Odysseys with Wholeness

Nicola Mary Christensen-Johnson

Philosophy of Accompaniment

The purpose of individual sessions and guided itineraries is to shepherd people along the second-half-of-life journey towards spiritual maturity and the fullest expression of who they are in wholeness of selfhood. What’s more, my deepest calling is to accompany people through the fear, the shame, the despair and the grief we necessarily encounter on our odysseys with wholeness as we set off on a pilgrimage of identity and purpose. The pilgrim’s journey is almost, by definition, a perilous undertaking since we are called to work with what troubles us most and to visit all those places where we would rather not go. Yet, courageously and with buoyant hope, we can venture there when in good company.

My own odyssey has taught me so much and, without doubt, it is the most powerful formative experience I have taken on, in particular through chronicling the odyssey with wholeness and writing the trilogy Wholeness of Selfhood. The Odyssey of Becoming Fully Human. Through my writing, I hope to touch something in myself as I explore my thoughts and feelings, listen to my inner voice, and then articulate these thoughts and feelings into an art form which makes the subtle invisible become precious visible and provides some sense-making framework to apprehend the numinous. I strongly believe that when we are touched in ourselves and pruned open with honesty and transparency, humbleness and tenderness, then our individual experience ripples out to others so that they may begin to feel themselves in the same way with openness and raw honesty.

The pilgrimage woven into our odyssey will summon us to enter a place of deep silence and stillness where, by nesting in the darkness, we can be completely and utterly undone in the ways we usually participate in world. In the silence, we gently allow new aspects of ourselves to rise from the ashes of the structures of our personality burned down and stripped clean in the midst of the transformative hurricanes we hurl ourselves into. Because of the nature of such a pilgrimage and the numerous incursions into what we familiarly name darkness, it feels important to say something about the accompaniment I offer.

The present philosophy of accompaniment outlines how I work so as to offer that perfectly imperfect accompaniment that contributes to augmenting awareness and fueling shifts towards higher orders of consciousness. It also states the core principles that enable to work in, and from, a benevolent and appropriate relational container, one that is imbued with the transformative and revolutionary love that presents us with all the changes we are ready to go through.

Change is never comfortable; no one likes to be jiggled out of their comfort zone, least of all when it is not done in a respectful way or when we sense that we are being coerced into changes that do not feel right for us at the time. Cognitive psychologists like myself work with the idea of a proximal zone of development with just enough stretching and prodding to wake us up and encourage us to take the first steps towards change. We then seek out fit-for-purpose learning situations that respect the developmental zone and the learning style of the traveller embarked on a transformative journey. Not enough stimulation sends the learner back to sleep and induces boredom. Too much stimulation is most likely to dispatch them into heightened anxiety, particularly if the stretch feels well beyond their current capacities.

The path of spiritual maturity requires that we make a clear break from our old ways of being in life and participating in world. My approach is to define the proximal zone of development as being all the learning situations – in the largest possible sense of learning – that honour our sublime individuality and reveal our sovereign selfhood, our True Self. The purpose of our pilgrimage is to draw out our true nature – who we are meant to be in sovereign selfhood – and to know without any doubt what our gifts in life are, so that we may give them graciously and unquestionably.

Along the odyssey we are shaken out of our habits and stopped in our tracks when we attempt to reach the easy-to-go places we usually find comfort in. In the same way, we are encouraged to be impatient with easy explanations and to allow ourselves to stand on the edge between knowing and not knowing. We track down our impetuous reactivity, our numerous avoidance strategies, our impulses to fight change, and even all the moments when we collapse into a helpless mess, all of which are part of the human experience and herald our willingness to change.

In good company, we learn to stay in the conversation, to disband all our habits and tendencies, and to patiently wait to be summoned to new ways of being and participating in world, even if we have no clue as to what shape or form these might take on. All this is part of the shedding and stripping of the structures of the personality, the dethroning of the narcissism of personhood consolidated in the first-half-of-life journey. Not surprisingly, here, we lose control and agency over ourselves, over how we have been managing life so far: not the most enticing prospect for our rational mind. This is where a wise and compassionate guide is beneficial for accompanying us through all the initiatory experiences we encounter on the odyssey, in particular the fear and the grief of being utterly tired of ourselves to the point of welcoming death. The compassionate companion will remind us that it is good to be tired of ourselves and that we absolutely do need to get out of our way for our own good. Together, we can celebrate the death of the personality and our re-birth in sovereign selfhood.

