Breaking Up, Breaking Down and a Total Mutual Embrace

Let me give you some context first:

Exactly 6 weeks ago I traveled to Basel and my girl-friend (we were a couple for 7 years) had made me some slices of bread for on the road. When I opened the bread box in the train there, on top, was a letter that said, “Read only when in the train.” After reading the first paragraph or two my heart crumbled and broke: she finished our relationship. Sitting in first class I couldn’t really do what I felt like: cry, moan, freak out… (I would have suppressed moaning, crying and freaking out in a second class carriage as well.)

Pain, sadness and devastation

In the following days – I was in Basel and in London on business – we exchanged emails, and said we’ll be talking when I come back to Berlin. And we did talk. We arrived at a sense of real peace and that the end of our relationship was basically the right thing to do. That very evening she went to a party and hooked up again with a lover she was having some time back in our relationship (I wrote about it here), a person that expressed how much he despised me on more occasions than one. A week later, when I figured this out accidentally and she spent the night with him, I felt betrayed, to say the least. Devastated. (She said that, since we were now separated, it was none of my business.)

I was hurt by the way she broke up with me, I felt very deeply wounded by her betrayal, but what is hardest of all is how my mind and feelings time and again totally spin out of control.

What I’m writing about here is still under the stress of a ‘failed life-relationship’ and the demands that finding and moving to a new apartment make on me. Failed life-relationship is, of course, the title of a story that I am telling, both to myself and to others (her version obviously would be different). I could, if that were true to me, reframe it as “the end of being under a lid for a long time”, as a good friend of mine does, or as “the wonderful beginning of a new era in my life”, and so on. But reframing the story like that doesn’t sound true to me…. yet. Guess, I simply have to live with the fact, that I’ve suffered a heavy blow to my system that is quite painful, stressful and taxing. And allow the whole ecology of me to regain strength over time.

Contemplating these last few days on what all this means, on what I now want to take forward, what I want to focus on, I was reminded of what we sketched out a bit a while back in a conversation with my dear friend Helen, and which she blogged about here. In this conversation we focussed also on God’s longing and evolution, and what that entails.
Here I want to first talk about where God’s and human evolution takes place and then how this might help me, now that I’ve been battered and broken, and am loosing a partner that I’ve shared so much with these last 7 years. I also want to speak about the “where” first because much more than in the question, “Who am I?” I’ve been interested in “Where am I?”

Is this real?

I’ve come to the conviction that God and man, the entirety of nature and artifice, all beings and entities essentially have their being in the “Imaginal”, in the sense that James Hillman and Henry Corbin use that word (Note 1). The “Real” in this understanding is the outside, the skin, the surface of the Imaginal. A surface that has been studied in an increasingly sophisticated manner since a few hundred years, studies that have greatly improved our health, governance, wealth, to be sure. But surface it is, because, as we shall see, everything of true value resides in the Imaginal. (Note 2)

What we call physical reality, the Real, is not ‘independent’ and ‘out there’ but very much a co-creation between the ‘mystery out there’ (Note 3) and the ‘mystery in here’. The Real is surface because it is simply an implementation of this co-creation which, of course, is happening within the Imaginal. I surely agree that objects in the physical world really, really exist. They can, with all clarity be called “hard facts”.  They truly exist. But there is an even harder fact: everything that really matters about the physical reality and how we are aware of it – symbols, images, visions, concepts, the mind, and so endless on – have their being in the Imaginal.

What’s more: in the Imaginal what we call spiritual, including non-physical entities and beings, what we call soul and what we call matter meet. The Imaginal is the meeting-place of being. In the realm of the Real things and people and plants and animals and so on exist, and their existence is, for instance, what science studies. Yet in the Imaginal all of these plus what’s spiritual, what is soulful and archetypal and all images and imaginations have their being which is what art celebrates, religion contemplates and meditates, psychology usually fails to understand and you and me intuit all the time. The Imaginal is where we are, the Real is where we exist.

