Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How Opportunities for Healing Show Up In Our Daily Lives

At a luncheon party a week ago I sat next to a professional man in his 50s. As we introduced ourselves, our conversation touched upon his profession as an insurance agent and mine as a psychotherapist specializing in grief. I was intrigued that he showed interest in my work, as most of the time this is a conversation stopper in a social situation. At some point as more people joined into our conversation, the subject somehow came around to siblings. It turned out that both he and the woman across the table had 4 siblings—“but now there are 3 of us”, he said softly. The woman looked into his eyes: “I couldn’t imagine losing one of my siblings. How is that for you?” The man’s eyes filled with tears and he quickly turned his back to us, to talk to people at the next table. We could see him dabbing at his eyes; his grief was that close to the surface. “It’s a fresh as it was when it happened,” his wife told us, “And that was 15 years ago.”

As I sat watching this all happen, I was struck with how the two of us had been seated next to one another, that he was sitting next a woman specializing in grief when he was suffering still from a loss that happened 15 years before. I had even shared some stories as we talked about the effects of unresolved grief, not knowing then about his situation. This exquisite universe was offering him an opportunity for healing—if he would just turn toward it. At that moment, he chose to turn away. Our ordinary daily lives are filled with these healing opportunities—interactions with people, music, books, movies, life situations that expose old wounds and offer us avenues for healing. Dreams often point directly to healing that needs to happen in the psyche. Most of the time we don’t even see these opportunities—and yet the universe keeps trying.

I’ve heard that in nature many times poisonous plants have the very plants growing nearby that will help heal the symptoms caused by the poison. For example, burdock is often found growing near poison oak—crushed burdock leaves help alleviate the pain and swelling of poison oak. Likewise, we just might find someone sitting next to us who somehow can help us on our healing journey—even at a luncheon party when we least expect it. When is the last time the opportunity for healing showed up in your daily life? Did you turn toward it or away from it? What would happen if you turned toward it now?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Being Astonished

This morning the piercing sweetness of the finches songs and the pearly white luminescence of the calla lilies took my breath away. My own back yard is sacred ground—if I can empty myself of distracting thoughts and let the world flood in and ravish me. Nature is always calling out to us to wake up and pay attention to what’s right here in this moment. Poet Mary Oliver reminds herself (as I also do) to “Keep my mind on what matters, which is my work which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.”

In the midst of our grief over what is happening in the Gulf, these moments of full presence in our everyday lives, of standing still and being astonished, is what is needed to heal our hearts—and ultimately our world. The Earth has so much to teach us right now—but we need to take the time to open to these ordinary moments that call out for our attention—when a bird is singing, when sunlight is streaming through branches, when a stone in our path catches our eye. How did I miss all this before?