Over the years I have marveled at how Pathwork attracts seekers from a diverse group of cultures, spiritual backgrounds, experiences, and worldviews.
As an international community we are truly a melting pot that expresses both our individuality and our common humanity. Our stories weave us together like threads in a magnificent tapestry, and speak to the core longing we all share as we navigate our unique path on the journey back to union with all of Life. In times of such deep division, I find the International Pathwork Community an oasis of inclusion, tolerance, and rich celebration of differences.
I have decided to feature the stories of various Pathworkers so that we might come together as a community to enrich each other through our shared experience. I hope you enjoy getting to know others in the International Pathwork Community through this online sharing! ~ Beth
Gary Vollbracht and Pat Peterson
Partners in Life in Cincinnati, Ohio
Sacred Dimensions and the Pathwork Phase of Life
I was encouraged to consider Pathwork at the age of 58. By that time my life had undergone two major phases. I would consider the first phase to be my successful constructive phase from grade school through my mid forties. At 45 I considered myself a “success” on many fronts.
But in my late forties I found I was increasingly troubled spiritually. I did not realize it at the time, but I was entering my second phase of life: a major 10-year midlife crisis. This midlife crisis phase brought destruction to nearly every facet of my life.
In August of 2000, I entered a third phase of my life, the Pathwork phase. During a retreat my spiritual director told me that I was obviously a very hungry spiritual man, but with my deep issues I needed an incredible level of spiritual and psychological help. The only help she knew that would support me in my journey was a Pathwork Program at Sevenoaks – 450 miles distant from my home in Cincinnati.
In October of that year, I began the Pathwork Transformation Program at Sevenoaks – driving the 900 miles round trip monthly. I came to love this program. I was especially inspired by the teachings of the Pathwork Lectures.
After graduating the Pathwork Transformation Program, I continued into the Pathwork Teacher and Helper training programs and graduated these in 2008.
I quickly discovered that I was neither a natural teacher nor a natural helper/counselor!
I so loved the Pathwork Lectures however, that I made audio recordings of the lectures – a six-year project between 2006 and 2012. But I still missed the deeper teachings of the Guide. In September of 2012 I agreed to participate in and help Erena Bramos administratively as she began the Sacred Dimensions Program.
The focus of Sacred Dimensions is to support experienced Pathworkers and others who, like me, experience a strong calling to deepen their own personal growth both psychologically and spiritually.
What so attracts me to the Sacred Dimensions of the Pathwork program?
First and foremost, Sacred Dimensions balances both the spiritual and psychological sides of personal growth. Deeper spiritual states of consciousness inspire one to enter ever more deeply into the psychological work needed for growth. Conversely, the deep psychological work facilitates opening to deeper spiritual states of consciousness.
The spiritual and psychological aspects complement and inspire each other. If the spiritual side of the work is over-weighted, spiritual bypassing occurs. Conversely, if the psychological work is over-weighted, then “reaching union with the divine within” is not envisioned or pursued as the “main purpose of one’s life” that it is.
Pathwork is one of very few spiritual programs that emphasizes BOTH the spiritual and psychological aspects of personal growth. Sacred Dimensions enables those who are so inspired to reach the deepest and most rewarding depths of personal development possible. Sacred Dimensions does this by focusing on and blending several aspects, including:
- Discussing and experiencing some of the deepest teachings of the Pathwork Guide
- Building a container where both the psychological group work and opening to spirit together can happen
- The practice of silence
- The use of additional materials from inspiring spiritual teachers from outside Pathwork
- Body meditation and movement
- Leadership that includes deep sharing by the leader of real challenges and applications of Pathwork experienced in the leader’s own life.
This and other aspects make for a transformative life experience in each Module of Sacred Dimensions!
Thus the Pathwork phase of my life continues. In addition to my participation in Sacred Dimensions, my path includes creating what I have called the Devotional Format of the Pathwork Lectures, maintaining my website of Pathwork Resources, and making my priority the deepening of my relationship with my 15-year partner, Pat Peterson.
I’ve been somewhat familiar with Pathwork since 2002 as my Life Partner, Gary Vollbracht, became involved with and ultimately devoted to the Pathwork Guide and Lectures. I come from a Catholic background, 16 years of Catholic education, and the whole of my middle adult years in an on/off relationship with the Church (mostly off) and an increasing longing for deep spirituality.
At age 50 after 28 years of marriage, I chose to get divorced. How I described my reason for this decision was, “it felt like my soul was dying,” and that was so. In those early so-crazy and so-wonderful years of developing a life as a single woman, my youngest son, age 20, tragically chose to end his life. Suffice it to say that that event completely undid me and surviving it brought me into a whole new and vibrant relationship with Life and Spirit.