Just as the Laws of Nature order and guide the existences and forces within the Real so there are ‘laws’ that guide the interaction between the beings and energies in the Imaginal. For now I would term these ‘laws’ Patterns of Being which I imagine to revolve around synchrony, attraction (self), awareness, memory, beauty, thrivability, embrace, spontaneity and others I can’t think of now. What is obvious to this flow of view (it’s definitely not a point of view!) is that everything of true value resides in the Imaginal, including the happiness that is the birthright of every being.

So what does all that have to do with breaking up, and breaking down and having suffered a blow to my system?


Recently in a conversation with Jean Russell we were talking about the nature of relationship and as I started to grope for what I truly want, given my recent catastrophe and all the other relation-ships that got grounded in my life, I could name what feels truly good to me: A Total Embrace of who I am, how I am, where I am, what I am – an embrace of my very being down to its very core. Such an embrace brings out the best in me. And likewise, when I totally embrace an other, the being I’m with locally or non-locally , it feels really very, very good. But to top both these goodnesses: there is a Total Mutual Embrace of each other’s being. (Note 4)

Obviously, to expect to be able to totally embrace someone all of the time would be a bit over the top. Sure, in meditation or similar non-personal ways we can do that most of the time, given a certain personal development. But a total embrace of a particular living being, a living and breathing other, will most likely be reserved for certain periods – maybe even daily periods – of life. What these periods of total embrace can eventually lead to, though, is a shift of identification from the individuality to the We that comes into being in any Total Mutual Embrace that is somewhat sustained. If then one allows oneself to be informed by this We, a new kind of relationship starts…

This, I’ve decided, is the basis of ‘my’ relationship(s) to be.

And I now realise that the Imaginal is already totally embracing you and me, any and all of us! This is probably why totally embracing someone’s being feels so good: it’s synced with one of the most basic patterns of the Imaginal: Its total embrace!

And now to totally embracing the Imaginal…

Note 1:  The Imaginal is much, much more than the imagination – matter of fact we could regard our individual imagination as a persons interface and interaction-space to the Imaginal. Our imagination is co-creatively participating in the Imaginal all the time.

Note 2: If you’re versed in Ken Wilber’s 4 Quadrants than I challenge you to not regard the Imaginal as the left quadrants and the Real as the right quadrants in that system, as you might be tempted to do. In this view the whole AQAL-view of reality is within the Imaginal, as is every other perspective as well.

Note 3: We cannot know anything about independent things and matters because the very instrument which we use to know, awareness, already doesn’t belong to it, the thing in itself, the independent thing, but to the aware one, the person knowing it or trying to know it; the Kantian “Ding an sich” cannot be known and will therefor remain a mystery.

Note 4: I know this state very well. Whenever this occurs I experience a ‘silver energy’ all around the edges of the experience. There is a deep sense of inspiration, as if a divine breeze blows and ruffles our angels’ feathers. I’ve called it ‘we-fullness’ for some time now.

13 Replies to “Breaking Up, Breaking Down and a Total Mutual Embrace”

  1. Dear old friend in brutal transition,
    It has been a long while, since I experienced the completely devastating change you now swim in. In moments of relaxed reflection, years after, I would joke about how these experiences of a broken-heart helped me lose weight, and then how, thin and with yearning puppy dog eyes, women would attempt to rescue me. Unfortunately the last forced separation (Reiko’s suicide) had me thrown so off, that this cute slap-stick no longer works.

    My last transition was immediately followed by my experiencing a transcendental state {time slowed down to micro-moments, in which I experienced each microscopic choice I made, seeing the cavern between each choice and their potential catastrophic/transformational implications). While powerful, and even potentially liberating, the separation with Reiko has never been fully consummated, nor has the insights been manifested pragmatically (I feel no wiser from the experience and, even worse, feel the pattern may repeat itself in the recent on-going depression of our daughter).

