One of the most influential healing experiences in my entire life was in counselling after my marriage break-up. I learned about my inner child, or in another language, my spirit. After 12 months getting to trust the process of counselling, my counsellor helped me find something quite amazing. There, underneath my macho facade, was a rejected child.
My mother died when I was three. She was here one moment, and gone the next. I was with her, just she and I, when we had an accident. She was thrown from the car and internally crushed. I sat beside her unconscious and bloodied body. Days later, I watched them lower her coffin into the ground. A strange stillness surrounded me, I could hear and see nothing; I could feel only love for her. I loved my mum, like any child does, and in that moment she was buried, it was all that I felt. I watched people crying, but couldn’t understand why. I loved my mum.
In the years to follow I had to learn how to protect that innocence. My stepmother tried to beat me into submission, to love her. I couldn’t understand why, because I did love her. But her definition of love was what I did, what I said, how I walked and talked. I couldn’t understand because I loved my step mom.
I went to school and got beaten up from the first day to the last. My nickname was sunshine, but that sort of person doesn’t fit easily into a school in the Australian Outback. I loved my schoolmates, but they didn’t feel it. So, they beat me up, pushed my head under the water till I nearly drowned and created cruel tricks. I loved my friends, but they certainly didn’t know it.
During the next 10 years on this journey with my step mom – who was by now a fully qualified alcoholic – and the confusion of being assaulted and victimised at school, I took matters into my own hands. I created a platform from which to fight back. A strong Chris.
I bought weight-training equipment and with the help of powder foods, built a powerful body. In two short years, at the age of 13, I turned street thug. I stole cars, broke into homes, carried knives and shared the streets with twelve of the worst and meanest people I have ever met, even to this day. By my 14th birthday, I was the only one who wasn’t incarcerated or dead. So based on the overwhelming evidence that I was on the wrong track, I decided to fight the world in a different way. This time I built an ego out of success.
That ego lasted 20 years. In sport, business, community leadership, as a social activist, and university student I buried my love, that beautiful vulnerability beneath the structures and facade of my ego.
Eventually, my journey took me to Asia where I sat in Zen, staring at a wall. Nothing to say, nothing to do. If I lost concentration my perfectly upright posture would begin to sag. The monk would notice and I would be snapped, quite physically, and with shock, back to reality. Our eyes were open. There was no drifting off into fantasy worlds or other levels of the brain; reality, the wall, was enough.
When I left those retreats I could hear a pin drop, before it hit the ground. By staring at that wall we had learned to slice through emotion, past the desire to run away, past ambition, because there was nothing to be better at. We transcended the desire for the material, because what use is a million dollars while staring at a wall in a cabin in the forest? In effect, we learned to detach.
In these Zen retreats I would burst into tears for no reason, as if all the love that was so deeply buried would rise up, past the ego that I had grown to protect me but which had so little power in Zen meditation. It was a magical experience. It was just like sitting on the side of my mother’s grave watching her coffin descend into those depths. This was love by the direct route, but how do you sustain it when you are back on the street, or in a business meeting with serious people?
So, now, jump ahead. Suddenly I’m in the middle of a divorce. And all this learning turns to crap. Everything gets stripped off and there’s a child sitting by the graveside watching them lower his mother into the ground. Underneath all the façade including Yoga and Zen, there was an injured child.
Adults see things differently to kids. To everyone except me there were circumstances that were the cause of all the violence way beyond my little existence. But that’s not how I saw it. Here I was: man, a millionaire, business owner, family man with three children, rowing champion, spiritual seeker and member of the school council, sitting in therapy dealing with a divorce, dribbling at the nose, acting like a three year old and trying desperately to stop himself from self destruction.
Over the next 12 months my therapist unwrapped the bandages from the thirty years of barrier building, one year, one event at a time. Back and back and back, until there, sitting in her room covered with a 34 year old body, sat a three year old child blaming himself for the death of his most precious love and attracting abuse he thought he deserved.