It was about this time that I met Gary and through him became exposed to Pathwork and the Guide’s lectures. During these 15+ years that Gary and I have been partnered, I’ve at times participated in lecture study groups and attended a number of weekend Pathwork programs at Sevenoaks. But my spiritual path developed with a Buddhist teacher in California with whom I studied for 6 years. One of the great treasures of Gary’s and my life together has been our discovery of the intermeshing of these two deep spiritual paths. Our practice of daily review and meditation together is foundational for our ever growing and deepening relationship.
Several years ago it became clear to me that I wanted to accompany Gary for the Sacred Dimensions weekends. He would come home after one of the weekends and be both so alive and so at ease, I found myself wanting some of that too! Having Gary and me participate together is an amazing opportunity and lo and behold I found my community (my church!) with the dear people in Sacred Dimensions.
Antiques Dealer and Musician in Richmond, Va.
The Miracle of Pathwork
How does one find their way to Pathwork? My story feels quite miraculous to me, but then, I’d be willing to bet yours feels the same way too.
About four years ago I was struggling after a very rough relationship patch. I had experienced back to back huge disappointments that took place over the course of about three years. It was more than I could handle alone.
I was without direction, emotionally depleted, in a deep depression and feeling like I had no power to pull myself back up. I felt like I was drowning in anxiety and sadness. I knew I needed big help.
I had a friend who was a therapist. I confided in her and I asked her if she would work with me. She said that arrangement would not be a good idea, and so she gave me the names of three other therapists that she said I should investigate. She told me that I might need to search a while before I found someone who felt like the right fit.
I did some online searching for any information on these three recommendations and I decided to call the person whose picture had the kindest face. Her name is Lisa Boyles. Her office was within walking distance of my house. After just one meeting I knew she was the perfect fit for me. What I did not know at that time was that Lisa is a Pathwork Helper. To find the right therapist on the first try within walking distance was already amazing, but I did not know how truly serendipitous this coming together would be.
This was my first ever talk therapy experience. I was scared and apprehensive but I guess deep inside I was really willing to take a leap of faith. I had no idea what a talk therapy leap of faith would look and feel like. I just knew I could not continue feeling as bad as I did about myself.
Lisa guided me with amazing skill and compassion and after about four months of working with her I guess she felt I was ready for something much bigger. That’s when she mentioned Pathwork for the first time and told me a little bit about her Pathwork journey. That’s also when she handed me “The Pathwork of Self-Transformation” by Eva Pierrakos. She simply said, “see if this book resonates with you.”
As I read the book I felt like the secrets of life were revealed to me. I knew that this was divine knowledge.
I just knew that even the most intuitive human minds could not so accurately define the workings of the human psyche the way they were outlined in this book. You could put ten Sigmond Freuds in a room for a year and they could not produce this little powerhouse of psychological and spiritual knowledge. And this was just a small part of the body of work that was channelled through Eva.
I had to know more. I had to feel more. I had to join the Pathwork. I had to go deeper!
Now I am a fourth year student in the five year Pathwork Transformation Program at Sevenoaks Retreat Center. I’ll try to tell you how Pathwork has transformed me so far. I’ll try to tell you how this miracle continues to manifest in my life.
First and foremost, I am more willing to be emotionally vulnerable. I am willing to look at my false images, understand my distortions produced by those false images and see how they affect my behavior, and see how they have ruled my life. I am willing to step into my darkness and negativity. Before Pathwork, all this darkness was covered up by masks and a weak ego, and protected by a personality that shared very little of its real self with the world.
If you want the light to shine in, you have to expose the darkness. To me, this is the core of the Pathwork.
I know the immense power of this simple truth now. I have felt its transformative power and seen it work in all of my classmates. True courage is that willingness to be vulnerable. When a distortion is dissolved a new ray of hope shines in. The byproduct is a softer and more open heart. A softer and more open heart means more love can come and go with ease, and it does! More of your higher self can be shared with ease, and it is! Piece by piece, one dissolved false image and distortion at a time, the transformation takes place.
Before Pathwork I was a subconscious reactor to life. Now my life is rooted in conscious action.
Before Pathwork I felt like I had no choice. Now I understand how much freedom I have to choose, and how much power every choice has.