    In my wish not to be melodramatic, I will step back and share my feelings, while reading of your recent trauma. I am, in part, relieved that the devastation of the moment finds both parties alive and reflective/communicative. I often find myself wishing my wife had ran-off with one of her lovers, started again in some romantic fling of fantasy, so she could be here, to share in the joys and tribulation of our children. I would be still angry and jealous, but at least I would have a wall to bounce off of.

    My belief in compassion has not helped remedy my anger, nor my ‘understanding’ of her ‘right to die’ completely eliminated my new assorted chocolate-box of psychotic symptoms, accumulated after her death. Again I am becoming melodramatic. I seem to like to talk in grandiose terms, hoping I will again land on my feet in metaphor, as once I had, as a youthful alley cat.

    I am actually happy, that you and your very special lady friend have successfully survived these initial steps, and that you are honestly communing with a large assortment of powerful friends, to do the necessary healing. The radical death of divorce has just a microscopically better advantage, as there are ghosts of the relationship which can still throw back a shoe, and hit us in the head physically, and not just psychotically, as an endless haunting from dearly departed.

    Separation from intrinsically integral parts of our personal mandala means, we must again recreate the entire damn color-sand image from scratch… a brutally demanding process requiring a team of trained monks with impeccable patience and forbearance. In other words, you will need to rebuild your house from ground up, with some help from your coven of wise friends, applying what you have learned, and face the new unbearable truths left exposed.

    You are always welcome here in Japan, if distance will bring a sense of scale, or to collect more color for an even more spectacular mandala.

    Love as always,

    1. Dearest friend,

      thank you for sharing with me the burden that troubles you so, still, after all these years – haunting as only a ghost can. And my suffering is not too big these days, even though I do know my whole system is under stress, maybe even severe stress. What helps a lot these days is being bound up in a creative enterprise that both pays good enough for now and at the same time is truly inspiring, demanding my talents and strengths – and what’s more, my work is greatly and truly appreciated. I’m lucky in this.

      And yes, my dear brother, I know you to love melodrama – you could almost be a German Romantic 🙂 like I think I’ve been a very long time. But hanging out with a good friend who does – credibly – remember a lot from former lives in different incarnations has given me a slightly different time horizon. So when I take that angle as a place that I might actually be coming from than I often relax. Yes, I’m experiencing a sea-change, something that, in this intensity, I haven’t experienced for a long time. But I have – I have weathered even more profoundly dramatic break-ups… with my mom as a five year old, with my grandparents when 7 years old, to – after a 2 year stint in a boarding school I was glad to break up with – stay from my 11th to 15th birthdays at my fathers new family, to run away, to follow my own dreams ever since. And i always took care that it was dramatic, since the very intensity is almost addictive.

      A very close member of my family has gone through a very similar experience with his girl-friend that you have, right down to the very method… And like you he has lost a lot of trust in life’s benevolence. It is extremely hard – if at all possible – to forgive someone who cannot respond ever again. Yes, sure, there is ‘a right to die’, but only in the abstract. In actual life it always has devastating consequences for those who love the ones who exercise this right.

      I happen to be very deeply convinced that we live inside our stories as we co-develop them further. This may not change how you can tell a story gloomily or full of spunk and inspiration. And both stories, and a million others, are true or become true depending on the power of our soul, our destiny and our hearts’ wisdom. So you and I have some sad, some ugly, some happy, some highly philosophical, some stories with psyche’s pathos, some depressing, some stories of serene beauty, even some spiritually and mentally and feelingly ecstatic ones. There are the stories of enlightened ones who’ve overcome or transcended all and achieved enlightenment, there are the stories of the happily far advanced individuals to which we, I think, have been aspiring for half a life-time. But as we’ve both noticed through our idiosyncrasies and nasty habits, we move in a much larger spectrum than the enlightened one….

      Matter of fact I’ve been thinking about coming to Japan for a while now. Maybe next year in May I can both make the time and have enough cash to come for a 10 day visit or so. I would certainly love to come and see you and all the lovely people there.

