What would they do if I told them the truth? How would they see me? How would they think of me? Would I be disgusting to them? These thoughts swam through my head as I sat in front of Melissa, our trainer, for a demonstration. It was the start of our weekend Hakomi training and my mind was seething with all the possibilities of what might happen. Behind my eyes there was a push to simply tell it all, leave no secret unsaid, and let the chips fall where they might. Then there was the catch in my chest, the fear of what would happen if I just did this, if I just disclosed all my shame. In the end, I censored what was presented during the demonstration, but in her eyes, I could tell that Melissa had seem so much more than I had said, her tears reflected what was in my heart, unspoken in that moment.
‘How did you know what to say to her?’ asked the resident, ‘We have been trying to figure her out all morning and have gotten nowhere.’ An expression of mixed curiosity and frustration crossed her face. ‘I try not to focus on how she is acting, as much as I try to talk to the part of her Jesus would love’, I found myself answering. This catch phrase would find its way into conversation regularly during the years of teaching, it captured a concept I had struggled to teach prior to that moment of insight. The concept of connection, it is one of the most difficult things for doctors in training to understand. Years of training make this more difficult, training that does not focus upon the human connection, instead focusing upon the biological working of humans.
Why? I am sure if you were to ask my parents, they would tell you that this is the first word that I ever said. It is certainly the most common word that comes to mind, and out of my mouth on any given day. It has been this way for as long as I can remember and it continues to fuel my searching to understand the world in which I live. Simon Sinek has become famous for looking at this, and lately I have found myself delving ever deeper into this fundamental question of ‘Why?’
I did not need help. I could do it myself. I never asked, and anyone who worked with me for any length of time quickly understood that they did not need to ask either. This was my modus operandi. This was how I unconsciously organized my life, and it was no more in my conscious awareness than the steps needed to ride a bike, or tie my shoes, chew gum while walking, it just happened in the background all day long, completely unknown to me for many, many years.
It was an ordinary evening, we had enjoyed a lovely supper, and were engaged in the after-dinner discussion of the day. There was nothing to foreshadow the bomb that was coming my way… ‘you know’ said Nancy, ‘you left Texas to come someplace new…. And to do something different than you were doing in Texas… but it looks to me like you have recreated that life on PEI….’ She was right, and it had not even taken two years. I had come with the dream of finally setting boundaries between my work and the rest of my life, and finding balance between the two. I had walked away from the busy academic career to restart my medical practice and ‘get it right’ this time. But here I was, once again doing what I had always done…. Filling my life so completely that there was no room for all of it and certainly no room for anything else, medicine had once again taken over.
What a gift it is to be seen, really seen, in a way that nourishes you deeply. It is a gift that everyone desires, but funny enough, we never seem to put it on the list for Christmas. It is something that we want so deeply that we may not even be aware of our longing until it is met, and then, in a rush of deep appreciation we feel what has been missing for so long that we forgot it had been lost.
And there it is a gain, that feeling like something is happening that is somehow just outside my field of vision, just outside of me perception. That little nagging feeling that there is something here that I should notice, give my attention to, but it refuses to come into focus. I might notice a little something in my jaw, a little feeling of tightness, my tell-tale sign that there is something afoot, but what is it.
There is was again, the anger, arising from seemingly nowhere, red hot and ready for battle. Why is it here again, and what can I do to help keep it at bay? It would come up suddenly, and in that moment of recognition I would stop and look to see where this anger came from, why it arose once again. What a frustrating process this was, each time I would look it seemed that I saw only blank walls with no path forward. Again and again I would return to this quandary, looking for the way in, the path to understanding, knowing where this anger came from and why.....
The short Answer? Because I don't have the time not to.......
I know, it seems crazy, how can I devote time to something like meditation when my life is already crazy busy? I do not have the time to do the things that are already on my plate, and you are telling me to add one more? Where will I possibly find the time to do this? That is just crazy talk. This is just a small sampling of the voices in my head on a regular basis when I first started to meditate. I wanted to sleep just a little longer, lay in bed just a moment more, and honestly, many times the bed won. Yet, at this point in my life, I cannot imagine not meditating at least once a day, and many days I find time to meditate more often.
A phrase to change the world...
The most liberating thing I have learned in my life to date is the following phrase…..
Everyone is doing the best they can…if they could do better they would.
Thinking lightly about that phrase we often find ourselves viewing it with a degree of judgement, ‘I know Bob, and I have seen him do a lot better than he is giving me right now!’ or my personal favorite, the self-deprecating ‘Jeez you would think after so many years I would do that better than I did’. However, both of these miss the mark of what is being said in that small phrase., so let me repeat it to make it fresh for us all…