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Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

“Every human being wants to love and be loved.  This is very natural.  But often love, desire, need, and fear get wrapped up all together.  There are so many songs with the words, “I love you; I need you.”  Such lyrics imply that loving and craving are the same thing, and that the other person is just there to fulfill our needs.  We might feel we can’t survive without the other person.  When we say, “Darling, I can’t live without you.  I need you,” we think we’re speaking the language of love.  We even feel it’s a compliment to the other person.  But that need is actually a continuation of the original fear and desire that have been with us since we were small children.”

~~Thich Nhat Hanh, Fidelity:  How to Create a Loving Relationship that Lasts

I was sick last week and did not get to post this. . . Aug 2nd was my parents’ 52 wedding anniversary.  I wish that everyone could experience the ups and downs that they have and the bond that has kept them together.

Much love and deep bows of gratitude to Bob & Judy Stevens.  Thank you for all the love, sacrifice, and compassion they have fostered in our family!

Namaste, Jennifer

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MORE OF A PHILOSOPHY THAN A RELIGION. BUDDHISM...

(Photo credit: ronsaunders47)

“Our Buddhist vows are basically good medicine

for our wayward minds and forgetful hearts.”

~~Thich Nhat Hanh,

For the Future To Be Possible:  Buddhist Ethiccs for Everyday Life

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Wow, this summer has been 10 times crazier than I ever would have thought.  I snapped the photo above when I was running errands about 10 days ago.  Even when it’s busy, you’ve gotta stop and check out the clouds… it’s been too hot for a lot of stopping and smelling those proverbial roses.

I’m getting ready to teach General Psych for the first time this fall.  I start in less than 3 weeks and it is a LOT of work, on top of dissertation work and working a stressful 40 hour work week.

So, I have to admit that this blog has suffered.  And I thank all of you who stopped by, left me messages, checked to see if I was okay, etc.  I really enjoy doing the blog and unfortunately, there are only a few things in life that I can put on the back burner.

I’m thinking the Fall will be just as busy but I will do my best to find still, clear moments to share things I’ve read, videos I’ve watched, etc.

I’ve just re-watched Clara’s Heart with Whoopi Goldberg and Neil Patrick Harris several days ago when I was home with a migraine.  It’s the story of several losses and how everyone involved deals with their losses.  And well, it’s fun to see Neil Patrick Harris as a little boy.  If you have Netflix check it out.

I picked up a new book for my Kindle. . . The Wisdom of Listening by Mark Brady.  I have to say that I am really enjoying the few stolen moments that I find to read a couple of passages.

In this book, Mark states,

Once you have the attitude in your mind and heart, no matter how distressing your work environment, you can be really happy. . . Before beginning your daily meditations, spend some time reflecting on the suffering in the world, or your friends’ or patients’ suffering, and as their suffering touches and opens your heart, let your compassion grow even deeper, and your intentions to help even stronger.”

There is a lot of suffering that goes on at my full time job.  Our direct care staff work long hard hours with little gratitude.  We work with very difficult clients and there isn’t a day that goes by that their shifts are probably not very demanding.

Add on top of that all kinds of threats in the last year. . . the Governor will close your site.  The Governor is going to take a big chunk of your pay.

And then there is the world at large that might not impact us day to day but it does wear on our psyche. . . a new shooting today in neighboring WI. . . because someone’s religious beliefs and looks were different.

And a few weeks ago, another shooting in Colorado. . . in Aurora which is not that far from Columbine and it is the story of many systems going wrong. . . the mental health system, schools, enforcement of gun control or the lack thereof.

Of course, there is also the hostility that is the backdrop of most elections. . .

The Buddha was so wise is saying that our problem was suffering and illusion.  We can spend a lot of time focused on the lack, the need, the pain, etc.

But I like Mark’s reframe in this quote.  It’s much like the concepts of metta and tonglen.  We cannot ignore or be ignorant of the pain and suffering in the world.  If we do, we can become foolish or calloused.

