Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Going to the roots

photo by grassrootsmsw

"The only reason we don't open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don't feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else's eyes."
Pema Chodron

I was recently introduced to the writing and thoughts of Pema Chodron by a dear friend and collegue (thank you M.G.). Chodron's insights and teachings reach out and connect with me in many ways...personally and professionally.

In her book, "When Things Fall Apart," Chodron encourages her readers to move towards suffering and painful situations with openness and inquisitiveness...inviting readers to "relax into their groundlessness." This ultimately requires self presence to the naked and unmasked parts of ourselves. Going below the surface and wading through often muddy, deep waters. Seeking and accepting what is found, with self "loving kindness."

In my social work, I am often confronted with situations that challenge my compassion and activate something inside of me that shouts, "No...this doesn't feel right...I am repulsed...I don't want to be here...I want to escape from this moment." When these fear feelings come up, I realize I must listen very carefully to my reactions and try to step back and check in with myself. What part of my historical roots are bringing up negative prompts?

To be fully present for another, I think we must understand the complexities and origins of our own truths and the realities connected to them. As professional caregivers, I believe we can only encounter a patient or client fully and authentically when we bring a faithfulness and openness to their experience as well as our own.

I also recognize that a true therapeutic relationship should be open to the presence of transcendence....a sense of surprise, wonder, and the not knowing. Being in the moment with someone and allowing a relationship to unfold and develop it's own story...without any set agenda or preconceived notions.

Awareness of self and what lies within allows for a serene openness to even the most difficult situations. Recognizing that which pushes our buttons, also opens us to seeing and hearing ourselves and our patients more sincerely. We can't create a holding environment of compassion and sit with another's physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering if we don't understand our own.

There are many opportunities when being invited into someone else's story. Although on different paths, with different experiences, we can move forth together on an expedition of exploring, reflecting, and healing. I imagine that we, as professional caregivers, do our best work when we have faced our own uncertainties and fears through self reflection. This process then allows us to travel with our patient's on a path that can reveal the deeper mysteries of life.

The mysteries and the unknown; explored, with no determined outcome...letting go without feeling lost. Having toleration for not knowing, but believing in the transformation as a result. This is the real work. What a freedom and liberation...onwards and inwards! Let's go!

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