      And thank you; it is good to know a brother by my side,

  2. I read with interest all the above and I know, Mushin, how painful a breakup is.
    I had quite a few in my life, but I never managed to have long relationships anyway – a romantic relationship I mean. With friends it is different, I never abandon a friendship, not in my heart anyway, and it doesn’t matter if they have abandon me. With so called romantic relationship (when you make love with each other) the break-up felt always as a failure, on my side. I failed the person or I failed myself or both. But at the end of the day I just learned a lot about my self and anyway, life is an experience, no matter what.

    There is no security in life and so there is not security in a relationship. I learned that in a very early age, but I was always longing for that security. I live now in the US with no security at all, not health insurance, no job security, nothing like you have in Germany or The Netherlands, and it scared me shitless for a long time. Now, I just live. At the moment I experience how life is without Joe – he is out trucking – and I know I don’t like it very much. I live since a couple of months at the coast and it is beautiful here, but to cold in the long run, so I am thinking of moving again.

    I learned on thing with my husband and myself, experience is all there is and then when you are lucky you have memories, good ones and bad ones, but all there really is, is what you are now and where you are now. There is nothing else. And that is o.k., because the now is changing every second and your feelings are changing with the flow. So embrace your feeling, express them (not necessary in front of others) and make space for new once. Experience the now. All the ups and downs I had (and I had lots of them) just made me the person I am now. And I am o.k. most of the time.

    And don’t over analize everything, Mushin, we tend to do that. That is our inheritance. 🙂

    1. You’re right, dearest Karin, so very right. THIS is IT, as they say, and although it certainly is there is an ALSO.
      I think my religion is Alsoism – it is wonderful and it is also shitty and it is also amazing and it is also scary and it is also a nuisance and it is also a celebration, and I can go on and on and on. I am myself and I lose myself and I find myself and I simply am myself again. And truly, does it matter? Do the Great Truths about love and life and understanding and whatever else mean much in ordinary, breath 2 breath life? Not much.

      I’ve been on a “appreciation diet”, actually I’m still on it. I ask myself, “Appreciating what you are doing and being right now?” And I look and feel and lean back for a moment, take a deep breath and know if and how much I appreciate myself, where I am, with whom I am and the whole situation. If I can’t appreciate it, I put it on my list for “drop this”, or I drop it right there and then.

      So this is what I make of the whole story right now.


  3. Hi Mushin,

    Just wanted to offer a note of sympathy – I have been through similar relationships/break-ups. I have no wisdom, and even if I did, we all process things like this in our very deeply personal ways.

    Still, I advocate mourning, celebrating, grieving, crying, laughing and singing. All at the same time. As men we often have faulty inner tapes on how these things should be handled. But I suspect that is less an issue for you than it was for me in my last break-up.

    Eventually, we stop bleeding and the scar tissue becomes wisdom.


    1. Thank you Bill, this is a most beautiful expression, “Eventually the scra tissue becomes wisdom.”
      And yes, I had to learn to allow this pletora of feelings to rush over me – and at times it still does its ‘disturbed ocean’ thing 🙂
      I can’t handle it ‘as a man’, in a way. I cannot handle most anything as a man, actually. This fluidity of my character – I jump roles much easier, it seems, like many people – has been one of the causes of the relationship-trouble. From roaring lion to purring pussy (actually in mid-jump turning from the one into the other, sometimes), from slithery fish to dry and prickly reptile, it’s all there, sometimes confusingly so – and then, sometimes, I can dance it all…

      Thank you for your encouraging note. It is good to know that I have such great company.


  4. I agree with most of what you write. I may just be at a different point in my journey with relationships.

    “So self-appreciation is really a necessary pre-condition for a Total Embrace by an other” – very true, but I am still very sure that is where most relationships break. At least it is where mine broke. And if we claim prematurely that we want to be embraced, without seeing where we don’t do it ourselves this may be the biggest trap to fall in. We will stay projecting. And it may be in realtionships where we realize what is really “in the cellar”, no matter how clear we feel with ourselves before. There is always more stuff to come up and being embraced.