But we cannot fret and let the world paralyze us or worse, make us wall off our hearts.

So what do we do?  We walk the middle path. . . we acknowledge the suffering in the world, we hold it close and let it fill us with compassion so that our hearts break open to hold more.

There is so much pain in the world and sometimes it feels like not nearly enough love.  So, when we look at holding compassion and lovingkindness for those who suffer, are filled with fear, are alone, etc., we generate lovingkindness in its midst.  We create love because of the suffering of others.

I know that some will say that just praying for people doesn’t do any real good.  I would disagree.  I don’t know if praying for some different outcome will work, but opening your heart and allowing it to expand to hold much more can never be wrong.

So, before you settle in with a difficult situation, a full schedule, chronic pain, heart break, and other craziness in the world, take those 10 minutes to sit with the suffering on a global level and allow it to touch your innermost essence.  And allow the space for your essence to foster new and deeper love as well.

May all beings be free from suffering and the root of suffering.

JRS

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The Buddha encouraged us to think of the good things done for us by our parents, by our teachers, friends, whomever; and to do this intentionally, to cultivate it, rather than just letting it happen accidentally.

~~Ajahn Sumedho, “The Gift of Gratitude”

I am truly thankful for all those who are in my life. . . my loving and devoted parents, my dear supportive friends, and wise teachers.

Life is nothing without love, compassion, and faithful companions.

Deep gratitude and prostrations to you all.

Namaste, Jennifer

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English: Thumbnail portrait of Atisha based on...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Your body is fragile and vulnerable.

The Sixth of the Nine Contemplations of Atisha. . . your body is fragile and vulnerable.

Think about how easily we can be overcome by something microscopic like a germ cell.  We don’t need a tiger to kill us, a few cells can do the trick.

It’s been over 90 in the Midwest for a couple of weeks and it’s been several days with temperatures above 100, without the heat index and on the news last night we heard that two elderly people in the area had died because they had stayed in their homes without air conditioning.  So even something that cannot be seen under a microscope can take these very lives of ours.

Our own bodies can turn on us, as when we have an autoimmune disease.

We grow up in this country to believe that we are rugged individualists, that we have boundless freedom and are invincible when we get good grades, get a job, marry, and raise the perfect family.  And most people can probably name at least a handful of people for whom this narrative isn’t the case.

Your body is fragile and vulnerable.

Our teeth decay.

Our muscles grow weak.

Our cells multiple, sometimes out of control and cancer grows.

Sometimes our bones break.

Our sleep gets disturbed.

We “catch” the flu.

Our muscles spasm and our arches fall.

It doesn’t take much water or ice on the floor to bring us to our knees or drop us on our heads.

Think about your mindful breathing. . .

Don’t you take for granted that as you focus on your in-breath that an out-breath will follow and then another in breath?

Would you if you had asthma?

Your body is fragile and vulnerable.

And what about our minds?  We often forget that there is interconnection between our minds and bodies and think of them as separate entities.

It doesn’t take a lot for our minds to “betray” us too.

We have afflictive emotions.  We have perceptions, sensations, feelings, emotions, and thoughts.

We can have hallucinations, dreams, and forgetfulness.

We take little pills to change our thinking and feelings.

Some of us will be born and develop depression, schizophrenia, autism, or dementia and although we see the effects of these diseases, we can only conjecture what really happens, despite our collective belief in levels of serotonin, problems with synapses, etc.

Your body is fragile and vulnerable.

Illness, like death, is an edge for us.  It is a mindfulness bell.  We usually don’t appreciate good health until we have lost it much in the same way that our love grows fonder and deeper when the object of our love has died.

A sore tooth or an aching back remind me of how fragile my physical life is.

I appreciate the rest of the teeth I have while I am sitting with the discomfort of a root canal.

When I have a migraine, I am painfully aware of the week I have had without the pain, sensitivity, nausea, etc. but that does not mean that I have been mindful to the lack of pain during that week.

