"Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place."
On my way to a retreat in Sedona a place I have never been. Meditation, yoga and hiking will be wonderful. I hear it is a beautiful area, the perfect landscape for practicing.
I ask myself, "What is in a place that makes it beautiful? Can you find a place within yourself that holds all that the mountains rivers and oceans offer? Can you find peace wherever you are?"
This was most perfectly tested in an experience I had during this retreat.
We had morning sessions of mindful yoga, movement and sitting meditation and then after lunch, went on some adventure or another.
On the first day I had a conversation that, unfortunately, lead to what I perceived as a distorted view of how I was seen and misunderstood by a woman who had joined us hiking.
I didn't give it much further thought until the following morning when I awoke. I felt emotionally triggered and strong emotions, reigned over any logic or intellectual acceptance of what had happened. What Buddhist psychology would call an afflictive state had arisen and I was terribly sad. I didn't want to show my vulnerability. After all, I am supposed to be an expert.
I spoke with the retreat leader and tried to untangle myself from the old fears and feelings that were showing up. In the next sitting meditation I, finally, allowed this emotional ride to be exactly as it was. I noticed and accepted this episode. I brought friendly curiosity and mindfulness to my experience. I opened to all of it, exactly as it was.
In the next hour we practiced some mindful movement at the edge of a creek. I was taken by the colorful and many textured reflections in the water. I got my camera and took some photos of what I saw.
This was followed by a period of walking meditation during which I noticed that my mood had changed and that I was feeling much gratitude and joy.
The following words emerged quite spontaneously:
How often have you felt unseen, unheard;
So alone that you thought your heart would break?
Can you notice, now, the resilience and strength of your spirit ?
By the simple act of shifting your attention, the heart begins to sing.
Wake up ! You have all you need.
Turn away from the ever repeating thoughts of unworthiness.
Turn toward the textured reflections of clouds and reeds in the creek.
Follow the mother mallard with her chicks,
Gliding through the sunlight on the water.
Perhaps seeing, rather than being seen, is the path to love.
Mindfulness gives us the gift of being able to step away from our experience just enough to notice, to create space for, whatever is happening; to see clearly and to accept how things are. Then a door opens as the next experience of being human arises.
This is the gift we need to hold dear and bring to our clinical work. If we can face and work with these afflictions, and recognize our own fragile humanity, we can see more easily how to help others to do so as well.
Make no mistake, we are all doing the same work.