    I can only talk from my experience wich has shown without doubt, that mirroring is real – and to an extent that has really blown my mind once I realized it. We are just blind to it most of the time, busy projecting into the other. “I do believe that there is a feed-back loop, or many, many feed-back loops that make reality participatory – but that concerns everybody and everything involved in any situation.” – that is exactly how I see it! The marvel is that this results in everybody finding him/herself mirrored perfectly.

    The comittment to the other ones growth to me means appreciating the full expression of who the other one really is and what he or she needs to experience his/her being. That of course can also be called a basis for relationship – still in most cases it is absolutely not how we live them. We would rather have the other one fulfilling our needs than his/hers. And many times we don’t listen to our hearts and compromise our true expression to keep the safety of our patterns and games. My point here was not a therapeutic relationship, but the allowing of change and truthful expression. It may be the same what you call “totally embracing the other”.

    I was pointing here to the non-static nature of relationship. We don’t really embrace a being only, we embrace a flow, an evolution. That – to me – is an important difference. Being comitted to let the other one evolve and blossom constantly is just another mindset.

    1. Hi David,

      yes, we are more aligned than not. So hope you don’t mind me picking a bit on the bits I feel, apparently, different about.
      When you speak about stuff in the “cellar”, of which there is always more… you, presumably, talk about that repository of our suppressed shadows and feelings. I can appreciate the metaphor but I’ve expanded it a bit to say, that the ‘corpses’ we find in our cellars are as much the result of our digging as they are connected to old uninspected, suppressed stuff. By that I mean to give an – uncalled for – advice, “Don’t dig up stuff unless you have to. For the rest, just face what comes up of itself.”
      You see, I happen to be convinced, that there is no stuff ‘down there’ at all. Most of it is retro-active projection, or to put it differently, satisfactory explanations that allow us to NOW change.

      I have not much use for the mirror image too much, as I’m not too interested in myself most of the time. I do get interested when I suffer, basically to find ways to alleviate the suffering, but other than that, I’m really interested in the ‘where’ as I said in my blog. This aliveness, this awareness, these ecologies is way more interesting than what I could ever see in any kind of mirror. But for a very long time I was absolutely fascinated by what mirrors can reveal and what their limits are…

      I’m totally with you in “allowing of change and truthful expression” – don’t ask me what that is, but I do know it when I see it… and I see it from within the flow you so beautifully describe as worthy of embrace.

      Thank you for your response,

  5. Hallo Mushin and David, I hope you guys will recover soon from this heavy burden.

    I do agree with Mushin, it is the only way to sustain a balacent relationship. Being together with my wife for half of my life I don’t know if I’m expert or layman…

    But to give you an example; I’m in meditation upstaris in the attic, I am becoming one with my self and my suroundings, total and embracement of my self, trippen off to other worlds and realisations, whatever. Then from downstairs my wife starts shouting that she finds things need my attention badly…
    Now, I have two choises:

    1. I could stay in embracement with my self for the next few minutes until my wife will come and get me and I suffer the concequences…

    2. Getting out of meditation and aply in my wifes needs. The choise for me is clear, I don’t want to suffer the consequences (hahaha).


    1. Hi Wouter,

      that sounds like a lot of fun, Barbara calling you from downstairs calling your attention away from the transcendent to the more mundane parts of life.

      Both you and Barbara are actually an example to me of a wonderful and long-living relationship. I mean, you are together for almost half your life now, right?


      1. Yes Mushin, absolutly yes! Barbara is my joy and Robin being our seal and result of that love and embracement…

        I do hope you recover soon, it must really hurt. Please let us know if you tend to visit Holland, it would be so nice to see you again!

        Much love,
        Wouter, Barbara & Robin

  6. Wow, the exact same has happened to me just now! Even with the night-affair. Stunning sychronicity.

    My conclusions anyway are different. The Outer is merely a reflection of the Inner. Realtionships are often enough a field of projection we may loose ourselves in. The longing for the total embrace is really a longing I have in myself. It is me that I want to totally embrace! And relationships mirror to me were I still don’t. In realtionship I simply forget that it is me I am waiting for, I project this deep longing outward – and the trouble starts.