So, can we use our physical presence and bodies in our meditations?

Definitely!

We cultivate awareness with meditations like body scans and progressive muscle relaxations.

Or focus on attention by practicing Yoga Nidra.

We allow our awareness to the sensation of our abdomen rise and fall with our inhalation and exhalation.

I remember a story from my first philosophy teacher. . . she was the one who introduced me to Buddhism and meditation.  I remember her telling me that her friend, during meditation, knew that there was something wrong with her kidneys and was able to get hydrated and get to the doctor before it was too late.

Our bodies may be weak, vulnerable, and fragile and we will ultimately die from something.  Not even the Buddha himself was able to avoid it.

But our cultivated aware and attention can be powerful as we practice meditation.

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“We’re fascinated by the words–but where we meet is in the silence behind them.”

Ram Dass

Silence can be such a precious commodity.  There seems to be so little of it in today’s world.  Even going to a nearby state park, thinking I can run away and forget the world, and I hear the sounds of the traffic from the highway rushing by the park.

Maybe it’s because I am so introverted that I love silence and am comfortable with it?  Maybe it’s the years of meditation?  Or training as a therapist.  Coming from a small family?  Who knows, but I really do like it.

Silence can take on so many flavors and nuances if one can stand it long enough to touch it.  Right now, I work at a job where silence could be fostered much more than it is.  There are many situations with the clients that we work with where silence would be soothing and deflate situations that become volatile.  But silence is the last thing that is thought about, let alone practiced, when we have our agenda of where we need to be and how things should happen rather than letting things unfold before us.

There is such beauty in being able to sit with someone and being so comfortable in your self that you don’t need to fill the space with words.  Sometimes it’s just that that you can be present to the experience of the anxiety that accompanies the long pauses but I think that is an acquired gift.

Silence can be such a precious gem that we can bestow upon someone. . . a client, an aging relative, someone whose heart has been shredded by grief, or someone is who dying.  There’s no distraction in silence, no busy-ness, no nonsense.  Silence is intimate as two people sit in a starkness and nakedness that can be some uncomfortable and yet might be just the thing that two people are craving — the acceptance that comes with that being-with in silence.

My role is to often be silent with the person I am with. . . to hold a hand, to sit attentively, to bear withness to a person’s story or experience.  Meditation is an ideal practice for slowing down and opening the heart.  One learns, through practice, acceptancce of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and sensations.  One practices having a gentle touch with that which comes into consciousness.

We learn not to get swept away, but to allow an idea or a feeling to come up and release it after labeling it.  We learn to have compassion  for the unending streams that our are brains create.  And it is in fostering this acceptance that we can cultivate this openness for another person.

So much can be created in silence, just think about the phrase a pregnant pause.  Things gestate and grow and become when they have light and space.

As we practice silence with others, we allow them the room to grow before us and in doing so, the roots of that experience grow to unimaginable depths.

Metta

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“Don’t grieve.
Anything you lose comes
round in another form.”
Rumi
 

 I would SO love to tell you, “Yeah, don’t grieve.  It’s not spiritually necessary or enlightened.  We are transcendent beings. . . ”

Whatever!

Most of us are not there and many give lip service to those kinds of messages if we are honest with ourselves.

We hurt when we lose something.

We really hurt when we lose someone.

We have deep connections with the person we loved who died.

They co-create our world with us.

Sometimes they gave life to us (or we to them) and then we created a history, a storyline, a relationship, a family, a network of friends, etc.

We derive meaning and pleasure from our connection.

We sometimes sustain wounds and hardships in those relationships as well.

But they (the person and our experiences with them) are as much a part of us as our arm or leg and there is pain when someone dies as there is when we sustain a physical injury.

What I have come to learn, through my experience and the experience of those around me, is when we acknowledge the presence of the pain, (the upheaval, and the sense of being distraught) and can hold it in our awareness, even if for moments, healing occurs.