I have met the most amazing people in the Pathwork community. People with healing intuition who can change the mood or even the course of a person’s life with a few words or a simple loving touch of understanding. I have witnessed the corrective power of process work. I have seen courage beyond comparison, heard wisdom beyond belief and known love and compassion without boundaries. All this happens when people come together with a common goal to heal each other.
The Pathwork Transformation Program Class entering Year 4 this fall at Sevenoaks.
I know that all these amazing changes, feelings, and understandings that I have experienced could only be possible within a group of people dedicated to each other’s emotional healing.
That is the power and the miracle of the Transformation Program. That is the power of the Pathwork community. But perhaps the biggest miracle is that all I have to do is show up and be WILLING.
I could go on and on but mostly I would like to say that I have found my spiritual home. Emotional healing and spiritual growth are inseparably linked. The more I heal my distortions, the closer I am to my Higher Self and to God. The more expanded I am in this way, the easier it is to give more of myself to others.
In the very first paragraph of “The Pathwork Of Self-Transformation” the Guide says that every human being longs for a more fulfilling state of consciousness and a larger capacity to experience life. There is a great comfort in knowing that the formula for this is really not that complicated.
Blessings to All,
Senior Pathwork Helper in Penn Valley, Ca.
DEATH DOES NOT DO US PART — It Opens Us To Eternity
I want to share with you the poem that helped me go through my husband’s dying.
When Death Comes by Mary Oliver
When it is over I want to say: All my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was a bridegroom taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I do not want to wonder if I have made of myself something particular and real. I do not want to find myself sighing and frightened or full of argument.
I do not want to end up simply having visited this world.
Adriano’s dying was a mirror for my own surrender as I died into the loss. The deeper I went the more my heart opened to myself.
In Pathwork Lecture 171, The Guide writes:
“You must lose what you want to gain. Only when one can live without terror is winning possible. The one who is terrified of losing is never able to win.”
What the Guide teaches is that all fear is the fear of loss …. and all fear prevents us from living. We live our lives defending against this loss.
The story began in June of 2002. An Italian Engineer living in Abu Dhabi was sent the Pathwork Lectures by his sister, a doctor living in Milan, Italy. He reached the one that said, “You must have a witness.”
To make the story short, and to prove there are NO ACCIDENTS, he reached out to Italy, then to Sevenoaks, and received no answer. Finally, my worker in California received his request for a Helper and she suggested me.
I could not be his Helper — I did not speak Italian, and I was not yet proficient on the computer. I offered to be his friend. We wrote and we wrote, opening the doors…. nothing was left unsaid. At the time, I never felt that we would meet.
We wrote and we wrote. I wanted to write a book and call it: “Letters from a Broad.” I had found a friend, and although we did not speak the same language (on so many levels), we held the keys to each others hearts.
We met in New York City on the anniversary of 9/11. Two different worlds, two very different life experiences — and this was one of the great gifts. We learned to see the light in each other. We took seriously that it was the Guide who brought us together (Lecture 151) and allowed the Guide’s teaching to sear our hearts. We were committed to “rising in love” — our personal answer to not “falling in love.”
We were married within the year. Our love created our work. We moved from New York City and held retreats in our home in Northern California. He did the cooking, and sometimes I believe the students came just for the cooking!
It was as if our souls came together to hold the space for lovers of life.
And then he was diagnosed with Cancer.
We learned it was not just a word. It was a sentence. But that is another story.
I am forever grateful to the Guide’s teachings which I connected with in 1975. I also met my teacher Emmanuel (channeled by Pat Rodegast) at Phoenicia, since Pat and I were on the same weekends. What a glorious time that was. My relationship with the Pathwork was and continues to be the key that opened my heart … and continues to do so.
With great gratitude and grace, I’d like to leave you with another poem by Rumi that helped me to choose life and love:
Love is the funeral pyre
where I have laid my living body.
All the false notions of myself
that once caused pain and fear
have turned to ash
as I turned to G-d.
What has risen from the tangled web and sinew
Now shines with jubilation
Through the eyes of angels
And screams from the guts of infinite existence itself.
Love is the funeral pyre
where the heart must lay its body.
Learn more about Barbara Azzara and sign up to receive her “Love Letters” here.
Pathwork Helper in Miami, Florida
Creating Sustainability From Within
I started Pathwork exactly 20 years ago when I was 29. It would be much more accurate to say that Pathwork found me, indeed. And it found me as a career driven person, successfully working for a large corporation as a strategic planning manager, married with no kids and sensing that life should be more than making money and being perceived as successful.
I needed to give back the gifts I had received from life, to contribute to something larger.
