The greatest act of love we can show ourselves or someone else is to be fully present!
In a client session yesterday, a client with whom I have been working for about 6 months, whom I am supporting as he explores some very painful parts of his life which have led to almost debilitating anxiety, asked me "what are some of your darknesses, what are some of the hard challenges you have faced that you have had to work through?"
He was not prying, or distracting from his own processes, and because I am not a traditional MFT (which allows me more freedom to self disclose with my clients) I decided to share honestly and openly with this client, hoping it would help him feel less alone in his own suffering, and show that I am as human as he is, and that my gains have been as hard earned as his. I shared with him some of the ways in which my life has been impacted by severe trauma, incredible loss, fear, pain, chronic illness, abandonment, rejection, etc. It wasn't a sob story, but he asked honestly, so I shared honestly. I also shared that years of meditation and the kind of healing work he is doing with me in our sessions, are exactly what got me (and get me) through some very dark and painful years of my own life, and that as I have continued to unearth a deeply buried sense of self love, I became more and more available for my own healing processes. This self love has allowed me to be present with my own suffering, and being present with my own suffering has further restored my sense of self love.
Following my sharing, we sat in silence for a moment, both taking in what I had just said, being present with what was there in the room- his suffering and my own- and how we were both encouraged by each others presence. At one point, after expressing how helpful it was to hear my story, and how it really helped him remember he is not alone, he also said, "Wow, it is so helpful to see how far you have come. It is encouraging to know I could find my way there too. It gives me hope."
And what is so beautiful to me about my work with this client, and the many other client I am privileged to support, is how I see them learning to be present with the whole of their lives: who they are, their suffering and even their joy. They are learning to love and accept themselves, with grace, grit, courage and open hearts. This act of being present is their own greatest act of self love. They are writing their own self love stories, in the same way I have been writing mine all these years.
Simultaneously, this is the power of love, and the power of being present. They heal us!
I am excited to share that I was the featured guest on this week's episode of Healing Out Loud, an amazing podcast about healing and wellness with the very talented Jackie Shea. Have a listen...http://jackieshea.com/2018/08/13/39/
We talked about everything under the sun having to do with mindfulness, wellness and healing from chronic illness. Jackie asked some great questions and I answered them as frankly as I could, nothing censored... it was raw, honest, hilarious, and vulnerable... but as I always say to my clients, mindfulness brings us closer to the truth.
In this podcast I share my story about living with and healing three (thats right, 3!!) chronic illnesses. I talk about trauma (all kinds of it), and its affect on my health, and the importance of healing trauma as a prerequisite to healing my body. I also talk about how, as I often say to my clients, our power is in being present. As a mindfulness teacher who works primarily with women, I drive this one home a lot... being present with our lives is a source of power, wisdom, strength, healing and love. And I also talk a lot about the power of letting go and surrendering.
Healing comes from the surrender, not from the fight!
Two years ago while on a weekend getaway by the sea, I found myself standing alone at the edge of the ocean one night, under the full moon, and well past midnight. While standing by the water's edge, I was visited by two distinct and striking feelings: One, a feeling of total and utter aloneness…the kind of aloneness that lives below even the deepest sense of integration and connection, one that often rocks me to my core reminding me how tragic and how beautiful it can be to stand in the silence of one's own presence. And the other, a feeling of deep and pervading connection, with myself and all things, with my friends sleeping in a rented cottage not far away, the many people who had walked that beach earlier in the day, and the myriad experiences of an average day of my life.
Standing at the waters edge by myself, while my two friends slept inside the rented beachfront cottage, I was struck by the duality of connection and aloneness. In that moment, in spite of the fact that there was no one to share the beauty of the ocean and the glowing light of the moon with, I felt a deep and almost umbilical sense of connection to these two women, my dear and treasured friends, who were elsewhere and asleep. And yet, the sense of the beauty I felt of being alone in that moment was its own life force.
Emotional intimacy and connection are vulnerable. Aloneness can be painful. And I am struck by the ways in which we humans often use these two relational polarities to defend and protect ourselves from being entered and affected too fully by either. At times when the vulnerability of intimacy and connection are too much it is easy to step back into a pattern of aloneness and isolation. And when aloneness, even on the most basic level, evokes a pain we are not able to bear, it is easy to thrust ourselves into connection, so we don't have to meet or give attention to a very real pain that lives inside of us. And between these two something is lost… the competence of standing on and occupying ones own ground, fully, in all experience. We lose the intimacy of getting to know the winds of our inner turmoil and learning the strength and skill of this ancient navigation.
In his book Letters to a Young Poet, R.M. Rilke mentions this most beautiful relationship between solitude and connection….he suggests the that greatest love is the result of two solitudes standing next to each other, giving each other space for their own experience, yet always turning toward and relating to each other in their aloneness.
So let us be both solitudes standing beside each other. Let us find and learn to speak the wisdom in our vast aloneness, and let us welcome the connection of knowing ourselves and others fully. Let us stand in awe of being fully entered and affected by a single moment of silence, standing at the edge of the sea while those you love are elsewhere and asleep. And from there, walk into a wild love affair with the whole world.