We do more harm, expend more energy, and suffer longer when we disavow the pain.

I think we can get to a place of understanding that others really “never leave us” because we get in touch with our interconnectedness with them.  But when we don’t touch the pain and allow it to be, it is harder to connect with more transcendent concepts.

This is one of the reasons why practices like mindfulness are beneficial to our “grief work.”  The practice teaches us to be present, moment to moment, and to accept rather than to fight off.

We then have the energy to live with what “is” and to have compassion for the situation as it presents itself.

So, I don’t think we need to throw ideas like Rumi’s out altogether.  I think we just need to practice a lot of compassion on the way to having a lived-bodily experience of what it truly means.

And without that experience, those words can be hurtful and harmful to someone who is still defending from their pain.

~~As a side note, today is my dad’s birthday!  I can’t be with him today but I am NEVER far away from my thoughts and heart.  Happy Birthday Daddy!  Thank you for all of these decades of love, support, and lessons.

 

~~~~~~~

For more information about learning to allow pain and sorrow, check out Stephen Levine‘s work Unattended Sorrow or The Grief Process CD/Audio.

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Cover of "Meditation in a New York Minute...

Cover via Amazon

I have a former client that I saw not too long ago.  He’s on a journey, like all of us, and has many of the same stuck places we have.  I listened while he told me that he didn’t have time . . .

No time at all.

No patience.

Meditation doesn’t work.

What’s the point, etc.

It reminded me that he was the kind of person who wasn’t going to be interested in the sweet calm of Thich Nhat Hanh or the empowered feminine wisdom of teachers like Pema Chodron, Tara Brach, or Roshi Joan Halifax.

He was a scientist and this whole thing was well, woo woo and hog wash.

What might, I got to thinking, as even MBSR was shot down as a suggestion was Mark Thornton’s Meditation in a New York Minute:  Super Calm for the Super Busy.

I’ve listened to the audiobook a few times.  At first “glance”, listening to it on my commute to hospice, I used to think it was technique-y.

He was young, a corporate-type, and addressed the matter of meditation like a professional speaker.

Hmmmm, sounds like just a different shade of “I’m too busy, I know better”, etc.

This former client, this scientist, this closed-hearted person gave me a gift.  He was a wise teacher that brought me back to this audiobook with a new awareness.  Wise in the way that Pema Chodron talks about in our troublemaker teachers.

I am still not sure that this will go on my top 10 list, but Mark’s straight forwardness that probably works in corporate America, cut through some things for me.  I would suggest the book or audio for anyone who has said, I want less stress, I want calm, but just can’t get started.

I learned new things when I listened to it again this time.

I plan to share some of his work because I think that, especially if you aren’t interested in a spiritual path, this words and techniques can be really helpful.

So, at least for today, this is what I will share:

Mark’s technique for teaching meditation is simple.  Start off small and allow your embodied awareness to be fostered during mini breaks throughout the day.

No one said it has to be one hour …

60 consecutive minutes …

it can be 60 seconds now, 10 minutes later, 2 minutes later . . .

Think of it as if they were talking about getting your steps in.. you “should have” X-amount of steps every day or X-minutes of exercise every day.  But, they find that 5 minutes now, then, later, etc is still effective.  And so can your meditation if you design it this way.

But probably more importantly, Mark shares 8 Laws of Meditation with us:

1.  Relax – they tell you this all the time.  They told me as I began my first All-day sit at the Shambhala Center here in the midwest, but, no, I had to do it perfectly. . . and ended up with pain, stiffness, stress, etc.

I realized the concept of No-Effort when I hooked up to biofeedback and realized that what I was doing as meditation and “relaxation” was stressing my system out more.  It was a lack of teaching; it was that I was not understanding in an embodied way.

2.  Have a sense of playfulness – Lately, I have realized how little playfulness and lightheartedness I have in my life.  Part of that is being away from family and friends that I love.  Part of it living in the middle of no where with nothing that I find fun to do.  Part of it is not allowing myself to experience freedom and expansion.