I was first triggered by a colleague with whom I was able to have profound conversations. He never mentioned the word Pathwork, but I noticed that some times when we were outside São Paulo, Brazil working on projects together, he would drive for 5 hours back and forth (10 hours total) just to be part of this interesting group.
I thought to myself, “it might be something fascinating for this guy to make this kind of sacrifice…” So, once he handed me a card from his “Helper” that looked like a therapist to me.
I danced with that card for three months before having the courage to call. At the age of 29, I would arrogantly say that any “therapy” was for crazy people, and I was not a crazy person, so why would I care about that? It was necessary that I was feeling miserable and lost for me to call her.
I remember my first session very clearly: Graciela guided me to understand that I was not who I thought I was. I cried for almost two hours asking myself, “who the hell am I then?”
Graciela also suggested a book, “The Pathwork of Self Transformation,” by Eva Pierrakos, and that’s when I was hooked. I drank the words as a thirsty person lost in the desert. It made so much sense, it was so profound, and it has touched me forever. I joined Graciela’s group and have never stopped studying the Pathwork since then.
Guided by Pathwork, I journeyed to the innermost part of my being. I became more grounded and secure, being able to make moves outwardly that were more aligned with the calling of my heart and soul.
Nearly two years after I started Pathwork, I was able to quit my job as a director in a prominent Venture Capital company and begin a new journey as a sustainability consultant. In 2001, “Atitude” (as it is written in Portuguese), a consulting company in corporate sustainability, was born.
Along the way, while expanding my awareness, I came to realize in the deeper levels of my consciousness that the way we were doing consultancy was impaired.
There is no “saving the planet, or helping nature” as if planet or nature were something else apart from myself.
I comprehended that the notion of a subject separated from an object is a big illusion. I learned that to be more effective in my objectives I would need to integrate the same principles I was living in my personal development journey into my working practices.
Working with sustainability was a way of following the deepest calling of my heart. Pathwork – or in other words, the deep understanding of my own emotional, mental, and spiritual being – has made it possible. Both together are helping me realize that our fundamental task is to challenge our dualistic perspective of the world and seek unitive consciousness. More and more I have come to understand that reality is systemic, integrated, interconnected and interwoven.
In 2009, I left Brazil and moved to the US. I intuitively knew it would be difficult to maintain my activities as a sustainability consultant here, but it was the perfect situation for me to develop a path that would drive us to more sustainable results, a path of challenging mindsets. Synchronistically, a new Helpership Training was starting at Sevenoaks Retreat Center, so I jumped in, and three years later I became a Helper. I now hold groups and see people individually, following the steps of Graciela and other beautiful teachers I found along the way.
For my mission in the corporate and conventional world, I still needed a better suited structure and a language to reach those who do not identify with a spiritual path. I found that in Integral Coaching Canada (ICC). As a coaching method inspired by and focused on Ken Wilbur’s Integral Vision, ICC brought me the framework I needed to create Sustainability from Within®.
Pathwork is Sustainability from Within® heart and soul. It is my well – the place I go whenever I need more understanding, more acceptance, more compassion, more love. It is my path, and it is the base of the service I want to provide the world in gratitude for all Life has given me.
Learn more about Cibele and Sustainability from Within® here.
A “Journey of the Heart” serving migrants and refugees in El Paso, Texas
Pauline (second from the left) with a few volunteers at the Nazareth hospitality center in El Paso, Texas.
From the beginning, my Pathwork journey has been about learning to trust. Trusting myself, trusting my inner authority, trusting God. It’s an ongoing process.
I started the Pathwork Transformation Program (PTP) in the fall of 2008 at Sevenoaks Retreat Center. Truthfully, Pathwork had spoken to me long before that, but I hesitated to commit to PTP because, after all, I hadn’t yet learned to fully trust my inner guidance and the clear messages I was receiving. But, in reality, I came to PTP exactly when I needed to.
Only five months into Year 1, my husband died unexpectedly and I was catapulted into this surreal journey of shock, pain, and grief. The work I did through Pathwork and with my helper was invaluable as I learned to feel my feelings and understand my fears and anxiety, much of which had been with me since childhood but surfaced more fully after David died. I began to open to limitless possibilities by saying yes to what was in front of me, even when my inclination was to reject it.
PTP taught me the beauty of letting myself be vulnerable, helped me understand the pride and shame I carried, including the shame of the Higher Self, and it reinforced the validity of my spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ.