That boy, me, had encased himself in armour. Vulnerable and lonely I’d created masks and personalities, shelves full of trophies, bank accounts full of money, children, business and all sorts of other things to deny my existence, prove I was fine. But it was all a ruse. There in that counsellor’s room held tight in safety, that three-year-old boy resurfaced. His name is “my spirit.”
Like everyone else, there were things about my innocent child I always wanted to change. I resented that he was so soft. I was annoyed that he was clumsy and vulnerable. I was so embarrassed that he was so accident prone I blamed him for everything that went wrong, including humiliating me. It is a part of us all we want to keep secret and it’s different for everyone. Ironically, I was later to find out that when doing advanced Zen, or sitting in a sweat lodge in Canada, this “secret” part of me was my greatest strength.
Ironically, I’d spend my whole life trying to hide him or at the least fix him. He was soft, gentle, and vulnerable and if anyone had asked what my flaws were, those would have been on the top of my list. In the march for self-development, I had tried to murder the most beautiful essence of my being.
Of course, most guys have this drama in some form or another. Sitting in the dust in my old outback home there was nothing to protect, however, my first days at school soon bought me into conflict with myself. I was bullied, bashed, teased and laughed at. So, classically, and probably following my father’s role model, I toughened up, at least on the surface.
The day I finally got in touch with my inner child was one I will never, ever forget. For those of you who never lost your inner child, this must sound pathetic. However, having lost a part of myself so deeply, a part I didn’t even know existed, only to find it and realise how precious it is to me, well even now, brings tears.
I began to recognise him. Not in myself, but in others who had looked at me with love and I never understood why. I recognised him in the eyes of a Native American Shaman who had waved eagle feathers in my face. I recognised him in the looks my children gave me at night when I put them to bed and in the eyes of my now ex- wife when we stood to be married. I recognised my inner child in the eyes of the Healer in Indonesia, the Zen monk in Japan, the Yoga teacher, and the priest at my Sunday school.
Suddenly I understood what was so lovable about Chris, something I had never understood before. It was the part of myself that I thought needed fixing, or at least, hiding. It also explained the pain of my divorce from a woman I had long ago stopped feeling love for. She had become the caretaker of my inner child, a place to put it while I went out and – “unburdened” with that vulnerability – played life to the edge. It was such a weird thing to take her for granted for so long, and then not be able to live a day without her.
So, my job became to learn to love this child within me. As simple as it sounds, it wasn’t at all. I had the habit of giving it away, and that was the first obstacle. As soon as I’d get cosy with myself I’d find a woman to share him with and try to find new caretaking. That didn’t work well. Then I started to parade him around, becoming the ‘all spiritual new age guy’, soft and vulnerable but that didn’t work either because I was a businessman and there’s a time and place when that energy just confuses people. So, it took the patience of a loving therapist to stay with me through all these permutations and combinations of how to live with my new self-awareness.
The process of finding him turned out to be relatively easy, compared with the journey of learning how to look after him and what to do with him. I was in the process of a huge divorce and I wanted my ex-wife back. I was having more ups and downs than a yoyo because I didn’t know how to look after him. That child inside that I had given to my wife and said, metaphorically, “Look after this part of me please, because it gets in the way of my career, my business, my life.”
In my counselling sessions it became obvious that I was still trying to give my child to my ex-wife. My counsellor said, “Now we have met your child, maybe we can find somewhere safer for him until you are ready to look after him yourself”. She offered to be the caretaker, but this didn’t feel right for some reason.
The solution was, in my opinion one of the most wonderful pieces of human therapy I had and have ever experienced. I found a the most remarkable old tree in the centre of Sydney’s Botanical Gardens, climbed it and placed my inner child, my spirit, up there for safe keeping. After several more months in counselling I went back to that park and climbed up into that tree (I was 34), picked up my little spirit and placed him deep into my heart. As I did he woke, smiled, and from that day to now has guided my life, every step. I won’t type a keynote without his presence inside me (I never put him on display); I share his happiness with everyone I meet. I give him space from those who would not understand his beauty and I never – never, give him away. Never again.