If I am not doing it in life, you know that it’s not happening on the cushion.  A friend suggested a comedian the other night and I laughed out loud, by myself, for the first time in a long time.  Foster a light touch and a sense of inquisitiveness for the sake of your mental and physical health.

3.  Practice Gentleness — This reminded me that Thay used to talk about holding your hands on your lap as if you had a baby bird or the baby Buddha in your hands.  Gentleness.  But we also practice gentleness in our minds as well.  No screaming and shouting at ourselves when our minds saunter off.  No judgment, just being.

4.  Have an open body – I laughed when I heard this one.  I’ve told mom this for years.  You have greater anxiety and stress when your heart is physically closed off. . . you don’t get enough oxygen and release in your autonomic nervous system.  And your diaphragm doesn’t flow unrestricted.  I laughed because a “professional” told her that this week and it was like it was the first time she’d ever heard that.  (Once a daughter, never a teacher.  LOL)

5.  Build Calm through Attention — As Mark simply put it. . . where your attention goes, so does your energy.  My friend had a problem with some plumbing.  Within little time, she got to a place of, oh good, new paint, no walls, new plumbing. . . not me, I thought, all that expense, all that time off from work, all that noise and dust… yes, this is why I sit and am not yet one with my enlightened self. . . point is, her attention went to the positive and the potential.  And it was a great experience.

6.  Build Calm through Your Intention to drop to your core — Mark defines meditation “as a way to directly experience your heart, moment-to-moment, so that others feel it.”  So Law #6 is about setting your intention to be in your heart-space, allowing yourself to sink down into the essence or core of who you are, rather than to grasp at the discursive mind that we allow to rule our lives.

7.  Maintenance of Calm — How do you maintain calm (or super calm as Mark likes to say?) moment to moment awareness and when you drop away from that and you realize it, drop the storyline and come back to moment to moment awareness.  Huh?

8.  Repetition — And how does this all get tied together?  In the same way you get to Carnegie Hall. . . practice, practice, practice.

What I like about Mark’s audio is that he uses the word mindfulness once or twice only.  He gives us different language, a different way of looking at the practice.  Sometimes teachers use the same words, the same teaching stories, and it doesn’t sink in.  That’s probably why relying on one guru isn’t probably the best way to go and we have many over a lifetime.

His work is not devoid of spirituality, he talks about spiritual masters, quotes Indian texts, but he’s no-nonsense, engaging, and I did get the feeling like I was watching someone who could be on Oprah’s network, cheering us all on.

But let’s face it. . . if you’ve ever meditated you have probably gotten hooked, been judgmental of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and gotten down on yourself.  We don’t all naturally cheerlead ourselves into health and happiness.

So if a cheerleader comes along it’s good if we listen to their pep and cheer.

More to come on Mark’s work. . . let this sink in.  Think about your own practice in these terms and ask if it jives for you.

And if you don’t have a practice, hopefully this will intrigue you enough to want to know more.

Meditation is a way of living.  It’s not to just be picked up when you lose your job, are flattened by pain, exhausted from caregiving, or broken-hearted over loss.  It is a way of living congruently while we learn to foster compassionate attention and intention.

Thank you Mr. TroubleMaker teacher for coming around and getting me to set the intention to go back to this audiobook.

Om Mani Padme Hum.

~~JRS

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A stack of the iPods I now own... included are...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know I have at least one friend who is reading this title and laughing!

I have a specific reason for the title though, I promise…

So, those who know me know that I’ve been called Gadget Girl … I have several iPods, an iPad, two laptops, and a desk top. . . a scanner, a printer, a mobile printer, and well, an all-in-one…   I have several digital recorders, timers, biofeedback equipment, etc.

I’m not bragging. . . . please let me say that right off…

But there is a point to this inventory. . . my point, there are certain things I like to use for certain specific tasks AND I’ve never found an all-in-one that I really loved because it truly cannot do everything I need it to do.

I like to write my blogs on my macbook air but put them “together” on my HP laptop.  I like to take photos with my iPhone but listen to music and audiobooks on my iPod classic.

