The title of this post is taken from this years theme from my local branch of The Soroptimsts (a global volunteer movement working together to transform the lives of women and girls), who have kindly invited me to go and give a talk within this theme. Where do you start? As I delve into what it means to ‘make the unseen seen’ I realise that this is territory that ultimately leads us into bigger questions than I can ever hope to answer (such as ‘where does life come from?’ or ‘what is God?’)
However, if I can just pull myself back from the brink to contemplate more immediate implications, here are some of my thoughts on the subject and how this relates to the process of breathwork.
Making the Unseen Seen in Conversation
I am drawn initially to the role of the unseen in conversation. It has been my observation that whatever is unspoken in a relationship, be that between two people, a group or larger populations, then here is an impact on the quality of that relationship. If it remains unspoken then there will be what I have come to know as ‘leakage’ – it comes out somewhere anyway, in subtle or not so subtle ways (for instance, your partner forgot to do something you asked and rather than make a request around that you decide to be particularly unhelpful for the next day/week/month…). And it will go on having an impact on that relationship until it is at least acknowledged and brought out into the open. In fact, it may actually be the case that no one is really consciously aware at all that there is anything that needs to be said, but there is disharmony suggesting that there is something unseen that needs to be brought out. One of my breathork trainers was an expert at spotting this. During a training module, for the first three days it was really hard to participate fully. One afternoon she walked into the room and noticed that the vase of flowers had been upset, with flowers broken and she said ‘okay, somethings broken in here – what do we need to find out’. Gradually, through conversation, something was brought to light, the speaking of which led to the experience of love and connection within the group and a much more participatory experience.
“Every occasion where you are called on to either speak out or remain silent is an opportunity to move through discomfort and speak the truth”
A personal example of mine: a couple of years ago, a friend owed me about £6 for something I had done for them. They didn’t pay up. So, my choices being to either let it go or ask for the money I did neither. So when they came to visit I let them pay for lunch… But it was still there. The conversation for me was ‘it’s only £6 – it doesn’t matter’ versus ‘but they asked me to do something and they said they would reimburse me and they haven’t and that’s not right’. What happened in the end? They were visiting and had I almost completely lost my voice. My friend actually said to me (laughingly) ‘is there something you’re not saying to someone?’ It wasn’t too much later I asked them for the money (which they paid of course) and I got my voice back.
Now these, it could be argued, are relatively minor examples, but actually every occasion where you are called on to either speak out or remain silent is an opportunity to move through discomfort and speak the truth, however minor it may seem to you. That to me is a good thing. But speaking what matters makes you vulnerable. For me in the example above it was the risk of appearing petty in someone else eyes. Or it might be the risk of rejection, of looking foolish, or the fear of attack. All these ways in which we can decide it is better not to speak. But if we can find a way to communicate, without attack or judgement, to say what needs to be said, then we can create a clearer and more loving space for ourselves and those we are relating to.
“When something is unseen that needs to be expressed within a group, there will always be one individual who picks up on it first.”
It is very interesting to see this process in a group setting. Many years ago I spent a month engaging in a group process with 60 people. It was a body of work I had experienced before as deeply healing, where difficult conversations were enabled, leading to strong experiences of connection within the group. Not this time. The facilitator repeatedly stifled different voices within the group, when it was obvious to some that something was trying to make itself heard. As a result, people stopped participating. What I learned, was that when something is unseen that needs to be expressed within a group, there will always be one individual who picks up on it first. If they have the courage to speak out, there is then the opportunity for everyone else not to shoot the speaker down in flames but give them the space they need to speak, even if what they say is uncomfortable. This brings to mind immediately the ‘Alt-right’ movement. Whatever you think of their views, they are acting as a voice within the society we are part of. That voice has arisen because it is a point of view present in our society that we need to recognise. If it is stifled it will perhaps emerge in more violent ways. Is there something else we are not addressing in our society that necessitates that point of view? What is it that we are not seeing?