I learned to honor my Higher Self while at the same time, not be afraid to own and reveal my lower self in the safety of my Pathwork container. Being able to get down in the muck and be seen for who I was in all my messiness and still be accepted by my Pathwork “family” and my helper Kathryn meant so much to someone like me who was afraid of being seen as not enough. My heart kept opening more and more, and this was huge for my healing.
In Year 5, under the guidance of our teachers Julia and Darlene, we participated in a special ceremony in which we reaffirmed our commitment to Pathwork, to our personal spiritual journey and to one another, and then committed to the larger community as a whole. I took that commitment seriously. I already knew my life was about something more than myself. Ever since David had died I’d been asking the tough questions about my life’s purpose. I knew it was about serving Love; I just didn’t know in what capacity.
It didn’t take long for the answer to reveal itself.
In 2013 I went on a one-week “border immersion” trip to El Paso, Texas. What I experienced about the people who migrate to this country, and those who work with them at the U.S.-Mexico border, cracked my heart open.
After I came home to Virginia, I kept feeling a pull on my heart to return. In the past, I might have thought this was silly, and certainly unreasonable, given that I had responsibilities at home. But having learned to trust more, I gave all my concerns to the Universe and, in 2014, I returned to the border to volunteer for two months. That experience literally changed my life.
There were a few more jumping off steps as I listened and followed my heart, taking one risk after another, eventually leading me to the “knowing” that I was being called to accompany migrants and refugees and write about the experience.
It seemed crazy. I had never intended to permanently leave my home in Virginia. But in El Paso, I experienced the abundance of the Universe that we often hear mentioned in Pathwork. As the community gave, and continues to give, so generously to the migrants/refugees who have experienced tremendously challenging and often traumatic and violent lives, their generosity and compassion multiplied. At the hospitality center where I volunteer, we always receive what we need. And so much more. It’s funny how people with desperate lives who seemingly own nothing have so much to give.
Now that I care for others, it’s more important than ever that I heed the lessons of Pathwork. Self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion are essential as I go forward. Keeping my heart open for myself as well as for the “other” is key. I’m much more aware of when my negative voices/beliefs and resistance show up and when I need to take time to be with myself, thanks to my PTP years. I’m much more willing to look within myself for what I don’t like in another person.
Of course, there are many challenges, but my commitment to my daily spiritual practice and my desire to use my gifts in the service of love continue to guide me. And I trust in this Love more and more, as I open my heart to the life that’s right in front of me.
Pauline is a writer and editor by profession, and a volunteer for migrants and refugees by heart. Follow her journey through her blog here.
Sucheta Jain, Helper Trainee
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Sucheta’s Advanced Pathwork Studies graduating class at Sevenoaks Retreat Center. She is in the center of the first row.
I have always been very curious about various spiritual paths. Growing up in India spirituality and religion was everywhere.
I learned to be connected to a God or higher power at an early age. That way of connecting was through rituals and reading religious scriptures. I was too young to understand but I was very curious. There was an aspect of devotion to my reading these books at that young age. I felt really good when I spent time with the ritualistic reading and chanting on a daily basis.
As I grew older and got busy with my education and life in general this was not a constant in my life as it had been when I lived at home. But there was always a need and a desire for something to hold on to, or a solid ground to stand on. I kind of knew that I needed to surrender to the flow of life but could not because my ego had become very strong and I did not know how to surrender. It seemed too scary.
What if whoever I surrender to does not know what I want, or does not do for me what I want?
In 2007 or 2008 I came upon a Pathwork lecture. As I read the lecture I just knew I had to explore this path. I read everything I could find on the internet about Eva and how she channeled this material. I had found what I was looking for, and I joined the Pathwork Transformation Program (PTP) at Sevenoaks in 2009.
When I started I knew I was going all the way. I completed PTP in 2013, continued onto Advanced Pathwork Studies and now I am in second year of Helper Training.
I feel Pathwork has given me an anchor. The teachings help me with a kind of deep, logical guidance that helps me live my life in a trusting, surrendered way. I am not fully there yet but I know I am on the right path.
The thought of reincarnation gives me a very long term perspective of living my day to day life. The idea of self-responsibility and self-awareness is very grounding. It is a slow process because it asks us to do really deep work within ourselves. It is so logical and thoroughly explained by the Pathwork Guide that it appeals to a scientifically trained mind.
The Guide explains how our life is Cause and Effect and when we like or don’t like our life situation, we can look for a cause that we are responsible for. It is so reassuring and helps me know that I can create my life. It has not been an easy path but well worth every minute I have spent.
I cannot imagine living my life any other way.
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TREASURE IN THE DEPTHS: Identifying Hidden Obstacles to Fulfillment.