It was the beginning of my spiritual path. I suddenly knew the difference between being in the world but not of it. There was something precious – my essence – I couldn’t change, fix, modify, use, sell or entertain. I found my spirit, my inner child. The next few years were spent getting to know him, learning to love him. Suddenly there was a quietness to life. Suddenly there was a beautiful awareness that if my child was safe I could go anywhere I chose. I was free to be content in the world without a lover to make me so.
This spirit sits inside every human, an inner child. To connect with this spirit go and pick up a child in your arms under the age of three. Let them fall asleep in your arms and, in those moments when they are just closing their eyes, feel that beautiful energy that comes from them. Just when their little ego stops struggling to have more ice cream, or more milk, or more toys, or more something; just when they really stop wanting, there is the spirit of the child. This is like the child within. Your spirit.
A sacred relationship is one in which this child is shared with someone. It must be welcomed. It must be safe in your arms and then you must feel safe in your lover’s arms. This child is not a toy. It is a sleeping beauty that gets awakened with a kiss. It is a simple stillness that feels tender and gentle, wants for nothing, and feels content in your arms and safe with your lover.
The ego is built to cover that child (spirit) and eradicate the vulnerability of it. The ego is built to be in the world without that child. We learn tricks like giving that vulnerability away by handing our inner child to someone; “Look after this for me while I go off to work”. This is the conventional way to have a relationship, but it makes relationships sick. Hiding that child to make it safe from your lover is even sicker. This is just judging your own worthiness for love. Your spirit, your inner child, is what makes you complete. It doesn’t need anything except for you to love it, want it, and it doesn’t deserve to be handed over. There is nothing your spirit has done or not done that isn’t worthy of love.
When I do a consultation with a person I always meet them first for an interview. I listen to their inner voice, the child’s voice within. This is where my guidance begins. It doesn’t matter if that person cannot hear what is going on within them, but I must feel that child, that spirit within them, and then I can hear the truth that is being blocked.
When I travel to Nepal I sit on the top of Dream Mountain. A place where I believe any dream that begins from and includes the inner child comes true. I take my child everywhere I go and here on this mountain, he sings. He sings to the angels from whom he came, he sings of love and sunshine. He is my angel; he is my love, never lonely while I am with him.
I take clients to this home in the clouds and by the time they reach this place they are ready. Their child speaks, their heart opens, and their dreams are known. This vision quest isn’t a formal thing. The spirit sings from here, on the highest mountains, and the entire world hears the echo. On this mountain in Nepal, Dream Mountain, our spirit surfaces and the ego steps aside.
Think of what you dislike or hate most about yourself. Now think about your childhood and if this part of you always caused you to suffer. You will begin to know your inner child. It is the most precious pearl. Nature wrapped this special secret inside a package for safe keeping, protecting it, to soften its hardships. Nature wrapped it in your ego. Are you ready to open the gift?
A precious pearl – The seat of inspiration.
Treat this wonderful spirit within you, this child, as the precious pearl. Value it more than your life, more than anything. Feel the beauty of it, know that it is not frail; just recognise how precious it is. Grown from the belly of a shell deep in the ocean from a single grain of sand. Your spirit. It wants nothing, needs nothing, and therefore has everything.
Now, unwrap it from that silk cloth you call protection. Remove the coverings, and another, and another. Get past the idea that someone wants to steal it and unwrap another layer again. Learn to care for it, find a safe place to keep it within you and make a promise that wherever you go, she or he comes with you, and if it is not there, you are not there. It’s not a burden carrying around so don’t hand it to someone else.
Your inner spirit does not fear, you do. Your inner child is not wrong or stupid, you are. There is nothing that can damage it, nothing you can change. Nothing can hurt your inner self; nothing can hurt your love. Only your ego can be damaged. There is nothing that can hurt your inner spirit. Only our ego can try to deny it’s existence and then we become inauthentic, uninspired.
That is always the great discovery of self-help. In the end, there is no self to help. There is only love.