer itself is the new shining One. So it is with us, and with our awakening.


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