‘One of the ways that Gil adds value and makes important contributions is…’ That is the assignment, to reflect upon when we are at our best. We were to solicit opinions from our colleagues, family and friends about moments when they had seen us at our best. Asking for positive feedback from people that know you well, why is that so difficult, why is it so frightening? Yet, here is was, that sense of trepidation as I pressed send, that sense of unease, of disquiet. It felt really wrong to ask for positive feedback from people, really wrong.
‘I am curious about your use of the word allow.’
My breath caught in my throat, tightness grabbed at my heart, and for a second the sense of vertigo was there, I was on the precipice looking down. What had she seen, what had I shown, and why did she hone in on that phrase.
‘I want to offer you some words… notice what happens when you hear them…. It’s OK to allow yourself to be loved.’
I turned in, felt the instability in my seat, felt myself twisting just a bit as I looked into that place where it felt scary.
The moon, large, yellow, rises slowly above the trees, sounds of the jungle can be heard in the early evening, strange and foreign to my ears. Sitting on the cement flooring that marks the porch edge for the school we are building, I have a moment of clarity, my place on the earth. I see it on a globe, glowing brightly, so far away from everything I know. Rising with the moon, an urge in my heart, to walk into the forest, disappearing from all that is known, into a place where everything familiar to me no longer exists. Into a place where everything unnecessary, unessential, is stripped away.
In the moment, she asks me to feel into the place where the longing lives, where the desire to reach out to others arises. I find myself moving my right hand to reach toward someone who is not there, reaching for something that is elusive, something just out of reach. Drawing my attention to the feeling, she asks me to stay with the longing, to sink into it, let it fill me up, let it flicker to life within me in a deep way. I notice the ache in my heart for comfort and love, the ache in my heart to be held close, and the voice in my head tells me it is not possible. Skillfully she notices that change, asking me about this voice, she offers to say those words out loud so I can study them more closely. Hearing those words shifts the longing to a deeper place, and unconsciously my hands begin to cradle my face.
My heart tapped upon my shoulder this morning, asking me to get up earlier than usual, it had something important to show me. I tried to ignore the request, but it was being asked with such yearning, I found myself getting up and walking down the stairs. The alarm that would wake me was still several hours away, the house was in that deep quiet darkness, when the moon has set, and the sun is still hours from rising. Sitting on my cushion, turning my attention in, a longing within me began to grow, so I settled to listen to the story that my Heart had to tell.
“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
I am struck by the honesty of this quote, there is a deep truth within this understanding, there is a fear in moving, edging closer to the deep truth that lays within us all. This has been the 11th block of a 15-block training in Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy, and as per usual, I am sitting at the Newark Airport feeling a little shaken up by the process.
“He had great faith in you, and you let him down…” These words landed, heavily, in the middle of my chest. These words brought pain, they were a tool to bring pain, and they did their job well. I cannot know the state of mind within the one who spoke those words, but I imagine they came from a place of great worry, great pain, and great anger. I have spoken words like this myself on occasions, more than I would care to remember at any given moment, and when I have used words like this with others, they were designed to hurt. It is from this place of seeing the pain, that I began to wonder about why anyone would choose to be a physician, and I realized it’s because no one really knows what they’re saying yes to when they pursue this career.
Sometimes we are simply too close to be able to see clearly, it is as if our breath fogs the glass we want to look through, we need to get some distance. Is this a good thing or is this a bad thing? it is hard to know. As I look back on life, I look back on things that in the moment seemed terrible, but as I reflect on them from where I am now, the view is so much different. I remember clearly the scene from “the dead poet’s society” when Robin Williams asks the students to stand up on their desks to change their point of view. As I look across my life, I realize I am moving from desk to desk to desk, and looking around, and the view, is always, different.
It was another weekend of training in Hakomi. We were working on figuring out our resources (those things in our lives that help us get through tough times). It was the second day of training for this block, and my student therapist asked how things were going, “day by day, usual days, usual stuff.” “Why don’t you take me through a usual day then, how do you start seeing your patients? “. I begin to recount how I work without a nurse, and that I go up front to pick up my patients. She asked me to stop, slow down, and really focus on what I do when I prepare to get a patient, and as we work through that, I came to see what a resource I have built over the last 10 years.
Sometimes Medicine wants more than you can give, and there are many times in the past when I’ve given Medicine everything I had and a little bit more. These days, I give medicine what it deserves and nothing more. I don’t spend myself into debt for Medicine, I don’t empty my emotional banks to make sure that Medicine is full, I do what I can and when I get to the end of what I have to give Medicine, I stop.