Making the Unseen Seen in Society
“We are all conduits for the unseen moving through all of our lives. Our job is to give voice to that which moves through us and to bring forth what needs to be seen.”
The recent news has been full of stories of sexual harassment within various aspects of our society. This comes on top of the emergence of childhood sexual abuse as an experience for so many. Having been through the process of speaking out about this personally, I can only applaud all those who have felt safe enough to speak out and bring these systemic dysfunctions to light. It seems that this is a very cleansing process, with each new wave of revelations encouraging more to speak out. What is it that needs to change in society so that we don’t experience the abuse in the first place? What else needs to be brought into view and transformed so that we have a society based on equality for all? It comes down to individuals willing to speak out and make a stand for what they can see that isn’t working in society and putting forward alternatives. We cannot separate the individual from the societal – we both influence and are influenced by our wider environment. Changes ‘out there’ make their way through us, sometimes appearing as our own ideas, our own inspirations. We are all conduits for the unseen moving through all of our lives. Our job is to give voice to that which moves through us and to bring forth what needs to be seen. We all have our own allotted share of the story that needs to be told and added to the collective. Or maybe you are catching the ripples of someone else’s story. Often I have been sitting on an idea and pop! – it appears somewhere else through somebody else’s expression. I always find that incredibly reassuring – that whatever is moving through us is always finding a way to make itself seen and find expression in life. Must have been a good idea! We are all connected to life and what is needed to bring about a more equal society in which we all contribute. The unseen is constantly manifesting itself through us. Trust that your contribution is as worthy as anyone else’s and that by bringing who you are continually into view is good enough within the never ending movement from the unseen to the seen.
Making the Unseen Seen through Breathwork.
Breathwork provides us with an ideal opportunity to bring what is unseen into view and to live fuller, more vibrant and creative lives. Through breathwork, we have the ability to access our own subconscious unseen programming and bring it into view, integrating experiences that have remained hidden and becoming freer of constraining ideas about ourselves and our experience of the world. By using the breath to energise our body, we continually breathe new life into our being, bringing creative energy to our intentions and bringing ourselves more fully into life. By integrating past experiences held in our body, we are able to occupy our bodies rather than disassociating, giving a richer more present experience and making ourselves more available to the flow of life.
“Breathwork enables us to bridge the worlds of the seen and the unseen and to become active players in the process of making the unseen seen.”
Through breathwork, we are continually making the unconscious conscious, so that we no longer have to blindly follow our own unseen and often deeply embedded rules for living. We can create ourselves anew. This is the movement of life, a continual creative unfolding allowing us to be here fully, in this life, alive to what is present and to what needs to be expressed through our thoughts, words and actions in any given moment. Breathwork enables us to bridge the worlds of the seen and the unseen and to become active players in the process of making the unseen seen. We are co-creators, limited only by what remains unseen in our own psyche but with the opportunity to fully discover our essential nature as vessels for the unseen.
The Movement of Life is From the Unseen to the Seen.
A new life starts with conception and nine months later a human is born. Seeds sprout into flowers, plants, crops, trees and a myriad of life forms across the planet. Through all creatures on earth new life comes into being. The unseen is continually evolving through every form of life on the planet. This is the movement of life, from the unseen to the seen. We can either participate as fully as we can in this miraculous expression, or we can hide away from who we are and our own part of the great unfolding movement that flows through all things. Every opportunity to make the unseen seen is the chance to take part in the flow of life. Every time we have the courage to bring something into view we are following the natural movement of life. Walking through our fears and taking the chance to let the world know who we are and what we stand for, over and over again as we evolve and grow, brings us into alignment with the never ceasing movement of the unseen to the seen. If we ignore that movement in ourselves, we shut ourselves out of life. We are endlessly becoming, an evolving expression of the unseen with an extraordinary opportunity to remake ourselves continually. What is it within you that wants to live? What would you like to give voice to? Breathwork can help you discern that voice, to bring forth the unseen in your life and to make manifest the unique expression that is you in the world. This is the invitation, to breathe, live and take part in the journey from the unseen to the seen.
John Paul Mason