The presence of a wise and compassionate companion helps hold a generative conversation with life and engage with the higher orders of consciousness calling us forth, asking everything of us, including to die to personality. These conversations help us name – preferably not too hastily so as not to allow the rational mind to eagerly fix things – what is coming towards us from the horizons. Bit by bit, step by step, we learn to speak the truths which dwell in our hearts and to follow all our creative impulses. We develop higher order skills such as critical thinking and cutting through individual and cultural illusions. We are encouraged to become critical friends of the systems and organisations we operate within. We learn to balance loyalty and devotion, to respect order and follow rules, to honour tradition and sacredness, to find the right balance between conditional and unconditional love, to do the necessary shadow work which is ours to do, so that we grow where we need to grow, and are ready to grow, according to our proximal zone of development. We also learn to recognise ego strutting, posturing and spiritual bypassing and to gently disband our egoic postures and grumbling reluctances to clean up, grow up, wake up and show up.

The presence of a wise and compassionate guide facilitates going beyond the empathic reach as we know and understand it. Generative conversations teach us to feel ourselves, to feel the other, and to feel the other feeling us. This might sound obvious but, as humans caught up in individualism, we struggle to practice generative conversations because of our defendedness and heavy protectiveness. The wager here it to learn to feel the other feeling us in a non-threatening way, that takes nothing away from the other, only adds to authentic relatedness. This is the promise we are being asked to walk into: less defendedness, more porosity to life, more openness to other.

Authentic relatedness thrives in the field of divine reciprocity. My understanding is that God, the Divine Creator, or whatever name we chose to give to higher will, is the highest and all-encompassing expression of consciousness unfolding unto itself, a way of naming the originality of it all, the givenness of life. Only, for consciousness to unfold unto itself, implicate order made explicate, the human experience is needed. Our life-circumstances put us in contact with the jaggedness and abrasiveness that characterise earthly sojourns and these are necessary in order for us to feel ourselves and to expand our awareness and develop the perceptual capacities hoisting us to higher levels of consciousness. It is said that God learns where and when humans are stretched further affirming that deep learning and changes occur in the field of reciprocal relationships. Therefore, reciprocity is the nature of the ontological collaboration between different levels of consciousness; it ignites the indwelling presence, facilitates the shift from the rational mind to the inditing heart, and beckons us to rest in the indivisible reality of divine love. We don’t necessarily need to fully understand what is stated above, and we can intuitively trust the truths being offered to us, guiding us back home to wholeness of selfhood.

I hope I can be such a wise and compassionate companion for those prepared to walk the pathways to selfhood. Our odysseys with wholeness enhance our sensitivity and our feeling capacities. At times, these enhanced capacities can be very powerful and even troubling in their intensity and forcefulness. Like Odysseus sailing across the bewitched seas, we need companions with good holding capacities to see us safely on to the other side: that is gently and firmly holding and nudging us whilst respecting our proximal development zone. I trust that those who I accompany will let me know when I am trespassing. And I affirm my willingness to reciprocate when I feel trespassed upon.

Core Principles

During our time together, I encourage us to receive ourselves tenderly and to become compassionate observers of our experience whilst being fully immersed in whatever presents itself to us in the relational space, however distressful. Below are the principles I invoke for upholding beneficial relational containers.

  • We make the sovereign choice to behold rather than begrudge the life circumstances we are called to bear witness to.
  • It is by being and staying with the suffering and the pain – and not over-identifying with the personal circumstances – that we can stand in solidarity with the crises or dramatic circumstances of humanity.
  • We are willing to surrender to the naked and move towards the void. We do so by holding, tightly in our heart, the paradoxes bewildering us.
  • We consent to let go of the familiar, to stand on the edge between knowing and not knowing, and to dare to step into the unknown.


I mainly use storytelling to accompany us along the journey. I might also recommend constellation work, tarot reading, imagery and archetypal psychology to deepen the explorations, and our capacity to stay with! In my experience, these tools steer us away from abstractions and mentalisations, and provide fruitful connections with our collective wisdom and psyche.

My intention will always be to bring into your reality and awareness all the tools and skillsets available to you, as part of your human inheritance, and to assist you in grounding them in your inner landscape where they belong and are ready to thrive.