It’s easy to justify having all of them, but I would rather spend time appreciating their place in my life. . .  and sending gratitude to the universe for being able to have things on which I have come to depend.

And for some reason, while cooking dinner tonight, I kept hearing, almost as a mantra, “No one can be all things to you”  and I figured if it was that important to be sitting right there in my awareness while I was futzing in the kitchen, it was important enough to write about.

So here we go. . .

No one can be all things to you. . .

I think back over my life and there are “constants” that seem to always be there, in one shape or form. . .

lessons of the heart, mind, body, spirit, sangha, community, etc….

Some constants come up as recurrent themes like Roshi Joan Halifax‘s chant at the end of her dharma talks “Do not squander your life” and how that is sitting so profoundly with me right now.

Other times it’s been Thich Nhat Hanh‘s “I have arrived, I am home” or “Be here now” or “Loving is saying goodbye”, etc etc etc.

And I think that “No one can be all things to you” is a constant.

I’ve lived in many different states from the time I was in college until 2000 years, mostly so that I could remain near family.  I’ve learned time and time again that no one is everything or everyone…

My main mentor was in no way, shape, or form the only wise woman in my life.  She was one of many and we had a heart connection because of our shamanic call to be present with dying.  But there were others that came before her. . . my mom being the first of the long line of graceful, loving, intelligent, no-nonsense women. . .

No one can be all things to you. . .

There was a beloved philosophy professor from school in NY who introduced me to the Dharma and probably doesn’t even realize that she saved my life… well, my existential life.

There have been crusty old hospice nurses told it like it was, gentle and kind therapists/colleagues, and a wonderful mentor in gratitude school who has an all-encompassing sense of grace about her.

No, woman were  not the only one’s who influenced my life.

My dad and his father certainly did . . . while I was growing up, the sun rose and set around me in their eyes.

As it also did for a family friend who was like a second dad to me.

And my brother… well, I’ll tell you a secret… (Mike was terrified that he’d be forgotten. . . and yet, he gave me the gift of companioning him through his dying and in doing so has touched the lives of thousands through me and my work).

So if you have a similar fear, love someone and you will never be forgotten!

No one can be all things to you. . .

There was the French teacher in high school that scared me half to death but pushed me harder than anyone else in my life and I learned what I could achieve because of it.

There were wise professors whose feet I sat at and a few friends whose shoulders are probably still stained with tears during years of deep connections, retreats, and stories about  love affairs.

And I realize that no one friend, no one mentor, not even one parent can be or has been everything to me.

There have been times in my life that my dad and I were inseparable and others times, it was my mom and I.

I’ve thought this lover or this partner — well, of course he was going to be “the one”.

People have moved in and out of my life, and I, physically, out of their lives.

Each connection bringing with it a kind of grace, depth, and compassion that has a different flavor than all of the others.

No one can be all things to you . . .

A young couple who look very much in love by t...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we think that we will find “the ONE” who will be there through it all, no matter what, forever, our relationships are filled with delusion and attachment (not the healthy kind of attachment).

We can practice mindful awareness of the time that a person is in our lives, the gifts that we share, and the nuances that they bring to the totality of our lives.  And bless them when they are no longer here with us.

There was a poem that we read at hospice often that always moved me to tears of gratitude, forgiveness, gentleness, and great compassion.  Here it is linked to a song by Enya. . . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HaI7V6eB9M&feature=fvwrel

No one can be all things to you . . .

Let us be grateful for what we have had,

what we were,

what we are.

Let us savor the moments,

the kiss, the touch, the lesson, the love and may we always part gracefully ~~

whether by dying or by conscious choice. . .

Let us know in an embodied way that we are One and that

we do not need to wait for “the ONE”.

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Have you started at the beginning?

Have you read my first two posts on the 5 precepts of being a compassionate companion?