    I want to embrace myself. And relationship will not work untill I have. For if I don’t, I become dependent, I ask for a sense of safety that has never existed in relationships. They are for sharing, for growth, for enjoyment, but not to make you feel good or save. They show me where I fled the truth, where I wanted the other one to embrace the parts in me that even I can’t.

    As such relationships are the best teachers we can wish for. If we are willing to look in the mirror, really see how desperate our outward search for a safe love really is, we may gain the courage to dive head-on into self-love.

    And maybe, one day, we will be able to share our self-love with another human being. Dedicated to our own soul, safe in ourselves. And we may walk together. Sometimes holding hands, sometimes leaving the other alone to grow and make experiences, to truly experience who they really are, to fully express. We have to let the other one free (and I am not talking about free love) and dare to be free ourselves totally.

    The basis for a relationship to work is that we are totally comitted to the other ones growth, and to totally embracing ourselves. Then we may mirror our self-love to the other one.

    So I wish for the same: A Total Embrace of who I am, how I am, where I am, what I am – an embrace of my very being down to its very core. But I wish to find that in me.


    1. Hi David, I hope you’re going through this period in your life with grace and understanding…

      First of all I want to thank you for your comment. It allows me to respond to some of these ‘differences’ and points of view, which partly I also held dear for some time in my life.

      You say that the “longing for the total embrace is really a longing I have in myself. It is me that I want to totally embrace!” I do think that “appreciation of self” and even embracing yourself is a pre-requisite to being able to allow for a felt Total Embrace by an other. By that I mean, if you cannot really appreciate yourself you will always somewhat resist being totally embraced in the way I talk about it. You might feel that you don’t deserve it, or at least the darker parts of you, or you might feel overwhelmed, imprisoned or ensnared, and so on. So self-appreciation is really a necessary pre-condition for a Total Embrace by an other.

      I’m not so much convinced that reality in the form of relationships ‘mirror’ you. That perspective doesn’t feel very respectful of the other, really. An appreciative, or not so appreciative, other might respond in kind or might mirror your behavior at times, but maybe they just are themselves, that is really other and are moving from that source.
      I know the perspective that “out there” mirrors who we really are, is quite popular, but that doesn’t make it so. I do believe that there is a feed-back loop, or many, many feed-back loops that make reality participatory – but that concerns everybody and everything involved in any situation.

      In a relationship it’s not “me I’m waiting for.” I, on the contrary, just love self-disclosure of the other, the friend I’m with. If someone honors me with truly showing themselves I am enlivened. And I’m not looking for ‘me’ in that showing, neither am I looking for similarities – even though they’re often there. I’m thrilled by the difference, by being – for a moment – allowed to see the world and life in a completely different way from what I’m used to see.

      So yes, a relationship will not ‘work’ if one doesn’t appreciate or even embrace oneself. And I’m also convinced that a therapeutic relationship where one partner helps the other embrace him- or herself will not really prosper. So I wouldn’t agree with, “The basis for a relationship to work is that we are totally comitted to the other ones growth, and to totally embracing ourselves.” To appreciate or embrace myself, I don’t need to be committed to that. This, at a certain point, is simply natural – like it’s so natural when you see a little boy or girl to want to gently ruffle their hair. Moreover, I don’t think that I need to be committed the the other one’s growth either – and actually, I don’t want to be that. My commitments in life come from a depth that I would call destiny; I happen to be committed to co-creating what I call “collaboration ecologies”; growth seems to be happening quite naturally in a coherent collaboration ecology, but it’s not my commitment…

      So embracing yourself is just the beginning in my view. Totally embracing an other and being totally embraced so that the Total Mutual Embrace can possibly happen….that is what a true relationship needs as a basis in my ‘flow of view’, and not only with one’s intimate life-partner (there many other things are important too, like matching character, connected life-projects etc.) but with as many others as is possible.

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