Last week we got an email from a former business associate, and current friend of my husband’s who had been admitted to a local hospital psyche unit. I have only met T (not her real initial) a couple of times, so I do not consider myself a “friend.” Most of what I know of her is through my husband. She is in her early 40’s, has been going through a nasty divorce over the past year, has a 14 month old baby, and a sick mother whom she has been taking care of for the past several years, who now resides in a Nursing Home. She was also being evicted from the townhouse that she just moved into in October because the neighbors complained about her dog, and sundry other “infractions.” Overwhelmed with life as it is, her heart ruptured…
It has been years since I visited a psyche unit. In fact, it’s been since I was doing a 3 month Psyche rotation in Nursing School, at the ripe age of 18 or 19 as I recall, when I thought I could save people from their pain. Back then it was a state run institution – more like a jail. This one is run by a private hospital. Basically there doesn’t seem to be much difference, the environment just *looks* nicer – less institutionalized. Some of the patients (and staff) roamed the unit with blank stares. Sometimes you couldn’t tell the difference, except for an ID card hung around the necks of the “professionals.” You can tell the patients that still have light in their eyes; T was one of them, thankfully. Some of the others were like empty ghosts wandering. Even the mask of persona was blank. Evidently there are a lot of heart ruptures occurring.
When we went to visit T she couldn’t think, couldn’t function. She groped to *feel* organized – shuffling through her papers. She couldn’t make the *required* connections, in her head or practically, in order to be able to “get out” of there, which meant, finding a new place to live, finding a therapist and a support group. She was worried that her exhusband would try to gain sole custody of her baby. Now how does one find a new place to live while sitting in a psyche ward! How does one find a therapist, or support group! And why weren’t *they* providing her these resources! So of course we offered to help. We loaned her my husband’s laptop; gave her the name of two therapists; found a local “divorce support group” on the Internet; and told her she could call us any time.
Now I was not the image of glowing, open Presence, meeting her with stillness of Heart and Being. Oh no. This mini-me was anxious about what it is getting into - wanting to just walk away and go back to “the Cave.” I could hear mini-me in my head saying: I’m *not* getting involved in this! I will be swallowed up by her web of needs. And I *do not* babysit! (Baby and I will be having a meet and greet. I see where this is going.) Don’t get me wrong, I love babies, but I’ve never had any of my own. And mini-me doesn’t want to become entangled in T’s psychological web. (Another lesson from Spider). Mini-me wants to “help” of course, but the mini-me wants to help on its own terms. It’s hard to let go, trust, and just leap into unknown territory – spider woman or not. So I agreed on something safe, I and another woman would pack up T’s kitchen. I’m good at practical in a crisis.( I’ve been doing practical this past year with my family.) And it gave T the sense that people were helping her so she could move forward.
Visiting with T at the hospital was a personal eye-opener – third eye that is. A huge rush of awareness/insight flooded in as I sat there. I realized how ridiculous it was to even think of using non-dual “spiritual” language. You know - telling her that there is really no “me,” that all there is, is Awareness; just be in the present moment; accept life as it is; that this is all a dream, a product of her mind; and that all she needed to do was “rest in Awareness.” Now that would have been way too abstract, totally insensitive, and too dismissive for a woman in pain – especially for one not on an intentional “spiritual path.” I’ve discovered many times that sometimes *saying* “truthisms” is not appropriate. What she needed was stability, acceptance, encouragement, not to feel alone, abandoned or rejected, and practical help. Her heart had been ruptured so many times, it was almost incomprehensible the amount of pain that had ruptured this being. I felt her pain too, when mini-me wasn’t trying to keep a nice emotional distance between us. In sitting with her, in her pain, it opened deeper layers of my own that have been hidden away – my own ruptured heart. That was a surprise as well – the awareness of how deep my own wounds still are.
What I *clearly* saw was that she needed to be met *where she is* - *in her story* of how life is at the moment. Lofty, detached, spiritual, non-dual language and ideals do not meet people in their hearts – they separate us. I know this from experience. So “I” listened to her story, without needing to dismiss it (her) as “story,” without offering empty encouragements, or false fixes, and tried to hear the real need behind the story. I did notice, however, that mini-me felt awkward and uncomfortable, and started groping for those familiar empty words. It was clear that I couldn’t rely on the “self-mechanism.”
I actually like meeting people where they are, story and all – without judgment, without pretense, without prescribed resolutions, or fixes – without agenda; not *trying* to be “present”, and not using spiritual platitudes and clichés. It feels natural and authentic. I do this automatically a lot of times. But somehow on this “spiritual path” in “non-duality teachings” I have gotten the impression that one is not supposed to do that – to meet someone in their story of suffering… But isn’t this what “I” (The Beloved, The Mystery, True Self) does: meet us in our stories, our illusions, our pain and suffering – until we see the “truth” for ourselves, and let them go?
Recently Jeff Foster, a well-known “non-dual” teacher posted a statement about a shift he recently went through. In part he said: “…gone is the need to use Advaita-speak (non-dual language) to avoid real, authentic human engagement… to avoid meeting you in the play, to stop listening to you because I see you as ‘still stuck in the dream’ or ‘still a person…’ The message is about love.” Amen!
This is Freedom – opening the Heart and being authentically ourselves, engaging, meeting people where they are, from the Heart; recognizing that our hearts are all the same – they are real – and sometimes they rupture…
Picture circa 2004
the wounded heart...
Picture circa 2004
the wounded heart...