If you haven’t seen the my introduction or the First precept, please click these links before you read about Frank Ostaseski’s Second Precept.

. . .

Now that you are up to speed, let’s take a look at the Second Precept:  Bring your whole self to the experience.

I don’t want to sound redundant, especially if you just read my introduction and what I wrote about the first precept, but suffice it to say, that I will.  .  . There is nothing simple about this precept and yet, if healing is to occur, bringing our whole self is vital.

My training is in humanistic/existential therapy and I have had some amazing teachers along the way.  I had a teacher my first year in college in NY tell us a story about a client that used to come to therapy every week, dressed to the 9s.  It was as if her clothing was her protective mask, the image she wanted to portray and to use as camouflage from letting her true self come to the relationship.

He told us that every week he wore jeans and a sweatshirt on the day he saw her.  It wasn’t like it was a mission but he just “came as he was”.  He said over time she experienced him as genuine and heartfelt and well, real.  She connected with him and as she did, that protective mask started to chip away.  When she could come into the consultation room, “just as she was”, with mascara running down her face, or scuffed sneakers, or cheeks inflamed from anger, her healing could begin.

Bringing your whole self to the experience means not relying on technique, distance, or feeling like you have some magic that the other person doesn’t.  It’s not about you fixing your family, the person whose home you are volunteering in, your elderly grandmother who is living with dementia.  It’s about being present and being genuine and congruent.  It’s about understanding that in any relationship there are two people who create the space.

There is no time when faced with dying to stand on ceremony.  There’s no time for platitudes like, “I know just how you feel.”  When we use nothing but techniques and hide behind our title (whatever it might be — daughter, therapist, best friend, lover, etc) we stay in the realm of false pity rather than being able to be truly open to one’s pain with genuine empathy.

Our head nurse at hospice used to say leave your baggage at the door (before going in to be with a family) and while that was true, you didn’t want to let your frustration about traffic distract you from your encounter, we can’t leave the important parts of ourselves by the welcome mat.

Bringing your whole self to the experience.  Frank suggests, in his training, that it is in our exploring our own suffering that helps us to create an empathetic bridge with the other.  I love that idea and believe it is because of this very thing that healing takes place.  And I think we have to be honest and face facts. . . whether you are a therapist or a companion to the dying, when you are together you are both touched, both changed forever, both healed.

Not too long ago, someone complimented me on my “skills” when talking to someone who was in the midst of grieving.  Although I knew the compliment was being truly offered in a sincere way, I chuckled to myself.  There was no pretense on my part, no thinking in my head, “what would Roshi Joan say” or “what task would Teresa Rando say this person is on in their grief process.”

It was about opening the heart, extending one’s self to a person whose heart might be hurting.  It’s about every so lightly, touching the memory of my own grief experiences and allowing that to be close to me.  It was about a genuine care and concern for another individual, even though it was someone I do not know very well.

And with that came curiosity, not rubbernecking, morbid curiosity but wanting someone to know that I wouldn’t side step her grief just because we were at work.  I wanted that person to know that I was open to listening if she wanted to tell her story.

To me, bringing your whole self to the experience is about not sitting with a desk between you and your client.  It’s not about wearing a white jacket.  It’s none of that professional coldness that gets drilled into us.  It’s not about never touching a patient who is struggling to talk and having difficulty breathing from the intensity of their anxiety about death approaching.

It is about being vulnerable and at the same time not letting the situation be all about me.  It’s about meeting a situation and being okay to see where it takes you, or more appropriately, allowing yourself to be led instead of trying to fix the other person.

Can you have enough compassion for yourself and the person you are with so that you can be open to the reciprocal gifts of the moment?

Bring your whole self to the experience.

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